Wednesday, May 21, 2008

White House ignored FBI torture concerns

W. House ignored FBI concerns on prisoner abuse -probe
Tue May 20, 2008 7:12pm EDT
(Adds reaction, Qahtani suicide attempt)

By Randall Mikkelsen

WASHINGTON, May 20 (Reut ers) - Top Bush administration security officials ignored FBI concerns over abusive treatment of terrorism suspects, which one agent called "borderline torture," a four-year Justice Department probe found.

The FBI clashed with the Pentagon and CIA over interrogation techniques including snarling dogs, sexual provocation and forced nudity, said the 370-page report, released on Tuesday by the Justice Department's inspector general.

Critics say such techniques inflicted on terrorism suspects captured after the Sept. 11 attacks amounted to torture. The report covers late 2001 to the end of 2004.

FBI agents joined in terrorism interrogations and still do, but bureau Director Robert Mueller directed agents in 2002 to not participate in coercive questioning, the report said.

The FBI and Justice Department officials raised concerns with the National Security Council, which comprises top security-agency officials, and with officials at the Guantanamo Bay detention center for terrorism suspects, the report said. They argued the abusive interrogations were counterproductive.

"Ultimately, neither the FBI nor the DoJ had a significant impact on the practices of the military with respect to the detainees," it said.

The National Security Council was headed then by President George W. Bush and included Vice President Dick Cheney, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and national security adviser Condoleezza Rice, now secretary of state.

"The White House, the Defense Department, and the CIA were ignoring advice that was coming from people who were charged with enforcement of the law," said Chris Anders, senior legislative council of the American Civil Liberties Union.


The report is the first to show a role by Rice in the prisoner-abuse issue, Anders said.

White House spokesman Tony Fratto said "abuse or inhumane treatment of prisoners is not, and never has been, US policy." Defense Department spokesman Bryan Whitman referred to the military's 2005 report into the charges, which "determined that there was no evidence of torture or inhumane treatment."

The Pentagon stopped authorizing some abusive techniques in 2003, and Congress in 2005 banned inhumane treatment of prisoners. The CIA says it has not used "waterboarding," a form of simulated drowning, in five years.

But Bush in March vetoed legislation that would ban the CIA from using waterboarding and other abusive techniques.

Democrats in Congress vowed to hold hearings on the report and faulted FBI and Justice Department leaders for not taking stronger action to halt abuses. "This remains a sorry chapter in our nation's history," said Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, a Vermont Democrat.

The new report quotes an FBI agent as objecting that the CIA's interrogation of suspected senior al Qaeda commander Abu Zubaydah was "borderline torture," and said at one point an agent helped care for him in the hospital "even to the point of cleaning him up after bowel movements."

The CIA has acknowledged Zubaydah was one of three suspects subjected to waterboarding, but the report blacked out as classified information interrogation techniques used on him.

The report says techniques used in Guantanamo or Iraq included sleep disruption, prolonged "short shackling" of hands and feet or wrapping a detainee's head in duct tape. A female interrogator grabbed a detainee's genitals to inflict pain.

It also said a U.S. Marine captain questioning suspected Sept. 11 conspirator Mohammed al-Qahtani squatted over a Koran, provoking Qahtani to lunge at the Marine and the holy book.


Qahtani attempted suicide in April by cutting himself after learning he faced charges -- later thrown out -- that could carry the death penalty, his lawyer said on Monday.

In 2004 FBI agents were required to report abusive conduct. But agents told Justice Department investigators they often did not know what techniques the military authorized.

The FBI's continued involvement in interrogations of prisoners interviewed by the CIA, which has fewer restraints on techniques, may present problems for future legal cases, the report said.

CIA spokesman Paul Gimigliano said the CIAs interrogation methods had previously been found lawful by the Justice Department and were used only when traditional means of questioning, such as rapport-building, failed.

(Additional reporting by Andrew Gray and Jeremy Pelofksy in Washington, and Jane Sutton at the Guantanamo Bay U.S. Naval Base, Cuba)

(Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

When McCain and Bush say that we should "support the troops..."

...that apparently doesn't include giving them educational benefits.


6:04 PM EDT, May 6, 2008


Virginia Sen. Jim Webb's GI bill—giving full college tuition to military veterans -- could make headway in Congress for the first time later this week.

The effort to expand education benefits for troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan could be included in a war spending bill that may reach the House floor for a vote by week's end.

That move, if it comes, would mark the first substantive advancement of an initiative that Webb first introduced 16 months ago.

Expanding college benefits for military veterans was the legislative centerpiece of Webb's 2006 Senate campaign.

The issue lay dormant last year, but has gained new momentum as Congress reacts to growing public frustration with a war that has entered its sixth year.

House Democratic leaders told reporters Tuesday they are working on including veterans' education benefits as part of the Iraq war funding measure requested by President Bush.

If Webb's measure—or similar legislation—gets included in the war bill, it could win speedy passage because of the urgency of funding the war.

In another sign of progress, Webb's bill will get a hearing Wednesday before the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee. The chairman of that panel, Sen. Daniel Akaka, D- Hawaii, has endorsed the bill.

But prospects for the measure remained uncertain.

The Bush administration opposes Webb's bill, fearing it would entice troops to leave the military sooner than they otherwise might at a time of war.

And Sen. John McCain, the presumptive Republican nominee, signaled his opposition to Webb's bill by announcing plans for alternative legislation offering more modest education benefits.

Webb, a decorated Vietnam combat veteran, argues that today's veterans deserve the same educational opportunities as veterans of World War II received. Many veterans of the so-called Greatest Generation, including Virginia Sen. John Warner, received full college tuition as a result of the original GI bill signed by Franklin Roosevelt.

By contrast, current law, known as the Montgomery GI Bill, covers only about half the cost of a college education today, according to veterans groups.

Webb's bill would offer veterans up to 36 months of benefits, including tuition, books and fees—up to the cost of the most expensive in-state public school of a veteran's home state. The government would match, dollar for dollar, contributions of any private school willing to make up the difference between the in-state public rate and a private school's higher charge.

The measure also provides for a $1,000 monthly stipend and funds for tutorial assistance.

Lawmakers have estimated the cost of the bill at $2.5 billion to $4 billion a year—a price that Webb has said should be considered a "cost of war."

Copyright © 2008, Newport News, Va., Daily Press

Secrecy and inhumane treatment of immigrant prisoners

May 5, 2008
Few Details on Immigrants Who Died in Custody
Word spread quickly inside the windowless walls of the Elizabeth Detention Center, an immigration jail in New Jersey: A detainee had fallen, injured his head and become incoherent. Guards had put him in solitary confinement, and late that night, an ambulance had taken him away more dead than alive.

But outside, for five days, no official notified the family of the detainee, Boubacar Bah, a 52-year-old tailor from Guinea who had overstayed a tourist visa. When frantic relatives located him at University Hospital in Newark on Feb. 5, 2007, he was in a coma after emergency surgery for a skull fracture and multiple brain hemorrhages. He died there four months later without ever waking up, leaving family members on two continents trying to find out why.

Mr. Bah’s name is one of 66 on a government list of deaths that occurred in immigration custody from January 2004 to November 2007, when nearly a million people passed through.

The list, compiled by Immigration and Customs Enforcement after Congress demanded the information, and obtained by The New York Times under the Freedom of Information Act, is the fullest accounting to date of deaths in immigration detention, a patchwork of federal centers, county jails and privately run prisons that has become the nation’s fastest-growing form of incarceration.

The list has few details, and they are often unreliable, but it serves as a rough road map to previously unreported cases like Mr. Bah’s. And it reflects a reality that haunts grieving families like his: the difficulty of getting information about the fate of people taken into immigration custody, even when they die.

Mr. Bah’s relatives never saw the internal records labeled “proprietary information — not for distribution” by the Corrections Corporation of America, which runs the New Jersey detention center for the federal government. The documents detail how he was treated by guards and government employees: shackled and pinned to the floor of the medical unit as he moaned and vomited, then left in a disciplinary cell for more than 13 hours, despite repeated notations that he was unresponsive and intermittently foaming at the mouth.

Mr. Bah had lived in New York for a decade, surrounded by a large circle of friends and relatives. The extravagant gowns he sewed to support his wife and children in West Africa were on display in a Manhattan boutique.

But he died in a sequestered system where questions about what had happened to him, or even his whereabouts, were met with silence.

As the country debates stricter enforcement of immigration laws, thousands of people who are not American citizens are being locked up for days, months or years while the government decides whether to deport them. Some have no valid visa; some are legal residents, but have past criminal convictions; others are seeking asylum from persecution.

Death is a reality in any jail, and the medical neglect of inmates is a perennial issue. But far more than in the criminal justice system, immigration detainees and their families lack basic ways to get answers when things go wrong.

No government body is required to keep track of deaths and publicly report them. No independent inquiry is mandated. And often relatives who try to investigate the treatment of those who died say they are stymied by fear of immigration authorities, lack of access to lawyers, or sheer distance.

Federal officials say deaths are reviewed internally by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which reports them to its inspector general and decides which ones warrant investigation. Officials say they notify the detainee’s next of kin or consulate, and report the deaths to local medical authorities, who may conduct autopsies. In Mr. Bah’s case, a review before his death found no evidence of foul play, an immigration spokesman said, though after later inquiries from The Times, he said a full review of the death was under way.

But critics, including many in Congress, say this piecemeal process leaves too much to the agency’s discretion, allowing some deaths to be swept under the rug while potential witnesses are transferred or deported. They say it also obscures underlying complaints about medical care, abusive conditions or inadequate suicide prevention.

In January, the House passed a bill that would require states that receive certain federal money to report deaths in custody to their attorneys general. But the bill is stalled in the Senate, and it does not cover federal facilities.

The only tangible result of Congressional concern has been the list of 66 deaths, which names Mr. Bah and many other detainees for the first time, but raises as many questions as it answers.

For Mr. Bah’s survivors, the mystery of his death is hard to bear. In Guinea, his first wife, Dalanda, wept as she spoke about the contradictory accounts that had reached her and her two teenage sons through other detainees, including some who speculated that Mr. Bah had been beaten.

In New York, a cousin who is an American citizen, Khadidiatou Bah, 38, said she was unable to bring a lawsuit, in part because other relatives were afraid of antagonizing the authorities.

“They don’t want to push the case, or maybe they will be sent home,” she said. “This guy was killed, and we don’t know what happened.”

Lingering Questions

The list of deaths where Mr. Bah’s name surfaced is often cryptic. Along with 13 deaths cited as suicides and 14 as the result of cardiac ailments, it offers such causes as “undetermined” and “unwitnessed arrest, epilepsy.” No one’s nationality is given, some places of detention are omitted, and some names and birth dates seem garbled. As a result, many families could not be tracked down for this article.

But when they could be, they posed more disturbing questions.

In California, relatives of Walter Rodriguez-Castro, 28, said they were rebuffed when they tried to find out why his calls had stopped coming from the Kern County Jail in Bakersfield in April 2006. Then in June, his wife went to his scheduled hearing in San Francisco’s immigration court and learned that he had been dead for many weeks, his body unclaimed in the county morgue.

The coroner found that Mr. Rodriguez-Castro, a mover from El Salvador in the country illegally, had died of undiagnosed meningitis and H.I.V., after days complaining of fever, stiff neck and vomiting. The cause of death on the government’s list: “unresponsive.”

Immigration authorities said on Friday that the case was now under review, but would not answer questions about it or other deaths on the list. Sgt. Ed Komin, a spokesman for the jail, said the death had been promptly reported to immigration officials, who were responsible for notifying families.

Four sons in another family, in Sacramento, described trying for days to get medical care for their father, Maya Nand, a 56-year-old legal immigrant from Fiji, at a detention center run by the Corrections Corporation in Eloy, Ariz. Mr. Nand, an architectural draftsman, had been ailing when he was taken into custody on Jan. 13, 2005, apparently because his application for citizenship had been rejected, based on an earlier conviction for misdemeanor domestic violence. In collect calls, the sons said, he told them that despite his chest pains and breathing problems, doctors at the detention center did not take his condition seriously.

The Corrections Corporation said he had been seen and treated “multiple times.” But a letter to the family from an immigration official said his treatment was for a respiratory infection. The letter said that Mr. Nand was taken to an emergency room on Jan. 25, where congestive heart failure was diagnosed, and that he “suffered an apparent heart attack while at the hospital.” He died on Feb. 2, 2005, shackled to a hospital bed in Tucson.

Boubacar Bah had more going for him than many detainees. He had a lawyer and many friends and relatives in the United States, and his detention center in New Jersey was one of the few frequented by immigrant advocates.

But three days after he suffered a head injury in detention last year, no one in his New York circle knew that he was lying comatose in a Newark hospital, where he had already been identified as a possible organ donor.

“Thank you for the referral,” an organ-sharing network wrote on Feb. 3, 2007, according to hospital records. “This patient is a potential candidate for organ donation once brain death criteria is met.”

Four days after the fall, tipped off by a detainee who called Mr. Bah’s roommate in Brooklyn, relatives rushed to the detention center to ask Corrections Corporation employees where he was.

“They wouldn’t give us any information,” said Lamine Dieng, an American citizen who teaches physics at Bronx Community College and is married to Mr. Bah’s cousin Khadidiatou.

On the fifth day, they said, a detention official called them with the name of the hospital. There they found Mr. Bah on life support, still in custody, with a detention guard around the clock.

“There was one guard who knew Boubacar,” Ms. Bah said. “He told me on the down-low: ‘This guy, you have to fight for him. This guy was neglected.’ ”

Within the week, word of the case reached a reporter at The Times, through an immigration lawyer who had received separate calls from two detainees; they were upset about a badly injured man — named “something like Aboubakar” — left in an isolation cell and later found near death.

But advocacy groups said they were unaware of the case. And Michael Gilhooly, the spokesman for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said that without the man’s full name and eight-digit alien registration number, he could not check the information.

For those who knew Mr. Bah, it was hard to understand how such a man could lie dying without explanations.

“Everybody liked Boubacar,” said Sadio Diallo, 48, who has a tailor shop in Flatbush, Brooklyn, where he and Mr. Bah had shared an apartment with fellow immigrants since arriving in 1998. “He’s a very, very, very good man.”

For six years, Mr. Bah had worked for L’Impasse, a clothing store in the West Village, sewing dresses that sold for up to $2,000 with what a former manager, Abdul Sall, called his “magic hands.” Mr. Bah often spent Sundays at the Bronx townhouse his cousins had inherited from the family’s first American citizen, a seaman who arrived in 1943.

In Africa, Mr. Bah’s earnings not only supported his first wife, sons and ailing mother, but in Guinean tradition, allowed him to wed a second wife, long distance. It was his longing to see them all again after eight years that landed him in detention. When he returned from a three-month visit to Guinea in May 2006, immigration authorities at Kennedy Airport told him that his green card application had been denied while he was away, automatically revoking his permission to re-enter the United States. An immigration lawyer hired by his friends was unable to reopen the application while Mr. Bah waited for nine months in detention, records showed.

Mr. Bah died on May 30, 2007, after four months in a coma. His lawyer, Theodore Vialet, requested detention reports and hospital records under the Freedom of Information Act. But by the time the records arrived last autumn, the idea of a lawsuit had been dropped.

So Mr. Vialet just filed the records away — until a reporter’s call about a name on the list of dead detainees prompted him to dig them out.

After the Fall

There are 57 pages of documents, some neatly typed by medics, some scrawled by guards. Some quote detainees who said Mr. Bah was ailing for two days before his fall on Feb. 1, and asked in vain to see a doctor.

The records leave unclear exactly when or how Mr. Bah was injured in detention. But they leave no doubt that guards, supervisors, government medical employees and federal immigration officers played a role in leaving him untreated, hour after hour, as he lapsed into a stupor.

It began about 8 a.m., according to the earliest report. Guards called a medical emergency after a detainee saw Mr. Bah collapse near a toilet, hitting the back of his head on the floor.

When he regained consciousness, Mr. Bah was taken to the medical unit, which is run by the federal Public Health Service. He became incoherent and agitated, reports said, pulling away from the doctor and grabbing at the unit staff. Physicians consulted later by The Times called this a textbook symptom of intracranial bleeding, but apparently no one recognized that at the time.

He was handcuffed and placed in leg restraints on the floor with medical approval, “to prevent injury,” a guard reported. “While on the floor the detainee began to yell in a foreign language and turn from side to side,” the guard wrote, and the medical staff deemed that “the screaming and resisting is behavior problems.”

Mr. Bah was ordered to calm down. Instead, he kept crying out, then “began to regurgitate on the floor of medical,” the report said. So Mr. Bah was written up for disobeying orders. And with the approval of a physician assistant, Michael Chuley, who wrote that Mr. Bah’s fall was unwitnessed and “questionable,” the tailor was taken in shackles to a solitary confinement cell with instructions that he be monitored.

Under detention protocols, an officer videotaped Mr. Bah as he lay vomiting in the medical unit, but the camera’s battery failed, guards wrote, when they tried to tape his trip to cell No. 7.

Inside the cell, a supervisor removed Mr. Bah’s restraints. He was unresponsive to questions asked by the Public Health Service officer on duty, a report said, adding: “The detainee set up in his bed and moan and he fell to his left side and hit his head on the bed rail.”

About 9 a.m., with the approval of the health officer and a federal immigration agent, the cell was locked.

The watching began. As guards checked hourly, Mr. Bah appeared to be asleep on the concrete floor, snoring. But he could not be roused to eat lunch or dinner, and at 7:10 p.m., “he began to breathe heavily and started foaming slightly at the mouth,” a guard wrote. “I notified medical at this time.”

However, the nurse on duty rejected the guard’s request to come check, according to reports. And at 8 p.m., when the warden went to the medical unit to describe Mr. Bah’s condition, the nurse, Raymund Dela Pena, was not alarmed. “Detainee is likely exhibiting the same behavior as earlier in the day,” he wrote, adding that Mr. Bah would get a mental health exam in the morning.

About 10:30 p.m., more than 14 hours after Mr. Bah’s fall, the same nurse, on rounds, recognized the gravity of his condition: “unresponsive on the floor incontinent with foamy brown vomitus noted around mouth.” Smelling salts were tried. Mr. Bah was carried back to the medical unit on a stretcher.

Just before 11, someone at the jail called 911.

When an ambulance left Mr. Bah at the hospital, brain scans showed he had a fractured skull and hemorrhages at all sides of his swelling brain. He was rushed to surgery, and the detention center was informed of the findings.

But in a report to their supervisors the next day, immigration officials at the center described Mr. Bah’s ailment as “brain aneurysms” — a diagnosis they corrected a week later to “hemorrhages,” without mentioning the skull fracture. After Mr. Bah’s death, they wrote that his hospitalization was “subsequent to a fall in the shower.”

The nurse, Mr. Dela Pena, and the physician assistant, Mr. Chuley, said that only their superiors could discuss the case. The Public Health Service did not respond to questions, and the Corrections Corporation said medical decisions were the responsibility of the Public Health Service.

Mr. Bah’s cousins demanded an autopsy, but the Union County medical examiner’s confidential report was not completed until Dec. 6. It was sent to the county prosecutor’s office only as a matter of routine, because the matter had been classified as an “unattended accident resulting in death.”

Prosecutors said they did not investigate. “According to the report, Bah suffered a fall in the shower,” Eileen Walsh, a spokeswoman for the prosecutors, said in an e-mail message. “We are not privy to any other bits of information.”

In the home movies Mr. Bah made of his last journey home, he is only a fleeting presence: a slim man with a shy smile. But without his support, relatives in Africa say they have little money for food and none for his sons’ schooling.

His body went back to Guinea in a sealed coffin.

“I stayed here seven years, waiting for him,” his second wife, Mariama, said in French, recalling their long separation and the brief reunion that led to the birth of their son, now a toddler, while Mr. Bah was in detention.

“I wanted them to open the casket,” she added, “to know if it was him inside. Until today, I cry for him.”

Margot Williams contributed reporting.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Trent Reznor one-ups himself.

Big ups to Trent Reznor for not only putting out his new album for free on the Internet but for also

1. Providing lossy copies of respectable quality (V0 Lame).

2. Providing lossless copies in FLAC, M4A, and WAV.

3. Using bittorrent for distribution. Huge improvement over the way that Ghosts I-IV and Niggy Tardust were distributed. Although those were really cool, server problems prevented a lot of people from downloading for a while and direct downloads are a lot more finnicky for people without the best connections.

First he outdid Radiohead, then he outdid himself. Regardless of whether you're still into Nine Inch Nails (or never were), you have to admit that this is pretty cool.

Get your copy here.

1. 999,999
2. 1,000,000
3. letting you
4. discipline
5. echoplex
6. head down
7. lights in the sky
8. corona radiata
9. the four of us are dying
10. demon seed

length: 43:45

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Slowly getting sucked into a legal apparatus

Every day I listen to my classmates go on and on about how much they're looking forward to making six figures a year. The hard choices are about whether to be a transactional attorney that pretty much just pushes papers around or the in-house counsel at a health insurance compnay. The thing that makes them the angriest is that some of the income that they're dreaming of might get taxed some day (this coming from people who gladly use public roads and federal financial aid to attend a state school).

Day in and day out, I'm buried in mountains of studying. Whether it's screen after screen of notes that I don't even remember typing or rule after rule that I can't seem to fit into the broader picture of whatever subject I'm trying to catch up, it all feels endless. I'm not doing anything novel or beautiful.

I keep telling myself that I'm doing this for a reason. But that's what a lot of people say when they go to law school and pretty much all of them sell out when they realize that they're never going to be a world famous civil rights litigator or defender of the environment.

With stories like this, I don't know what to think about the future. Even if I get good grades, I'm at a tier 3 school and my options are severely limited. If I spend the rest of my life going over wills or trying to figure out how to help companies settle products liability cases while this kind of nauseating garbage is going on, I don't think I can make it.

I just have a really strong feeling that these three years are going to be wasted. None of this unpleasantness is going to do a thing to stop this. The people who are pissed about paying taxes are the one who will probably win. Either that or I'll turn into one of them.
May 3, 2008
After Hiatus, States Set Wave of Executions

HUNTSVILLE, Tex. — Here in the nation’s leading death-penalty state, and some of the 35 others with capital punishment, execution dockets are quickly filling up.

Less than three weeks after a United States Supreme Court ruling ended a seven-month moratorium on lethal injections, at least 14 execution dates have been set in six states between May 6 and October.

“The Supreme Court essentially blessed their way of doing things,” said Douglas A. Berman, a professor of law and a sentencing expert at Ohio State University. “So in some sense, they’re back from vacation and ready to go to work.”

Experts say the resumption of executions is likely to throw a strong new spotlight on the divisive national — and international — issue of capital punishment.

“When people confront a new wave of executions, they’ll be questioning not only how people are executed but whether people should be executed,” said James R. Acker, a historian of the death penalty and a criminal justice professor at the State University at Albany.

Texas leads the list with five people now set to die here in the Walls Unit, the state’s death house, between June 3 and Aug. 20. Virginia is next with four. Louisiana, Oklahoma and South Dakota have also set execution dates.

Some welcome the end of the moratorium.

“We’ll start playing a little bit of catch-up,” said William R. Hubbarth, a spokesman for Justice for All, a victims rights group based in Houston.

“It’s not like we have a cheering section for the death penalty.” Mr. Hubbarth said. But, he added: “The capital murderers set to be executed should be executed post-haste. It’s not about killing the inmate. It’s about imposing the penalty that 12 of his peers have assessed.”

More inmates whose appeals have expired are certain to be added to execution rosters soon, including, in all likelihood, Jack Harry Smith, who, at 70, is the oldest of the 360 men and 9 women on Texas’ death row (though hardly a row any more, but an entire compound). Mr. Smith has been under a death sentence for 30 years for a robbery killing at a grocery in the Houston area.

“If it’s my time to go, it’s my time to go,” said Mr. Smith, who maintains his innocence and was delivered by guards for a prison interview in a wheelchair.

So far, at least nine others elsewhere, including Antoinette Frank, a former police officer convicted of a murderous robbery rampage in New Orleans, have been given new execution dates, according to the Death Penalty Information Center, an anti-capital punishment research group that puts the latest death row census at 3,263. Dozens more are likely to get execution dates in coming months, but most under death sentences have not exhausted their appeals.

Yet public support for capital punishment may be dwindling. Death sentences have been on the decline, and a poll last year by death penalty opponents found Americans losing confidence in the death penalty.

“There will be more executions than people have the stomach for, at least in many parts of the country,” said Stephen B. Bright, president of the Southern Center for Human Rights in Atlanta, a leading anti-death-penalty litigation clinic.

Last year, Texas accounted for 26 of the 42 executions nationwide. That includes the last two people executed before the Supreme Court signaled a moratorium on executions while considering whether the chemical formula used for lethal injection in Kentucky inflicted pain amounting to unconstitutionally cruel and unusual punishment. The justices ruled 7 to 2 on April 16 that it did not, while allowing for possible future challenges.

But the scheduling of executions comes as prosecutors and juries have been turning away from the death penalty, often in favor of life sentences without parole, now an option in every death-penalty state but New Mexico.

According to the Death Penalty Information Center, death sentences nationwide rose from 137 in 1977, peaked at 326 in 1995 and fell steadily to 110 last year.

“We’re seeing a huge drop-off,” said Mr. Bright, attributing the decline to the time and trouble of imposing death sentences, and a recent wave of exonerations after DNA tests proved wrongful conviction.

Close to 35 people have been cleared in Texas alone, including, just days ago, James L. Woodard, who spent more than 27 years in prison for a 1980 murder he did not commit.

The first inmate now set for execution is William E. Lynd, 53, on Tuesday in Georgia. Mr. Lind was convicted of shooting his girlfriend, Ginger Moore, in the face during an argument in 1988, shooting her again as she clung to life, and a third time, fatally, as she struggled in the trunk of his car. After burying her, he attacked and killed another woman he had stopped on the road.

With two other executions pending but not yet scheduled in Georgia, the state seeks “clearance of the backlog,” said Russ Willard, a spokesman for Attorney General Thurbert E. Baker. “We will work our way though the system at a much more rapid pace than we would have.”

Virginia — which has executed 98 people since 1976, second only to Texas, with 405 — has the next scheduled execution: May 27, for Kevin Green, 30, for the 1998 slayings of Patricia and Lawrence Vaughn in their convenience store in Dolphin. Three other Virginia inmates also have been given dates in June and July.

Louisiana has set a July 15 execution date for two inmates, including the former police officer, Ms. Frank, 30. She was convicted of killing a fellow officer, Ronald Williams, and two Vietnamese workers, Ha Vu and her brother, Cuong Vong, at their family’s restaurant in New Orleans during a robbery in 1995.

But appeals may delay her execution and that of the second inmate Darrell Robinson, convicted of killing four people.

South Dakota, which has recorded only 15 executions since 1889, set a week’s window of Oct. 7-13 for the execution of Briley Piper, 25. He pleaded guilty to the torture murder of Chester Allan Pogue, 19, who was forced to drink hydrochloric acid and then stabbed and bludgeoned to death in 2000. One accomplice was executed last year and another is serving life without parole.

The first Texas inmate now re-scheduled for death, on June 3, is Derrick Sonnier, 40, convicted of stalking, stabbing and strangling a young mother, Melody Flowers, and her baby son in Humble, north of Houston, in 1991.

Mr. Sonnier, who turned down a request this week for an interview, had forbidden his trial lawyer from calling family members as mitigating witnesses, costing him a chance for life in prison without parole, said his appellate lawyer, Jani Maselli.

In another of the five latest scheduled Texas executions, a July 22 date was set for Lester Bower, 60, convicted of killing a former police officer and three other men near Sherman in 1983.

Mr. Smith, the oldest death row inmate, lost his Supreme Court appeal in February and said he was resigned to an execution date soon as well.

“I’d hate to go before my time,” he said, a gaunt figure seated in a wheelchair and speaking by phone behind glass in the Polunsky Unit in Livingston, Tex., where the condemned are housed until the day they are driven to Huntsville to die.

Asked if the prospect of an end to his confinement came as any relief, he said, “In a way it does.”

“Death is death,” Mr. Smith said. “If they stick a needle in your arm or shoot you in the head, it’s cruel and inhuman punishment, taking a human life.”

Yet, he said, “a life sentence is a whole lot worse — it’s torture.”