and Updates (as of 12/22/96)

APRIL 23, 2014:


Prosecutors highlight killer's 'ugly, vulgar' past as they push for death penalty

The punishment phase is underway for a convicted killer in McLennan County. Monday evening, a jury found Carnell Petetan Jr. guilty of capital murder in the shooting death of his wife, Kimberly.

Prosecutors want Petetan to get the death penalty. They are painting a vivid picture of Petetan's past, calling it ugly and vulgar. They say he victimized people throughout his life, even when he was in prison.

Tuesday morning, a teacher testified about the day Petetan threw a tray of food on her, then a friend recounted how Petetan shot him twice for no apparent reason.

Prosecutors say Petetan also randomly shot an elderly man walking down the street. Another man said Petetan put him in a coma during a fight.

A director with the state juvenile justice system testified that he and his colleagues exhausted all attempts at rehabilitation for Petetan.

Petetan was arrested 18 times and ended up going to prison as a teen, serving nearly 20 years. But the crimes didn't necessarily stop behind bars. Prosecutors say Petetan masturbated in front of guards and offered them sexual favors.

They say he also attacked several inmates on several occasions and raped at least one of them.

Prosecutors called 15 witnesses to the stand today. The defense will bring in their witnesses when the trial resumes Wednesday morning.

(source: KXXV news)


Man Linked to 2005 Killings of 2 Zion Girls Could Be Put to Death for Murdering a Marine; Zion native Jorge Torrez strangled a 20-year-old Marine and then went on a rape spree in Virginia.

A man suspected in the 2005 slayings of 2 Zion girls could be put to death in Virginia for strangling a fellow Marine in 2009.

Jorge Torrez, 25, a Zion, IL, native linked by DNA to the murders of 8-year-old Laura Hobbs and 9-year-old Krystal Tobias, who disappeared on Mother's Day, has left a trail of death and terror in his wake throughout his adult life.

On Monday, a federal jury decided Torrez, convicted earlier this month of 1st-degree murder in the 2009 death of 20-year-old Marine Amanda Jean Snell, is eligible for the death penalty, the Washington Post reported.

Prosecutors said Torrez is a sexual predator who browsed Internet sites about rape fantasies and randomly attacked the women in suburban Arlington, VA, after Snell's death, the Post reported.

In the 2009 attack on Snell, prosecutors said Torrez attacked Snell at random, creeping into her room at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall and wrapping the young woman's neck with the power cord of her pink laptop.

Torrez was convicted in October 2010 for the Arlington attacks. In one instance, he displayed a gun to a woman and tried to force her into a car. Failing, he stole her purse.

In another Arlington case, Torrez, brandishing a handgun, confronted 2 women and tied them up inside a residence. He forced 1 of the victims to leave the house with him. 4 hours later, the victim was found seeking help and medical treatment.

In 2011, the Chicago Tribune interviewed Torrez from a prison cell and asked him about the Zion girls' murders and why the 8-year-old child had his semen on her body. Hobbs and Tobias, stabbed to death, were found together in a park. "I'm not denying that (the DNA) is mine," he told the paper. "Once I tell them how my DNA got there, I'm walking."

Torrez was in prison serving 5 life sentences for rape and abduction in the Virginia cases. Once a corporal in the Marine Corps, Torrez now faces possible execution for taking the life of a fellow Marine.

Hobbs' father, Jerry Hobbs, spent 5 years in prison for the murders after breaking down during interrogation and confessing to the murders. His conviction was overturned after the DNA evidence was discovered linking Torrez to the crime.

(source: Buffalo Grove Patch)


Florida executes man convicted of murdering 2

Florida has executed a man convicted of murdering 2 relatives to prevent 1 of them from testifying against him in a burglary trial.

Robert Hendrix was pronounced dead at 6:21 p.m. at Florida State Prison in Starke, shortly after the lethal injection procedure began.

Prosecutors say that in August 1990, Hendrix shot, hit and stabbed his cousin, Elmer Scott, in his Lake County trailer home. They say he then cut the throat of Scott's wife, Michelle, and shot her.

Elmer Scott had planned to testify the next day at Hendrix's burglary trial. Scott had been his partner in the crime but had reached a plea deal.

The 47-year-old Hendrix becomes the 5th condemned inmate executed by Florida this year and the 16th since Gov. Rick Scott took office in 2011, and the 86th overall since the state resumed capital punishment in 1979.

Hendrix becomes the 19th condemned inmate to be put to death this year in the USA and the 1378th overall since the nation resumed executions on January 17, 1977.

(sources: Associated Press & Rick Halperin)


New details revealed in Marchand slayings; Family members killed during theft

Bernard James, 1 of 5 men accused in the February 2012 slayings of Robert Irwin Marchand, his wife and stepson, told investigators he saw a bloodied Michael Aikens standing near the entrance of the Marchands' home with a box cutter in his hand and 3 dead bodies lying on the floor behind him.

James, 27, then of 36344 Lorena Drive, Prairieville, had turned back toward the Marchand home after he and 2 other men loaded Marchand's house safe into a Chevrolet Suburban.

Aikens had stayed behind in the Marchand home off Babin Road north of Gonzales, James told Ascension Parish Sheriff's Capt. Michael Toney.

Aikens, James and the other men wanted to steal the safe, which they thought contained thousands of dollars in valuable coins, though investigators have said far less money was inside.

In a hearing Tuesday, Toney went over the statement as prosecutors and defense attorneys argued before Chief Judge Alvin Turner Jr., of the 23rd Judicial District, whether James understood his Miranda rights when he surrendered to investigators without a lawyer present in early March 2012.

James' defense attorneys argued his statement should be suppressed because it was not voluntarily given.

Turner has not yet ruled on that request.

Aikens, formerly of Prairieville, pleaded guilty Oct. 1 to 3 counts of 1st-degree murder in the home invasion robbery on Feb. 17, 2012.

Aikens, who was facing the death penalty before the plea, was sentenced Oct. 29 to 3 life terms.

James is the next of the 4 remaining defendants headed to trial. Turner set James' capital murder trial for Aug. 19 in Ascension Parish. He also faces 3 counts of 1st-degree murder. Turner rejected a defense motion Tuesday seeking to preclude the death penalty.

Toney's recounting of James' statement Tuesday provides new details about what may have happened the night Robert Marchand, 74; his wife, Shirley Marchand, 72; and her son, Douglas Dooley, 50, of Cross Plains, Tenn., had their throats slashed.

Aikens' plea agreement and other documents remain under seal to limit pre-trial publicity.

Assistant District Attorney Robin O'Bannon cautioned some defendants gave initial statements to deputies that tended to downplay their own roles in the slayings and point toward the culpability of other men.

Under questioning from Assistant District Attorney Kenneth Dupaty, Capt. Toney described how James, during the March 7, 2012, interview, portrayed Aikens as having a lead role in planning and committing the robbery and slayings.

Toney also described how James had himself and others involved in the lead-up to the robbery, the robbery itself and attempts to dispose of the safe in rural Livingston Parish.

Toney told Dupaty how James claimed Aikens, who once worked for Robert Marchand when he had a house-moving business, knocked on his door but James and another man rushed in and James knocked Marchand down.

James also said Shirley Marchand was hit after she heard the scuffle and appeared, telling the men to take the money once she was struck, Toney testified.

Soon, Dooley showed up. He and Aikens fought and Dooley briefly had Aikens in a headlock before another man got him off, James reportedly told Toney.

Toney testified James signed a standard waiver form, was read his rights and was talkative during his March 2012 interview. But Toney also said James smelled of alcohol, though he did not appear to be impaired.

(source: The Advocate)


Prosecutors: Death penalty report 'strongly influenced'

Prosecutors who served on a panel that studied Ohio's administration of the death penalty say final recommendations were "strongly influenced" by groups that want to abolish capital punishment in the state.

In a 49-page minority report of the Joint Task Force to Review the Administration of Ohio's Death Penalty, dissenting members say some of the law and policy proposals likely would mean an end to death sentences in Ohio.

"Some of the recommendations would tie the death penalty system up in knots, creating procedural and litigative traffic jams that would potentially tie up particular cases in litigation even more than is already occurring," dissenting members wrote.

They added, "While the task force majority has embraced anti-death penalty and delay-inducing proposals, it has rejected proposals that would take the blinders off sentencing judges and juries to allow a full and fair assessment of the appropriate sentence in a capital sentencing proceeding, including rejecting a proposal that would have allowed consideration of victim-impact evidence."

The minority report is to be included with the larger final report of the task force, with more than 50 recommendations for capital punishment changes, including limits on the death penalty for those who are seriously mentally ill or that rely on the testimony of jailhouse informants.

A majority of the group's members also wants to remove several crimes from the list of specifications used in determining whether to pursue the death penalty and require clemency hearings and parole board interviews with death row inmates to be recorded and made available to the public.

The recommendations were not unanimously endorsed by members of the task force, however. Prosecutors requested and received approval to write a minority report, voicing concerns about the potential impact of some of the recommendations.

For example, the task force is urging that the death penalty be considered or imposed only in cases where there is biological or DNA evidence, a confession, recorded evidence that definitively links a defendant to a crime, or other factors offered by the general assembly in developing related law changes.

Prosecutors say that change is "ill-advised ... All things considered, here experience verifies common sense. Timothy McVeigh, perhaps the most notorious mass murderer in recent history, would not have been eligible for a capital sentence under the majority's proposed criteria."

(source: The Review)


Suspect in Trumbull County jail hostage crisis facing death penalty case

1 of the 3 inmates identified as being involved in a hostage situation at the Trumbull County jail faces criminal charges that could bring the death penalty if convicted.

The 3 are accused of taking a correctional officer hostage at knifepoint in a jail cell Wednesday afternoon.

Authorities say that one of the suspects, David Martin, 29, of Cleveland is awaiting trial for the murder of Jeremy Cole in Warren in September, 2012.

Martin was a neighbor of Cole, who was shot to death during a break in at his home on Oak Circle SW. A woman was also wounded during the crime.

Wanda Cole, Jeremy Cole's mother, said "What it was over I don't know. I'm just waiting for justice to be served for him and why he murdered my son that's all I want to know."

Cole's mother and sister were outside the jail during the hostage situation Martin was allegedly involved in Wednesday.

"I think it's crazy myself," said Wanda Cole.

Amy Biles, Cole's sister, said "He gets what he deserves. He thinks he has nothing else to live for. He gets what he deserves."

The Trumbull County Grand Jury handed up a ten count indictment against Martin, charging him with aggravated murder, robbery, kidnapping, weapons violations, receiving stolen property and tampering with evidence.

Because of the seriousness of the offenses, the crimes are a capital offense.

Martin has yet to go on trial. His next hearing is scheduled for May.

In 2007, Martin was sentenced to 2 years in prison after being convicted of robbery, assault, drug and weapons offenses in Cuyahoga County. Martin is still on probation for another year

. A 2nd suspect in the hostage situation has been identified as Kevin Johns, 24, of Cincinnati. Johns was just sentenced in Trumbull County Court this month to 28 years in prison for kidnapping 2 Warren woman and raping 1 of them.

The sentencing judge also designated Johns as a sex offender, meaning he has to register his whereabouts with authorities after he is released from prison.

In 2010, Johns was sentenced to three years in prison for robbery and assault in Cincinnati. He is on probation until 2016.

Richard Ware, 27, of Warren was also named as 1 of the 3 suspects in the hostage situation.

Warren police charged Ware with aggravated robbery in January. Ware was a suspect in the December robbery at a CVS pharmacy in Warren.

In 2011, Ware was sentenced to one year in prison for robbery and drug violations committed in Trumbull County. His probation is set to expire in July of next year.

(source: WFMJ news)


Report: State task force veers off course

A state task force created to examine the fairness of the application of the death penalty veered off course, according to a report released today that objects to some of the panel's recommendations.

"A large number of the recommendations would establish a series of procedural and legislative nightmares that would render Ohio’s death penalty inoperable," reads the minority report consisting of objections raised primarily from prosecutors.

"This, of course, is a result the Death Penalty Task Force was not even permitted to consider," it reads. "Sadly, these recommendations have little to do with 'fairness,' the stated goal of the Task Force."

The body, created 2 years ago by Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor and the Ohio State Bar Association, is wrapping up its final report that will also include the objections of those who came out on the short end of votes for 56 recommendations the report will make.

Among the recommendations is taking the execution off the table as an option if the defendant was mentally ill at the time of the crime or at the time of his scheduled execution. It calls for the end of so-called "felony murder," crimes such as aggravated robbery, kidnapping, rape, and aggravated arson that can come with the death penalty attached if the victim dies in the process.

The task force also wants to open up elements of the state's clemency process to more public scrutiny and would remove the death penalty as an option if the prosecutor relied on a jailhouse informant whose testimony was not corroborated by other evidence.

The one thing not on the table for consideration by the 22-member task force under its original directive was the question of whether Ohio should have the death penalty in the first place. Nor was the panel permitted to consider a temporary moratorium on executions in the state while such a review took place, something proposed by the American Bar Association several years ago.

The dissenting report takes particular aim at the felony murder recommendation.

"Such victims suffer horrific deaths, oftentimes after prolonged kidnapping and/or rape, and the Task Force majority's answer is to abolish the death penalty in such cases," the minority report reads. "While such a proposal does not entail outright abolition in all cases, it is certainly anti-death penalty, an area supposedly off-limits to the task force."

The majority of the task force pointed to studies showing the prosecutors and jurors do not find felony murder to be among "the worst of the worst murders" for which the death penalty is intended.

It noted that "such specifications result in death verdicts 7 % of the time or less when charged as a death penalty case," adding that "removal of these specifications will reduce the race disparity of the death penalty..."

The task force also looked at such things as long-term preservation of evidence, funding for the prosecution and defense in murder trials, racial bias, and geographic uniformity in decisions as to when to prosecute a murder as a death penalty case.

Some of the recommendations would require legislative action. Others could be accomplished by the Supreme Court through its judicial rules.

The panel also included judges, legislators, prosecutors, defense attorneys, members of law enforcement, and academics.

(source: Toldedo Blade)


Supreme Court won't overturn death sentence for Kentucky man

The Supreme Court says there will be no new sentencing hearing for a man who confessed to kidnapping, raping and killing a 16-year-old girl in Kentucky.

The justices in a 6-3 ruling Wednesday refused to overturn Robert Keith Woodall's death sentence for abducting and killing Sarah Hansen on Jan. 25, 1997, after forcing her from a convenience store in western Kentucky.

A federal court ruled that the judge at Woodall's state trial should have instructed the jury not to draw any negative conclusions about his refusal to take the stand at his 1998 capital sentencing hearing. The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld that ruling.

But the high court reversed, finding that trial judge was under no obligation to instruct the jury about drawing adverse conclusions.

(source: Associated Press)


Tennessee governor assembling team of experts as he faces 1st executions of his tenure

Facing up to 9 executions in the next 2 years, Gov. Bill Haslam said Wednesday he's assembling a team of experts to consult about upcoming death penalty cases, the 1st of his time in office.

He will also pray.

The governor, who supported the death penalty as Tennessee law during his 2010 campaign, was asked about the issue during a discussion at "Q Ideas," a national series of forums on religion, culture and politics underway in Nashville this week. The Republican governor and Nashville Mayor Karl Dean, a Democrat, discussed several issues prompted by a moderator before about 1,100 attendees, many affiliated with churches across the country.

The 1st of 10 scheduled executions, of Sullivan County murder convict Nickolus Johnson, 63, was set for Tuesday but was delayed indefinitely several weeks ago by the courts. Knox County murder convict Billy Ray Irick, 55, is scheduled for execution Oct. 7, followed by 1 in December and 7 in 2015. Tennessee's last execution was conducted Dec. 2, 2009, 13 1/2 months before Haslam took office. It was the last of 6 carried out since Tennessee resumed executions in 2000 after a 40-year span of no executions in the state.

The moderator asked Haslam how he, as a Christian, planned to approach executions as they draw nearer - to "let us in, as much as you can, about what you go through sitting in that seat, trying to process ... what must be a super-difficult issue for any governor."

Said Haslam: "The most honest answer is, I don't know because they're working their way to me but one hasn't actually hit with a real date that's set and you have a decision to make. So I can't honestly answer, when it comes down to 11 o'clock the night before, exactly what that would feel like and look like.

"I do know there's a process that's happened: a trial that's happened, a judge and jury have ruled, there's a law that's been set. I also know we have a certain responsibility in that, so I'm already pulling together a team of everything from mental health providers to law enforcement folks to district attorneys who can help us as each case comes up.

"So I feel like my responsibility is to literally dive into each individual situation, talk to as many smart people about that situation as I can, pray about it and make a decision at that point. It hasn’t happened yet but there are quite a few coming," the governor said.

His 2 predecessors, Republican Don Sundquist and Democrat Phil Bredesen, also proceeded in similar ways. 1 execution occurred under Sundquist, in April 2000, and 5 under Bredesen between 2006 and 2009.

The state legislature last week approved a bill designating electrocution as Tennessee's backup method of executing death sentences if the drugs that comprise lethal injection become unavailable.

(source: Memphis Commercial Appeal)


Death row inmates not entitled to know source of drugs

The Oklahoma Supreme Court has ruled that 2 death row inmates are not entitled to know the source of the drugs that will be used to kill them.

In rejecting the inmates' claims, the court also lifted a stay of execution that it had granted earlier in the week in a case that placed Oklahoma's 2 highest courts at odds and prompted calls for impeaching justices on the Supreme Court.

The decision paves the way for death row inmates Clayton Lockett and Charles Warner to receive a lethal injection at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester.

A stay issued on Tuesday by Governor Mary Fallin remains in place for Lockett, but only until April 29, the same day Warner is scheduled to die.

Fallin spokesman Alex Weintz has said the governor is still reviewing the court's ruling and has not made a decision on what she will do. Weintz has said it is possible both men could be executed on April 29.

Diane Clay, a spokeswoman for Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, said the court's decision affirmed a longstanding precedent that the source of the execution drugs should remain confidential to avoid "intimidation used by defense counsel and other anti-death penalty groups."

"These death row inmates have not contested their guilt for murdering two innocent victims nor have they contested their sentences of death," Clay said. "The legal wrangling of the attorneys for Lockett and Warner has served only to delay their punishment for the heinous crimes they committed."

(source: One News)


Lawyer pleads for life sentence for Arizona woman convicted of killing husband with hammer

An attorney for an Arizona woman convicted of beating her husband to death with a hammer pleaded with a jury Tuesday to imprison his client for life instead of sentencing to death, saying she isn't a cold-blooded killer but a victim of an awful childhood.

Jurors heard closing arguments from lawyers in the penalty phase of Marissa Devault's trial. The same jury convicted her of 1st-degree murder earlier this month for the January 2009 killing of Dale Harrell and will now decide her fate.

Alan Tavassoli, Devault's lead attorney, echoed his earlier arguments, saying his client didn't have a loving, supportive environment as a child. He said she was raised in an impoverished household by an emotionally abusive mother and was sexually abused as a child by a relative.

"She was damaged by circumstances beyond her control," Tavassoli said.

Prosecutor Eric Basta urged jurors to impose the death penalty, saying Devault, 36, has shown no genuine remorse and has consistently lied about the facts of her case. Basta pointed out that Devault's account of the killing changed over time, starting with her blaming a roommate and ending with her acknowledging she carried out the crime.

The prosecutor said there were no records to support Devault's claim that she was sexually abused in the past, though he noted that Devault's children had testified that she and Harrell had hit each other.

"There are no circumstances that call for leniency in this case," Basta said.

Devault rarely looked at jurors as lawyers argued whether she should face the death penalty and instead whispered to her defense team and used a pencil to write on a legal pad. On two occasions, she shook her head in disbelief as the prosecutor addressed jurors.

If Devault is sentenced to death, she would become the third woman sent to Arizona's death row.

Prosecutors say Devault killed Harrell in a failed bid to collect on a life insurance policy to repay more than $300,000 in loans from her boyfriend.

Devault says she killed her husband in self-defense and that Harrell had physically and sexually abused her in the past.

Harrell, 34, suffered multiple skull fractures in the attack at the couple's home in the Phoenix suburb of Gilbert. He died nearly a month later at a hospice of complications from his head injuries.

Devault appealed directly to jurors in a tearful address last week, telling them that she was sorry for her actions and the pain she has caused Harrell's family.

Shortly after the attack, Devault told investigators Harrell attacked her as she slept and choked her until she was unconscious. She also told police that when she woke up, she saw another man who lived at their home beating Harrell with a hammer.

But Devault later confessed to attacking her husband, saying she pummeled him in a rage as he slept after he sexually assaulted her.

(source: Associated Press)


O.C. prosecutors drop bid to use recordings of accused killer; The district attorney's office won't fight a defense motion against tapes of the suspect in a Seal Beach mass killing and a jailhouse informant.

Orange County prosecutors have ended their quest to use recorded conversations between the suspect in the Seal Beach mass killing and a jailhouse informant, which they had hoped could put the man on death row.

Senior Deputy Dist. Atty. Howard Gundy told the court Tuesday he would concede a defense motion arguing that tapes of Scott Dekraai and informant Fernando Perez were obtained in violation of Dekraai's 6th Amendment rights.

The recordings spurred a wide-ranging defense investigation into the use of jailhouse informants in Orange County.

The investigation has resulted in an ongoing hearing over allegations that, in Dekraai's and other cases, informants were unconstitutionally deployed to gather information that was routinely withheld from defense attorneys.

During the hearing, Dekraai's prosecutor, Assistant Dist. Atty. Dan Wagner, conceded that his office has failed to disclose information, including evidence gathered by informants, to defense attorneys in multiple cases - a revelation that could lead to new trials for some convicted criminals.

Prosecutors have blamed any errors on their own failures to understand case law regarding disclosure and informants, lack of transparency by federal agents and large caseloads.

But defense attorneys said prosecutors showed a pattern of misconduct so egregious that, in addition to throwing out the recordings, the court should dismiss the death penalty and recuse the district attorney's office from the Seal Beach case. Dekraai is charged in a shooting rampage that left his former wife and 7 other people dead at a Seal Beach hair salon in October 2011.

After making his concession, Gundy argued that the scope of the hearing should now be focused on the actions of prosecutors in the Dekraai case rather than exploring the role of informants in other cases.

Superior Court Judge Thomas Goethals indicated he was inclined to continue hearing from witnesses.

"We're going to follow the evidence in this case wherever it leads," he said.

To protect the constitutional rights of suspects, courts have ruled that informants working as government agents cannot deliberately elicit statements from defendants after charges have been filed.

In Dekraai's case, a bug was installed in his cell after Perez came forward to say the alleged gunman had been talking to him. In parts of the 132 hours of recordings, prosecutors said, Dekraai can be heard talking about the shootings.

Prosecutors initially declined to hand over information about Perez's informant background.

After the judge ordered prosecutors to do so, defense attorneys learned that Perez was a prolific jailhouse snitch who had gathered information on multiple inmates, including 2 other death penalty defendants.

During the hearing, Perez insisted he did not try to get information from fellow inmates. He also acknowledged lying multiple times, including under oath in his own case.

(source: Los Angeles Times)


Mark Prothero, attorney for Green River killer, dies at 57; Attorney Mark Prothero, a well-regarded defense attorney who represented serial killer Gary L. Ridgway, has died.

Mark Prothero was known among fellow criminal-defense attorneys as genuine, unflappable and the most decent guy in the room - even when faced with the tough task of defending Green River serial killer Gary L. Ridgway.

For years, his entire focus was to keep Ridgway from being put to death, and he did.

Mr. Prothero, a former champion swimmer at the University of Washington and a well-regarded attorney for more than 30 years, died at his Kent-area home early Saturday. He had been battling lung cancer. He was 57.

"He was a wonderful friend, a wonderful father, a wonderful lawyer. It was a great tragedy to lose someone this early in life," said attorney Todd Gruenhagen, who was on the Ridgway defense team with Mr. Prothero.

Mr. Prothero's friends said that the diagnosis of lung cancer several years ago came as a surprise. He wasn't a smoker, and he was incredibly fit.

Greg Girard, a partner at the Kent firm Hanis Irvine Prothero, said that Mr. Prothero was looking healthy when Girard saw him at the office on Friday.

Mr. Prothero was first diagnosed with lung cancer a few years ago and after treatment, it went into remission. But then it returned.

Mr. Prothero was supposed to leave for Jamaica on Easter Sunday with his wife, Kelly, and their 2 grown children, Sean and Marley.

"His family was so important to him," Girard said. "They kept him focused and grounded. His kids were everything to him."

Mr. Prothero was a star swimmer at Renton High School and swam for the Huskies for four years. He swam on the U.S. national team and was ranked 13th in the world in the 400 individual medley in 1976.

Swimming remained an important part of Mr. Prothero's life. He coached his children and countless Kentwood High School students. He acted as an announcer at national swim meets and served as the chairman of the Pacific Northwest Swimming Board of Review. He served on the Kent Parks Foundation and played a crucial role in saving the Kent Meridian Pool from closure.

"It's about you and a stopwatch; there are very little politics involved," Mr. Prothero said about swimming during an interview with The Seattle Times in 2007. "It's very pure; you can learn how hard work makes you better. It's so valuable in terms of the life lessons that it teaches and the character it builds."

Mr. Prothero graduated from the University of San Diego School of Law in 1981 and joined the Associated Counsel for the Accused (ACA), one of Seattle's public-defense agencies. He left ACA in 2004 and had been in private practice ever since. He also had worked as a judge pro tem throughout King County.

"He was a consummate attorney. He was genuine. He didn't put on airs. It was very effective," said Don Madsen, director of ACA.

Even though he was at the center of many high-profile cases, Mr. Prothero "always made sure investigators and social workers were acknowledged," Madsen said.

Mr. Prothero was known for his sense of humor, including drawing cartoon sketches and coming up with humorous songs.

"He would write songs and run them into a well-known melody and the songs were witty and entertaining," Gruenhagen said.

King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg said Mr. Prothero “was an absolute gentlemen and one of the real good guys in the legal profession."

"He was one of those defense attorneys who was a regular guy who appealed to the average juror who wanted to believe everything he said. That's usually the prosecutor's schtick, to be the reasonable one," said Satterberg, who started his legal career around the same time as Mr. Prothero.

"Mark had a lot of credibility and didn't overly try his cases. He proved everything he said he was going to prove."

While the Green River serial-murder case made its way through the legal system, Satterberg, as chief of staff at the prosecutor’s office, sat on the opposite side of the table from Mr. Prothero.

Satterberg called the case "unchartered territory," not only because of the massive amount of court filings, but because the proposed plea agreement included Ridgway's cooperation in locating victims" remains in exchange for not being put to death.

Then-Prosecutor Norm Maleng agreed he would not seek the death penalty in exchange for that cooperation, and Ridgway then pleaded guilty to 48 killings.

Mr. Prothero co-authored a book, "Defending Gary: Unraveling the Mind of the Green River Killer," detailing the case. Until his death, Mr. Prothero remained Ridgway's lead lawyer.

Mr. Prothero's friends said he was strongly opposed to the death penalty and was always hopeful he could secure Ridgway a sentence of life in prison.

"Remarkably, he was able to find the positive in people" said Gruenhagen. "He found some positive aspect in every client he represented. I think that Mr. Ridgway was lucky to have Mark for a lawyer."

Mr. Prothero is survived by his wife, Kelly, and 2 children.

(source: Seattle Times)


Jury begins deliberating in death penalty trial

Did Naeem Williams kill his 5-year-old daughter Talia on July 16, 2005? Or did repeated abuse by Naeem and his wife cause her to die that day? Those are some of the questions the jury will have to answer as they begin deliberations Wednesday morning.

Naeem Williams admitted that he repeatedly abused the girl for seven months after getting custody of her.

His wife, Delilah Williams already pleaded guilty and will serve 20 years. But Naeem could get the death penalty if he is convicted in the states 1st death penalty case in decades.

The government's attorneys say Talia was tortured, beat every day after moving to Hawaii to live with the soldier. So was it one final, fatal blow to the head that killed her? Or did all the beatings -- with belts, paddles, and fists actually cause internal injuries which lead to her death?

There are 5 counts the jury will deliberate. If he is found guilty, a sentencing hearing will decide if he lives or dies.

(source: Hawaii News Now)


Brunei gets cold feet on hudud

Brunei has postponed its implementation of the Hudud law, due to begin Tuesday, that have earned condemnation from the United Nations and sparked rare criticism at home.

No confirmed new date was given for the start of the punishments - which will eventually include flogging, the severing of limbs and death by stoning - but an official told the Brunei Times they would begin "in the very near future".

The new criminal code brings in execution by stoning as the punishment for gay sex and adultery as well as rape.

It also introduces the death penalty for defamation of the Prophet Mohammed, blasphemy and declaring oneself a non-Muslim.

Brunei's Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah is on a trip to Singapore, and it is thought that his government decided it could not introduce the new law without the Islamic monarch - the driving force behind the move - kicking it off.

Jauyah Zaini, assistant director of Brunei's Islamic Legal Unit, was quoted by the Brunei Times as saying implementation had been delayed "due to unavoidable circumstances". He did not elaborate nor give a new date.

Authorities in the oil-rich sultanate said a sharia "declaration ceremony" would go ahead as planned on April 30 to launch the first phase of the new penal code.

Sultan Hassanal - one of the world's wealthiest men - had announced in October that new sharia law punishments would be phased in.

The UN's human rights office criticised the raft of new measures this month, saying it was "deeply concerned" about the revised criminal code.

The move also sparked an outcry earlier this year on social media - the only outlet for public criticism of authorities in Brunei, where questioning the 67-year-old sultan is taboo.

Non-Muslims have also expressed anxiety over mixed messages on whether the punishments would apply to them.

Situated on Borneo island, which it shares with Malaysia and Indonesia, Brunei practises a more conservative form of Islam than its Muslim-majority neighbours, banning the sale of alcohol and heavily restricting other religions.

The sultan has backed the strengthening of Islam in his country, setting up a "firewall" against what he calls potentially harmful outside influences.

Officials have previously said sharia cases would require an extremely high burden of proof and judges would have wide discretion applying it.

Brunei already has the death penalty, but has not carried out any executions since 1957.



HURIWA seeks audit of Nigeria's defence, police budgets

The group demands capital punishment for corrupt public officials in the defence and policing sectors.

Following allegations of widespread corruption in the procurement system of the nation's defence and policing institutions, The Human Rights Writers' Association of Nigeria, HURIWA, has asked the Presidency and the National Assembly to invite internationally reputable auditing firm to undertake comprehensive forensic audit of Defence and police budgets from 1982 to date.

The group also canvassed the speedy amendments of Acts establishing the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, and the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission, ICPC, to specifically make it a capital offence punishable by the death penalty for any proven case of corruption and economic crime established against any public official in the Defence and policing sectors.

In a joint statement by its National Coordinator, Emmanuel Onwubiko, and National media Affairs Director, Zainab Yusuf, the group said that corruption in these 2 key national sectors have not only undermined national security, but also constitute grave threat to the sovereignty of Nigeria.

It stated that the recent allegation by the Borno State Governor, Kashim Shetima, that the outlawed armed insurgency group is better armed than the Nigerian military made it imperative that the huge defence and police budgets over the years be audited to ascertain why these critical sectors are still grossly ill-equipped and ill-motivated.

The group said, "As a pragmatic way out of this quagmire in which we have found ourselves, we urge the presidency and the National Assembly to Commission Independent reputable firms of forensic auditors from across the developed world to undertake comprehensive audits of the defence and police budgets from 1982 to date to determine the veracity or otherwise of the allegation that it was since 1982 that the last major procurement of modern combat weapons for Nigerian armed forces officially took place."

HURIWA also said the forensic investigation of the activities of the officers of the Nigerian Customs Service, NCS, should be undertaken to determine how divergent freelance armed hoodlums obtain small arms and assorted weapons which they deploy to systematically destabilize Nigeria through calculated terrorism and other criminal acts of brigandage and large scale killings of villagers in different parts of Northern Nigeria.

The group stated that it was inconceivable that the border communities would be heavily flooded by assorted weapons currently in use by armed insurgents without the collaboration of officers of the NCS and illegal arms importers and smugglers.

"We are disturbed by the ongoing campaign of terrorism and brigandage going on at different parts of North East Nigeria which have unfortunately resulted in the killings of over 5000 innocent Nigerians, including the forced abduction of teenage school girls in Chibok Local Council Area of Borno State," It said.

The group lamented the spectacular failure of intelligence and the apparent inability of the Nigerian security agencies to sufficiently defeat these divergent armed freelance fighters who have gravely undermined Nigeria's national security and threatened in a very serious way, Nigeria's territorial integrity.

HURIWA demanded the introduction of the death penalty for criminal act of corruption in the defence and police sectors.

"From abundance of evidence, it has been scientifically proven that a nation that cannot defeat armed hoodlums is on the verge of surrendering her sovereignty.

"Our current crises of widespread insecurity came about because of a groundswell of corruption in the opaque procurement mechanisms in practice in Nigeria's defence and police sectors."

(source: Premium Times)


PNG crime agencies told to enforce new penalties

A Papua New Guinea government lawyer says tough new penalties passed by Parliament last year should be being applied by law enforcement agencies.

Under changes the Prime Minister, Peter O'Neill, had called draconian attempts to curb lawlessness, people convicted of major crimes could get the death penalty or life imprisonment.

The penalties had come into effect 8 months ago but some law enforcement agencies, including the courts, had indicated they had not been made aware of the changes.

However government lawyer, Johnny Bogombari, says they all should be aware of the new penalties and apply them accordingly.

Our correspondent reports officials have questioned whether the system delivers true justice.

He says there is a call for a jury system to give more balance and ensure people are not wrongly deprived of their life and liberty.

(source: Radio New Zealand International)

FLORIDA----impending execution

Florida set to execute convicted double murderer

Florida is set to execute a man convicted of killing his cousin and his cousin's wife to prevent the cousin from testifying at his burglary trial.

Robert Hendrix is scheduled to be executed at 6 p.m. Wednesday at Florida State Prison in Starke. He was convicted of the 1990 murders of Elmer and Michelle Scott at their Lake County home.

Prosecutors say the 47-year-old Hendrix killed them because Elmer Scott intended to testify against him. But Hendrix's attorney says there is no forensic evidence linking his client to the murders and that the witnesses against him were unreliable.

Hendrix is asking a court stay to block the execution.

Hendrix would be the 4th person executed in Florida this year and the 16th since Gov. Rick Scott took office in 2011.

(source: Associated Press)


Prosecutor seeks death penalty in rural Ottawa killings

A prosecutor is seeking the death penalty against a 28-year-old man accused in the fatal shooting of 4 people at a rural eastern Kansas farm.

The Topeka Capital-Journal reports Kyle Flack stood silent during his arraignment Tuesday as District Judge Eric Godderz entered a not guilty plea on his behalf.

Flack is charged with 2 counts of 1st-degree murder in the deaths of 30-year-old Andrew Stout and 31-year-old Steven White at the property in Ottawa. He is charged with capital murder in the deaths of 21-year-old Kaylie Bailey and her 18-month-old daughter, Lana-Leigh Bailey.

Franklin County prosecutor Stephen Hunting filed a motion seeking the death penalty in connection with the deaths of Bailey and her daughter.

All 4 were fatally shot in late April or early May last year.

(source: Associated Press)


Missouri executes convicted killer in 1993 cattle-stealing plot

Missouri on Wednesday executed a man who had been convicted in 1993 of murdering an elderly farming couple in a plot to steal their cattle, a state official said.

William Rousan, 57, was pronounced dead at 12:10 a.m. at a state prison in Bonne Terre, said Mike O'Connell, a spokesman for the state's Department of Public Safety.

Rousan was sentenced to death for the murder of 62-year-old Grace Lewis and life in prison without parole for the murder of her 67-year-old husband Charles. Authorities said he was the mastermind in a siege that included his son and his brother, Robert, a spokeswoman for Missouri's top lawyer said.

"(Rousan) showed his true character by ordering his 16-year-old son to kill Mrs. Lewis, all so they could steal two cows, soda, a VCR, and some jewelry," Attorney General Chris Koster said in a statement.

The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday refused to stay his execution. Rousan's attorneys had argued that Missouri's secrecy around its lethal injection drugs could result in undue suffering for the inmate as he was put to death.

After the court denial, Missouri Governor Jay Nixon denied a clemency request, clearing the way for Rousan's execution.

Controversy has arisen over lethal injection drugs as many states have turned to lightly regulated compounding pharmacies for supplies after the makers of drugs traditionally used in lethal injections largely stopped supplying them for executions.

Advocates for death row inmates say the convicts have a right to know the legitimacy of the supplier and details about the purity and potency of the drugs.

And they say the compounded drugs, which are not approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, could lead to undue suffering that amounts to cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the U.S. Constitution.

O'Connell said Rousan showed no signs of distress, adding a witness said Rousan took 2 deep breaths and then stopped breathing.

The slain couple's son, Michael Lewis, told reporters after the execution that he drew "no real satisfaction from Mr. Rousan's incarceration or execution," because neither could bring his parents back.

Rousan, in a final written statement, said: "My trials and transgressions have been many."

In their petition to the U.S. Supreme Court, Rousan's attorneys had said the state was planning to use "compounded pentobarbital prepared by an unknown person in an unknown manner, without any assurance by an accredited laboratory that the substance is what the state purports it to be."

Last year, Missouri started classifying compounding pharmacies as part of its execution team and said the identities of the pharmacies were thus shielded from public disclosure.

But attorneys for Rousan argued he had a right to know what he would be injected with.

Similar arguments have been made on behalf of inmates in other states. On Monday, the Oklahoma Supreme Court halted the executions of Clayton Lockett, set for Tuesday, and Charles Warner, set for April 29.

Louisiana and Ohio have seen executions delayed this year because of concerns about suffering that might be caused by non-traditional drug supplies.

The family of one inmate executed in Ohio in January has filed suit against the state because, according to some witnesses, he took an unusually long time to die and appeared to be in pain. (Reporting by Carey Gillam and Eric M. Johnson; Additional reporting by Heide Brandes in Oklahoma City; Editing by Cynthia Osterman, Mohammad Zargham and Clarence Fernandez)

Rousan becomes the 4th Missouri condemned inmate to be put to death this year and the 74th overall since the state resumed capital punishment in 1989. Only Texas (515), Oklahoma (110), Virginia (110) and Florida (85) have executed more inmates since the death penalty was re-legalized in the US on July 2, 1976.

Rousan becomes the 18th condemned inmate to be put to death this year in the USA and the 1377th overall since the nation resumed executions on January 17, 1977.

(sources: Reuters & Rick Halperin)


Prosecutors await decision on death penalty in Tacony dungeon case

Federal prosecutors in Philadelphia are awaiting a decision by U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder on whether the government should seek the death penalty for Linda Ann Weston.

Weston, 54, is the accused mastermind of a decadelong scheme to kidnap and keep mentally disabled victims hostage - including 4 disabled adults found malnourished in a locked Tacony dungeon in 2011 - to bilk them of their Social Security benefits.

At a status hearing yesterday, Assistant U.S. Attorney Faithe Moore Taylor told U.S. District Judge Cynthia Rufe that the decision had not been made, but that her office had requested an expedited review.

Weston, her then-boyfriend, another man and her daughter were arrested in October 2011 after police discovered the 4 mentally disabled victims locked in a squalid, urine-reeking sub-basement of an apartment building on Longshore Avenue in Tacony.

In January 2013, federal authorities indicted the 4 and added a 5th defendant, a Florida man, charging them with racketeering enterprise, conspiracy to commit a hate crime and kidnapping.

Weston alone was charged with 2 counts of murder - 1 for the June 2005 death of Donna Spadea, 59, in an apartment on Glenview Street in Northeast Philadelphia, and the other for the November 2008 death of Maxine Lee, 39, a Philadelphia native, in Norfolk, Va.

Weston had lived with each of the women, who had mental disabilities, and allegedly kept them captive and deprived them of sufficient care and food.

Although local federal prosecutors have said that Weston's case is eligible for the death penalty because of the murder charges, they have not said whether they recommended the death penalty to the U.S. Department of Justice. That decision-making process is confidential.

The trial of Weston and her 4 co-defendants is expected to begin sometime next year. If it is not a capital case, the trial, with jury selection, could last about 4 months, Taylor said. If it is a capital case, it is expected to last about 6 months.

Defense attorney Paul George, who is representing Weston with lead counsel Patricia McKinney, said after the hearing that the defense is asking federal prosecutors not to seek the death penalty.

Prosecutors in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania have sought the death penalty in only a handful of cases in modern memory. The only defendant in a federal case in Philadelphia sentenced to death in recent history was Kaboni Savage, the North Philly drug kingpin who ordered a 2004 rowhouse firebombing that killed 4 children and 2 women.



The Execution Wave in Iran: 30 Executions in 2 Weeks

A 24 year old man was hanged in the Vakilabad prison of Mashhad (Northeastern Iran) on Monday April 21. He was convicted of a murder allegedly committed in 2010, reported the Iranian daily newspaper Khorasan. The same newspaper reported about execution of 2 other prisoners on Sunday April 20. These prisoners were a 20 year old man and a 32 year old man both convicted of murder in 2 different cases.

One of the prisoners is believed to be the juvenile offender Ebrahim Hajati whose execution was reported earlier by Iran Human Rights (IHR).

According to reliable sources in Iran, 5 prisoners were hanged in the prison of Rajai Shahr of Karaj (west of Tehran) early morning April 22. These prisoners are identified as Seyed Farhad Mollahasani, Akbar nobakht, Davoudi Sahraei, Ali Asghar Kavakabi and Hormoz Rezaei, all convicted of murder and sentenced to qisas (retribution).

Al Arabiya reported about execution of 6 Afghan citizens in Iran. Quoting Afghan sources in the Takhar Province of Afghanistan, the report said that these prisoners were convicted of drug related charges. The executions are believed to have taken place on Friday April 18.

The group "Human Rights and Democracy Activists in Iran" (HRDAI) reported that 8 prisoners were executed in the Ghezelhesar prison of Karaj. 5 of these prisoners were identified by name. IHR is investigating the details about these executions.

IHR has also reported executions in Saveh, Kermanshah and Bandar Abbas during the past 2 weeks.

(source: Iran Human Rights)


American gets death sentence for drug trafficking in Vietnam; Press: Officials found heroin hidden in his underwear

State media say a court in Vietnam has sentenced an American to death for heroin trafficking.

The Liberated Saigon newspaper says Jason Dinh, 41, was convicted of trafficking 1 kilogram (2.2 pounds) of heroin at a one-day trial by Ho Chi Minh City's People's Court on Tuesday.

The paper said Wednesday that Dinh was arrested last June after customs officials found the heroin hidden in his underwear as he was boarding a flight from Ho Chi Minh City to Australia.

The report quoted the indictment as saying Dinh was hired by an unidentified man to carry the heroin for $30,000.

Court officials were not available for comment Wednesday.

Vietnam has some of the world toughest drug laws, where possessing or trafficking 100 gram of heroin carries the death penalty.

(source: KRMG news)


The Death Penalty and What It Really Means

On 15 April 2014 Balal, an Iranian sentenced to death for the murder of Abdollah Hosseinzadeh, was saved by the victim's own parents. Some interpretations of Shari'a have family members of the victim participating in the execution by pushing the chair out from underneath the criminal. However in this case a rare act of forgiveness, or at least the absence of vengeance, saved the condemned man from the noose.

Hosseinzadeh's mother chose to forgive her son's killer and his father removed the noose from around Balal's neck to spare him from the death penalty. This display of compassion and humanity gives hope to many, but it is still just a drop in the ocean when public executions like this still happen at an alarmingly high rate in countries such as Iran.

Last month Amnesty International published a report on the 2013 figures for the number of Death sentences and Executions. Despite four countries reinstating the death penalty (Indonesia, Kuwait, Vietnam and Nigeria) and an increase in the number of executions in comparison to 2012, only 20% of executions occurred outside of Iran, Iraq and Saudi Arabia (excluding China whose figures remain unreliable).

With the majority of the world against the death penalty it is therefore surprising that so far this year in Iran, there have been executions at a rate of nearly two per day. The death penalty is being used as a solution for crime and the public nature in which it so often occurs is criticised by many activists and organisations, as children witness these acts of human violence. By having public executions, the Iranian authorities are not only glorifying this punishment but also perpetuating a society whose values are based on violence and inhumanity.

Albert Camus said that "Capital punishment is the most premeditated of murders". The use of the death penalty only acknowledges violence as a way to resolve conflict between two people. It is true that sometimes an act of murder is reported that is so inhumane, cruel and truly horrific, that the death penalty seems the only just way to punish such a criminal. However this goes against everything that we as a global community accept to be right and moral. One must also remember that the death penalty is not only given for crimes that are universally deemed severe, but also for acts such as blasphemy, and in certain countries where mental illness is not as recognised as in the Western world can be a punishment for the mentally handicapped.

Capital Punishment satisfies a base instinct that intrudes on our otherwise developed civilisation and that we must fight against. It is not and should never be in our power to decide who should live and who should die. The fact that so many executions occur in China and Iran, among other countries, in secret only confirms the fact that it is an act of shame and dishonour. To be ashamed of your own judicial punishment system suggests that you know it is wrong and flawed. This is not a new argument and yet progress towards the total abolition of this inhumane punishment is slow and ineffective.

The true significance of the death penalty is as a symbol of man's inability to create a completely peaceful and civilised society. We can blame violent video games and television programmes for the violent crimes that appear in the news every month, but until we abolish a punishment that legally acknowledges violence as a viable means of justice, problems will continue to persist. It is still shocking that the United States of America, a society so advanced, maintains Capital Punishment as an appropriate way to deal with criminal individuals within their community. Former warden of the San Quentin State Prison Jeanne Woodford, now executive director of Death Penalty Focus (an organisation opposed to capital punishment) encompasses all that is wrong with this punishment by stating "The death penalty serves no one. It doesn't serve the victims. It doesn't serve prevention. It's truly all about retribution."

(source: Kat Hind, Linguist, Durham Student and Dancer----Huffington Post)

APRIL 22, 2014:


Prosecutors to seek death penalty in 1980 Williamson County murder case

The Williamson County District Attorney's Office has announced it will seek the death penalty against Steven Alan Thomas, the man accused in a 1980 murder case that hinges on a fingerprint and a DNA sample from a grisly homicide scene.

Mildred McKinney, 73, was restrained, beaten, sexually assaulted and then strangled in her own bed at her home on Sherbourne Street, in what was then southwestern Williamson County. The case baffled authorities for 32 years until DNA tests led to Thomas' arrest in July 2012.

(source: Austin American-Statesman)


Abolish the Death Penalty

To the Editor:

It seems like years ago that I sat in an auditorium at Plymouth State University listening to a few proponents and many opponents of the death penalty discuss its repeal in New Hampshire. I thought at the end of the meeting that abolition was a done deal. I don't understand the debate! Of course, religious groups gave the moral reasons for abolition of the death penalty.

However, although this subject does touch many moral strings, I left that meeting feeling that abolition just makes common sense. After all, research has been done showing that the death penalty does not serve as a deterrent to heinous crimes and, in addition, legal costs for death penalty cases are 3 to 5 times more than the cost of lifetime incarceration without parole. New Hampshire has already spent more than $5 million on the Michael Addison case alone. Our tax money could be better spent on victim services and cold cases.

As long as the death penalty is an option in New Hampshire, there is a real and unacceptable risk of executing an innocent person. In addition, the drawn-out court cases and appeals elevate the story of the accused killer while denying victims the healing and closure they need. I am tired of the fact that we remember killers' names and not the names of victims. Life in prison without parole is adequate punishment for murderers. Let their names and faces fade into obscurity.

Elizabeth A. Trought


(source: Letter to the Editor, Valley News)

FLORIDA----impending execution

Man convicted of killing cousin to be executed

Robert Hendrix didn't want to go back to prison, where he spent time as a teenager. So after his cousin spilled to authorities about an armed burglary they had committed, Hendrix vowed to make sure Elmer Scott never testified against him, even if it meant killing Scott. That's what prosecutors say.

Hendrix, 47, is scheduled to be executed by lethal injection Wednesday at the Florida State Prison in Starke for the 1990 murders of Elmer and Michelle Scott at their Lake County home. But he's seeking a last-minute court stay as his lawyer argues that two witnesses for the prosecution were unreliable and that no forensic evidence links him to the crimes.

In August 1990, the night before his trial in the armed burglary case was to begin, Hendrix shot Scott in the face in his trailer home, hit him in the head with the gun and stabbed him in the neck, prosecutors have said. He then used a knife to cut the throat of Scott's wife, Michelle, who fought back before Hendrix shot her three times, they added.

Scott had already made a plea deal with prosecutors in the armed burglary case in which he and Hendrix broke into a house but only Scott was caught. His cooperation led investigators to arrest Hendrix. In the weeks leading up to his trial, prosecutors say, Hendrix told friends he would kill Scott rather than return to prison

But Scott and his attorney, Harry Brody, said the case is plagued by problems.

"There isn't any real forensic evidence placing him at the scene," Brody said. "He maintains the state hasn't proven anything."

Prosecutors say that on the night of the murders, Hendrix's live-in girlfriend - Denise Turbyville - drove him from Orange County, where they lived, to the Scotts' trailer in neighboring Lake County and dropped him off. Michelle Scott welcomed Hendrix into the trailer, and told him Elmer Scott was in the bathroom shaving and would be out shortly. When Elmer Scott came out, Hendrix asked to use the bathroom. When he left the bathroom, Hendrix fired shots at Elmer Scott and then grabbed a knife and attacked Michelle Scott, according to prosecutors.

Brody said the 2 main witnesses against Hendrix, Turbyville and Roger LaForce, who claimed Hendrix told him details about the murders while they shared a cell in the Lake County Jail, are unreliable. According to Brody, both had a self-interest in testifying for prosecutors.

Turbyville pleaded guilty to 2 counts of 2nd-degree murder and was sentenced to 75 years in prison instead of facing the possibility of the death penalty for a 1st-degree murder charge. LaForce was a confidential informant for a narcotics task force and stood to gain a lighter sentence for his assistance, Hendrix's attorneys say.

"These 2 main witnesses were terribly compromised," Brody said.

Brody also said the presiding judge had a conflict of interest, Hendrix's trial lawyer was ineffective at presenting mitigating circumstances during sentencing and that Hendrix was shackled during his trial, leading jurors to a biased impression that he was dangerous.

The conflict of interest claim arises from Hendrix's assertion that an attorney of Hendrix's girlfriend had consulted with the presiding judge about the case before the judge joined the bench. The girlfriend, Turbyville, was a star witness for the prosecution. Appellate courts have dismissed the allegation. Hendrix's attorneys also claimed the judge had presided over a criminal case against LaForce.

During sentencing, Hendrix's attorneys failed to call witnesses who could have testified that Hendrix was regularly beaten by his father and had a serious drug addiction, factors that could explain his unbalanced mental state, according to court papers filed by Hendrix.

Through the Attorney General's Office, family members of the victims didn't respond to a request for an interview.

Prosecutors contend Hendrix's claims of error during the trial are without merit.

"Hendrix fashions a cumulative error claim but fails to identify where any court has ever found error in any of his claims that would entitle him to relief," Assistant Attorney General Mitchell Bishop said in a recent court filing.

If the execution is carried out, Hendrix would be the 4th person executed in Florida this year and the 16th since Gov. Rick Scott took office in 2011. A petition is pending before the U.S. Supreme Court, and Hendrix has filed a request for a stay of execution with the Florida Supreme Court.

(source: Associated Press)


Death row inmate convicted of Harrison County rape, murder seeks federal review of sentence

Mississippi death row inmate Leslie "Bo" Galloway III, convicted of raping and killing a Harrison Central High senior in 2008, is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to hear his appeal.

Prosecutors say Galloway, now 30, killed the teenager and dumped her body in a rural wooded area off Mississippi Highway 15. Hunters found her body.

In 2013, the Mississippi Supreme Court upheld Galloway's 2010 conviction and death sentence in the slaying of Shakeylia Anderson of Gulfport.

Prosecutors say Galloway, now 30, killed the 17-year-old Anderson and dumped her body in a rural wooded area off Mississippi Highway 15.

Prosecutors said Anderson was last seen getting into Galloway's car on Dec. 5, 2008. Hunters found her body the next day.

Prosecutors said the teenager had been raped and severely burned and had been run over by a vehicle.

Galloway had argued in the state courts that he would not have been eligible for the death penalty had it not been for a forensic pathologist's testimony about Anderson's sexual assault.

Defense attorneys provided the Mississippi court a document with observations from out-of-state forensic pathologists who said the pathologist who testified gave his opinion but did not mention scientific principles or methodology.

The Mississippi Supreme Court said the pathologist's testimony did not go beyond his expertise.

(source: Associated Press)

OHIO----impending execution

Prosecutor opposes death penalty for Cleveland killer scheduled to die next month

Cuyahoga County prosecutors want the Ohio Parole Board to recommend that convicted killer Arthur Tyler be spared from his execution next month. Prosecutors, however, want Tyler, 54, to remain in prison for the rest of his life. The parole board is to hear arguments Thursday involving Tyler's clemency. Ohio Gov. John Kasich will decide whether to change Tyler's sentence.

In a statement about the decision Monday, prosecutors stressed that they believe Tyler was the triggerman who killed Sander Leach, 74, on March 12, 1983. But Prosecutor Timothy McGinty said in a statement that his office would not seek the death penalty in the case if it were tried today, adding that it "may undermine the public confidence" in the criminal justice system.

"Tyler is far from innocent, and his participation in this crime cannot be reasonably questioned," McGinty's office said in a report to the board. "Mr. Leach was robbed and killed because Tyler was indifferent to the suffering of others.

"Tyler had no issue committing crimes and negatively impacting society. Nowhere is this more evident than in his role in this murder."

Prosecutors said Tyler and his co-defendant, Leroy Head, targeted Leach, who was a fruit and vegetable vendor. Authorities said they killed Leach at East 66th Street and Zoeter Avenue in Cleveland. Leach died instantly after 2 .38-caliber bullets riddled Leach's chest.

Almost immediately afterward, Head confessed to the shooting. He told friends, his mother and police that he shot Leach during a robbery, saying Leach forced his hand by trying to pull a gun, according to interviews and published reports.

But Head later recanted and said Tyler shot the vendor. Tyler has maintained that he had nothing to do with the robbery and that he had no idea that Head wanted to rob Leach.

In documents filed Monday, McGinty's office said Ohio law did not allow for the possibility of a sentence of life without parole for an aggravated murder conviction when Tyler was convicted. The documents said that a jury could impose only a sentence of life with the chance of parole after 20 or 30 years or death.

"In light of the limited sentencing options, the absence of the option of a sentence of life without the possibility of parole in this case may have led to the imposition of the death sentence," McGinty's office said in documents.

"While Tyler lacks any compelling mitigation, the absence of this important sentencing option warrants consideration in this case."

Vicki Werneke, an attorney for Tyler, lauded the recommendation by McGinty's office. But she said she will argue that Tyler should be granted life with parole and be released immediately. McGinty will oppose that, saying Tyler should remain in prison for life.

Tyler's co-defendant, Head, was charged with aggravated murder with Tyler. He was released from prison in 2008. Tyler's attorneys have stressed that Head lied and placed the blame on Tyler in order to avoid the death penalty.


MISSOURI----impending execution

Missouri man facing execution denied clemency

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon declined a death row inmate's clemency request Tuesday evening, clearing the way for his execution hours later barring an unforeseen development in the case.

William Rousan, 57, is scheduled to die at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday for the 1993 killing of a southeast Missouri woman, Grace Lewis, whose husband, Charles, was also killed in the attack at their farm.

In a statement explaining his decision, Nixon said he thinks Rousan's sentence is appropriate for allegedly masterminding the "cold-blooded plot" that also involved Rousan's son and his brother, who are both in prison.

Earlier Tuesday, the U.S. Supreme Court turned down Rousan's request to delay his execution, so all of his appeals have been exhausted.

Efforts to spare Rousan's life hinged an argument that has held little sway over the courts - concerns about the secrecy used to obtain the execution drug, and the possibility that a substandard drug could cause pain and suffering in the execution process.

Several states, including Missouri, now use compounded execution drugs purchased from unnamed pharmacies. Courts so far have allowed most executions to move forward. However, on Monday, the Oklahoma Supreme Court stayed the executions of 2 death row inmates who challenged the secrecy surrounding the process of procuring execution drugs.

Missouri has executed 1 death row inmate each month since November. Another execution, of Russell Bucklew, is scheduled for May 21. Only Texas, with 7 executions, and Florida, with 4, have executed more inmates than Missouri's 3 so far in 2014.

Rousan was sentenced to death for the killing of 62-year-old Grace Lewis, of rural St. Francois County, in 1993. He was sentenced to life in prison in the death of her 67-year-old husband, Charles. The killings were part of a plot to steal cattle from the Lewis farm near Bonne Terre - just a couple of miles from the prison where Rousan faces execution.

Rousan also lived in the same area of St. Francois County, about 70 miles southwest of St. Louis. On Sept. 21, 1993, Rousan, his 16-year-old son, Brent, and his brother, Robert, concocted a plan to kill the couple and steal their cattle. Authorities said at trial that William Rousan was the ringleader.

The men drove by the farm, and William Rousan pointed out the cattle to steal. They parked about 2 miles away and hiked through the woods to the farm. They watched as the couple returned home. Charles Lewis began cutting the lawn with a riding mower while his wife spoke to the couple's daughter on the phone.

Brent Rousan ambushed Charles Lewis, shooting him 6 times. Grace Lewis told her daughter on the phone she heard gunfire and stepped outside to check on the commotion. Brent Rousan shot her several times. She managed to go back into the home, but William Rousan followed her, placed a garment bag over her head and carried her outside.

He turned to his son and said, "Finish her off." Brent Rousan fired a single shot into the side of her head.

The men placed the bodies in a tarp and put them near a shed. Later that night, they returned, along with another Rousan brother, loaded the bodies in the Lewis' pickup truck, and took two cows, a VCR, jewelry, a saddle and other items.

For almost exactly a year, they got away with the crime. The couple seemingly had vanished without a trace.

In September 1994 investigators received a tip - a VCR sold to a pawn shop by a sister of William and Robert Rousan was the one stolen from the Lewises. It was the break police had been waiting for.

The bodies were found buried in a shallow grave covered with concrete and a pile of horse manure on the farm where William Rousan was living at the time. After a 4-day manhunt, Rousan was arrested while hiding in a barn on Sept. 20, 1994. He was caught with a .22-caliber semi-automatic rifle and a knife.

Brent Rousan pleaded guilty to 2 counts of 1st-degree murder and was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Robert Rousan cooperated with prosecutors and pleaded guilty to 2nd-degree murder. He was released from prison in 2001, Missouri Department of Corrections spokesman David Owen said.

(source: Associated Press)


Missouri inmate's lawyers call on supreme court to halt execution; William Rousan's attorneys say wall of secrecy around lethal injection drugs amounts to cruel and unusual punishment

Lawyers representing a death row inmate in Missouri who is scheduled to be put to death shortly after midnight tonight with a drug whose source is being kept secret are calling on the US supreme court to step in and stop the execution.

William Rousan's attorneys argue that the impenetrable wall of secrecy surrounding the lethal injection drugs that the state of Missouri intends to use amounts to a violation of his constitutional rights. The defence team, lead by Philip Horwitz, argues that in the absence of any information about the batch of pentobarbital the state intends to use to kill Rousan, or about where the drug was obtained, the prisoner could be subjected to a form of cruel and unusual punishment banned under the US constitution.

The call for a stay of execution for Rousan - who would be the 6th inmate to be put to death by Missouri in as many months - comes just 1 day after the supreme court of Oklahoma postponed 2 executions. Clayton Lockett, 38, and Charles Warner, 46, were temporarily spared the gurney after a state court found that the secrecy surrounding the procurement of lethal drugs was unconstitutional.

A district court judge, Patricia Parrish, ruled on 26 March that by withholding information on where it was obtaining the drugs, the state of Oklahoma was violating the prisoner's right to due process as set out in the 14th amendment of the US constitution. "I do not think that this is even a close call," she said.

With intense legal action in Missouri, hard on the heels of the stay of execution ordered in Oklahoma, the issue of state secrecy in death penalty states is now reaching boiling point. Courts in Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas have also expressed misgivings about the creeping spread of secrecy adopted by death penalty states as a way of skirting around a European-lead boycott of corrections departments in the supply of lethal drugs.

So far, the US supreme court has tried to stay out of the bitter legal struggle. But death penalty experts suspect that unless a consensus forms between states, the highest judicial panel in the nation will eventually be forced to intervene.

"The US supreme court really wants to avoid this issue, which it sees as a matter for individual states," said Richard Dieter, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center. "But there are basic constitutional issues at play here of due process, and if there is a clear contradiction among the rulings handed out at state level, then the supreme court may have to step in."

Such a contradiction is most likely to be seen in Missouri, where the courts have so far shown no truck with the argument that secrecy is a violation of fundamental rights. The state has extended its definition of the execution team to include pharmacists and other suppliers that sell lethal drugs to the corrections department, thus throwing a cloak of total secrecy around the supply chain.

Such secrecy is desired by death penalty states, because where the identity of the pharmacist or manufacturer becomes known, the source frequently chooses to stop providing the drugs for fear of adverse public attention. Earlier this year it was revealed that a Tulsa, Oklahoma-based pharmacy had been compounding pentobarbital and shipping it to Missouri for use in executions.

But Missouri's cloak-and-dagger approach to its executions has already provoked sharp criticism from some senior judges. In February, Kermit Bye, a federal judge on the 8th circuit court of appeals, said caustically that "from the absolute dearth of information Missouri has disclosed to this court, the 'pharmacy' on which Missouri relies could be nothing more than a high school chemistry class."

Barring a last-minute stay from the US supreme court or from the Missouri governor, Jay Nixon, Rousan, 57, will be executed at 12.01am tomorrow morning. He was convicted of the 1993 murder of a couple, Grace and Charles Lewis, on a farm outside Bonne Terre.

(source: The Guardian)


Arizona Senate approves bill making human smugglers convicted of murder eligible for death

The Arizona Senate has approved a bill that could make human smugglers convicted of murder eligible for the death penalty.

The Senate approved House Bill 2313 with a 19-9 vote on Tuesday.

The bill by Rep. Justin Pierce of Mesa adds to the list of aggravating circumstances whether it is likely that a defendant would commit another crime and that he or she is a threat to society.

It also designates smuggling as a serious offense. That would make human smugglers who are convicted of murder eligible for the death penalty.

The bill will go back to the House for final approval.

(source: Associated Press)


Hearing set Nov. 18 for Utah man held in slaying of Murray woman found in burning home

A judge scheduled a 3-day preliminary hearing beginning Nov. 18 for a Utah man who could face the death penalty in the slaying of an 84-year-old Murray woman before her body was found in her burning home.

Christen James Spencer is facing aggravated murder, burglary, kidnapping, robbery and arson charges, along with failure to stop for police.

The 49-year-old Spencer was arrested Feb. 6.

He's accused of killing Shirley Sharp and setting her house on fire Jan. 25.

Medical examiners say Sharp died of a head injury.

The Salt Lake Tribune reports ( ) that Spencer was found driving the woman's car, with her DNA on his clothing and property missing from her home.

He's being held at the Davis County Jail pending his next appearance.

(source: Associated Press)


US drug shortage could change death penalty

The United States is having difficulty getting the drugs it needs to kill condemned prisoners humanely, putting the death penalty under pressure.

Companies don't want to be connected to it, and abolitionists are against the older ways of killing.

Oklahoma has suspended the executions of Clayton Lockett and Charles Warner - a man who raped and murdered a woman and a man who raped and murdered a baby - after the state was unable to answer their questions whether an untested combination of drugs sold as lethal would work as predicted.

The constitution says those to die have a right to know how it will be, but more authorities are being secretive about supplies, as traditional sources dry up, complicating things.

One crucial case was that of Dennis McGuire, who took more than 20 minutes to die last January. It is reported that he suffered. It was a 1st-time use of the drugs.

In 1989, McGuire raped and murdered 22-year-old Joy Stewart, who was 7 months pregnant.

Death row inmates in the US have a constitutional protection from cruel and unusual treatment, and critics' calls are increasing for a moratorium on capital punishment.

Since 2011, European firms have refused to sell barbiturates to American prisons for executions. The last American company that made the anaesthetic that was commonly used in the past ended production in that same year. States turned to a product used on animals. But then the last European exporter of that, a Danish company, stopped. In this cycle of what experts have called experimentation, several states, such as Texas, Missouri and Oklahoma, have turned to pharmacies which customise small batches of drugs - a grey area of business.

The Supreme Court reinstated capital punishment in 1976. Since then, more than 1,300 people have been executed. More than 3,000 are waiting for it. The death penalty is still on the law books for use in 32 states, and by the army and federal government.

Also still allowable by law in at least some of these are the methods of lethal injection, the electric chair, the gas chamber, hanging and the firing squad.

Tennessee is close to approving bringing back the chair, though the Death Penalty Information Centre said this would probably be challenged on the grounds that electrocution is, by today's standards, unconstitutionally cruel compared with lethal injection.

(source: Euro News)


Brunei temporarily halts implementing law stoning gay people

Brunei's new law mandating the stoning of gay people has been officially delayed. reports that the new penal code that calls for death by stoning for same-sex relations, robbery, insulting or defamation of the Prophet Mohammed as well as a list of other sexually related offences such as rape and adultery was to come into effect April 22.

No confirmed new date was given for the law to take effect although an official told the Brunei Times that the punishment which includes flogging, severing of limbs and death by stoning was to begin in the very near future.

Brunei Times quoted Jauyah Zaini, assistant director of the Muslim sultanate's Islamic Legal Unit as saying that the delay was due to unavoidable circumstances as Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, the head of state and government, is on a trip to Singapore.

However officials told AFP that the country would go ahead and enforce the new law as planned on April 30 but in a phased manner.

Same-sex relations have long been a crime in Brunei, but the maximum punishment till now has been a 10-year prison sentence. The new law introduces stoning to death as the specific method of execution for crimes of a sexual nature, including those of same-sex relations.

The United Nations human rights office has voiced deep concern about the revised penal code and the death penalty for such a broad range of offences contravenes.

Stoning people to death constitutes torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment and is thus clearly prohibited, it said.

The criminalization and application of the death penalty for consensual relations between adults in private also violates a whole host of rights, including the rights to privacy, equality, freedom from arbitrary arrest and detention, it added.

Brunei has maintained an effective moratorium on the use of the death penalty since 1957.

Muslim-majority Brunei gained independence from the United Kingdom in 1984. It has considerable wealth from petroleum and natural gas fields and is classified as a developed country.

Under Brunei's constitution, Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah is head of state and rules the country as Prime Minister, Finance Minister and Defense Minister.

(source: LGBT Weekly)


Families of prisoners hanged in Gohardasht joined protest outside Hassan Rouhani office

This morning, Tuesday, April 22, the anti-human clerical regime collectively hanged 5 prisoners in Gohardasht Prison in Karaj City. These prisoners had been transferred to solitary confinement the day before.

This anti-human crime, concurrent with public abhorrence and loath for the barbaric raid on the political prisoners in Evin Prison, is to generate horror and fear in the society and the prisons throughout the country.

While the number of collective and arbitrary executions since Hassan Rouhani has assumed office is over 700, last week, this deceitful mullah demagogically described these anti-human and anti-Islamic executions as "God's commandment" or the "law of parliament that belongs to the people".

The families of the prisoners who were executed today, joined a gathering in front of mullahs' Presidential Office by families of political prisoners and a number of residents of Tehran. Families of the executed prisoners held placards that read: "Why execute?" This gathering was held in protest to the April 17 barbaric raid by suppressive forces on the political prisoners of Ward 350 of Evin Prison.

This barbaric attack by mullahs' regime against the political prisoners in Ward 350 of Evin Prison aimed to crush the resistance of the prisoners and to intensify the atmosphere of terror in the society,but it raised a wave of abhorrence amongst the people.

(source: Secretariat of the National Council of Resistance of Iran)


District Attorney Considering Death Penalty for Tim's Market Shooters

District Attorney Mark Skurka is considering whether or not to seek the death penalty against the suspects in last week's fatal convenience store shooting.

That shooting happened last Monday at the Tim's Market on Ayers and Brownlee. The 3 suspects -- Del Victoria Cavazos, Arturo Navarro and Daniel Garcia, all 26 years old -- have been charged with capital murder for killing 59-year old Moustafa Binghamiam, known to most as Ben Mustafa.

The process of deciding whether to seek the death penalty is fairly complex. Not all capital crimes carry a death sentence, which is why death penalty cases have to be carefully weighed before the decision to ask for it can be posed before a jury.

District Attorney Mark Skurka said there is much to consider.

"First of all, it would be the heinousness of the crime. The 2nd thing we'd look for is the person's criminal history," Skurka said. "For example, is this his 1st crime or his 15th crime? That's an important consideration. Has he been through the system before? Has he been afforded the chance at rehabilitation?"

Also to be considered is whether the defendant is a continuing threat to society, or whether there is a history of mental issues, or even if the person is incompetent.

All of these issues are considered by the DA when he meets with his top prosecutors and investigators, before making the ultimate decision whether to seek the death penalty.

When it comes to the city's most recent capital murder, the death of Benjamin Mustafa, the DA said it could be some time before he decides whether to seek the death penalty.

"First of all, there's three people that we have to seek their background," Skurka said. "We can get a grand jury subpoena where we get their school records, get medical records, if they've ever been patients at MHMR, any other kind of criminal history they have. We'll have to research that and look at the actual crimes to see if they have an assault or violent history. So I don't think it's going to happen right away."

Skurka said he continues to get calls from the community asking the same question, whether he plans to seek the death penalty for one or all 3 of the suspects in the Tim's Market shooting. He said he understands the concern of the public because Mustafa was well-liked by many, but he said once all of the investigation is complete, he will make a decision.

(source: KIII TV news)


Many Steps Ahead in Overturned Conviction Case

Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams has filed an appeal to reverse an overturned conviction for a man who has spent more than 1/2 of his adult life on Pennsylvania's death row.

Jimmy Dennis was convicted of robbing and murdering 17-year-old Chedell Williams at Fern Rock Transportation center in 1991. A year later he was sent to death row.

The first sign of hope for Dennis came last year when his conviction was overturned by U.S. District Judge Anita Brody in August. In her ruling, Brody cited numerous flaws in the case against Dennis, calling it "a grave miscarriage of justice."

Shortly after Brody entered her order, Williams expressed his disappointment with the overturned conviction and has since filed an appeal to the Third Circuit Court to have Brody's order that would grant Dennis a new trial reversed. The appeal calls Brody's decision erroneous.

"The District Court dismissed compelling evidence of Dennis's guilt as "scant" based on its independent reading of the trial record, statements of individuals who never testified at trial, and expert opinions that were never before the jury or even the state courts," the filing read.

Executive Director of the national non-profit Death Penalty Information Center Richard Deiter said William's appeal is a part of a long, slow process that could trigger years of additional litigation.

"This sounds like a case that still has many steps ahead of it. It's overturned, but that decision can be appealed up to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. Even assuming he gets a new trial, the whole appeals process could start all over," Deiter said.

"The death penalty is very frustrating to people on death row, to victims waiting to see the case resolved; police have to come back and testify, judges sometimes deal with these cases their whole lives. It is a frustrating process and it is a slow process. What is at stake here is life or death, so it's appropriate that the courts be careful."

Tasha Jamerson, a spokesman for William's office said the DA is standing by the original ruling, no matter how long the process may take.

"It is up to the courts to decide. It could be a week, a month, a year or several years. This defendant was convicted by a jury of his peers and sentenced to death, we stand behind that conviction and that sentence," she said.

Last week, Williams announced the creation of a new Conviction Review Unit that will be responsible for re-investigating post-conviction claims of new evidence and declarations of innocence. Jamerson says the unit was created in an effort to balance the Office's interest in investigating good faith claims of innocence with its obligation to defend valid convictions.

Tonya Sneed, one of Dennis' supporters, said Dennis is hopeful that the appeal will end in his favor.

"The process is still going on but I think, in general, the team of supporters is pretty positive right now. I think Jimmy is really positive too now," she said.

"I've spoken to him in the last couple of weeks. I think there was a long stretch of time where he seemed very depressed and discouraged, but now I think there's a great deal of hope."



This Man Is About to Die Because an Alcoholic Lawyer Botched His Case; What does it take for a condemned person to win a resentencing?

When people recount their alcohol consumption after a night on the town, or even a serious bender, they usually think about it in terms of drinks. Very rarely do they calibrate their intake in quarts. So most of us don't have a good sense of just how much a quart of vodka is -a bit more than 21 shots, as it turns out. That's the amount of alcohol lawyer Andy Prince consumed every night during the death penalty trial of his client, Robert Wayne Holsey, a low-functioning man with a tortured past who now stands on the brink of execution in Georgia.

When a person drinks that heavily, there's bound to be collateral damage - and for Prince and his clients the damage was profound. Once a skilled lawyer, Prince already had dug himself a very deep hole by the time Holsey went to trial in February 1997. But the signs of his downward spiral were clear 14 months earlier, back in December 1995, when a Baldwin County judge first assigned him the case. Prince had recently defaulted on a $20,000 promissory note, and Bell South and Vanguard Financial had won separate judgments against him totaling an additional $25,000. And then there was the probate fiasco: In June 1994, a client named Margaret Collins had hired Prince to handle the estate of her deceased common-law husband, which was valued at $116,000. Within a year there was almost nothing left - Prince had spent it all. He never really considered it stealing, he later insisted. He'd always intended to pay the money back when that one big civil case came along.

In an altercation with neighbors, Holsey's white lawyer wielded a gun: "Nigger, get the fuck out of my yard or I'll shoot your black ass."

His deterioration emerged in other troubling ways. In June 1996, after 6 months as Holsey's lawyer, Prince got into an argument with neighbors at his apartment complex, cursing at them - "Nigger, get the fuck out of my yard or I'll shoot your black ass" - and threatening them with a gun. He was a white lawyer defending a black man in the high-profile murder of a white police officer, but nowhere in the Holsey case record was there ever a suggestion that he might be unfit to handle the case. He was simply charged with 2 counts of pointing a pistol at another, 2 counts of simple assault, two counts of disorderly conduct, and, of course, public drunkenness.

For Prince, it all came back to alcohol. Three months before he wrote the first of many checks against the estate, conduct that eventually put him in prison, he was hit with a complaint from the Athens Regional Medical Center for his failure to pay more than $10,000 for an inpatient substance abuse program he'd attended in 1993. But the drinking began long before that. By 14 he already had a problem with it, and by his late 30s, he'd lost his battle with alcoholism countless times.

On 1 occasion, in 1988, Prince staggered into the Athens emergency room with a blood alcohol level almost four times the driving limit, declared that he'd been drunk 2 months running, and asked to be detoxified. He'd come in before, and, as was his pattern, he signed himself out against the advice of the attending doctors. In May 1993, he upped the ante, arriving at the ER with a near-death .346 blood alcohol level. As Thomas Butcher, a doctor at the facility, noted in his psychological evaluation:

When a very intelligent man whose professional life is spent out maneuvering and out smarting other people repetitively makes a serious judgment error based on a belief that has been repeatedly shown to be wrong, he needs to consider that it may be time for him to do some serious revision of his thinking, that is, if he wants to continue to live.

Butcher added that if Prince "made the kind of mistakes in the courtroom that he makes with his drinking he wouldn't have a professional career to worry about."

3 days after the evaluation, Prince checked out of the hospital against doctors' orders, only to return a week later for three weeks of rehab. The treatment didn't take. After 2 months, he was back again (acute intoxication). But Prince was nothing if not resilient. When a physician brought up his struggles - family problems, his disastrous finances, his heavy work responsibilities - Prince insisted he had them "under control." Events would soon prove otherwise.

There are enough of these cases on record that most people in the legal profession no longer find them particularly shocking.

Prince was by no means the first drunk to handle a death penalty trial. There are plenty of well-documented examples. Also of drug-addicted lawyers, lawyers who refer to their clients by racial slurs in front of the jury, lawyers who nap through testimony, and lawyers who don't bother to be in court while a crucial witness is testifying. There are lawyers who have never read their state's death penalty statute, lawyers who file one client's brief in another client's death penalty appeal without changing the names, lawyers who miss life-or-death deadlines, and lawyers who don't even know that capital cases have separate determinations of guilt and punishment. (See "10 Ways to Blow a Death Penalty Case.")

There are enough of these cases on record that most people in the legal profession no longer find them particularly shocking. What is more shocking, though, is how commonly courts and prosecutors are willing to overlook these situations as they occur, and how doggedly they try to defend the death sentences that result. Trial judges, of course, are often the ones who appointed the lawyers in question. And prosecutors have little motivation to demand that their courtroom adversaries be qualified and effective. It's a flawed system that often results in flawed verdicts. For a clear window into it, we need look no further than the Holsey case.

In the early hours of December 17, 1995, Robert Wayne Holsey was arrested and charged for the murder of Baldwin County Deputy Sheriff Will Robinson, who pulled over Holsey's car following the armed robbery of a Jet Food Store in the county seat of Milledgeville. As with any killing of a police officer, it was a high-profile affair. Most of the county's judges attended Robinson's funeral, and many sent flowers. To ensure an impartial hearing, the trial had to be moved two counties away.

Deputy Robinson's killing generated lots of local press.

Like the great majority of people arrested for serious crimes, Holsey could not afford a lawyer; he had to depend on the court to appoint one for him. But it is reasonable to wonder why any court would have chosen Andy Prince for the job. Beyond his chronic alcohol problem and the financial judgments piling up against him, Prince did not generally handle cases in the Milledgeville area.

As it turns out, little thought was given to his suitability. The selection process in the Holsey case conjures up the old military trope about volunteering by means of everyone else taking a step backward. "Because of who the victim was, nobody within the circuit wanted to be appointed to this case," Prince later testified. "And I told [the judge], sure, I'd take it."

On 1 condition: He insisted on picking his co-counsel. Prince had handled capital cases before, and with some success, but he'd only worked on the more traditional guilt/innocence part of the representation - never the crucial sentencing phase. He contacted Rob Westin, the lawyer he'd collaborated with previously. Westin said he'd do it, but then reversed himself in short order. Westin "had gone to the solicitor's office in Baldwin County," Prince later explained, "and had been told that they couldn't believe that he was representing Mr. Holsey and that if he continued to represent him he would never get another deal worked out with that office."

Trammell was likely chosen as Holsey's 2nd lawyer "based on proximity," she later testified. "I had not tried to trial a death penalty case."

His next attempt to secure co-counsel failed as well; the lawyer quit after a few months on the case and took a job with the state attorney general's office. 7 months before the trial date, Prince finally found his "2nd chair" in Brenda Trammell, a lawyer who practiced in Morgan County, where the case was to be tried: "She was about the only one that would take it."

As for Trammell, she assumed she was selected "based on proximity," as she later testified. "I had not tried to trial a death penalty case and I waited for him to tell me what to do, and there really was not a lot of direction in that way."

There was still one thing missing. What distinguishes capital murder trials from noncapital ones is the penalty phase, wherein the jury hears additional evidence and determines the appropriate punishment - usually choosing between death and life without parole. During this phase, a "mitigation specialist," whom the American Bar Association (ABA) describes as "an indispensable member of the defense team throughout all capital proceedings," gathers information that might convince jurors to spare the defendant's life. Indeed, the court provided Holsey's defense team with sufficient funds to hire a mitigation specialist, but no one was ever able to account for the money. Prince later said that he didn't remember what happened to it, only that he was certain no mitigation specialist was ever hired. Which may explain Trammell's response to this question from Holsey's appeals lawyer.

Q: When you got into the case, was there any theory with respect to mitigation in the event that he was convicted?

A: No, sir.

Mitigation theory or not, Holsey went on trial for his life in February 1997.

There is a mantra among competent capital defense lawyers: "Death is different." By this they mean that defending against the state-sanctioned execution of a human being requires extraordinary measures, and that a capital case must be handled with even greater care than a "regular" murder trial. "It is universally accepted," the ABA states, "that the responsibilities of defense counsel in a death penalty case are uniquely demanding."

This is not a new concept. More than 80 years ago, in an infamous capital rape case against nine black teenagers dubbed the Scottsboro Boys, a trial judge appointed the entire Scottsboro, Alabama, bar to represent the defendants - a showing of false magnanimity that the Supreme Court ultimately rejected, noting that it fell far short of the constitutional requirement for the appointment of counsel. An accused person "requires the guiding hand of counsel at every step in the proceedings," the opinion concluded.

But Holsey's lawyers did not provide that guiding hand. They were an odd couple with an awkward rapport. While Prince was a drunk, Trammell was a part-time minister who eschewed alcohol. She recalled stopping by her colleague's hotel room once during the trial to find him drinking, and never stopped by again. When he called her at home one night during the proceedings, slurring his words, she told him not to call her there anymore.

Their inability to communicate had a predictably devastating effect. In this exchange, Trammell is responding to questions from an appeals lawyer about her cross-examination of the state's DNA expert, who had testified that the victim's blood was found on Holsey's shoes:

Q: When were you told that you would cross-examine Michele?

A: Before lunch.

Q: When did she testify?

A: She was testifying. We took a break for us to do the cross, for lunch, and during lunch I had to learn about DNA.

Q: Did you know, had you had any training about DNA before that?

A: No, sir.

Q: Did you know anything at all about the DNA process?

A: No, sir...I was calling during lunch the capital defense people, to ask them what am I supposed to ask about DNA?

Q: And did you learn...being thrown into that, that questioning concerning DNA is an extremely technical and complicated area?

A: Definitely.

On February 11, 1997, both sides made their closing arguments and the judge gave final instructions to the jury. Six hours later, the jurors found Holsey guilty of armed robbery and of the deputy's murder. That was the night Prince called Trammell. Drunk. The only time he ever called her at home. He was concerned, she testified, that the sentencing "was not going to be good."

The state presented its case for death the following morning. 8 witnesses detailed Holsey's criminal background. Beyond the crimes for which he had just been convicted, he had pleaded guilty to 2 counts of aggravated assault 5 years earlier, and an armed robbery with serious bodily injury 14 years earlier. There was considerable dispute over whether the victims in the later incident had initiated the aggravated assaults, but in the end it hardly mattered - Holsey had stabbed a guy 4 times and admitted to it. By the time they rested their case, the state's lawyers had painted a stark portrait of a violent man with a violent past who now had murdered a faithful public servant in the line of duty.

The defense barely challenged that portrayal. They called several witnesses to prolong the useless debate over who was at fault in the aggravated assaults. Two employees from the county jails testified that he hadn't caused any problems at their facilities. Three people from the local Pizza Hut testified that he'd been a good employee for six months or so, until he lost his job when he went to jail for the assaults. The owner of the bar where the assaults had happened said he "had heard something about" Holsey's bed wetting, and drew some vague conclusions about the mother's neglect of her children and lack of parenting skills. Angela, Holsey's younger sister, begged the jury to let him live, but provided nothing compelling about her brother or their family. Which left only one witness to convey anything of substance: his oldest sister, Regina.

Regina Holsey should have been a star defense witness. She was a deputy United States Marshal, an ex-Marine, and a veteran of Operation Desert Storm - not to mention a former employee of the Baldwin County Sheriff's Department, where the victim had worked. Yet her testimony reads like an underdeveloped roll of film: There are hints of powerful evidence that would cast her brother in a more sympathetic light, but the details never fully emerge. Essential facts are mentioned almost in passing: that their father was shot and paralyzed by the police when her mother was pregnant with Wayne. (The family called him Wayne, not Robert.) That he did poorly in school and was considered borderline mentally disabled. That their mother beat the children. That he was a stutterer, and that his sister Angela and mother, Mary, had mental-health problems.

The record reads almost as though Prince felt he was wasting the jury's time. On four separate occasions, with his most critical witness on the stand, he asked Regina to read from isolated portions of crucial documents rather than guiding her, and the jury, through them:

Q: And I'm not, again, just - I'm going to hit a few highlights. This is a juvenile complaint report dated 6-27-65. And I want you to read just the highlighted portion from that 2nd page of that document. And the jury will be able to read it all, but I'm not going to take that much time. I'm going to hit some of the - would you read those highlighted portions, please?

A: The 1st part says Mr. Courson advised me that Robert was basically a runaway case. He has no supervision at home and refuses to return home. Says Mrs. Holsey would not go to the school, and sent a note with Robert. Robert was not allowed to return. When he tried to come back, the principal called the police to remove Robert.

Trammell's closing argument is even more cursory, perhaps because she didn't learn she was going to present it until the night before. In a 9 1/2-page speech laden with religious references - the lawyer/minister uses the word "God" 16 times and "Jesus" another 5 - she managed to condense the mitigating evidence for her client into the space of a single paragraph.

Not all of us are abused and neglected, cursed at. Not all of us grow up with no father, with no mother, in essence who are neglected and are left alone, who are beaten. You know, you have got the records of Angela Holsey. Look at those when you go out. With a foster placement plan that says, "We can't send her back to a parent that won't encourage her in anything; it in actuality encourages her violence." Who is borderline mentally retarded. Wayne is borderline mentally retarded. Does that excuse him? No, there is no excuse. Who stuttered, who wet the bed until he was 12, and no one even takes him to the doctor for it. Who grew up by himself.

She ended with a plea for mercy. As inebriated as Prince may have been when he'd called her before, he was correct in his prediction. In less than 2 hours, the jury returned with a death sentence.

Trouble caught up with Andy Prince shortly after the trial. Still facing tens of thousands of dollars in judgments, he stole the last $800 from the estate he'd already looted. He then accepted a plea deal related to his fight with the neighbors, receiving probation for disorderly conduct. Eight months after Holsey's sentencing, Prince surrendered his law license, and 6 months after that, in May 1998, he was indicted for his theft and sent to prison for 16 months. By the time he was called to testify as part of Holsey's appeal, he was out of prison, sober, and getting by as a freelance paralegal. From the appeals transcript:

Q: Did you attempt to conceal your difficulty with alcohol from [the trial judge]?

A: I didn't attempt to conceal it. I just didn't parade it around. At the time, I didn't consider I was having any trouble with alcohol.

Q: And why is that?

A: You know, I could drink a quart of liquor every night and work all day long. I thought I was doing fine.

Q: Since you have become sober, do you have a different opinion now?

A: Absolutely.

Q: And what is your opinion now?

A: Well, what I considered was doing fine at the time was just barely getting by.

Asked whether he should have resigned the Holsey appointment, Prince, who passed away in 2011, replied, "I shouldn't have been representing anybody in any case."

Just as alcoholics see things more clearly when they stop drinking, death penalty cases often come into better focus when good lawyers take over from bad ones. Holsey's case certainly did. But did it matter? The state of Georgia argued that it didn't. Sure, maybe Holsey's lawyer was plastered every night, and maybe another attorney might have handled it better. But Holsey was guilty of murder, the state's attorneys argued, and the best lawyers in the country couldn't change that fact. His appeal was little more than crying over spilled milk.

Holsey's mother doled out verbal brutality, too: "butthole," "sissy ass," "motherfucker," "dumbo," "buck teeth motherfucking monkey."

Capital cases are more than questions of guilt or innocence, though. Often the biggest question is whether the guilty should live or die. And the disturbing details of Holsey's early years only came to light as his appeals unfolded. It turned out, for instance, that his school had promoted him socially year after year despite his inability to grasp basic material. As early as 1st grade, Holsey was well behind his fellow students - his math and reading abilities never got past the 4th-grade level. As one of his junior high school teachers put it in an affidavit, he "just wasn't playing with a full deck." 2 doctors testified that Holsey was not merely borderline, but was actually mentally disabled, which by law would make him ineligible for the death penalty.

There was far more the jury never heard - riveting testimony from witnesses who would have gladly shared the information had anyone bothered to ask. Holsey's mother, Mary, it turned out, was legendary around the neighborhood for the fearsome physical abuse she inflicted on her children. If Wayne opened the refrigerator looking for food because he was hungry, he was beaten. If he crossed the street to pick blackberries, he was beaten. If he wet the bed, which he did until he was a teenager, he was beaten. He was beaten with hands, curling irons, extension cords, high-heel shoes, cooking spoons. In the house, on the corner. The physical abuse was accompanied by verbal brutality: "butthole." "Sissy ass." "Motherfucker." "Dumbo." "Buck teeth motherfucking monkey."

All of this was summed up in the affidavit of Sandra Francis, a woman who grew up in the same neighborhood as the Holsey children before going off to college and graduate school in New Jersey: "I remember saying prayers of thanks and gratitude to God that I was not one of Mary Holsey's children," Francis testified. "We called her unit in the projects the 'torture chamber.'"

That other kids called the Holsey's unit "the torture chamber" was just one detail his lawyers never raised during his sentencing - or ever bothered to find out.

By the end of the appellate hearing, a much clearer portrayal of Robert Wayne Holsey had emerged: a stuttering, bed-wetting man with very low intellectual function who was raised in poverty and terrorized by a vicious, violent, and psychotic mother. The judge concluded that Holsey's trial defense team had "failed to prepare and present any meaningful mitigation evidence as a defense to the death penalty...

In light of this lack of any significant preparation or presentation of such defense, no one can seriously believe that the Petitioner received the constitutional guarantees of the Sixth Amendment right to effective assistance of counsel.

Holsey was going to get a new sentencing hearing - or was he? The state appealed to the Georgia Supreme Court, which had to consider the same 2 questions that the court below had just answered "no" and "yes": Had Andy Prince mounted a competent defense? And would it have made any difference if he had?

There is a reason that the "entire Scottsboro bar" did not satisfy the constitutional right to counsel when that Alabama trial judge made his outlandish appointment. 52 years later, the Supreme Court, in the case of Strickland v. Washington, explained:

That a person who happens to be a lawyer is present at trial alongside the accused, however, is not enough to satisfy the constitutional command. The Sixth Amendment recognizes the right to the assistance of counsel because it envisions counsel's playing a role that is critical to the ability of the adversarial system to produce just results.

In other words, whether it be the entire bar or just one person, whoever represents the accused has a far greater obligation than just standing around with a law license in his pocket. But the court didn't stop there. If it had, everyone accused of a crime might go looking for the worst attorney he could find as a sort of insurance policy. To prevail on appeal, the condemned must demonstrate that if his lawyer hadn't done such a poor job, the verdict or sentence might reasonably have been different. And there's the rub.

In most states, a single juror's change of heart can convert a death sentence into a life sentence.

The Georgia Supreme Court opinion in the Holsey case does not mention Andy Prince's alcoholism. It doesn't mention his arrests, his disbarment, or his imprisonment. What it does say is that Holsey's death sentence was vacated "on the basis of trial counsel's alleged ineffectiveness in preparing and presenting mitigation evidence." Alleged. The opinion actually makes it sound as if Prince and Trammell did an outstanding job, describing the evidence found on appeal as "largely cumulative of evidence presented at trial, which highlighted Holsey's limited intelligence, his troubled and abusive home life, his positive contributions at home and elsewhere, and his mother's and sister's mental health issues." Concluding that the result would not have been different, the court reimposed the death sentence.

How do judges determine whether there is a reasonable probability of a different result? In Strickland, the Supreme Court said the decision should be objective, assuming that "the decisionmaker is reasonably, conscientiously, and impartially applying the standards that govern the decision." But is the decision really objective? The death penalty is an individual moral choice. In Georgia - as in most of the 32 states that allow capital punishment - a single juror's change of heart can convert a death sentence into a life sentence. So the Georgia Supreme Court was saying that, in its objective opinion, the new evidence would not have changed any juror's mind.

Apparently the court was not moved by the affidavit of Larry Johnson. One of the Holsey jurors, Johnson had also been a juror in the 1991 capital case of William Brooks, who was represented by a team of expert death penalty lawyers and received a life sentence. Johnson provided his affidavit against the specific advice of the state Attorney General's Office, which sent a letter to the Holsey jurors advising them it was in their best interest not to discuss the case with Holsey's defense team. Johnson considered the tone of the letter "inappropriate" - he knew it was his prerogative to speak to whomever he wanted. Here's what else he said:

I was left to assume that Mr. Holsey was one of the "worst of the worst" in our society. I figured that if a deeper or fuller explanation for his violence had been available, surely the lawyers would have presented everything that they could.

And then he reached the rub.

Had Mr. Holsey's lawyers provided us jurors with even a small part of the wealth of information concerning...his background which I now know was available, it would have made a difference.

But whether it would have made a difference to Larry Johnson was of no consequence. To borrow from George W. Bush, the justices of the Georgia Supreme Court were the deciders, and it made no difference to them.

"I cannot believe that 1 juror hearing all of the mitigating evidence would not...find Holsey to be either fully mentally retarded or borderline mentally retarded."

Holsey lost again in federal district court. Thanks to a provision of the absurdly named Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996, the only question that remained for the federal courts was whether the Georgia Supreme Court had acted unreasonably, and the district court readily concluded it had not. As the Georgia court had done, the district judge simply presumed that Prince had done a deficient job - his drinking, theft, disbarment, and imprisonment was relegated to a footnote in the opinion.

Now Holsey was down to his final appeal, in the 11th Circuit Federal Court of Appeals. A three-judge panel heard the case, and came back with three separate opinions. Judge Rosemary Barkett wrote that the Georgia Supreme Court was indeed unreasonable: The sentencing testimony, she wrote, "hardly comports with the 'Torture Chamber' described by Holsey's neighbors and family members." And Prince had admitted that he never even considered presenting evidence of mental disability: "This is not surprising given his own testimony that he was drinking heavily during this time and the malpractice suit and criminal charges concerning his theft of client funds." Barkett likened Holsey's case to that of Richard Cooper, a strikingly similar case in which the condemned man was granted a new sentencing by the 11th Circuit:

I cannot believe that 1 juror hearing all of the mitigating evidence would not credit Holsey's experts and lay witnesses and find Holsey to be either fully mentally retarded or borderline mentally retarded and so diminished in his cognitive and behavioral capacity as to be either ineligible for or undeserving of the death penalty. When combined with Holsey's evidence of his horrific child abuse, none of which was presented to his sentencing jury, there is a substantial probability that one juror would not have voted in favor of the death penalty had this evidence been introduced by competent counsel.

Judge Edward Carnes found precisely the opposite after comparing the testimony from the sentencing and the appeals hearing in great detail. He conceded that some of the new evidence would have helped Holsey at sentencing, "but at this stage of the case, after the state court has adjudicated his claim on the merits, that helpful evidence is not helpful enough," he wrote.

Carnes did not dispute the similarity between the Holsey and Cooper cases, but referred to Cooper as an "outlier." And yet the outcome in that case confirmed that effective lawyering does make a difference: Just last month, after hearing all the evidence, the resentencing jury recommended a life sentence for Richard Cooper.

The tie was broken by Judge J.L. Edmondson, who agreed with Carnes. Edmondson appears to have written his concurrence mostly to complain about the length of his colleague's opinion. ("It seems to me that the incidence of long opinions has been on the rise in the last decade, or, at least, more are coming across my desk.") His own opinion, predictably brief, performed some linguistic gymnastics to conclude that the Georgia Supreme Court's determination fell "within the outside border of the range of reasonable."

Which is how, despite the drinking, the stealing, the racist outburst, the abysmal courtroom performance, the disbarment, and the ultimate imprisonment of his lead attorney, an intellectually disabled man has ended up on the verge of execution.

The death penalty is on temporary hold in Georgia, pending a state Supreme Court ruling on whether the public is entitled to know how lethal injection drugs are made and who is providing them for executions. (The relevant Georgia statute deems this information a "confidential state secret.") A decision could come down any day, and if the law is allowed to stand, Holsey's last hope will be clemency from the State Board of Pardons and Paroles.

Holsey's last hope will be clemency from Georgia's State Board of Pardons and Paroles.

Clemency, a legal concept hundreds of years old, is most commonly defined as a showing of compassion or forgiveness in judging or punishing. Georgia is one of just a handful of states that give this power to a board, rather than a governor. The 5 board members are appointed to staggered terms, with a majority needed to commute a death sentence to life without parole.

Holsey will come before them with compelling evidence: a remarkable prison record of obedience and compliance during his 17 years on death row, a sincere and consistent commitment to his faith demonstrated by years of service, and an incredible letter of support from a man who spent 11 years on the row with him and was fortunate enough to receive his own clemency. The board will also have evidence never heard by his jury - of his intellectual disability, of deprivation, of the violence of his mother's torture chamber. And of course, of the lawyer, the drunken, disgraced lawyer assigned to him by the state that now wants to kill him.

Georgia's lawyers will say that none of this would have made a difference. They may say that it doesn't make a difference even now. But it does.

(source: Marc Bookman, Mother Jones)


Man faces death penalty for murder of confidential informant; James Booth, 30, began the 1st phase of his death penalty sentencing hearing this morning. Booth has been convicted of 1st degree murder

The 1st phase of the death penalty sentencing hearing for James Desmond Booth began this morning before Circuit Judge Randell H. Rowe, III.

A Volusia County jury deliberated for just over an hour before convicting defendant James Desmond Booth, 30, of killing a New Smyrna Beach woman more than 3 years ago.

The defendant was found guilty of 1st fegree murder, a capital felony; and tampering with a witness, a 1st degree felony.

Booth sold drugs to Gibson in December 2010, and was subsequently arrested for the transaction shortly after.

After Booth was arrested for drug trafficking, he suspected Gibson was the confidential informant in the case against him. Booth planned to murder Gibson to prevent her from testifying against him in the drug charge.

He asked Jessica Hickson to set up a drug sale with Gibson while he hid in the bushes. When Gibson left Hickson's house, he shot her on the sidewalk 4 times.

Assistant State Attorneys Ryan Will and Ed Davis prosecuted Booth.

Will said Booth gunned down Debra Gibson, a confidential informant, by shooting her in the back and in the face.



Alabama Supreme Court turns down Boyle's appeal

The Alabama Supreme Court has turned down an appeal by Timothy Scott Boyle of his 2009 capital murder conviction in the 2005 death of 2-year-old Savannah White. The ruling exhausts Boyle's direct state appeals, according to Etowah County District Attorney Jimmie Harp.

He was convicted in November 2009 and sentenced to death by lethal injection in March 2010 by Etowah County Circuit Judge David Kimberley for murdering the child.

The jury in the trial, over which Kimberley presided, unanimously recommended the death penalty.

Kimberley also sentenced Boyle to 10 years in prison for unlawful possession of a controlled substance, evidence of which was found during the murder investigation.

"From the state's perspective, he's exhausted all his direct appeals," Harp said.

The Alabama Supreme Court on Friday issued the ruling denying Boyle's appeal.

Harp said Boyle could file an appeal claiming ineffective legal counsel, or file an appeal in federal district court.

"I don't see him being successful if he chooses to do that," Harp said.

Savannah, the daughter of Boyle's girlfriend, died from a series of blunt-force injuries to her head, according to testimony during Boyle's trial.

Savannah's older sister testified she saw Boyle slap the child around and throw her against a bathtub in the family's Rainbow City home not long before her death on Oct. 27, 2005.

Other witnesses testified Savannah was afraid of Boyle in the weeks leading up to her death.

Bruising around Savannah's head was discovered during an autopsy and was consistent with what would occur after repeated open-handed blows to the head during a period of days or weeks.

"Because of the distribution, those were multiple strikes - I don't know exactly how many - over 1/2 of her skull or more," said forensic pathologist and key witness James Lauridson, who examined Savannah's body after her death. "I cannot imagine how this could have been an accident," he said.

Brain swelling resulting from the blows was the official cause of death, Lauridson testified.

"The defendant's actions in the brutal murder of this helpless child clearly fit within the parameters of the aggravating circumstances found by the jury to exist in this case," Kimberley said in sentencing Boyle to death.

(source: The Gadsden Times)


Galloway seeks federal review of death sentence

Mississippi death row inmate Leslie "Bo" Galloway III, convicted of raping and killing a Harrison Central High senior in 2008, is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to hear his appeal.

Prosecutors say Galloway, now 30, killed the teenager and dumped her body in a rural wooded area off Mississippi Highway 15. Hunters found her body.

In 2013, the Mississippi Supreme Court upheld Galloway's 2010 conviction and death sentence in the slaying of Shakeylia Anderson of Gulfport.

Prosecutors say Galloway, now 30, killed the 17-year-old Anderson and dumped her body in a rural wooded area off Mississippi Highway 15.

Prosecutors said Anderson was last seen getting into Galloway's car on Dec. 5, 2008. Hunters found her body the next day.

Prosecutors said the teenager had been raped and severely burned and had been run over by a vehicle.

Galloway had argued in the state courts that he would not have been eligible for the death penalty had it not been for a forensic pathologist's testimony about Anderson's sexual assault.

Defense attorneys provided the Mississippi court a document with observations from out-of-state forensic pathologists who said the pathologist who testified gave his opinion but did not mention scientific principles or methodology.

The Mississippi Supreme Court said the pathologist's testimony did not go beyond his expertise.

(source: Associated Press)

OHIO----impending execution

Cuyahoga Prosecutor asks for clemency in Tyler case

On Monday, the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor's Office asked the Ohio Parole Board to recommend that Arthur Tyler's death sentence be commuted to life without the possibility of parole. Tyler has a clemency hearing scheduled for Thursday.

On March 12, 1983, Arthur Tyler killed Sander Leach, 74, during the commission of a robbery. Tyler was tried twice and, on both occasions, was sentenced to death. His death sentence has been upheld despite repeated collateral attacks in multiple courts.

Tyler claims that he is innocent and asks this Board to recommend that he receive clemency and have his sentence reduced from death to life in prison with parole eligibility.

"But Tyler is far from innocent and his participation in this crime cannot be reasonably questioned. Mr. Leach was robbed and killed because Tyler was indifferent to the suffering of others. Tyler had no issue committing crimes and negatively impacting society. Nowhere is this more evident than in his role in this murder," McGinty wrote.

Despite the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor's firm belief in Arthur Tyler's guilt, it is the position of the Prosecutor that this Board should recommend that Tyler's sentence be commuted from death to life in prison without parole eligibility. As will be further explained, this decision was reached after an exhaustive review of the facts of this case, applicable law, and in consideration of this Board's prior clemency recommendations.


The Cuyahoga County Prosecuting Attorney has a policy of review in all capital cases. This policy applies with equal force to charging decisions in new cases, as well as past convictions that resulted in a death sentence. This review is conducted under strict standards of current law to ensure that only those aggravated murder cases so heinous and deserving that the facts and evidence have the weight to firmly and unanimously convince a jury of 12 or a judicial panel that the aggravating circumstances outweigh any and all mitigating factors beyond any reasonable doubt. Decisions will realistically consider the higher level of evidence required by state and federal appellate courts to uphold death penalty convictions than other types of crimes.


In this case, there is no doubt that Mr. Leach was an innocent elderly victim who was targeted by Tyler and Head because of his vulnerability. Tyler has tried in vain for the past thirty years to obtain judicial relief. He is not entitled to any. No aspect of his claims warrant a new trial or any other court remedy. However, in reviewing this case under current law and standards, and in an effort to maintain the utmost public confidence in every capital sentence, the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor has elected to not pursue Tyler's execution.

At the time of Tyler's trial, Ohio law did not allow for the possibility of a sentence of life without parole for an aggravated murder conviction. A jury could impose only a sentence of life with the possibility of parole after 20 years, the possibility of parole after 30 years, or death. In light of the limited sentencing options, the absence of the option of a sentence of life without the possibility of parole in this case may have led to the imposition of the death sentence. While Tyler lacks any compelling mitigation, the absence of this important sentencing option warrants consideration in this case.

As with any case, the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor's Office reviewed the strength of the evidence against Tyler. Tyler was twice sentenced to death for this offense. The evidence against him included testimony by accomplice Leroy Head, Anthony Gillis, Felton "Judge" Parker, Annie Travick, Fazendo Cerafinjos, Susie Amerson, and Cassandra Vaught.

Tyler's own statements also put him with Head in the vicinity of the homicide. The evidence clearly demonstrates Tyler's involvement in the homicide. But Head's evolving statements are cause for concern, and while it does not negate Tyler's guilt, it may undermine public confidence in Tyler's sentence.

The Cuyahoga County Prosecutor's Office is also mindful of a prior occasion where this Board unanimously recommended clemency in a similar situation. See In Re: Shawn L. Hawkins, OSP #A218-401.

In applying these factors under the standards of review adopted by the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor's Office, the facts of this case compel us to recommend that Tyler receive a sentence of life without the possibility of parole in this case.


Arthur Tyler claims to be innocent of murder, yet, by his own admission, he is at least an accomplice to the aggravated murder of Mr. Leach. His entire argument is premised on the multiple statements of co-defendant, Leroy Head. However, Tyler's conviction was obtained from the testimony of multiple witnesses. Just as Tyler has never received judicial relief on any issue surrounding Head's statements, nor should this Board use it to grant Tyler parole eligibility.

Tyler's 1st trial began on July, 19, 1983. The jury heard, among other witnesses, the following evidence:

--The jury was informed that Head had entered into a guilty plea. Head testified about his 2 prior inculpatory statements and explained that they were false and were the result of threats made by Tyler against Head and his family

--Head provided specific details about the offense including that: 1) Anthony Gillis provided an unloaded .38 revolver; 2) Tyler and Head obtained bullets from Felton Parker; and 3) Tyler borrowed a nickel and purchased a paper bag to conceal the gun. These facts, relevant to the jury's determination of Tyler's guilt, were all corroborated by other witnesses

--Anthony Gillis corroborated Head's testimony about the .38 caliber revolver. Gillis testified that he previously implicated Head as the shooter because of fear of Tyler

--Felton Parker testified that Tyler and an unknown man sought ammunition for a .38 caliber revolver. Parker testified that he gave them bullets

--Cassandra Vaught, who was Head's girlfriend and was at Scott Hill's apartment, corroborated Head's account of being threatened by Tyler at Hill's apartment.

--Annie Travick, a clerk at a nearby store, testified that Tyler came in to store and borrowed a nickel to purchase a brown bag.

Tyler's 1st trial resulted in a death sentence but the conviction was ultimately reversed as a result of ineffective assistance of counsel. State v. Tyler, 8th Dist. Cuyahoga App. No. 47533, 1984 WL 6408. Tyler's retrial began on November 18, 1985. Head testified for the state a second time and his testimony was again corroborated by multiple witnesses:

--Head again testified regarding his multiple statements. He testified that Tyler threatened him. He also testified that he received a letter from Tyler in jail where Tyler asked him not to cooperate because Head was his only hope

--Head was questioned about any promises or benefits that were offered to him before he made his third statement, which implicated Tyler. Head testified that there was no benefit at that time and that he was told that his statement would be investigated

--Head testified that he refused to testify initially because he was being attacked by other inmates for being a snitch. Head was moved to protective custody

--Anthony Gillis again testified that he gave Tyler and Head the gun. Gillis said that when they returned, Tyler had the gun and said he had to burn the silly old man. Gillis testified that Tyler threatened that if anyone talked, someone else was going to die. Gillis was questioned about his former statement implicating Head as the shooter.

Felton Parker again testified to giving Tyler six bullets. Annie Travick again testified that Tyler borrowed a nickel so he could purchase a bag. Fazendo Cerafinjos testified that she saw Tyler the morning of the homicide looking into the Meat Market. She heard the gunshots and saw a thin, black male running with something under his arm.

Fisal Abu Handeh, the co-owner of the meat market, testified that he did not remember Tyler being in his store and did not remember cashing a check the day of the homicide.

Susie Amerson testified that she saw two men running: one tall and thin and one short and heavy. Ms. Amerson testified that the shorter male came from around the back of the van and that the taller male had something in his hands. Ms. Amerson testified that the tall man ran away first.

Tyler also testified at both trials. During the second trial, Tyler testified that he and Head planned to cash a welfare check at the Meat Market. Tyler said that he went into the store while Head stayed outside. Tyler said he learned that Mr. Leach was shot and went back to Gillis's house where he claims Head said he shot Mr. Leach. Tyler said he forgot to return the welfare check so he cashed it on Monday and gave $10. of the check to Head.

Tyler's testimony at his second trial was inconsistent with both his prior testimony and, admittedly, his statement to this Board earlier this month. Tyler told this Board that he and Head intended to rob the Meat Market. Tyler said that they plan was that he was going to go in and ask to cash the check and that he would wave Head in when the safe was opened. Tyler said he was known as the guy that cashed fake checks and that he had set up similar robberies in the past. He said that the check casher was not there so he never waved Head in. He claimed Head committed the murder while he was in the store and that he ran to Scott Hill's house. Tyler then claimed that he got Head a change of clothes and did not see him again until trial.

While Tyler claims Head's changing stories mean he is innocent, he offers no explanation for his own evolving version of events. What is clear is that Tyler's conviction for murdering Mr. Leach is corroborated by multiple witnesses and has withstood decades of judicial scrutiny. He is not innocent and is not deserving of an opportunity for parole.


Tyler next claims he should be granted clemency because of prosecutorial misconduct. Tyler argues that the trial prosecutor failed to disclose 2 police reports. One which indicated that Mr. Leach was found in possession of money and a bullet and another which included a statement by Jeffrey Gillis in which he claimed that Head was the shooter.

Tyler has repeatedly alleged some form of prosecutorial misconduct. All of those claims were rejected as a basis for relief by every court which reviewed them. Tyler's claims here are similarly baseless. With respect to his first claim, the State presented evidence that Mr. Leach came home at lunch and left some money at home. The references to the record that Tyler relies upon to argue the importance of this information simply do not support his argument. The fact that Mr. Leach was located with money does not lessen Tyler's guilt in this manner, it only means that he did not fully realize his goal. With respect to the Jeffrey Gillis claim, Tyler's counsel was aware at trial that Head made differing statements. This is not a new fact. Head's statements were the basis of multiple court filings, all of which Tyler lost.

Tyler's attempts to argue innocence of the crime with allegations of prosecutorial misconduct do not change the operative facts upon which he was found guilty; nor do those allegations change the fact that upon review in State and federal court, no court has disturbed the verdict that Tyler killed Mr. Leach.


Tyler also argues that there was a business relationship between the trial prosecutor, two of defense counsel, and one of the judges that ruled on Tyler's motion to reopen his appeal. This argument smacks of a conspiracy theory underserving of consideration. The record and repeated court decisions clearly show that Tyler was zealously represented from his 2nd trial through all of his appellate litigation. Mr. Laurie, one of the attorneys Tyler complains of, actually secured the reversal of Tyler's 1st conviction despite any claimed conflict of interest. It also appears that Tyler requested that Laurie continue to represent him at the 2nd trial. Strangely, Tyler references these alleged conflicts but never felt strongly enough to pursue this matter in the appropriate method.


Tyler concludes by arguing that the trial court improperly instructed the jury about deliberation when it was apparently divided on whether or not to impose the death sentence. In reviewing this claim, the Ohio Supreme Court found that while the instruction was erroneous, it was not coercive. State v. Tyler, 50 Ohio St.3d 24, 553 N.E.2d 576 (1990.) The court found that the instruction, directed at all jurors, reduced the pressure to reach a verdict. After losing this argument in the Supreme Court of Ohio, Tyler unsuccessfully raised this issue in federal court. See Tyler v. Anderson -F.3d-, 2014 WL 1465040 (C.A. 6,

Ohio.) Just as the courts have rejected Tyler's legal arguments, this Board should do the same and deny Tyler's request for a parole recommendation.


Without diminishing the severity of this offense, and with the goal of providing a just and appropriate punishment, after accounting for all factors in this case, to include the facts of the crime and subsequent developments, the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor asks this Board to recommend that the Governor commute Tyler's sentence from death to life without the possibility of parole. The Cuyahoga County Prosecutor firmly opposes any commutation that would lead to Tyler's release.

Cassandra Vaught testified in the first trial but she was unable to be located for the retrial and the trial court refused to admit her prior testimony.

(source: WKYC news)


Killer's death sentence upheld for 3rd time

The Ohio Supreme Court Tuesday rejected the 3rd death-penalty appeal of a Butler County man convicted of shooting and killing his ex-girlfriend in 1983.

Von Clark Davis, 67, was first convicted of aggravated murder and received the death penalty in 1984 for the shooting death of his girlfriend, Suzette Butler, then 27.

The slaying occurred 13 years after Davis had stabbed his wife, Ernestine, to death in front of their children. He had been out on parole for 3 years for that crime when he killed Butler.

The Ohio Supreme Court had vacated death sentences for Davis twice because of mistakes at the trial level, but each time the sentencing court has sent him back to death row.

The case landed back in Butler County Common Pleas Court in 2009 after a federal appeals court ruled that judges who heard the case twice in 25 years improperly excluded evidence about Davis' good prison behavior and other factors.



Warren Co. teens face death penalty for Justin Back homicide

2 Warren County teens accused of murder will officially face the death penalty. Warren County Prosecutor David Fornshell signed the paperwork on Monday.

Austin Myers, 19, and Timothy Mosley, 19, have been indicted on 9 counts, including aggravated murder and kidnapping.

Police say that the 2 admitted to creating an elaborate plan to kill 18-year-old Justin Back in January.

Back was planning to leave for the Navy in about a week when he died. He graduated from Waynesville High School last year.

(source: Fox News)


Capital changes; Proposals by a state Supreme Court task force would make Ohio's death penalty law more effective and fair

An Ohio Supreme Court task force analyzing ways to make Ohio's 30-year-old capital punishment law more effective and fair has done its job. It has offered more than 50 prudent recommendations that the General Assembly should enact or the Supreme Court should adopt.

The proposals would make fewer crimes eligible for the death penalty in Ohio, reduce chances of wrongful convictions, and help ensure an adequate defense in capital cases.

Among the most important recommendations is banning the death penalty for inmates diagnosed with a serious mental illness at the time of the crime. The U.S. Supreme Court already has ruled against executing mentally disabled inmates and juveniles.

A serious mental illness impairs thinking, judgment, and self-control, and it should be considered a mitigating condition. Mental health advocates estimate that as many as 10 percent of U.S. death row inmates have a serious mental illness.

Changing the law to remove the death penalty for seriously mentally ill inmates would not exonerate them. Such offenders would still likely serve life sentences with no chance for parole.

Another major proposal would bolster appeals after convictions by creating a post-conviction defense organization that would represent capital defendants and providing adequate funds for investigators and experts in such cases.

Some proposals would reduce the chance of a wrongful conviction in a capital case, such as prohibiting the death penalty in cases where prosecutors relied on jailhouse informant testimony uncorroborated by other evidence, or where DNA or biological evidence was lacking.

Equally important, the task force urged changes to make trials fairer and ensure an adequate and robust defense in capital cases. Among other things, it recommended mandatory recording of interrogations of suspects in custody and increased funding for the Office of the Ohio Public Defender for hiring and training additional capital case defense attorneys; as it stands, public defense in Ohio is severely underfunded. Another change would require the Ohio Parole Board to record clemency hearings.

The 22-member Joint Task Force to Review Ohio's Death Penalty - including prosecutors, public defenders, judges, and experts on capital punishment - did not examine whether Ohio's death penalty law should be abolished. It was named 2 years ago by Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor and the Ohio State Bar Association.

Even the most ardent supporters of the death penalty should acknowledge that it is sometimes applied unfairly. A 2007 review of Ohio's death penalty concluded that murderers with a white victim were nearly 4 times as likely to receive the death penalty as those whose victims were black.

Ohio's death penalty law will remain, but the state must ensure it is applied in a fair and unbiased way. If these proposals are adopted and enacted, they can take Ohio a long way toward that end.

(source: Editorial, Toledo Blade)


Prosecutors seeking death penalty in quadruple homicide case

Prosecutors Tuesday morning said they would seek the death penalty against Kyle T. Flack, 28, in a spring 2013 quadruple homicide at a rural home west of Ottawa, but he won't face trial until fall 2015.

Flack stood silent Tuesday during his arraignment in Franklin County District Court, 301 S. Main St., Ottawa. District Judge Eric W. Godderz, who is now presiding over the case, entered a plea of not guilty on Flack's behalf.

The state is seeking the death penalty on the capital murder charge leveled at Flack in the killing of Kaylie Bailey and her 18-month-old daughter, Lana Bailey. Flack also faces 2 charges of 1st-degree murder, which each carry a "Hard 50" sentence if convicted, in the killings of Andrew Stout and Steven White, as well as 1 count of criminal possession of a firearm.

A new charge was added Tuesday morning - misdemeanor sexual battery. A charge of attempted rape was dismissed at Flack's preliminary hearing in March.

On Monday, one of Flack's attorneys, Tim Frieden, filed a waiver to Flack's right to a speedy trial. Judge Godderz set Flack's trial date for 9 a.m. Sept. 21, 2015.

(source: Ottawa Herald)


Convicted multiple murderer Carr caught possessing sexually explicit material; Inmate and his brother murdered 5 in 2000 in Wichita

State records show convicted multiple murderer Reginald D. Carr Jr., who faces a death sentence and spends 23 hours a day in his prison cell, was recently caught possessing sexually explicit material.

Kansas Department of Corrections records posted online show that Carr, 36, was the subject of a disciplinary report filed March 17 for the possession of sexually explicit material by a convicted sex offender.

The Capital-Journal on Monday was seeking details from the corrections department.

The disciplinary report was the `st since November 2009 for Carr, an inmate at El Dorado Correctional Facility.

Carr and his brother, Jonathan Carr, were sentenced to death by lethal injection in 2002 on capital murder convictions linked to a 2000 case in which they invaded a Wichita home, subjected the 2 young men and 2 young women inside to sexual abuse, then kidnapped them, took them to ATMs and robbed them. The Carrs next took the 5 people to a soccer field, where they fatally shot 4 execution-style and ran them over with a pickup truck. One victim, a woman, also was shot and run over but survived.

The Carrs also were convicted of 1st-degree murder in the death of a woman shot 4 days before the other killings. Each has convictions for crimes that include murders and 23 sexual assaults.

The Carr brothers are in administrative segregation at the El Dorado facility, meaning they're kept in their cells 23 hours a day and only get out to exercise for 1 hour in a secure pen.

Appeals filed on behalf of the brothers were heard in December by the Kansas Supreme Court. Lisa Taylor, spokeswoman for that court, said Monday it had yet to rule on the appeals.

Reginald Carr also made news when the Associated Press in January 2007 reported he had taken out a personal ad on a website run by the Canadian Coalition Against the Death Penalty. A copy of the article can be found at

The AP reported that although Kansas prison inmates are not allowed to use personal funds to solicit mail through websites, they often have people outside of prison post the information for them, which Carr did. The AP reported that while most sexually explicit photos mailed to inmates are confiscated in the mail room, they sometimes slip through, which led to Carr's receiving a disciplinary report in 2005 for having sexually explicit materials.

State corrections records show Reginald Carr has 11 disciplinary violations and Jonathan Carr has 23 since they entered the state's prison system in November 2002. Reginald Carr also had violations during a previous prison term.

Corrections department records show Jonathan Carr, 34, was disciplined for possessing sexually explicit material one time each in 2008, 2012 and 2013. His most recent disciplinary report, issued April 6, involved violating inmate activity limitations.

The Carrs are among 8 Kansas prison inmates facing death sentences. The others are:

-- Gary Kleypas, 58, convicted in the 1996 murder and sexual assault of a woman in Pittsburg. Corrections department records show Kleypas has 4 disciplinary reports since entering the prison system in 1998, with the most recent being for showing insubordination or disrespect to an officer in 2013.

-- John E. Robinson, Sr., 70, convicted of the murders of 2 women in 2000 and of the murder of a woman who disappeared in 1985 and was never found, all in Johnson County. Robinson has no disciplinary reports since entering the system in 2003.

-- Douglas Belt, 52, convicted in the 2002 murder and sexual assault of a woman in west Wichita. Belt has 11 disciplinary reports since re-entering the system in 2004, with the most recent being for showing insubordination or disrespect to an officer in 2013.

-- Sidney Gleason, 34, convicted in the 2004 murders of 2 people in Barton County. Gleason has no disciplinary reports since re-entering the system in 2006.

(source: Topeka Capital Journal)

OKLAHOMA----stay of impending executions

Oklahoma Supreme Court puts on hold executions of 2 inmates who challenged execution secrecy

A sharply divided Oklahoma Supreme Court on Monday put on hold the executions of 2 death row inmates who have challenged the secrecy surrounding the source of the state's lethal injection drugs.

In a 5-4 decision, the court issued the stays 1 day before death row inmate Clayton Lockett was scheduled to be executed for the 1999 shooting death of 19-year-old Stephanie Nieman. The 2nd inmate, Charles Warner, was convicted in the 1997 death of his roommate's 11-month-old daughter and was scheduled to die on April 29.

The ruling halts the executions until the state Supreme Court can hold a hearing on the inmates' lawsuit. Attorney General Scott Pruitt's office did not say whether it would appeal.

"The AG's office is trying to determine the appropriate response to address these issues," Pruitt said in an emailed statement.

A spokesman for the Department of Corrections, Jerry Massie, said the agency had not seen the order and was still preparing as if Lockett's execution would be held Tuesday.

The Supreme Court said it wanted to fast-track the case, but a hearing had not yet been scheduled.

Oklahoma changed its procedures on March 21 to allow 5 different potential drug combinations for executions. The state informed lawyers for the inmates on April 1 that the men would be executed using a combination of midazolam, pancuronium bromide and potassium chloride never before used in the state, but did not disclose the source of the drugs. Executions have been conducted using the drug combination in Florida with lower doses.

States that have the death penalty have been scrambling for substitute drugs or new sources for drugs after major drugmakers - many based in Europe with longtime opposition to the death penalty - stopped selling to prisons and corrections departments.

Attorneys for Lockett and Nieman said they were pleased with Monday's ruling.

"The Oklahoma Supreme Court will be able to fully adjudicate the serious constitutional issues about the extreme secrecy surrounding lethal injection procedures in our state," attorneys Susanna Gattoni and Seth Day said in a statement.

Gattoni told The Associated Press that the inmates' appeal challenges the secrecy surrounding the drugs, including how they are prepared and obtained.

"In order for the courts to be able to do their job of ensuring that all state and federal laws are followed, they must have complete information about the drugs intended for use in executions, including their source," she said.

Oklahoma County District Judge Patricia Parrish last month struck down the execution law, saying preventing the inmates from seeking information about the drugs violates their rights under the state constitution.

A request for a stay filed with the Supreme Court on Monday said the inmates "have received no certifications, testing data, medical opinions or other evidence to support the state's insistence that these drugs are safe, or to prove that they were acquired legally."

The Supreme Court handed down its stay order amid a dispute among its nine justices over whether it or the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals should address the matter. The Supreme Court has ultimate legal authority over civil matters, while the Court of Criminal Appeals has exclusive authority in criminal appeals. The Court of Appeals on Friday denied the inmates' request for a stay, saying it didn't have authority.

"The 'rule of necessity' now demands that we step forward," the Supreme Court's majority opinion says. "We can deny jurisdiction, or we can leave the appellants with no access to the courts for resolution of their 'grave' constitutional claims.

"As uncomfortable as this matter makes us, we refuse to violate our oaths of office and to leave the appellants with no access to the courts, their constitutionally guaranteed measure."

In his statement, Pruitt said the Supreme Court "has acted in an extraordinary and unprecedented manner, resulting in a constitutional crisis for our state."

In Texas, Department of Criminal Justice officials have refused to identify the source of the pentobarbital used in its executions, contending secrecy is needed to protect the drug's provider from threats of violence from capital punishment opponents. The U.S. Supreme Court has refused to stop executions on those, although prison officials have offered scant evidence that pharmacies would be in danger. The state has executed 3 inmates with the new stock of the power sedative, and the U.S. Supreme Court has refused to stop those executions.

(source: Associated Press)


see: LOCKETT v. EVANS, 112741; Cons. w/ 112764, 2014 OK 33, Decided 04/21/2014

(source: OSCN)


Nikko Jenkins will be represented during death penalty hearing

A Nebraska man convicted of killing 4 people shortly after he was released from prison last summer will have lawyers representing him when it's decided whether he should be executed.

Douglas County District Judge Peter Bataillon decided to reappoint lawyers for 27-year-old Nikko Jenkins after accepting his no contest pleas last Wednesday.

Bataillon wrote in court documents that he decided to reappoint lawyers because of the complexity of the death penalty sentencing process.

Jenkins had been representing himself in court for the past several months.

Jenkins has been convicted of fatally shooting Juan Uribe-Pena, Jorge Cajiga-Ruiz, Curtis Bradford and Andrea Kruger in three separate ambushes over 10 days last summer after his July 30 release from prison without supervision.

(source: Associated Press)

MISSOURI----impending exectuion

Rousan to be executed shortly after midnight; Court-mandated death ordered as penalty for murder of area couple more than 2 decades ago

The disappearance of Charles and Grace Lewis in September of 1993 left neighbors on edge.

St. Francois County Sheriff Dan Bullock, who had just become sheriff, remembers everyone was concerned about the disappearance and neighbors were more aware of their surroundings.

The retired couple - 62-year-old Grace and 67-year-old Charles - disappeared without a trace from their farm on Old Cadet Road west of Bonne Terre.

At the time there didn't seem to be a good reason for killing the couple. 2 cattle had been taken, as well as a $50 VCR.

"(The VCR) got them caught ..." Bullock said.

Authorities had given the serial number to area pawn and resale shops asking them to be on the lookout. Nearly a year later, Robert Rousan took the VCR to a pawn shop.

Soon after, the bodies were found buried on a horse farm where William Rousan had been living.

William "Willie" Rousan, his son, Brent, and his brother, Robert, all were charged with murder.

William Rousan was depicted in the trial as being the leader of the trio that, by his own admission, went to the Lewis farm to steal cattle. His son ambushed Charles Lewis, 67, as the retired businessman mowed his lawn on a riding mower. When Grace Lewis, 62, stepped outside after hearing the gunfire, she was shot. She managed to get back into the house but was carried outside and shot again.

They reportedly stole 2 head of cattle and the couple's truck, later burning the truck near Richwoods.

William Rousan had managed to elude police for 4 days before being arrested on Sept. 20, 1994. At the time of his arrest, he was armed with a semiautomatic rifle and a large knife.

Brent Rousan, 16 at the time of the murders, pleaded guilty to 2 counts of 1st-degree murder and is serving consecutive life sentences without the possibility for parole. Robert Rousan, a younger brother of William, pleaded guilty to 2nd-degree murder in the Lewis case and served 7 years in prison. The plea agreement for the lesser charge and sentence was in return for Robert Rousan's testimony at his brother's trial.

In December of 1996, a St. Francois County jury found William Rousan guilty of 1st-degree murder and sentenced him to death. He is now set to be executed at 12:01 Wednesday morning at ERDCC in Bonne Terre.

According to the Associated Press, William Rousan's attorneys have filed an appeal in federal court questioning Missouri's secretive process of purchasing execution drugs from an unnamed compounding pharmacy.

Missourians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty are having several candlelight vigils across the state. One will be held at the ERDCC at 11 p.m.

(source: Daily Journal)


Missouri continues to prepare for Rousan execution

Efforts to spare the life of a condemned Missouri man hinge on an argument that has so far held little sway over the courts.

William Rousan is scheduled to be executed at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday for killing a southeast Missouri couple on their remote farm 21 years ago. Rousan's attorneys are seeking clemency from Gov. Jay Nixon and have filed federal appeals, both citing concerns that the execution drug obtained from a compounding pharmacy could cause the inmate to suffer before dying.

Several states, including Missouri, now use compounded drugs from unnamed pharmacies. Courts have so far allowed executions to move forward, though some dissenting judges have questioned the practice.

Rousan would be the 6th man executed in Missouri in the past 6 months.

(source: Belleville News-Democrat)


Clinical psychologist diagnoses Marissa Devault as a psychopath

A clinical psychologist who testified in the Jodi Arias trial was back in court. This time, Dr. Janeen DeMarte was called to the stand after evaluating Marissa Devault.

Devault faces life in prison or death after killing her husband with a hammer.

The jury will start deliberating on life or death after closing arguments Tuesday morning.

On Monday, the state rested after calling Dr. DeMarte to the stand. DeMarte diagnosed Devault as a psychopath.

Last week, Devault apologized to the jury, "I can't do anything more than say I'm sorry," telling them she's sorry for killing her husband. "Dale's family.. my heart goes out to them.. his mother and father have had to experiences the worst loss in the world."

But on Monday, DeMarte disputed Devault's story, saying her jailhouse phone calls tell a different story.

"There was a lack of remorse. There was a time when she was talking about the murder of Mr. Harrell and laughing about it," said DeMarte.

DeMarte also says on those jail calls, Devault didn't show remorse for her husband's family.

"His family was wanting his remains and Ms. Devault said she refuses to release the remains unless they drop the lawsuit, which is again manipulative and also shows a lack of remorse for the family."

DeMarte diagnosed Devault with antisocial personality disorder. She questions why Devault would ask her mother and stepfather to take custody of her daughters if she was really physically abused by her mom and sexually abused by her step dad when she was a kid.

"Ms. Devault had reported that her mother was quite abusive toward her and so was her stepfather and in jail phone calls, I heard conversations where she was asking her parents to take custody of her children.. guardianship of her children."

A clinical psychologist for the defense testified last week that he did believe Devault was physically and sexually abused as a kid.

So different opinions from different psychologists. It'll be up to the jury to decide who they believe.

(source: Fox News)


Jodi Arias Trial News Update: Attorney Denies That Arias Filed a Restraining Order Against Sheriff Joe Arpaio

A lawyer representing Jodi Arias is denying a report claiming that she is suing Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio for allegedly contracting Hepatitis C while under his custody.

Defense attorney Jennifer Willmott said the lawsuit filed under Arias' name earlier this month at the U.S. District Court in Arizona is completely false and she does not know who filed it, reports NBC News.

In the lawsuit filed on April 4, Arias blames Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio for her fading health and claims that she was given a Tuberculosis shot with an infected needle that gave her Hepatitis C. She also names HLN TV host Nancy Grace as a defendant in the lawsuit and says that both Arpaio and Grace violated her privacy and damaged her chances at a fair trial in the death penalty phase of her murder trial. She also says that she was denied treatment after her left silicone breast implant leaked and caused a fungal growth.

In May 2013, a jury found Arias, 33, guilty of first-degree murder in the ghastly death of her ex-boyfriend Travis Alexander in his Phoenix home in 2008. However, the jurors failed to reach a unanimous decision on her sentencing. As a result, a retrial is set for Sept. 8 to determine whether she should be sentenced to death, life in prison or life with a chance of release after serving 25 years, reports Reuters.

The suit also lists Alexander's cousin, Christopher Alexander, as a plaintiff and alleges that Arpaio leaked sensual letters between Arias and Christopher Alexander to Grace. In turn, the suit claims that Grace reported that Arias and Christopher Alexander have a sexual relationship and that they plan to get married.

The legal documents obtained by TMZ also reveal that Arias wants a restraining order against the sheriff and Grace.

However, Willmott pointed out that the bizarre lawsuit contains a few red flags, the first being that the return address is listed as Fourth Avenue Jail and Arias is housed in the Estrella Jail. In addition, the signature on the lawsuit doesn't match the one on Arias' driver's license.

In response to the news about the lawsuit, Arpaio told CBS 5 News that Arias is trying to garner publicity.

"Evidently, she's trying to get some media attention. I cut out all visits with her," Arpaio said.

Arpaio went on to say that Arias' anger with the sheriff might be the motive behind the restraining order, if it's legit.

"Nothing surprises me with her," he said. "She's just angry with me because, No. 1, I stopped all the media from going to the jail to interview her. So she has no way to get the media out."

(source: Latino Post)


Trio charged in 'Crazy Train' suitcase slaying of homeless man will likely be tried next year

A trio accused last year of stuffing a homeless man inside his own suitcase and drowning him in a motel bathtub likely won't face trial until next year while attorneys wait to review DNA evidence in the death penalty case.

At a hearing this morning in Clark County District Court, attorneys representing 2 of the defendants - Emilio Arenas and Theresa Allen - told Judge Joseph Bonaventure that DNA samples taken from the scene likely won't be fully processed until late this year. They asked to push the trial through at least March 2015 - it is now slated for May 12.

Bonaventure said he would grant the extension, though he did not set a new trial date because co-defendant Peyton Hemingway did not attend Monday's hearing and, as a result, could not consent to the change. All three are due back in court for a new trial date hearing on Wednesday.

Arenas, 44, and Hemingway, 37, were indicted in October 2013 in connection with the Aug. 12, 2013, slaying of Carl Simon, 50, at a Budget Suites motel in the 4800 block of Boulder Highway. Allen, 46, was arrested a month later.

According to a Metro Police report, the three brutally beat Simon for hours because they thought he stole money intended for drugs. They whipped him with a belt, struck him over the head with a liquor bottle and stabbed him, according to the report. Hemingway reportedly told police that when Simon wouldn't die, Allen stripped him naked and then Arenas put him in a black suitcase filled with water to drown him.

Prosecutors said the group played Ozzy Osbourne's "Crazy Train" on a cellphone during Simon's final moments.

Simon's body was found inside a Dumpster in the eastern Las Vegas Valley, the report said. His naked body was in the fetal position, bound at the feet with electrical tape. A ring inscribed with the word "peace" was on his pinky finger.

All 3 suspects have been handed charges that include murder, 1st-degree kidnapping and robbery with the use of a deadly weapon. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for Arenas.

(source: Las Vegas Sun)


Prosecutors seek new judge in Carnation killings

King County prosecutors are seeking a new trial judge in the death penalty cases against 2 people accused of killing a family of 6 in Carnation in 2007.

The prosecutor's office on Friday took the unusual step of asking the state Supreme Court to remove King County Superior Court Judge Jeffrey Ramsdell from the cases against Michele Anderson and Joseph McEnroe.

Ramsdell declined to comment to The Seattle Times on Friday.

In their court filing, prosecutors cite the judge's "troubling" ruling in the cases. The higher court has reversed the judge's ruling twice.

Anderson and McEnroe have pleaded not guilty to charges of aggravated 1st-degree murder in the slaughter of Anderson's family -- her parents, brother, sister-in-law, and her young niece and nephew.

(source: Associated Press)


5 prisoners hanged in Gohardasht prison - report

The Iranian regime hanged five prisoners including a 68 year-old man on Tuesday in Gohardasht prison in city of Karaj.

The prisoners were among a group of 6 who had been transferred to solitary cells from sections 3,4 and 6 of the prison.

The names of 4 of the victims are: Ali-asghar Kokabi, 68, Hormoze Rezaei, 33, Farhad Mullah-hassani, 28, Akbar Nobakht Saran, 37.

Meanwhile, a 24 year-old man was hanged on Monday in the main prison in north-eastern city of Mashhad, state-run daily Khorasan reported.

(source: NCR-Iran)


Juvenile Offender Executed in Northern Iran - 4 Juvenile Executions in 4 Days

A juvenile offender was hanged in the Vakilabad prison of Mashhad (Northeastern Iran) on Sunday. He was convicted of a murder committed when he was 16 year old. On Thursday 3 juvenile offenders were hanged in the Bandar Abbas prison (Southern Iran). Iran Human Rights (IHR) urges the international community to react to the juvenile executions in Iran.

According to reports from Iran a juvenile offender identified as "Ebrahim Hajati" was hanged in the Vakilabad prison of Mashhad on Sunday April 20. Ebrahim was convicted of murdering Abdollah (19) under a fight in a village outside Mashhad 4 years ago. At that time Ebrahim was 16 year old. He was sentenced to qesas (qisas; retribution in kind), and his execution was carried out on Sunday 22. April 2014.

Last week Iran Human Rights (IHR) reported about execution of 3 juvenile offenders in Bandar Abbas. So far in 2014 at least 6 juvenile offenders have been executed in Iran.

IHR strongly condemns execution of juvenile offenders by the Iranian authorities. Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam, the spokesperson of IHR said: "These executions are clear violations of Iran's international obligations. We urge the international community, especially the United Nations to react to the ongoing execution of juveniles in Iran".

Iran has ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child which bans death penalty for the offences committed under 18 years of age. In 2013 at least 8 juvenile offenders were executed and so far in 2014 at least 6 juvenile offenders have been executed in Iran.

(source: Iran Human Rights)


Apologise or die - rape victim told as she faces the hangman's noose

An Iranian rape victim is set to be hanged unless she agrees to apologise to her attacker's family for making the claim of sexual assault.

The woman who was raped by a man who lured her to his flat, is facing the death penalty because she won't change her story that she was raped by an Iranian Government employees.

The accused was a Iranian intelligence agent and was killed by interior designer Reyhaneh Jabbari after he raped her.

The rapist's family insist that the victim of the rape changes her story to say that there was no rape or else, they will insist she is hanged for murder.

Under duress, according to Jabbari, she confessed to murder but recanted and is now set to be hanged unless she completely changes her story and denies she was raped.

More than that they want her to apologise to her rapist's family for making the allegation.

Jabbari says she was raped after she was lured with the promise of work as an interior designer at the man's flat where he attacked her.

She killed him out of self defence and the Iranian legal system's bias against women gave her no chance then and even less now as she faces the death, penalty, The Telegraph reports.

Under Iranian law the family of the murder victim can commute the death sentence.

The family of the dead 'rapist' are insistent on exercising the right only if Jabbari apologises.

(source: Sunday World)


Pardoned Just As He Was Hanged

A "few seconds" after an Iranian man's hanging began, his victim's relatives called prison officials to grant a pardon, as Iranian laws allow. According to prison authorities in the south of the country on April 20, the man survived the hanging - which was on an unspecified recent date - and is recovering, Shargh newspaper reported, citing IRNA news agency.

The man had been sentenced to be hung for a murder committed 14 years earlier.

Iran carries the death penalty for several offenses, although with murders, where the law of talion applies, a victim's relatives may pardon a killer in exchange for financial compensation and imprisonment.

A similar last-minute pardon occurred last week in Iran, when the victim's mother slapped her son's killer, before granting him a reprieve. Iran is believed to execute more people than any other country in the world after China.

The latest convict in question was described as a social worker, and had been imprisoned in the southern port city of Bandar Abbas. The local deputy chief prosecutor Hasan Marsalpur said: "Almighty God has given the victim's family the right of retaliation in kind, but people are also strongly advised to pardon and condone. In such cases...great effort is made to obtain pardon...after the sentence is passed."

According to the daily Aftab-e Yazd at least seven people are currently awaiting imminent execution in Iran. The paper cited Esmail Kahrom, an adviser to the head of Environmental Protection Organization, as saying that four environmental officers were waiting to be hanged in different parts of Iran, though he did not say why. He said the agency had managed before to save other officers set to be executed, and was working on "improving their conditions," saying little else on their purported crimes.

(source: World Crunch)


Afghanistan calls on Iran to stop execution of Afghan nationals

Officials in the ministry of foreign affairs of Afghanistan said Monday that the government of Afghanistan has conveyed its objection and serious concerns regarding the execution of Afghan refugees to the Iranian government.

Foreign ministry spokesman, Ahmad Shekib Mostaghni said that the government of Iran continuous to execute Afghan refugees despite an agreement between the 2 nations which would prevent the execution of Afghans in Iran.

Mostaghni said the government of Afghanistan has continuously urged Iran not execute Afghans.

He said the government of Iran has agreed to stop the execution of 50 Afghan prisoners based on the agreement reached between the 2 nations.

According to Mostaghni, around 3000 Afghans are serving in Iranian jails however the exact number of prisoners who are facing death penalty is not known.

This comes as local authorities in northeastern Takhar province of Afghanistan said at least 6 Afghan nationals including a number of Takhar residents were hanged in Iran, however Mostaghni said four Afghans were executed.

(source: Khaama Press)


Brunei Returns to the Stoning Age

The tiny sultanate is planning a return to medieval modes of shariah law, with vicious punishments for extramarital sex and anti-Muslim defamation. And nobody's blinking an eye.

Remember when we all thought historical events would push us toward greater rationality, moderation, and liberalism?

Well, on Tuesday, April 22, the tiny sultanate of Brunei planned to put into effect a new penal code that provides "stoning to death" as the penalty for rape, adultery, sodomy, extramarital sexual relations (for Muslims), defamation of the Prophet Mohammed, insulting any verses of the Koran and Hadith, blasphemy, and declaring oneself a prophet or non-Muslim.

Oh, and robbery and murder. (Late Monday night Brunei delayed the implementation of the code, but an official said the punishments would begin "in the very near future.")

To this outrageous return to medieval modes of justice, the response in this country has been...the cancellation of a conference at the Beverly Hills Hotel.

Yes, it seems the famed Los Angeles landmark is owned by the Sultan of Brunei, Hassanal Bolkiah (or at least, by a development group he controls). Coincidentally, the OutGiving conference - the largest single event for LGBT donors worldwide - was scheduled to take place there May 1-4. After the Washington Blade notified one of the conference organizers of the Sultan's not-so-kind-and-gentle approach to homosexuality, the conference was relocated.

Other than that - nothing. On the contrary, Secretary of State John Kerry visited Brunei twice last year, speaking glowingly of the "Abode of Peace" (the meaning of Brunei's full name, Brunei Darussalam). Just 2 weeks later, the Sultan issued his decree that shariah, Islamic law, would be the new law of the land.

This has left the United Nations Human Rights office as the only major international forum objecting to, or even taking notice of, this horrifying new development. Rupert Colville, spokesperson for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), noted that "under international law, stoning people to death constitutes torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment and is thus clearly prohibited."

One might wonder whether the Right's silence on this unprecedented imposition of Islamic law against Christians has something to do with Brunei's wealth and petroleum resources.

But it's not international law that the Sultan of Brunei is interested in - it's Islamic law. The institution of shariah is meant to celebrate Brunei's 30th year of independence - the country was a British protectorate in the 19th century, and except for World War II, remained under British control until 1984 - and to represent "part of the great history of our nation." Appropriately enough, Brunei sent a delegation to Saudi Arabia, to see how they implemented shariah there.

Geopolitically, the move is likely yet another step for the relatively conservative Brunei to define itself against its more liberal (by comparison) neighbors, Indonesia and Malaysia. The Sultan of Brunei will not have a quasi-Islamist rebellion within the Abode of Peace. He will stay ahead of the conservative curve.

What will be the effects of this change? It's too soon to say. Perhaps it is merely ceremonial in nature. Brunei has had the death penalty for decades, yet its last execution took place in 1957, under British rule. Maybe the penalties called for by shariah will be similar - although the Saudi Arabia trip suggests otherwise.

At the very least, Brunei's government has indicated that some laws will, indeed, be enforced. The wearing of indecent clothing, for example, will get you 6 months in jail, as will any act that, according to the new penal code, "tarnishes the image of Islam, corrupts moral standards, causes negative influence or upsets eyewitnesses."

However, a "senior legal officer of the Islamic Legal Unit at the Ministry of Religious Affairs" told the Brunei Times that authorities will enforce the law gradually. "If the person is wearing clothing that is too offensive or revealing, then the enforcement agencies should take action or at least advise the offender," the official said. "But we will implement this provision with wisdom, so people won't be shocked and angered."

Certainly, for the 23 % of Brunei's 415,000 citizens who are not Muslim, the new code represents a major affront to religious liberty. Anyone who drinks liquor in a public place, Muslim or non-Muslim, will be liable to 2 years' imprisonment and a fine of $8,000.

Moreover, Saudi Arabia and Iran have notoriously carried out even the more grisly penalties of shariah. Theft, for example, is punishable by amputating the right hand. Mocking the Koran? Forty strokes of the cane.

Despite all of this, America's conservative defenders of religious liberty have been oddly silent on this issue, even though Brunei is 10 % Christian - and the imposition of shariah law is usually something that gets conservatives' danders up. Presumably, they are too busy worrying about whether bakers in Colorado have to bake penis cakes.

If one were a cynic, one might wonder whether the Right's silence on this unprecedented imposition of Islamic law against Christians has something to do with Brunei's wealth and petroleum resources; the country is smaller than Delaware, but is the 9th-largest producer of liquefied natural gas in the world. It's also quite a wealthy place - Forbes estimates it's the 5th-richest nation, per capita. So, as with Saudi Arabia, there might be some compelling interests behind the silence.

Of course, the silence extends to the Left as well. Other than the UNHCR, few liberals seem to have even noticed the change. It's been covered in gay newspapers - often characterized, misleadingly, as a crackdown on homosexuality - but not by the mainstream press. Amnesty International put out a press release calling for revocation of the law. But that's about it.

So, barring some unforeseen global wake-up call on the re-imposition of death by stoning, it seems that the shariah will be extended to Brunei's 40,000 Christians, 50,000 Buddhists, and 325,000 Muslims as well. The arc of history may bend toward justice, but there are some pretty serious kinks along the way.

(source: The Daily Beast)

APRIL 21, 2014:


Ex-Marine tells lawyers not to fight death penalty

An ex-Marine facing possible execution for the 2009 murder of a fellow service member ordered his lawyers not to make any arguments to spare his life.

A federal jury in Alexandria convicted Jorge Torrez, 25, earlier this month of the murder of sailor Amanda Snell at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall. As the sentencing phase of the trial began Monday, the judge told jurors that Torrez ordered his attorneys not to contest the government's case.

Torrez' lawyer, Robert Jenkins, declined comment on whether his client has expressed a preference for execution. But he said it is not uncommon for defendants in capital cases to prefer execution over life in prison.

"If Mr. Torrez's goal is to receive a death sentence, the government is helping him achieve that goal," Jenkins said.

If he were permitted to do so, Jenkins said he would argue that life in prison is the worst possible punishment the jury could impose on Torres, who is only 25. Jenkins said it is difficult as a defense lawyer to stand aside and do nothing to defend your client, but that he has no choice.

Torrez contested his conviction, and questioned the government's evidence in the case. Prosecutors said DNA from Torres found in Snell's room and he gave a taped confession to a jail inmate.

Torres is already serving a life sentence for multiple assaults on northern Virginia women, including the rape and abduction of a woman he strangled and left for dead.

Even though the defense is not contesting the case, prosecutors must give their arguments and present evidence to the jury that Torres deserves execution.

(source: Associated Press)


Don't miss this opportunity to reform the Florida death penalty

Time and time again you hear it reported that, "We live in the most politically and ideologically polarized period in American history, perhaps since the Civil War."

Witnessing the gridlock that afflicts Congress and the productivity of the Florida Legislature, it is hard to dispute that claim. The nation is bitterly divided as to the cause, but the apparent symptoms can't be denied.

But every once in a while an issue comes along that presents an opportunity for genuine cooperation across the political and ideological chasm. One such opportunity, a fix to part of Florida's broken death penalty system, is now before the Legislature.

This rare important opportunity to work together should not be missed.

The death penalty is likely to be with us until the U.S. Supreme Court or the Florida Legislature undergoes serious change. But whether one is an opponent of the death penalty (as the ACLU surely is) or a proponent of state executions, we should all insist that the possibility of horrible and irreversible error in Florida's implementation of the death penalty is minimized.

That is the point of legislation pending in both Florida's House and Senate - SB 334 by Sen. Thad Altman R-Melbourne, and HB 467 Rep. Jose Javier Rodriquez, D-Miami, both entitled "Sentencing in Capital Felonies." Sadly, it does not appear that either chamber is willing to take up this issue.

The proposed legislation, which is also supported by the Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops and the American Civil Liberties Union, would require that death sentences be recommended by a unanimous jury - just as a unanimous jury is required for a guilty verdict.

Of those states that use the death penalty, Florida and Delaware are the only states in which a simple majority (for example, a 7-5 vote) can recommend death.

All other death penalty states - except Alabama, which requires a vote of 10 of 12 jurors - require a unanimous jury recommendation for death.

According to the Death Penalty Information Center's 2013 year-end report, Florida was No. 2 in both death sentences (15) and executions (7). California led the country in new death sentences with 24, though it is important to note that California has a moratorium on executions and has executed no one since 2006.

Critically, while No. 2 in death sentences, Florida is No. 1 in the nation for the number of inmates released from death row due to exonerations, mistakes, and prosecutorial error - and misconduct (24 since 1979), an error rate that should be unacceptable to all Floridians

There is a relationship between the number of mistakes and the fact that a simple majority of a jury can vote to recommend death.

Since 2006, the Florida Supreme Court has not overturned any death sentence in which a jury recommended death by a unanimous 12-0 vote.

Both the U.S. and the Florida Supreme Courts have admonished the Legislature to require a unanimous jury recommendation. If the Legislature wants to preserve the use of capital punishment, they are best advised to heed this admonition - before the courts take the death penalty out of their hands.

I am not blind to the polarization on many important issues of the day, including the death penalty - though public opinion (based largely on the documentation of errors) has been shifting away from support for state-sanctioned executions. In the last few years, many states (such as Maryland, Connecticut and New Mexico) have abolished the death penalty.

And worldwide, for all practical purposes the use of the death penalty has been abolished in practice - with the exception of countries such as China, Iran and Saudi Arabia.

But put aside (if we can) the extent to which so many of us may be locked in a "culture war" debate about the merits and morality of the death penalty. Opponents and proponents should be able to agree that, if we are to have the death penalty, surely we should minimize the possibility of error.

With a few weeks to go in the 2014 Legislative Session, please speak up and contact the members of southeast Florida's legislative delegation.

Urge them not to lose this opportunity for needed reform.

Urge them to support the bi-partisan bills SB 334 and HB 467 to reform Florida's death penalty system.

(source: Commentary; Howard Simon is executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida----Miami Herald)

OKLAHOMA----impending executions

Oklahoma to proceed with lethal injection amid confusion within courts; Execution of Clayton Lockett to go ahead after judges in disagreement over which court has the power to grant a stay

Oklahoma plans to kill Clayton Lockett by lethal injection on Tuesday, after judges could not agree which court has the authority to stay his execution amid questions over the constitutionality of the state’s capital punishment law.

The Oklahoma court of criminal appeals and the state supreme court last week both declined to stay the executions of Lockett and Charles Warner, scheduled for April 29, with each court saying it did not have the authority to grant a stay.

The inmates have sued over the constitutionality of Oklahoma's secrecy about execution drugs, and an Oklahoma county district court judge has ruled that keeping the source of the drugs confidential is a violation of their rights. The state is defending a law that allows it to keep the source of the drugs secret, on the argument that suppliers would be in danger if their identities were made public.

Lockett, 38, was convicted of killing a 19-year-old woman in 1999. He was also convicted of rape. Warner, 46, was convicted of raping and killing an 11-month-old baby in 1997.

The Oklahoma county district judge ruled in March that the secrecy surrounding the drug source violated the inmates' right to access the courts. The state appealed that ruling on Friday to the state supreme court calling the ruling an "overbroad interpretation" of the right to access.

The inmates' lawyers, Susanna Gattoni and Seth Day, said in a statement it would be "unthinkable" to execute them before the state supreme court considers the constitutional issues.

"The extreme secrecy surrounding lethal injection in Oklahoma makes it impossible to know whether executions would be carried out in a humane and legal manner," the lawyers said. The lawyers appealed again Monday to the state supreme court.

The state has said Lockett and Warner will die, and that the question is how and when.

"The citizens should not see their criminal justice system derailed and subverted by criminal defendants who have completely exhausted the entire range of appeals and processes required by the US and Oklahoma constitutions due to baseless speculation of theoretical harms raised in improper venues," the state said in a filing.

The state supreme court said it did not have the authority to stay the executions and transferred the matter to the criminal appeals court. But the criminal appeals court said it did not have the authority to grant a stay.

In transferring the case to the criminal appeals court, the state supreme court urged the judges to consider the "gravity of the first impression constitutional issues this court will be charged with in addressing" the appeals.

The appeals present claims, "which if resolved in the prisoners' favor, might well support alterations in the execution process," the court said in transferring the stay.

At the criminal appeals court, judge Clancy Smith dissented from her colleagues, saying: "I would grant a stay to avoid irreparable harm as the appellants face imminent execution. I would do so in consideration of the appellants' rights, to avoid the possibility of a miscarriage of justice, and in comity with the supreme courts' request for time to resolve the issues pending before it."

The state plans to use an untried dose of midazolam in a 3-drug lethal injection method to kill Lockett and Warner.

Unable to find the drugs it needed to kill the men, the state changed its protocol in March to allow 5 lethal injection methods. The state can use 4 3-drug combinations, or a single dose of pentobarbital.

The state has typically fought legal battles when it wanted to revise the lethal injection method, according to a document the corrections department wrote to update the state board of corrections in 2012.

"As noted, Oklahoma has been required to litigate every change in the lethal injection protocol and anticipates future litigation for each new change," the document states.

Lockett's execution is scheduled for 6pm local time on Tuesday, at the Oklahoma state penitentiary in McAlester. His will be the state's 3rd execution in 2014.

(source: The Guardian)


Attorneys for condemned Oklahoma inmates request emergency stay

Attorneys for Clayton Lockett, who is scheduled to be executed 6 p.m. April 22, 2014, filed a Renewed Emergency Application for a Stay of Execution/Petition for Certiorari with the Oklahoma Supreme Court asking the Court to grant a stay of execution.

Citing "important questions" regarding the legality of Oklahoma's execution process, attorneys for an inmate set to die Tuesday have filed a new appeal with the state Supreme Court.

Attorneys for Clayton Lockett and Charles Warner filed the appeal Monday requesting an emergency stay of execution while the Supreme Court considers a lower court's ruling of the state execution-secrecy law. Lockett is scheduled to be executed at 6 p.m. Tuesday at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary, while Warner is set for execution April 29.

Locket and Warner are challenging a law that allows the state to withhold most information about the execution process, including the source of the drugs. Oklahoma County District Court Judge Patricia Parrish has ruled the law violates Oklahoma's Constitution and the state has appealed that ruling.

Because the men are to be executed before the appeal is expected to be heard, the Supreme Court has urged the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals to consider issuing a stay.

In a 3-2 ruling Friday, the Court of Criminal Appeals said it lacks jurisdiction to make that decision and declined to issue a stay. The court had issued an earlier ruling that it lacked authority to issue stays unless inmates were challenging their underlying convictions or sentences.

Lockett and Warner are not challenging their convictions but instead challenging the method used to carry out the death penalty and secrecy surrounding it. They have cited cases in Oklahoma and other states in which inmates appear to have suffered pain during the process.

"Despite the important issues of state secrecy still waiting to be adjudicated in the Oklahoma Supreme Court, both courts have said that the other court should determine eligibility for a stay, and have declined to stay the execution to date," Madeline Cohen, an assistant federal public defender who has represented Warner, said in an email.

Lockett was sentenced to die by a Noble County jury in the 1999 shooting death of Stephanie Neiman, of Perry. Warner is scheduled to be executed for the rape and murder of his girlfriend's 11-month-old daughter, Adriana Waller.

"The state refuses to comply with Judge Parrish's ruling, and that is its right since it has filed an appeal," Cohen said. "But in the face of a court's ruling that concealing the source of the execution drugs is clearly unconstitutional, appellants' executions should not be allowed to proceed, not until this court has the chance to fully consider the merits of that claim and the other serious claims that appellants have raised."

The state plans to use "an experimental new drug protocol ... leaving serious questions about whether the execution will comport with the Eighth Amendment's ban on cruel and unusual suffering," Cohen said.

The state has said it plans to use a combination of midazolam, vecuronium bromide and potassium chloride to execute Lockett and Warner.

"To date, appellants have received no certifications, testing data, medical opinions, or other evidence to support the State's insistence that these drugs are safe, or to prove that they were acquired legally," the appeal states.

"And, in fact, after appellants themselves brought to the state's attention a potential dosage error in the new, March 21, 2014 execution protocol, the state changed the protocol yet again, on April 14."

The appeal notes that a conflict exists between the 2 courts about which court has the ability to enter a stay.

"It simply cannot be that no court in this state has the power to enter a stay of execution in this case. Such a result would close the courts of justice to appellants, in violation of the Oklahoma Constitution."

(source: Tulsa World)

MISSOURI----impending execution

Mo. death row appeal focuses on execution drug

Appeals that seek to spare the life of a Missouri man facing execution this week focus on concerns about the lethal injection drug.

William Rousan is scheduled to die at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday. He was sentenced to death for killing 62-year-old Grace Lewis in 1993. He was sentenced to life in prison for killing her 67-year-old husband.

The killings were part of a plot by Rousan, his son and his brother, to steal cattle from the Lewis farm near Bonne Terre.

Rousan's son, Brent, was 16 at the time of the killings. He is serving life without parole. Rousan's brother, Robert, pleaded guilty to 2nd-degree murder and served 15 years in prison.

An appeal in federal court questions Missouri's secretive process of purchasing execution drugs from an unnamed compounding pharmacy.

(source: Associated Press)


Judge plans to reappoint public defender for Nikko Jenkins

A judge has called for a hearing Tuesday to reappoint the public defender's office to represent Nikko Jenkins before a 3-judge panel that will decide whether he should receive the death penalty.

Judge Peter Bataillon's intention to reappoint Douglas County Public Defender Tom Riley raised eyebrows and questions among courthouse officials Monday. Riley had been acting as Jenkins' adviser - but did not have a speaking role - as Jenkins represented himself and pleaded no contest last week to the murders of Juan Uribe-Pena, Jorge Cajiga-Ruiz, Curtis Bradford and Andrea Kruger.

Among the questions courthouse attorneys posed Monday morning: Why now? Why was Jenkins competent to represent himself while pleading to capital murder charges but not at a death penalty hearing?

Bataillon has indicated that he will reappoint Riley because of the complexity of death penalty arguments.

Often such hearings require a careful comparison between the current case and previous 1st-degree murder cases that both merited and didn't merit the death penalty.

Bataillon's decision to allow Jenkins to plead to 1st-degree murder charges drew criticism last week from State Sen. Ernie Chambers.

Chambers, a watchdog of judges and death penalty cases, said Bataillon was "as crazy" as Jenkins in his handling of the case. He said Bataillon should have never allowed Jenkins to represent himself.

U.S. Supreme Court rulings have noted a defendant's right to represent himself is not absolute. Such rulings, including a 2008 order in an Indiana case, have noted that a judge may intervene and require an attorney to represent a defendant at trial or during complex hearings.

However, another Supreme Court ruling noted that a defendant who is competent to stand trial has a right to plead to charges, too. And no attorney can stand in the way of that right, as long as the defendant is competent.

It is unclear how Jenkins will respond to Bataillon reappointing his defense team.

Since taking over his own defense, Jenkins has had virtually no interaction with his attorneys, other than to have them make copies for him.

Jenkins also has seemed intent on getting to death row. The 27-year-old believes that he will succeed in a civil lawsuit asking another judge to throw out the case against him.

(source: Omaha World-Herald)


Fallacious reasoning and the death penalty debate

Chuck Douglas's piece pleading for life for the New Hamphsire death penalty (Sunday Monitor, April 6) “Don’t Repeal the Death Penalty," was hardly persuasive.

But as a retired educator (and logic teacher), it did confirm my belief in the importance of avoiding fallacious reasoning in public discourse, even beyond the undergraduate level.

Douglas is concerned that loss of the death penalty will mean "no viable deterrent" to prevent our unarmed prison guards from being murdered by convicted lifers with nothing to lose. But this begs the question (a classic informal fallacy) of whether the death penalty is a "viable" deterrent.

He does try to provide some evidence, and he's initially careful not to make the dangerous leap from mere association to causation. He correctly notes that the death penalty was "associated with" a drop in the U.S. murder rate in the 1980s. True, but he goes on to embrace a dubious Pepperdine study concluding that the huge decline in the 1990s was caused by increased death penalty executions.

Yes, the murder rate did drop (43 %), but so did all violent crime (50 %) - including crime such as aggravated assault (53 %) and car theft (59 percent). But surely these reductions were not caused by increased death penalty executions!

The explanation is disputed, but a more likely one is a complex of factors including increased police and increased abortions since 1973 (Roe v. Wade) - unwanted children are more prone to crime, including violent crime.



The writer is a philosophy professor at Plymouth State University and the author of "Logic and Mr. Limbaugh: A Dittohead's Guide to Fallacious Reasoning."

(source: Letter to the Editor, Concord Monitor)


Shifting opinions on death penalty: Views evolving after years of work

When Boston Cardinal Sean O'Malley was asked at a news conference at the U.S.-Mexico border about how to persuade people to support comprehensive immigration reform, he pointed for an example to the Catholic Church's decades-long efforts to shift opinions about the death penalty.

"There was a time when Catholics were very pro-death penalty," Cardinal O'Malley said April 1. Then Blessed John Paul II made a strong push to include opposition to capital punishment as a part of a consistent pro-life approach, he said. Activists took on the task of changing minds and hearts.

Today, support for the death penalty overall has dramatically declined. So have the number of executions and death sentences. But it has been a lengthy process.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church officially issued in 1992 said that although there may be circumstances that allow for such a drastic punishment to protect the public, "if bloodless means are sufficient to defend human lives ... public authority must limit itself to such means, because they better correspond to the concrete conditions of the common good and are more in conformity to the dignity of the human person."

In modern society, circumstances that justify capital punishment "are very rare, if not practically nonexistent," the catechism says.

Particularly in the 1990s, efforts focused on getting people past the notion that only "an eye for an eye" could constitute justice. Sister Helen Prejean, a Sister of St. Joseph, helped capture the Catholic imagination with her 1993 book about her experiences with death row inmates and the book-based 1995 movie "Dead Man Walking," for which actress Susan Sarandon won an Academy Award.

In addition to Sister Helen, a speaker's circuit grew. It now includes murder victims' families, exonerated former inmates, prosecutors, law enforcement officers and others with personal experience of the emotional roller coaster of capital punishment that put them on the side of abolition.

As Cardinal O'Malley observed, people began to see that the death penalty is not what they thought it was.

Now, Catholics are less likely than most Americans to favor the death penalty.

Data released in April from a poll last year for the Pew Research Center bears this out. Among all Catholics, 51 % say they support capital punishment for those convicted of murder. A dramatically smaller percentage of Hispanic Catholics, 37 %, support it.

Americans overall favor the death penalty by 55 %, down from 78 % in 1996, according to Pew's survey.

Karen Clifton, executive director of the Catholic Mobilizing Network to End the Death Penalty, said majorities of younger Catholics as well as Hispanics are likely to oppose capital punishment.

She said that recent Hispanic immigrants, for example, are from countries without capital punishment. When they come to the United States, some tend to accept it as part of the American way of life. "But when we come at it with the pro-life theology, it makes a big difference" in swinging people's views against the death penalty, she said.

The possibility that some on death row might be innocent also resonates with people, Clifton said, as does data showing how arbitrarily death sentences are imposed. The rate at which prosecutors seek the death penalty and the rate at which executions are completed varies dramatically from one jurisdiction to another, even within 1 state.

The Death Penalty Information Center reports that in 2012, nine counties in 5 states accounted for 35 % of the death sentences. 15 counties in 4 states account for 30 % of the executions in the United States since 1976, although they represent less than 1 % of the total number of counties in states with the death penalty.

Nationwide, the number of executions has steadily declined since a peak of 98 in 1999. There were 39 in 2013 and, as of April 17, there had been 17 in 2014, with another 13 scheduled. Several executions set for 2014 have been stayed. Many of those stays revolve around the availability of the lethal drugs used in executions.

Clifton said the complications of finding the lethal drugs for executions -- both legal and logistical -- represent a significant area of effort for opponents of capital punishment. European manufacturers of one of the main drugs used for years in lethal injection have blocked its export for execution. States are experimenting with new drugs, sometimes resulting in poorly managed, painful executions.

Meanwhile, organizations of physicians, nurses and anesthesiologists have said their members should not be involved with executions for ethical reasons.

Clifton said the Catholic Mobilizing Network is drafting a letter on the subject of lethal injection.

Amid this, retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens has a new book, in which he proposes adding a few words "such as the death penalty" to the Eighth Amendment. It would read: "Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments, such as the death penalty, inflicted."

In his "Six Amendments: How and Why We Should Change the Constitution," Stevens said that "the question that cannot be avoided is whether the execution of only an 'insignificant minimum' of innocent citizens is tolerable in a civilized society."

He wrote that he now sees the availability of life imprisonment without chance of parole as a viable means of preventing further crimes and deterring others from committing them.

"When it comes to state-mandated killings of innocent civilians, there can be no 'insignificant minimum,'" he said.

With a series of rulings in the late 1960s and 1970s, the U.S. Supreme Court sent states back to the legislative drawing board. Death sentences and executions were suspended while states rewrote laws to adapt to rulings on proportionality of sentence to crime, arbitrariness, and on what constitutes cruel and unusual punishment.

Currently, 32 states and the federal government have capital punishment on the books; 18 states and the District of Columbia have outlawed it. 18 states and the federal system have had no executions in at least 5 years.

Supreme Court rulings in the past 20 years have not tackled the overall constitutionality of capital punishment, but have limited its application to people with mental illness, mental retardation and who committed their crimes as juveniles.

New Hampshire was poised to be the final state in New England to outlaw capital punishment before an April 17 tie vote in the Senate meant an end to the effort for this legislative term. The House had voted more than two-to-one to end the death penalty and Gov. Maggie Hassan had said she would sign the bill. The state has just one person on death row and its last execution was in 1939.

(source: Catholic Sentinel)


Jurors to weigh whether ex-Marine should be executed

Jurors in federal district court in Alexandria on Monday will begin listening to presentations from prosecutors and defense attorneys about whether a former U.S. Marine convicted killing a fellow service member at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall should be executed for his crime.

Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for 25-year-old Jorge Torrez, who was convicted earlier this month of 1st-degree murder in the 2009 death of 20-year-old Amanda Jean Snell. Jurors must first decide whether the former Marine is eligible to be executed, then they must weigh whether they want to impose the most severe of penalties.

Jurors in the Eastern District of Virginia, where Torrez was convicted, rarely impose the death penalty, even in the infrequent instances prosecutors seek it. Most recently, prosecutors sought the death penalty for 3 Somali pirates convicted in the fatal shootings of 4 Americans on a yacht off the coast of Africa, but jurors recommended they instead be sentenced to life in prison.

The last time a jury in the Eastern District recommended death was in 2009 for a man named David Runyon, who was convicted in a murder-for-hire plot in Newport News. According to the Death Penalty Information Center, which tracks death penalty cases nationwide, Virginia has 6 inmates on federal death row.

Torrez's crime, though, was heinous enough - and his victim sympathetic enough - to make the death penalty a possibility.

Prosecutors said Torrez attacked Snell at random, creeping into her room at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall and wrapping the young woman's neck with the power cord of her pink laptop. They said Snell was something of a sexual predator who browsed Internet sites about rape fantasies and randomly attacked other women in Arlington after Snell's death. He was convicted and sentenced in those incidents in 2010.

Snell, who grew up in Twentynine Palms, Calif., and Las Vegas, was known among family members for her outgoing nature and "infectious personality," said Denise Alexander, her aunt. Alexander said that Snell volunteered helping autistic children and hoped to make a career of it when she had finished her Navy service.

Jurors are expected to hear more testimony about both Snell and Torrez, who lived down the hall from each other at the Arlington, Va., base, throughout this week.

(source: Washington Post)

TENNESSEE----impending executioned stayed

Execution Postponed For Convicted Cop Killer

A man convicted of killing a police officer in Sullivan County has been granted a stay of execution.

Nickolus Johnson was scheduled to be put to death Tuesday, for killing an Officer for the Bristol Police Department in 2004. It would have been Tennessee's 1st execution in nearly 5 years.

Earlier this month, Johnson was granted a stay of execution.

The now 35-year-old was convicted and sentenced to die for shooting and killing Officer Mark Vance. Vance was responding to a domestic violence call when he was shot in the face by Johnson.

In the fall of 2013, the state began scheduling execution dates for 10 inmates currently on death row.

So far, 2 of those executions have been delayed.



Portland Woman Sells Notecards With Art By Death Row Inmates

A Portland woman is selling note cards that feature art work by inmates on Oregon's death row. Cynthia Edwards says she's been pen pals with a death row inmate for the last 10 years and that's how she learned some of them spend time drawing. She was impressed by an inmate drawing of a butterfly and decided to create butterfly note cards.

Edwards, who is a member of Oregonians For An Alternative To The Death Penalty, sells the cards through word of mouth with 1/2 the proceeds going to the inmate and the other half to Make A Wish Foundation. She says everyone thinks the cards are "beautiful."

(source: KXL news)


Life in prison, death for drug dealers in Maine

We need more law enforcement to severely punish anyone caught dealing heroin and prescription pills in Maine. The penalty should be so severe that dealers will think twice about coming to Maine.

I'm not talking about addicts; I'm talking about the people who make them addicts. Make them go somewhere else with their drugs. No drugs, no people hooked, no need for rehab. Crime would plummet.

Give the dealers life in prison or the death penalty and maybe that would make them think twice about doing business in Maine. I believe we need to give compassion and help to those addicted, but stopping the flow of drugs as a first line of defense would save many souls.

Gary Hopkins----Manchester

(source: Letter to the Editor, Kennebec Journal)


Rubin 'Hurricane' Carter's life story is a warning to us about racism and revenge; In 1976, I was a junior lawyer on Rubin 'Hurricane' Carter's retrial defence team. His story has a significance that should outlive his death

In the summer of 1976, I walked the mean streets of Paterson, New Jersey, with Rubin "Hurricane" Carter - and encountered the raw, bloodshot hate-gaze from the white folks who passed us by. Carter was instantly recognisable: he was as bald and black and muscley as the Michelin man.

"What chance do you give me?" he asked this then-young British lawyer, shrugging his boxer's shoulders. "You can see my verdict in their eyes. In America, nothing has really changed."

On the political surface, it seemed to have changed. In 1966, when Carter - then a top professional boxer - was first convicted by an all-white jury for slaying 3 of their kind in a local bar, the governor of Georgia was fighting desegregation with a pick-axe. Now his successor, Jimmy Carter, was on the way to the US presidency, preaching racial harmony and quoting Bob Dylan in his campaign ads. Rubin's original 1966 conviction for an apparently motiveless triple murder was based on palpably inadequate evidence and came at a time when he was a contender for the world middleweight title.

Yet Carter was re-convicted on even weaker evidence at his retrial in 1976 and returned to prison. Not until 1985 was this wrongful reconviction overturned. His story inspired one of Dylan's best protest songs and Norman Jewison's fine movie, in which he was played by Denzel Washington. As a warning against possibility of convicting - and executing - the innocent because of prosecutors who play the race card and hide exculpatory evidence, the story of "the Hurricane" has a significance that will outlive his death.

It all began with the riots in Watts and Harlem in the early 1960s, which left 13 black children killed by police bullets. Rubin Carter, who until then had been marching non-violently with Martin Luther King, became a black Muslim and started to talk to the press about fighting back. That made him a public enemy in his home town of Paterson, where he had been arrested at the age of eleven for stabbing a man he said had indecently assaulted him. He was put away in a reformatory for 7 years and was not forgiven - even as he began winning boxing titles.

The police officer involved in arresting him as a child, Vincent de Simone, happened to be on duty 18 years later, on a night when 2 black gunmen walked into the Lafayette Bar and Grill and opened fire, killing three customers before escaping in what some witnesses said was a white Chevrolet. Long after a car of that make had eluded a police chase, Carter and a young friend, John Artis, were pulled over in Carter's white Dodge. De Simone ordered the two brought back to the bar, but no witnesses could identify them as the gunmen. Alfred Bellow and Arthur Bradley, 2 professional burglars who had seen the gunmen while themselves out to rob the same bar, gave descriptions which were nothing like Carter or Artis.

But de Simone was as implacable as Inspector Javert from Les Miserables. He dragged the suspects to the hospital bedside of a critically-injured survivor who denied that they were the men who had just shot him. So Carter and Artis were released.

The only physical evidence against them was a lead-plated .32 Smith and Wesson bullet, which a policeman claimed to have found in the back of Carter's car. It could have been fired from the murder weapon - but the bullets which riddled the Lafayette victims were all plated with copper. Lead-plated .32 were not in common use ... except in the Patterson police force, where they were standard issue.

Several months later, de Simone persuaded Bellow and Bradley to change their minds and identify Carter and Artis as the gunmen. In return for changing their story, the two burglars were offered a host of inducements - early parole from previous sentences, a $12,000 reward and a blind eye towards the crimes they committed on the night (Bellow had robbed the Lafayette cash register while the victims lay dying). These deals were not disclosed to the defence. The prosecution even suppressed their initial description of the gunmen as "thinly built, both 5'11' in height" (the Hurricane was an unmistakably stocky 5'7").

The prosecution relied on Bellow and Bradley - and unspoken racial prejudice. On the jury table, the blood-stained shirt, trousers, socks and shoes of each victim was carefully laid out. By the shirt collar was set a wedding photo and beneath the shoes was placed a picture of the bullet-ridden body on the mortuary slab. The prosecutor called for the defendants to be sent to the electric chair.

I met Rubin Carter during his release on bail in 1976. He had, quite literally, written his way out of life imprisonment with a memoir, The 16th Round, which revived interest in his case. Selwyn Raab of the New York Times cracked Bellow and Bradley, who confessed to perjury. Bob Dylan, who years before had so movingly mourned the lonesome death of Hattie Carroll, now set the story of "the Hurricane" to a driving, angry beat. Mohammed Ali led protest marches, and an appeals court ordered a retrial.

But the "free Hurricane Carter" campaign outraged the local police department, of which de Simone was by then chief - as well as the judges and politicians of New Jersey. It became a matter of honour to secure Carter's reconviction. The state devoted massive resources to the prosecution: I counted no less than 49 of their lawyers and investigators, ranged against a handful of Carter defenders working for the most part without fee. The state had the money and now it invented a motive by claiming the Lafayette attack was a Black Power revenge killing.

The trial judge permitted this preposterous change of tack. At the pre-trial hearings I attended, he seemed to loathe the out-of-town defence lawyers and, after he allowed the prosecution to play the race card, the feeling was mutual. "What sort of lousy judge would make a ruling like that?" protested the "movement" lawyer Lenny Weinglass (deploying a style of advocacy I made a mental note to avoid when back at the Old Bailey).

Outside court, I observed the downside of press freedom, American-style. The local press were determined to prejudice the trial: in its lead-up, I noted 17 editorials and 320 front page articles in local papers, all hostile to Carter. Half the articles contained inflammatory descriptions, referring to him as a "murderer," "assassin," "criminal" and "killer of white people."

Rubin 'Hurricane' Carter answers a question during a news conference before his speech at Kutztown University. Photograph: Tony Fiorini/AP The result was predicable. The prosecutor relied on the new "Black Power" reprisal theory and on attacking the "Madison Avenue Hucksters" like Rabb and Dylan and the New York Times, whose campaign had provoked this supposedly unnecessary exercise. The verdict, once again, was guilty.

So, "the Hurricane" hunkered down for another life term. His release in 1985 was due to a dogged defence lawyer, Myron Beldock, who found the "smoking gun" evidence of prosecutorial misconduct. The judge quashed the conviction on the ground of that misconduct and "the prosecutor"s appeal to racism rather than reason." The real hero of the story was John Artis, who had fatefully offered to drive Carter home on the night of the Lafayette murders. In 1966, he was 19, with an exemplary record and a good career ahead of him. Instead, he wasted the next 20 years in prison. From the outset, the prosecution had offered him plea bargains and freedom deals if only he would implicate Carter. His refusal to do so, especially when threatened with the electric chair, was truly courageous.

"The Hurricane" devoted the rest of his life to projects that secured the release of innocent prisoners and campaigned powerfully against the death penalty - he was, after all, the living embodiment of the argument. He died over Easter in the presence of John Artis, the friend who lost 2 decades of his own life as punishment for refusing to help the New Jersey police to send Rubin to the electric chair.

(source: Geoffrey Robertson, The Guardian)


Some murderers choose life in prison to avoid death penalty

In the murder case against William S. Coffin III, a grim life-or-death negotiation came to the surface last week.

Coffin, 32, is considering pleading guilty to fatally stabbing a Largo woman and spending the rest of his life in prison, a prosecutor said in a court hearing. Coffin wants something in return: no death penalty.

This might sound like the ultimate choice between bad alternatives, but it's not as rare as it may sound.

There have been scattered cases in the Tampa Bay area in recent years of murderers pleading guilty to get life sentences to avoid the possibility of the death penalty.

Like just about everything else involving executions, it's a practice that can be controversial and spark strong emotions.

Take Anthony J. Giancola, a former Hillsborough County middle school principal who gained notoriety in 2007 when he was arrested for buying cocaine in his school office. In 2012, in an event never fully explained, Giancola went on a murderous rampage in mid-Pinellas County.

Deborah Clem's nephew, Justin Lee Vandenburg, 27, was 1 of 2 people Giancola killed that day.

Last year, Giancola pleaded guilty to 2 murders, 4 counts of attempted murder and 2 counts of aggravated battery. The Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney's Office agreed not to seek the death penalty, and he was sentenced to 6 consecutive life sentences, plus 30 years.

"I think he got off easy," Deborah Clem said. "He gets to see his family, he gets to go to bed at night. What does my nephew get? Nothing. He didn't even get to say goodbye."

But in some cases, victims' families actually see this as a better alternative, partly because they avoid the seemingly endless appeals that come with every death penalty case.

Giancola is not the only one who chose this route.

In January, Egan Fernando Atkins admitted in Hillsborough Circuit Court that he broke into a home and stabbed a woman with a kitchen knife. His guilty plea gave him a life sentence and spared him the death penalty.

Last year, Michael Scott Norris pleaded guilty to killing 2 men in St. Petersburg after he escaped a Largo work-release center. Prosecutors agreed not to seek the death penalty, and Norris got 3 life sentences.

Under Florida law, judges have only 2 options for those convicted of 1st-degree murder: the death penalty or life in prison with no parole.

But it's not easy for prosecutors to obtain a death sentence. Under the law, people can be sentenced to death only when the killing involves certain "aggravating circumstances," such as murder committed for money or one that was "especially heinous, atrocious, or cruel." On the other hand, juries and judges weigh "mitigating circumstances" that argue against the death penalty, such as whether the defendant had an otherwise clean record, or whether he was mentally impaired.

Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney Bernie McCabe said key for him in any case is to listen to victims' families.

"There are some that don't like the death penalty, don't agree with it," he said. "There are others that want it, very strongly want it."

Also important, he said, is trying to predict whether a jury would recommend a death sentence, a judge would impose it, and appeals courts would uphold it.

In the case of a death penalty for Giancola, "I thought it was going to be a real uphill climb to get it, and an even bigger uphill climb to keep it," said McCabe, citing the killer's mental health issues.

In court last week, Assistant State Attorney Richard Ripplinger said attorneys for Coffin, accused of murdering Patricia Ann King, 50, in her Largo home, had mentioned the idea of a guilty plea.

Ripplinger said that before the state would consider it, he wanted to make sure the defense had more information about the case - a move apparently designed to make sure Coffin is fully informed and less likely to file an appeal later.

If a judge sentences a man or woman to death, appeals can easily last more than a decade. That's one reason their families sometimes don't mind a guilty plea and life sentence, said Mark Cox, spokesman for the Hillsborough State Attorney's Office.

"We've had cases where the victim's family no longer wishes us to go after the death penalty, not so much for the defendant, but for their wishes," he said. "They want closure."

All options are difficult, and there can be different opinions even within the same families, said Bobbie Hodson, victim advocate for the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office. "There's no happy ending in a murder case, unfortunately."

There is one thing some families appreciate about a guilty plea. The killer has to stand up in court and admit he or she did it. That often does not happen in a trial, not even when someone is sentenced to death.

Because of the trials and appeals, various studies argue that the cost of prosecuting murder defendants actually exceeds the cost of simply imprisoning them for life. Although politicians and advocates argue the cost-effectiveness, this particular debate stays mostly out of the courtroom. The lawyers are supposed to be arguing for justice, not savings.

Defendants usually plead guilty only when the evidence is overwhelming.

But from their point of view, is life in prison really much better than execution?

It can be. On death row, killers are housed individually and spend little time outside cells. Inmates know they'll spend more than a decade that way.

But a murderer sentenced to life can be housed in the general prison population, where "you can work, you can socialize, you can make some sort of life for yourself," said defense attorney Bjorn Brunvand.

(source: Tampa Bay Times)


Would Alabama bring back electric chair?

It wasn't immediately clear that the execution had gone wrong.

All Stephen Ellis could see from the viewing room of Holman Correctional Facility's execution chamber was his client, Horace Dunkins, twitching and jerking after being administered up to 2000 volts of electricity.

Almost 10 minutes passed early on the morning of July 14, 1989. 2 medical personnel examined Dunkins, a mentally retarded man convicted of the 1980 rape and murder of Lynn McCurry, a 26-year-old mother of 4. Minutes passed. Ellis, now an attorney in Vermont, said in an interview last week that "the reality of the situation" slowly dawned on those present.

After an officer opened a door to the death chamber, reporters overheard him saying to a 2nd officer, "I believe you've got the jacks on wrong." Corrections officials later confirmed that the wires had not been properly connected to the chair. Despite a shock that appeared to have rendered Dunkins unconscious, his heart was still beating.

The disconnection required the switch to be thrown a 2nd time. 10 minutes later - and 19 minutes after the execution began - Dunkins was pronounced dead.

"It's impossible to imagine how unbearably painful it was to experience that level of voltage when that level of voltage that was intended to be lethal, but wasn't," Ellis said. "It's impossible that it wasn't painful."

The legacy of 'Yellow Mama'

The electric chair, colloquially known as "Yellow Mama," was Alabama's primary means of execution from 1927 to 2002; Dunkins was one of 24 people executed in the chair after the state resumed executions in 1983, following an 18-year hiatus.

Initially seen as a humane alternative to hanging, stories of its effects on the condemned - including loss of bodily functions; roasting, stinking flesh and, in some cases, the expulsion of eyeballs - suggested the opposite.

Alabama was the last state to use the chair as a primary method of execution, switching to lethal injection in 2002. Supporters of the death penalty call the method more humane. But Alabama has run out of pentobarbital, the 1st drug in the 3-drug execution "cocktail," which sedates inmates before 2 lethal drugs are administered.

Attempts to pass legislation to encourage manufacture of the drug by keeping the names of those involved a secret failed to pass the Legislature in the recently-concluded session.

Supporters of the bill, including Sen. Cam Ward, R-Alabaster, repeatedly warned that without it, the state would have to shift back to electrocution.

"By opposing this bill and killing this bill, we're ensuring the state goes back to the system of the electric chair," said Ward, a death penalty supporter, on the last day of the session. "I would personally believe there is a more humane system of using the death penalty than going back to the electric chair."

The Department of Corrections says it is prepared to bring back the chair if lawmakers so desire. But it isn't as easy as plugging Yellow Mama back in. Both supporters and opponents of the death penalty agree that bringing back the chair would trigger a host of legal challenges, and likely lengthen Alabama's unofficial hiatus on executions.

Alabama currently allows condemned prisoners the option of dying in the electric chair, if they submit their request in writing to a warden. None of the 32 individuals executed since lethal injection was introduced in 2002 have done so. But Brian Corbett, a spokesman for the Alabama Department of Corrections, said corrections staff goes through "regular exercises" in the use of execution methods, including the electric chair.

"Everything is still the same," he said. "Nothing's changed."

Bringing the chair back would first require amendments to the state's execution statute. But supporters of capital punishment, including Ward, would much rather revive the death penalty secrecy bill at the start of the 2015 Legislative Session than bring back the electric chair. Still, the possibility lingers.

"I think it would be there if lethal injection was derailed or killed," he said. "But I just don't see a way."

Janette Grantham, state director of VOCAL, a victims' rights advocacy group, said her group supported lethal injection, but "did not particularly care" which method was used, as long as the capital sentences were carried out.

"I've been to several executions with lethal injection," she said. "It's very easy to die. They look like they're going to sleep and being taken off to surgery."

The shortage of drugs has affected executions nationwide, and some states have openly discussed the possibility of moving to revive the electric chair. Last week, the Tennessee House of Representatives voted to restore the electric chair if drugs to carry out lethal injection were unavailable. The bill needs to be reconciled with a version that passed the Tennessee Senate earlier this month.

Possibility of court challenges

But returning to the electric chair would almost certainly lead to a host of legal challenges.

The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of lethal injection in a 2008 decision. The high court has not ruled on the nature of electrocution since 1890, when it decided the appeal of William Kemmler, a New Yorker who was the first man sentenced to die in the electric chair.

In its decision, In re Kemmler, the court defined cruel punishment as "involving torture or lingering death." Although the court did not directly address electrocution in the case - the justices effectively said they had to abide by New York's determination it was not cruel or unusual, as they could not apply the Eighth Amendment to the states - the case is widely seen as granting constitutionality to the electric chair. The U.S. Supreme Court did not explicitly apply constitutional prohibitions on cruel and unusual punishment to the states until 1962.

The high court did agree to hear a challenge to Florida's use of the electric chair in 1999, following a series of grisly malfunctions during executions, but the case was dropped after the state switched its primary method of execution to lethal injection.

Some state supreme courts, including those of Georgia and Nebraska, have found the electric chair constitutes cruel and unusual punishment, but "those things are not binding outside their borders," said Richard Dieter, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center.

Besides lethal injection, the U.S. Supreme Court has only ruled directly on the constitutionality of 1 other method of execution - in 1878, it upheld the use of firing squads in executions.

A federal court struck down use of the gas chamber in California executions in 1996; the state amended its death penalty statute to include lethal injection before the Supreme Court could take up the case.

Alabama's death penalty statute contains a provision that says if lethal injection or electrocution are ever found unconstitutional, "all persons sentenced to death for a capital crime shall be executed by any constitutional method of execution," which, presumably, would mean the firing squad.

However, Dieter notes that the idea of "evolving standards" on what constitutes cruel and unusual punishment, stemming from a 1958 U.S. Supreme Court decision, could bear on any challenge to the electric chair.

"It would definitely land in court, in multiple courts and over multiple years," he said. "Whoever's going to do this, I could easily see this going to the Supreme Court. If anything, the situation would be more ripe now. It's even more unusual."

That, said Ward, was one of the reasons he wanted to see the state find a way to restore lethal injection.

"We have modern day technology that if we're going to have a death penalty, it's going to provide a much more constitutional way of carrying out executions," he said.

For those on different sides of the issue, it can be personal.

Janette Grantham's brother, Coffee County Sheriff Neil Grantham, was killed on March 1, 1979, by a former inmate as Grantham stood in the entrance of the Coffee County Jail. The sentence of the man convicted of his murder, Billy Joe Magwood, has been commuted, because of procedural issues at his 1st trial. Janette Grantham said she "did not really understand" the concerns over the methods of execution, saying she simply wanted the sentences carried out.

"People so against it shouldn't have a say-so," she said. "They haven't been through it. They don't know how it would feel."

For Ellis, an opponent of the death penalty, Dunkins' execution capped a difficult process. The jury that convicted Dunkins never heard direct evidence of his mental retardation. In an affidavit signed about a week before Dunkins' execution, a juror said she never would have voted for the death sentence had she known.

"It's not an abstract thing to me," Ellis said. "I have very visceral memories of being there. And it being a botched execution underscored the inhumanity of what was taking place."

(soruce: Montgomery Advertiser)


Accused killer wants evidence thrown out; Attorneys for a sex offender suspected of killing 3 Ohio women want evidence against the man thrown out.

Michael Madison's attorneys said police should have had a search warrant when they looked through a garage where a body was found.

Madison is charged with killing the women and leaving their bodies in trash bags in a rundown East Cleveland neighborhood. He has pleaded not guilty.

The bodies were found last July after police were called about an odor coming from a garage.

The Plain Dealer reported Madison's attorneys also want a judge to dismiss other evidence, including statements he made to police.

He is scheduled to go to trial July 21 and could face the death penalty if convicted.

(source: Sandusky Register)


Prosecutor to submit filing to Ohio parole board considering mercy for condemned inmate

An Ohio prosecutor plans to submit his position on whether a condemned killer facing execution next month for a Cleveland produce vendor's 1983 slaying should receive mercy.

Attorneys for defendant Arthur Tyler say he should receive clemency partly because a 2nd defendant repeatedly admitted being the shooter.

They also argue a jury was coerced into issuing a death sentence and that a prosecutor and some of Tyler's defense attorneys at trial had a conflict of interest.

Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Tim McGinty planned to file a motion on Tyler's case Monday afternoon ahead of Tyler's clemency hearing Thursday.

The Ohio Parole Board makes a recommendation to the governor, who has the final say.

The 54-year-old Tyler is scheduled to die May 28.

(source: Associated Press)


Ex-lawman Jason Holt in Grainger County court on murder, robbery charges

Jason Bryan Holt, a former lawman accused of executing 2 people during a drug store robbery, is in Grainger County Circuit Court on Monday.

Prosecutors announced in September they will seek the death penalty for Holt, who was arrested shortly after the robbery.

Holt is accused of fatally shooting 2 people and wounding 2 others while robbing the Down Home Pharmacy in Bean Station on May 23.

According to investigators, after store owner Stephen Lovell gave Holt drugs he demanded, Holt ordered Lovell and 3 other people to their knees, and shot each execution style.

Lovell and a customer, Alexander Sommerville, 72, died from their wounds. Employees Alexia Gail Wilson, 45, and Janet Colleen Cliff, 46, survived their wounds.

Holt is a former Bean Station Police Department officer, and also worked briefly for the Grainger County Sheriff's Office.

In 2006, he was placed on judicial diversion after being charged with burglary and theft of narcotics from the Bean Station Police Department.

(source: Knoxville News Sentinel)

OKLAHOMA----impending execution

Oklahoma Man Faces Execution Tuesday In 1999 Death

An Oklahoma death row inmate who's been trying to find out more about the drugs the state would use to kill him is facing execution unless a court intervenes.

Clayton Lockett was convicted of shooting 19-year-old Stephanie Nieman with a sawed-off shotgun and watching as she was buried alive in 1999. He has filed court papers to learn more about Oklahoma's execution protocol, but has not challenged his sentence.

State courts differ on who should address stays of execution for Lockett and another inmate, Charles Warner. Warner faces execution next week.

A lower court judge has ruled Lockett and Warner are entitled to know who made the drugs that will be used at their executions.

Barring intervention, Lockett will be executed Tuesday night at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester.

Lockett refused to appear at his February clemency hearing, where the board voted 4-1 to deny his request.

According to prosecutors, on the night of the killing, Lockett, one of his cousins and a friend entered Bobby Bornt's home in Perry seeking repayment of a $20 debt. They bound Bornt and beat him with a shotgun while his 9-month-old son slept in the next room.

Nieman and a friend dropped by to invite Bornt to a party and were subsequently bound with duct tape. Nieman's friend was beaten and raped by 2 of the men before the victims were loaded into 2 pickup trucks and driven to a rural dirt road.

Lockett admitted in the confession that he originally intended to kill the 3 adults because he feared police would learn he had violated terms of his probation from a previous felony.

After Nieman said she would tell police, he forced her to kneel while Shawn Mathis, a co-defendant, took about 20 minutes to dig a shallow grave. Lockett shot the girl in the shoulder, pushed her into the grave and shot her again in the chest before ordering Mathis to bury her alive.

According to an attorney general's report on the crime, the 3 laughed about how tough the woman was as the dirt piled up atop her.

At the time of the killings, Lockett was a 4-time convicted felon. He's also been cited for bad behavior several times in prison since the conviction.

(source: Associated Press)


Seal Beach shooting case casts spotlight on jailhouse informants; Questions over evidence gathered by informants for the O.C. district attorney's office may have repercussions in other cases.

A legal fight over the use of jailhouse informants has thrown the emotionally charged trial of the man accused of committing the deadliest shooting in Orange County history into jeopardy and will probably have repercussions in other high-profile cases.

The battle has shifted the spotlight from the case against Seal Beach shooting suspect Scott Dekraai to prosecutors and informants, who have testified for weeks in hearings over allegations by the defense that jailhouse snitches were unconstitutionally deployed to gather information, and their work was then routinely concealed from defense attorneys.

On the witness stand, the head of the district attorney's homicide unit conceded that his office has failed to disclose information, including evidence gathered by informants, to defense attorneys in multiple cases. He insisted the errors were not malicious but agreed the evidence should now be turned over.

The revelation could potentially lead to new trials for accused killers and convicted criminals now serving prison sentences.

The hearing has also exposed the workings of 2 prolific jailhouse informants who were repeatedly tapped by law enforcement. One said he may have killed up to 6 people but is hoping his informant work will lead to his release. Another, a onetime shot caller for the Mexican Mafia, is hoping for a break in his own 3-strikes case.

Days after Dekraai arrived at the county jail, Fernando Perez, a longtime gang member with 2 pending cases, told deputies and prosecutors the shooting suspect had talked about his crimes. Officials responded by putting a recording device in Dekraai's cell, according to court records and testimony.

Prosecutors told the defense about the informant's statement and the recordings - which they hope will help put Dekraai on death row. What they didn't say was that Perez had a long history as a jailhouse snitch.

Only after a judge ordered the prosecution to hand over details about Perez's work did a picture emerge of an informant who had managed to land incriminating information on at least 9 inmates, including 2 other defendants facing the death penalty - 1 accused of dismembering a neighbor in a double killing, the other convicted last year of killing his ex-girlfriend's family and burning their bodies, according to court records and testimony.

The defense also learned that soon after Dekraai arrived in jail, he was moved to a cell next to the informant, according to the records.

To protect the constitutional rights of suspects, courts have ruled that informants working as government agents cannot deliberately elicit statements from defendants after charges have been filed.

Perez testified that he never tried to get information from anyone and that defendants simply trusted him. He said he turned to informant work because it was the right thing to do, though he acknowledged it would help with his legal problems.

Before he became an informant, Perez helped prepare "hard candy" lists of people to be killed for the Mexican Mafia. But as an informant, he seemed to view himself as part of a law enforcement team, writing to deputies about completing missions and loving his "little job," court records show.

"I just want to get back home with my kids and I'll do whatever it takes to get there," Perez told a detective in an interview about Daniel Wozniak, the man accused of dismembering his neighbor.

In testimony over nearly 3 days, for which he was given immunity, Perez acknowledged lying multiple times - including under oath in his own case and in a letter to a judge asking for mercy.

Assistant Dist. Atty. Dan Wagner said Perez was never offered anything in exchange for information, but allowed that "one would be naive to think Mr. Perez wasn't seeking a benefit."

Robert Warden, executive director of the Center on Wrongful Convictions at Northwestern University School of Law, said prosecutors often don't make formal benefit agreements, meaning informants are free to testify that they were never promised anything.

"The real problem is there's an expectation of a reward for doing what he's doing," Warden said. "Almost invariably the person is rewarded."

Like Perez, Oscar Moriel insists he never tried to get inmates to talk to him about their crimes. Yet testimony shows he documented inmates' confessions in multiple cases.

Charged with attempted murder and other crimes in 2005, Moriel produced hundreds of pages of notes detailing his steady work in the county jail, according to records and testimony.

But Moriel's voluminous notes were not fully disclosed - in 1 murder case in which Moriel testified, only 4 of more than 300 pages were given to the defense, according to records.

The defendant, Leonel Vega, is now serving a life sentence.

On the witness stand, Wagner, the assistant district attorney, said he now believes Vega "needs to have a full set of those Moriel notes ... to look at and to determine if he is entitled to relief." He has also recommended that other defendants, including two reputed gang members, also get evidence that has not been turned over.

In testimony during the informant hearings, for which he was also granted immunity, Moriel described a dark past for which he had never been punished.

As a gang member, he said, he would regularly go out "hunting" for rival gang members - he was involved in at least a dozen shootings in which 5 or 6 people may have died, he said, but he has not been charged in those cases.

Scott Sanders, Dekraai's public defender, asked Moriel if he should do life in prison for the killings he committed.

"Who's to decide that scale of justice?" the informant replied. "I hope I get out soon one day.... I'm doing my part to cooperate. Does that speak volumes? I would hope so."

Wagner, who did not prosecute Vega or the 2 reputed gang members, blamed federal agents keeping information from prosecutors and oversized caseloads for the failures to disclose evidence.

In the Dekraai case, he said, he did not hand over information until ordered by the judge because he did not fully understand case law regarding informants.

"There's no systemwide conspiracy to ... cheat the defendants," Wagner told Sanders. "You have lots of facts that are dead wrong. But you do have some facts that are right."

In Los Angeles, a scandal more than 2 decades ago involving jailhouse informants pushed the county to adopt tough policies restricting their use. Now, prosecutors must obtain permission from a committee before using a jailhouse informant as a witness. Other counties have been reluctant to adopt similar policies, experts say.

The Orange County hearing, which began in mid-March, may last another 3 weeks - significantly longer than Dekraai's actual trial is expected to last.

Dekraai's attorneys say the evidence shows a pattern of misuse of informants and withholding information, which should have serious consequences. They have asked the judge to throw out the death penalty against their client, recuse the district attorney's office and prohibit the recordings from being used at trial. A ruling is expected before the start of Dekraai's trial, now set to begin June 9.

(source: Los Angeles Times)


Government in 2 minds over 552 death row convicts

There are around 552 inmates across the country who will be hanged any time the government desires to act upon the death penalty.

Most of these prisoners have been convicted in terrorism cases and exhausted all legal means of evading their sentence. Their mercy petitions have also been dismissed by President’s House in the past couple of years.

An "ethical" moratorium for not implementing the death sentence - in place since 2008 when the Pakistan People's Party (PPP) came to power - expired in June 2013 after the present Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) took over.

Between 2008 and 2013 there was only a lone incidence of a soldier who was put to death after a court martial in November 2012.

However, so far, the present government too has restrained from implementing the capital punishment.

At present there are 6,700 death row prisoners all over the country whose appeals remain pending with either superior or lower courts. The judicial system still awards death penalties but since 2008 the sentences have not been implemented.

Sources close to the federal government revealed that implementing the capital punishment could put the survival of the present government at risk. Threats from banned outfits and other extremist groups of "dire consequences" if their men were hanged are another major reason for the hesitation observed in getting the capital punishment carried out.

Though the US supports capital punishment for convicts involved in heinous crimes, almost all the European countries have abandoned executions terming them to be an "unfair method". Meanwhile in Pakistan, the government seems to be a little confused and even anxious about where it stands on the issue.

The proponents of capital punishment argue that its implementation is necessary for curbing terrorism. Those involved in anti-state activities would take a lesson when their aides are hanged to death by the government. On the other hand, human rights groups continue to argue against the death penalty and reiterate life imprisonment for heinous criminals.

Top-notch lawyer and human rights activist, Asma Jehangir, while talking to The News strongly opposed the death penalty.

She was of the view that convicts should be awarded life imprisonment and released only after their sentence was complete.

She said as the whole world moved towards putting an end to capital punishment, judiciary in Pakistan was going in the opposite direction.

A special public prosecutor at an anti-terrorism court in Karachi, Abdul Maroof, said there were many countries that championed human rights but also did not hesitate to implement the capital punishment if it meant saving the lives of citizens.

He said there were also quite a few convicts who had been sentenced to death by the anti-terrorism courts.

He said the government had introduced new laws under the Protection of Pakistan Act and it seemed serious in curbing terrorism.

He said there might be a few individuals in the government who were keeping the officials from getting capital punishment implemented, but as a whole the Nawaz Sharif government looked very sincere in curbing terrorist activities.

A writer and columnist, Jameel Adeeb Sayed, said there was no guarantee that criminals would be rehabilitated into peaceful citizens after leaving jails and this was why it was necessary to hang them so that lives of others could be protected.

He said the country was facing a flood of terrorism and hanging the convicted criminals and terrorists was the only way to stem its growth.

Another senior lawyer and the general secretary of Karachi Bar Association, Khalid Mumtaz, said unless the verdicts of the courts were implemented in true letter and spirit criminal activities could not be stemmed.

Advocate Shakeel Ahmed of the Supreme Court claimed that politicising the issue of capital punishment was part of a US strategy to keep Pakistan under pressure.

"In the US, convicts whether they be men or women are continued to hang but a dual standard has been adopted for Pakistan to keep it under pressure," he said. Yet another lawyer, Adil Khan Zai, also called for carrying out the death sentence. He said implementation of capital punishment would serve as a deterrent for other criminals.

(source: The News)


Saudi sentences 5 to death over 2003 Qaeda attacks

A Saudi court has sentenced to death 5 people over deadly 2003 attacks that marked the start of a wave of Al-Qaeda violence, media reported Monday.

Dozens of Saudis and expats were killed and wounded that year in car bombings that ripped through 3 residential compounds in Riyadh where foreigners lived.

Sabq news website did not say when the 5 suspects were sentenced to death, but reported that they were found guilty of rigging car bombs used in the 2003 attacks.

37 other defendants were given jail terms ranging from 3 to 35 years, it said.

The suspects were also convicted of plotting and carrying out an attack on a military base near Riyadh and of providing financial and logistical support to their now-slain leader Turki al-Dandani.

Dandani was a top Al-Qaeda operative who was eventually killed in clashes with Saudi police.

Saudi authorities set up specialised terrorism courts in 2011 to try dozens of Saudis and foreigners accused of belonging to Al-Qaeda or of involvement in the wave of unrest unleashed in 2003.

The attacks prompted authorities to crack down on the jihadist network founded by Saudi-born Osama bin Laden, who was killed in a US commando operation in May 2011.

The Saudi crackdown prompted many homegrown jihadists to shift base to neighbouring Yemen, where they merged to form the formidable Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).

The United States considers the group -- which has been implicated in failed attacks on US soil -- to be the most dangerous franchise of the Islamist network, and has waged a covert drone campaign against it.

Earlier this year Saudi Arabia added Al-Qaeda organisations fighting in Syria to its list of banned terror groups.

(source: Ahram Online)


Hassan Rouhani says hangings are "God's commandment" and "law of the people"

As international protests against the rising trend of group and arbitrary executions in Iran become stronger every day, Hassan Rouhani, the clerical regime's president, describes the anti-human and anti-Islamic executions in Iran as "God's commandments" or "laws of the people".

In fear of the rage and abhorrence of the Iranian people regarding these anti-human verdicts, Hassan Rouhani approves the executions but he says that the victims not to be mistreated at the time of their execution.

Speaking to commanders of the Iranian regime's State Security Forces on Saturday, he said: "when someone is condemned to death and he comes to the gallows according to the law, then we have no right to insult him as he is being taken to the gallows ... in any case, the law has condemned him and he is punished and this has nothing to do with us. It is either the commandment of God or a law approved by the parliament that belongs to the people and we only execute it (Tasnim news agency, affiliated with the Qods Force - April 19).

Remarks by Hassan Rouhani comes at the time that the number of executions since he taken office President has surpassed 700 and according to the report by 4 UN Special Rapporteurs, the number of prisoners executed in just 2 1/2 months since the beginning of 2014 has reached 176.

The Iranian Resistance calls on the UN Secretary-General and the Security Council to adopt immediate and binding measures against the escalating trend of group and arbitrary executions in Iran that is a disgrace to humanity in the 21st century. Silence and inaction in face of these anti-human measures emboldens this regime in its massacres and executions and is tantamount to collaboration.

(source: Secretariat of the National Council of Resistance of Iran)


An Iranian 'rape victim' is close to breathing her last breath

It is a chilling scene; police take the convicted to the site of their soon-to-be execution before dawn. It has become a common scene in Iran.

Crowds gather to watch the executions. The convict's family is usually in the crowd, sobbing and begging mercy of victim's family until the last moment. Some members of the crowd are there out of sheer macabre curiosity! There is a mix of emotions in the Iranian public; those of supporters of the death penalty and those of people who are against it.

Iran's judiciary system finds the easiest way to enforce justice: execution!

According to the United Nations, Iran has executed at least 170 people since January 2014 and comes 2nd in the world, after China, in terms of executions.

The death penalty is handed down to those who are affiliated with drug trafficking, convicted of armed robbery, rape or murder.

Some minors who have committed crimes are imprisoned until they reach the legal age at which they can serve out their sentence. The horrifically large number of executions makes many Iranians upset and some have launched a campaign to urge for less capital punishment verdicts.

Some cases inadvertently attract public attention and reveal the fact the person sentenced to death has not had a fair trial.

The most recent such case involves 26-year-old Reyhaneh Jabbari who has been awaiting public execution. There has been global outcry calling for her pardon. Reyhaneh killed a man when she was 19, saying it was self-defense after he had sexually assaulted her. Judges did not accept her claim due to the lack of a witness, and sentenced her to death.

Awaiting her execution

She has served 7 years in prison so far and is awaiting her execution.

According to the murdered man's elder son, who spoke to the Sharq Newspaper on April 20, the family still does not know the true story behind the ordeal but "since Reyhaneh confessed" to killing his father, the confession is good enough for the capital punishment.

Reyhaneh Jabbari was sentenced to death for the 2007 killing of Morteza Abdolali Sarbandi, a former employee of Iran's Ministry of Intelligence and Security. According to Reyhaneh’s former attorney, Morteza Sarbandi hired Reyhaneh, then 19-years-old, as interior designer to decorate his office.

"Some minors who have committed crimes are imprisoned until they reach the legal age at which they can serve out their sentence" Camelia Entekhabi-Fard

Reyhaneh stabbed Sarbandi after he sexually assaulted her according her testimony.

There is a fear that Sarbandi's affiliation with the Ministry of Intelligence and Security has influenced her trail, causing some secrets to be kept.

The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights alleges the killing was an act of self-defense against a rapist and says Reyhaneh Jabbari never received a fair trial.

Cyber space campaign

In cyber space, a huge campaign has been launched to pressure Iran's judicial system to review her case and give her another trial with the presence of jury. A Facebook page was created last Monday (the eve of the day she was supposed to be executed) called Save Reyhaneh From Execution In Iran. It reached 10,000 supporters while a charity foundation, Jamieat Imam Ali, which aims to save her succeed in reaching 50,000 followers. Some well-known Iranians figures and celebrities also joined this campaign and called on the victim's family to pardon Reyhaneh.

Still, the victim's family hasn't changed their mind, however, the activists increased pressure on the government.

Just a few days ago, the parents of a 16-year-old boy who was killed in street fight pardoned the killer in a very emotional public event.

But, in the case of Reyhaneh Jabbari, the public is not convinced that she is guilty because of her young age at the time- she could have been strong-armed into a confession. The public have questioned the judiciary, asking why a well brought up, university-educated, girl would kill a man for any reason other than self-defense. Has she some mental illness? Did she confess because of some secret that the public does not know about? If she is lying, and the judges are aware of that, how can an Islamic court sentence a young women to death call it justice?

(source: Opinion; Camelia Entekhabi-Fard is a journalist, news commentator and writer who grew up during the Iranian Revolution and wrote for leading reformist newspapers----Al Arabiya)


Duo accused of stabbing victim to death, stealing Dhs90,000 could face death penalty

2 men have been charged with killing a businessman and stealing more than Dhs90,000 from his bank account.

Dubai Court of First Instance heard that one defendant, a 31-year-old Pakistani man who is still at large, lured the businessman, also Pakistani, to a warehouse where he slit his throat from behind and slashed his face. He then dumped the dead body in a plastic bag with help from a 2nd Pakistani man. Prosecutors said the duo then dumped the body in a warehouse in Rashidiya. According to official records, in June 2009 a Pakistani man who worked for the victim found the body of the deceased inside a plastic bag in the warehouse. He called Dubai Police, who discovered that the defendants were the last people seen with the victim.

The victim's cheque book and credit card were missing, and police discovered that one of the defendants had withdrawn more than Dhs90,000 from the victim's account.

"We checked the ATM cameras and saw the defendant. He stayed for a couple of days in Dubai, then left for Pakistan before we discovered the body," a policeman said in official records. Police said the second defendant also escaped to Pakistan and they issued a warrant to Interpol to apprehend the two suspects. Pakistani authorities arrested the second defendant and handed him over to Dubai Police.

"He confessed that he went with his friend to the warehouse with the victim. The 1st defendant stabbed the man from behind to kill him, then cut his face many times to disfigure him. He gave the 2nd defendant Dhs10,000 so he would not inform anyone, and bought him a ticket to travel back home to Pakistan," the policeman added.

The 2nd defendant pleaded not guilty and the trial was adjourned until next month to assign a lawyer to defend him. Dubai Public Prosecution is asking for the death penalty for both defendants.


APRIL 20, 2014:


Justice for all - who can afford it?

2 recent news stories have strengthened my conviction that we must repeal capital punishment in Delaware.

In January prosecutors opened a sealed envelope from the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Wilmington during a drug prosecution case in Kent County and discovered Oxycontin pills had been replaced with blood pressure medicine. Since then over 60 cases of tainted evidence have been discovered, and there are thousands of drug samples from 2010 to the present yet to be tested.

I have heard over and over again that we don't execute innocent people in Delaware. How can anyone say that with certainty - especially in light of the ongoing investigation of massive contamination of evidence in the Medical Examiner's office? Judges and prosecutors are humans, subject to the same human frailties we all possess. We all make mistakes.

I have also heard the argument that we have a legal system that protects the defendant. Sadly, I think the reality is we have a legal system that protects the defendants who can afford to pay for their own defense.

In June 2008, a state prosecutor offered Robert Richards IV a plea to a single count of 4th-degree rape of his 3-year-old daughter, which carries no mandatory time. Richards accepted, admitting in court that he abused his child. Superior Court Judge Jan Jurden, at the recommendation of the prosecution, suspended an 8-year prison sentence and sentenced Richards to a treatment program for sex offenders.

Richards' attorney commented, "It was more than reasonable, an enlightened plea offer." As a multi-millionaire Richards could afford to hire a private attorney to defend him. Even though I disagree with the decision of Judge Jan Jurden, who has been described as "an outstanding jurist" by Delaware's Attorney General and a number of lawyers and their professional organizations, I acknowledge Robert Richards’ right to use his financial resources to engage a lawyer or legal team to get him the best deal possible.

But the vast majority of capital defendants don't have Robert Richards' money. An article in the National Law Journal concluded that capital trials are "more like a random flip of the coin than a delicate balancing of scales," because the defense attorney is "too often ... ill-trained, unprepared [and] grossly underpaid."

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has observed that "People who are well represented at trial do not get the death penalty ... I have yet to see a death case among the dozens coming to the Supreme Court on eve-of-execution stay applications in which the defendant was well represented at trial."

Study after study has shown that whether or not a defendant will be sentenced to death depends more on the quality of his legal team than any other factor.

Until we can change the sad reality that a person's wealth determines the quality of his or her defense, and until we can say humans never make mistakes, the state has no right to execute a human being.

(source: Opinion; Joanne Cabry is chair of the Progressive Democrats of Sussex


Death penalty suggestions deliberated; Area official says changes would hinder prosecutors

Divisions were to be expected on a panel that spent more than 2 years studying capital punishment in the state, the chief justice of the Ohio Supreme Court said.

The panel was convened in 2011 by Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor, a Republican and former county prosecutor. She has said the goal of the committee was a fair, impartial and balanced review of the state's 3-decade-old death penalty law. She made it clear from the start that abolishing capital punishment was not on the table.

Recommendations include reducing the number of crimes eligible for the death penalty and creating a statewide board that would have the final say over death penalty charges in Ohio. Defense attorneys, judges, prosecutors and capital punishment experts sat on the committee.

Many of the recommendations focused on reducing the role race plays in capital punishment. According to studies, in Ohio and other states, the killers of whites are more likely to receive the death penalty than those who kill blacks.

Implementing the panel's 56 recommendations would reserve the death penalty for the worst of the worst criminals as lawmakers envisioned when they enacted the 1981 law, according to supporters of the proposals.

The panel now awaits a dissenting report from prosecutors on the committee who disagreed with some of the proposals.

Ashland County Prosecutor Chris Tunnell, who was not on the committee, said he did not like the report.

"They're doing quite the job of hindering the imposition of the death penalty if these recommendations are enacted," he said.

Tunnell said the recommendations severely limit the cases in which the death penalty can be considered. He said the panel suggests requiring biological evidence or a videotaped confession. Eyewitness testimony would not be enough to impose the death penalty, a recommendation Tunnell calls "outrageous."

"Apparently, if he's videotaped committing murder, you can impose the death penalty," Tunnell said. "God bless 'em for leaving that in."

Another recommendation would not allow the death penalty for murders in which kidnapping, rape, aggravated arson, aggravated robbery or aggravated burglary also occurred. Tunnell also objected to a recommendation that would require prosecutors to present exculpatory evidence - that favorable to the alleged criminal - during grand jury proceedings.

"Apparently, I'm supposed to be the defense attorney, too," he said.

Defense attorney Terry Hitchman is one of the few locals who handle death penalty cases. He has one pending now. His views are diametrically opposed to Tunnell's.

"I'm in favor of making it impossible to sentence anyone to death in Ohio," he said. "I don't personally believe in the death penalty. I don't think it serves any purpose in the criminal justice system.

"It's not a deterrent."

Despite Hitchman's views, 32 of the nation's 50 states have the death penalty.

"Every human life is important, no matter how bad the person might be," Hitchman said.

(source: Mansfield News Journal)


Ex-death row inmate Anthony Porter angry, feels 'cheated' out of money

Anthony Porter is angry.

He's come within hours of being executed after he was convicted of killing 2 people.

He was freed from death row after another man, Alstory Simon, confessed to the murders.

He got a pardon, but he didn't get a dime when he sued the city and the cops for framing him.

And now, there's a serious push to strip away what little Porter has left: his claim of innocence.

Attorneys pushing for Simon's release from prison say the justice system got it right the 1st time - that the evidence points to Porter all along in the notorious double murder in 1982 at a South Side park.

Porters' friends and supporters argue that a racist conspiracy is trying to rewrite history and make a victim, Porter, into a villain once again.

"Yeah, I'm innocent, man," Porter said in an interview that was sometimes tense and combative.

"They keep on bringing the same old stuff up," Porter told the Chicago Sun-Times, as he was surrounded by supporters.

"I ain't got no peace of mind," he said. "I'm suffering. I'm tired."

The questions about Porter's innocence have been coming up more frequently as the attorneys for Simon argue he was set up.

Those lawyers accuse Richard Devine, the Cook County state's attorney at the time, of bowing to political pressure and accepting a guilty plea from Simon despite strong evidence pointing to Porter. Devine has said politics had nothing to do with his decision.

Last fall, Devine's successor, Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez, agreed to review the circumstances of Simon's confession and imprisonment.

And that makes Porter furious.

He and his supporters say the review of Simon's case is part of a conspiracy to discredit the anti-death penalty movement that embraced Porter as a symbol of a broken justice system. Former Gov. George Ryan, who pardoned Porter, has said the case factored heavily in his decision to impose a moratorium on the death penalty.

"They're trying to destroy me and Gov. Ryan at the same time," Porter said.

Porter, 59, said he can't walk on the street without people pointing at him because of the renewed questions about the murders of Jerry Hillard and Marilyn Green.

In an interview last week, Porter gave a rambling but impassioned defense of his innocence. A longtime supporter, Maurice Perkins, president of the Bronzeville-based Inner City Youth and Adult Foundation Inc., was at his side, helping him respond to questions because - Perkins said - of Porter's low IQ. Tests have shown Porter has an IQ of 51, which was a factor in his getting "railroaded," Perkins said. Porter wore a beige suit and suede shoes during an interview in the historic Swift mansion at 45th and Michigan, the headquarters of the foundation.

The stress from the renewed questions about his innocence have made him sick, Porter said. He needs surgery for a gall bladder ailment, he said.

Porter also said he lost his former wife, 2 children and a grandchild in a fire in Alabama a few years ago.

He does odd jobs for the foundation and speaks to youth groups, but the stigma of the case prevents him from landing a full-time job, he said.

"They damaged my name. I've been cheated out of my money," he said.

Porter did receive about $145,000 in restitution from Illinois in 2000, but in a court deposition, he said he didn't keep much of it, spending a large chunk on a Lincoln Navigator SUV and giving money to churches and supporters.

And suing the city got him nothing.

Attorney Walter Jones, who represented the city in the lawsuit, said he supports the review of Simon's murder case.

"I am like any ex-prosecutor," Jones said. "I want the truth to come out. I certainly believe I heard the truth come out during the course of the trial. I never met the man, Alstory Simon. All I can tell you is the truth that came out in my trial always said: 'It is Anthony Porter.'"

When Porter was sent to death row for the 1982 killings of the couple in the bleachers near a pool in Washington Park, he'd never accused the police of abusing him physically.

Now, he alleges he was tortured in the same way detectives working under former police Cmdr. Jon Burge allegedly coerced confessions from suspects.

"They beat me, stomped me," Porter said. "They put a plastic bag over my head."

Porter has never confessed to the murders, though, and has steadfastly denied being in Washington Park when the killings happened.

"I wasn't in no park," he angrily repeated last week.

Witnesses at his trial in 1983 said otherwise.

One of the prosecution witnesses, William Taylor, testified at the trial that he saw Porter pull the trigger. Taylor would later modify his testimony and say that while he saw Porter in the park, he did not see the actual murders.

Porter was convicted of the murders and of robbing a man of $2 at gunpoint at the pool just minutes before the shootings in the nearby bleachers.

But the convictions unraveled after Northwestern University professor David Protess, his journalism students and private investigator Paul Ciolino famously reinvestigated the case in 1998.

Ciolino went to Milwaukee and obtained a videotaped confession from Simon, a convicted robber.

Just 2 days after the explosive video was aired on TV, prosecutors released Porter.

But Simon's attorneys, Terry Ekl and James Sotos, claim Simon was tricked into confessing. Ciolino played a videotape for Simon of an actor pretending to have witnessed Simon commit the murders.

Simon was sentenced to 37 years in prison. He's eligible for parole in 2017.

In an interview, Porter insisted all of the witnesses against him have recanted their testimony.

Perkins said those witnesses made up stories about Porter because he was known as a bully in their neighborhood and they wanted to get rid of him.

Indeed, Porter's lengthy rap sheet includes 2 other robbery convictions and a conviction for shooting a man in the head during an argument over a dog. The man survived with a graze wound.

Some of the witnesses to the 1982 double murder were threatened by police to identify Porter as the killer, Perkins claimed.

He said the witnesses later decided to tell the truth and recant their statements against Porter.

But several of those witnesses were recently interviewed for a feature-length documentary called "Porter" and have renewed their allegations against him.

The film, due to be released this summer, is directed by Shawn Rech, a Cleveland-area resident who produces the "Crime Stoppers Case Files" show. It's partially funded by Chicago attorney Andy Hale, who represents police officers in lawsuits claiming misconduct.

In one interview in the documentary, reviewed by the Sun-Times, Taylor said: "I saw Anthony Porter run past down the bleachers right past me out of the south gate."

"Anthony Porter, I still think in my heart, is guilty," Taylor said.

Another witness, Kenneth Edwards, said: "I am positive that Anthony Porter killed those 2 people. I saw it with my own eyes."

Edwards, now serving a prison term for murder, said he heard a "pow, pow."

"I saw Porter, I saw Tony Porter, and I saw him do it," he said.

In the documentary, Jacqueline Green, a sister of murder victim Marilyn Green, also suggests Porter was the culprit. "It makes me angry that a killer could be walking out free when they took someone's life and changed my life forever," she said.

Porter, though, said he remains on good terms with the Green family, and notes Marilyn Green's mother believes Simon did it.

In a strange new twist to an already complex case, meanwhile, Porter and Perkins say they were both recently paid $500 "bribes" in return for Porter appearing on camera for the documentary.

Perkins said he and Porter were offered "thousands" more if Porter would confess.

Simon's attorneys deny involvement in an offer to pay for Porter to confess.

Rech, the director of the documentary, acknowledges giving Porter and Perkins $500 each at Perkins' request.

"We thought it would add authenticity to have the real guy [Porter] in the movie saying he didn't do it," Rech said.

But Rech denies he or anyone else in his project offered a bonus to Porter to confess.

Perkins insists that racist, pro-law enforcement motivations are driving the renewed questions of Porter's innocence.

"You're trying to rewrite history, man," Perkins said.

Porter added: "I'm an innocent black man in Chicago."

(source: Chicago Sun-Times)

OKLAHOMA----impending execution

Teen killed by death penalty inmate refused to back down

Stephanie Neiman was proud of her shiny new Chevy truck with the Tasmanian Devil sticker on it and a matching "Tazz" license plate.

Her parents had taught the teenager to stand up for "what was her right and for what she believed in."

Neiman was dropping off a friend at a Perry residence on June 3, 1999, the same evening Clayton Lockett and 2 accomplices decided to pull a home invasion robbery there. Neiman fought Lockett when he tried to take the keys to her truck.

The men beat her and used duct tape to bind her hands and cover her mouth. Even after being kidnapped and driven to a dusty country road, Neiman didn't back down when Lockett asked if she planned to contact police.

The men had also beat and kidnapped Neiman's friend along with Bobby Bornt, who lived in the residence, and Bornt's 9-month-old baby.

"Right is right and wrong is wrong. Maybe that's what Clayton was so scared of, because Stephanie did stand up for her rights," her parents later wrote to jurors in an impact statement. "She did not blink an eye at him. We raised her to work hard for what she got."

Steve and Susie Neiman asked jurors to give Lockett the death penalty for taking the life of their only child, who had graduated from Perry High School 2 weeks before her death.

Tuesday, 15 years later, the state plans to carry out that penalty.

Lockett later told police "he decided to kill Stephanie because she would not agree to keep quiet," court records state.

(source: Tulsa World)


Springfield vigil planned to protest scheduled execution

Opponents of the death penalty will stage a vigil in Springfield this week. The local chapter of Missourians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty is sponsoring an execution vigil and remembrance of victims of violent crime onTuesday, April 22 from noon to 1 p.m. on Park Central Square in downtown Springfield.

Vigils to protest capital punishment in Missouri have become a monthly event this year, as the state has executed 1 prisoner each month so far. William Rouson is scheduled to die by lethal injection on Wednesday. Rousan was convicted and sentenced to death for the 1993 killing of Grace Lewis on a farm near Bonne Terre. He was also convicted of killing her husband.

Missouri currently has 41 prison inmates with death sentences. The state also executed death row inmates in November and December of last year.

The Springfield vigil is one of nine planned throughout Missouri to protest the execution.



Cult murderer's death row appeal denied, but execution in limbo

For the 5th time, convicted cult murderer Michael Ryan has lost an appeal to overturn his death sentence.

But the ruling Friday by the Nebraska Supreme Court hardly moves Ryan's case any closer to an execution.

The state since February has lacked 1 key drug needed to carry out a lethal injection execution under its current protocol.

And while several states have switched their drugs and protocols, Nebraska officials Friday remained hazy on their strategy for restoring a legal means to carry out the death penalty in the state.

As she did in February, Dawn-Renee Smith, a spokeswoman for the Nebraska Department of Correctional Services, said the department lacks the necessary chemicals "at this time" to carry out an execution.

But, Smith added, "The department is working to identify the specific steps we will take to be prepared to carry out a court-ordered execution."

She declined to say whether that meant Nebraska would be seeking to change its 3-drug execution protocol - an administrative step that would require a public hearing and take several months to complete - or whether the state was seeking other means to restore the death penalty.

It's frustrating, said Madison County Attorney Joe Smith, a supporter of capital punishment. Smith obtained death sentences for 3 men involved in a botched bank robbery in Norfolk in 2002 that left 5 dead.

"There's a lot of other states that have lethal injection protocols that work," he said Friday. "I know it's not impossible because other states are doing it."

Executions are on the rise in the United States this year, according to the New York City-based Death Penalty Information Center, which reports that more than 20 states have changed or have announced a change in their lethal injection protocols.

The center said 17 executions have been carried out so far this year, compared to 39 during all of 2013.

But an official with Nebraskans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty said that the "extreme" steps the state has taken to obtain its lethal injection drugs leaves even some capital punishment supporters uneasy.

"I think everyone is sort of looking around, and they can see the writing on the wall that the death penalty is on the way out," said Stacy Anderson, the group's executive director.

A majority of Nebraska state senators supported repeal of the death penalty a year ago but lacked a super-majority to stop a filibuster against the idea.

States with a death penalty have been scrambling in recent years because of the declining availability of sodium thiopental, a key drug used in lethal injections. The only U.S. manufacturer quit making it, a key Swiss manufacturer quit selling it for use in executions, and snags developed in importing other supplies from other foreign makers.

In Ryan's most recent appeal, he challenged the state's purchase of a supply of sodium thiopental from a third-party broker who allegedly stole it. He also challenged the legality of changing the state's means of carrying out the death penalty from electrocution to lethal injection in 2009.

But the Nebraska Supreme Court ruled Friday that Ryan could not challenge the method of execution in a post-conviction appeal. The court upheld a ruling by Richardson County District Judge Daniel Bryan, who had dismissed Ryan's motion without looking into the issues surrounding the state's supply of sodium thiopental.

Ryan, 65, was the leader of a survivalist religious cult that lived on a farm near Rulo, Neb. He would be among the first in line for an execution once the state resolves its death penalty drug issue.

Ryan was sentenced to death for 1st-degree murder for ordering the 1985 torture and killing of James Thimm, 25, one of his followers. Ryan also pleaded no contest to 2nd-degree murder in the killing of 5-year-old Luke Stice, the son of another cult member.

Attorney General Jon Bruning, in a prepared statement, said he was pleased that "the court turned away Michael Ryan's latest attempt to thwart justice."

"Michael Ryan committed one of the most brutal murders in our nation's history and he deserves to be put to death," Bruning said.

When asked to comment on what he planned to do to restore the use of the death penalty, a spokeswoman for Bruning referred The World-Herald to the Department of Corrections.

Jim Mowbray, one of Ryan's attorneys, said he is considering an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court to resolve the uncertainty over the correct procedure for a death-row inmate to legally challenge the means of execution.

Friday's state court ruling, Mowbray said, left that question unanswered.

He said that because the state's supply of sodium thiopental has expired, his client's challenge of its quality and how it was obtained is probably moot.

If a new execution protocol was adopted in Nebraska, it would open new avenues for appeal and for more delays, said Anderson, the death-penalty opponent.

"People are learning more about the death penalty and that it's a failed public policy," she said. "It's not working the way we thought it would."

Richard Dieter, of the Death Penalty Information Center, said Friday that despite a high level of frustration among states in obtaining drugs for lethal injections, no states have dropped capital punishment solely for that reason.

3 states - Maryland, Connecticut and Illinois - have repealed the death penalty in recent years; 32 states and the federal government still have it.

Dieter said that Ohio and Florida are now planning to use a new sedative, midazolam, as the 1st drug administered in lethal injections.

Several states have switched to using pentobarbital. But that drug caused an Oklahoma inmate to cry out that his whole body was "burning"

during an execution in January, raising questions about its effectiveness.

In Tennessee, the difficulty in finding the necessary drugs has prompted both houses of the Legislature to pass a bill allowing the state to revert to electrocution if necessary.

Nebraska has not carried out an execution since 1997, when the state's method was electrocution. The Nebraska Supreme Court has since ruled the electric chair unconstitutionally cruel and unusual punishment.

(source: World-Herald)


Man free after 20 years on death row

A man who spent nearly 2 decades on death row for a crime he didn't commit will speak in North Platte next month. Curtis McCarty will share his story at Saint Patrick's Catholic Church May 19.

The presentation is free and open to the public. Seats are expected to fill up fast.

Nebraskans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, an organization that supports efforts to abolish the death penalty in the state, will sponsor McCarty's visit. Despite that, his presentation is expected to be unbiased.

"His talk is about his own personal experiences," Effie Caldarola, field organizer, said. "He's not confrontational about what we should do in Nebraska because he's not from Nebraska. He talks about the conditions he experienced on death row and what it was like to get out of prison."

According to the Innocence Project, which assists prisoners who could be proven innocent through DNA testing, more than 300 people in the U.S. have been exonerated by DNA testing. That includes 18 on death row.

McCarty was one of them. He was convicted twice and sentenced to death 3 times. McCarty was acquitted after serving 21 years in prison, 19 of which were on death row, for a murder he didn't commit.

On Dec. 10, 1982, Pamela Willis, 18, was found murdered in a home in Oklahoma City. She was naked, stabbed and strangled. McCarty became a suspect because he was an acquaintance of Willis.

However, he wasn't arrested until 1985. That's when the forensic analyst working the case changed her notes and said hairs discovered at the crime scene could have been McCarty's.

The change went undetected until 2000 when the forensic analyst was investigated for fraud in other cases. Unfortunately, by that time it was too late. McCarty had already been sentenced to death.

In 2007, additional testing showed scrapings from the victim's fingernails did not match McCarty's DNA. A bloody footprint on the victim's body wasn't his either.

He was released May 11, 2007, making him the 3rd person from Oklahoma to be exonerated by DNA testing after serving time on death row. Prosecutors did not appeal the decision.

McCarty's presentation in North Platte will begin at 7 p.m. He will also speak at 6:30 p.m. May 20 at the First United Methodist Church in Lexington and at 7 p.m. May 21 at Memorial United Methodist Church in McCook.

Caldarola said no RSVPs are necessary.

(source: North Platte Telegraph)


Report: Jodi Arias seeks restraining order against Sheriff Joe Arpaio

Jodi Arias, who back in May 2013 was found guilty of 1st-degree murder in connection with the death of her boyfriend Travis Alexander, wants a restraining order against Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio.

According to a report by TMZ, Arias believes that Arpaio installed cameras in her cell and won't let guards feed her unless she sings the Pledge of Allegiance every morning.

Additionally, Arias noted that she got Hepatitis C under Arpaio's watch after receiving a Tuberculosis shot from an infected needle.

Arias, who filed for the restraining order without the consultation of her lawyers, said she was then denied proper medical care.

While Arpaio told KTAR he'd look into the allegations, the long-time sheriff also said Arias' claims are baseless.

"I'm not concerned with it," Arpaio said. "She's just trying to get media attention by going after the media and this sheriff. She's not stupid. She knows she can generate some interest and the media will talk about it."

The jury selection portion of Arias' 2nd penalty phase retrial is set to begin on Sept. 8, 2014.

(source: KTAR news)


LGBT conference boycotts Brunei-owned hotel over 'stone the gays' law

A pro-gay conference due to be held at a hotel owned by the Sultan of Brunei will move to a different venue, after the Asian country changed the penal code to call for gays to be stoned to death.

OutGiving, an LGBT equality-focussed conference for rich philanthropists, had been due to be held at the five star Beverly Hills Hotel in May.

However, after Brunei passed a change to the penal code which calls for gays to be stoned to death, the group decided to boycott the Los Angeles-based hotel, owned by Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, who instituted the policy.

The secretive conference is open by invitation only, and invites are only extended to individuals whose annual philanthropy exceeds $25,000.

The Gill Action Group, which organises the $1750 per-head conference, has since confirmed that they are now planning to hold the event in a different venue.

Kirk Fordham, executive director of Gill Action, told the Washington Blade: “In light of the horrific anti-gay policy approved by the Government of Brunei, Gill Action made the decision earlier today to relocate its conference from the Beverly Hills Hotel to another property.

"We are seeking a return of all deposits."

Leslie Lefkowitz, a spokesperson for the Brunei-owned hotel, said: "In the hotel industry, it is not uncommon for organizations to change aspects of their corporate programs, including the scope, date and/or venues of planned events

"Anytime a valued business partner decides to alter their plans, we respect their right to do so and look forward to the next opportunity to be of service to them."

Rupert Colville, spokesperson for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, condemned Brunei's new penal code earlier this week.

He said: "Application of the death penalty for such a broad range of offenses contravenes international law."

(source: Pink News)


Will Durst: Let's get more 'lethaler'

You'd think Americans have enough stuff to worry about. Severe drought desiccating a third of the country. A political system whose major talent is demonstrating stasis in action. The rich using the poor as fleshy paving stones for the road to mansions on the hill. Ben Affleck as Batman.

Guess what? Apparently we don't have enough stuff to worry about, because now we're running out of ways to kill people. Legally, that is. Accidentally and illegally we're doing just fine. One might even say it's become a robust and vigorous pursuit.

I'm talking about carrying out the death penalty, although the word "penalty" always seems to criminally understate the case. Over the years, civilizations have evolved in how to rid themselves of their various nefarious. They cycled through stoning, strangulation, beheading, death by 1000 cuts, hanging, firing squad, guillotine, electric chair, before finally settling on poison, deemed the most humane. First the gas chamber and now, even humaner- lethal injection. So humane, we swab the injection point with alcohol, which is like repainting the shutters before burning down a house.

Problem is, the producer of the go-to lethal injection drug, Thiopental, stopped making it. States have turned to a different drug called Pentobarbital, but the Danish manufacturer didn't enjoy being associated with executions, and pulled the plug. Now, the states' Departments of Killing People on Purpose are resorting to unreliable and possibly illegal sources, and refusing to reveal those methods; meaning for all we know, they could be shooting inmates up with Drano flavored Jell-O.

These punishments are being carried out on behalf of We the People: so We the People should have a say in the process. It's the 21st Century, for crum's sake. Why not kill the condemned creatively? Film it for pay-per-view. Strike a deal with Amazon Prime and make some coin on the back end. There's tons of ways to end a miscreant's life that would be a barrel of fun to watch and still insure justice gets done.

For instance, imagine the merriment to be shared if a convicted man were forced to spend an entire evening in the company of Joan Rivers. Death would not only be instantaneous, it would be hilarious.

Or what if one of the soon-to-be-deceased were dispatched to act as Chris Christie's pedicab driver when visiting Atlantic City?

Perhaps a position could be arranged as Vladimir Putin's Ukrainian food taster.

Becoming Barack Obama's personal pollster would certainly drive any sane man mad.

Sentencing denizens of death row to carry Michael Bloomberg's ego might be an amusing spectacle. Or would that be considered cruel and unusual?

Assign one as sole salesmen at the only New York City based Foot Locker to distribute the next release of Air Jordan classics.

Forced to endure an entire season on "Dancing With the Stars" as Chelsea Handler's partner. An excruciating proposition.

Spend the Christmas season in Times Square dressed in the Disney character costume of Iago from "Aladdin."

I've got 3 words for you, people: CSI: Miami binge-a-thon.

And finally, the state could force the reprobate to wear Google Glass into dive bars all over the Mission District of San Francisco. And the beauty of it is: they function as their own cameraman.

(source: Will Durst; The Bemidji Pioneer)


Malawi Muslims Advocate Death Penalty

The Muslim community in Malawi have been calling for the re-activation of capital punishment in the country's legal system as a deterrent to a rising wave of crime rate in the southern African nation.

"Ever since the adoption of the new political order in 1993, post - democratic governments in the country have not respected the constitution by not signing execution warrants for dangerous criminals who commit very serious crimes for fear of losing popularity," Dr. Imran Shareef, Secretary General of the country's supreme Muslim body, Ulama Council of Malawi told "But this has fueled crime rate, which is even scaring prospective investors. Criminals have gone on the prowl killing and robbing violently without mercy," he added.

Call for Canceling Death Penalty: Islamic View

Shareef, one of the country's renowned scholars, said as much as democracy has brought liberation to the country's citizenry, it has also brought its own share of bad effects, including uncontrolled freedom which afforded dangerous criminals opportunities to unleash terror on innocent people.

In 1993, after 3 decades of 1 party dominance in one of the world's most impoverished nations, Malawians decided in a referendum to revert to pluralistic politics.

Since then, there have never been any executions of criminals sentenced to death by courts.

"The rate of crime in Malawi has reached alarming and worrisome levels. Criminals are not afraid of being hanged, because there is lack of political will to sign death warrants," he said.

"It is for this reason that we are pleading with those in authority to uphold this clause of the constitution in order to minimize rising levels of crime rate."

President of the Malawi Law Society (MLS) John Gift Mwakhwawa said although the last post democratic regimes in the country have avoided signing execution warrants, capital punishment was still legal in the country's statutes.

"Legally, capital punishment is still there in the Malawi Constitution, only that there has never any political will to sign death warrants for particular inmates on death row.

"The move taken by the Muslim community is highly commendable, but what they can do is to persuade the president (Joyce Banda) to sign warrants so that offenders on death row could be executed," Mwakhwawa, told, however, adding that death penalty was not mandatory.

"Capital punishment was not mandatory. However, the courts could still impose it on offenders. But it is only up to the president to sign it or not."

Soft Stand

Noting that the capital punishment was still legal in Malawi, the legal expert Mwakhwawa asserted that politicians lacked the will to apply it.

"Using capital punishment to deter crime rate could only work if there is a political will to have it affected," he told

"But much as I agree that crime rate is on the rise in the country, but unless, there is a political will from a sitting president, there is no way capital punishment can be enforced.

"Our political leaders are afraid of losing popularity in the event that they sign death warrants, because in the past, capital punishment was associated with political repression, therefore no leader is ready to take this country back on this road," the MLS president added.

Malawian traditional leaders, who enjoy some semblance of influence in certain aspects of governance, have also voiced out their concerns on the "soft stand" taken by political leaders over the past years, to enforce some clauses of the law in the country's constitution.

"The absence of political will to sign death warrants has created a fertile ground for criminals to break the law at their own will," Senior Traditional leader, Mulumbe told

"Malawians in the post-democratic era have not enjoyed maximum security, because criminals also claim to have right to life. It is regrettable that that we are in this situation, where in an attempt to score cheap political points, our political leaders just watch as our nation descend into anarchy," he added.

The secretary general of the Ulama Council of Malawi warned that dropping death penalty has galvanized criminals who were no longer facing gallows.

"Our stand as Muslims is that capital punishment should be enforced to ensure that this country is safe from criminals who are on the prowl. All sectors of the society are of the view that this clause of the constitution provides hope to this country which has now descended into almost state of lawlessness," said Shareef.

"During previous constitutional conferences, delegates from across all sectors of Malawi society protested against any attempts to have the clause removed, fearing that lawlessness would become a norm in the country. Therefore, by not signing any death warrants, besides breaking the law, our presidents are also going against the wishes of the people they are governing."

Since 1993, there have been debates among individuals, religious and human rights organizations on whether to abolish death penalty or not. However calls for re-activation of the death penalty in the country's constitution have been deafening.

"Our message as Muslims to those in authority is that they should strive to uphold the constitution which they swore to protect and at the same time," said Shareef.

"They should respect the sanctity of life of those in the majority who are feeling the consequences of their lack of willingness to enforce death penalty for dangerous criminals."



Safety concerns: Saulat Mirza, other high-profile prisoners moved to Balochistan

The prison authorities have informed the Sindh High Court (SHC) that 4 high-profile prisoners, including Muttahida Qaumi Movement’s convicted activist Saulat Ali Mirza, have been shifted to Balochistan.

They have been transferred to the Machh jail under the lawful order of a competent authority and the home department as provided under rule 149 read with 150 of the Pakistan Prison Rules 1978, the Karachi Central Jail superintendent told a court bench during the hearing of a petition against shifting Mirza away from the city.

The superintendent said that there are around 5,200 inmates - most of them being high-profile, hardened and professional criminals - who are at the Karachi prison. Hundreds of them either belonged to banned outfits or are involved in the breakdown of the law and order situation in Karachi.

The jailer told the judges that the jail authorities have received potential threats through various agencies about a possible attack on the jail, which could endanger the lives of the inmates and the innocent citizens living in the vicinity of the prison. Due to the presence of dangerous inmates, armed assaults similar to the ones in Bannu and Dera Ismail Khan jails are anticipated, he added.

He maintained that to thwart any possible terrorist attack and to disperse the high-profile inmates, the Sindh government placed the matter about the transfer of the prisoners before the SHC chief justice, who passed orders for their transfer to other prisons in other parts of the province along with their cases, which shall be heard in their respective courts and decided promptly.

Case history

Farhat Ali Khan, Mirza's brother, had gone to the SHC last month, questioning the rationale behind shifting his brother to another province. The petitioner said his brother, Saulat Ali alias Saulat Mirza, was sentenced to death by an anti-terrorism court in Karachi on May 24, 1999, which found him guilty of murdering the then managing director of the Karachi Electric Supply Company (KESC), Malik Shahid Hamid, his driver Ashraf Brohi and guard Khan Akbar on July 5, 1997, in the Defence Housing Authority area of Karachi.

According to him, the SHC and the Supreme Court had earlier dismissed appeals against the death penalty of the convict on January 21, 2000, and September 14, 2001, respectively. Later the Supreme Court also rejected the review appeal on March 9, 2004. Now, the mercy appeal is pending before the president.

He complained that the respondents have shifted Mirza to the Machh jail in the second week of February without obtaining an order of a competent authority or any notification. Ever since the family has been unaware of Mirza's particulars and health, the lawyer said. He pleaded the court order his transfer back to Karachi.

Taking up the superintendent's comments on record, Justice Ahmed Ali M Sheikh adjourned the hearing till April 24.

(source: The Express Tribune)


Asia Bibi appeals hearing delayed again, she's been jailed since 2009

Appeal proceedings have been delayed again in the case of Asia Bibi, the Christian woman sentenced to death for blasphemy. This is the 3rd delays, now coming 1 month after the delay in March.

Lahore High Court Judges Sardar Tariq Masood and Abdul Sami Khan adjourned the case shortly after the hearing begun and arguments presented. Court sources said that a new date for the appeal is expected quickly in a case that began with the woman's arrested back in 2009.

For several months, extremist groups have also been making threats against the judges in order to pressure them to confirm the death penalty imposed by the lower court. However, the woman's lawyers said they remain confident and hopeful that the High Court will soon overturn her conviction and let her go.

In recent days, Pakistani Christians have promoted days of fasting and prayeron behalf of Asia Bibi and Sawan Masih, both of whom are innocent but sentenced to death under the infamous "black law".

The blasphemy laws say that "whoever by words, either spoken or written, or by visible representation or by any imputation, innuendo, or insinuation, directly or indirectly, defiles the sacred name of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) shall be punished with death, or imprisonment for life, and shall also be liable to fine."

In 2009, Bibi was working for a Muslim landowner on a farm. The Muslim women told Asia about Islam, and Bibi responded by telling the Muslim women that Jesus is alive.

"Our Christ sacrificed His life on the cross for our sins...Our Christ is alive," she said.

She was then punished, charged with blasphemy and sentenced to hanging.

(source: The Global Dispatch)


Hundreds Protest Egypt's Death Sentences in Bosnia

More than 200 demonstrators gathered in the Bosnian capital to protest against the death penalty for 529 members of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt.

The crowds chanted slogans on Saturday such as "Muslim Brothers shoulder-to-shoulder", "Morsi, we are with you" and "Peace for Muslim Brotherhood and resistance".

A dozen people in the crowd stood wrapped in white sheets which, according to Islamic tradition, are used to wrap the dead.

Some of the demonstrators brought ropes and platforms symbolizing the gallows.

Most of the demonstrators were students from the International University of Sarajevo and Association Egyptian Unity. The protest in Sarajevo was held peacefully and without incident.

(source: Daily Sabah)

APRIL 19, 2014:


N.H. senate death penalty vote 'gut wrenching'----A pair of Democrats from the same city split their votes and showed a deep divide remains.

The opposing votes cast by Manchester's 2 Democratic state senators reflect the deep divide of lawmakers and residents on the topic of repealing the state's centuries-old death penalty. State Sen. Lou D'Allesandro, who has 2 relatives on the Manchester, N.H., police force, voted to retain the death penalty. The state senate split 12-12, which keeps the penalty alive.

State Sen. Donna Soucy voted in favor of repealing New Hampshire's death penalty in an "intensely personal ... and difficult vote."

This year's death penalty debate revolved largely around slain Manchester police officer Michael Briggs and his killer, Michael Addison, the state's only death row convict. The debate was punctuated Thursday by a 12-12 vote, with the tie meaning capital punishment remains on the books.

Manchester veteran Sen. Lou D'Allesandro, a political science professor, voted against repeal while 1st-term Sen. Donna Soucy, a lawyer, voted in favor. They said Friday they were unconcerned about political fallout in their home districts and their votes reflect deeply held beliefs.

"This vote to me, and I believe to my colleagues, was really an intensely personal, emotional and difficult vote," Soucy said. "If I was making a calculating, political decision I would not have voted for repeal."

D'Allesandro, as a state representative in 1974, voted in favor of a new death penalty statute lawmakers crafted to comply with mandates set out by the U.S. Supreme Court when it invalidated death penalty laws nationwide in 1972. He has never wavered in his support of the penalty in 4 decades, but he also called Thursday's vote "gut-wrenching" for all 24 senators.

"We use it judiciously," D'Allesandro said, contrasting New Hampshire to Texas and other Southern states that have high numbers of executions. "We put something in place that we thought would benefit the public, and I think it has."

D'Allesandro was the only Democrat to vote against repeal. 2 Republican senators, Bob Odell and Sam Cataldo, voted in favor.

Addison was convicted of shooting Briggs to death in 2006 and was sentenced to die in 2008. The state Supreme Court in November upheld his conviction and sentence in the 1st death penalty appeal to come before it in 50 years. New Hampshire has not executed anyone since 1939.

Soucy and D'Allesandro spoke passionately about Briggs' life and death before Thursday's vote as Manchester Police Chief David Mara stood in the Senate gallery amid officers looking down on the debate.

D'Allesandro has 2 relatives on the Manchester police force, including a cousin who was a first responder when Officer Dan Doherty was shot 7 times while pursuing a suspect.

"Briggs was killed in my district. Doherty was shot in my district," D'Allesandro said. "There have been numerous murders in my district."

He said he respects Soucy's vote.

"She's a very devout Catholic, and I think she did what she thought was right, and I applaud that," he said.

Andy Smith, director of the University of New Hampshire Survey Center, said he doubts the senators' votes will weigh against them when they run for re-election.

"Although the death penalty is a very emotional issue for a lot of people, for most voters it's not high on the list of things they think about coming into a campaign," Smith said.

He said it could come into play against D'Allesandro in the unlikely event he faces a challenger in a primary. He said he doubted Soucy would suffer any fallout in a primary because she voted along party lines.

(source: Kennebec Journal)


Super 8 stabbing suspect to get mental exam; Wilkins Marte-Escano is due back in court in July for death-penalty case

A man facing the death penalty if convicted of 1st-degree murder in the fatal stabbing of a pregnant woman, which also resulted in the death of their unborn child, will get a competency evaluation.

Wilkins Gerald Marte-Escano, 30, is accused of stabbing Olga L. Vascones-Garcia at the Super 8 motel at 40 Arsenal Road where they had checked in the day before on March 28, 2012.

Vascones-Garcia, 24, was transported to York Hospital where she was pronounced dead. Her male infant was delivered, according to Northern Regional Police reports, but was unable to breathe on his own.

Thursday in York County court, Marte-Escano's attorney, assistant public defender Ronald Jackson, said his client will be evaluated to determine if he is competent to stand trial.M

To be found competent in a criminal trial, the defendant must understand the nature of the charges against him and be able to participate in his own defense.

Judge Gregory M. Snyder scheduled a competency hearing for July 17, following Marte-Escano's evaluation.

The York County District Attorney's Office is seeking the death penalty under the aggravating circumstances of creating a grave risk to others, specifically the couple's then-5-year-old daughter who reportedly witnessed the stabbing, and knowledge that the alleged victim was pregnant.

Aggravating circumstances are specific factors, established by the legislature, that make a 1st-degree murder deserving of the death penalty.

The maximum penalty for 1st-degree murder of an unborn child in Pennsylvania is life in prison without parole.

Marte-Escano remains in county prison without bail.

(source: York Daily Record)


Joining parish gives death-row inmates support, sense of belonging

Some of the newest members of Holy Family Parish will never attend Mass at their church.

They will never talk with fellow parishioners over coffee and doughnuts after Mass, join the church choir or volunteer for a mission trip.

They are inmates on death row at Riverbend Maximum Security Institution in Nashville. Some have been at Riverbend for decades, with few visitors and limited contact with the outside world.

Parishioner and prison minister James Booth said welcoming them to join Holy Family "gives them a sense that their faith is not in isolation, even though they are." It sends the message that "whatever evil they've done, they are forgiven and accepted," he added.

After some of the prisoners requested church membership this winter, Booth approached the parish council and Father Joe McMahon, the pastor, who granted approval. About a dozen Riverbend prisoners -- from death row and another side of the prison -- are now officially registered as Holy Family parishioners.

"For all the men at RMSI this is a huge deal and a remarkable event," death-row inmate Bill Stevens wrote in an open letter to Holy Family parishioners.

For prisoners like Stevens, who have been abandoned by their families and have no outside support network, weekly visits from Catholic volunteers are a welcome break in their routine existence. According to the prisoners, to feel a sense of belonging at a parish is a true blessing.

The blessing, though, is balanced by the anxiety of the death-row inmates, as the state pushes to execute 10 people in the next 18 months.

Father McMahon said he hopes his parishioners understand how seriously the Riverbend inmates take their faith and their parish membership. But first, Holy Family members must see their brothers as human beings, he said.

The men may have done great harm, Father McMahon told the Tennessee Register, Nashville's diocesan newspaper, but they still deserve respect.

"No one loses their human dignity and no one is beyond redemption," the priest said.

Father McMahon became involved in prison ministry about 3 years ago at the request of Nashville Bishop David R. Choby.

"Father Joe was the 1st person of faith that has ever treated me like a child of God, without making me feel judged and condemned," wrote death-row inmate Ron Cauthern in a booklet introducing himself to Holy Family parishioners. It included calligraphy, photographs and drawings.

Father McMahon said one of his most vivid memories of prison ministry is baptizing Cauthern, surrounded by guards, with his hands and feet shackled.

After pouring holy water over Cauthern's head and blessing him, "I told him, 'Ronnie, real freedom is on the inside,'" he recalled. "It was a profound experience."

When Father McMahon was named pastor of Holy Family last year, he recruited Booth to join the chaplains at Riverbend. Booth, a political science professor at Vanderbilt University who will be ordained a deacon in June, was already making weekly visits to prisoners at the Charles B. Bass Correctional Complex.

Ministering on death row "can be a raucous, messy thing," Booth said. Sometimes he and other volunteers and chaplains meet with the prisoners in the middle of a large room with people streaming in and out. Or they may gather in a small, awkwardly shaped visiting area, cramped together, reading Scripture and sharing their reflections.

Generally, about eight of the 76 death-row inmates attend Booth's Saturday morning service. Some are lifelong Catholics; others are recent converts; some were raised in different faiths but enjoy the discussion.

"Clearly their faith has not followed a straight path, and they are on the periphery, but they are slowly finding their way back," Booth said.

One of the non-Catholics who participates is Charles Wright. For the last 10 years, almost every week, Holy Family parishioner Kathy Ingleson has visited Wright. She has come to know him as a friend, someone who loves motorcycles and is proud of his job as a prison cook, she said.

Ingelson's friend may soon be put to death. Convicted of two first-degree murders, part of a 1984 drug deal gone wrong, Wright has been on death row for 3 decades. He is among 10 men who recently received an execution date from the state: June 23, 2015.

"He asked if I would be in the room when it happened," Ingleson said. "I told him we'd have to talk about it later." While she fervently hopes Wright will be spared execution, she knows abolishing the death penalty "is an uphill battle in this state."

The push to step up executions in Tennessee came after convicted serial killer Paul Dennis Reid died last fall from natural causes, in a hospital room, rather than by lethal injection.

Ingleson considers the death penalty an abomination.

"I feel there is no sense in a death for a death," she said, adding that it is especially hard to understand the value of executing a man who has served 30 years in prison and is no longer the same person who committed crimes decades ago.

Wright "has spent his time trying to make life more meaningful," Ingleson said. "I think I've gained as much from him as he has gained from me."

Ingleson is helping launch Holy Family's "adopt-a-prisoner" initiative that matches volunteers with prisoners to write and visit.

So far, 9 parishioners have stepped up. Steve Hayes, a new volunteer, said he "feels called to go and give the gift of time to someone who doesn't have anything but time."

(source: Catholic Sentinel)

OKLAHOMA----impending executions

Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals denies death row inmates' request to stop executions

The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals denied a stay on Friday for 2 death row inmates set to be executed this month, saying it didn't have jurisdiction - even though the state Supreme Court says it's the only court that does.

In a 3-2 decision, the Criminal Appeals court rejected the request from lawyers for Clayton Lockett and Charles Warner, saying it disagrees with a state Supreme Court ruling that the appellate court is the correct authority to issue a stay.

"While the Oklahoma Supreme Court has authority to deem an issue civil and so within its jurisdiction, it does not have the power to supersede a statute and manufacture jurisdiction in this court for appellant's stay request by merely transferring it here," the judges wrote.

Lockett and Warner are suing the state over what they called a "veil of secrecy" surrounding its execution protocol. A lower court ruled in their favor last month that the state statute protecting drug suppliers was unconstitutionally broad because inmates could not find out the source of drugs used in their executions, even during court proceedings.

The case has bounced among four different state and federal courts since it was originally filed in February.

Lawyers for the 2 men had most recently asked the Court of Criminal Appeals for an emergency stay while other courts sort out the secrecy lawsuit. They said they will appeal Friday's decision - but do not yet know in which court.

"In a case where a state court has already ruled Oklahoma's secrecy law unconstitutional, and in which the state's highest court wrote only yesterday of the 'gravity' of the constitutional issues involved, it would be unthinkable to move forward with the executions of Mr. Lockett and Mr. Warner before the Oklahoma Supreme Court has a chance to consider the substantive issues at stake," lawyers for the inmates said in an emailed statement.

Lockett is scheduled to be executed Tuesday for the 1999 shooting death of a 19-year-old Perry woman. Warner is slated to die the following Tuesday for the rape and murder of his roommate's 11-month-old child.

The 2 dissenting judges said the inmates are in imminent danger and should have been granted a stay.

"I would grant a stay to avoid irreparable harm as the appellants face imminent execution," Vice-Presiding Judge Clancey Smith wrote. "I would do so in consideration of the appellants' rights, to avoid the miscarriage of justice, and in comity with the Supreme Court's request for time to resolve the issues pending before it."

A spokesman for the Oklahoma Attorney General's Office, Aaron Cooper, said the court correctly recognizes that the claims raised by the two men "are not about guilt or innocence or about access to the courts, but are instead more shell games designed to delay the punishment handed down by a jury."

The Attorney General's Office had also filed an appeal Friday challenging the decision last month by Oklahoma County District Judge Patricia Parrish. The office said in its appeal to the state Supreme Court that Parrish ruled in error that the state could not keep secret the source of the drugs it uses for executions.

Over the past decade, many major drugmakers have stopped selling the drugs used in lethal injections to U.S. prisons and corrections departments. Some states turned to substitutes made by compounding pharmacies, which custom-mix prescription drugs. Opponents of the death penalty have in turn demanded more disclosure about the suppliers and cast doubts on the effectiveness of the drugs.

(source: Associated Press)


Sen. Ernie Chambers tries to undo Nikko Jenkins' convictions

The Nebraska Supreme Court should refuse to appoint a 3-judge panel to consider whether Nikko Jenkins deserves the death penalty - a move that would effectively nullify, for now, Jenkins' convictions in the killings of 4 Omahans, a state lawmaker says.

Sen. Ernie Chambers of Omaha, a watchdog of both judges and death penalty cases, said he will write a letter to Chief Justice Michael Heavican asking him to halt the formation of the panel and to set aside Jenkins' no-contest pleas to the murders of Juan Uribe-Pena, Jorge Cajiga-Ruiz, Curtis Bradford and Andrea Kruger.

Chambers, who holds a law degree, said District Judge Peter Bataillon was "as crazy in his handling of this (case) as Nikko Jenkins has proved himself to be." Chambers said Jenkins, who represented himself in court, will not walk free again, but he shouldn't go straight to death row.

"Nothing about any of these proceedings has gone forward in a way that could be called judicious," Chambers said. "There are so many irregularities that this could be called nothing but a kangaroo court."

Bataillon declined to comment.

However, both Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine and Public Defender Tom Riley, who served as Jenkins' adviser, said Bataillon governed his courtroom as well as any judge could when dealing with a defendant who insists on representing himself and presenting his grievances.

Chambers said he is not advocating that Jenkins "walk free" - saying the 27-year-old will spend the rest of his life in prison.

However, he questioned how Bataillon could allow Jenkins to essentially plead to death row and make a "Barnum & Bailey" circus of the justice system.

Chambers said Bataillon committed the following "irregularities":

--Allowing Jenkins to essentially fire the Public Defender's Office and act as his own attorney. Chambers pointed to a 2008 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that states that even if a defendant is ruled competent to stand trial, that does not mean he is competent to represent himself.

Riley said, however, that there are nuances in that and other high court rulings. In one such ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court said that all defendants, if deemed competent to stand trial, have a right to enter guilty or no-contest pleas, even if they may not be skilled enough to handle a trial.

--Allowing Jenkins to plead no contest for Jenkins' stated reason: that he wanted to proceed with a civil rights lawsuit claiming he was being held on unconstitutionally obtained evidence. Jenkins clearly didn't understand the law, Chambers said.

Jenkins, he said, bought into the folly that other prisoners sometimes follow: that another judge, or a federal judge, will throw out the evidence and free him. Such actions, called writs of habeas corpus, rarely succeed.

--Allowing Jenkins to plead no contest after Bataillon initially said he would accept only a guilty plea.

Just last week, Bataillon rejected Jenkins' attempts to plead no contest to the killings. Bataillon said he had concerns about Jenkins' "competency to act as his own attorney" - noting Jenkins' "incongruent" requests. On one hand, he was complaining about his access to documents to prepare for trial. On the other hand, he was saying he wanted to plead.

With the death penalty on the table, Bataillon said then, Jenkins would have to plead guilty or go to trial.

Fast forward to Wednesday. Jenkins initially pleaded guilty to all the charges.

Prosecutors then gave the factual basis for the crimes, as is customary. The judge turned to Jenkins and asked if he had any problems with the factual basis.

Jenkins, who had scoffed at parts of the accounts, said he did.

Bataillon then asked him if he shot each victim.

To that, Jenkins claimed to have remembered being at the crime scenes but said he didn't remember any of the actual shootings because a serpent god had ordered him to shoot the people.

The judge leaned his head back and let out a long sigh.

He asked prosecutors if they had any objection to Jenkins' pleading no contest - reversing his stance from the week before. Prosecutors stated no objections.

Bataillon then asked Jenkins if his plan to plead no contest was his own "free and knowing" act.

"I wouldn't say 'free,'" Jenkins said.

Bataillon noted that if the pleas weren't freely given, he couldn't accept them.

Seconds later, Jenkins agreed he was doing it of his own volition. He entered the no-contest pleas.

Chambers noted that Jenkins entered the pleas after he had made several complaints about his ability to prepare for trial, including access to police reports and the jail law library.

"There has been so much confusion in this case," Chambers said. "The judge makes statements and then contradicts himself.

"What the judge should have done is just adjourn the hearing. It's clear from the way (Jenkins) comported himself in court that he was not competent enough to represent himself."

Attorneys inside and outside the courtroom disagreed.

They pointed to signs that Jenkins knew what he was doing and several safeguards the judge took before accepting Jenkins' pleas:

--Kleine said Jenkins was crafty and calculating - far from "deranged," as Chambers described him.

Jenkins capably argued some points, including a motion in which he attempted to get his confession thrown out. In that motion, he argued that detectives had coddled him and baited him, even hugging him, as he made his statements.

--A rare in-chambers meeting between Jenkins and the judge. Jenkins - accompanied by Riley and Scott Sladek, assistant public defender - aired several grievances, including his ability to access the jail law library.

No court reporter was present at that in-chambers meeting. However, Bataillon said he advised Jenkins that he would resolve those issues.

And, the judge said, he told Jenkins to be cautious - that Jenkins would forfeit all of his rights if he pleaded to the charges.

--A detailed recitation of Jenkins' rights.

Before allowing Jenkins to enter his pleas, Bataillon rattled off the battery of rights and challenges that Jenkins would be giving up. Judges typically recite that litany before accepting a plea.

Both Riley and Kleine said there wasn't a "circus atmosphere" as Chambers claimed. Outside the courtroom and on his way out of the courtroom, Jenkins often cursed or carried on - at one point, howling like a hound at the moon.

In court, Bataillon wasn't afraid to cut off Jenkins - once pounding his palm on the bench to get Jenkins to be quiet. On Wednesday, he didn't allow Jenkins to present crime scene photos of the killings.

"I don't think he lost control of the courtroom at all," Riley said.

He said judges are obliged to give defendants representing themselves "a little bit of leeway. I think the judge did that - he allowed him to state his case, except when the defendant made statements that were not germane."

Riley said Jenkins has a few options now.

He could try to withdraw his plea. In his more than 35 years as an attorney, Riley said, he can recall only 1 or 2 defendants who have been allowed to do so. High courts almost always uphold pleas.

He could seek civil relief. Chambers and several attorneys say Jenkins' civil lawsuit - seeking to throw out his arrest - is a long shot at best.

He could appeal Bataillon's ruling finding him competent to stand trial and competent to serve as his own attorney. Riley said that is Jenkins' most likely route - after his sentencing.

He said he doesn't know if the Nebraska Supreme Court would have recourse to intervene before appointing the 3-judge panel, as Chambers has suggested.

(source: Omaha World-Herald)


Nebraska Supreme Court Denies Latest Appeal From Death Row Inmate

The Nebraska Supreme Court on Friday rejected an appeal by death row inmate Michael Ryan seeking to be released from prison.

The now 65-year-old Ryan was sentenced to death in 1985 for the cult-related killings of 26-year-old James Thimm and 5-year-old Luke Stice in Rulo.

Ryan filed a request with the Richardson County District Court for post-conviction relief in 2012, challenging how Nebraska obtained one of three drugs that would be used to execute him. Inmates typically file post-conviction relief motions after they have exhausted all other appeals. The lower court denied Ryan's request without holding a hearing and Ryan appealed.

The state's high court upheld the rejection of Ryan's request, saying courts can only enter relief when a prisoner shows that a denial or infringement of his constitutional rights would nullify his conviction.

"Like most Nebraskans, I strongly support the death penalty for the most horrific crimes," said Attorney General Jon Bruning. "Michael Ryan committed one of the most brutal murders in our nation's history and he deserves to be put to death. I'm pleased the court turned away Michael Ryan's latest attempt to thwart justice."

(source: WOWT news)


Debating South Dakota's death penalty

About 100 yards of grass and a life-shattering experience separated Lynette Johnson and Russ Freeburg from about 50 proponents of abolishing the South Dakota death penalty.

Johnson and Freeburg stood Friday afternoon near a sign advertising the RJ Johnson Training Academy on a lawn of the South Dakota State Penitentiary. They watched as the death penalty opponents gathered in a circle just off the prison property and for the 17th year conducted a service memorializing murder victims and their killers who have been put to death by the state.

"They'll never understand how we feel unless they've had somebody kill or try to kill one of their kids or their spouse. Hopefully, they'll never have to," Freeburg said of death penalty protesters.

His son, Matt Freeburg, and Johnson's husband, Ron "RJ" Johnson, were prison guards when inmates Rodney Berget and Eric Robert, in a failed escape attempt in 2011, killed Johnson. Robert, who said he also wanted to kill Matt Freeburg, was executed in 2012.

Berget remains on death row after challenging his own death sentence.

After hearing Russ Freeburg's assertion that circumstances shape perception about the death penalty, Frank Barnett acknowledged, "I know that."

"This is not us versus them. We understand the grief, the hurt and the pain they are going through," Barnett said.

At the service, Barnett sang a spiritual. The words were snatched by a blustery April wind the moment they left his mouth, but Barnett said a theme conveyed in his song was that death ripples out to harm people not directly affected by it; all death, including state-ordered executions.

"Fighting violence with violence doesn't work. Nonviolent Jesus taught us that," Barnett said.

Freeburg challenged the analogy.

"How can they make any comparison with Jesus and Berget?" he asked. "The one perfect man, and they make a comparison with someone like Rodney Berget?"

He acknowledged, though, the gulf that divides South Dakotans with regard to the death penalty.

"We're not going to change their minds," Freeburg shrugged. "They're not going to change ours."

The service, sponsored by South Dakota Peace and Justice Center, South Dakotans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, Pax Christi and Just Peace, was more in the nature of participants affirming their own long-held opposition to execution.

"It's just bringing the circle together of people who know the death penalty only promotes violence in our state," said Mark Sanderson, who helped organize the event.

The annual ceremony this year comes less than a week after a jury in Sioux Falls made James McVay the newest death row inmate. McVay stabbed Maybelle Schein, 75, to death in 2011. McVay pleaded guilty to the murder but said he was mentally ill when he killed Schein.

"Can't we see killing someone who is mentally ill is not justice?" said Denny Davis, of South Dakotans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty.

"To murder someone because they have murdered? We're better than that."

In prepared remarks, the Rev. Rachel Ciupek-Reed pointed to the array of spiritual and humanist traditions that offer no grounding to executions.

"Justice without mercy is vengeance," she said. "Mercy without justice is foolishness. Justice without humility tears our humanity from us. We need to seek justice with mercy and walk humbly as we do so."

As the ceremony concluded, Elaine Engelgau moved to the sidewalk along busy North Drive and displayed a pair of brightly colored signs. "End the Death Penalty," read one. "South Dakota Stop Killing," read the other. Engelgau says she regularly attends ceremonies opposing the death penalty and vigils at the prison when executions are scheduled.

"My heart just broke when they instituted the death penalty in South Dakota," she said.

Tears welled in her eyes."I love South Dakota," she said. "It hurts to have South Dakota choose to murder somebody."

(source: Argus Leader)


Woman convicted in hammer beating speaks to jury

An Arizona woman convicted of bludgeoning her husband to death with a hammer made a tearful plea for mercy Thursday, telling the jury deciding her fate that she is sorry for her actions and wishes she could go back and undo the pain she caused.

Marissa Devault, 36, broke down in tears and repeatedly lost her composure as she spoke to the jury in the penalty phase of her trial. The same jury that convicted her of 1st-degree murder is deciding whether she should get the death penalty or a life sentence.

"I don't know if I can be useful to anybody in this world or in any way ... but I would like the opportunity to try," she said.

Devault was found guilty last week in the killing of Dale Harrell, who suffered multiple skull fractures in the January 2009 attack in the couple's home in the Phoenix suburb of Gilbert. The penalty phase began this week and featured emotional testimony from Devault's daughters a day earlier.

Devault clasped a tissue, removed her glasses, took deep breaths and fought back tears for more than 10 minutes. She expressed regret for inflicting pain on her daughters, saying "this goes into generations that don't even exist yet."

"I can't do anything more than say I'm sorry. I can't push the back button. I can't bring him back. I can't fix everything that was wrong," she said.

She also looked ahead to prison and hoped that she could "talk to someone" and help them make a better choice.

Prosecutors say she killed her husband in a failed bid to collect on a life insurance policy to repay more than $300,000 in loans from her boyfriend, a man 20 years her senior she met on a sugar-daddy website.

Devault said she killed Harrell in self-defense and told investigators he had physically and sexually abused her in the past. She would become the 3rd woman on Arizona's death row if the jury opts for the death penalty.

The case had similar circumstances as the Jodi Arias trial that played out in Phoenix 1 year ago, including a brutal killing of a lover, claims of self-defense and salacious elements such as Devault's 1-time job as a stripper.

But the judge in this case made extensive efforts to keep the trial from becoming the spectacle that enveloped the Arias case.

(source: Associated Press)


Prosecutor seeks new judge in 2007 Carnation slayings; A 50-page motion to the state Supreme Court represents an almost unheard-of move in a death-penalty case and probably would mean further delay in trying the 2 suspects in the 2007 deaths of 6 family members.

More than 6 years after three generations of a family were slain near Carnation, the King County Prosecuting Attorney's Office is making the almost unheard-of move of seeking a new trial judge.

On Friday, Prosecutor Dan Satterberg's office filed a 50-page motion with the state Supreme Court asking to have Michele Anderson's and Joseph McEnroe's death-penalty cases taken away from King County Superior Court Judge Jeffrey Ramsdell. If granted, the move would undoubtedly delay what has become one of the state's most expensive criminal cases.

Prosecutors, in their filing, cite Ramsdell's "troubling" rulings in the 2 cases. The state Supreme Court has reversed Ramsdell twice in rulings regarding Anderson and McEnroe, and a 3rd issue will be heard before the court in June.

"In sum, the record demonstrates that the trial judge would reasonably be expected upon remand to have substantial difficulty in putting out of his mind previously expressed views or findings determined to be erroneous," prosecutors wrote in their filing. "Furthermore, reassignment is necessary to preserve the appearance of justice."

Ian Goodhew, deputy chief of staff for Satterberg, declined to comment Friday.

Paul Sherfey, chief administrative officer for King County Superior Court, said he doesn't believe King County has ever been faced with finding a new judge in a capital case. A trial date for Anderson and McEnroe has not been set.

Anderson and McEnroe, who are both 35, are accused of fatally shooting Anderson's family in her parents' Carnation-area home on Dec. 24, 2007. Killed were her parents, Wayne and Judy Anderson; her brother and his wife, Scott and Erica Anderson; and that couple's children, 5-year-old Olivia and 3-year-old Nathan.

The slayings were motivated by money, family strife and a concern over leaving behind witnesses, according to sheriff's investigators.

McEnroe and Anderson have each been charged with 6 counts of aggravated 1st-degree murder.

In a 2008 jailhouse interview, Michele Anderson told The Seattle Times she had committed the murders and wanted to die.

"I want the most severe punishment, which would be the death penalty," she said at the time. "I think if I kill a bunch of people, I'm not sure I deserve to live ... I want to waive my trial."

She has since pleaded not guilty, as has McEnroe.

The former couple are King County's longest-serving inmates, according to jail staff.

As of last fall, the cost of their prosecution and defense approached a combined $7?million.

The amount, even when factoring in 2 defendants, already exceeds the average price of an individual death-penalty case - from trial to execution - of $3 million, as determined by a 2008 study by the Urban Institute in Washington, D.C.

Pam Mantle, whose daughter, son-in-law and grandchildren were killed, said Friday that she wants to have the case given to a new trial judge.

"I'm fine with it. I want him gone," Mantle said. "I'm under the impression he's anti-death penalty. As time has gone by it would be hard to be unbiased."

Ramsdell declined to comment Friday.

The state Supreme Court will hear arguments in Olympia on June 30.

In addition to hearing the prosecution's request for the case to be reassigned, justices will also hear a defense motion that could potentially allow Anderson and McEnroe to plead guilty to aggravated murder and face life sentences.

In February, the high court barred Ramsdell from acting on a defense motion that a federal case, Alleyne v. United States, took precedence over state case law involving the death penalty. The main thrust of the Alleyne decision has to do with mandatory minimum sentences. The U.S. Supreme Court has determined that any fact that can increase a mandatory minimum sentence is an "element" of the crime and must be alleged in charging documents.

Katie Ross, one of McEnroe's defense attorneys, has argued that the state needed to include the additional element of "absence of sufficient mitigating circumstances to warrant leniency" in the information used to formally charge McEnroe with the crimes in order for the state to seek the death penalty. Anderson's legal team has joined the argument made by McEnroe's defense team.

In Washington, there are only 2 penalties for the crime of aggravated 1st-degree murder: life in prison without the possibility of release, or death. To seek the death penalty, a prosecutor must determine there is an absence of sufficient mitigating circumstances to warrant leniency - a life sentence - and provide a defendant with a special sentencing notice that the death penalty is being sought.

(source: Seattle Times)


Where the Death Penalty Stands

Thursday, New Hampshire narrowly failed to eliminate its death penalty. We offer some charts about capital punishment in the United States and abroad.

Yesterday, the New Hampshire state Senate deadlocked on a bill that would have eliminated the state's death penalty, killing the bill for the moment and leaving New Hampshire as the only state in New England that still has a law providing for executions. The bill had already passed in the state House of Representatives and has the support of the governor, so one more vote would have passed it. I thought this was a nice opportunity to look at the state of the death penalty in America and around the world. On to the charts and graphs!

As of now, 32 states still have the death penalty, and 18 (plus the District of Columbia) have eliminated it. 6 of those 18 - Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland, New Jersey, New Mexico, and New York - eliminated their death penalties just since 2007. Even in some states that have death penalty laws on the books, capital punishment has all but disappeared. Kentucky, for instance, has executed only three prisoners since the Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976; Colorado has executed only one. Other states are more, shall we say, enthusiastic about capital punishment. This GIF created by the Pew Research Center shows the quantity of each state's executions over that time. (Go to the link to see the execution explosion.)

Texas alone accounts for 515 of the 1376 executions in America during this period, or 37 %; Virginia and Oklahoma are tied at 110 apiece. But even Texas has been slowing down in recent years. Their annual total peaked at 40 executions in 2000 (George W. Bush attended to business before leaving for Washington), but in 2013 the state executed 16 prisoners. This follows a national trend.

Unfortunately, we're still among the world's top executioners. According to a recent report by Amnesty International, there has been a steady trend away from capital punishment; by the end of last year, 98 countries had officially abolished it. (The number was 85 ten years ago). But while only 22 countries executed prisoners in 2013, the number of executions rose over the previous year. There were 778 confirmed executions, 80 % of which took place in just three countries: Iran, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia. Those numbers don't include China, which, it is believed, executes thousands of prisoners every year, but keeps the numbers secret.

That means we come in fourth among the world's countries in the number of prisoners we execute, after a communist dictatorship that hands out death sentences like parking tickets, 2 Islamic theocracies, and Iraq, a country still riven by terrorism and civil war a decade after we invaded and broke it to pieces. So congratulations on that.

(source: The American Prospect)


Crucify Them! Lessons from Holy Week on Capital Punishment

Standing in a dimly lit Greek Orthodox Church this week with my mother, I was confronted with the icon of Christ crucified. As the life-size cross with a hand painted icon of Christ was solemnly carried by the priest around the Church, I, along with many in the Church, was overcome with grief. The faithful wept for the crucified one who is considered by over a billion humans to be God incarnate.

However, I did not weep for God. I wept for the "others." The poor, the homeless, the people of color and minorities of all varieties and stripes, Women, those who identify as Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Queer and Transgender, along with the millions incarcerated in America and around the world. On that cross was a Jesus who for me symbolizes all those who are oppressed and exploited.

I could not help but see this ancient ritual as a commentary on our modern society. Massive crowds chanting for crucifixion of an innocent man whose only crime was that he sought to abolish all forms of state and religious authority and, instead, create a horizontal society of inclusion and mutual aid, where all were equal.

How fitting since this week we are not only commemorating Passover for the Jewish People and Easter for Christian communities but also the one year anniversary of the Boston Marathon Bombing. All of these have a common thread which binds them: confronting the hatred, misunderstanding and prejudice of some with the resilience and love of others. The story of the exile of the Jews with that of Jesus and the people of Boston is one of leading people from darkness of oppression to the light of love and solidarity.

Yet, on Thursday April 17th, the day in which some of the Christian Churches commemorate the Crucifixion of Christ, the Senate of New Hampshire failed to repeal the death penalty by a single vote. Here we are, almost 2000 years after the crucifixion of Jesus and countless others by the Roman Empire and we are still sentencing people to death. How can faithful and non-faithful alike justify a horrific practice?

Amnesty International lists the United States with Iran, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, North Korea, Yemen and China as the top perpetrators of state sanctioned executions. Yes, that's right, the United States is listed along with all 3 members of the so called "Axis of Evil." How fitting. All of the nations who still sanction the ruthless, prejudiced and unethical retributive justice that is known as "capital punishment" are the real axis of evil.

The United States carried out more state sanctioned executions than North Korea and Yemen over the past few years. Additionally, the United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world. Where is the outcry of the faithful filling their places of worship to pray and be together? Where are the Christians who are weeping for an executed Lord fighting for the millions of oppressed and exploited?

Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone writing on behalf of Pope Francis reiterated the Holy Father's complete commitment to abolishing capital punishment. Cardinal Bertone writes, "Today, more than ever, it is urgent that we remember and affirm the need for universal recognition and respect for the inalienable dignity of human life, in its immeasurable value." This not only leaves room for reconciliation and love, but to understand the true face of crime and confront its root causes.

Also this week we were made aware of a powerful story about forgiveness. In Iran, a state which tops the list along with China and Saudi Arabia in terms of carrying out executions, one execution did not go according to plan.

In a powerful display of forgiveness and love, the parents of the victim who were helping to carry out the execution of their sons' killer, stopped the execution as the noose was tightened and spared the life of the perpetrator. Is this not how we can reconcile and repair the world?

Reproducing violence begets violence. If we stop the cycle altogether, we can build a better world. This is what Jewish thought has described as Tikkun Olam or Repairing the World. We live in a broken world and it is up to us to take responsibility and change it.

This message comes not as a celebration of Easter or of the successful passing of the Jews into Israel or even the resilience of the people of Boston in the face of terrorism. It comes as a warning. Reproducing this violence and hatred will not change anything but only perpetuate the same evil which we have been combating since the beginning.

Jesus on the cross said "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." (Luke 23: 34) Unlike Jesus, I will emphasize the fact that we do know what we are doing. The time has come to stand up on the side of true justice, love and forgiveness in the face of all forms of hatred, prejudice and revenge.

True courage comes at a cost. Standing before authority and power we, like Sisyphus, may feel helpless and unable to change the world. I consistently hear "It's too big," "I am only 1 person," "How can I change the world?" Yet, if everyone stood up as individuals, we would quickly realize how many there are and how we, in unison, can stand up and give hope to those who have no voice and no hope.

We must dare to believe and face all adversity if we truly want a better world. This is what is meant when the Byzantine Chanters exclaim "I gave My back to scourgings, and turned not away My face from spittings; I stood before the judgment-seat of Pilate, and endured the Cross, for the salvation of the world." (The Ainoi [Praises] of Holy Thursday Evening)

Let us take the true power of this Holy Week, Passover and Marathon Monday and commit to love one another more than ever before. Martin Luther King Jr. speaking in Montgomery, Alabama in 1965 preached that "the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice." What he omitted was that it bends only when we, standing in solidarity and love, bend it together.

(source: Christopher Helali is Adjunct Professor of History at MassBay Community


On this day in true crime a white supremacist was executed

Richard Wayne Snell was executed by lethal injection on April 19, 1995.

He was a member of a radical white supremacist group, The Covenant, Sword and the Arm of the Lord (CSA), and frequented the polygamist Elohim City, a private community in Oklahoma linked to the CSA.

Snell was convicted of murderering a pawn shop owner he mistakenly believed was of Jewish descent.

Shortly afterwards he killed a state trooper.

He never denied the murders and he was executed on the same day as Timothy McVeigh carried out the Oklahoma bombing.

(source: The Mirror)


Brunei: Sultan institutes death penalty for homosexuality

The United Nations human rights office has criticised Brunei's planned introduction of the death penalty for a raft of new offences, as part of a shift to harsh Islamic punishments in the oil-rich sultanate.

"We are deeply concerned about the revised penal code in Brunei Darussalam, due to come into force later this month, which stipulates the death penalty for numerous offences," said Rupert Colville, spokesman for the UN high commissioner for human rights.

He told reporters these offences include rape, adultery, sodomy, extramarital sexual relations for Muslims, but also crimes such as robbery and murder.

The death sentence could also be imposed for defamation of the Prophet Mohammed, insulting any verses of the Koran and Hadith, blasphemy, and declaring oneself a prophet or non-Muslim, he said.

"Application of the death penalty for such a broad range of offences contravenes international law," he added.

Brunei has not carried out any executions since 1957, but Colville said that rather than adding new capital crimes to its books, the sultanate should be working to abolish the death penalty outright.

Brunei's all-powerful Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah announced last October that the country would phase in Islamic syariah law punishments such as flogging and death by stoning.

The new criminal code, expected to enter into force on April 22, also introduces stoning to death as the specific method of execution for rape, adultery, sodomy and extramarital sexual relations.

Colville said that international law classified stoning as "torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment", meaning it is banned under global human rights treaties.

UN studies have shown that women are more likely to be sentenced to death by stoning, due to entrenched discrimination and stereotyping in the justice system, he noted.

Criminalising consensual sex between adults, let alone applying the death penalty for it, breaches a series of rights, while the new code also violates freedom of religion, opinion and expression, Colville added.

Brunei practices a more conservative form of Islam than neighbouring Malaysia and Indonesia, banning the sale and public consumption of alcohol and closely restricting other religions.

The sultan has advocated the strengthening of Islam in the country, against what he calls potentially harmful outside influences, recently calling his Islamic monarchy a "firewall" against globalisation.

Officials have previously said syariah cases would require an extremely high burden of proof and judges would have wide discretion applying it.



Iranian regime hangs at least 6 Afghans: reports

The Iranian regime has executed at least 6 Afghans over drugs smuggle charges, local authorities in northeastern Takhar province of Afghanistan have declared, local Afghan media reported.

The Provincial governor spokesman, Sunatullah Temori said that the bodies of the executed individuals have not been taken to Afghanistan and they will likely be buried in Iran.

The families of victims have confirmed that the Iranian regime authorities have informed them regarding the execution of their relatives, the reports said without mentioning when the executions have been carried out.

He said more Afghans detained in Iran are expected to be executed.

The executed individuals were between 20 to 26 year old and four of them were residents of Kalafgan district while the identities of the two others are still unclear, local officials said.

(source: NCR-Iran)


Official confirms execution for bank fraud to proceed

Iran's Chief Auditor Nasser Seraj announced that there is no truth to rumours that a death sentence issued in the so-called $3-billion fraud case will be withdrawn.

Seraj, who acted as judge in the trial of Mahafarid Amir Khosravi, said: "A sentence that is issued and approved will no doubt be carried out."

IRNA reports that Seraj indicated that the authorities are continuing to trace the assets of Amir Khosravi, adding that the investigation is proceeding well.

The case, which has been referred to as the "biggest embezzlement case" in Iran's banking history, came to light in 2011, and 39 defendants were charged with misappropriating close to $3 billion; they're accused of using forced documents to obtain credit from banks to buy state-owned companies.

4 people were sentenced to death for the charge of "corruption on earth" including Amir Khosravi, and others were sentenced to prison terms of up to 25 years.

Mohammad Reza Khavari was the CEO of the country's largest bank, Melli Bank, and he remains a major suspect in this case, having fled to Canada as soon as the investigation became public.

(source: Radio Zamaneh)


Sunni prisoner awaiting execution transferred to hospital

Mohammad Gharibi, a Sunni prisoner of conscience awaiting execution in Iran, was transferred to Sina hospital in Karaj for a short while on Wednesday morning following a deterioration in his health condition.

According to the report of Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA), Gharibi, who was being held in Rajai Shahr prison in Karaj, had been prevented from receiving adequate medical care by the authorities.

A source told the HRANA, "Mohammad Gharibi had been experiencing severe kidney pain for a long time, and the clinic doctors had said that he needs treatment in [properly] equipped medical centers. But the authorities had always refused to transfer him to hospital, under the pretext that he is facing the death penalty."

He continued, "Finally, on Wednesday when he was sent to hospital, doctors injected a few medicines, and because the authorities had not given him a permit to be hospitalized [i.e. overnight], he was returned to the prison."


A Kurdish political prisoner is still facing death sentence

Habibollah Latifi, the Kurdish political prisoner of central prison of Sanandaj, is still at the risk of execution.

According to the report of Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA), Habibollah Latifi, the student of industrial engineering of Ilam University, was arrested on October 23, 2007, and after three months in solitary confinement and physical torture he was sentenced to death in branch number one of revolutionary court, by chief judge Hassan Babayi, on charge of corruption on earth.

After complains of the attorneys, the verdict was sent to appeal court but in the winter of the same year, it was confirmed and sent to Supreme Court, which confirmed the death sentence as well.

Now, after 6 1/2 years, and in contrast with the promise of judicial authorities for cancellation of the sentence, this Kurdish political prisoner of central prison of Sanandaj is still under the execution sentence.

One of his relatives said to HRANA's reporter, "authorities promised to brake the sentence but it never happened".

(source for both: HRANA News Agency)


Death sentence for man who stabbed young wife over 20 times

A wealthy man who was accused of stabbing his wife to death during a heated argument a year ago this month was found guilty of intentional homicide and sentenced to death at the Nanjing Intermediate People's Court in Jiangsu Province, Xinhua said yesterday.

Ji Xingpeng, 25, was suspected of stabbing his 22-year-old wife Qi Kexin at their home in Nanjing on April 25 when a fight broke between the 2 over rumors that she had cheated on him and that he wasn't the father of their 3-month-old daughter. DNA test results later proved that he was.

Reports say that Ji had come home drunk and used a fruit knife to slash the woman 20 to 30 times during the argument.

Qi's death attracted huge media and online attention in China last year, in part because of Ji's status as a second generation rich. He was a member of the elite Nanjing FSC Super Car Club and owned numerous luxury residences, according to ChinaSMACK. He had reportedly exhibited violence after drinking on other occasions.

The 2 were high school classmates, according to a self-proclaimed friend of Qi, who took to Weibo to rebuke netizen speculation that the wife had only stayed with Ji because of his wealth.

"The wife's family is neither poor nor lacks money, marrying this man was completely because he initially treated her very well when he was first pursuing my friend, listening to her in everything, which made her feel that she had found a good man. She was young to begin with and she wanted to marry."

According to the same friend, Ji frequented gentlemen clubs and would often come home drunk and beat his wife. She said that Qi wanted a divorce, but stayed with the man for the sake of their 100-day-old child.

"My friend was such a fool that she was still preparing a birthday present for that beast these past few days. How could you bear to do such a thing to a woman who loves you that much! If he doesn't get the death penalty, it will be an intolerable injustice," the friend wrote.



Shakti Mills case: Petition for confirmation of death penalty filed

The Maharashtra government has moved the Bombay High Court seeking confirmation of the death sentence awarded to the 3 'repeat offenders' in 2 gang-rapes in the deserted Shakti Mills in 2013.

After a death sentence is awarded by a trial court , it is a legal requirement that it be confirmed by the High Court.

On April 4, Principal Sessions Judge Shalini Phansalkar Joshi had sentenced to death Vijay Jadhav, Qasim Sheikh alias Bengali and Salim Ansari. They had been convicted under Section 376 E of Indian Penal Code which was introduced under the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act after the Delhi gang-rape of December 2012. The new section allows for the death penalty in the case of repeat sexual offenders.

During the course of the trial, the convicts had moved the Bombay High Court against application of Section 376 (E) of IPC but the High Court chose not to intervene while the trial was underway in a Mumbai sessions court. Meanwhile the High Court had also asked the Attorney - General to submit a reply by May 7th on the constitutional validity of section 376(E).

While delivering the judgement Judge Joshi termed it a "rarest of rare" case. "If not in this case, then in which case can death be awarded? she asked. "The accused showed no mercy towards the victim. They were cruel in their conduct and had no remorse for the crime they have committed," the judge observed.

Judge Joshi added, "This is not only a crime against the girl but a crime against society. The common man will lose faith in the system if leniency is shown. There should be zero tolerance for such crimes," she added.

The judge also remarked that the incident had dented the image of the city, for being a safe city for women. "In the heart of the city, like Mahalaxmi area also, young girls are not secure or safe but subjected to most savaged form of sexual assault by the young boys of this very city, was shocking to one and all. It created a feeling of helplessness in parents, in women, in girls and in every section of the society."

(source: The Hindu)


Delhi high court to find if man on death row is capable of reform

In a rare exercise, the Delhi high court has ordered the behavioural examination of a rapist and murderer on death row, to find out if he is capable of reform or a threat to society.

On Thursday, a bench of justices S Muralidhar and Mukta Gupta upheld the conviction of a 56-year-old man for the gruesome rape and murder of a 3-year-old girl, calling the crime a work of "exceptional depravity".

However, before deciding if Bharat Singh deserves to be hanged, the court said it would inquire into his antecedents, his conduct in jail and take feedback from his family/friends for a comprehensive view.

"Is there a probability that, in future, the accused would commit criminal acts of violence as would constitute a continuing threat to society? Is there a probability that the accused can be reformed and rehabilitated?" the bench said while roping in a probation officer of the Delhi government.

HC asked the officer to inquire from the jail administration and seek a report on the man's conduct in jail." He has also been directed to meet the convict's family and the locals even if that means travelling to his hometown.

"The officer will seek their inputs on the behavioural traits of the accused with a particular reference to the two issues highlighted. He shall consult and seek specific inputs from two professionals with not less than 10 years' experience in clinical psychology and sociology," said the court before deferring its decision on sentencing to July 11.

HC invoked the Supreme Court to explain why it wanted more evidence on Singh's criminal antecedents. "The SC has been emphasizing the need for the trial court, faced with the question on whether to award the death penalty, to be satisfied with the probability the accused would not commit criminal acts of violence and the probability that the accused can be rehabilitated," it noted. Additional public prosecutor Varun Goswami highlighted the depravity of the act.

(source: The Times of India)

APRIL 18, 2014:


State Senate upholds death penalty; 1 on death row

After months of emotional debate, New Hampshire's Senate on Thursday voted to leave intact the state's centuries-old death penalty.

Lawmakers voted 12-12 to repeal the death penalty, and the tie means capital punishment stays on the books.

But the Senate then voted to table the repeal bill, leaving open the possibility that it may be resurrected for another vote before the session ends.

"It didn't happen today. It could happen next week," said Renny Cushing, the bill's chief sponsor. Cushing is a Hampton Democrat whose father and brother-in-law were murdered.

"It was a tie vote not to kill the bill," said Cushing, who stood alongside Manchester police Chief David Mara in the Senate gallery as the vote was taken. The 2 men represent opposite sides of the issue. The only man on death row in New Hampshire is Michael Addison, convicted of killing Manchester police Officer Michael Briggs in 2006.

Mara and other Manchester officers have been passionate in speaking against repeal, saying they were echoing the sentiments of Briggs' widow and children.

Sen. Bob Odell, a Lempster Republican, said he had always supported the death penalty.

"But today, I'm going to vote for repeal," he said, saying he wouldn't know how he would explain an execution to his young grandchildren.

The House last month voted in favor of repeal 225-104 and Gov. Maggie Hassan said she would sign the measure into law as long as Addison's death sentence remained intact. The bill is crafted to affect only those crimes that occur after Jan. 1, 2014.

It was the closest a death penalty repeal measure has come since 2000, when both houses passed it but it was vetoed by then-Gov. Jeanne Shaheen.

The state's last execution was in 1939, when Howard Long was hanged for molesting and beating a 10-year-old boy to death.

"I thank the Legislature for their open, fair and compassionate consideration of this sensitive issue," Hassan said after the vote. "I know that each senator listened to all viewpoints and made a difficult decision, and I appreciate the respect they showed for New Hampshire's democratic process."

Before the vote, a number of senators spoke of their respect for their colleagues and the difficult decision they faced, saying it was a vote of conscience. The debate was civil, the mood of the chamber somber.

Had repeal passed, New Hampshire would have become the 7th state in 7 years to abolish capital punishment.

Richard Dieter, executive director of the Washington, D.C.-based Death Penalty Information Center, testified earlier this month that 4 states have recently repealed measures that left convicts on death row. In Illinois, the governor commuted death sentences to life in prison without possibility of parole. 3 states that repealed the death penalty still have convicts on death row, including Connecticut, Maryland and New Mexico.

Several factors drove the latest repeal effort in New Hampshire, from the marked decline in death sentences and executions nationwide to the cost and perceived racial bias in the Addison case. (Addison is black and got the death penalty; a white defendant who faced the same punishment in a different homicide the same year got life in prison.) Executions have gone from an average of 300 a year in the late 1990s to 39 in 2013.

The voices of those who supported repeal outnumbered death penalty supporters by about 5-to-1 during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing earlier this month and included the parents and children of murder victims. Some new faces supported repeal, including former Chief Justice John Broderick and former Attorney General Philip McLaughlin.

Representatives of 4 police agencies testified against repeal, calling the death penalty a "strategic tool" to deal with the worst of criminals.

(source: Associated Press)


NH Death Penalty Remains; After an emotional debate, the NH Senate votes 12-12 on the repeal bill.

The death penalty remains in New Hampshire.

A bill to repeal the state law passed the New Hampshire House of Representatives but failed, on a 12-12 vote, to pass the state Senate on April 17.

For supporters of abolishing the statute, 2014 seemed like the year after a strong 225-104 vote in the House.

Yet, as Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley said ahead of the Senate consideration of the vote, the chamber had mixed feelings about the bill. The language of the bill was such that it looked forward, meaning that it would mean nothing to Michael K. Addison, the man convicted of killing Manchester Police Officer Michael Briggs in 2006.

The bill to repeal the death penalty was later tabled.

Gov. Maggie Hassan issued this statement following the Senate deliberation:

"I thank the Legislature for their open, fair and compassionate consideration of this sensitive issue. I know that each Senator listened to all viewpoints and made a difficult decision, and I appreciate the respect they showed for New Hampshire's democratic process."

(source: Merrimack Patch)


Judge: Convicted killer on death row incompetent

A judge has ruled that a man sentenced to death in the murder of a south-central Pennsylvania woman more than 3 decades ago is incapacitated and incompetent.

Judge John Tylwalk's ruling came at the end of a competency hearing Thursday for 56-year-old Freeman May, the Lebanon Daily News ( ) reported. May was convicted of the 1982 stabbing death of Kathy Lynn Fair, 22, whose remains were found 6 years later in woods in Lebanon County.

Forensic psychologist William Russell testified that May suffered from a delusional disorder in which a person "develops a fixed belief that something happened ... despite solid evidence to the contrary."

May has "a very fixed belief that within his letters is evidence of his innocence," Russell said, adding that the letters May sent from prison to lawyers and the judge have "a religious overtone." When questioned about his "evidence," May responded, "It's the Lord's will that this should be," the psychologist said.

Russell said May suffers from "bad genetics, a horribly abusive childhood (including physical and sexual abuse) and substance abuse." He said May can understand what is going on around him but "has an inability to let go of the delusion."

District Attorney David Arnold said an issue that arose following May's third penalty phase hearing could result in another appeal of his death sentence: May was shackled during the proceedings, which courts have ruled could prejudice a jury.

"I believe he should have been executed years ago," Arnold said. "I've seen what's happened with Mr. May over several years. I have nothing to dispute with Mr. Russell. If you're not competent, you can't be put to death."

May was convicted of killing Fair and sentenced to death in 1991. The sentence was reversed but reinstated after a second penalty phase hearing in 1995. An appeals court again vacated the death sentence but it was reinstated by a jury in 2008 following a third penalty phase hearing.

"I believe Mr. May is unable to properly analyze his options," Tylwalk said Thursday. Such options include acceptance of a life sentence, a possible fourth penalty phase trial or death by lethal injection.

(source: Associated Press)


In Maryland governor's race, Brown highlights difference with Gansler over death penalty

Maryland Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown on Thursday knocked Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler, a Democratic rival for governor, for his past support of the death penalty during an appearance before a NAACP-sponsored candidates forum in Baltimore.

Brown told the audience that he had "stood with" Benjamin T. Jealous, the then-president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, when he came to Maryland last year to testify in favor of legislation repealing capital punishment.

"I stood with the NAACP and Ben Jealous when we repealed the death penalty in Maryland," Brown said. "The attorney general supports the death penalty. ... The attorney general says it's a wonderful tool."

Brown, who would be Maryland's 1st African-American governor if elected, cited "racial bias in the system" as one reason capital punishment needed to be repealed.

Brown, Gansler and Del. Heather R. Mizeur (D-Montgomery), a third candidate for governor, appeared separately at Thursday night's forum, sponsored by the Baltimore branch of the NAACP.

Gansler had been on record for years as a supporter of the death penalty prior to the passage last year of legislation repealing it, which was sponsored by Gov. Martin O'-Malley (D).

When asked about his position at Thursday night's forum, Gansler said: "My position is where everybody's position is: We don't have it. We used to have it. The General Assembly overturned it, and the people of Maryland have said they don't want it. So, that's my position on the death penalty."

Gansler also noted that while the death penalty was on the books during his tenure as state's attorney in Montgomery County, he never sought it.

During a radio interview last year, as lawmakers were debating O'Malley's repeal legislation, Gansler reaffirmed his support for capital punishment under certain conditions.

"I think there are certain criminals who commit certain crimes, that they forfeit their right to live on the planet," he told host Kojo Nnamdi on "The Politics Hour" on WAMU 88.5 FM. Gansler added that it was crucial that "we know for sure beyond any reasonable doubt that they are, in fact, the people that committed the crime."

During the same interview, Gansler said that the death penalty was "a wonderful tool" for prosecutors because it could give them leverage to secure plea deals of life in prison without the possibility of parole.

(source: Washington Post)


If NC killer goes free, it would be a travesty of justice

Bobby Bowden is hoping for one more free pass. The last one saved his life. The next one could set him free to enjoy that life.

If he gets it, it will be a travesty of what most of us consider justice.

Bowden and an accomplice held up a 7-Eleven on McArthur Road in August 1975. They shot and killed the convenience store manager, Larry Lovette, and customer Norma Ehrhart. They were quickly caught, tried and convicted. Bowden was sentenced to death.

The next year, he got his first lucky break. The U.S. Supreme Court said state death-penalty procedures in effect at the time he was sentenced were unconstitutional. He was re-sentenced to life in prison.

Today, life in prison on a 1st-degree murder charge means you spend all your remaining days locked up. But North Carolina law was not without some quirks back then (or now, for that matter). Life in prison then was defined as 80 years. Another law on the books at that time cut prison sentences in half. And inmates were all eligible for further sentence reductions for good conduct.

Under those now-defunct rules, his sentence should expire late next year. Good behavior, Bowden said, made him eligible for release in 2009.

The prison system nearly did set him free, until then-Gov. Bev Perdue intervened and canceled his release.

Bowden, who is 65, went before the state Supreme Court this week and his lawyer argued that in light of the laws that were in effect at the time of his sentencing, he should be released immediately. "When the Department of Corrections determined his sentence expired on Oct. 14, 2009, and that he would be released on Oct. 29, 2009," lawyer Katherine Jane Allen said, "DOC crossed the Rubicon. They reached a point of no return. The credits cannot be revoked and release cannot be halted without running afoul of the constitution."

The court is likely to consider the case for a few months before ruling. And given the ludicrous set of laws in effect in the 1970s, we wouldn't be a bit surprised if Bowden goes free.

That's a mockery of what justice should be when a man murders 2 innocent people during an armed robbery. And it is repugnant to the community and to the families of Larry Lovette and Norma Ehrhart.

We hope the Supreme Court finds a way to uphold common sense instead of a sorry mistake lawmakers made 40 years ago.

(source: Editorial, Fayetteville Observer)


'Extraordinary Amount of Evidence' in Store Clerk's Killing----Indian American convenience store clerk Dahyabhai Kalidas Chaudhari was murdered Mar. 9 in Dalton, Ga.

Skyy Raven Marie Mims, a 21-year-old aspiring model from Detroit, may face the death penalty in the case of the murder of a Dalton, Ga., store clerk from India.

Mims is accused of stabbing 37-year-old Dahyabhai Kalidas Chaudhari, a clerk at Kanku's Express on Airport Road in the small northwest Georgia town, Mar. 9 (I-W, April 4). Mims then allegedly left the store with cash and around $90 in lottery tickets, leaving Chaudhari to die. A customer called 911 after finding the man on the floor, according to the store's owner.

Mims' friends and relatives are certain that she is being framed for the crime, and are reaching out to the public on Facebook and other social media.

A woman calling herself Mims' cousin, Candace Patterson, has also launched an Internet campaign to prove that Mims is not the killer. In a lengthy post on an online petition site (, Patterson makes several arguments about the timing of the crime versus Mims' appearance on surveillance video, and asks why Chaudhari was found with his eyes and mouth taped shut - a condition that suggests he was killed by someone he knew.

"The victim had his mouth and eyes taped and had been stabbed several times. This type of violence indicates a psychological connection and/or extreme hatred. This type of violence is normally associated with people in personal relationships. Skyy Mims did not personally know the store clerk," said Patterson.

"I can assure you: we have not just picked up Miss Mims," Georgia Bureau of Investigation Special Agent in Charge Greg Ramey told India-West by phone April 8. "There is an extraordinary amount of evidence that ties her to this crime. It will be very damning."

In response to a question about Patterson's online petition, Ramey said, "I read a lot of social media about it, too, and you can't believe all that crap. That lady [Patterson] is riding on half-truths and what others have said. You have to be very, very careful about what you believe."

The Dalton Daily Citizen newspaper reported that Assistant Public Defender Brandon Sparks was representing Mims, but if it becomes a death penalty case his office would not have the resources to continue handling it, and other lawyers would have to be hired to represent Mims.

District Attorney Bert Poston told the paper he is still reviewing the facts of the case and has not yet decided whether to pursue the death penalty.

Ramey says that despite her family and friends' claims, they haven't seen all the evidence his office has - and declining to go into details about an ongoing investigation, he said the evidence against Mims is overwhelming.

"At an appropriate time, we'll submit our files to the District Attorney, and we will provide our files to the attorney representing [Mims]," Ramey told India-West.

(source: India-West News)


New Smyrna drug dealer found guilty of murder

Prosecutors said drug dealer James Desmond Booth killed a police informant who was going to testify against him because Booth was worried he would face more time in prison.

But the New Smyrna Beach man could now face the death penalty following Thursday's guilty verdict on a charge of 1st-degree premeditated murder in the death of Debra Gibson.

After 75 minutes of deliberations at the Volusia County Courthouse, the jury also found Booth guilty of witness tampering, a 1st-degree felony that could earn him up to 30 years in prison.

Jurors will decide Monday, when the penalty phase begins, whether to recommend Booth get the death penalty or a life sentence without parole. Circuit Judge Randell H. Rowe III ultimately will decide if Booth should be put to death for his crimes.

Booth testified Wednesday he was drinking and dealing drugs out the back door of the Surf Lounge when the 46-year-old Edgewater woman was shot and killed Jan. 25, 2011.

Assistant State Attorney Ed Davis, who prosecuted the case with J. Ryan Will, said Booth had New Smyrna Beach prostitute Jessica Hickson lure Gibson to Hickson's house for a drug trade.

When Gibson walked out of Hickson's house, Booth shot the police informant once in the back of the head, once in the back of the neck, once in the face and a grazing shot to one of Gibson's arms, Davis said.

Hickson, 33, who also bought drugs from Booth, confessed to prosecutors that she had initially lied about who was responsible because she "had seen what happened to someone who talks to the police."

Booth's former girlfriend, Magean Ward, who had fled to Boston to try to avoid testifying against Booth, said she thought her former boyfriend may have killed more than 1 person when she heard multiple gunshots as she sat in the getaway car.

Ward, 31, told the prosecutors when she and Booth arrived at the Surf Lounge on New Smyrna Beach's North Causeway after the killing that Booth confessed to shooting Gibson in the head to make sure she was dead.

With 7 prior felony convictions under his belt, Booth testified he would miss the first years of his son's life, like he had his daughter's, if he went back to prison.

During his testimony Wednesday, Booth said an investigator had tried to show him a picture of Gibson's body, but he refused to look, claiming that even paper cuts make him queasy.

Booth also testified his former girlfriend was lying because she was upset with him for seeing another woman, whom he got pregnant, at the same time he was still in a relationship with Ward.

(source: Pensacola News-Journal)


Convicted killer who gunned down woman faces death-penalty hearing; James Desmond Booth fatally shot confidential informant Debra Gibson on Jan. 25, 2011.

A Volusia County jury next week will begin death-penalty deliberations in the case of a 30-year-old man convicted of fatally shooting a New Smyrna Beach woman 3 years ago.

James Desmond Booth was convicted Thursday of murder in the shooting death of a confidential informant, Debra Gibson, on Jan. 25, 2011.

Booth gunned down Gibson after he was arrested for drug trafficking, suspecting she gave information to authorities before his arrest, records show.

He plotted to kill her to prevent her from testifying in his drug case, officials say.

"He asked Jessica Hickson to set up a drug sale with Gibson while he hid in the bushes. When Gibson left Hickson's house, he shot her on the sidewalk 4 times," Klare Ly, a spokeswoman for the State Attorney's Office said in a statement.

He shot her in the face and in the back.

A jury deliberated for 75 minutes on Thursday before finding him guilty of 1st-degree murder and tampering with a witness.

The prosecutors were Ryan Will and Ed Davis, both assistant state attorneys. The 1st phase of the death-penalty sentencing hearing is set to begin at 9 a.m. Monday before Circuit Judge Randell H. Rowe, III.

After a jury makes a recommendation for either life in prison or the death sentence for Booth, a judge will hand down the final decision.

(source: Orlando Sentinel)

OHIO----impending execution

Arthur Tyler, slated to die May 28 in controversial capital case, asks Ohio for mercy; Arthur Tyler has been on Ohio's death row for 3 decades.

Arthur Tyler, who has been on Ohio's death row 3 decades for the murder of a produce vendor during a robbery in Cleveland, has asked the Ohio Parole Board to commute his sentence to life in prison with a chance of parole.

The parole board will hold a clemency hearing April 24 to hear Tyler's pleas. The board will make a recommendation to Gov. John Kasich, who will ultimately decide Tyler's fate.

He is scheduled to be executed May 28.

Tyler's case has been controversial because he was 1 of 2 people convicted in the killing of Sanders Leach, but the only one sentenced to die. And there are questions as to who actually pulled the trigger.

Tyler's co-defendant, Leroy Head, confessed almost immediately. Head admitted to police, family and friends that he shot Leach in a struggle for the gun during the March 1983 robbery attempt, according to court records.

He signed a confession, but later changed his story, telling prosecutors that Tyler fired the gun.

Tyler was convicted of aggravated murder and aggravated robbery and sentenced to die. Head pleaded guilty to the same charges and was sentenced to prison. He was released in 2008.

Tyler's lawyers, in a brief filed with the parole board, said Tyler recognizes he shares responsibility for Leach's death. But they urge clemency be granted, commuting his death sentence to life imprisonment with parole eligibility.

"Ideally, Arthur Tyler should be granted parole and released from prison for time served, they wrote. "As we will demonstrate, Arthur Tyler did not shoot Mr. Leach. Head falsely testified against Mr. Tyler in order to save himself from the death penalty."



Castile ruled competent; Accused of fatally stabbing 11-week-old baby

A Sandusky man accused of fatally stabbing his cousin's infant in May is competent to stand trial.

Denzel Castile, 20, made an appearance in an Erie County courtroom Wednesday morning for the 1st time since he was admitted to the Northwest Ohio Psychiatric Hospital last spring.

Castile allegedly stabbed his cousin's 11-week-old child, Athena Castile, in a relative's Dewey Street home May 16. After a brief tussle with relatives, then with police, Castile was arrested.

He was charged with aggravated murder, felonious assault and assault on a police officer, and a grand jury later indicted him on a charge of aggravated murder. And, given Athena's age, he now faces the possibility of the death penalty.

Relatives later told police Castile displayed a noticeable change in mental status following his 1st year at the University of Toledo. Athena's death came shortly after Castile returned home for summer vacation.

Castile pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity last summer. In October, Dr. Lucia Hinojosa conducted a psychological evaluation on Castile and determined he did not fully understand his legal charges, nor could he assist in his own defense. Castile has remained in the care of the hospital ever since.

At Wednesday's hearing, however, Hinojosa issued a new opinion after further evaluation.

Castile is now competent to aid his attorneys, Jeff Whitacre and Peter Rost, in his defense, Hinojosa stated in a report that Erie County Common Pleas Court Judge Tygh Tone read at the hearing.

One more key evaluation is necessary before the court proceeds with Castile's case.

Because Castile entered a plea of "not guilty by reason of insanity," doctors must now determine if he was legally insane when he allegedly stabbed Athena, Erie County prosecutor Kevin Baxter said.

If they decide he was indeed legally insane at the time, Baxter said he'll likely ask for a 2nd opinion in the interest of being thorough.

At that point, Castile's legal proceedings will move forward, with the doctors' opinions included as evidence, Baxter said.

In the meantime, Castile will continue his stay at the Toledo psychiatric hospital.

At Wednesday's hearing, more than 1/2 the seats in the courtroom were filled by family of Castile and Athena. Some shed tears, while others could be heard saying "We love you Denzel" as he walked into the courtroom.

(source: Sandusky Register)


Division over death penalty; Ohio justice says he's not surprised

Divisions were to be expected on a panel that spent more than 2 years studying capital punishment in the state, the chief justice of the Ohio Supreme Court said as the group wraps up its work.

The panel convened in 2011 by Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor finalized its recommendations last week and now awaits a dissenting report from prosecutors on the committee who disagreed with some proposals.

"There was going to be some really divisive topics and going to be diametrically opposed positions," O'Connor told The Associated Press on Tuesday. "I'm not surprised. And I think it's healthy."

Recommendations include reducing the number of crimes eligible for the death penalty and creating a statewide board that would have the final say over death penalty charges in the state. Defense attorneys, judges, prosecutors and capital punishment experts sat on the committee.

Many recommendations focused on reducing the role that race plays in capital punishment. Data show in Ohio and other states the killers of white victims are more likely to receive a death sentence than those who kill blacks.

O'Connor, a Republican and former county prosecutor, has said the goal of the committee was a fair, impartial and balanced review of the state's 3-decade-old death penalty law. She made it clear from the start abolishing capital punishment was not on the table.

Implementing the panel's 56 recommendations would reserve the death penalty for the worst of the worst criminals as lawmakers envisioned when they enacted the 1981 law, according to supporters of the proposals.

Prosecutors said the recommendations would make it virtually impossible to sentence anyone to death in Ohio.

Many of the proposals would require lawmakers' support, while others could be approved as Supreme Court rules. O'Connor said she hopes lawmakers take a comprehensive approach to any recommendations they consider.


Ohio man given death sentence for 1983 slaying seeks mercy, says co-defendant was shooter

A man sentenced to death for a Cleveland produce vendor's 1983 slaying should be granted mercy partly because a second defendant repeatedly admitted being the shooter, defense attorneys argued in a clemency application Thursday.

Attorneys for Arthur Tyler also alleged that a jury was coerced into issuing a death sentence and that a prosecutor and some of Tyler's defense attorneys at trial had a conflict of interest.

"The unfairness in the proceedings has plagued this case for decades," the defense request to the state parole board says.

A spokesman for the Cuyahoga County prosecutor's office said the prosecutor had no comment Thursday but the office plans to file a statement next week with the board. The board makes a recommendation to the governor, who has the final say on whether to grant clemency.

Tyler, 54, is scheduled to be put to death May 28.

His attorneys contend in the clemency application that a 2nd man imprisoned in the case was responsible for the shooting and confessed to multiple people but falsely testified against Tyler in court.

Prosecutors blocked efforts to have the co-defendant present the true version of events under oath before a judge, the defense said. And the man was released from prison nearly six years ago, according to the clemency application.

Tyler's attorneys are arguing in a separate lawsuit that he has health problems that put him at risk of suffering during lethal injection. Tyler has a history of heart problems and diabetes and risk factors including high blood pressure, breathing difficulties and being overweight, according to the complaint filed in federal court in Columbus earlier this month.

The complaint argues that lethal injection drugs would amount to cruel and unusual punishment. The drugs are the only execution method under Ohio law.

(source for both: Associated Press)


Measure allowing use of electric chair for executions headed to governor

Tennessee could electrocute death row inmates if lethal injection drugs are unavailable under legislation that's headed for Republican Gov. Bill Haslam's desk.

The Senate voted 25-3 on Thursday to agree to changes to the legislation made by the House, which approved the measure 68-13 the day before.

The legislation keeps lethal injection as the preferred method for executions, but allows the electric chair if the state were unable to obtain the necessary drugs or if lethal injections were found unconstitutional.

And electrocutions would be allowed regardless of when the crime was committed.

Under Tennessee law, death row inmates could choose to be electrocuted if their crimes were committed before 1999, when lethal injection became the preferred method.

There are 76 inmates on Tennessee's death row, including 1 woman.

(source: Associated Press)


Darrow was 'attorney for the damned'

Clarence Seward Darrow once quipped, "I have suffered from being misunderstood, but I would have suffered a hell of a lot more if I had been understood."

For instance, in 1902, the warden of Cook County Jail in Chicago invited Darrow to address the inmates under his charge. His remarks reflected the iconoclastic views that made him one of America's most notable, and notorious, attorneys.

"I do not believe," he began, "there is any sort of distinction between the real moral conditions of the people in and out of jail. One is just as good as the other."

Acorn fell not far from the tree

Darrow was born on April 18, 1857, on his family's farm in Kinsman, Ohio. His father was an arch-abolitionist and outspoken religious free thinker who was called the "village infidel." His mother was active in support of women's suffrage and rights.

He attended but did not graduate from the University of Michigan Law School, and passed the Ohio bar in when he was 21.

Darrow worked in Democratic politics and as a Chicago city attorney, after which Illinois Gov. John Altgeld got him a job as corporate lawyer for the Chicago & Northwestern Railway Co.

For the defense

In 1894, Darrow abruptly quit the railroad and defended Eugene V. Debs, who was head of the American Railway Union and leader of the strike against the Pullman Co. The strike ended after 30 people were killed in riots. Though Darrow won a partial victory, Debs went to jail.

That year, he also defended Patrick Prendergast, the accused killer of Chicago Mayor Carter Harrison Sr. He lost, and Prendergast was hanged. He was the only one of Darrow's clients to be executed.

In 1911, Darrow represented the McNamara brothers, who bombed the Los Angeles Times building, killing 21 people, during a union fight against the newspaper. The brothers went to jail, and Darrow was charged with attempting to bribe jurors. He was acquitted of 1 charge and received a hung jury in the other. In exchange for avoiding another trial, Darrow agreed not to practice law in California.

Attorney for the damned

When his 1st murder case ended with his client's execution, Darrow became an ardent opponent of the death penalty, and gravitated to some of America's most heinous and controversial cases.

His most famous murder trial was his defense of the "thrill killers," Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb, who he successfully kept from execution.

Because of H.L. Mencken's coverage, Darrow's defense of Tennessee high school teacher John T. Scopes against charges of violating the Butler Act, which forbade teaching the theory of human evolution, is considered his most memorable. Darrow came out of retirement to face William Jennings Bryan in 1925. He lost; Scopes was fined $100.

'More poet than lawyer'

Darrow was more interested in people than justice, writing:

"I was dealing with life, with its fears, its aspirations and despairs. With me it was going to the foundation of motive and conduct and adjustments for human beings, instead of blindly talking hatred and vengeance and that subtle, indefinable quality that men call 'justice' and of which nothing really is known."

(source: The Tennessean)


Missouri bishops urge opposition to death penalty

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

The state of Missouri has executed 5 individuals in the last 5 months. This represents a dramatic escalation of executions taking place in our state.

As Catholic Bishops we have consistently opposed the use of the death penalty. This ultimate penalty promotes a culture of death and undermines respect for human life, the dignity of the human person, the conditions for the common good, and definitively removes from the offender the possibility of redeeming himself (Catechism of the Catholic Church, #2267).

At the same time we reiterate and affirm our support for, and solidarity with, the families and loved ones of murder victims. As we bear witness to the Gospel message of Christ, we call for a new response to violence that upholds the sacredness of all human life.

The canonization of John Paul II on April 27th, Divine Mercy Sunday, provides an opportunity for reflection on the death penalty and the need to take action to oppose it. Saint John Paul II, himself a victim of a serious shooting, was an outspoken opponent of the death penalty. In his historic visit to St. Louis in 1999, he called for "a consensus to end the death penalty, which is both cruel and unnecessary."

We urge you to let your lawmakers know of your opposition to the death penalty and to ask them to find other ways to impose punishment on offenders that does not resort to taking another's life and add to the use of violence as a solution to society's problems.

We invite you to be a visible witness against executions by participating in local vigils and prayer services. Follow the lead of Saint John Paul II by asking the governor to show mercy and spare the lives of those on death row. Contact the Missouri Catholic Conference, the public policy agency of the bishops of Missouri, for assistance in getting involved in these actions.

In this holy season of the year, let us acknowledge the sacredness of all human life and work to end the executions in our state.

(source: The Catholic Key)

OKLAHOMA----impending executions

Oklahoma Justices Send Execution Case To Lower Court

Clayton Lockett and Charles Warner have sued the state seeking more information about the drugs that would be used to kill them.

The Oklahoma Supreme Court says it is not the place for death-row inmates to go if they want a stay of execution.

Justices said Thursday that the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals should take up stay requests from 2 inmates scheduled to die in the next 2 weeks. The appeals court had said previously it didn't have the authority because the inmates hadn't met all technical requirements under the law.

Clayton Lockett and Charles Warner have sued the state seeking more information about the drugs that would be used to kill them. They say they need stays of execution so they can continue their challenge.

The justices wrote that the Court of Criminal Appeals erred in not taking up the request.

Death penalty abolitionists and others who seek to end the death penalty will protest the executions of two death-row inmates on the days of their executions.

The Oklahoma Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty will host "Don't Kill for Me" demonstrations at the governor's mansion followed by silent vigils on Tuesday for death-row inmate Clayton Lockett and on April 29 for Charles Warner.

The inmates have been in a legal battle with the state over the secrecy surrounding which drugs are used in executions and their origins. The executions are still scheduled to take place, despite pending litigation in the case.

Lockett was found guilty of the 1999 shooting death of a 19-year-old woman, Stephanie Nieman. Warner was convicted for the 1997 death of his roommate's 11-month-old daughter.

(source: Associated Press)


Nikko Jenkins: Parolee Guilty Of Killing 4, Said Demons Made Him Do It

Nikko Jenkins has been found guilty of killing 4 people after a trial in which he spoke in tongues and laughed as prosecutors recounted details of the slayings.

The Omaha man had originally pleaded guilty to the 4 seemingly random murders, but withdrew his plea after disagreeing with prosecutors' account of the killings. He then pleaded no contest, and a judge found him guilty this week.

Jenkins' murder spree took place after he was released from prison, where guards noted that he was incredibly violent and had homicidal tendencies.

In the trial that ended this week, he was found guilty of the August killings of Jorge Cajiga-Ruiz and Juan Uribe-Pena, who had been lured to a park on the pretense of having sex with 2 of Jenkins' female relatives. Both men were shot in the head.

Nikko Jenkins was also found guilty of killing a man described as his "little homie," Curtis Bradford. Jenkins lured him with the promise of a robbery, and then had his sister shoot the man. Jenkins then told her she didn't do it right and executed Jenkins himself.

The 4th murder victim was Andrea Kruger, a mother of 3 who was driving home from her job to tend to her sick child. Nikko Jenkins was with 3 relatives looking for an SUV to steal so they could rob people at a Lil Wayne concert, and pulled in front of her car.

Jenkins pulled the woman out of the driver's side and then shot her in the head, neck, and back.

But Nikko Jenkins argued with the assertion that she was killed during a robbery, arguing during the trial that he had pulled off several car jackings without hurting anyone. He said he would never kill unless his demon god, Ahpophis, commanded him to.

"Kill them, destroy them, attack them," he said during the trial. "I was alone. And weapons. And the demons and Ahpophis and Lucifer.

"They were attempting to kill me. So I killed them under orders of Ahpophis."

Nikko Jenkins will now move on to a death penalty hearing, which is likely to take place this summer.

(source: The Inquisitr)


Wife Breaks Down And Apologizes For Killing Husband With Hammer

The Arizona woman convicted of bludgeoning her husband to death with a hammer is making a tearful plea for mercy to the jury deciding whether she should live or die for the crime.

Marissa Devault broke down in tears and repeatedly lost her composure Thursday as she spoke to the jury in the penalty phase of her murder trial. She apologized to family members for the pain and suffering she has caused, and said several times that she is sorry.

Devault was convicted last week of 1st-degree murder for killing Dale Harrell, who suffered multiple skull fractures in the January 2009 attack in the couple's home in the Phoenix suburb of Gilbert.

Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.


Prosecutors Win Appeal in 1989 Son Killing Case

A retired detective who refused to take the stand again, asserting his right against self-incrimination, will be forced to testify at the retrial of an Arizona mother charged with having her son killed in 1989, the state Court of Appeals ruled Thursday.

"As citizens, each of us has a duty to testify in criminal proceedings in our courts when called upon to provide relevant information," the 3-judge panel wrote in its decision overturning a lower court judge's ruling that allowed the former officer to assert his Fifth Amendment right.

The ruling is a major victory for prosecutors who insist Debra Milke is guilty and are planning a 2015 retrial.

Authorities say Milke had 2 men shoot her 4-year-old son in the desert outside Phoenix. She was found guilty in 1990 and spent more than 2 decades on death row before a federal appeals court last year overturned her 1st-degree murder conviction. Milke has since been released on bond.

The original case against Milke rested largely on her purported confession, which now-retired Phoenix police Detective Armando Saldate did not record. That left jurors with his word alone that she told him about her involvement. Milke has maintained her innocence and denied she ever confessed.

In its ruling overturning Milke's conviction, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals cited the prosecution's failure to reveal evidence that could have called Saldate's credibility into question.

The court cited numerous instances in which he committed misconduct in previous cases, including lying under oath and violating suspects' rights - details that were not provided to Milke's defense lawyers during her trial. The federal appeals court also asked the Justice Department to investigate whether Saldate had committed civil rights violations.

Saldate, who has not returned repeated telephone calls from The Associated Press, claims that he fears potential federal charges if he testifies again based on the appeals court accusations of misconduct.

In December, Superior Court Judge Rosa Mroz granted Saldate's request to assert his Fifth Amendment right, allowing him to refuse to take the stand at Milke's retrial.

Prosecutors, however, argued before the state Court of Appeals last week that Saldate did not have the right to assert the Fifth Amendment because he has no reasonable fear of prosecution after both county and federal authorities informed him that they don't intend to seek charges based on any of the accusations leveled by the federal appeals court.

Saldate's attorney countered that authorities had offered no guarantees that he wouldn't face charges in the future based on his testimony at the retrial.

"Based on a review of the record before us, Saldate has not shown a real and appreciable risk of prosecution for such claims," the state Court of Appeals wrote in ordering that he may be compelled to testify against his will.

The ruling was crucial to the state's case against Milke because Judge Mroz had previously said that if Saldate didn't testify again, the purported confession likely couldn't be used at her retrial.

Saldate's attorney, Treasure Van Dreumel, didn't return a telephone message seeking comment on Thursday. Milke's attorneys also did not respond to a request for comment. Prosecutors declined to discuss the ruling.

However, on Wednesday, Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery said that if the court ruled in the state's favor, he expected Saldate's attorney to appeal to the state Supreme Court.

Milke's defense lawyers are still seeking dismissal of the entire case against her, noting in a previous motion that "the only direct evidence linking defendant to the crimes is the defendant's alleged confession to Saldate."

Milke, whose mother was a German who married a U.S. Air Force military policeman in Berlin in the 1960s, has drawn strong support from citizens of that nation and Switzerland, neither of which has the death penalty.

The 2 men convicted in the child's death did not testify against Milke and remain on death row.

(source for both: Associated Press)


Prosecutors seek death penalty in killing of 8-year-old girl

The Alameda County District Attorney's Office said Thursday that it will seek the death penalty for the man accused of fatally shooting an 8-year-old girl during a sleepover at an East Oakland home last July.

Prosecutor John Brouhard made the announcement at a brief hearing for 23-year-old Darnell Williams in Alameda County Superior Court today.

Williams' case marks the 1st time in many years that the Alameda County District Attorney's Office is seeking the death penalty.

Brouhard declined to say why his office is seeking the death penalty for Williams.

The last time the office sought the death penalty was for David Mills, who was convicted of murdering 3 people in a shooting in 2005 and killing a 4th person in a separate case in 1997.

Mills was convicted and sentenced to the death penalty in 2012.

Williams is accused of firing multiple shots into an apartment in the 3400 block of Wilson Street at about 11:15 p.m. last July 17, killing 8-year-old Alaysha Carradine and wounding 2 other children and a 63-year-old woman.

Prosecutors allege that the shooting was in retaliation for the shooting death of 26-year-old Jermaine Davis in the 1800 block of Derby Street in Berkeley about 4 hours earlier.

Davis was a close friend of Williams, according to Oakland police.

Antiowne York, 25, of Pittsburg, has been charged with murder for Davis' death.

In addition to the murder charge for Alaysha's death, Williams is also accused of murdering 22-year-old Anthony Medearis in the 1400 block of Eighth Street in Berkeley in an unrelated shooting at about 5:45 p.m. on Sept. 8, about seven weeks after Alaysha was killed.

Williams is also charged with three counts of attempted murder in connection with the shooting in which Alaysha was killed and the other three people were wounded.

In addition, he faces three special circumstance allegations: committing multiple murders, lying in wait in the shooting that claimed Alaysha's life and murdering Medearis during the course of an attempted robbery.

(source: KTVU news)


Inslee denies co-victims closure

Another Crime Victim's week has come and gone, and this is where we are. Violent crime victims are co-victims. We have grief, pain and suffering; many different degrees and length of time. Much depends on severity of the crime to their loved ones. The victim's death produces co-victims who never had the time to say goodbye, to say I love you, to say I am proud of you. This stays with each co-victim to different degrees. Many people cannot and do not understand.

The justice system can help bring some closure. This brings me to our state of Washington, which now has shut off the executions of the murderers. This is closure for many of the co-victims. The justice system already made a decision for execution, however, someone who is not a judge, not on a jury, not on an appeals court decided that co-victims are to be sentenced to additional grief, pain and suffering. How easy it was to dismiss the co-victims. Any closure that would be received is now denied in the state of Washington.

I have heard the stories first-hand. I have seen the tears. I have heard the tremble in the voice.

These co-victims have experienced years of trials, waiting for the verdict, appeals over years and some decades just to have justice for the senseless and cruel murder of their loved one. I believe it is not finished until the execution.

I can give Gov. Jay Inslee more insight to what I have seen, heard and lived.

Ken Paulson----Tacoma

(source: Letter to the Editor, The Herald)


Judge rejects most of defense's requests

A federal judge yesterday denied most of the defense team's discovery motions in the death penalty case against Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev but said he will consider allowing them to see statements made to the FBI by his older brother's now-deceased friend.

U.S. District Court Judge George A. O'Toole Jr. said the court would analyze statements Ibragim Todashev - a friend of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's dead brother Tamerlan - made to the FBI before he was killed by an agent last May to determine "what will be produced to the defendant and ... what the government seeks to withhold from production."

Tsarnaev's attorneys asked for a laundry list of evidence in two filings March 28. David Bruck, a death penalty expert on Tsarnaev's team, asked for memorandums stemming from FBI interviews with his client's family members, information on the Tsarnaev family's "alien files" and any evidence that showed the FBI reached out to Tamerlan Tsarnaev and asked him to be an informant.

Attorney Timothy G. Watkins made further requests in a separate motion, including information from the murder investigation of MIT police officer Sean Collier.

O'Toole denied those requests but left open the possibility that FBI interviews with Todashev, who allegedly implicated himself and Tamerlan Tsarnaev in a Sept. 11, 2011, triple murder in Waltham, could be released.

In his discovery motion, Bruck said those interviews could paint Tamerlan Tsarnaev as an "all-powerful force" over his younger brother.

(source: Boston Herald)


Appeals court affirms death sentence for drug trafficker

The Court of Appeal yesterday affirmed the decision of the Miri High Court meted on a former court interpreter who was sentenced to death for a drug trafficking charge.

Datuk Mohamd Ariff Md Yusof, Datuk Rohana Yusuf and Datuk Dr Hamid Sultan Abu Backer, who unanimously made the decision on Mervyn Chan, 30, ruled that the findings of the Miri High Court were correct.

Among others, they said the prosecution witnesses were reliable and thus had no reason to disturb the verdict.

Chan was convicted by a Miri High Court judge who found him guilty of trafficking 460grammes of methamphetamine. He committed the offence at 1.05pm on Jan 29, 2010 when he was arrested at the Miri Pos Laju office to collect parcels which contained the drugs.

Chan went to the Court of Appeal with the aim of reversing the death sentence after being convicted under Section 39B(1)(a) of the Dangerous Drugs Act 1952 which carries the mandatory death penalty.

He has another chance to appeal his case to the Federal Court. Chan was represented by counsels Janbir Singh and Orlando Chua while DPP Farah Exlin Yusof Khan prosecuted.

(source: The Borneo Post)


60 years since Dublin's last hanging ---- Opinion: How long will we have to wait for US to abolish executions?

Sunday marks the 60th anniversary of a gruesome but important event in Irish history, namely the final occasion that an English hangman came to Dublin to work the gallows at Mountjoy prison.

The last man in Ireland to feel Albert Pierrepoint place a noose around his neck was Michael Manning, a 25-year-old carter from Limerick. Manning had ambushed and suffocated Catherine Cooper, a nurse 40 years his senior. This was a brutal crime involving a vulnerable victim who had been badly beaten and sexually assaulted.

By Manning's own account he was making his way home after a day's drinking when he saw a woman he did not recognise walking alone. As he put it afterwards, "I suddenly lost my head and jumped on the woman and remember no more until the lights of a car shone on me." Manning took flight at this point but was arrested within hours.

He apologised for what he had done and blamed his appalling conduct on the effects of the large quantity of alcohol he had consumed. He also argued that while guilty, he was insane. The jury was not persuaded and convicted him of murder. In accordance with the law the judge imposed the death penalty.

Manning wrote to the minister for justice from his prison cell seeking mercy but his entreaties were to no avail. Similarly, a petition for clemency signed by members of the Cooper family failed to deflect justice from its dismal course.

Adding to the poignancy of the occasion, Manning's 22-year-old wife was heavily pregnant with their 1st child. She wrote to the governor of the prison the week after her husband's execution to thank him and his staff for their kindness, and to request a death certificate so she could claim her widow's pension.

Hang house

It appears that Manning bore his sentence well, passing his time smoking cigarettes and reading the Irish Independent . On the morning of his execution he attended Mass. The prison’s Catholic chaplains reported that he faced death with "fortitude and resignation".

Just before 8am on April 20th, 1954, Pierrepoint and his assistant entered the condemned man's cell and pinioned his wrists. Together they made the short journey to the hang house. Upon arrival Manning was positioned on the heavy oak trap doors. His legs were strapped, a linen cap was pulled over his head and the rope, made of Italian hemp, was fixed in place.

The officials stood aside, the trap doors were thrown open, and Manning fell to his death. Pierrepoint prided himself on his skill calculating the drop required to break a prisoner's neck swiftly. This calculation related the length of the rope to the prisoner's weight and physical condition. Having carried out several hundred hangings Pierrepoint had unrivalled expertise in this area. For Manning, death was instantaneous.

(source: Irish Times)


3 Juvenile Offenders Executed in Southern Iran----4 prisoners were hanged in the prison of Bandar Abbas. 3 of the prisoners were juvenile offenders. Execution of a 5th prisoner was interrupted 2 minutes after he was hanged and postponed.

4 prisoners were hanged in the prison of Bandar Abbas (Southern Iran) yesterday April 17. According to the group "Human Rights and Democracy activists in Iran" (HRDAI) 5 prisoners were transferred to solitary confinement on Wednesday April 17, for implementation of their death sentences.

4 of the prisoners were executed on Thursday morning. These prisoners were identified as: Zargham Jahangiri (27) been 5 years in prison; and 3 Juvenile offenders: Ahmad Rahimi (21) been in the prison since he was 17 year old (Juvenile offender); Ali Fouladi (22) been in the prison since he was 16 year old and Ali Sharifi (29) been in the prison since he was 14 year old.

Execution of a 5th prisoner was interrupted 2 minutes after being hanged and his execution was postponed. He is identified as Falak Nazmoradi (60) been 18 years in the prison. He is reported to be in a serious condition at the prison hospital.

Iran Human Rights (IHR) has confirmed this information through 2 independent sources.

Despite ratification of the UN convention on the rights of the child which bans death penalty for offences committed at under 18 years of age, Iran stays as the biggest executioner of juvenile offenders in the world. In 2013 at least 8 juvenile offenders were executed in Iran.

(source: Iran Human Rights)


Kurdish political prisoner executed by Iranian authorities

Kurdish political prisoner Simko Xursidi has been executed in the prison of Kirmasan.

He had been arrested in 2010. Xursidi is one of tens of prisoners awaiting executions in Iranian prisons.

Meanwhile, Kurdish political prisoner Hebibulla Letifi is still threatened with death row at central prison in Sine (Sanandaj). 27 year old Hebibulla Letifi, engineering student at the University of Ilam has been in Sine prison since 2007 after being accused of aiding PJAK (Free Life Party of Kurdistan). A revolutionary court imposed the death sentence on Letifi on 12 August 2008 and on October 2009 he was put in solitary confinement.

Following pleas from the Kurdish people and civil society organizations, the death sentence imposed on Hebibulla Letifi was postponed, but according to his lawyer, Salih Nikbext, the death sentence could be implemented at any time; he called on the international human rights organizations to step up their campaign to halt the execution.

The Iranian authorities informed Letifi's lawyers on the 14th of December 2010 that he would be executed. The decision was announced when then Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was in Istanbul attending an economic cooperation summit. KCK Executive Council Chair Murat Karayilan called on the Iranian authorities to halt the execution. After strong reactions from Kurds the death sentence was halted.

Now, after more than 6 1/2 years, despite promises of judicial authorities to abolish the death penalty, the Kurdish political prisoner remained under sentence of death in Sine Central Jail.

In the latest action by the international community against inhumane policies of Molla's regime, a few weeks ago, the European Parliament adopted a resolution against the Iranian government listed "In Iran still remains systematic violations of human rights and fundamental rights, and Iranian regime still refuse to cooperate with UN bodies on human rights and also Iran with denying entry visa to the United Nation Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Iran, has prevented from performing his duties".

According to report from Ahmed Shaheed, UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Iran: "The Iranian regime has executed more than 170 people in the first months of 2014".

According to a list compiled by ANF, at least 24 Kurdish political and civil activists are currently on death row in Iranian jails; Hebibulla Letifi, Sami Huseni, Cemal Mihemedi, Rustem Erkiya, Mistefa Selimi, Enwer Rostemi, Irec Mihemedi, Mihemed Emin Agusi, Ehmed Puladxani, Hesen Tale'i, Eziz Mihemedizade, Ebdulah Siruri, Resid Axkendi, Loqman Muradi, Zanyar Muradi, Bextiyar Mimari, Sirwan Nijwari, Hoseng Rezayi, Simko Xursidi, Mensur Arwend, Sirwan Nejad, Hebib Esrefi, Ali Esrefi, Ibrahim Isapur.

7 more Kurdish political prisoners are being held in Iranian prisons with an already issued death sentence. The names of these are; Behruz Alkani, Reza Molazadeh, Arman Pervizi, Muhammed Abdullahi, Sabir Mukled Muvaneh, Abdullah Sarvarian, Ali Ahmed Sileman.

(source: Firat News)


Iran killer's reprieve stokes campaign against executions

It is Wednesday, early in the morning. Balal is walking to the gallows to face execution in the city of Nour, in northern Iran.

It is before sunrise but hundreds of people have gathered near the prison to watch it.

His mother and sisters are crying hard, but blindfolded Balal cannot see them as he steps on the wooden stool.

Some in the crowd start shouting "forgive him, forgive him". They are asking the family of the victim to pardon him.

Balal stabbed Abdollah Hosseinzadeh to death 7 years ago in a street fight. He was 19 at the time, Abdollah was 17.

The guards put the rope around Balal's neck. Now he cries hard.

As the dramatic scenes - captured in photographs by onlookers - unfold, the mother of Abdollah goes towards Balal and slaps him in the face.

Then, in front of the surprised crowd, she takes the rope from around his neck. She has forgiven her son's killer, sparing his life. Now even the police officers start crying.

The mother says she had a dream that her deceased son had asked her not to take revenge.

According to Iran's sharia laws, murder and several other crimes are punishable by death. But the victim's family has the right to spare a convict's life in return for 'blood money'.

For months, many Iranian celebrities had taken part in a campaign to save Balal's life. They started collecting money to pay compensation to the relatives.

Adel Ferdosipour, a famous television sports presenter, raised the issue in his popular show just days before the execution.

He called on people to ask Abdollah Hosseinzadeh's parents to pardon Balal. One million people texted the show and supported the campaign.

Ghani Hosseinzadeh, Abdollah's father, used to be a football player and many Iranian footballers called him in person.

He and his wife finally agreed to forgive Balal. They said they would build a football school under their son's name using the compensation collected.

But not all the people on death row in Iran have been as lucky as Balal.

Behnoud Shojaee was executed in Evin prison in 2009 when he was 21, although many Iranian actresses and actors started a campaign to save his life.

Behnoud was found guilty of killing a boy when he was 17 and the family of the victim refused to pardon him.

Iran is said to have the 2nd highest number of executions of any country in the world.

Public execution is common as the government believes it sets an example.

Iranian lawyer Afrouz Maghzi blames the high number of executions on the legal concept of "qisas" - a law based on the principle of "an eye for an eye" that gives victims the right to retaliate.

"Iran's law gives the family of the victim this right to kill another person.

"Everyone has the right to life, and no citizen should be given this permission to take it from another person."

Widespread debate

After saving Balal's life, Iranian campaigners are hopeful they will be able to save more.

Attentions are now focused on the case of Reyhaneh Jabbari, who is currently on death row. She killed a man in 2007 and claims she acted in self-defence after a sexual assault.

Even Asghar Farhadi, the Oscar-winning Iranian director, asked the victim's family to forgive the 26-year-old woman in the name of "humanity".

In his letter, the director - whose titles include A Separation - said Reyhaneh had played a short role in one of his films when she was a child.

This week Ahmed Shaheed, the UN's Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran, urged the country to stop Reyhaneh's planned execution.

He also published a report on 13 March, which condemned the execution of juveniles in Iran as well as the use of capital punishment for offences that do not classify as serious crimes under international law.

Balal and Reyhaneh's cases have provoked widespread debate in the country - especially on social media - about the use of capital punishment.

Iranian journalist Siamak Bahari praised the pardon of Balal in his blog, describing society as more united and "ready to pose new challenges against the death penalty".

He called the campaign "a historic decision by society against a system that was born with a noose".

Tahmineh Milani, a renowned Iranian filmmaker, has for years been donating money from her movies to victims' families as blood money in order to spare killers.

She told BBC Persian she also believes campaigners' success in Balal's case can lead to a change in the law.

"People should take their influence seriously, as each signature can change the destiny of a person," she said.

(source: BBC News)


Belarus executes convicted murderer: rights group

Belarus has executed a man convicted of a gruesome double murder, a rights group said Friday, the latest case of capital punishment in the ex-Soviet country.

Pavel Selyun had been found guilty of murdering his wife and her lover in August 2012 after he found out they were having an affair.

He had decapitated the man and stuffed his body down a rubbish chute, but took his head with him as he fled town and still had it when he was arrested on a train.

Last year a court sentenced Selyun, 23, to death, a punishment that is usually carried out in secret by shooting in the back of the head.

The execution, the first of 2014, was apparently carried out in recent days, although Selyun's lawyer and family found out only on Friday.

"Today the mother of Pavel Selyun found out from the lawyer that the punishment had been carried out," rights group Viasna said in a statement. "The lawyer went to meet the defendant but was told by prison officials that Selyun 'had left in accordance with the sentence'."

"In other words, that means he was executed," it said.

Belarus is the only country in Europe to administer the death penalty.

Last September the Supreme Court confirmed the sentence in Selyun's case, however the defence filed a complaint over the decision and was awaiting a response when the execution took place.

(source: Global Post)


SP chief bahu wants death for rapists

Samajwadi Party president Mulayam Singh Yadav's younger daughter-in-law Aparna Bisht Yadav feels that rapists should be hanged to death. Her father-in-law, Mulayam Singh Yadav, had kicked up a controversy a few days ago when he said at a rally in Moradabad that, "Boys will be boys. They make mistakes (rape)."

In an interview to a news channel on Thursday, Aparna said, "Netaji (Mulayam) is right in saying that death penalty is being debated around the world. But, as a woman, my personal view is that if the accused has been found guilty of rape, he should be hanged."

Aparna also defended her father-in-law and said that his choice of words could have been inappropriate and his comments were taken out of context by the media.

"I think his comments were misinterpreted. Rape is a sensitive issue and his choice of words were probably wrong but if one reads his comments in entirety, the meaning is very clear," she said.

She explained that he probably implied that at times innocent people were also implicated in rape cases which should not happen.

Aparna further said that her father-in-law was a pro-women leader.

"He encouraged Dimple and me to enter politics. Netaji has even appointed a DIG level officer and an entire team for redressing grievances of women in UP. No other party has taken such an initiative for women," she said.

(source: The Asian Age)

APRIL 17, 2014:

TEXAS----impending execution

Texas again set to execute from crime committed at 18----see:

(source: Amnesty International USA)


'It does kind of burn,' Texas inmate Jose Villegas says as he gets lethal injection for murders of 3

A man convicted of fatally stabbing his ex-girlfriend, her young son and her mother 13 years ago at a home in Corpus Christi was executed by Texas prison officials Wednesday evening.

The lethal injection of Jose Villegas, 39, was carried out after his attorneys unsuccessfully argued to the U.S. Supreme Court that he was mentally impaired and ineligible for the death penalty.

"I would like to remind my children once again I love them," Villegas said when asked if he had a statement before being put to death. "Everything is OK. I love you all, and I love my children. I am at peace."

Just as the dose of pentobarbital began taking effect, he said, "It does kind of burn. Goodbye." He gasped several times, then began breathing quietly. Within less than a minute, all movement had stopped.

Villegas was pronounced dead at 7:04 p.m. CDT, 11 minutes after being given a lethal dose of pentobarbital. He became the seventh prisoner executed this year in the nation's most active death penalty state.

His lawyers filed a last-day appeal asking the Supreme Court to stop his punishment, saying testing in February showed he had an IQ of 59. The high court denied it several hours later.

The Supreme Court has prohibited execution of mentally impaired people, although states have been allowed to devise procedures to make their own determinations. Courts also have embraced scientific studies that consider a 70 IQ a threshold for impairment, and the high court justices are reviewing a Florida law stipulating that number for death penalty eligibility.

The Texas Attorney General's office disputed the IQ finding, saying previous examinations of Villegas showed no mental impairment and the number cited in his appeal was based on testing after he received an execution date and had no incentive to do well on the test. State attorneys also argued his lawyers had 10 years to raise impairment claims but didn't do so until days before his scheduled punishment.

Villegas was convicted of fatally stabbing Erida Salazar, 23, her 3-year-old son, Jacob, and Salazar's mother, Alma Perez, 51, in January 2001. Their bodies were discovered by Salazar's father when he returned home after being excused from jury duty. Each had been stabbed at least 19 times.

Villegas, a former cook, dishwasher and laborer, was free on bond for a sexual assault charge and was supposed to go on trial the day of the killings for an incident in which a woman said he punched her in the face.

Police spotted Villegas driving Salazar's stolen car and he led them on a chase that ended with him on foot and urging officers to shoot him. When arresting him, police found 3 bags of cocaine in his baseball cap.

Following his conviction for capital murder, Villegas was convicted of two counts of indecency with a child related to the daughter of the woman he was accused of punching in the face prior to the slayings. Relatives have said Salazar's mother had urged her daughter to break up with Villegas when she learned of the sex charges against him.

Villegas also had convictions for making terroristic threats to kill women, burglary and possessing inhalants.

Attorneys argued the slayings were not intentional and Villegas was mentally ill. A defense psychiatrist testified Villegas experienced "intermittent explosive disorder," a condition that led to uncontrollable rages.

Villegas became the 3rd Texas inmate executed with a new stock of pentobarbital from a provider corrections officials have refused to identify, citing the possibility of threats of violence against the supplier. The Supreme Court has upheld that stance.

(source: Associated Press)


Dallas Police Association responds to convicted cop killer's death penalty appeal

A federal appeals court is allowing the convicted killer of an off-duty Dallas police officer to move forward with an appeal that contends his trial attorneys failed to provide evidence of a troubled childhood that could have swayed jurors from sending him to death row.

Lawyers for Licho Escamilla argued to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that details of his abusive upbringing weren't disclosed until after his trial. If successful, the appeal could result in a new punishment trial for the 31-year-old Escamilla. He was condemned for the 2001 fatal shooting of Christopher James, who was working security at a Dallas club.

Escamilla's 2002 trial was marked by him throwing a pitcher of water toward the jury and hitting and kicking people as the judge read his sentence.

The Dallas Morning News reported in 2001 that Escamilla was wanted on an unrelated murder charge when he went to the Northwest Dallas club that night. James and another officer went to break up a fight when Escamilla opened fire on them.

James was struck in the upper arm, and he fell to the ground, unable to use his duty weapon. Escamilla, who was 19 at the time, then stood over James and shot him 3 times in the head.

James' widow Lori said in a 2011 interview with The Dallas Morning News that "our world as we knew it came to an end," that night.

James was a Dallas Police Association board member, and was the only sitting member to ever be killed in the line of duty.

In response to the appeal moving forward, current Dallas Police Association Vice President Frederick Frazier said: "We understand that every individual deserves their due process no matter what crime they have committed. But in the eyes of the DPA, (James) is a member who paid the ultimate sacrifice and saved lives. We stand by the jury and judges' original decision on this case, as well as the family of officer Christopher James, who have been waiting for justice and closure for all these years."

On a more personal note, Frazier added: "This was a true, hardened criminal. He doesn't deserve to share the same air we do. He was an animal in that courtroom, he was an animal in the street."

The Assist the Officer Foundation, which helps sick and wounded officers, set up an endowment fund in his name.

(source: Dallas Morning News)


Texas has been holding this man hostage for 12,600 days; This is what passes for justice in the Lone Star State

Last week, in a decision that contorted both law and fact, a state judge ruled against an illiterate, intellectually disabled black man named Jerry Hartfield.

Hartfield has been imprisoned for more than 33 years - without a valid conviction or sentence authorizing his confinement. In the latest decision, the judge ruled that even though state and local officials clearly were negligent in letting Hartfield slip through the cracks all these decades, there is nothing in the Constitution that provides him with any protection from being retried. Not the Sixth Amendment's guarantee of a speedy trial. Not the undisputed fact that key evidence in that long-ago trial - like the alleged murder weapon, for example - has disappeared. Not the fact that there is no proof that Hartfied, with an IQ testing far below standards for mental retardation, strategized to keep himself in prison for 30 years as a way of avoiding a retrial.

It's not just the third of a century of unlawful confinement that is egregious here. It's the fact that 10 months have passed since the state courts in Texas (after many years of prodding) first acknowledged the terrible mistake that was made in this case. Even this lesser period of delay is unconscionable. Jerry Hartfield, who first would have been eligible for parole in 2003 had Texas followed the law, should be free.


On June 30, 1977, Hartfield was convicted of capital murder and sentenced to death for killing a woman named Eunice Lowe. This verdict and death sentence were overturned on Sept. 17, 1980, because prosecutors had unconstitutionally precluded from the jury a woman who had reservations about the death penalty.

The typical remedy for such a violation would have been to grant the defendant a new trial. But Texas instead sought to defend the conviction and transform Hartfield's sentence from one of death to one of life. On March 4, 1983, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals formally vacated Hartfield's conviction. Eleven days later, on March 15, 1983, Gov. Mark White moved to commute Hartfield's sentence.

But then came a series of terrible, unforgivable miscommunications. The courts did not notify the governor's office or the members of the Board of Pardons and Parole that Hartfield's conviction and sentence had been vacated. Executive branch officials did not follow up on the purported commutation. Instead, public officials in the county where Hartfield had been tried notified the Court of Criminal Appeals that its mandate - to give him a new trial - had been carried out when in fact it had not. Hartfield was not told about this at the time. If his lawyer knew, he certainly didn't raise any immediate flags. There was no cross-check. The justice system simply broke.

From 1983 until 2008, Hartfield had no lawyer.

In 2006, Hartfield, with the help of other inmates, began to inquire into his legal status. It took him seven years from that point, and round upon round of legal wrangling by his new lawyers, to gain a measure of relief. Last June, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, the same one that had vacated his conviction and sentence in 1983, the same one that consistently rules against criminal defendants, acknowledged that he was wrongfully imprisoned and granted him the right to pursue his claim that his constitutional right to a speedy trial had been violated by Texas' failure to retry him after his initial conviction was overturned. This Hartfield promptly did.

Between that June ruling and last week, prosecutors and defense attorneys sparred over the meaning of the Sixth Amendment's right to counsel. Prosecutors immediately moved to retry Hartfield - even without the murder weapon and eyewitnesses - so they could use an old confession they coerced out of him. There was no evidence that the incarcerated man with an IQ of 51 actually wanted a new trial, prosecutors argued in their briefs. Worse, Texas argues, Hartfield committed a fraud on the court, deliberately keeping himself imprisoned so that one day, decades later, he could spring a speedy-trial argument upon an unsuspecting court. The argument isn't just facile. It's insulting.

But the judge bought it. Never mind the commutation of Hartfield's death sentence from Gov. White way back when. The decades-long delay in a retrial actually benefited Hartfield, Judge Estlinbaum concluded last week, because it is far less likely today that he will be sentenced to death than it would have been had he been retried in the 1980s. The judge reached this conclusion in the same ruling in which he acknowledged that Hartfield's ability to mount an effective defense has been diminished by the passage of time and the loss of witnesses and evidence. It's either one or the other - it cannot be both.

The Constitution did not require Jerry Hartfield, mentally retarded and unable to read, to jump up and down all those years and beg the state to retry him. There was no lawyer in his corner during the vast majority of that time to look after his rights. And Judge Craig Estlinbaum acknowledged that Texas had been negligent in its handling of this case. But you know what else this judge found? That "there is no evidence that Hartfield has suffered any anxiety relating to his pretrial detention." Now, tell me please, if you were locked in prison for 33 years without being convicted of a crime, would you suffer any anxiety?

This is yet another reminder of how thoroughly "the law" can create barriers to prevent constitutional rights from being enforced in a way that gives real meaning to their text. In Texas especially, judges have been allowed, encouraged even, to pile up one procedural technical hurdle after another, limiting the rights of criminal defendants. As Hartfield's lawyers repeatedly have said, if this intellectually disabled man who lingered so long under an unlawful detention cannot establish a viable speedy-trial-right claim under the Constitution, then who can?

Mistakes happen in our legal system. Judges make them and pardons officials make them and court clerks make them. Lawyers make them and prison officials make them and witnesses make them. But in this case, only 1 man has suffered as a result of all of the mistakes Texas made. We teach our children to take responsibility for their mistakes. But Judge Estlinbaum's deplorable ruling is another sign that Texas still is unwilling to accept responsibility for its mistake here, even if by doing so it means a man once convicted of murder spends only half his life in prison.

This is neither law nor justice. Either we have a right to a speedy trial or we don't. And if we do, surely it applies even if it means this man accused of murder goes free after 36 years of confinement. Enough is enough.

(source: The Week)


New Hampshire lawmakers fail to pass death penalty repeal

New Hampshire's Senate failed to repeal the death penalty on Thursday, in a vote that capped weeks of emotional debate while focusing attention on the state's lone death row inmate.

The Senate deadlocked 12 to 12 on a bill to abolish capital punishment, meaning it did not pass. New Hampshire's House had earlier passed the bill, and first-term Governor Maggie Hassan, a Democrat, had said she would sign it.

New Hampshire would have been the 19th state to scrap the death penalty under rising pressure from activists who contend that execution does not reduce crime and that innocent people are sometimes put to death.

Proponents argue the death penalty deters crime and provides relief for victims and their families.

The repeal would not have been retroactive. But the debate focused attention on Michael Addison, 33, who became New Hampshire's only death row inmate in 2008 for fatally shooting a policeman.

New Hampshire's top court in November dismissed an appeal by Addison's attorneys seeking a mistrial, but said it was still reviewing whether the death sentence was appropriate in his case. New Hampshire has not executed a prisoner since 1939.

A Gallup poll released in October showed 60 % of Americans favor capital punishment for convicted murderers, the lowest percentage since 1972, and down from a peak of 80 % in the mid-1990s. here

There have been 17 executions in the United States so far this year, according to the Death Penalty Information Center, which tracks capital punishment.

(source: Reuters)


New Hampshire won't repeal the death penalty

New Hampshire will keep the death penalty after all, despite coming very close to becoming the last state in New England to abolish capital punishment.

The New Hampshire State Senate voted Thursday to leave the death penalty intact; the final tally was a tie, according to the Associated Press, which means the repeal failed by a single vote.

It appeared, for a time, that the Granite State was close to repealing the death penalty. The state's House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed the repeal, while Gov. Maggie Hassan (D) has also said she supported the repeal. (New Hampshire has come close before: A death penalty repeal passed both chambers in 2000 but was vetoed by then-Gov. Jeanne Shaheen; another repeal in 2009 passed the state's house but never made it through the senate.)

The death penalty is on the decline in this country, with drops in the number of executions and the public support for capital punishment. Had New Hampshire abolished the death penalty, it would have become the 19th state in the country to ban the practice and the 7th state since 2007. (Connecticut abolished it in 2012, leaving New Hampshire as the lone state in New England that still has the death penalty.)

1 inmate sits on death row in New Hampshire: Michael Addison. He was convicted of fatally shooting a police officer in 2006 and sentenced to death.

(source: Washington Post)


Shafer facing death penalty in murder case

A Shenandoah County grand jury indicted Claude Delmus Shafer Jr. Wednesday on a charge of capital murder, the 2nd death penalty case to be filed in the county in the last year by Commonwealth's Attorney Amanda Wiseley.

"This is a death penalty case, you certainly are entitled to have attorneys representing you," Circuit Judge Dennis L. Hupp told Shafer.

Hupp appointed Edward Ungvarsky, a member of the Northern Virginia Capital Public Defender Unit, to serve with Public Defender Timothy Coyne as Shafer's co-counsel.

Authorities have accused Shafer, 35, formerly of 14447 Old Valley Pike, Edinburg, of robbing and killing Phyllis Kline, 65, of 14887 Old Valley Pike after entering her home near Edinburg on June 14.

Court records say 2 anonymous witnesses told members of the Sheriff's Office that they saw Shafer covered with blood on the day of the murder. One of the witnesses said Shafer was carrying a knife in his hand. The other witness told investigators of seeing Shafer breaking into Kline's house.

The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner later determined that Kline had died of stab wounds.

Shafer was initially charged with 1st-degree murder and robbery but Wiseley dropped the first-degree murder charge at a preliminary hearing. Prosecutors commonly will drop a charge against a defendant at a preliminary hearing in general district court and then revive the same case weeks later before a circuit court grand jury.

Hupp set Shafer's next court appearance for 2 p.m. May 7 before ordering him back to jail.

The death penalty case against Shafer follows a decision by Wiseley to also seek the death penalty against Nicole Miller, a Woodstock resident, who was arrested and charged around the same time as Shafer. Authorities attributed fatal injuries suffered by a 20-month old boy to Miller, who was caring for the victim at the time he was injured.

(source: NVDaily)


4 inmates who won reduced sentences under racial justice law seek to uphold the decisions

The North Carolina Supreme Court heard oral arguments on Monday in the cases of 4 death-row inmates who had their sentences reduced to life in prison under the state's now-repealed Racial Justice Act.

The North Carolina law, passed in 2009, allowed defendants to use statistics to help support claims that their death sentences were affected by racial bias.

The 1st person to win a reduced sentence under the law was Marcus Reymond Robinson, the New York Times reports. His case was part of a study finding that race was a substantial factor in prosecutors' peremptory challenges in 173 death penalty cases.

Robinson's lawyer, Donald Beskind, and a lawyer for the state, Danielle Elder, differed on the interpretation of the law in the oral arguments on Monday. The Times covered the arguments, along with the Associated Press and the Raleigh News & Observer.

Elder argued that the Robinson's lawyers had not shown evidence of specific or intentional racism. Elder said the judge who reduced Robinson's sentence interpreted the racial justice law "in such a way that a capital defendant can obtain relief even if that defendant has never personally experienced racial discrimination in his case at any point in the criminal justice process."

Beskind countered that the law didn't require the racism to be intentional or to be the sole reason for a death sentence. He told the court that prosecutors used challenges to eliminate 1/2 of the qualified black jurors for Robinson's trial.

The court also considered the cases of 3 other inmates whose death sentences were reduced to life in prison: Tilmon Golphin, Quintel Augustine, and Christina Walters. Their sentences were reduced based on the law as it was amended in 2012.

(source: ABA Journal)


Gwinnett DA seeks death penalty in triple homicide

The man accused of killing 3 people at a Gwinnett County home last year could face the death penalty if the district attorney gets his wish.

DA Danny Porter is seeking the death sentence for Robert Erik Bell, accused of shooting four people, based on "aggravated circumstances," according to a court document filed in Gwinnett County Superior Court. 3 people died in the Sept. 15 shooting and the 4th was seriously injured, according to police.

The killings were "outrageously or wantonly vile, horrible, or inhuman in that it involved torture, depravity of mind or an aggravated battery," the notice of intent to seek the death penalty states. Bell was charged with 3 counts of murder and 1 count of aggravated assault.

Bell, 34, had an assault rifle and was waiting for Angelina Benton, 34; Benton's 12-year-old son, Joseph McDonald; her 19-year-old godson, Raynard Daniel; and her boyfriend, Justin Cato, to return to Benton's home after a weekend trip, Gwinnett police previously said. Benton had recently opened up her Anderson-Livsey Road home to Bell, according to police.

The boy and teen were shot moments after walking through the door of the home, Cpl. Deon Washington with Gwinnett County police previously said. Benton was shot 4 times and didn't make it inside the home, instead collapsing in a neighbor's yard, police said. Cato was shot in the leg and survived his injuries.

"They were pretty much ambushed when they got home," Washington said.

Bell then allegedly ran away from the home and stole a pickup truck about a half-mile away, police have said. It was that truck that later led investigators to Bell, who eluded capture for more than a month.

On Oct. 2, the stolen truck was located in New Orleans, and 3 weeks later, Bell was found in a homeless shelter and arrested.

Bell fought his extradition to Georgia, but was returned Jan. 31 and booked into the Gwinnett County jail, where he remained Thursday morning without bond. Police have not released information about a possible motive in the shootings.

(source: Atlanta Journal-Constitution)


Gwinnett County DA to seek death penalty for accused triple murderer Bell

The District Attorney in Gwinnett County announced Wednesday he will seek the death penalty for Robert Bell. Bell is accused of killing a woman and her son and godson from Albany last September in Snellville.

The death penalty is exactly what accused triple murderer Robert Bell should get according to Tracy Benton.

"I don't feel that man had any conscious doing what he done, he didn't take any regard of his own life, let alone my family's life," Benton said. "He is a coward in my opinion, you know what I'm saying, by that, he gets what he deserve."

Angelina Benton, her 12 year old son, Joseph McDonald and Benton's godson, 19-year -old Raynord Daniel were gunned down at their home in Snellville on September 15th. Benton allowed Bell and his wife to stay with them when they fell on hard times. Tracy still can't believe it happened.

"It's just why questions because we have no clarifications. There will never be no closure because there is no understanding," Benton said. "She was always trying to put a smile on somebody's face, you know she always went out of her way to help somebody."

Her absence is felt with the family in Albany.

"You know, when you are used to being a unit, you know what I'm saying and then part of your unit is being snatched away from you," Benton said. "Its torture, living torture."

Bell was on the run for a month before being captured in Louisiana. He was extradited to Gwinnett County in February and indicted on 10 counts.

(source: WALB news)


Defense cries foul over prosecutor's motion in Athens death penalty case

Defense attorneys for a woman charged in the murder of a pregnant Athens convenience store clerk more than 3 years ago have accused prosecutors of violating a court order in the death-penalty case.

The attorneys claim in a motion recently filed in Clarke County Superior Court that the district attorney's office improperly commented about the contents of a letter from defendant Shameeka LaShae Watson that a judge had previously placed under seal.

The commentary was in a prosecution motion that requested permission to conduct a latent examination of the letter in order to authenticate that it had been written by Watson so that it could be used as evidence against her.

That motion refers to statements in the letter as being "admissible in a trial as an admission by (Watson)" in the 2010 fatal stabbing of KeJuan Charde Hall that also resulted in the death of Hall's unborn child.

"The letter was a communication initiated by the defendant, lacking any constitutional protection," the prosecution motion states.

The motion never quotes from the letter or describes its contents in detail.

Nonetheless, Watson's attorneys argue that just by characterizing the letter's contents the district attorney's office violated the judge's order that placed the letter under seal.

"The content of the state's motion of March 13, 2014, violates the agreement between the state and defendant and, more importantly, the order of the court regarding the document under seal," according to the defense motion signed by Athens attorneys Eric Eberhart and Elizabeth Grant.

A news story about the state's motion having revealed that Watson made admissions in the letter to the judge was published by the Athens Banner-Herald on March 19.

"Shameeka Watson is being subjected to due process harm from media attention and public commentary generated by the state's motion," the defense motion states.

Western Judicial Circuit Chief Judge David Sweat on Dec. 10 notified prosecuting and defense attorneys that he had received a letter from Watson and ordered that it be filed with the court clerk.

When the defense objected, the judge settled on a compromise that it be filed with the clerk under seal.

But by characterizing the letter's contents as an admission by Watson, Eberhart argues, prosecutors violated the judge's order and subjected themselves up to a possible contempt of court finding.

The defense attorney does not ask the judge to use his contempt powers, however, but that he "remedy the harm done by removing the document from the clerk's docket and barring its use in the case."

A hearing on the matter has been scheduled for April 28.

Watson faces murder, feticide, kidnapping and other charges along with her husband, Clarence McCord III. She was previously granted a request to be tried separately from McCord.

The defendants are accused of killing Hall on Dec. 30, 2010, as the victim clerked at the Golden Pantry at Timothy Road and Atlanta Highway.

An indictment states that Watson and McCord killed Hall by stabbing her 31 times with 2 different weapons.

The victim was 25 years old, a single mother of an 8-year-old daughter, and was 3 months pregnant. Athens-Clarke County police said they believe the motive behind the killing was robbery.

(source: Athens Banner-Herald)


Jury to consider death penalty for Birmingham woman after guilty verdict in 2011 slaying

A jury will be asked to consider whether to recommend Katrina Porter be put to death after convicting her this morning of capital murder in the 2011 brutal beating and shooting death of another woman.

The jury in Jefferson County Circuit Court Judge Laura Petro's courtroom began deliberations shortly after 4 p.m. Wednesday and returned at 9 a.m. today to continue. The jury had reached the verdict by 10 a.m. today.

Mike Blalock and Alaric May represent Porter. Deputy Jefferson County District Attorneys Joe Hicks and Julie McMakin are prosecuting the case.

McMakin said the sentencing phase will begin after a mitigation expert witness arrives from Tuscaloosa.

This is the 2nd time Katrina Porter, 32, has been tried on the charges. The judge in November declared a mistrial at the 1st trial.

2 others, Porter's husband, Alex Carter, and her brother, Kevin Porter also were charged with capital murder in the in the death of 51-year-old Barbara Freeman.

Kevin Porter, also was convicted last May in the case and sentenced to life in prison without parole.

Freeman was found brutally beaten and shot once in the back of the head inside her apartment in the 1200 block of 12th Court North shortly after midnight on Dec. 22, 2011.

A witness had testified at Kevin Porter's trial to seeing Katrina Porter beat Freeman as her brother held the woman prior to the shooting. Freeman's boyfriend broke up that first attack. But later neighbors say the three return followed by a gunshot from inside Freeman's apartment.



Miss. death row inmate challenges rape conviction

The Mississippi Supreme Court has set out a timetable for attorneys for a death row inmate to file briefs by late May supporting his appeal of a 1994 rape conviction.

In refusing to set an execution date for Charles Ray Crawford in March, the Supreme Court said it would resolve the appeal of prior rape conviction first.

That conviction was cited as an aggravating factor by prosecutors in justifying the death sentence Crawford received in 1994 for the slaying of a junior college student.

The Supreme Court filed an order Monday setting out the briefing scheduled. Prosecutors will have 30 days after Crawford's lawyers file his arguments to file a response.

If the Supreme Court upholds Crawford's conviction in the earlier case, Attorney General Jim Hood could again petition the court to set an execution date.

Crawford's attorneys have argued in court documents that if the rape conviction is reversed, the jury would have considered "an invalid aggravator in imposing the death sentence." They argued reversal would mean Crawford would have the right to have his death sentence thrown out and a new sentencing hearing scheduled in Tippah County.

Prosecutors have said a reversal of the earlier rape conviction would be a harmless error because of the abundance of evidence supporting the death penalty in the capital murder case. They said Crawford was also convicted of aggravated assault in the early trial, another aggravating factor used to justify the death penalty.

Few details of the prior rape and aggravated assault convictions are discussed in the earlier briefs in the death penalty case.

Crawford, now 43, was sentenced to death for the murder of Northeast Mississippi Community College student Kristy Ray in rural Tippah County.

In 1993, Crawford was out on bond awaiting trial on charges of aggravated assault and rape. 4 days before his trial, the 20-year-old Ray was abducted from her parents' home in Chalybeate. After his family and attorney notified police that they feared Crawford was committing another crime, he was arrested. Crawford told authorities he did not remember the incident but later led them to the body buried in leaves in a wooded area.

Crawford later was tried and convicted on the original charges in the rape and aggravated assault case and sentenced to 66 years in prison.

(source: Associated Press)


Death penalty update divisive; Crawford prosecutor says proposals would limit use

Divisions were to be expected on a panel that spent more than 2 years studying capital punishment in the state, the chief justice of the Ohio Supreme Court said as the group wraps up its work.

The panel convened in 2011 by Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor finalized its recommendations last week and now awaits a dissenting report from prosecutors on the committee who disagreed with some proposals.

"There was going to be some really divisive topics and going to be diametrically opposed positions," O'Connor told The Associated Press on Tuesday. "I'm not surprised. And I think it's healthy."

Recommendations include reducing the number of crimes eligible for the death penalty and creating a statewide board that would have the final say over death penalty charges in the state. Defense attorneys, judges, prosecutors and capital punishment experts sat on the committee.

Crawford County Prosecutor Matt Crall believes death penalty cases, and others, are best left in the hands of local officials.

"As the person who was elected to make those decisions, I think it's best when left to the people closest to the case," Crall said Wednesday.

The last death penalty case tried in Crawford County was Kevin Keith in 1994. Keith was convicted of killing 3 people in a Bucyrus apartment.

Then Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland reduced Keith's death sentence to life without parole in September 2010. He remains incarcerated in a northeast Ohio prison.

While the attorney general's office is helpful in dealing with cases, Crall said he agrees with Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O'Brien's assessment.

"With these rules, you couldn't execute Timothy McVeigh," O'Brien said, referring to the Oklahoma City bomber who was prosecuted and executed by the federal government.

Crall said the reason is that there was no DNA evidence presented in the McVeigh case.

The 22-member panel is looking at 56 recommendations, including banning execution of the mentally ill, setting up a statewide capital litigation fund, requiring DNA or videotape evidence for a murder conviction and reserving capital punishment for the "worst of the worst" crimes.

Many of the recommendations focused on reducing the role that race plays in capital punishment. Data show that in Ohio and other states the killers of white victims are more likely to receive a death sentence than those who kill blacks.

O'Connor, a Republican and former county prosecutor, has said the goal of the committee was a fair, impartial and balanced review of the state's 3-decade-old death penalty law. She made it clear from the start that abolishing capital punishment was not on the table.

Implementing the panel's recommendations would reserve the death penalty for the worst of the worst criminals as lawmakers envisioned when they enacted the 1981 law, according to supporters of the proposals.

Prosecutors say the recommendations would make it virtually impossible to sentence anyone to death in Ohio.

Many of the proposals would require lawmakers' support, while others could be approved as Supreme Court rules. O'Connor said she hopes lawmakers take a comprehensive approach to any recommendations they consider.

"The morals and opinions of our public should be upheld, and our public has said they're in favor of the death penalty," Crall said.

(source: Associated Press)


Ohio Supreme Court hears appeal of Ashford Thompson April 8 in murder of Officer Joshua Miktarian

--Appeal arguments from Ashford Thompson:

"The defendant's right to due process, equal protection, and freedom from cruel and unusual punishment is violated when the State excludes an African-American juror without providing a satisfactory race-neutral reason;" (2) "The defendant's rights to a fair trial, impartial jury, due process and freedom from cruel and unusual punishment are violated when the trial court refuses to allow counsel to question jurors who are hesitant about imposing the death penalty and applies the wrong standard in deciding whether to exclude jurors for cause;" (4) and

"Thompson's sentence of death is inappropriate. The circumstances of the offense, his good character, the love and support of his family, and the ability to successfully adjust to a prison sentence all favor a life sentence. Moreover, Thompson's death sentence is not proportionate when compared to other similar offenses." (17)

[source: Ohio Supreme Court]

The Ohio Supreme Court heard an appeal April 8 from convicted murderer Ashford Lamar Thompson in the July 13, 2008, killing of Twinsburg Police Officer Joshua Miktarian, and much of the hour-long deliberations focused on whether Thompson acted under duress that night.

Thompson, 28, remains on death row at the Chillicothe Correctional Institution, more than 5 1/2 years after shooting and killing Miktarian, 33, following a late-night traffic stop at Thompson's Glenwood Drive home. An execution date has not yet been set.

The capital case was stayed by the state trial court Aug. 23, 2013, to await a decision by the Ohio Supreme Court, which heard Thompson appeal of his death sentence at the Moyer Justice Center Columbus. Thompson filed the appeal July 26, 2011.

Defense attorney Rachel Troutman argued that Thompson had no other convictions for violent crimes - rather, he was a home health-care nurse and religious man who did not set out to murder anyone.

Thompson was afraid that the officer and a dog in the police car were going to harm him and panicked, Troutman said.

"Ashford Thompson made a very bad judgment call on July 13, 2008," she said. "... This was not a man who had been convicted of anything violent. He was deeply religious and he was young... He did not set out to kill someone that night."

She added later, "Who he was, the good person inside him, and everything he did before that horrible decision, makes him worthy of a life sentence."

Troutman also questioned the role of Thompson's race in the incident.

"Ashford Thompson was a 23-year-old black male, and he killed a white police officer," she said. "The thoughts that he had in his mind were because of the experiences that he has had. He was pulled over for a noise ordinance violation and ended up on the hood of a car with a handcuff on his wrist."

But Summit County assistant prosecutor Richard Kasay, representing the state, said justices must also weigh threatening statements Thompson allegedly made at a bar earlier the night of the crime.

"There was testimony... at 11:30 [p.m.] he's sitting at a bar drunk and makes a statement, I will kill if some m-f'er threatens me," Kasay said.

"So this is his state of mind going into the ensuing hours."

He added later, "The argument is that this is a law-abiding, religious, mild-mannered nurse. And maybe before this night he was, but... there's evidence that what was going on in Mr. Thompson's psyche was not what others perceived...."

Supreme Court justices questioned both attorneys about the duress issue.

"There's no question there was a struggle," said Justice William O'Neill. "There's no question that the police officer was threatening him with both weapons and a dog. And I'm just wondering how do we get past the subjective statement by the defendant that he thought the cop was taking him and he was in fear for his life?"

Kasay offered, "This court has defined duress in the context of the mitigating circumstance as something that a defendant is compelled or forced to do. So let's ask ourselves: What forced Ashford Thompson to shoot Officer Miktarian 4 times in the head?"

A ruling on the appeal could take weeks, according to the Ohio Supreme Court Clerk of Courts office.

Public defenders Kimberly Rigby and Robert Barnhart, also representing Thompson during the capital appeals process, cite 18 errors at the common pleas level in the appeal.

Errors cited include violations of Thompson's due process by improperly excluding an African-American jurist during voir dire; a tainted jury pool due to outside-the-courtroom discussions of Thompson's initial guilty plea; various other violations of Thompson's due process, including excessive pre-trial publicity; and violations of his freedom from cruel and unusual punishment.

The state filed a response brief Dec. 12, 2011, summarily rejecting each of the 18 counts and concluding that the death penalty, among others, must be affirmed by the high court.

Thompson was found guilty by a Summit County jury June 11, 2010, of 2 counts of aggravated murder, 1 count of escape, 2 counts of resisting arrest, 3 counts of tampering with evidence and 1 count of carrying a concealed weapon in the murder of the 11-year Twinsburg officer. The death sentence was handed down by Summit County Court of Common Pleas Judge Elinore Marsh Stormer June 23, 2010, and Thompson has been incarcerated in Chillicothe since June 25, 2010.

Miktarian, a 1993 graduate of Tallmadge High School, was shot 4 times in the head at close range in the driveway of Thompson's former Glenwood Drive home after stopping Thompson for loud music and suspicion of drunken driving just before 2 a.m. July 13, 2008.

Thompson, an LPN who possessed a concealed carry permit at the time, was arrested less than an hour later at a Bedford Heights residence (following a struggle with police) with a set of Miktarian's handcuffs still attached to one of his wrists.

Miktarian was the 1st Twinsburg Police Department officer to be killed in the line of duty.

(source: The News-Leader)


Wilks has outburst after found guilty of aggravated murder

The jurors who convicted Willie Gene Wilks Jr. in a murder case will return to the Mahoning County Courthouse later this month to decide whether he lives or dies.

A jury of 9 women and 3 men convicted Wilks on Tuesday of all charges and of death and firearm specifications after 5 hours of deliberations.

The jurors now must return for the penalty- determination phase, tentatively scheduled to begin April 28, during which Wilks' defense lawyers will present evidence as to why they should spare his life.

Wilks, 42, of Elm Street, was convicted of killing Ororo Wilkins, 20, and felonious assault and attempted aggravated murder in the shooting of Alex Morales, 25, who survived being shot in the back.

Wilkins died instantly of a gunshot wound to the head.

Both were shot on the porch of a Park Avenue residence May 21, 2013.

Wilks was arrested the day after the shooting when he was seen driving a van belonging to Wilkins' mother.

When the shooting occurred, Morales was holding a baby and Wilkins was reaching for the baby. The 5-month-old fell to the ground but was not hurt.

Wilks also was charged with attempted aggravated murder for firing a shot at Wilkins" brother, Willie Wilkins, who was upstairs in the home when police say Wilks appeared with an AK-47 assault rifle. That shot missed Willie Wilkins.

Wilks was dating Wilkins' mother.

Rebecca Doherty, chief of the criminal division of the county prosecutor's office, said in her opening statement last Wednesday the shooting stemmed from a dispute with Willie Wilkins, who was upset his mother couldn't withdraw money from a bank because Wilks had all her bank cards.

"I feel like it was justice," Morales said after the jury rendered its verdicts. "It was a stupid act. It could have been handled differently. Somebody like that just needs to be in jail."

"It's all in God's hands," said Ororo Wilkins' grandmother, Hattie Wilkins of Youngstown, adding that she considers the verdicts just. "God's will will be done," she said.

"I'd like to see him die just like he killed my granddaughter," she said of Wilks.

Hattie Wilkins also lost another granddaughter, Maressia Patterson, 17, who died in a May 26, 2007, drive-by shooting on Ford Avenue. "I'm living through it again," she said.

In March 2009, Judge Lou A. D'Apolito sentenced Deon Glenn to 35 years to life in prison after a jury convicted Glenn in that murder.

Wilks faces the death penalty in the Wilkins' murder because he was charged with killing 1 person while trying to kill 2 or more people.

When Judge D'Apolito, of Mahoning County Common Pleas Court, read the guilty verdict on the aggravated-murder charge, Wilks slammed his fist on the defense table.

After he was escorted out of the courtroom in handcuffs by sheriff's deputies, Wilks yelled, "I didn't do anything!" and kicked a hole in the wall next to the prisoner elevator.

The jury deliberated 3 hours Monday before being sequestered in a local hotel overnight and resuming deliberations Tuesday morning.

Defense lawyer Ron Yarwood declined to comment on the guilty verdicts.

Doherty declined to comment because the penalty phase of the case is still forthcoming.


Ohio AG: Danny Lee Hill has no valid claim to seek new trial

The Ohio Attorney General's office says the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals should deny a request for hiring attorneys to argue that Warren murderer Danny Lee Hill should get a new trial for the 1985 torture and mutilation killing of 12-year-old Raymond Fife.

The grounds for the request relate to evidence presented at Hill’s trial as to whether bite marks on Fife's genitals were made by Hill.

The March 31 request by Hill's attorneys was filed under seal, meaning the public cannot see it, but the April 10 response from the Ohio Attorney General's office is accessible to the public.

It argues that no valid claim relating to bite-mark evidence would give the circuit court reason to allow lawyers to be hired to seek a new trial.

The attorney general's office says any suggestion by Hill's attorneys that it has any newly discovered evidence relating to bite marks is a "gross distortion of the role the bite-mark evidence played at his trial."

First, Fife died of heart and lung failure as a result of the injuries he suffered at the hands of Hill and Timothy Combs, including asphyxiation and multiple trauma, the filing says.

Any new bite-mark evidence "would not absolve [Hill] of murder," the filing says, noting the other types of lethal trauma the boy suffered.

The attorney general's office cites an Ohio Supreme Court summary of the trial that says a state-hired bite expert testified that Hill is the person whose bite marks were on Fife's body.

It recounts that a defense-hired bite expert testified that it was inconclusive whether Hill's teeth caused the bite marks.

"What I'm saying is either Hill or Combs, or both, could have left some of the marks," said Dr. Lowell Levine. But he added that at least 1 bite mark was "most likely" left by Hill.

Allowing testimony by a new expert regarding bite marks 28 years after Hill's initial trial in Trumbull County would be "nothing more than a new opinion on an old topic, which does not amount to 'newly discovered evidence,'" the attorney general's filing says.

Ohio law allows a new trial for "consideration only of facts which were in existence at the time of trial, not opinions, which can be formulated at any time," the filing says.

Hill, 47, was sentenced to death in 1986 after a trial in Trumbull County Common Pleas Court. Combs is serving a life sentence and was not eligible for the death penalty because he was a juvenile at the time of the crime.

(source for both: Youngstown Vindicator)


Tenn. House passes bill to allow electric chair

Tennessee could electrocute death row inmates if lethal injection drugs are unavailable, under legislation what won approval Wednesday in the state House.

The chamber voted 68-13 for the measure sponsored by Rep. Dennis Powers of Jacksboro, but the Senate would have to agree to changes to the bill before it can head for Republican Gov. Bill Haslam's desk.

The bill would keep lethal injection as the preferred method for executions, but would allow the electric chair if the state were unable to obtain the necessary drugs or if lethal injections were found unconstitutional.

Tennessee's lethal injection protocol uses a sedative commonly used to euthanize animals, but states are exhausting supplies.

Democratic Rep. Johnny Shaw of Bolivar said he could not support the bill because he opposes the death penalty on religious grounds.

"I believe in the law and allowing the law of God to punish a man for his sins," Shaw said. "But it is not for me to say I should throw that rock to administer death to him, because life and death is not in my hands."

Powers responded that he had theological reasons for sponsoring the bill.

"I agree with you, it's not our job to judge, that's God's job to judge," Powers said. "Our job is to arrange the meeting."

Rep. Curry Todd, R-Collierville, spoke in support of Powers' bill, arguing that it was "a more humane way" of conducting executions.

"Some of the states now still have hangings and firing squads," he said. "I'd be in support of that, too."

The Senate approved its version on a 23-3 vote last week.

Under Tennessee law, death row inmates could choose to be electrocuted if their crimes were committed before 1999, when lethal injection became the preferred method.

There are 76 inmates on Tennessee's death row, including 1 woman. The state has not executed a prisoner since 2009. Tennessee last electrocuted a prisoner in 2007.

(source: Associated Press)


Death row inmate sentenced to 65 years in 2nd killing

Judge Susan Orth accepted William Clyde Gibson guilty plea and sentenced him to 65 years in prison nearly a month after he pleaded guilty to killing Karen Hodella.

Hodella disappeared in 2002 and her body later washed up on the shores of the Ohio River in early 2003, but Gibson wasn't charged in the case until 2012 when he was arrested in the murder and mutilation of his mother's friend, Christine Whitis.

During the interrogation, police said he admitted to the Hodella case.

Gibson was sentenced to death in the Whitis case last year and prosecutors said they will seek the death penalty when he goes to trial in the illing of a third woman, Stephanie Kirk, this summer. Investigators found Kirk's body buried in Gibson's yard in 2012.

Gibson had nothing to say before the sentencing.

During his previous death sentence in the Whitiscase, Gibson spoke against his attorney's wishes.

Hodella's family members were not in the courtroom Thursday. They live in Florida, her mother is ill and they couldn't financially make the trip work, but prosecutor Keith Henderson said they are in agreement with Gibson's sentencing.

At Gibson's plea hearing he showed up with a tattoo on the back of his shaved head that said Death Row X3.

The judge ordered Gibson not to cut hair so the tattoo will be covered up by the time he goes to trial this summer for Kirk's slaying.

Gibson's hair has begun to grow in over the tattoo and was not as prominent as last time but can still be seen.

Gibson's trial in Kirk's slaying is set to begin in June.

Jurors for that case will come from Vanderburgh County because of the amount of media associated with the case. The jury came from Dearborn County in the Whitis trial.

(source: WLKY news)


Nebraska man could face execution after conviction in 4 killings

A Nebraska man was convicted on Wednesday of killing 4 people during a 10-day murder spree last summer within days of his release from prison and could face the death penalty in a state that has not carried out an execution since 1997.

Nikko Jenkins, 27, was found guilty of 1st-degree murder, use of a weapon to commit a felony and felon in possession of a weapon in each of the 4 killings by Douglas County District Court Judge Peter Bataillon, court officials said.

Jenkins had pleaded no contest during a court hearing in Omaha to the charges that he killed Jorge Cajiga-Ruiz and Juan Uribe-Pena on August 11, Curtis Bradford on August 19, and Andrea Kruger on August 21.

Jenkins was released from prison on July 30 after serving 10 years for robbery, use of a deadly weapon to commit a felony and assault, according to online prison records.

A sentencing date has not been set. A 3-judge panel will be selected to determine whether Jenkins is eligible for the death penalty, according to state statute.

Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine has said he likely would seek the death penalty for Jenkins. Republican Governor Dave Heineman expressed support for that position in September.

Nebraska has put 3 people to death since the U.S. Supreme Court upheld capital punishment in 1976, the last in 1997, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

(source: Reuters)


Death penalty abolitionists to protest executions

Death penalty abolitionists and others who seek to end the death penalty will protest the executions of 2 death-row inmates on the days of their executions.

The Oklahoma Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty will host "Don't Kill for Me" demonstrations at the governor's mansion followed by silent vigils on Tuesday for death-row inmate Clayton Lockett and on April 29 for Charles Warner.

The inmates have been in a legal battle with the state over the secrecy surrounding which drugs are used in executions and their origins. The executions are still scheduled to take place, despite pending litigation in the case.

Lockett was found guilty of the 1999 shooting death of a 19-year-old woman, Stephanie Nieman. Warner was convicted for the 1997 death of his roommate's 11-month-old daughter.

(source: Associated Press)


Throwback Tulsa: Executioners first used 'Old Sparky' in 1915

With 2 jolts of electricity, Oklahoma in 1915 executed its 1st man condemned to die by electrocution.

Oklahoma's method of execution has been in the headlines again recently. State officials say they have obtained from a manufacturer the drugs necessary for 2 executions scheduled for this month.

State law allows electrocution if lethal injection is found unconstitutional, and the use of a firing squad if the electric chair is banned.

Also known as "Old Sparky," the electric chair was used to execute 82 condemned inmates from 1915 to 1966. The relic remains at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester.

The last inmate to die in Oklahoma's electric chair was killer James D. French, but do you know who was 1st?

He was Henry Bookman, a 28-year-old black man who was convicted of killing a white McIntosh County farmer on April 2, 1915. Bookman said he acted in self-defense but there was scant evidence of his motive for the brutal crime.

Justice was swift in 1915. Within 2 months of his arrest, Bookman was convicted and sentenced to death by electrocution. After 2 delays, he was executed on Dec. 10, 1915.

In the days before the sentence was to be carried out, the World reported that McAlester prison officials thought Bookman was pretending to be insane.

"...He heeds no remarks addressed to him but keeps in a continuous death chant which in its weird execution grates on the nerves." However, "prison officials are loath to admit that (Bookman) is crazy," the newspaper reported.

Bookman asked the prison orchestra to play "Mama Don't Know Where I'm At" 2 days before the execution, the World reported on Dec. 9. One of his final requests was for his body to be sent to his mother in Chico, Texas.

Following the execution, the World reported that prison officials waited 4 days for word from Bookman's family. Receiving none, they buried him in a pauper's grave at the penitentiary. The story said no funeral was held, but black convicts were planning a memorial service the following Sunday.

The story reported that Bookman was the 7th person legally executed since statehood (and 6 of the 7 were black). Also, 22 others had been hanged by mobs.

The account of his execution, as reported in the Tulsa World, is both grotesque and poignant. And some of the language wouldn't be used today.

Here's the story:


Asks to see daylight once more.

Special to the World

M'ALESTER, Dec. 9. - Bookman this evening made 2 requests of Warden R. W. Dick when the warden called at his cell. One was that he be permitted to see daylight once more; the other that his body be sent to his mother in Chico, Texas. He asked the prison storekeeper for a black suit in which to die, but finding that there was nothing nearer solid black than a blue serge, he selected a novelty suit of blue and brown.


(Special Correspondent)

M'ALESTER, Dec. 10 - At 12:42 o'clock this morning a silent signal was given, a hidden hand behind a drawn curtain pulled a lever in the switchboard and 2,500 volts of electricity shot through the form of Henry Bookman, the McIntosh County negro who was sentenced to death for the murder of Rich Hardin, a white farmer, April 2 last.

At 12:45 the prison physician pronounced Bookman dead and Oklahoma's 1st victim of electrocution had passed into eternity. 2 shocks from the electric switchboard were required to complete the electrocution. After a 1st application of ten seconds Bookman still showed signs of life. His eyes slowly opened, the pupils rolled in their sockets and the tongue protruded through the gaping insertion in the death mask. A second shock of 17 seconds and Bookman's body was lying limp in the chair.

Under the shock of the electric current, Bookman's body stiffened suddenly, gripped hard as if holding onto life, then relaxed. The seeming gripping was repeated at the beginning of the 2nd shock then the whole form collapsed.

Bookman's body will be held by a local undertaker until word is received from his mother in Chico, Texas. If she wants it, it will be shipped, if not, buried in the Potters field. Sixty-eight witnessed the electrocution.

E.H. Hardin and Daley Hardin of Fame, Okla., McIntosh County, sons of Bookman's victim, accompanied by 7 farmer boys from near Fame arrived late tonight to attend the electrocution.

Daley Hardin with 4 other boys from Fame were refused admission to witness the electrocution because they are under age.

"Die like a man"

A half hour before the time set for the electrocution, a corps of 6 newspaper men were permitted to visit Bookman in his death cell. "I'm ready," he said. "I'm goin' to walk right in and walk right through it like a man. Ain't that the way to do it?"

When the bars of the death cell sprung open, however, Bookman's legs were wobbly, he walked steadfastly into the death chamber, slowly mumbling a prayer, but the prison chaplain, A.B. Johnson, and Night Sergeant Charles Campbell had to sustain him on both sides. 2 seconds later he was strapped into the chair.

"Be good, boys," Bookman said to the crowd as the straps began to tighten about him. Then he dropped into a mumbling prayer of "Oh, Lord, have mercy on my soul," the sound slowly dying out until only his lips moved in prayer.

Sings for reporters

An old-time negro melody, "I am Going to Meet My Jesus Over There," he told the newspaper men, was his favorite song. He sung 1 stanza and chorus in a quavering and plaintive voice, then stood in his cell and, reaching through the bars, shook hands with the entire bunch of visitors. ...

Bookman has taken special delight in the music of the prison orchestra since Wednesday afternoon. Negro convicts played sacred hymns Wednesday afternoon, again this morning while attendants were shaving his head and calves of his legs, then again this afternoon and tonight up until he made a 2nd attempt to commit suicide, this time by swallowing the chain of the toilet in his cell. Attendants rushed in and stopped him. ...

The electrocution of Bookman not only marks the beginning of the use of the electric chair as a means of inflicting the death penalty in Oklahoma, but also marks the revival of capital punishment as a penalty for crime. Capital punishment has never been removed from the statute books of Oklahoma, but, because of Governor Lee Cruce's objections to its use, the death penalty has been totally abandoned during the last 4 years.

23 persons were sentenced to die during the administration of Governor Cruce, but only 1 of them was executed. That was at the beginning of the Cruce administration, before he had announced his definite policy of opposition, when Frank Henson, a negro, was hanged at Tulsa for the murder of Charles Stumper at Dawson. The punishment of the other 22 was commuted to life imprisonment.

No motive for crime

No motive for the killing of Rich Hardin, for which Bookman was sentenced to be electrocuted, has ever been discovered, although the testimony in Bookman's trial at Eufaula indicated that it was a premeditated and unusually brutal assault.

Bookman himself, testifying in his own defense, declared that Hardin had threatened his life, that the white man had attempted to kill him when their final trouble began and that, as a means of protecting himself, he had wrested a shotgun from Hardin's hands and used it upon his assailant.

The killing occurred at the home of George Booth, a negro farmer for whom Bookman was working. According to the story of Lizzie Booth, George Booth's wife, Hardin had come to their house for the purpose of buying an old buggy wheel with which to replace one that had broken down. Both Booth and Bookman were in the field at the time. Within a few minutes after Hardin arrived, Bookman appeared at the door, explaining that he was sick and wanted the negro woman to prepare him some medicine. She went into the next room to get the medicine but before she crossed the room she heard 2 shots in quick succession.

Brutal attack

When she left the room Hardin was sitting just inside the door and Bookman was standing in the doorway, above which a double-barreled shotgun was resting. When she ran back to the door both men were standing and Bookman was beating Hardin over the head with the shotgun and Hardin, with hands uplifted, was attempting to ward off the blows. The negress cried to Bookman to stop his attack, but failing to gain his attention, she ran out into the yard, crying for help.

Hardin emerged from the front door a moment later, ran 10 or 15 steps, then fell to the ground face downward. Bookman, following, struck the white man several times over the head after he had fallen.

After the killing Bookman attempted to leave, but the negro woman, with the aid of her husband, who arrived soon afterward, forced him to remain.

Mob went after him

The killing occurred in the afternoon of April 2 this year. On the night of April 3 a mob of farmers went to Eufaula, where Bookman was confined in jail, intent upon lynching the black man. The McIntosh county sheriff spirited his prisoner away, however, and brought him to the state penitentiary for safekeeping. To prevent further attempts of mob violence, District Judge R.W. Higgins made a special setting of the case for May 21. On the 29th of that month a jury in the district court returned a verdict of murder, fixing Bookman's penalty at death in the electric chair.

Judge Higgins 1st set the date of the electrocution on August 6, but, pending the action of the state court of criminal appeals, to which appeal had been taken, the date was extended to October 6. A further stay of execution was granted at that time, since the court hadn't yet acted upon the case, and when the judgment of the trial court was affirmed October 11 the date of execution was finally fixed as December 10. Friday of last week Gov. R.L. Williams announced that he would not interfere with the mandates of the state court.

7 since statehood

With the electrocution of Bookman, the number of persons who have been legally executed since statehood is raised to 7. The 5 who were executed during Governor Haskell's administration were: --Frank Ford, a negro, executed at Frederick for the murder of his wife;

--John Hopkins, a white man, who killed his sweetheart, Lena Craig, near Miami;

--Will Johnson, negro, twice convicted of the murder of Mary Cuppy, an aged white woman;

--Alf Hunter, negro, who was hanged in Blaine County for the murder of Sheriff George W. Garrison of Oklahoma County; and

John Black, a negro, who was executed at Holdenville for the murder of J.M. Stephens.

22 have been hanged since statehood by mobs.

(source: Tulsa World)


Death Penalty Debate: End Executions or Expedite Process?

Catina Salarno knew her killer well. They lived across the street from each other in San Francisco and dated throughout high school. When she broke up with him the summer before college started she thought she'd have a fresh start at the University of the Pacific in Stockton. But on the 1st day of classes Steven John Burns was there. He'd enrolled without telling her, and now - after growing increasingly aggressive - he said he just wanted one last conversation to hash things out.

"He kept calling her to meet just 1 more time to say goodbye and then he would leave the school," says Harriet Salarno, Catina's mother.

The conversation didn't go the way Burns had hoped. As Catina walked away he pulled out a gun he'd stolen from her father - his own godfather - and executed her. He then left Catina to die as he went back to his dorm to watch football.

That was 35 years ago, but Harriet Salarno has not forgotten.

"He's a true sociopath," she says. "If they don't get their way they destroy."

Catina's murder was the 1st trauma the Salarnos faced. The 2nd was the "horrible" trial, in which the family was not even allowed into the courtroom. "After going through the criminal justice system I soon found out that the justice system is not for the victims," Harriet says. "It's for the perpetrator."

In her grief, Salarno became an activist. In 1991, she and her husband founded Crime Victims United of California, an organization that advocates for victims and a tougher criminal justice system. Since then, Salarno has become one of California's most public faces in the fight for victims' rights and tougher sentencing. She's currently involved with dozens of public safety bills, including an effort to reform California's beleaguered death penalty system.

A proposed ballot initiative - endorsed by former governors George Deukmejian, Pete Wilson and Gray Davis - would resume and expedite executions for the 700-plus people living on California's death row. (Salarno's daughter's killer is not one of them.) Executions were halted in 2006, and both advocates and opponents of capital punishment agree that the state's death penalty is a "broken system." But the divide comes on how it should be fixed.

"The side that's fighting to replace the death penalty (with life sentences) says that it's broken beyond repair, there's no political will to fix it, and we shouldn't be spending our precious state dollars trying to figure out how to fix it," says Ana Zamora, senior policy advocate for the American Civil Liberties Union's Northern California chapter. "The other side, which has district attorneys and other members of law enforcement, says that investing money, time and expertise in an attempt to change the system is a good use of California's resources."

The origins of the debate go back to the 1970s when California - mirroring decisions in the U.S. Supreme Court - engaged in a series of legal battles over the constitutionality of capital punishment. Ultimately, voters approved the death penalty with Proposition 17 in 1972. Another ballot initiative would need to be passed to overturn it. "California is sentencing all these people to death row - 24 people last year - but the system is so broken and expensive that California has not executed anyone in years."

Even though voters sanctioned the death penalty, legal challenges held up the first execution, carried out by gas chamber, until 1992.

In 2006, the state's lethal injection protocol, which began a decade prior, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation was told to discontinue the practice until it rewrote its policy. Since the CDCR has yet to do so, no one in the state has been put to death.

Without a constitutional amendment to overturn the death penalty, a bizarre system exists in which people can be sentenced to death but can't be executed. California's death row population has grown so vast that it represents "almost 1/4 of the people on death row in the United States," according to Matt Cherry, executive director of the group Death Penalty Focus.

Maintaining this system comes at a steep cost. Taxpayers have spent $4 billion on the death penalty since the 1970s, or $184 million per year. Santa Clara County has sentenced just two people to death between 2000 and 2007, and the estimated cost was $2.2 million.

"California is sentencing all these people to death row - 24 people last year - but the system is so broken and expensive that California has not executed anyone in years," Cherry says. "So all along it's been a broken and ineffective system at achieving its stated goals."

The logical solution is to abolish the death penalty and replace it with life in prison without the possibility of parole, Cherry argues. The change would "save millions of dollars" and "guarantee public safety and adequate punishment for the worst offenders."

In 2012, Proposition 34 attempted to do just this, but voters rejected it by a few percentage points. Still, the vote showed public opinion has shifted. When capital punishment was reinstated in 1972, 67.5 % voted in favor of it. 40 years later, that number is only 53 %.

The answer is reform, not abolition, according to death penalty advocates like Salarno. "Reform the appeal process, reform death row housing and victim restitution, reform the appointment of appellate counsel and the agency that overlooks it - those are the key things - 1, 2 3," she says.

The proposal she's backing - which needs at least 800,000 signatures by mid-July to make it onto November's ballot - would eliminate the need to rewrite the state's lethal injection procedure, so that executions can resume. The plan would also limit the appeals process to 5 years, transfer challenges to lower courts and require prisoners to work and pay restitution to their victims.

"We want the cases reviewed in a timely manner," says Kent Scheidegger, who helped draft the proposal and serves as legal director of the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation. "In the typical case, it is entirely feasible for all state court reviews to be completed in 5 years, as opposed to 10 or 15 now. It will save money by shortening the amount of time prisoners are kept on death row."

In addition, Scheidegger says, hastening executions is good for public safety. "If you carry it out more quickly and with more certainty, it'll have a stronger deterrent effect," he says.

Cherry calls the proposal "misguided and deeply flawed" because it would "result in endless constitutional challenges" that would cost the state even more money. More importantly, he points out, shortening the review process increases the chances an innocent person could be executed. "If it wasn't for that time allowed for reviews and appeals he would have been executed a long time ago and we never would have gotten to see the evidence that he was innocent."

Just last month, Glenn Ford, a 64-year-old Louisiana man, was exonerated after spending more than 30 years on death row for a crime he did not commit - making him the 144th American freed under such circumstances in the modern era. "If it wasn't for that time allowed for reviews and appeals he would have been executed a long time ago and we never would have gotten to see the evidence that he was innocent," Cherry says.

Across the nation, public support for capital punishment is in decline. 18 states plus the District of Columbia have abolished the death penalty, and in recent years states like Washington and Oregon have placed moratoriums on executions citing costs, flawed prosecutions, racial discrimination and a shortage of lethal injection drugs.

"The death penalty is front and center nationally right now, not because states are changing death penalty procedures, but because states are getting rid of it," Zamora says. "We should be thinking about how to spend our time and money making California a better place. Education should be a priority, not how to fix our multi-million dollar debacle known as the death penalty."

(source: San Jose Inside)


Alameda County DA's office seeks death penalty against child killer

The Alameda County District Attorney's Office announced Thursday that it is seeking the death penalty against an Oakland man charged with 2 murders, including the killing of an 8-year-old girl.

Darnell Williams, 23, is the 1st defendant to face a death penalty prosecution since David Mills was sentenced to death in 2012 for killing 3 people in Oakland in 2005.

Williams is the 1st person Alameda County has sought death against since District Attorney Nancy O'Malley took office in 2011.

Williams is accused of killing 8-year-old Alaysha Carradine and wounding two children and a grandmother in a revenge shooting in East Oakland on July 17.

He is also charged with murder in the fatal shooting of 22-year-old Anthony Medearis Jr. in Berkeley on Sept. 8.

The special allegation of multiple murders makes Williams eligible for death penalty prosecution.

Attorneys in the case declined to comment Thursday.

(source: Oakland Tribune)


Oregon Supreme Court upholds conviction of Ricardo Serrano, on death row for slaying Bethany family

The Oregon Supreme Court has upheld the aggravated murder conviction and death sentence of Ricardo Serrano, who killed the family of his wife's lover.

Serrano, of Aloha, fatally shot Melody Dang, 37, and her sons Steven, 15, and Jimmy, 12, in their Bethany-area home Nov. 2, 2006.

Prosecutors said Serrano sought revenge on Mike Nguyen, who had an affair with Serrano's wife and got her pregnant. Nguyen discovered the bodies when he returned from work.

On appeal, the high court affirmed Serrano's conviction and sentence Thursday.

The justices rejected the defendant's arguments, which included: the trial judge had erred in failing to acquit him on the aggravated murder charges; there was insufficient evidence that the murders occurred in furtherance of a burglary and theft; the trial judge failed to strike testimony in the penalty phase about racially-organized prison gangs.

(source: The Oregonian)


Supreme Court to clarify limits on executing the mentally disabled

Freddie Hall is the longest serving of the 397 inmates currently on Florida's death row. He does not dispute that he committed the horrific crime for which he was sentenced to death in 1978 - beating, raping and shooting a 21-year-old woman. And he no longer is pursuing any claims concerning the fairness of his trial. Hall's sole claim is that he is mentally disabled and thus ineligible for execution. As evidence, he points to his many IQ test scores, the opinions of several clinicians and his poor functioning as both a child and adult.

At issue in the case of Florida v. Hall, argued last month, is whether this is enough. The Supreme Court has only weighed in on this branch of Eighth Amendment jurisprudence on 2 occasions. In 1989, the Court held in Penry v. Lynaugh that the Eighth Amendment prohibition on "cruel and unusual" punishment did not prohibit the execution of the mentally disabled. Just 13 years later, in 2002, the Court doubled back on this on this decision in Atkins v. Virginia, holding that the practice had become so "unusual" and disfavored that it no longer was constitutional.

Though the command of the Court was clear enough - under no circumstances can a mentally disabled inmate be executed - the Court provided almost no guidance on how to actually determine whether someone is mentally disabled. The states have accordingly stepped into the breach and developed a host of different standards and methods. Some use multifactor tests that involve a number of different prongs, such as IQ, intellectual functioning and social history; others rely more heavily on IQ scores alone.

Under Florida's current approach, an inmate must satisfy three separate criteria with clear and convincing evidence to prove that he or she is mentally disabled:

(1) "significantly subaverage general intellectual functioning";

(2) "existing concurrently with deficits in adaptive behavior"; and

(3) "manifested during the period from conception to 18."

Though the second, and perhaps the third, criteria leave some room for discretion and interpretation, the Florida Supreme Court has interpreted the 1st prong as imposing a strict IQ score cutoff. Under Florida law, any inmate who cannot prove by clear and convincing evidence that his or her IQ score is lower than 70 is eligible to be executed and cannot satisfy the 1st prong; in legal parlance, this is what is often referred to as a "bright-line rule."

For Freddy Hall, this bright-line may prove fatal. At a December 2009 hearing held to determine whether he was mentally disabled or not, he presented evidence of past IQ test scores of 71, 76, 79, 80, 73, 72 and 69. Labeling the lone score below 70 as an "aberration," the court rejected his claim because of his inability to demonstrate that his IQ is less than 70.

Before the Court, Hall is arguing that this strict cutoff does not accord with accepted clinical standards. In particular, Hall argues that Florida's approach is constitutionally deficient because it fails to account for the standard error of measurement that informs any statistically imprecise tool such as an IQ test - and thus does not comport with the best practices of the American Psychiatric Association and the American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities. Using this approach, IQ scores are estimated within 95 % confidence intervals, which usually have a spread of 8 to 10 points. For Hall, this would mean that most of his IQ tests resulted in estimates with a lower bound under the cutoff of 70.

Florida has raised a number of objections to Hall's proposed methodological changes. To begin with, Florida argues that the accepted clinical practice with regards to determining mental disability is unsettled and constantly evolving. Therefore, there is simply no "accepted" standard for it to adopt. Florida also insists that its approach does comport with accepted clinical practice, as everyone agrees that 70 is the generally accepted cutoff. In this respect, Florida argues that incorporating the standard error of measurement would effectively raise this cutoff from 70 to 75 - unnecessarily expanding the number of inmates ineligible for execution. It also notes that its approach allows for a series of IQ tests to be administered, as Hall's case demonstrates, which should eliminate any statistical aberrations.

From a broader perspective, Florida contends that it is simply inappropriate to defer to the private medical community for a constitutional judgment of such importance. If such a delegation of authority were made to clinicians, Florida argues it would create perverse incentives. After all, Florida's goal is to prevent eligible death row inmates from evading execution, while many in the psychiatric community may seek just the opposite.

At oral argument, Justices Scalia and Alito seemed to support Florida's assertion that the medical community should not be allowed to determine constitutional standards. At least five other justices, however, appeared to side with Hall. Justice Kennedy, often the swing vote in death penalty decisions, was particularly vocal and repeatedly questioned whether Florida was sincerely trying to determine if inmates are mentally disabled, or simply using an arbitrary cutoff to game the system. With Kennedy's support, Hall is likely to prevail, although it is not necessarily clear that he will be deemed mentally disabled under the new standard formulated by the Court.

Interestingly enough, Justice Kennedy also peppered Florida's lawyers with questions about why inmates such as Hall have such lengthy stays on death row; the last 10 inmates executed by Florida had been on death row for an average of nearly 25 years at the time of their respective executions. Justice Scalia, as he has often done in the past, defended Florida by asserting that the Court itself, and the elaborate procedural mechanisms it has created in the death penalty context, are ultimately to blame. Though collateral to the case, this exchange neatly demonstrates that larger issues are always simmering below the surface when the Court confronts the death penalty. A sweeping decision in Hall may well foreshadow a further narrowing of those eligible for execution in the future.

(source: The Stanford Daily)


U.S. seeks death penalty in Milwaukee drug, homicide case

Federal officials have indicted 27 people in a drug conspiracy case involving homicide, money laundering and the sale of heroin, crack and more than 650 pounds of cocaine over several years in southeastern Wisconsin.

Officials are seeking the federal death penalty against 3 men, including Kevin R. Arms, 40, of Pewaukee, who they said is the kingpin of the operation.

Authorities arrested 18 defendants on Wednesday. 3 were already in custody and 6 are still at large. Authorities recovered 31 firearms and about $143,000.

Several family members of Arms, including his 21-year-old son Kevin C. Arms, were charged with money laundering on allegations they bought a boat, cars, motorcycles, houses and expensive watches with drug money.

U.S. Attorney James L. Santelle declined to say who was slain but said it was unusual to seek the death penalty in federal homicide cases in Wisconsin.

According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's homicide database, only 1 person was slain in Milwaukee on the date - Nov. 16, 2008 - outlined in the federal indictment charging Kevin R. Arms, John Bailey, 37, and Phillip Moffett, 32, with homicide by firearm. Paula P. Jackson, 43, was shot to death that day in a car as she pulled into a tavern parking lot near the 4200 block of W. Burleigh St. A 49-year-old woman in Jackson's car was wounded.

"The criminal conduct of the 27 people charged by the grand jury has now come to an end, a decisive end," Santelle said at a news conference Wednesday afternoon. "The neighborhoods that have long been victimized by the destructive trafficking in illegal drugs, their use of firearms, their use of dirty money to purchase assets can now begin working toward a restoration they want and deserve."

Some of the defendants were charged with selling drugs, some were charged with allowing drugs or drug money to be kept at their homes and businesses, and some were charged with laundering drug profits. All of the defendants are from Milwaukee except Kevin R. Arms and 2 men from Atlanta, Ga.

Cars, watches seized

Among the assets seized by the government were 2008 and 2014 Cadillac Escalades, two Harley-Davidson motorcycles, a 21-foot fishing boat, early '70s muscle cars, sports cars, a pickup truck, a van and SUV, 3 men's Breitling chronograph watches, money from 2 companies - True Boss Entertainment and Arms Investments - and 11 homes on Milwaukee's near north side. Federal officials also seized a money judgment for $3 million.

Santelle declined to reveal details about the $3 million judgment.

Drug Enforcement Agency assistant special agent in charge James Bohn said Kevin R. Arms and his organization threatened citizens in Milwaukee and southeastern Wisconsin with violence and illegal drugs.

"Today that came to an end. Their years of drug dealing, intimidation and violence are over," Bohn said.

An investigation into Kevin R. Arms began in 2011 with investigators discovering his organization was responsible for transporting and distributing more than 660 pounds of cocaine in the city of Milwaukee, Milwaukee Assistant Police Chief Kurt Liebold said.

(source: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)

SAUDI ARABIA----execution

Saudi beheaded for killing man with machinegun; His execution in Riyadh brings to 13 the number of death sentences carried out this year

The authorities in Saudi Arabia on Wednesday beheaded a citizen convicted of shooting dead a compatriot, the interior ministry said.

Mohammad Matrak Mohammad Al Dosari was found guilty of killing Mubarak Zafir Manahi Al Dossari using a machinegun, the ministry said in a statement carried by the state news agency SPA.

The killing came after a fist fight over a financial dispute, it said.

His execution in Riyadh brings to 13 the number of death sentences carried out this year in the kingdom.

Saudi Arabia beheaded 78 people in 2013, according to an AFP count.

Last year, the UN High Commission for Human Rights denounced a "sharp increase in the use of capital punishment" since 2011 in Saudi Arabia.

According to figures from rights group Amnesty International, the number of Saudi executions rose from 27 in 2010, of whom 5 were foreigners, to 82 in 2011, including 28 foreigners.

In 2012, the number of executions dipped slightly to 79, among them 27 foreigners.

Rape, murder, apostasy, armed robbery and drug trafficking are all punishable by death under Saudi Arabia's strict version of Islamic sharia law.

(source: Gulf News)


Brunei's plan to stone gays riles UN

The Sultan of Brunei has announced that those committing same sex relations could be stoned to death. The draconian law has brought condemnation from the UN, with the tiny Asian oil rich nation having a virtual moratorium on the death penalty since 1957.

Homosexuality has long been a criminal offence in Brunei, which is situated on the island of Borneo, with a penalty of 10 years in prison previously handed out for the offence. However, stoning is now set to be allowed for a range of sexual offences, such as rape, adultery, sodomy, extramarital sexual relations. The law is planned to come into force on April 22.

The United Nations has been very critical of the move, with Rupert Colville, a spokesman for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights saying, "the application of the death penalty for such a broad range of offenses contravenes international law." The death sentence could also be imposed for insulting any verses of the Quran and Hadith, blasphemy, declaring oneself a prophet or non-Muslim, and murder. The new law will only apply to Muslims, who make up about 2/3 of a total population of just over 400,000.

Speaking at a conference in Geneva, Coville urged the Brunei government to conduct a comprehensive review of their planned law saying, "under international law, stoning people to death constitutes torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment and is thus clearly prohibited."

A change in Brunei's criminal code to introduce stoning was first mooted in October 2013. The Sultan, Hassanal Bolkiah, who has ruled the country since 1967 has been keen to introduce sharia law, to strengthen Islam within the nation.

Brunei practices a more conservative form of Islam than neighboring Malaysia and Indonesia, although they ban the sale and public consumption of alcohol and closely restrict other religions.

The use of stoning as a punishment is allowed in just a handful of countries around the world.



Abdullah Azzam Brigades Member Arrested, Death Penalty Issued against 6 Fugitives

Army Intelligence arrested a member of the Abdullah Azzam Brigades terrorist group, while Military Examining Magistrate Fadi Sawan asked on Thursday for the death penalty against 6 Palestinian fugitives on charges of forming an armed group aimed at carrying out terrorist attacks.

Palestinian Bilal Kayed Kayed was arrested on charges of carrying out criminal acts in Lebanon, announced the army in a statement.

They include an attack against a United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon patrol in al-Qassemiyeh area in 2007, which resulted in the deaths of several members of the Spanish contingent.

He is also charged with carrying out terrorist attacks, transporting weapons, committing and attempted murder, and sabotaging public and private property.

Kayed was captured in an ambush in the Bekaa region of Arsal on Wednesday, reported al-Manar television.

Al-Jadeed television meanwhile revealed that the confessions of detainee Naim Abbas, a top official in the al-Qaida-linked Abdullah Azzam Brigades, led to his arrest.

3 Spanish and 3 Colombian peacekeepers were killed in June 2007 when a booby-trapped car exploded as their patrol vehicle drove by in southern Lebanon.

On Thursday, Sawan asked the death penalty against fugitives Bilal and Kamal Bader, Sari al-Hujair, Mahmoud Azab, Ali Khalil, and Nidal Mohammed, reported the National News Agency.

He issued arrest warrants against them and referred their case to the permanent military court.

Several of the latest bombings in Hizbullah strongholds in Beirut's southern suburbs and the eastern Bekaa valley have been claimed by the Abdullah Azzam Brigades, whose leader, Majed al-Majed, was captured by Lebanese authorities in December and died in custody later.



Modi Says He Deserves Death If Any 2002 Riot Allegations True

Narendra Modi, the frontrunner to become India's next prime minister, said he deserves the death penalty if any allegations about his involvement in sectarian riots that took place 12 years ago are proven true.

"If there's any truth to the allegations, I should be made to stand in the crossroads and hung," Modi, prime ministerial candidate for the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party, said in an interview with ANI News broadcast yesterday. An apology would serve no purpose because "it isn't the right way" to deal with such an issue, he said.

Modi, who has ruled the western Gujarat state for the last 13 years, has been criticized by opponents for failing to control riots in the state in 2002 that killed more than 1,000 people, most of them Muslims. In the current election campaign, he has focused on how he will spur India's economy, helping in part to neutralize the issue.

"I have said what I had to say, and now I am in the people's court, and I am waiting to hear from them," Modi, 63, said in the interview broadcast on several Indian television channels. "I don't want to waste time going into allegations, and want to focus on the development agenda."

When asked about India's nuclear-weapons policy, Modi said he would continue the course set by the last BJP-led government, which conducted atomic tests in 1998. He said he would stick to India's existing policy of not being the 1st to use nuclear weapons in an armed conflict. Neighbor Pakistan also has nuclear weapons.

Election Campaign

Several opinion polls have projected the coalition led by the BJP will win the general election for the 543-seat lower house of India’s parliament. For the 1st time, a poll earlier this week found that the coalition may win an outright majority.

India's elections, the world's biggest-ever exercise in democracy, began on April 7 and will end on May 12 after nine phases of voting. Counting will take place on May 16.

Modi, a former activist in the Hindu nationalist group Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, has promoted his image as a magnet for investment and a record of stronger-than-average growth in Gujarat, where he's been chief minister since 2001. The state has attracted investment from companies such as Reliance Industries Ltd. (RIL), Ford Motor Co. and billionaire Gautam Adani's Adani Enterprises.

Modi has been attacked by opponents for failing to control a pogrom in Gujarat that took place over three days starting Feb. 27, 2002. After Muslims set fire to a train, killing Hindu activists, ensuing riots killed about 1,100 people, mostly Muslims, according to a government report by Justice G.T. Nanavati and Justice Akshay Mehta.

Human rights groups including the Concerned Citizens Tribunal say Modi failed to control the mob. Modi denies wrongdoing and a panel appointed by India's Supreme Court in 2012 found no evidence that his decisions prevented victims from receiving help.

Modi said yesterday that he has repeatedly come clean on questions about the incident, and that the allegations are being fanned by people who have failed to defeat him in polls.

(source: Bloomberg News)


Honour killing: High Court commutes to life death sentence of 3

The Delhi High Court on Thursday commuted to life term the death sentence awarded to 3 members of a family for the honour killing of a teen couple in 2010, saying there is a possibility of their reformation.

A special bench of justices S Muralidhar and Mukta Gupta acquitted 2 others - the girl's mother and aunt - who also had been awarded capital punishment by the trial court, saying they were only "spectators" to the crime and did not share the common intention to murder the couple.

"The court is of the opinion that ends of justice would be met if convicted appellants Om Prakash and Suraj are awarded the sentence of imprisonment for life which will not be less than 20 years actual. Since, appellant Sanjeev is a young man who was not married, the court considers it fit to sentence him to imprisonment of life subject to remissions.

"Appellants Maya (mother) and Khushboo (aunt) are acquitted of the offences with which they were charged," the bench said.

It said, "The 2 ladies could be at best be said to be spectators to what was being done by the 3 men in the house.

"No doubt, as a mother and aunt there was an omission on their part to have not saved at least Asha, their daughter.

However, the said omission does not qualify the test that they shared the common intention with the 3 men to commit the murder....," the high court said.

Defence lawyer Sumeet Verma had argued that in the absence of an overt act being attributed to Khushboo and Maya, they cannot be convicted for offence of murder on the ground that they shared a common intention to commit the crime.

The court reduced to life term the death sentence awarded to the girl's father, uncle and cousin brother - Suraj, Om Prakash and Sanjeev respectively - saying there is no material placed on record by the State to show they cannot be reformed or are a menace to the society.

"Although there are aggravating circumstances, there is no material placed on record by the State to show that the appellants Om Prakash, Suraj and Sanjeev are persons who cannot be reformed or are a menace to the society...."Thus, this court is of the considered opinion that the penalty of death cannot be awarded to convicted appellants," the bench said.

(source: Deccan Chronicle)


Mulayam's daughter-in-law backs death penalty for rape

Unlike Mulayam Singh Yadav who feels capital punishment is debatable, his daughter-in-law Aparna Yadav is strictly of the view that rapists should be hanged to death.

While talking to News18 on Thursday, she said, "Netaji is right in saying that death penalty is being debated around the world. But, as a woman, my personal view is that if the accused has been found guilty of rape, he should be hanged."

Earlier, Mulayam had invited the ire of political opponents when he opposed capital punishment for rape, saying "ladke, ladke hain... galti ho jati hai (boys will be boys... they commit mistakes)."

His remarks came during a rally he was addressing in Moradabad on April 11. Following massive uproar, even the Election Commission took cognizance of the matter and sought a detailed report from poll authorities over his controversial remarks.

Meanwhile, calling her father-in-law a pro-women leader, Aparna claimed that his choice of words were inappropriate but, his comments should have been taken in the right context by the media.

"As rape is a sensitive issue, his choice of words were probably wrong, but if one reads his comments in entirety, the meaning is very clear," she said, claiming that he meant rapists should be punished, but at times innocent people are also implicated in rape cases which shouldn't happen.

"He encouraged Dimple and me to enter politics. He is pro-women. Netaji even appointed a DIG level officer and an entire team for redressing grievances of women in UP. I think his comments were misinterpreted," she said.

(source: IBN Live)


Bangladesh SC wraps up death penalty review for war crimes suspect

Bangladesh's Supreme Court today wrapped up the appeal hearing against the judgement of a special tribunal that had sentenced to death a key 1971 war crimes suspect with the final verdict due any day now.

"The date of the verdict is (hereby) kept on CAV (Curia Advisari Vult)," which means the verdict would be delivered any day, chief justice Muzammel Hossain declared in the open court as he wrapped up the hearing on appeal by the accused Delwar Hossain Sayeedi.

Experts said the legal term meant the court was yet to take any decision on the verdict and the judges would like to take time for deliberations.

Ahead of closing the hearing the 5-judge apex court rejected 2 nearly identical petitions by the prosecution and defence lawyers seeking to search out an old case document against Sayeedi, a leader of the fundamentalist Jamaat-e-Islami.

Emerging from the courtroom, attorney general Mahbubey Alam told newsmen that the state believed "we could prove the allegations" and expected the apex court to uphold the tribunal verdict for the accused.

Chief defence counsel Khondker Mahbubuddin, on the other hand, claimed they successfully pointed out that a wrong man was tried and sentenced to death as another person with Sayeedi's name had actually carried out the atrocities.

The defence had raised the same argument during Sayeedi's trial at the International Crimes Tribunal but it rejected the claim as baseless and sentenced him to death on February 28, 2013 for "crimes against humanity" for siding with Pakistani troops during Bangladesh's 1971 liberation war.

The tribunal found valid 8 of the 20 charges, including mass killing, arson, looting and forcefully converting non-Muslims to Islam, against the 73-year-old Islamist leader, a former lawmaker and orator.

On March 28 last year, Sayeedi filed an appeal with the SC seeking acquittal from all the charges. The same day, the government submitted a separate appeal to it, demanding capital punishment on all eight charges.

But the verdict sparked nationwide violence killing at least 32 people within hours of the judgement and Bangladesh in subsequent weeks witnessed protracted unrest that left over 100 people dead.

(source: Zee News)


Indonesia probes real age of maid accused of murdering employer

Indonesian authorities have launched an investigation to determine if the Indonesian maid accused of murdering a socialite is younger than stated in documents.

Dewi Sukowati is accused of causing the death of her employer, 69-year-old Nancy Gan, on the morning of 19 March this year at Victoria Park Road.

Ms Gan was found dead in her bungalow's pool. She was said to have suffered head injuries.

On Thursday, defence lawyer Mohamed Muzammil told the media that an Indonesian MP from Dewi's hometown said they are investigating those responsible for falsifying Dewi's age.

He added that while it is not known how old Dewi is, she is not 23 years old as stated in court documents.

Previously, the court heard the defence's request to verify Dewi's age.

Under the law, Dewi has to be at least 23 years old to be employed as a helper in Singapore.

If she is found to be below the age of 18 at the time of the offence, Dewi will escape the death penalty if convicted.

It also heard that the psychiatrist needs to interview the parents of Dewi to complete the evaluation report.

Mr Mohamed Muzammil said on Thursday that the Indonesian embassy had arranged for Dewi's father to come to Singapore to assist the psychiatrist.

Dewi's father was in Singapore for 4 days and had left on Wednesday.

This case will be heard again on 15 May.

(source: Channel News Asia)


Kurdish Political Prisoner Executed in Western Iran Today

A Kurdish political prisoner identified as Samko Khorshidi was hanged in the Dizelabad prison of Kermanshah, reported the "Kurdistan Human Rights Organization" today.

The prisoner was arrested in 2011 near Tehran, and sentenced to death charged with "Moharebeh" (waging war against the God) and "Corruption on earth", for membership in a Kurdish opposition group.

The execution took place today and the news of the execution has not been announced by the official sources yet. The body of the prisoner has not been delivered to his family yet.

At least 3 Kurdish political prisoners were executed by the Iranian authorities in 2013. All the executions were carried out secretly.

(source: Iran Human Rights)


Time the entire world barred capital punishment; The last hanging in Scotland was as late as 1963

In the Grassmarket in central Edinburgh, a round stone known as the "shadow of the gibbet" marks the site's history as an execution spot.

While capital punishment continued in Britain long past the last Grassmarket execution in 1784 - the last hanging in Scotland was as late as 1963 - this memorial to such a gruesome practice is an important reminder that barbarity is a part of our history.

Yet in many places around the world, capital punishment is a live issue. While more than 2/3 of countries have now abolished the death penalty, there are still hundreds of state-sanctioned executions each year. This number excludes China as the number of people being put to death is considered a state secret, but is thought to be in the thousands.

Amnesty International's annual report on the use of the death penalty worldwide makes for chilling reading. Excluding China, almost 4/5 of all executions worldwide took place in just 3 countries – Iran, Iraq and Saudi Arabia. Iran sentenced at least 369 people to death - this was the official number of executions acknowledged by the authorities, but there is credible evidence of the death penalty being carried out in secret, meaning the total number may be more than 700 executions - in just 1 year.

There are many sensible, pragmatic arguments to be made against the death penalty - it is often impossible to prove a crime without any doubt and there is no conclusive evidence that the death penalty acts as a deterrent.

However, there is an even more fundamental reason to object. Human life is priceless. The deliberate ending of another's life is not a tool to be used by governments in cold blood. In extreme cases of murder or sexual assault, there will always be a public lust for vengeance. The death penalty has never been solely about these extreme cases.

Throughout history, untold horrors have been perpetrated at the hands of governments and regimes for petty crimes or over religious or political disputes. Humanity has now ended these practices across most of the world - let us look forward to state executions being ended forever in our lifetimes.

(source: Marco Biagi is MSP for Edinburgh Central----The Scotsman)


Filipino denies murdering countryman

A Filipino construction worker pleaded not guilty to murdering his countryman before the High Court here yesterday.

Arjie Saremio, 26, denied the charge, which was read to him in the Visayan dialect, before Justice Ravinthran Paramaguru who, then fixed May 15 this year for pre-trial case management.

The accused was alleged to have murdered one Roldan, an immigrant without any documents, on Jan 24, this year at a construction site in Kampung Sinsuron, Tambunan.

The charge, framed under Section 302 of the Penal Code, carries the mandatory death penalty upon conviction.

Deputy public prosecutor Chow Siang Kong prosecuted while the accused was represented by Datu Baginda Datu Laja.

In a separate case, Justice Chew Soo Ho fixed April 29 to hear the prosecution's appeal against local restaurant manager Riduan Masmud.

On Feb 2 this year, the lower court sentenced Riduan, 41, to 12 years' jail and 2 strokes of the cane for raping a 13-year-old girl, whom he then took as his 2nd wife.

The statutory rape offence under Section 376 (1) of the Penal Code carries a maximum of 20 years' jail and whipping, on conviction.

The Sessions Court found him guilty of raping the then 12-year-and-6-month-old girl inside a car by the roadside near the Kionsom Waterfall in Inanam about 10am on February 18, 2013.

Riduan is currently on a stay of execution, pending disposal of the appeal.

(source: The Borneo Post)

APRIL 16, 2014:


Man Executed for Killing 3 Members of Texas Family

A man convicted of fatally stabbing his ex-girlfriend, her young son and her mother 13 years ago at a home in Corpus Christi was executed by Texas prison officials Wednesday.

The lethal injection of Jose Villegas, 39, was carried out after his attorneys unsuccessfully argued to the U.S. Supreme Court that he was mentally impaired and ineligible for the death penalty.

"I would like to remind my children once again I love them," Villegas said when asked if he had a statement before being put to death. "Everything is OK. I love you all, and I love my children. I am at peace."

Just as the pentobarbital began taking effect, he said, "It does kind of burn. Goodbye." He gasped several times, then started to breathe quietly. Within less than a minute, all movement had stopped.

Villegas was pronounced dead at 7:04 p.m. CDT, 11 minutes after the lethal dose of the sedative began. He became the seventh prisoner executed this year in the nation's most active death penalty state.

6 relatives of his victims witnessed the execution but declined to comment afterward.

"I was struck by the calm and peacefulness inside that room as opposed to the utter terror the victims must have been in as Jose Luis Villegas stabbed them," Mark Skurka, the Nueces County district attorney who prosecuted Villegas, said after watching the execution.

"He made no attempt to make peace with the family, apologize to the family or show any remorse for taking the lives of 3 people," Skurka said. "The family expressed to me that they are glad that this is finally over and that justice has finally been done, even though it took a very long time in their minds for this to happen."

Villegas' lawyers filed a last-day appeal asking the Supreme Court to stop his punishment, saying testing in February showed he had an IQ of 59. The high court denied it several hours later, slightly delaying the punishment. 4 of the 9 justices indicated in the brief court order that they would have given him a reprieve.

The Supreme Court has prohibited execution of mentally impaired people, although states have been allowed to devise procedures to make their own determinations. Courts also have embraced scientific studies that consider a 70 IQ a threshold for impairment, and the high court justices are reviewing a Florida law stipulating that number for death penalty eligibility.

The Texas Attorney General's office disputed the IQ finding, saying previous examinations of Villegas showed no mental impairment and the number cited in his appeal was based on testing after he received an execution date and had no incentive to do well on the test. State attorneys also argued his lawyers had 10 years to raise impairment claims but didn't do so until days before his scheduled punishment.

Villegas was convicted of fatally stabbing Erida Salazar, 23, her 3-year-old son, Jacob, and Salazar's mother, Alma Perez, 51, in January 2001. Their bodies were discovered by Salazar's father when he returned home after being excused from jury duty. Each had been stabbed at least 19 times.

Villegas, a former cook, dishwasher and laborer, was free on bond for a sexual assault charge and was supposed to go on trial the day of the killings for an incident in which a woman said he punched her in the face.

Police spotted Villegas driving Salazar's stolen car and he led them on a chase that ended with him on foot and urging officers to shoot him. When arresting him, police found 3 bags of cocaine in his baseball cap.

Following his conviction for capital murder, Villegas was convicted of 2 counts of indecency with a child related to the daughter of the woman he was accused of punching in the face prior to the slayings. Relatives have said Salazar's mother had urged her daughter to break up with Villegas when she learned of the sex charges against him.

Villegas also had convictions for making terroristic threats to kill women, burglary and possessing inhalants.

Attorneys argued the slayings were not intentional and Villegas was mentally ill. A defense psychiatrist testified Villegas experienced "intermittent explosive disorder," a condition that led to uncontrollable rages.

Villegas became the 3rd condemned inmate executed with a new stock of pentobarbital from a provider corrections officials have refused to identify, citing the possibility of threats of violence against the supplier. The Supreme Court has upheld that stance; he becomes the 7th condemned inmate to be put to death this year in Texas and the 515th overall since the state resumed executions on December 7, 1982. Villegas becomes the 276th condemned inmate to be put to death in Texas since Rick Perry became governor in 2001.

Villegas becomes the 17th condemned inmate to be put to death this year in the USA and the 1376th overall since the nation resumed executions on Janaury 17, 1977.

(sources: Associated Press & Rick Halperin)


Executions under Rick Perry, 2001-present-----276

Executions in Texas: Dec. 7, 1982-present----515

Perry #--------scheduled execution date-----name---------Tx. #

277------------May 13--------------------Robert Campbell------516

278------------May 21--------------------Robert Pruett-------517

(sources for both: TDCJ & Rick Halperin)


Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley accepted the Mario Cuomo Acts of Courage Award from Death Penalty Focus for sponsoring a bill repealing capital punishment.

Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley accepted the Mario Cuomo Acts of Courage Award from Death Penalty Focus at its awards dinner Tuesday night in Beverly Hills, CA, for sponsoring a bill repealing capital punishment.

"We led with the truth that the death penalty doesn't work, but we also led with things that do work," O'Malley said at the dinner at The Beverly Hilton.

O'Malley "displayed true leadership by not only signing the legislation, but making death penalty repeal a top legislative priority," Chelsea Bond, program director of Death Penalty Focus, said before the dinner.

"Taking a stand against the death penalty is no longer the political third rail it once was, as politicians see now that ending the death penalty is a common-sense solution that saves money, protects innocent people from being executed, and upholds human rights," Bond said.

"However, it still requires leadership to change a long-established law. The national trend away from the death penalty would not be possible without the bold leadership of elected representatives like Governor O'Malley."

O'Malley's opposition to the death penalty drew criticism earlier this week from Maryland Delegate John W.E. Cluster Jr., R-Baltimore County, who called it a deterrent to murder, citing the sharply lower murder rates in Baltimore County, where prosecutors seek the death penalty, than in adjacent Baltimore, where they do not.

Cluster, a former police officer, sponsored an amendment to the bill to keep the death penalty for murdering a police officer while he or she was performing his duties and supported an amendment keeping the death penalty when an inmate kills a correctional officer.

"There's nothing deterring these prisoners from killing correctional officers," Cluster told City News Service in a telephone interview. "What are they going to get? Another life sentence? They've already got a life sentence."

O'Malley has said he is looking at the possibility of running for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination.

Death Penalty Focus describes itself as one of the world's largest organizations solely dedicated to the abolition of the death penalty.

The award is named for the former New York governor who vetoed multiple bills seeking to reinstate the death penalty "when it was politically unpopular to oppose the death penalty," and "refused to back down from his stance" when "opponents tried to use his opposition to the death penalty against him during campaigns," Bond said.

Cuomo was the 1st recipient of the award in 1996.

(source: Potomac Patch)


Defense cries foul over prosecutor's motion in Athens death penalty case

Defense attorneys for a woman charged in the murder of a pregnant Athens convenience store clerk more than three years ago have accused prosecutors of violating a court order in the death-penalty case.

The attorneys claim in a motion recently filed in Clarke County Superior Court that the district attorney's office improperly commented about the contents of a letter from defendant Shameeka LaShae Watson that a judge had previously placed under seal.

The commentary was in a prosecution motion that requested permission to conduct a latent examination of the letter in order to authenticate that it had been written by Watson so that it could be used as evidence against her.

That motion refers to statements in the letter as being "admissible in a trial as an admission by (Watson)" in the 2010 fatal stabbing of KeJuan Charde Hall that also resulted in the death of Hall's unborn child.

"The letter was a communication initiated by the defendant, lacking any constitutional protection," the prosecution motion states.

The motion never quotes from the letter or describes its contents in detail.

Nonetheless, Watson's attorneys argue that just by characterizing the letter's contents the district attorney's office violated the judge's order that placed the letter under seal.

"The content of the state's motion of March 13, 2014, violates the agreement between the state and defendant and, more importantly, the order of the court regarding the document under seal," according to the defense motion signed by Athens attorneys Eric Eberhart and Elizabeth Grant.

A news story about the state's motion having revealed that Watson made admissions in the letter to the judge was published by the Athens Banner-Herald on March 19.

"Shameeka Watson is being subjected to due process harm from media attention and public commentary generated by the state's motion," the defense motion states.

Western Judicial Circuit Chief Judge David Sweat on Dec. 10 notified prosecuting and defense attorneys that he had received a letter from Watson and ordered that it be filed with the court clerk.

When the defense objected, the judge settled on a compromise that it be filed with the clerk under seal.

But by characterizing the letter's contents as an admission by Watson, Eberhart argues, prosecutors violated the judge's order and subjected themselves up to a possible contempt of court finding.

The defense attorney does not ask the judge to use his contempt powers, however, but that he "remedy the harm done by removing the document from the clerk's docket and barring its use in the case."

A hearing on the matter has been scheduled for April 28.

Watson faces murder, feticide, kidnapping and other charges along with her husband, Clarence McCord III. She was previously granted a request to be tried separately from McCord.

The defendants are accused of killing Hall on Dec. 30, 2010, as the victim clerked at the Golden Pantry at Timothy Road and Atlanta Highway.

An indictment states that Watson and McCord killed Hall by stabbing her 31 times with 2 different weapons.

The victim was 25 years old, a single mother of an 8-year-old daughter, and was 3 months pregnant.

Athens-Clarke County police said they believe the motive behind the killing was robbery.

(source: Athens Banner-Herald)


Was Kansas Shooting Avoidable? White Supremacist was Ex-Informant with Criminal Past & Hateful Views

Notorious white supremacist Frazier Glenn Miller has been charged with killing 3 people at 2 Jewish community sites in Kansas. Miller, also known as Frazier Glenn Cross, has openly railed against Jews and African Americans for decades. He served 3 years in prison on weapons charges and an assassination plot, but avoided a longer sentence after testifying against other white supremacists. Miller claims to have been an FBI informant, and the federal government reportedly shielded him in the early 1990s as part of the witness protection program - the possible source of his multiple names. We are joined by 2 guests who have tracked Miller for years: Mark Potok, a senior fellow at the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate groups, and broadcaster David Pakman, who interviewed Miller in 2010.


AMY GOODMAN: The man accused of killing 3 people at 2 Jewish community sites in Kansas made his 1st court appearance Tuesday by video conference. Frazier Glenn Miller, also known as Frazier Glenn Cross, has been charged with capital murder for killing 14-year-old Reat Underwood and his grandfather, William Corporon, outside a Jewish community center Sunday. He also faces a 1st-degree murder charge for killing Terri LaManno, who was visiting her mother at a nearby retirement complex.

Miller is a notorious white supremacist who had openly railed against Jews and African Americans for decades. He is the founder and former "grand dragon" of the paramilitary-style Carolina Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. In 1986, after forming the White Patriot Party, he was convicted of violating the terms of a court order settling a lawsuit by the Southern Poverty Law Center. He disappeared while out on bond and was later caught with other Klansmen and a stash of weapons. Miller went on to serve 3 years in prison on weapons charge and for plotting the murder of Morris Dees, the founder of the Southern Poverty Law Center. He reached a deal with federal prosecutors to testify against other white supremacists in a 1988 sedition trial.

This is Frazier Glenn Miller speaking in 1986 at a meeting of far-right leaders. It's from the documentary Blood in the Face. A warning: This is filled with hateful language.

FRAZIER GLENN MILLER: I'm going down the street marching, and I got my bullhorn out there, and I yell out, "We thought y'all had some niggers down here! Where are they at?" And we got about 2 more blocks, and I seen where they was at. They were about 8 deep on each side of the street. And we marched right in the middle of them, but we didn't have trouble. They didn't attack anybody; they just jumped up and down on the street. Have you ever seen monkeys when they get excited, how they jump up and down?

AMY GOODMAN: That was the white supremacist Frazier Glenn Miller speaking in 1986. The Kansas City Star reports the federal government appears to have shielded Miller in the early '90s as part of the witness protection program, the possible source of his multiple names. Records show Frazier Glenn Cross Jr. received a Social Security number in 1990, the year Miller was released from prison. In his book, A White Man Speaks Out, Miller claims to have been an FBI informant. In 2010, Miller ran for U.S. Senate as a write-in candidate for Missouri. Radio stations aired his virulent ads - with an unusual disclaimer.

2010 RADIO AD: The following is a paid political advertisement and may not be suitable for children, but this station is required to carry it by federal law.

FRAZIER GLENN MILLER: White men have become the biggest cowards ever to walk the Earth. The world has never witnessed such yellow cowards. We've set back and allowed the Jews to take over our government, our banks and our media. We've allowed tens of millions of foreign mud people to invade our country, steal our jobs and our women, and destroy our children's future. America is no longer ours. America belongs to the Jews who rule it and to the mud people who multiply in it. The undeniable proof is at It's time for white men to unite, to join together and to take our country back. This is Glenn Miller, and I approve this message.

AMY GOODMAN: That's Frazier Glenn Miller in a 2010 radio ad. To talk more about him, we're joined by 2 guests. In Montgomery, Alabama, Mark Potok is with us, senior fellow at the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate groups and had been following Frazier Glenn Miller for decades. Here in New York, David Pakman is with us. He's host of The David Pakman Show. He interviewed Frazier Glenn Miller in 2010.

We welcome you both to Democracy Now! Let's start with Mark Potok. So, actually, the Southern Poverty Law Center is also at the center of this white supremacist history. Mark, talk about who Frazier is.

MARK POTOK: Well, I would say he was one of the best-known white supremacist activists in the country for a very long time. He has been active for more than 40 years in the movement. He joined as a very young teenager, joined things like the National States' Rights Party, a descendent of the American Nazi Party, and some other groups, as well. So he was an important player, but, as you mentioned, he testified in a sedition trial in 1988 in Fort Smith, Arkansas, against most of his comrades, some 13 leaders of the white supremacist movement. That very much put him, of course, on the outs. He was seen as a snitch, derided very widely. He's been banned right up to this day on certain racist web forums.

So there are, I think, mixed feelings in the movement about him. He has, in some ways, worked his way back into the good graces of his former fellows, in the sense that he's written an autobiography describing himself as an aggrieved white man. This was back in 2002. Since 2005, he has been publishing a newspaper called The Aryan Alternative. So, there are mixed feelings about him out there on the scene. It is even conceivable that Miller engaged in this mass murder, if in fact he is proven to have done so, as a way of showing that he really wasn't a snitch, he was really in it for real.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to play part of an interview with Heidi Beirich, head of the Southern Poverty Law Center's Intelligence Project, that she did with Frazier Glenn Miller just months ago in the fall of 2013.

FRAZIER GLENN MILLER: Whites are in fact dying out. Jews are increasing.

HEIDI BEIRICH: God, Glenn, you and your crazy numbers. You know, whites are not dying out.

FRAZIER GLENN MILLER: Well, it is all a matter of goddamn simple arithmetic. You refuse to recognize.

HEIDI BEIRICH: Well, for you, it's a matter of really stupid, simple argumentation.

FRAZIER GLENN MILLER: I wouldn't even be in the movement if not for that.

HEIDI BEIRICH: Well, then, you shouldn't - you - FRAZIER GLENN MILLER: We went from - we went from 90 - 90 %. When I was 25 years old, the United States was 90 % white.

HEIDI BEIRICH: Yet that doesn't mean whites are being exterminated. There's just other people here.

FRAZIER GLENN MILLER: Everything that's killing us was brought about by Jews.

HEIDI BEIRICH: Killing us? Killing us?

FRAZIER GLENN MILLER: Legalization - the legalization of abortion that has already killed, what, 40 million white babies in the United States.

AMY GOODMAN: That's Frazier Glenn Miller. He went on to praise Joseph Paul Franklin, a serial killer who was executed last year for the sniper killing of a man outside a synagogue in 1997. He killed a number of other people, including an interracial couple and 2 black teenage boys, and firebombed a synagogue. And he famously tried to kill Hustler magazine publisher Larry Flynt and civil rights activist Vernon Jordan Jr. This is what Frazier Glenn Miller said about Franklin just months ago.

FRAZIER GLENN MILLER: You know they're going to kill him November 20th.

HEIDI BEIRICH: Yeah. What he did was pretty, pretty heinous, you have to admit. He was gunning people down.

FRAZIER GLENN MILLER: Well, he did have a rationale for it.

HEIDI BEIRICH: A rationale?

FRAZIER GLENN MILLER: I mean, it wasn't - it wasn't unreasonable -


FRAZIER GLENN MILLER: It wasn't unreasonable in his mind. He thought he was doing the right thing.

HEIDI BEIRICH: Yeah, but that's what all murderers have, some kind of rationale.

FRAZIER GLENN MILLER: And he's a vigilante. A righteous vigilante is what I would call him.

AMY GOODMAN: That's Frazier Glenn Miller just months ago talking about Joseph Paul Franklin, who was executed last year for the killing spree that he went on. Mark Potok, also the center, your center, the Southern Poverty Law Center, talk about the plot against the founder, Morris Dees.

MARK POTOK: Well, Miller saw Morris as his mortal enemy. At that point, Morris and the center were becoming well known. We were just starting our 1st major lawsuits against Klan groups. The 1st one was against the United Klans of America, based here in Alabama. And so, you know, this idea was going around that Morris Dees was the absolutely number one enemy of white supremacy in America, and he needed to be taken out. Miller, in fact, created a "point system," quote-unquote, where people like Joseph Paul Franklin would get one point for killing black people, 10 points for killing Jews, 50 points for killing judges and 888 points for killing Morris Dees. So, you know, and I think that reflected more or less the way other people in the white supremacist world saw Morris. You know, at another point, there was another plot which involved scourging Morris. They wanted to tear the skin off his body. So there's a lot of hatred there. And that's, of course, one of the reasons why I work in a building that is just surrounded by immense security.

AMY GOODMAN: And so, what actually happened in that case?

MARK POTOK: Well, what happened was that he was initially charged with conspiracy, very serious charges, in 1987, that could have sent him to prison for 20 or 30 years. But he did in fact cut a deal with the federal government and agreed to testify in Fort Smith against his comrades. That wound up meaning a mere 5-year sentence for him, and he served only 3 years. As you've noted, the Kansas City paper has now reported that in fact he did change his name legally. It's clear that he was in the witness protection program. As you said, he wrote about it in his autobiography. And, you know, perhaps if he had been in prison all those years rather than a witness in this trial, which collapsed spectacularly, we wouldn't have experienced what we saw in Kansas City the other day.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to go to a clip of our other guest today, David Pakman, interviewing Frazier Glenn Miller in April of 2010 when Miller was running for the U.S. Senate as a write-in candidate for Missouri. David Pakman asked Miller if he personally hated him.

DAVID PAKMAN: Do you personally dislike me? So, like, could we get along even though I'm Jewish and you hate Jews? Like, do you have anything personal against me? Or how does that work?

FRAZIER GLENN MILLER: Yes, I hate all Jews.


FRAZIER GLENN MILLER: And I'll tell you why. For me to say out of the one corner my mouth that I didn't hate all Jews and then out of the other corner of my mouth say that Jews caused the deliberate murders of over 300 million of my people during the 20th century alone -


FRAZIER GLENN MILLER: Of course I hate you. And you've earned my hate.

AMY GOODMAN: That's the white supremacist who's charged in the Kansas killings, talking to David Pakman, who joins us now. David, you exchanged emails with Frazier Glenn Miller just months ago, that interview done in 2010.

DAVID PAKMAN: That's right. Initially we were in touch because Craig Cobb, another white separatist, who was trying to create a whites-only community in one of the Dakotas, was friends, I guess, of - or that's at least what they would describe each other - with Glenn Miller. Glenn Miller put me in touch with Cobb and then was trying to insert himself back into my program, asking that I interview him. When I explained that I have nothing against interviewing him in principle, but that there's really no news or there's no reason to interview him right now, he kind of resorted to the same anti-Jewish statements and rhetoric.

AMY GOODMAN: So talk about that 1st interview in 2010.

DAVID PAKMAN: Yeah, the big difference - I interview a lot of extremists - anti-gay extremists, religious extremists, many, many extremists. The one difference with Miller versus all of the others is that the others, while their rhetoric is incredibly discriminatory and hateful against huge groups of people, they're usually very nice to me, and sometimes they say they want to save me or they want to help me in some way. In their internal logic, that's what they want to do. As you saw, Miller told me very directly that he hated me. And that was an outlier.

AMY GOODMAN: So, these most - the most recent emails, that he wanted to come on again, was there any indication of what he wanted to say?

DAVID PAKMAN: Well, there - I've released these emails. They're on The full transcript is there, so people can kind of judge for themselves. If I were to speculate a little bit and kind of characterize them, there was a desperation for attention, seemed to be the main priority, just really wanted attention, wanted to be on. When I said, "Well, why would I have you on now?" he said, "Well, I think I'm going to run for something again soon." And I said, "Well, let's talk at that time."

AMY GOODMAN: One of the emails said, "As you know, your listenership, including the archive, skyrocketed after having me on your show. So don't say I'm not interesting. Since I'll be a candidate next year for US Congress, 7th district of MO, you can use that as a reason to have me on."

DAVID PAKMAN: That's exactly right. And then he also explained - this was kind of a running thing with him, where before the interview in 2010, he said I would never run it, because he would so badly embarrass me. Immediately after the interview - we recorded it earlier in the day before it aired - he said, "You're not even going to publish that, because I so embarrassed you." Of course, we did publish it, as it's now been widely disseminated. And that idea continued, that we were scared to have him on.

AMY GOODMAN: During his Senate campaign in 2010, Frazier Glenn Miller was interviewed by Howard Stern on his radio show.

HOWARD STERN: We call Glenn the only honest politician out there, actually. You made the good point yesterday, Robin: At least he doesn't lie. Hi, Glenn.

FRAZIER GLENN MILLER: Hey, good morning. And good morning to my friends at That's where I hang out. It's a discussion forum for pro-white people.


FRAZIER GLENN MILLER: But anybody is invited on, Howard. I'd love to have you come on there and debate me 1 on 1 and let everybody decide who’s right and who's wrong.

AMY GOODMAN: That's Frazier Glenn Miller referring to VNNForum - or Vanguard News Network Forum - dot-com. Mark Potok, can you talk about this site?

MARK POTOK: Well, VNN is essentially the 2nd-largest white supremacist web forum in the country - really, in the world. The largest is one called Stormfront. Miller was actually banned from Stormfront, which is run by a former Alabama Klan leader -and as I said, it's the largest - because of his informing against other leaders. But what he did, essentially, was land on VNN, where he's posted close to 13,000 times in recent years.

You know, we have recently completed and will very shortly release a report showing that, for instance - how these forums really help to create killers, or at least nurture killers. We found that at Stormfront, over the last 5 years, registered members of that forum have been responsible for almost 100 murders. There are also many people who have become murderers who post on VNN. So these are sort of Petri dishes, breeding grounds for people like Glenn Miller. You know, VNN is a particularly vicious site. They use language that you won't even find on Stormfront that's rather similar to the clips you played from Glenn Miller. It's run by a guy named Alex Linder, another old-time neo-Nazi. And, in fact, Linder is the guy who writes The Aryan Alternative that Miller published.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to ask you about the Nevada rancher who is declaring victory after hundreds of armed supporters backed his standoff with the federal government. The Bureau of Land Management began seizing Cliven Bundy's cattle this month, saying he owed more than a million dollars in fees for grazing his cattle on federally controlled land. Bundy refused to comply, saying he doesn't recognize the federal government. And hundreds of people from right-wing, anti-government and pro-gun groups flocked to his site. Just this past weekend, they shut down Interstate 15, leading to a standoff that ended with the government backing down and releasing the seized cattle. Cliven Bundy appeared on Fox News on Monday.

CLIVEN BUNDY: Listen, do you think they really have taken it over? I don't think so. Now they might have took over our Clark County sheriff, but they never took over we, the people, the sovereign people of this nation. We're standing. And we're going to stand until we take the guns away from those bureaucracies, and then we'll start making America great one more time.

AMY GOODMAN: Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center, can you talk about Cliven Bundy and the wider significance of this standoff in Nevada?

MARK POTOK: Yeah. It was an incredible moment. I mean, look, the bottom line, first of all, is that Cliven Bundy is stealing from the government. He is stealing from you and me. This is a guy who simply refuses to pay over a million dollar in grazing fees that every other person who grazes cattle on public lands in this country must pay. So, you know, that's the context. It's hardly about defending the Constitution or anything like that.

It is true that hundreds and hundreds of militiamen and others, members of the very groups you referenced at the very top of the show, have flocked to Bundy's ranch. I have seen really terrifying pictures, photographs of some of these militia types sitting on a highway overpass with their sniper weapons trained on law enforcement officials. Really, it was a terrifying situation. We had a reporter out there. It seemed obvious that at any moment we could have seen gunfire and, really, blood in the desert. You know, this is the latest iteration, really, of the kinds of conflicts that we've seen perenially over the last 15, 20 years with the militia movement - the idea that somehow the government has no right to, you know, impose any kind of law on people, particularly in the West, where there is so much resentment directed at Washington.

AMY GOODMAN: Is this kind of white supremacist, far-right violence increasing, Mark?

MARK POTOK: Well, it has been - it has been increasing, or at least very much up, since Barack Obama came into office. It was in fact rather quiet during the Bush years, between 2000, 2008. But pretty - even before Obama took office, as a matter of fact, immediately after he was inaugurated [nominated] in the summer of 2008 in Denver, we began to see plots, various attempts at domestic terrorism, really proliferate. So, the Glenn Miller murders, or alleged murders, are not unique at all. There are a number of - for instance, in June of 2009, after Obama took office, I'm sure many people will remember another well-known neo-Nazi, James von Brunn, shot and killed a guard at the Holocaust Museum in Washington. A couple of years after that, another neo-Nazi - again, fairly well known - tried to bomb a parade with a very powerful IED he built on Martin Luther King Day in Spokane, Washington. Yet a third neo-Nazi invaded a Sikh temple in August of 2012 and murdered 6 people. And these are only a few examples, but we really have seen quite a number of these. There's no question that we're seeing more violence from the domestic, non-Islamic radical right than we are at this point from jihadists.

AMY GOODMAN: And how does the government organize? I mean, number one on the domestic terrorism list, according to a top FBI official, is eco-terrorism, is the animal rights movement. We don't hear very much about white supremacists except when something horrific like this happens.

MARK POTOK: Well, let me say, the idea that eco-terrorists, so-called, are the major domestic terror threat, which was in fact said to Congress a couple of times by FBI leaders during the Bush years, I think is just patently ludicrous. You know, no one has been killed by anyone in the radical animal rights movement or the radical environmentalist movement. There are certainly groups out there that are involved in things like burning down SUV dealerships and so on, but no one has been killed yet. And that is in just, you know, wild contrast to what we're seeing from people like Glenn Miller. You know, we've also had a real problem with the Department of Homeland Security, in the sense that ever since a particular report on the right wing was leaked to the press in April of 2009, DHS has sort of cowered, in a sense. They essentially gutted their non-Islamic domestic terrorism unit and really have not been putting out very important reports.

AMY GOODMAN: Explain that just very quickly, Mark. Explain that for people who do not remember what happened in 2009.

MARK POTOK: Sure. The report did things like say the extremists are interested in recruiting returning veterans from Afghanistan and Iraq. There was a hue and cry on the right wing, the political right wing of this country, that DHS had characterized all military people, all veterans, as white supremacists and extremists and so on. And that's not at all what the report said. But Janet Napolitano, then the head of DHS, withdrew the report, apologized, and ultimately the unit fell apart.

AMY GOODMAN: David Pakman, as we wrap up, when you heard who was involved with the killings, who was the shooter in Kansas, your thoughts, having interviewed Miller?

DAVID PAKMAN: Yeah, I heard about it in pieces. First I heard about the shooting. And much later - it was Sunday night - I started getting tens and dozens of tweets from people saying, "The shooter is the guy you interviewed." Of course, the interview was 4 years ago; it didn't immediately click. It was Kansas, when I associated Miller with Missouri. Once I figured out what this was, initially I was just shocked, and then realized that this is - this was the guy who spoke to me in one way, and then took what he said and it now became real-world violence, which, of course, was horrifying.

AMY GOODMAN: And to those who say, "Why give him a platform?"

DAVID PAKMAN: Right. Well, if I were giving him a platform in the way that corporate news gives non-science-based climate change ideas an equivalent platform as if there is a 50/50 view, that would be wrong. That's not what I do. I have an opinion program. I bring these people on. It's abundantly clear that what I'm doing is exposing their views. And that's really why. Imagine if we had no video. We had - you know, often we have these crimes, and then people say, "We never heard anything. There's nothing. We don't know who this person is." Now we know.

AMY GOODMAN: David Pakman, I want to thank you for being with us, The David Pakman Show. David broadcasts on radio and television, on Free Speech TV, as well. And Mark Potok, the senior fellow at the Southern Poverty Law Center, has been tracking Frazier Glenn Miller for years. We'll link to your reports at

When we come back, another group of people who have been tracked in New York - Muslims - and what the New York Police Department has announced: the ending of the so-called Demographics Unit that spies on Muslims. Stay with us.

AMY GOODMAN: A cover of Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros' "Home" performed by Jorge and Alexa Narvaez. The Narvaezes, whose cover went viral online with 27 million views, garnering them an appearance on the daytime talk show Ellen, are back in the news this week after ICE arrested and rejected the asylum bid of their mother and grandmother, Esther Alvarado. DREAM activists are calling on the Obama administration to release her. This is Democracy Now!,, The War and Peace Report. I'm Amy Goodman.

(source: Democracy Now!)


Jenkins found guilty on 12 counts

An Omaha man is found guilty of 4 murders last summer and of weapons charges. It was just last week that Nikko Jenkins wanted to enter a plea of no contest to those crimes but Douglas County District Judge Peter Batallion refused that plea stating. Jenkins on Friday filed a hand written document stating he was ready to plead guilty however that isn't exactly what happened in court today.

Judge Batallion did accept Jenkins' no contest plea on all 12 charges. Judge Batallion then declared him guilty for the murders of Juan Uribe-Pena, Jorge Cajiga-Ruiz, Curtis Bradford and Andrea Kruger. He was also found guilty on 8 gun charges.

At one point Venita Glasgow, the mother of murder victim Curtis Bradford, ran from the courtroom sobbing when prosecutors detailed that murder.

Jenkins previous court hearings have been described as a circus and today was no different. At times Jenkins interrupted, spoke in the language of what he called a serpent god and broke out in laughter. At one point Jenkins claimed he had no knowledge of the murders and objected to the evidence presented by prosecutors. At that point Judge Batallion asked the prosecutor if he had any problem with accepting Jenkins' no contest plea. The prosecutor agreed and Judge Batallion found him guilty.

Jenkins faces the death penalty and he will be sentenced by a 3 judge panel later this year.

(source: Nebraska Radio Network)


Defense Attorney Pleads for Life Sentence in 2009 Hammer Slaying Trial

On April 8, Marissa DeVault was found guilty of using a hammer to viciously attack and kill her husband while he was sleeping in 2009. Now, it is up to jurors to decide whether the Arizona woman deserves life in prison or the death penalty.

DeVault was convicted of the first-degree murder of her husband, Dale Harrell, 34, at Arizona's Maricopa County Superior Court, reports the Associated Press. The 36-year-old mother of three used a claw hammer to bash Harrell's head while he was sleeping in their home on Jan. 14, 2009. He suffered multiple skull fractures and died almost a month later in a hospice.

The penalty phase in the notorious hammer slaying trial began on Tuesday. However, defense lawyer Alan Tavassoli pleaded with jurors to spare her life, telling jurors that DeVault was sexually abused as a child and had no adults who protected her, reports

Contrariwise, prosecutor Eric Basta told jurors that the case boils down to making choices.

Throughout the trial, prosecutors argued that the former stripper killed her husband in order to collect his almost $300,000 life insurance policy and use it to pay off a $360,000 loan to her secret boyfriend. However, defense attorneys maintained that she was a battered wife who killed her spouse in self-defense. Prosecutor Michelle Arino also pointed out that Devault carried out the attack on her husband in an especially cruel manner.

The jury found 1 aggravating factor that would make her eligible for execution on Monday, however, it was unable to reach a verdict on a 2nd aggravating factor. If no aggravating factors are found, the judge will have to sentence DeVault to life in prison either with or without parole.

(source: Latino Post)


Iranian killer's execution halted at last minute by victim's parents; Convict had noose around his neck when victim's mother approached, slapped him in the face and spared his life

When he felt the noose around his neck, Balal must have thought he was about to take his last breath. Minutes earlier, crowds had watched as guards pushed him towards the gallows for what was meant to be yet another public execution in the Islamic republic of Iran.

7 years ago Balal, who is in his 20s, stabbed 18-year-old Abdollah Hosseinzadeh during a street brawl in the small town of Royan, in the northern province of Mazandaran. In a literal application of qisas, the sharia law of retribution, the victim's family were to participate in Balal's punishment by pushing the chair on which he stood.

But what happened next marked a rarity in public executions in Iran, which puts more people to death than any other country apart from China. The victim's mother approached, slapped the convict in the face and then decided to forgive her son's killer. The victim's father removed the noose and Balal's life was spared.

Photographs taken by Arash Khamooshi, of the semi-official Isna news agency, show what followed. Balal's mother hugged the grieving mother of the man her son had killed. The 2 women sobbed in each other's arms - one because she had lost her son, the other because hers had been saved.

The action by Hosseinzadeh's mother was all the more extraordinary as it emerged that this was not the first son she had lost. Her younger child Amirhossein was killed in a motorbike accident at the age of 11.

"My 18-year-old son Abdollah was taking a stroll in the bazaar with his friends when Balal shoved him," said the victim's father, Abdolghani Hosseinzadeh, according to Isna. "Abdollah was offended and kicked him but at this time the murderer took an ordinary kitchen knife out of his socks."

Hosseinzadeh Sr has come to the conclusion that Balal did not kill his son deliberately. "Balal was inexperienced and didn't know how to handle a knife. He was naive."

According to the father, Balal escaped the scene of the stabbing but was later arrested by the police. It took 6 years for a court to hand down a death sentence, and the victim's family deferred the execution a number of times. An date for execution was set just before the Persian new year, Nowruz, but the victim's family did not approve of the timing.

Hosseinzadeh said a dream prompted the change of heart. "3 days ago my wife saw my elder son in a dream telling her that they are in a good place, and for her not to retaliate ... This calmed my wife and we decided to think more until the day of the execution."

Many Iranian public figures, including the popular TV sport presenter Adel Ferdosipour, had called on the couple, who have a daughter, to forgive the killer. Although they did so, Balal will not necessarily be freed. Under Iranian law the victim's family have a say only in the act of execution, not any jail sentence.

In recent years Iran has faced criticism from human rights activists for its high rate of executions. The UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, accused Hassan Rouhani of doing too little to improve Iran's human rights, especially reining in its staggering use of capital punishment.

As of last week, 199 executions are believed to have been carried out in Iran this year, according to Amnesty, a rate of almost two a day. Last year Iran and Iraq were responsible for 2/3 of the world's executions, excluding China.

At least 369 executions were officially acknowledged by the Iranian authorities in 2013, but Amnesty said hundreds more people were put to death in secret, taking the actual number close to 700.

Iran is particularly criticised for its public executions, which have attracted children among the crowds in the past. Iranian photographers are often allowed to document them.

Bahareh Davis, of Amnesty International, welcomed the news that Balal had been spared death. "It is of course welcome news that the family of the victim have spared this young man's life," she said. "However, qisas regulations in Iran mean that people who are sentenced to death under this system of punishment are effectively prevented from seeking a pardon or commutation of their sentences from the authorities - contrary to Iran's international obligations."

She added: "It's deeply disturbing that the death penalty continues to be seen as a solution to crime in Iran. Not only is the death penalty the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment with no special deterrent impact, but public displays of killing also perpetuate a culture of acceptance of violence.

"Public executions are degrading and incompatible with human dignity of those executed. In addition, all those who watch public executions - which regrettably often includes children - are brutalised by the experience."

In October last year an Iranian prisoner who survived an attempted execution and was revived in the morgue was spared another attempt, though his family said he had lost mental stability and remained in jail.

(source: The Guardian)

TEXAS----impending execution

Condemned killer Jose Villegas of Corpus Christi set to die Wednesday

Jose Villegas was out on bond for a sexual assault charge and was supposed to go on trial in Corpus Christi for punching a woman in the face on the same day 13 years ago that he stabbed his ex-girlfriend, her son and her mother to death.

The former cook, dishwasher and laborer was arrested after a police chase and charged with capital murder for the deaths of Erida Salazar, her 3-year-old son, Jacob, and her mother, Alma Perez.

Villegas, 38, was set for lethal injection Wednesday for the slayings. He would be the 7th Texas inmate executed this year and the 5th in as many weeks in the nation's most active death penalty state.

His attorneys argue that the punishment should be put off so they have additional time to investigate evidence they've recently found that Villegas is mentally impaired and ineligible for execution. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals refused Monday to halt the punishment, and lawyers for Villegas said they would take their appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Salazar's father, returning home Jan. 22, 2001, from jury duty, found the bloody body of his 51-year-old wife and had a neighbor call police. He then went back inside to find his 23-year-old daughter and his grandson also dead. Court documents show Salazar was stabbed 32 times, her son 19 times and mother 35 times. A television and car also were taken from the home.

Police spotted Villegas driving Salazar's car and he led them on a chase that ended when he bailed out on foot. When he was caught, officers found 3 bags of cocaine inside his baseball cap.

Testimony at his 2002 capital murder trial showed Villegas told police he pawned the stolen television for $75, used the money immediately to buy cocaine and hoped to commit suicide by overdosing.

"We had a confession, DNA, witnesses who saw him leaving the house afterward," Mark Skurka, the Nueces County district attorney who prosecuted the case, said. "He killed the mom first, then his girlfriend, then the baby."

Jurors deliberated less than 20 minutes before convicting him.

Following his conviction for capital murder, Villegas was convicted of two counts of indecency with a child related to the daughter of the woman he was accused of punching in the face prior to the slayings. He also has convictions for making terroristic threats to kill women, burglary and possessing inhalants.

Records showed he had spent at least 200 days in jail and 4 years on probation.

Defense attorneys at his trial acknowledged Villegas committed the slayings but said they were not intentional and he was mentally ill. A defense psychiatrist blamed his behavior on uncontrollable rages caused by "intermittent explosive disorder."

"Punishment was the only issue," Grant Jones, one of Villegas' trial lawyers, recalled this week. "I've been trying criminal cases over 40 years and I'd say in about 80 % of the cases, mental health is a factor to one degree or another."

Relatives said Salazar's mother had urged her to leave Villegas when she learned of the sex charges against him.

Villegas would be the third Texas inmate executed with a new stock of pentobarbital from a provider corrections officials have refused to identify, citing the possibility of threats of violence against the supplier. The Supreme Court has upheld that stance.

Texas and other death penalty states have been scrambling for substitute drugs or new sources for drugs for lethal injections after major drugmakers - many based in Europe where death penalty opposition is strong - stopped selling to state corrections agencies.

(source: Associated Press)


Texas Candidate Faces Thorny Death Penalty Choice

The death penalty is like gun rights in Texas politics: Candidates don't dare get in the way of either. But Republican Greg Abbott, the favorite to succeed Gov. Rick Perry, must soon make a decision as attorney general that could disrupt the nation's busiest death chamber.

It's an election-year dilemma for Abbott. But in Texas, it's one that Democratic rival Wendy Davis can't easily exploit, illustrating how little room there is to maneuver on this issue.

Abbott must soon decide whether to stick with his earlier opinions that Texas must disclose the source of the execution drugs it uses. That revelation that could prompt attention-shy suppliers to halt their drug deliveries and stop Texas' executions.

If Abbott holds firm, he'll please death penalty opponents who prison officials say want to target the companies with protests and threats. Reversing course would go against his vows for transparency in government.

"There's no political upside. It puts him in a little bit of a tough position," said Republican consultant Matt Mackowiak said.

The predicament comes up as Davis, the feisty Fort Worth lawmaker who has attracted national attention, is eager to find ways to shake up the campaign and prevent Abbott from riding a solid lead in the polls to a general election victory in the GOP-dominated state.

But Abbott's difficulty leaves her with few opportunities since portraying the law-and-order attorney general, who has held the position since 2003, as somehow soft on crime would be implausible. Both Abbott and Davis support the death penalty.

"I don't think any accusations here stick," said Harold Cook, a onetime leader of the Texas Democratic Party and now a consultant.

Polls in recent years have shown public support in Texas for capital punishment at more than 70 %. The state has executed an average of 20 inmates a year since Perry took office in 2001.

"In Texas, a lot of people feel like it's a settled issue," said Texas Democratic state Rep. Jessica Farrar, whose multiple bills to abolish the death penalty have attracted only a handful of supporters.

But death penalty opponents have managed to halt executions in some states, including conservative ones, by putting pressure on the suppliers of the lethal drugs, charging that the chemical executions can be cruel and unusual.

Since 2010, Abbott has rejected three attempts by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice to keep information about its execution drug suppliers confidential. He ruled that the benefits of government transparency outweighed the state's objections.

With prison officials warning that threats against suppliers are escalating, Abbott is expected to issue a ruling on the latest request in coming weeks.

When asked last weekend about Abbott's options, Davis avoided calling Abbott out personally. She referred to an earlier statement that said she believes the execution drug information should be public.

"I support capital punishment and I believe that as it has worked in this state it's been one that has provided due process in a way that I think we all would hope would occur," she said.

Unless the issue is resolved, it could be a problem for whoever is elected Texas governor, some strategists say.

"If you are the governor when we run out of drugs and you can't buy anymore, that's where you're going to create a problem," said Republican consultant Allen Blakemore, a veteran of district attorney election races in Harris County.

Anti-capital punishment groups concede that Texas embraces the death penalty tighter than most but say public support for it is declining nationwide. 32 states still have the death penalty after Democratic governors in Illinois, Maryland and Connecticut, led by Democratic governors repealed capital punishment in recent years.

"It's certainly not the issue it used to be. And I would say that's probably true politically," said Richard Dieter, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center in Washington.

2 death row inmates in Texas were put to death this month with the state's available supply of pentobarbital.

(source: Associated Press)


Witness To An Execution: Part 2

A follow up conversation with Stephen Lich Tyler

Stephen Lich Tyler drove to Texas last week to witness the execution of his father's killer, Ramiro Hernandez Llanas. Before he left, he spoke on The State of Things about his struggles with the decision to attend and his expectations of the execution. He returned to the studio today to talk with host Frank Stasio about the experience and how it shaped his perspective on the death penalty.

"I hadn't realized this but coming into the room I realized just how confrontational it felt," he said. "I was stepping up to a fight and I had to confront, face-to-face, this person who had done so much to affect my life."

It was the 1st time Lich Tyler had seen Hernandez Llanas in person. "We all dread... stepping up to our fears and stepping up to things that cause us anxiety," Lich Tyler said. "And I hadn't fully anticipated how much he himself distressed me and how much I was stepping up really to one of the worst things in my life, one of the worst experiences of my life, in a physical form."

Hernandez Llanas gave a statement just prior to his death. In it, he asked for forgiveness from Lich's family and referred to Lich as "my boss." He blew loud kisses towards the witness rooms. "It was one of the most grotesque things that I've seen," Lich Tyler said.

"I felt angry. I felt upset. I felt offended that he spoke to the family of 'his boss,' not his victim." he said. Lich Tyler made vulgar gestures in response. "I hope he saw. I hope he saw how I felt," he said.

Lich Tyler spoke about how witnessing an execution might help a victim's family restore a sense of control. "Someone exerted power and changed your life. It makes us feel helpless to know the event was not within our control, that the world is not within our control," he said. "At least to see that this one person who had hurt us was gone, to me it made that sense of being controlled go away."

(source: WUNC)


Mexican's Execution Confirms U.S. 'Decline' and 'Xenophobia' (La Jornada, Mexico)

"The death of Ramiro Hernandez Llanas was the culmination of a process characterized by the systematic denial by U.S. prison authorities of multiple appeals by the defense, and provisional measures granted to our compatriot by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. ... The execution confirms a growing pattern of racism and xenophobia within U.S. society and institutions, which paradoxically coincide with the arrival of the 1st non-Caucasian president in the White House."

Mexican Ramiro Hernandez Llanas, convicted and sentenced for murder in 2000, was executed April 8 at the Walls Unit of the Texas State Penitentiary in Huntsville. His death was the culmination of a process characterized by the systematic denial by U.S. prison authorities of multiple appeals by the defense, and provisional measures granted to our compatriot by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.

In general terms, capital punishment is an abominable and inhumane punishment that not only highlights the inefficiency and failure of law enforcement in countries that practice it, but it goes against the most fundamental right of human beings - the right to life. In the case of Hernandez Llanas, this sanction was an even greater injustice, since it was the result of procedural errors present in almost all cases of Mexicans sentenced to death in the United States.

Yesterday, in condemning this in a statement, Foreign Secretary Kuribrenare called that Hernandez Llanas was the 4th Mexican executed in clear violation of the decision of the ruling by the International Court of Justice delivered in the Avena Case, which was a demand presented by our country against the Washington government to review the 50 cases of Mexicans who had been arrested, tried, and sentenced to death, without respect for their right to consular assistance. Among them we also find Edgar Tamayo Arias, who was executed last January.

From another point of view, the penalty we mentioned confirms a growing pattern of racism and xenophobia within U.S. society and institutions, which paradoxically coincide with the arrival of the 1st non-Caucasian president in the White House. According to a 2012 report by Amnesty International, 1/3 of those executed in Texas during the previous year were Hispanic, while of the total of death penalty victims in that country over the last decade, 65 % belonged to the Hispanic and Black population.

The inescapable corollary of the discriminatory application of the death penalty is the exorbitant rate of deportations under Barak Obama's presidency, totaling nearly 2 million since the beginning of his administration, and more than 140,000 thousand this year alone.

As with the application of the death penalty, which constitutes an atrocious form of legalized murder, the expulsion of undocumented foreign nationals mainly effects Mexican and Central American citizens. This policy is doubly hypocritical, first because it doesn't follow a strictly legalistic zeal, but the need to regulate the cheap labor force in that country. Second, because it demonizes undocumented migration while the U.S. simultaneously benefits from the invaluable contribution this phenomenon makes to its economy and culture.

The state murder committed against Hernandez Llanas stands at the vortex between the persistence of a judicial aberration like the death penalty, and the social, political and institutional decline of our neighboring country regarding the minorities present in the country. Both processes show how invalid are the claims of the United States, which hold itself up as a world leader with respect to human rights.

(source: Editorial, World Meets.US)


New Hampshire should abolish death penalty

New Hampshire stands on the verge of repealing its death penalty, and needs just a few more senators to come out against the increasingly indefensible practice before a vote planned for Thursday. Momentum in Concord has been growing since the state House of Representatives passed a repeal measure in March in a bipartisan vote, and Governor Maggie Hassan has said she will sign the legislation should it make it out of the Senate. But enough senators - including Democrat Jeff Woodburn and Republicans Bob Odell, Russell Prescott, Andy Sanborn, and Jeanie Forrester - remain undecided to leave the measure's fate in doubt.

By now, the undecided legislators have heard all the arguments against capital punishment. Death-penalty prosecutions are expensive, verdicts often reflect racial bias, and there's little evidence that executions actually deter violent crime. Social attitudes have shifted, with more viewing the punishment as inhumane. And the possibility of executing a wrongfully convicted defendant looms over the whole debate; a state with a libertarian heritage like New Hampshire's should regard with deep suspicion a punishment that can only make sense if the government has the right suspect 100 % of the time.

Despite the objections, some New Hampshire lawmakers appear sympathetic to the argument that prosecutors need the death penalty in their toolbox so they'll have more leverage to negotiate tougher plea bargains. Facing the possibility of death if they're convicted at trial, the theory goes, criminals will be more likely to accept life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.

Yet that's among the weakest of reasons to keep the death penalty, because it could serve to coerce an innocent or less culpable defendant into taking a plea bargain just to avoid the possibility of death.

Because New Hampshire has not put a convict to death since 1939, past debates on capital punishment in Concord have taken on an overly philosophical feel. The tenor of the debate this time is slightly different: New Hampshire now has a death row prisoner, Michael Addison, who was convicted of murdering a Manchester police officer in 2006. The current repeal proposal wouldn't void Addison's sentence and will only apply to future convictions. Still, his case should serve as a reminder that lawmakers can't approach the death penalty like it's a legalistic bargaining strategy divorced from the reality of executions. The death penalty hasn't been shown to be an effective deterrent to crime and distorts the normal processes of justice. New Hampshire should get rid of it.

(source: Editorial, Boston Globe)


N.H. Senate to decide on death penalty repeal; Some say Senate tie is possible

The state Senate takes up the death penalty repeal tomorrow.

"We think it will be very close," said Arnie Alpert, spokesman for the New Hampshire Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty.

2 Southern New Hampshire senators are among those who repeal proponents believe are on the fence: Nancy Stiles, R-Hampton, who represents Newton, and Russell Prescott, R-Kingston.

Stiles earlier this month said she has opposed repeal in the past and believes it is a deterrent to crime, but would listen to advocates.

"It's fair to say a number of senators are giving deep thought to repeal," Alpert said. "I would say if you are giving it deep thought, you are more likely to come down on the side of repeal."

Some are wondering if this is the closest of votes, a tie.

"There is talk among the legislators that this may be a tie," said Paul Lutz, a member of the repeal coalition from Derry.

A tie isn't good enough for repeal proponents.

"A tie is not a majority," Lutz said. "The status quo would prevail."

Sen. Sharon Carson, R-Londonderry, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, opposed repeal in a 3-2 committee vote.

Alpert said Sens. Chuck Morse, R-Salem, and Jim Rausch, R-Derry, are believed to be leaning against repeal.

But he said Morse, the Senate president, and Republican leader Jeb Bradley, R-Wolfeboro, have taken the position this is a vote of conscience and won't insist the GOP stand together for a partyline vote in the Republican-controlled Senate.

Proponents see Bradley as a no vote as well.

In the Judiciary Committee, Sen. David Boutin, R-Hooksett, joined with Carson in voting against repeal.

Sens. Betty Lasky, D-Nashua, Donna Soucy, D-Manchester, and Sam Cataldo, R-Farmington, voted for repeal.

(source: Eagle Tribune)


Indian American facing charges of murdering elderly woman, her grand-daughter, requests delay in trial; Defense lawyers want witnesses to come from India

The legal team defending Raghunandan Yandamuri, the Indian American man arrested in 2012 for allegedly killing an elderly woman and her infant grandchild, has requested that the start of his trail be delayed to allow time for a number of key witnesses to come to the US.

Although the trial is set to begin in just a few weeks' time, on May 5, many of the most crucial witnesses for Yandamuri's defense are not in the US. Yandamuri's defense attorneys, Stephen Heckman and Henry Hillis, are trying to bring people from India to take the stand for their client, but immigration hold-ups are preventing that.

According to their motion, filed with the court in eastern Pennsylvania, the list of people that Heckman and Hillis are attempting to bring to the trial include Yandamuri's wife and brother, as well as others who were not specifically named in the filing.

The new motion is just the latest in a long line, in what has become a lugubrious and drawn-out litigation process. Over the last few months, Yandamuri's defense team filed a number of motions to help increase their client's chances of being acquitted. These have included asking to have all crime scene photos at the trial shown in grey-scale, rather than color to avoid bringing undue prejudice against Yandamuri with overly intense photographs, limiting the amount of computer-generated video shown to the jury to demonstrate what Yandamuri allegedly did, and dismissing a previously circulated video in which Yandamuri apparently confessed to the crime (a confession he later withdrew).

The details of what allegedly transpired on the night of October 26, 2012 are sordid and disturbing. According to police reports, Yandamuri hatched a scheme to kidnap a ten month-old girl named Saanvi, the daughter of Latha and Venkata Venna Konda, in the King of Prussia area of Pennsylvania, just outside of Philadelphia.

Yandamuri was friends with the Venna Kondas, and was therefore intimate with the layout of their house, as well as their comings and goings. On the night of October 26, he went to the house to kidnap Saanvi, who he allegedly planned to hold for ransom. However, the girl's grandmother, Satyavathi Venna, was in the house, and confronted Yandamuri when she saw him break in to nab Saanvi.

That's when Yandamuri allegedly slit the grandmother's throat, killing her. When Saanvi began crying, Yandamuri then allegedly stuffed rags down the baby's throat, causing her to suffocate and die. He was arrested shortly thereafter; at the time of his arrest, he had a wife, who was pregnant with the couple's 1st child.

Upon arrest, Yandamuri apparently gave a confession. But earlier this year, he recanted it, saying that it was coerced by police officers who did intimidated him and did not even allow him his customary phone call. Yandamuri is now pleading "not guilty" to murder charges, saying that 2 men he does not know actually committed the crime.

If Yandamuri is convicted, he faces the possibility of the death penalty. In fact, it is because of the possibility of capital punishment that so much of the case has been prolonged, as the defense team has argued that they must be allowed to prepare for trial as thoroughly as possible, given the severity of the potential punishment.

(source: The American Bazaar)


Father of Pulaski County infant charged with capital murder

The father of a 5-month-old boy found dead in a wooded area of Pulaski County in January is now indicted on a capital murder charge.

Howard Samuel Cole, 32, is also facing 1 count of illegal disposal of a body, county Commonwealth's Attorney Mike Fleenor announced Tuesday afternoon.

Cory Cole's body was located Jan. 30 in a rural area of Draper off Old Route 100.

According to a search warrant filed recently in Pulaski County Circuit Court, Howard Cole led detectives in January to the area where he said he had taken and left Cory. Whether or not the infant had been alive when he was abandoned in the woods was not clear in the warrant.

The manner of Cory's death has not been released.

The punishment for a capital murder conviction is either the death penalty or a life sentence without parole. Illegal disposal of a body carries 1 to 5 years in prison or up to 12 months in jail.

Virginia law allows capital murder charges in a number of situations, including when a victim is younger than 14 and the suspect older than 21.

Fleenor said neither his office nor the Pulaski Police Department will have any additional comment on the case until the matter has been tried and a verdict has been returned.

Cory was first reported missing on Jan. 29 by his mother, Samantha Warden, who told police that her fiance, Howard Cole, had left with the baby. She signed an arrest warrant affidavit on that same day accusing Cole of abusing Cory.

When Cole was arrested on Jan. 30 outside the Walmart in Fairlawn, Cory was not with him. He was questioned as to Cory's whereabouts and well-being, and after being questioned, he led detectives to the wooded area, according to the warrant.

Until this week, no one had been charged in relation to Cory's death, but both his mother and father have been held in jail for some time.

Cole was charged with child abuse when he was arrested in January. Warden, 29, who is also known as Samantha Anna-Jane Taylor, was arrested Feb. 12 on a warrant for child neglect.

Warden has told The Roanoke Times that she, Cole and Cory were temporarily living in her brother's house on Crestline Drive in Pulaski while the family saved money and worked toward buying a home. Warden has said that she left the residence in the afternoon of Jan. 27 to spend the night at a friend's house in Pulaski County and visit with her uncle.

According to the warrant, Warden left that day to stay with a boyfriend.

She said she received a call on Jan. 28 from her sister-in-law advising that Cole had left the house in a vehicle but that Cory did not appear to be with him, according to the warrant. The next day, Warden reported Cory missing and filled out a criminal complaint so that an arrest warrant could be obtained against Cole.

In the arrest warrant filed in Pulaski County Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court on Jan. 29, Warden detailed an incident when Cory was crying and Cole got irritated.

"He picked him up from his crib held him in the air & said shut the fock [sic] up & threw him down on the bed across the room 4ft," according to the handwritten affidavit signed by Warden.

According to the affidavit, the alleged abuse occurred on or about Jan. 26 - the day before Warden left Cory in Cole's care. The affidavit appears to conflict with statements Warden made Feb. 5 to The Roanoke Times. Warden said then that she was having a hard time comprehending the allegations against Cole because she said she had never seen him abuse her children.

In addition to Cory, Warden and Cole have a 3-year-old daughter together, and Warden has a 6-year-old daughter with her ex-husband.

The search warrant had been obtained for Warden's DNA. According to the document, the commonwealth's attorney requested bedding and clothing items be tested for possible evidence. DNA samples from family members were "requested by forensic biologist for identification and/or exclusion to any recovered DNA," the warrant stated.

Additional search warrants filed in relation to the case are not available publicly. On Jan. 31, Pulaski County Circuit Court Judge Marc Long granted Commonwealth's Attorney Mike Fleenor's request that search warrants, subpoenas, records and filings related to the case pending against Howard Cole be sealed.

(source: The Roanoke Times)


Endless death penalty folly

I wish I could have attended arguments in 2 Racial Justice Act cases before the N.C. Supreme Court yesterday.

I trust reports by The N&O and WRAL provide reliable summaries.

The court is considering the state's appeals in two cases in which convicted murderers, who are black, were found by a lower court to have been victims of racial discrimination at trial.

Not that they did not commit 1st-degree murder. That is firmly established.

But they were sentenced to death because, across the state and in a particular prosecutorial district, black defendants are more likely to receive a death sentence, the lower court found. Or that the killers of white victims are more likely to get that punishment.

I've cited the case of Lesley Eugene Warren, a white serial killer of young white women, including one in High Point, who filed an RJA bias claim -- and could prevail. If he does, surely that would prove the absurdity of RJA logic.

More than 150 RJA cases were filed after the law was enacted in 2009. The legislature repealed the law last year, but defendants argue their cases must be heard under the law as it existed when they filed.

I've expressed utmost skepticism about the RJA from the start because, as defendants' attorneys noted yesterday, it does not require case-specific evidence of bias. Simply applying statistics is enough to prove the claim.

At the same time, the RJA itself treats defendants differently solely on account of their race. In an identical crime, it could be used to prevent a death penalty being imposed upon a black defendant and allow a death penalty to be imposed upon a white defendant. It perverts the principle of impartial justice.

Furthermore, one way to correct the racial disparities in death sentences would be for trial courts to impose the death penalty against a lot more white defendants. Or, perversely, against more black defendants whose victims are black -- because one of the statistical disparities is that murderers whose victims are black are less often sentenced to death.

What the RJA has achieved so far is to tie a big knot in the court system, on top of all the other legal knots having to do with the death penalty.

There's a simple way to untie all of it, and that is to do away with capital punishment in North Carolina. The legislature should pass a law to do that, and the governor can get the ball rolling by commuting the sentences, to life in prison without parole, for all 153 offenders on death row.

North Carolina has not carried out an execution since 2006. Have we really missed executions these last eight years? Have we been less safe?

We won't miss the death penalty when it's gone, which it will be someday. Why not now? We'll sure be better off without the endless legal wrangling.

The RJA was misguided, in my opinion. But the death penalty is more so. The legal process to get there is riddled with inconsistencies and potential for error. We'll never catch up with the death row backlog, and heaven help us if we really want to.

(source: Doug Clark, Greensboro News-Record, blog)


Appeal to Return 4 to Death Row Is Heard

The North Carolina Supreme Court on Monday heard arguments about whether it should reinstate death sentences for four inmates whose punishments were reduced under a law that allowed certain criminal defendants to challenge their sentences by raising claims of racial bias in their prosecutions.

The 2 arguments before the elected court were the latest chapter in a legal and political drama that has played out since 2009, when the state's Racial Justice Act was signed into law, creating a path for new court challenges by scores of inmates awaiting execution. The law was repealed by the Republican-dominated legislature in June 2013, and the state is trying to reimpose death penalties that were overturned while it was in place.

The centerpiece of the session on Monday in Raleigh, the capital, was the case of Marcus Reymond Robinson, a black man who was the 1st person to have his punishment reduced under the Racial Justice Act. Mr. Robinson, who was convicted of kidnapping and killing a teenage boy, said racial biases had tainted jury selection during his trial. A judge in Cumberland County overturned his death sentence in 2012.

Mr. Robinson's case was part of a study by researchers at Michigan State University, who found "powerful evidence that race was a substantial factor" in prosecutors' decisions to strike potential jurors in 173 death-penalty cases in North Carolina, including 11 in Cumberland County.

On Monday, one of Mr. Robinson's lawyers, Donald H. Beskind, told the justices that a county prosecutor had deliberately diluted the jury of blacks through his use of peremptory challenges, forming a pattern that he said "did not happen by chance."

"No one should die at the hands of the state if racial discrimination played a significant role in that person being charged, convicted or receiving a sentence of death," Mr. Beskind said. He noted that the prosecution had stricken half of the qualified black jurors for Mr. Robinson's trial.

But Danielle M. Elder, a lawyer for the state, said that statistics alone did not amount to evidence of conscious racial bias that should void a death sentence.

"Statistical disparities do nothing to get this court any further in determining why a juror was struck," Ms. Elder said. She argued that the black jurors who were eliminated from jury service had "completely obvious reasons for being stricken."

Echoing other prosecutors who have criticized the Michigan State University report, which is central to Mr. Robinson's case, Ms. Elder also contended that the study was defective because it could not account for every factor lawyers weigh when selecting jurors. "Jury strikes in capital cases are not by chance," she said. "They're decisions. They're motivated."

Mr. Beskind responded that the Racial Justice Act, which was heavily amended in 2012 and repealed last year, did not stipulate that discrimination had to be purposeful and overt to yield a modified sanction.

The 3 other cases, which were argued as a group before the Supreme Court on Monday, also originated in Cumberland County, which has a population of about 326,000 and includes Fayetteville, one of North Carolina's largest cities.

The death sentences for those defendants, 2 black men and a Native American woman, were reduced in 2012 to life imprisonment without parole.

Ms. Elder accused the county judge in those appeals, Gregory A. Weeks, of making his decisions "before the first bit of evidence came in." Judge Weeks also overturned the original death sentence given to Mr. Robinson.

But a lawyer for the 3 defendants, Jay H. Ferguson, cited problematic training programs for prosecutors regarding juror selection before the crimes took place and "the disparate treatment of jurors and strike decisions" as evidence of clear discrimination in Cumberland County.

The Supreme Court did not say when it would issue opinions in the cases. North Carolina has not executed an inmate since 2006.

(source: New York Times)


Death penalty to be sought in Centerville triple homicide

The death penalty will be sought against Robert Erik Bell, the man accused of ambushing and killing 3 people near Snellville last September.

Gwinnett County District Attorney Danny Porter filed a motion last month declaring his intent to pursue the death penalty in Bell's case "based on aggravated circumstances." Georgia law offers several strict guidelines for circumstances in which capital punishment can be imposed, and Porter has filed under the section that allows it if "the offense of murder, rape, armed robbery, or kidnapping was committed while the offender was engaged in the commission of another capital felony."

In Bell's case, murder is the alleged offense and the "other" capital felony.

"Bell, 34, was arrested at a New Orleans, La., homeless shelter in October, about 5 weeks after police believe he opened fire at 4630 Anderson Livsey Lane in Centerville. According to authorities, Bell and his wife had been living there with Angelina Benton's family after falling on hard times.

On Sept. 15, 2013, Bell was allegedly armed and waiting inside the home when Benton, her 12-year-old son, 19-year-old godson and boyfriend returned from a short trip in Bell's SUV. Joseph McDonald and Raynard Daniel - the son and godson, respectively - were shot and killed as they entered the home. Benton, 34, was killed in the driveway.

Justin Cato, the boyfriend, was shot in the leg but survived after hiding in a ditch until police arrived.

Bell reportedly fled on foot before stealing a car nearby. The latter was eventually recovered in New Orleans, helping lead authorities to their suspect. Bell was indicted in November on 3 counts apiece of murder, felony murder and aggravated assault, as well as a single charge of aggravated battery.

A potential motive for the shooting has never been revealed.

Since November, Porter has now filed to pursue the death penalty in 3 separate murder cases.

The district attorney intends to seek capital punishment for Eman and Tiffany Moss, the parents of 10-year-old Emani Moss. Starved to death, put in a trash can and set on fire last fall in Lawrenceville, the young girl's death has helped spur changes in the state's Division of Family and Children Services.

"Ki Song Kim will also face the death penalty when he goes to trial for the July 27, 2013, murder of Young Chan and Sun Hee Choi, his former employers at a local restaurant supply business. According to authorities, the couple was stabbed multiple times inside their Duluth home. Sun Hee Choi's throat was cut.

(source: Gwinnett Daily Post)


Our Opinion: Death penalty----Require a unanimous decision from jurors

The death penalty has been a subject of disagreement for years, with endless arguments over whether it's being carried out too much or not enough, too quickly or too slowly, and of course whether Florida should even have the death penalty.

On one point, though, everyone should be in agreement: If we are to have the death penalty, it should be carried out fairly.

That's why it's unfortunate that bills intended to help ensure that fairness are languishing in the state House and the Senate. Senate Bill 334, introduced by Sen. Thad Altman, R-Melbourne, and the similar House Bill 467, introduced by Rep. Jose Javier Rodriquez, D-Miami, would require that an advisory sentence of death by a jury be unanimous.

A little background. In Florida, a jury in a capital case determines guilt - and the vote must be unanimous. But in the sentencing phase, the jury has only an advisory capacity, and after considering the aggravating circumstances that might call for the death penalty, it makes its recommendation based on a simple majority vote.

Florida is 1 of only 2 states (the other is Delaware) with such a low threshold. In Alabama, 10 of 12 jurors must recommend death, and in every other state with the death penalty, the jury vote must be unanimous.

Florida leads the nation in death sentences and is second in actual executions. It also leads the nation in reversals of death sentences. That is not something to brag about.

Though the judge in a case can override the jury's recommendation, that is rare. So, what the jury decides matters, and it is inconsistent that a decision on guilt should require unanimity - while the decision to take the life of the accused needs only a simple majority.

Here's food for thought: Since 2006, the state Supreme Court has not overturned any sentence in which the jury recommended death by a 12-0 vote.

Surely, with a requirement of unanimity, jurors would have an extra incentive to engage in a thorough discussion before making a recommendation. That extra time would ensure extra fairness.

And isn't that what we all want?

(source: Editorial, Tallahassee Democrat)


Jury recommends death penalty for Joshua Douglas

An Escambia County jury has unanimously recommended the death penalty for a man who was convicted last week of sexually assaulting and killing a Pensacola woman.

The jury recommendation will carry significant weight when Joshua Wayne Douglas, 32, is sentenced for the 2010 murder of 25-year-old Jamie Miranda Broxson, but it is not final.

Circuit Judge Terry Terrell will ultimately decide Douglas' sentence, and he has the option to give Douglas life imprisonment if he finds it more appropriate.

The next stage of the process will be a Spencer hearing May 23. This hearing is held for the purpose of presenting any further evidence for Terrell to consider before imposing sentence.

During the 2-day penalty phase of the trial, the jury heard evidence that wasn't disclosed in the criminal portion of the trial and testimony on Douglas' criminal and personal background.

The State Attorney's Office sought the death penalty for Douglas because of the cruel circumstances of Broxson's murder.

Medical Examiner Andi Minyard concluded in an autopsy that Broxson was violently sexually assaulted, bound around the face and extremities with duct tape and strangled.

Her body was left in the woods near a Gulf Power Co. substation on Jernigan Road.

The jury took only an hour and a half to conclude that the death penalty is fitting.

(source: Pensacola News Journal)


Judge Denies New Trial For Death Row Prisoner, Convicted of Winter Haven Murders

A circuit judge has denied Thomas Rigterink's request to be taken off Florida's death row for fatally stabbing two people in Winter Haven.

The 42-year-old former model and Warner Southern College student argued in a motion that his lawyers provided ineffective assistance when defending him at his 2005 trial.

Circuit Judge J. Dale Durrance conducted a hearing in August on Rigterink's claims.

The judge denied Rigterink's request to remove his death sentences and convictions in a detailed 61-page order dated April 11.

Durrance wrote that he did not find Rigterink's trial lawyers, Byron Hileman and David Carmichael, were unreasonable or deficient in their legal assistance.

The judge noted that prosecutors presented "compelling evidence" that Rigterink was guilty of the killings.

"Mr. Rigterink provided law enforcement with a confession to the murders," the judge wrote.

"There was significant physical and circumstantial evidence tying him to the murders."

Prosecutors argued that Rigterink planned to rob Jeremy Jarvis, 24, of drugs on Sept. 24, 2003.

He went to where Jarvis was living, a warehouse unit at County Road 542 and Jimmy Lee Road, near Winter Haven.

Rigterink stabbed Jarvis, who ran for help to the nearby offices where Allison Sousa, 23, worked as a secretary.

(source: The Ledger)


Florida Supreme Court upholds murder conviction, death penalty

The Florida Supreme Court has affirmed the conviction and death sentence for Toney Deron Davis. In 1995, Davis was convicted of 1st-degree murder, aggravated child abuse and sexual battery.

In December 1992, the victim, 2-year-old Caleasha Cunningham, was left under Davis' care while her mother ran an errand. During that time, an acquaintance of the defendant arrived at the apartment and found the child injured. The victim was found wet, unconscious, and bleeding from her mouth. Doctors examined the child and found bruising, swelling of the brain, and pools of blood in the skull.

The girl later died as a result of 4 separate blows to the head, which caused a cerebral hemorrhage.

In 1995, Davis was found guilty and sentenced to death. He appealed, and each court which reviewed the case upheld his conviction and sentence. Davis appealed again to the Florida Supreme Court, which has now denied this latest set of claims.



Miss. death row inmate challenges rape conviction

The Mississippi Supreme Court has set out a timetable for attorneys for a death row inmate to file briefs by late May supporting his appeal of a 1994 rape conviction.

In refusing to set an execution date for Charles Ray Crawford in March, the Supreme Court said it would resolve the appeal of prior rape conviction first.

That conviction was cited as an aggravating factor by prosecutors in justifying the death sentence Crawford received in 1994 for the slaying of a junior college student.

The Supreme Court filed an order Monday setting out the briefing scheduled. Prosecutors will have 30 days after Crawford's lawyers file his arguments to file a response.

If the Supreme Court upholds Crawford's conviction in the earlier case, Attorney General Jim Hood could again petition the court to set an execution date.

Crawford's attorneys have argued in court documents that if the rape conviction is reversed, the jury would have considered "an invalid aggravator in imposing the death sentence." They argued reversal would mean Crawford would have the right to have his death sentence thrown out and a new sentencing hearing scheduled in Tippah County.

Prosecutors have said a reversal of the earlier rape conviction would be a harmless error because of the abundance of evidence supporting the death penalty in the capital murder case. They said Crawford was also convicted of aggravated assault in the early trial, another aggravating factor used to justify the death penalty.

Few details of the prior rape and aggravated assault convictions are discussed in the earlier briefs in the death penalty case.

Crawford, now 43, was sentenced to death for the murder of Northeast Mississippi Community College student Kristy Ray in rural Tippah County.

In 1993, Crawford was out on bond awaiting trial on charges of aggravated assault and rape. 4 days before his trial, the 20-year-old Ray was abducted from her parents' home in Chalybeate. After his family and attorney notified police that they feared Crawford was committing another crime, he was arrested. Crawford told authorities he did not remember the incident but later led them to the body buried in leaves in a wooded area.

Crawford later was tried and convicted on the original charges in the rape and aggravated assault case and sentenced to 66 years in prison.

(source: Associated Press)


Ohio justice: division over death penalty expected

The chief justice of the Ohio Supreme Court says divisions about the death penalty on a panel that spent more than 2 years studying capital punishment in the state were to be expected.

Justice Maureen O'Connor said Tuesday that diametrically opposed positions and divisive topics were a healthy part of the panel's work.

The panel convened in 2011 by O'Connor finalized its recommendations last week and now awaits a dissenting report from prosecutors on the committee who disagreed with some proposals.

Recommendations include reducing the number of crimes eligible for the death penalty and creating a statewide board that would have the final say over death penalty charges in the state.

O'Connor says the committee's goal was a fair analysis of Ohio's 3-decade old capital punishment law.

(source: Associated Press)


Gloria Pointer was just 14 years old when she was raped and murdered on Dec. 6, 1984

The murder of Gloria Pointer was a cold case for nearly 30 years. It's now in the courtroom, as Hernandez Warren, 58, faces the death penalty if convicted of the crime.

Pointer was just 14 years old when she was raped and murdered on Dec. 6, 1984.

Warren was not arrested until May 2013, when a new DNA test showed a match. He faces 2 counts of aggravated murder, 1 count of rape, 4 counts of kidnapping and 1 count of aggravated robbery.

After his arrest last year, Warren confessed to police in a taped interview, but now his attorneys want that confession thrown out of court.

Warren showed no emotion as prosecutors played portions of the interview in a pretrial hearing Tuesday.

Gloria Pointer's mother, Yvonne, stood outside the courtroom, at the judge's suggestion, while the graphic tape rolled.

"We cannot have people thinking that they can do horrendous crimes and get away with it," said Yvonne.

Yvonne has devoted her life to preventing crimes like those that took her daughter.

"(Warren) has an opportunity I think to fill in some of the gaps for me that I've had for the past almost 30 years. I've had to wonder about -- if he's willing to do that," she said.

Through the video in the hourslong interview, Warren appears at times subdued and at times explosive.

"I killed her. But why and how, I just, look me. Man I was (expletive) up. I was (expletive) up. I don't know. I swear for God I don't know," Warren said in a room with two detectives in May 2013.

"It's a long time, almost 30 years to go without knowing who did this, so that part has been answered. We may not ever get to the why. Sometimes there's no why," Yvonne said.

"On behalf of my family and I, we just want this to be over with. We would like to see more remorse coming from Mr. Warren, but it doesn't seem that is going to happen," she said.

Yvonne Pointer says she's satisfied knowing who did it, but she says if the jury needs the confession to get to conviction, she hopes it will be shown.

"This individual is accused of murdering my daughter, but he did not kill her soul and neither has he done that to mine, so, like I said, he's insignificant," she said.

Tuessday Cleveland police detectives testified that Warren was read his rights and agreed to be interviewed without an attorney. On the tape, he can be seen penning and signing a handwritten confession.

His attorneys are arguing he requested an attorney be present.

(source: WKYC)


Youngstown man found guilty of murdering woman could face death penalty

The jury that convicted a Youngstown man of murdering a woman will now help decide if he'll be sent to Ohio's death row.

42-year-old Willie Wilks, Jr. reacted with anger on Tuesday morning when a jury in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court found him guilty on all counts for the shooting death of 20-year-old Ororo Wilkins and wounding of 24-year-old Alexander Morales as they stood on the porch of a home on Park Avenue in Youngstown last May.

Wilkins was holding a baby in her arms when she was gunned down.

After deliberating a short time Monday night and part of Tuesday morning, the jury found Wilks guilty of murder, felonious assault and weapons violations.

Upon hearing the guilty verdict on the murder charge, Wilks slammed his hands on a courtroom table and claimed that he did not commit the crime.

Wilks could still be heard shouting after he left the court. Authorities say he kicked a hole in a hallway wall as he was being led away.

The same jury is expected to be back in court next week to begin the mitigation phase of the trial.

Attorneys will present arguments that could determine if the jury will recommend that the judge sentence Wilks to be executed for the crimes, or sentenced to life in prison.

(source: WFMJ)


Prosecutors Seek Death Penalty for Kansas Anti-Semitic Gunman; Former KKK leader Frazier Glenn Cross facing hate crimes charges; if found guilty could face death penalty.

Prosecutors filed a death penalty murder charge Tuesday against a white supremacist accused of fatally shooting 3 people at Jewish sites over the weekend, judicial sources said.

Frazier Glenn Cross, 73, was charged with 1 count of capital murder for the deaths of a 69-year-old physician and his teenage grandson outside the Jewish Community Center of Greater Kansas City.

He also faces 1 count of 1st-degree murder for the death of a 53-year-old woman at the nearby Village Shalom retirement community where she was paying a weekly visit to her mother.

Cross was scheduled to appear in court Tuesday at 1:30 p.m., a spokeswoman for Johnson County District Attorney Stephen Howe told AFP by telephone.

Sunday's bloodshed - on the eve of the Jewish holiday of Pesach (Passover) - occurred in the Kansas City suburb of Overland Park. All 3 victims were Christian.

Local police, FBI agents and federal prosecutors said Monday they intended to pursue Cross for hate crimes, which under federal law calls for tougher sentencing.

Cross shouted "Heil Hitler" from the back of a police car when he was taken into custody Sunday.

The Southern Poverty Law Center and Anti-Defamation League described Cross as a North Carolina native and former US army Green Beret commando who, in the 1980s, founded and led the Carolina Knights of the Ku Klux Klan and the White Patriot Party.

The center, which monitors hate groups, said Cross, a Vietnam war veteran, is well-known for espousing anti-Semitic and white supremacist views.

He spent 3 years in federal prison after being indicted on weapons charges and for plotting robberies and the murder of the law center's co-founder Morris Dees.

More recently, resettling in rural Aurora, Missouri, Cross helped launch a short-lived newspaper called The Aryan Alternative and "actively promoted his racist and anti-Semitic views online," the Anti-Defamation League said.

"I'm a patriotic white man... The only thing I ain't figured out is whether to hate all you (expletive) Jews or just the Zionists," Cross candidly told Kansas City television station KMBC in a 2006 interview.

(source: Israel National News)


Favor it or not, death penalty changes needed

Few topics divide California as consistently or as evenly as the death penalty. The last time voters had their say on it, they opted by a vote of just over 51-49 percent to keep it around.

How avidly do supporters of capital punishment maintain their opinions? 2 years ago, when the Proposition 34 ballot initiative aimed to dump capital punishment in California and disband the state's only death row, in San Quentin Prison, its supporters raised $7.3 million while those wanting to keep the death penalty had barely $300,000. The no's prevailed despite that huge financial disadvantage.

So death row persists, with 736 denizens at last count, all convicted of the most vicious crimes, some of them repeat killers. As of March 1, 233 had killed children and 42 were cop killers.

It takes so long for any of them to exhaust their appeals that the most common causes of death on death row are linked to old age. "It's just wrong for these people to live that long after they have deprived others of their lives and taken the victims away from their families," says former Gov. Pete Wilson.

While the death penalty is opposed by groups from the California Nurses Assn. to the League of Women Voters and by every Roman Catholic and Episcopal bishop in the state, it is still reality, and the reasons for making it less time consuming include everything from finances to better justice for convicts. No one is talking about a rush to the gas chamber here.

Little has ever united Wilson and his predecessor and fellow Republican George Deukemjian with Democratic ex-Gov. Gray Davis. But all back a proposed new ballot initiative to clean up the capital punishment process.

How flawed is that process? It normally takes 5 years before a person under sentence of death has a lawyer assigned to his (almost all are men) case. It often can take 4 times that long before death penalty appeals are heard by the state Supreme Court, even longer before they reach the U.S. Supreme Court.

One argument against the death penalty is that California has the nation's highest rate of wrongful convictions, running as high as 7 percent in some categories. But that’s also an argument against the current inefficient administration of capital punishment cases. For the longer the appeals process drags on, the longer a victim of a mistaken or manipulated conviction is penalized. Appointing appeals lawyers right after death sentences are dispensed would likely cut that time.

"The 30 years it can now take for the entire process to be resolved is also far too long for the families of victims," said Davis. "They need resolution, too."

Phyllis Loya's son Larry Lasater, an ex-Marine and a policeman in the East San Francisco Bay suburb of Pittsburgh who was slain in 2005, is an example of the delayed process. "My son's killer was sentenced in Aug. 2007, but didn't get an appeals lawyer appointed until late in 2011, almost 4 1/2 years," the bereaved mother said. "Then the lawyer got 9 extensions of the deadline for filing his opening brief over the next 2 years. That's ludicrous, it's nonsense."

Kermit Alexander, a former UCLA football player who was a pro-bowl defensive back for the San Francisco 49ers, shares her frustration. His mother, sister and 2 nephews were murdered in 1984 - 30 years ago - when gang members seeking someone else mistakenly invaded their home.

"These vultures are still alive," Alexander said. "I have not slept well since my mother was murdered." He also wants the process speeded.

Then there's the issue of how to house death row inmates, each of whom now gets an individual cell, usually outfitted with radio and TV. Backers of the death penalty efficiency initiative, led by San Bernardino County District Attorney Michael Ramos, want them housed two to a cell, a change the state's non-partisan legislative analyst says could save $10 million yearly.

"Why should the worst criminals live more comfortably than the general prison population?" Ramos asks.

While death penalty opponents say this is all strictly about retribution and note that killing criminals can't reverse their crimes, most Californians still want capital punishment. And if California is going to have it, what sense is there in dragging cases out decade after decade because of bureaucratic delays, thus frustrating everyone from victims' families to the wrongly convicted?

(source: Handford Sentinel)


Police: Sex Offenders Killed 4 Women While Wearing GPS Ankle Monitors

2 convicted sex offenders who allegedly killed and raped 4 women in Orange County while wearing their required GPS monitoring devices may have had additional victims, police said Monday.

Steven Dean Gordon, 45, and Franc Cano, 27, who were both described as transients who frequented the Anaheim area, were arrested Friday night, Anaheim police Lt. Bob Dunn said.

They were convicted of sex crimes with children in 1992 and 2007, respectively, and about three years ago both cut off their ankle bracelets and fled to Las Vegas together, court records show.

They had been arrested in that Nevada case and had recently been in compliance with requirements to register as sex offenders in Orange County during the time of the recent killings and rapes, according to police.

Their 4 alleged victims were identified as: Jarrae Nykkole Estepp, 21, of Oklahoma; Kianna Jackson, 20, of Las Vegas; Josephine Monique Vargas, 34, of Santa Ana; and Martha Anaya, 28, also of Santa Ana.

"Our hearts go out to the victims in this case. The families are all very distraught and concerned," Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas said at a Monday afternoon news conference.

The 2 men were charged Monday with 4 felony counts each of both special circumstances murder and forcible rape, according to Rackauckas. The special circumstance sentencing enhancements included murder in the commission of rape, multiple murders, and lying in wait, a news release from Rackauckas' office stated.

Cano and Gordon could face life in prison or the death penalty if convicted, Rackauckas' said.

(source: KTLA news)


Anti-Death-Penalty Activists Target Pharmacist Association's Ethics Code

As some states increasingly turn to compounding pharmacies to provide drugs needed for lethal injections, an online petition seeking to change the American Pharmacists Association's code of ethics is gaining steam. Activists see it as a way to bring more pressure to bear in their fight to end the death penalty for good.

According to some activists, it's a sentence that could change everything about the death penalty.

It's a sentence, activists say, that’s missing from the ethics code of the American Pharmacists Association (APhA), and the omission is raising serious questions for the organization and the role of the Hippocratic Oath in pharmacists' work. More details below:

I look at the American Pharmacists Association as a partner in this process, and when it comes to almost all of the pharmacists I spoke to, I see them as future allies.

What raised the issue? In January, Ohio death row inmate Dennis McGuire was executed for the 1989 rape and murder of 22-year-old newlywed Joy Stewart. While McGuire had accepted his fate - going so far as to acknowledge he committed the crime in a letter to Ohio Gov. John Kasich - it was the way he died that drew activists' attention. McGuire was given a new kind of lethal-injection cocktail, one that had never been tried before in the United States, and there were complications. It took 24 minutes for McGuire to die after he received the drugs, which blocked his airflow and reportedly led to a dramatic scene in the execution chamber.

Activists speak up: McGuire's protracted death outraged anti-death-penalty advocacy groups. It also brought attention to the pharmacy industry, particularly makers of compounded drugs, which are not federally regulated. (This is changing, however; new legislation signed by President Obama last week allows compounding pharmacies that produce drugs in bulk to register voluntarily for FDA oversight.) A small number of compounding pharmacies have agreed to produce the kind of 2-drug cocktail used in McGuire's lethal injection because supplies of the single drug used traditionally are becoming scarce, as many drug manufacturers are restricting use of their products in capital punishment. A civil rights lawsuit filed in Missouri last year seeks to force the state to disclose the names of the pharmacies providing the drugs it uses in lethal injections.

An ethics code omission? According to some protesters, led by progressive activist Kelsey Kauffman, part of the difficulty may be with APhA's ethics code, which - unlike those of other major medical groups, such as the American Medical Association and the American Nurses Association [PDF] - does not specifically prohibit its members from assisting in executions. While such a code provision would not be legally binding, it could make pharmacists who currently compound lethal injection drugs less willing to do so - if, for example, it would result in their losing their professional certification. That's why the nonprofit petition site SumOfUs has launched a campaign to get the association to add a prohibition to its code. The petition, which argues that “the association could help put a stop to the manufacturing and supplying of drugs used for lethal injections and help end the use of the death penalty in the U.S. once and for all," has been signed by more than 36,000 people and has gained support from the American Civil Liberties Union, the NAACP, and other civil rights groups.

The association's take: In its policy manual, APhA opposes laws that either "mandate or prohibit the participation of pharmacists" in executions, but also objects to the use of the term "drug" for chemicals used in lethal injection. APhA spokeswoman Michelle Spinnler told the Associated Press that the association may consider the issue at its next annual meeting, reflecting the group's long policy development process. For activists like Kauffman, APhA's response is heartening. In comments to Think Progress after attending the group's annual meeting in March, she said that association members seem receptive to the campaign. "I look at the American Pharmacists Association as a partner in this process, and when it comes to almost all of the pharmacists I spoke to, I see them as future allies," she said.

Although the move could prove a breakthrough for the anti-death-penalty movement, it wouldn't be the 1st time an association has switched gears on the issue. In 2010, the American Board of Anesthesiology made a similar change to its ethics policy.



The death penalty, politics and the Boston Marathon bombing

Should accused Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev receive the death penalty?

As the 1-year anniversary of the April 21 Marathon approaches, we should all be asking that question. And a quick glance at the history of the federal government and capital punishment should provide a clear answer: no.

The Justice Department announced in January that it would seek the death penalty for Tsarnaev, who is charged with participating in attacks that killed three people and injured more than 260 others. Tsarnaev would become only the 4th American to be executed by the federal government since Congress reinstated capital punishment in 1988, following a 16-year hiatus.

Earlier in our history, though, Uncle Sam put hundreds of people to death. Those decisions inevitably reflected the political passions of the moment, just as the Tsarnaev prosecution does. And that's precisely why our government should not be in the business of determining who lives or dies, no matter how repulsive their behavior.

Consider the fate of Nathaniel Gordon, the only person executed in the United States for slave trading. Although the transatlantic slave trade was outlawed in 1809, American vessels engaged in it with impunity for the next few decades.

Then came the Civil War. In November 1861, a few months after the war began, Gordon was convicted of transporting nearly 900 Africans for the purpose of selling them. Gordon was sentenced to death and executed early the following year.

Slave trading was one of the most evil practices in the Western world, and of course it deserved to be penalized. But the only reason Gordon got the ultimate penalty - while most of his fellow outlaws got off scot-free - was that he came up for trial during a war that was fought over slavery itself.

Granted, Gordon was no martyr; it's hard to shed a tear for a departed slave trader. But the government effectively martyred him, anyway, by giving him a harsher punishment to tack with the political winds.

And Gordon wasn't the only one. The same year he was executed, Lakota Sioux in Minnesota attacked whites who had settled on Lakota reservation lands. After U.S. Army forces suppressed the uprising, 393 Lakota were charged with murder and rape; 303 were sentenced to death.

President Abraham Lincoln reviewed the sentences and commuted most of them. But 38 executions were allowed to proceed. On the day after Christmas in 1862, the U.S. Army hanged all 38 Lakota from a single scaffold. Conducted in front of a cheering crowd, it was the largest mass execution in American history.

Some of these Lakota had surely committed horribly violent acts. Again, though, the decision to execute them reflected the politics of the era. Lincoln feared that if he blocked all of the executions - or if he did not allow enough of them to proceed - white vigilantes in Minnesota would kill all of the accused Lakota. Indeed, three Lakota defendants had already been murdered by mobs.

Nearly a century later, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg would become the only Americans executed for espionage. Despite years of debate among historians, it's now clear that Julius Rosenberg passed scientific secrets to Soviet intelligence agents.

But it's also clear that the decision to execute the Rosenbergs had more to do with the politics of their times than it did with the content of their crimes. The information that Julius provided was of little strategic value to the Soviet nuclear program, especially compared to the secrets divulged by other spies.

But the Rosenbergs' 1951 conviction came on the heels of the Soviet testing of a hydrogen bomb, the Maoist revolution in China, and the outbreak of the Korean War. "You have undoubtedly altered the course of history to the disadvantage of our country," their sentencing judge declared. "No one can say that we do not live in a constant state of tension."

We live in constant tension, too, thanks to a different threat: international terrorism. The Boston Marathon bombings were the first terrorist strikes on our soil since September 11, 2001. There are other people plotting to do us grave harm, of course, and we need to remain on constant guard against them.

But we also need to guard against our own emotions in sentencing Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. As the Justice Department correctly noted, Tsarnaev's acts were "heinous, cruel, and depraved." Yet so were the deeds of hundreds of other federal murder convicts, most of whom will not face execution.

To be sure, all of our criminal penalties reflect judgements about cruelty and depravity and especially about responsibility; for example, we typically assign more guilt to a person who shows contrition than to one who doesn't. But our decisions are also highly influenced by our political climate, which can change as quickly as the weather. And a death sentence is the only kind that can't be reversed.

I don't have a single ounce of sympathy for Tsarnaev, who caused unfathomable grief and horror in Boston last year. But if we single him out for death, future generations will accuse us of letting our present-day politics get the best of us. Nobody can really know who is evil enough to deserve the ultimate penalty. And that's ultimately why nobody should receive it.



Don't execute Dzhokhar Tsarnaev: Why present-day politics shouldn't dictate criminal penalties ---- Yes, his alleged acts were heinous. But the reason he could get the death penalty is based on the wrong principle

As the Boston Marathon bombing reenters the news on the occasion of its 1-year anniversary, one critical question is gaining renewed interest: Should accused bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev receive the death penalty?

It's a fine question for us as a nation to consider. But a quick glance at the history of the federal government and capital punishment should provide a clear answer: no.

The Justice Department has indicated that it would seek the death penalty for Tsarnaev, who is charged with participating in attacks that killed 3 people and injured more than 260 others. He would become only the 4th American to be executed by the federal government since Congress reinstated capital punishment in 1988, following a 16-year hiatus.

Earlier in our history, though, Uncle Sam put hundreds of people to death. Those decisions inevitably reflected the political passions of the moment, just as the Tsarnaev prosecution does. And that's precisely why our government should not be in the business of determining who lives or dies, no matter how repulsive their behavior.

In 1862, Lakota Sioux in Minnesota attacked whites who had settled on Lakota reservation lands. After U.S. Army forces suppressed the uprising, 393 Lakota were charged with murder and rape; 303 were sentenced to death.

President Abraham Lincoln reviewed the sentences and commuted most of them. But 38 executions were allowed to proceed. On the day after Christmas in 1862, the U.S. Army hanged all 38 Lakota from a single scaffold. Conducted in front of a cheering crowd, it was the largest mass execution in American history.

Some of these Lakota had surely committed horribly violent acts. But the decision to execute them reflected not so much criminal justice consistency or moral principle but the politics of the era. Lincoln feared that if he blocked all of the executions - or if he did not allow enough of them to proceed - white vigilantes in Minnesota would kill all of the accused Lakota. Indeed, three Lakota defendants had already been murdered by mobs.

Then there was the fate of a hideously unsympathetic figure, Nathaniel Gordon: the only person executed in the United States for slave trading. Although the transatlantic slave trade was outlawed in 1809, American vessels engaged in it with impunity for the next few decades.

Then came the Civil War. In November 1861, a few months after the war began, Gordon was convicted of transporting nearly 900 Africans for the purpose of selling them. He was sentenced to death and executed early the following year.

Gordon was no martyr; no one's shedding a tear for a departed slave trader. But the government effectively martyred him, anyway, by giving him a harsher punishment to tack with the political winds.

Slave trading was one of the most evil practices in the Western world, and of course it deserved to be severely penalized. But a prime reason Gordon got the ultimate penalty - while most of his fellow outlaws got off scot free - was simple timing: He came up for trial during a war that was fought over slavery itself.

Nearly a century later, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg would become the only Americans executed for espionage. Despite years of debate among historians, it's now clear that Julius Rosenberg passed scientific secrets to Soviet intelligence agents.

But it's also clear that the decision to execute the Rosenbergs had more to do with the politics of their times than it did with the content of their crimes. The information that Julius provided was of little strategic value to the Soviet nuclear program, especially compared to the secrets divulged by other spies.

But the Rosenbergs' 1951 conviction came on the heels of the Soviet testing of a hydrogen bomb, the Maoist revolution in China, and the outbreak of the Korean War. "You have undoubtedly altered the course of history to the disadvantage of our country," their sentencing judge declared. "No one can say that we do not live in a constant state of tension."

Nowadays, we live in constant tension, too, thanks to a different threat: international terrorism. The Boston Marathon bombings reignited for many the feelings of instability that they last felt after Sept. 11, 2001. There are other people plotting to do us grave harm, of course, and we need to remain on constant guard against them.

But we also need to guard against our own emotions in sentencing Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. As the Justice Department correctly noted, Tsarnaev's acts were "heinous, cruel, and depraved." Yet so were the deeds of hundreds of other federal murder convicts, most of whom will not face execution.

All of our criminal penalties reflect judgments about cruelty and depravity and especially about responsibility; for example, we typically assign more guilt to a person who lacks contrition than to one who shows some. But our decisions are also highly influenced by our political climate, which can change as quickly as the weather. And a death sentence is the only kind that can't be reversed.

Naturally, I don't have a single ounce of sympathy for Tsarnaev, who allegedly caused unfathomable grief and horror in Boston last year. But if we single him out for death, we will have let our present-day politics get the best of us. While passions of a crowd can be hard to resist, nobody can really know who is evil enough to deserve the ultimate penalty. And that's ultimately why nobody should receive it.

(source: Jonathan Zimmerman is a professor of education and history at New York University. He is the author of Small Wonder: The Little Red Schoolhouse in History and Memory and three other


Ruling in Chicago terror case may apply to Tsarnaev defense

A year after the deadly marathon bombings, prosecutors and attorneys are still wrangling over evidence ahead of accused terrorist Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's November trial, and a closely watched ruling in a Chicago terrorism case could have a bearing on whether the defendant can force the government to hand over any secret records in his case, one expert said.

"The ruling has the opportunity to open a window for defense attorneys to see how the government obtains its information," said Daniel J. Collins, a former federal prosecutor who led the U.S. investigation into Pakistani-American David Headley's involvement in the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks. "Historically the defense hasn't had the ability to see what's in those applications."

On Friday, prosecutors filed court papers objecting to a request from Tsarnaev's lawyers to obtain any classified national security information about him.

The request follows a Chicago federal judge's ruling this year granting lawyers for accused terrorist Adel Daoud, 20, access to secret applications submitted through the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. That case is under appeal.

It's unclear if U.S. District Court Judge George A. O'Toole Jr. will rule on Tsarnaev's request at a status hearing scheduled for tomorrow morning. Tsarnaev faces the death penalty if convicted of placing pressure-cooker bombs near the finish line with his brother, Tamerlan, who died in a shootout with police. The bombings and a subsequent manhunt killed 4 and wounded more than 200.

(source: Boston Herald)


Owner of Collapsed Bangladesh Factory Faces Murder Charges

Bangladesh police today announced that they will press murder charges against Sohel Rana, the owner of the 9-story factory building that collapsed and killed 1,135 garment workers last April. Infuriatingly, the accident - which was the worst in the nation's history - was highly-preventable: although workers warned their employers that there were major cracks in the building's walls several days before the collapse, they were ignored and forced to continue laboring in wildly unsafe conditions.

Lead investigator Bijoy Krishna Kar told AFP that Rana is one of about 40 people who will be charged in connection with the disaster: "We are planning to press murder charges against Sohel Rana and some other accused," he said - adding that, if convicted, Rana could face the death penalty. Also among the accused are Rana's father, who is a co-owner of the building, and 5 bosses of other garment factories operating within the complex.

Kar stated that police investigators have questioned 900 - 1,000 people and found "irrefutable evidences" against the "greedy and irresponsible" owners. They hope to press charges within the next month. However, while it's good to see these factory owners being held responsible for their unmitigated greed and corruption, the issue of unsafe working conditions extends much further than them. According to PBS, 12 hours of overtime, in addition to a 48-hour workweek, are routine for Bangladeshi garment workers - but, obviously, this demand doesn't just spontaneously spring up out of the ether. American garment producers (and, of course, consumers) have a deeply unrealistic, unhealthy expectation of low-priced goods sold at massive profits. Our shopping habits are what cause the harsh and dangerous working conditions in garment factories overseas.

"The buyer says if you can't give it [to us] for our price, we'll go somewhere else," Shabbir Mahmood, who owns two factories, told PBS. Exactly. If factory owners in Bangladesh start paying their employees more than their current unlivable wages, what's to stop big U.S. companies from looking elsewhere - like India or Cambodia - for exploitatively cheap goods? Simply put, the consumer has to be willing to absorb the cost of improved factory conditions. It's really not a lot; frankly, it's shameful that reform is taking so long. (Here's a list of the companies that have so far signed the Bangladesh Safety Accord, so you know which places are at least nominally committed to improving and which places to boycott entirely).



No Noose Is Good News----In 13 months, the President has rejected 13 mercy petitions. The Supreme Court on the other hand has commuted the death sentences of 19 convicts this year. Should the court's moves prompt the government to review the necessity of capital punishment, asks Smitha Verma

Navneet Bhullar is a woman on a mission. For 2 decades, she has struggled to save the life of her convicted husband. Now Bhullar is on what could be the last leg of the campaign - his release from jail.

Last month, the Supreme Court commuted Devinder Pal Singh Bhullar’s death sentence to life on grounds of delay in deciding his mercy plea and on the basis of his medical condition. Termed a terrorist with the Khalistan movement, he was convicted for bomb blasts that shook Delhi in 1993. Subsequently sentenced to death, his mercy plea was rejected by the President in 2011.

"Having spent 19 years and three months in jail, without any parole ever, he should now be released soon," says Bhullar, 47, who spent only 2 months with her husband in their 22 years of marriage. These days, the Canada resident's life revolves around her lawyer's office and the hospital where her husband is being treated for depression. "The death sentence has become a political tool. And so have mercy pleas and remission," she adds.

The issue of death penalty is back in the news. After the December 2012 gang rape in Delhi, the law dealing with rape was revised. The amended Section 376E of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) provides for death in cases of repeat offenders. Earlier this month, a sessions court in Mumbai sentenced 3 people to death for rape because they were repeat offenders.

But the country has been witnessing conflicting views on execution. In 13 months, President Pranab Mukherjee has rejected 13 mercy petitions awarding the death penalty to 17 convicts - the highest for a President in the last 16 years. But the judiciary has seemingly taken a different turn. In a landmark judgment in January, the Supreme Court commuted the sentence of 15 condemned death row convicts to life. The decision was taken in view of the "inordinate delay" by the government in deciding on their mercy pleas. The court on similar grounds commuted the death sentence of Rajiv Gandhi's killers to life in February. This year, 19 death row convicts have been granted life by the Supreme Court.

The President's powers to grant pardon arise from Article 72 of the Constitution which empowers him to pardon, grant reprieve or suspend, remit and commute the sentence of a person convicted of any offence. The President is guided by the home minister in his decision.

Among the 1st mercy petitions to be disposed of by Mukherjee included that of Mumbai 26/11 terrorist Ajmal Kasab. He was executed in November 2012 which was the 1st hanging after 2004. 4 months later Afzal Guru was hanged for his involvement in the 2001 Parliament attack case.

Of course, many believe that the death penalty is an essential part of justice. Execution, they argue, is a deterrent to crime. "In terms of punishment, humans fear death the most. It has both sociological and psychological impact," says Supreme Court lawyer Pinky Anand. "It works as a punishment to criminals and as a deterrent to society."

Anand doesn't agree with people who argue that the death penalty doesn't bring down the crime rate. "There can never be any statistics to show how many people stopped committing a crime for fear of this punishment," Anand adds.

Global human rights watchdog Amnesty International believes India is not giving a clear message on where it stands. "While the President has a record number of rejections of mercy petitions, the Supreme Court has shown the way for a progressive and humanitarian India where the degrading practice of executions has no place," says Divya Iyer, senior researcher, Amnesty International India.

According to Mumbai-based human rights activist and lawyer Yug Mohit Choudhry, the apex court's position is not new. "In 1982, the Supreme Court in the case of Bachan Singh vs State of Punjab upheld the constitutionality of Section 302 of the IPC, which prescribes the death penalty as punishment for murder. And in so upholding its validity, the court prescribed that the death penalty be accorded only in the 'rarest of rare cases'," Choudhry explains. "While earlier, death was the norm and life term an exception, after the Bachan Singh case our courts turned this around."

Despite these moves, India was among the 39 countries in 2012 which voted against a UN General Assembly draft resolution calling for abolishing the death penalty. India had argued that each state had the sovereign right to determine its own legal system.

The apex court's concern, on the other hand, is over not just the long wait that people on death row have to go through, but also over cases where death is not merited. Between 2000 and 2011, 130 death sentences were pronounced by the trial courts on an average every year. "But only 3 or 4 were upheld by the Supreme Court every year," Choudhry says.

Amnesty International's latest report says that there are 435 convicts on death row with appeals at various stages - from high courts to clemency petitions awaiting the President's nod. In the last 18 years, only 3 people have been executed, with the last 2 executions happening in the last 2 years.

But the December 16 incident has triggered a move towards an increase in death sentences. "Death sentences by trial courts since then are at their peak," says Anup Sundernath, who heads the death penalty research project at the National Law University, Delhi. The project which will come up with its report later this year highlights the fact that sexual crimes are attracting death from the trial courts as a norm now.

"The executive wants to show that we are tough on crime and by rejecting mercy petitions they think they can contain the current public outrage against lawlessness," Choudhry says.

Last year, 14 retired judges wrote to the President, pointing out that the Supreme Court had erroneously given death to 15 people from 1996. 2 of them were hanged. The judges called this "the gravest known miscarriage of justice" since Independence. "Yet in recent months, our government has shown an alarming tendency to implement the death penalty," rues Saswati Debnath, a senior researcher with Human Rights Law Network, a Delhi-based non-government organisation.

Many believe that the time has come for the government to reconsider its position. "The government should now build on these progressive judgments to review the legality and necessity of capital punishment, declare an immediate moratorium on executions, with a view to abolishing the death penalty," Iyer says.

(source: The Telegraph)


Derby cousin's tears of joy as professor is off death row after 19 years

The cousin of a man who has been on death row for more than 19 years has spoken of her delight that his sentence has been commuted.

Kamalpreet Kaur, of Littleover, has not seen her cousin, Professor Devender Pal Singh Bhullar, since he was sentenced to death in India.

The family, along with members of the Sikh community in Derby and across the world, joined together to lobby for his release.

And that dream has taken a step closer to becoming a reality after he was finally released from death row.

Mrs Kaur said: "I first received a call from India and later I spoke to his wife.

"I was very happy when I heard. I was crying because it was so emotional.

"We are hoping that he will be free soon and that we will be able to see him again.

"I last saw him in 1991. He has been imprisoned and later on death row for more than 19 1/2 years; his mental and physical health has been seriously affected."

Mrs Kaur, who travelled from the Punjab to live in Derby in 2001, believes that her cousin has been wrongly imprisoned for a crime that he did not commit.

Derby campaigner Bhajan Singh Dheansay said that Professor Bhullar's father, uncle and best friend were murdered in 1991.

He said: "Those people were murdered by the state in the Punjab because the professor was a lecturer and 42 of his students went on a demonstration and never came back.

"The professor started asking questions about the system and, because of this, his father, brother and best friend were murdered."

Professor Bhullar was then accused of detonating a car bomb in Delhi in 1993 in an attack on a politician.

The professor fled to Germany in an attempt to gain political asylum but was deported back to India.

At his trial he was found guilty and sentenced to death.

He has spent more than 19 years not knowing if he would see the next day and, despite various appeals, his suffering has meant he was placed in a psychiatric ward for prisoners.

But now Professor Bhullar's sentence has been commuted to life, giving the family hope that he could be soon released.

Mrs Kaur said: "It has been extremely hard for all the family, particularly for his wife and his mother. This is the first good news that we have had in all those long years.

"I would like to thank every one who has helped over the years, especially the Sikh community in Derby and MPs, including Chris Williamson.

"We dearly hope and pray for Professor Devinder-Pal Singh to be home again with his family."

Sikh community leader Jaz Rai said: "The love and support that we have seen from the Sikh community and the wider Derby community has been fantastic.

"It is good news that he is now off death row.

"The next step is to have him released but he has already been in prison for a life sentence.

"I would also like to thank the Derby Telegraph who have helped highlight the case of the sorts of injustices that are going on in what is supposed to be the biggest democracy in the world."

Labour Derby North MP Mr Williamson, who is the secretary of the cross-party group of MPs focused on the global abolition of the death penalty, backed the campaign.

He said: "It is fantastic news but now the campaign to get him fully released begins.

"I believe his conviction is unsafe and I will be continuing to support the campaign and the family to see him freed."

(source: Derby Telegraph)


SC to see Dec 16 gang-rape victim's dying declaration

The Supreme Court on Tuesday asked the police to produce the dying declaration of Delhi's December 16 gang-rape victim, saying if her statement was convincing enough, it would not re-look into with the death penalty awarded to 4 people convicted in the case.

A bench of Justices B S Chauhan and J Chelameswar also extended the stay on the execution of capital punishment of the convicts.

Taking up the special leave petition filed by convicts Mukesh and Pawan, the bench said, "We would like to see the dying declaration of the victim. If it is convincing, we don't think there is anything in the matter."

The court's observation came after advocate M L Sharma, appearing for the petitioners, read out the injuries mentioned in the post-mortem examination of the 23-year-old victim and contended that her condition did not indicate the severity of the assault alleged by the police.

Hearing the argument, the bench reminded the counsel that the incident had taken place on December 16, 2012, while she had expired on December 29 at a Singapore hospital, saying her condition might have improved due to the treatment she was given.

The court then asked Sharma to produce the dying declaration of the victim.

Counsel, however, expressed his inability. On this, the bench directed Additional Solicitor General Sidharth Luthra to submit a photocopy of the record.

The Delhi High court had, on March 13, upheld the conviction and death sentence of Mukesh, Pawan, Vinay Sharma and Akshay Thakur, awarded by a trial court.

Another accused, Ram Singh, had committed suicide while being kept in judicial custody in Tihar jail, while a juvenile, also involved in the case, was tried separately.

The incident, in which the paramedical student was sexually assaulted brutally inside a private bus, had caused massive outrage across the country. The victim was returning home in south-west Delhi with a male friend when the incident took place.

(source: Deccan Herald)


New death penalty hearing for Abu Dhabi motorist who ran over boy

The death sentence on a man who deliberately ran over and killed a 12-year-old boy has been overturned.

The Court of Cassation sent the case back to the Court of Appeal to reconsider the sentence.

The driver, a Pakistani expatriate, had been sitting in his car in Musaffah in October 2012 when 3 boys opened the door and threw in a pile of rubbish.

The children ran away and were joined by a 4th boy, Hazaa Khaled from Sudan. The driver believed Hazaa had thrown the rubbish, drove after the boy and knocked him down.

He denied denied intending to kill the boy, and said he meant only to scare him and was driving at only 40kph. However, scientific evidence showed the car's impact was so powerful that it crushed the boy's skull.

Abu Dhabi Criminal Court found the man guilty of manslaughter and sentenced him to 15 years in prison. He was also ordered to pay blood money of Dh200,000 and compensation of Dh21,000 to the boy's parents.

The case then went to the appeals court, which sentenced him to death.

(source: The National)


Persecuted Christian Asia Bibi's Appeal Hearing Delayed for 3rd Time

Appeal proceedings have been delayed again in the case of Asia Bibi, the Christian mother of 5 sentenced to death for blasphemy.

Lahore high court judges Sardar Tariq Masood and Abdul Sami Khan adjourned the case shortly after the hearing began and arguments were presented.

Court sources say that a new date for the appeal is expected tomorrow in a case that has dragged on without any progress for quite some time.

For several months, extremist groups have been making threats against the judges in order to pressure them to confirm the death penalty imposed by the lower court.

However, the woman's lawyers say they remain confident and hopeful that the high court will soon overturn her conviction and let her go.

In recent days, Pakistani Christians have promoted days of fasting and prayer on behalf of Asia Bibi and Sawan Masih, both of whom are innocent but sentenced to death under the infamous "black law."

Asia Bibi, who has been on death row since November 2010 and held under solitary confinement on security grounds, has become a symbol of the fight against blasphemy.

Punjab Gov. Salman Taseer and Federal Minority Affairs Minister Shahbaz Bhatti, a Catholic, were killed in 2011 for coming to her defense.

Masih, a 26-year-old Christian from Lahore, was convicted recently by a lower court on false charges as a result of a personal dispute with the person who reported him.

It is sad "to see how the situation in Pakistan is getting worse by the day, not only for minorities, but especially for women and girls," Father James Chand, from the Archdiocese of Lahore, told AsiaNews.

"Let us continue to pray for Asia Bibi and Sawan Masih," he added.

Father Arthur Nat, a priest from Central Punjab, joined Chand's appeal, calling for "a day of fasting and prayer on Wednesday."

(source: Charisma News)


Special Court resumes treason case hearing against Musharraf

The Special Court has resumed the hearing of high treason case against former president General (retd) Pervez Musharraf after the interval of 2 weeks on Tuesday, Geo News reported.

A 3-member special court headed by Justice Faisal Arab and consisting of Justice Tahira Safdar and Justice Yawar Ali Khan is hearing the case against the former dictator in the premises of Federal Shariat Court instead of National Liberary due to security concerns.

During today's proceedings, Justice Faisal Arab said that Musharraf's lawyer Anwar Mansoor Advocate had accused Prosecutor Akram Sheikh of being biased, and the verdict in that regard will be announced on April 18.

Musharraf's lawyer Barrister Farogh Naseem demanded to include all the persons involved in the imposition of November 3 emergency in the trial. He argued that as per the international laws, charges cannot be framed against one accused only.

Barrister Farogh further stated that the investigative report prepared by the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) was not made public nor it included the details of interrogation from those involved in the implementation of emergency.

He told that the note of dissent by the probe team member, Hussain Asghar, against the FIA report was also not included in the report and requested to disclose the content of the letter.

Earlier on March 31, the court had exempted Musharraf from personal appearance, saying that it could not restrict one's free movement until the accused was arrested.

Also, the Special Court had indicted Pervez Musharraf on five counts of high treason, a charge that potentially carries death penalty.

The 1st charge was that Musharraf abrogated the Constitution by slapping emergency on November 3, 2007 and trampled fundamental human rights.

The 2nd charge stated that he introduced illegal amendments to the Constitution between November 20 and December 14, 2007 which was an unconstitutional act.

The 3rd charge was that he issued the PCO illegally, forced the superior court judges to take oath under it and removed those who did not take oath.

The 4th charge was that the accused removed those judges who did not take oath under the PCO and put them under house arrest. The 5th charge was related to the imposition of the November 3, 2007 emergency and holding the Constitution in abeyance.

The accused denied all the charges against him and pleaded not guilty.



Media reports may harm effort to save Satinah

Reporting from various media outlets may be complicating the government's efforts to secure the release of Satinah, an Indonesian migrant worker on death row for murdering her Saudi employer.

Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister Djoko Suyanto said the family of Satinah's victim in Saudi Arabia was offended by media reports that portrayed the migrant worker as a victim.

"We're not blaming the media [for complicating the matter], but there were a number of statements, even from public figures, which portrayed Satinah as innocent. This has agitated the victim's family," said Djoko on Tuesday.

One such report accused the victim's mother of abusing Satinah, which offended the family to the extent that the blood money negotiations almost collapsed.

The victim's family had said it would grant clemency if Satinah - convicted of killing her employer Nura Al Gharib and stealing 37,970 Saudi riyal (US$10,124) from her home in Gaseem, Saudi Arabia, in July, 2007 - provided the blood money, or diyat.

The victim's family initially requested the payment of 15 million riyal in 2011, but then reduced it to 10 million riyal the following year and today the amount required is 5 million in a single payment and 2 million in installments.

Due to intensified media exposure, the family then declined payment of the diyat.

2 weeks ago, according to Djoko, the government sent a task force led by Maftuh Basyuni, former Indonesian envoy to Saudi Arabia, an Indonesian Military (TNI) officer and an official from the coordinating ministry, to deliver a third letter from President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, reassuring the victim's family that the government did not stand by the media reports on Satinah. The victim's family members relented and negotiations resumed.

Maftuh, a former religious affairs minister, said Satinah would eventually be spared from the execution, thanks to the President's letter and his team's intensive lobbying.

"It was the toughest negotiation we've ever gone through. After lobbying back and forth, we finally saw the [victim's] family agree to our terms. Now we need only wait for them to conclude their internal discussions," said Maftuh.

The government had already deposited the 7 million riyal for the diyat, and with the help of a clemency council, persuaded the family to agree on the terms. They in turn requested more time to come to an official decision, pushing back the case for another 1 or 2 months.

Satinah's beheading has been postponed 3 times since she was sentenced to death in August 2011.

In his statement, Maftuh also lashed out against Manpower and Transmigration Minister Muhaimin Iskandar, who criticized the task force for being incompetent in lobbying for the release of Satinah, due to the language barrier.

"Even if I can't speak Arabic, I was accompanied by our ambassador [to Saudi Arabia], who dreams in Arabic," he said.

Foreign Ministry director for legal aid and the protection of Indonesian nationals abroad Tatang Razak said Indonesian nationals spared from the death penalty reached 184 people worldwide. Satinah would be the 49th person in Saudi Arabia to be freed if she is granted clemency.

(source: Jakarta Post)


6 prisoners hanged in Bandar Abbas

In a group hanging on April 10, the Iranian regime hanged 6 prisoners in Bandar Abbas prison. 2 of those executed by the names of Ahmad Rahimi, 20, and Omid Shekari, 21, were held in the youth ward of the prison. Ahmad Rahimi was less than 17-years-old at the time of his arrest.

In another development, there is word out that the clerical regime's henchmen intend to hang a young female prisoner Rayhaneh Jabbari.

Once again the Iranian Resistance calls for the life of this prisoner to be saved and it calls for urgent intervention by the international bodies, defenders of human rights, to prevent her execution.

Previously, in an international call on March 29, the Women's Committee of the National Council of Resistance of Iran called for urgent action to save the life of Ms. Rayhaneh Jabbari.

She is a decorator that has spent the last 7 years in prison.

Rayhaneh had defended herself against one of the mullahs' intelligence agents who had tried to assult against her which led to the death of the criminal agent.

(source: Secretariat of the National Council of Resistance of Iran)


14 Accused of Mutiny Stand Trial in Sierra Leone

A court martial of 14 soldiers accused of mutiny has opened in the capital of the West African nation of Sierra Leone.

Each soldier faces 8 counts of mutiny, according to the charge sheet read out in court on Monday. The soldiers were arrested in August 2013 on suspicions they were planning a meeting aimed at destabilizing the democratically elected government.

All 14 pleaded not guilty to the charges, and they were denied bail. The penalty for mutiny is death by firing squad.

Sierra Leone is still slowly recovering from a devastating civil war that ended in 2002, though it has held elections since them that were deemed to be transparent.

(source: Associated Press)

APRIL 15, 2014:

TEXAS----impending execution

Condemned killer of 3 in Corpus Christi set to die

Attorneys for a Corpus Christi man convicted of killing his ex-girlfriend, her 3-year-old son and her mother are trying to keep him from execution this week.

Jose Villegas is set to die Wednesday evening in Huntsville for the three slayings in January 2001. His lawyers say they've found new evidence that he's mentally impaired and ineligible for execution and need more time to investigate.

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals on Monday refused to stop the punishment and his attorneys have said they'll appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Villegas' former girlfriend, 23-year-old Erida Salazar, her son, Jacob, and her mother, 51-year-old Alma Perez, were stabbed repeatedly at the Perez home in Corpus Christi.

At the time, Villegas was out on bond on a sexual assault charge.

(source: Associated Press)


Testimony set to begin in death penalty capital murder trial

After 6 weeks of grueling jury selection, testimony is set to begin Tuesday morning in the capital murder trial of Carnell Petetan.

Petetan faces the death penalty, if convicted.

Judge Ralph Strother of Waco's 19th State District Court already delayed the original start of testimony because it took attorneys in the case about twice as long as expected to select the 12-member jury and 2 alternate jurors.

Prosecutors and defense attorneys considered or questioned 318 prospective jurors before seating the panel, compared to about 185 potential jurors in the past 2 capital murder cases in which McLennan County prosecutors sought the death penalty.

"We appreciate the many people who were willing to serve their community by coming in during the long jury selection process and we look forward to starting the evidence portion of the trial," said Waco attorney Michelle Tuegel, who is defending Petetan with Russ Hunt Sr. and Walter M. Reaves Jr.

Petetan, 36, of Port Arthur, is accused of shooting and killing his estranged wife, Kimberly Farr Petetan, in 2012 at her Lake Shore Drive apartment in Waco.

Officials have said Petetan shot his wife in front of her 9-year-old daughter and then kidnapped the girl. He was arrested later that night in Bryan. The girl was not harmed and is expected to testify about what she saw.

Petetan was released from prison 5 months before the alleged killing after serving 20 years for attempted murder. He claims to suffer from an intellectual disability that his attorneys say makes him ineligible for the death penalty.

McLennan County District Attorney Abel Reyna, who is prosecuting the case with his top assistants, Greg Davis and Michael Jarrett, said Monday only that "the state is ready to proceed." He declined additional comment because of the pending case.

Court officials say the delay in jury selection was caused primarily by potential jurors who expressed extreme views on both sides of the capital punishment issue.

2 alternate jurors - a 51-year-old male city inspector and a 46-year-old female owner of a landscaping business - were selected Monday.

The jury panel includes a 62-year-old retired man, a 62-year-old businessman, a 61-year-old female homemaker, a 26-year-old female nurse, a 41-year-old female teacher, a 69-year-old retired male minister, a 26-year-old male engineer, a 44-year-old male heavy equipment operator, a 40-year-old male college administrator, a 50-year-old female real estate agent, a 46-year-old female mortgage officer and a 44-year-old fireman.

Court officials expect the trial to last 2 weeks or longer.

(source: Waco Tribune)


Maryland Governor to Be Honored for Fight Against Death Penalty

Gov. Martin O'Malley will be in California tonight to receive the Mario Cuomo Acts of Courage Award from abolitionists Death Penalty Focus.

Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley is scheduled to accept the Mario Cuomo Acts of Courage Award from Death Penalty Focus at its awards dinner Tuesday night in Beverly Hills, CA, for sponsoring a bill repealing capital punishment.

"Taking a stand against the death penalty is no longer the political third rail it once was, as politicians see now that ending the death penalty is a common-sense solution that saves money, protects innocent people from being executed, and upholds human rights," said Chelsea Bond, program director of Death Penalty Focus, which describes itself as one of the world's largest organizations solely dedicated to the abolition of the death penalty.

"However, it still requires leadership to change a long-established law. Governor O'Malley displayed true leadership by not only signing the legislation, but making death penalty repeal a top legislative priority. The national trend away from the death penalty would not be possible without the bold leadership of elected representatives like Governor O'Malley."

O'Malley's opposition to the death penalty drew criticism from Maryland Delegate John W.E. Cluster Jr., R-Baltimore County, who called it a deterrent to murder, citing the sharply lower murder rates in Baltimore County, where prosecutors seek the death penalty, than in adjacent Baltimore, where they do not.

Cluster, a former police officer, sponsored an amendment to the bill to keep the death penalty for murdering a police officer while he or she was performing his duties and supported an amendment keeping the death penalty when an inmate kills a correctional officer.

"There's nothing deterring these prisoners from killing correctional officers," Cluster told City News Service. "What are they going to get? Another life sentence? They've already got a life sentence."

The award is named for the former New York governor who vetoed multiple bills seeking to reinstate the death penalty "when it was politically unpopular to oppose the death penalty," and "refused to back down from his stance" when "opponents tried to use his opposition to the death penalty against him during campaigns," Bond said.

Cuomo was the first recipient of the award in 1996.

(source: Catonsville Patch)


N.C. Supreme Court justices hear arguments about Racial Justice Act used in Fayetteville cases

A state attorney at the N.C. Supreme Court on Monday accused Cumberland County Superior Court Judge Gregory Weeks of having a "misapprehension of law" when he decided in 2012 to commute the sentences of four death row inmates to life in prison under the N.C. Racial Justice Act.

2 lawyers for the 4 inmates argued that Weeks made the right call when he found that racial discrimination tainted the jury selection in the 4 killers' cases.

"We see that the evidence shows a culture of a pervasive and preoccupation and reliance upon race by the Cumberland County prosecutors," defense lawyer Jay Ferguson said during oral arguments before the court.

The case drew about 100 spectators to the Supreme Court's chamber; others observed via a feed to an overflow room. The audience included state troopers - one of the killers murdered Trooper Ed Lowry - Lowry's brother-in-law Jim Davis and the parents of slain Fayetteville Police Officer Roy Turner Jr.

Cumberland County prosecutors and advocates for repeal of the death penalty also attended.

The justices asked few questions today, and those that were asked tended to be about the facts.

The state Supreme Court is expected to take months to decide whether Weeks correctly applied the controversial Racial Justice Act in their cases. If they say he was wrong, the inmates will go back to death row.

The Racial Justice Act of 2009 was a law that gave death row inmates a chance to argue in court that racism influenced their trials. If they could persuade a judge that they were right, the judge would convert their sentences to life in prison without parole.

By the end of 2011, there were 159 pending claims filed by inmates of all races.

Marcus Reymond Robinson of Cumberland County in early 2012 was the first to get a hearing. He killed a teen in a 1991 robbery.

After Weeks commuted Robinson's death sentence based on statistical evidence of racism, the state legislature in summer 2012 amended the Racial Justice Act to require other evidence in addition to statistics to prove a claim. It also narrowed the scope of acceptable statistics that could be used.

In late 2012, Weeks used both the 2009 edition of the law and the 2012 edition to commute the death sentences of Quintel Augustine, Christina "Queen" Walters and Tilmon Golphin.

Augustine had been convicted of killing Turner, the Fayetteville police officer. Walters led a gang that kidnapped 3 people at random and killed 2 of them. Golphin killed Lowry and a Cumberland County deputy in a traffic stop.

All 4 inmates used a section of the Racial Justice Act that said if they could prove that prosecutors considered the race of potential jurors when deciding whether to exclude them from a trial, then they could win their Racial Justice Act claims.

Lawyers for the four defendants persuaded Weeks that prosecutors had a practice of illegally using their peremptory challenges to prevent black citizens from serving on juries.

Weeks, in Robinson's case, cited statistics that suggested there was racial discrimination in jury selection in trials statewide and locally. He also concluded that blacks were wrongly excluded by the prosecution from serving on Robinson's jury.

But today Special Deputy Attorney General Danielle Marquis Elder argued that Weeks made a mistake. His ruling allows a person to come off death row based on racism in other people's cases, even if there is no evidence of racial discrimination in his own case, she said.

"That is simply not what the legislature could have intended, because it gives an absurd result," she said.

Elder said Weeks also was wrong "to find that statistical disparities in jury selection was sufficient to establish a racial justice claim."

"And that was the predominate part of this lower court's ruling, was the statistical disparities," Elder said.

Robinson's lawyer, Donald H. Beskind, disagrees and said Elder has it wrong.

"We are here today because the prosecutor in Mr. Robinson's trial chose to strike 50 percent of the black jurors who were qualified for jury service, and only 14 percent of the non-black jurors," Beskind said. "By 'qualified jurors,' I'm referring to jurors who have passed challenges for cause."

A black juror was 3.5 times more likely to be struck from Robinson's trial than a non-black juror, Beskind said. "This was not a random event. It did not happen by chance."

The Justice Act claim of Walters, Augustine and Golphin were conducted before Weeks in late 2012. The judge was biased, Elder told the Supreme Court, before the case even began.

"First and foremost, the lower court erroneously concluded that its previous findings of fact in the Robinson order precluded any litigation of the issues in the instant case," she said. "So the lower court had already determined that racial discrimination existed in these three cases before any evidence was accepted at the evidentiary hearing."

Weeks had plenty of evidence of racial bias beyond the statistics shown in Robinson's case, countered defendant lawyer Jay Ferguson. He represents Walters, Augustine and Golphin.

"In fact, the lower court ... said that its findings were primarily based, not upon statistics, but primarily based on the words and deeds of the prosecutors themselves," Ferguson said.

A prosecutor's notes from jury selection noted which potential jurors were black, Ferguson said.

When another prosecutor was accused during a trial of using race to dismiss a black juror, she cited the defendant's age - which is considered an acceptable reason - Ferguson said. Yet the judge pointed out that she accepted a white juror who was born the exact same day, Ferguson said.

Among the follow-up questions, Associate Justice Robin Hudson questioned Elder on whether the 2009 edition of the law should be interpreted to rely on statistics.

Associate Justice Barbara Jackson suggested in a question that the prosecutor's notes listing the race of potential jurors were intended to be descriptive and simply reflected what he was told.

Associate Justice Cheri Beasley, formerly of Fayetteville, did not participate in the portion of the arguments covering Golphin, Walters and Augustine's cases. She said she has a conflict of interest. She served as Golphin's lawyer in 1998.

After the arguments concluded, the parents of Turner, the slain police officer, declined comment.

Davis, Lowry's brother-in-law, said the arguments sounded much like what he heard at the Racial Justice Act hearing in 2012.

Cumberland County prosecutor Rob Thompson, who presented the state's case to Weeks in 2012, wouldn't comment on the substance of what he heard in the arguments, but praised the state's presentation. Elder and the state Attorney General's office "did a fantastic job. I can say that without reservation," he said.

Ferguson is hopeful that the inmates will win.

"We are cautiously optimistic," he said.

(source: Fayetteville Observer)


N.C. Supreme Court justices must mull over weighty decisions about Racial Justice Act

I sat in Monday morning as the N.C. Supreme Court considered controversial cases out of Cumberland County - cases in which convicted killers' death penalty sentences were overturned by the now-repealed Racial Justice Act.

It's not really the kind of statewide stage that puts our county in the best light. On one side are Cumberland crimes that rank, according to a state prosecutor, among "the most horrific crimes in our state in the last 20years." On the other are Cumberland prosecutors for whom racial bias was "prominent in their minds and decisions," say defense lawyers.

The 7 justices asked only a few questions of the lawyers on both sides but took lots of notes.

Another Cumberland connection in the mix was Justice Cheri Beasley, who once lived and served here. She heard just one of the RJA cases, involving defendant Marcus Robinson. She recused herself in the 2nd case, which includes defendants Tilmon Golphin, Christina Walters and Quintel Augustine. Beasley helped defend Golphin.

The small courtroom was nearly full when I got there, with about 100 people. The courtroom has high ceilings, portraits of past chief justices ringing the room and is outfitted in burnished wood, with columns behind the justices' bench.

No defendants were there, but their deeds hung like a shadow over the proceedings.

In 1991, Robinson shot 17-year-old Erik Tornblom in the face, despite the boy's pleas to live. Golphin, along with his brother, Kevin, murdered N.C. State Trooper Ed Lowry and county sheriff's deputy David Hathcock during a traffic stop in 1997. The younger Golphin's death sentence was commuted to life in prison after the U.S. Supreme Court outlawed executing juveniles.

Augustine was convicted of killing Fayetteville Police Officer Roy Turner Jr. in 2001. Walters shot and killed 2 women and injured a 3rd as part of a Crips gang initiation in 1998.

3 of the defendants are black; Walters is Lumbee.

Several Highway Patrol troopers were in court in support of Lowry. Also present: Roy Turner's parents and Lowry's brother-in-law.

Danielle Elder, with the N.C. Attorney General's office, told the justices that in the Robinson case, racial bias had not been proven. She said the original RJA statute was so broad that it produced "an absurd result which the legislature did not intend."

Defense lawyer Donald Beskind countered that the overwhelming statistical evidence showed bias in the county's jury selection, a standard that would call for overturning Robinson's sentence, which Judge Gregory Weeks did in 2012.

In the 2nd case, lawyers argued, among other issues, whether a 2nd, weaker form of the RJA would apply to the 3 defendants, or the original law. The N.C. General Assembly overturned the rest of the law last year.

At least in the Robinson case, questions from Justice Robin Hudson and others seemed to suggest the statistical evidence might be hard for prosecutors to get around.

But I suspect few would be willing to guess how the justices will vote. Beasley's recusal in one case at least opens the possibility of a tie, which leaves the lower court decision intact.

The courtroom emptied quickly during a break just before noon. Now a months-long wait begins as the justices mull these difficult, emotional cases.

(source: Commentary, Myron Pitts; Fayetteville Observer)


Appeal to Return 4 to Death Row Is Heard

The North Carolina Supreme Court on Monday heard arguments about whether it should reinstate death sentences for four inmates whose punishments were reduced under a law that allowed certain criminal defendants to challenge their sentences by raising claims of racial bias in their prosecutions.

The 2 arguments before the elected court were the latest chapter in a legal and political drama that has played out since 2009, when the state's Racial Justice Act was signed into law, creating a path for new court challenges by scores of inmates awaiting execution. The law was repealed by the Republican-dominated legislature in June 2013, and the state is trying to reimpose death penalties that were overturned while it was in place.

The centerpiece of the session on Monday in Raleigh, the capital, was the case of Marcus Reymond Robinson, a black man who was the 1st person to have his punishment reduced under the Racial Justice Act. Mr. Robinson, who was convicted of kidnapping and killing a teenage boy, said racial biases had tainted jury selection during his trial. A judge in Cumberland County overturned his death sentence in 2012.

Mr. Robinson's case was part of a study by researchers at Michigan State University, who found "powerful evidence that race was a substantial factor" in prosecutors' decisions to strike potential jurors in 173 death-penalty cases in North Carolina, including 11 in Cumberland County.

On Monday, one of Mr. Robinson's lawyers, Donald H. Beskind, told the justices that a county prosecutor had deliberately diluted the jury of blacks through his use of peremptory challenges, forming a pattern that he said "did not happen by chance."

"No one should die at the hands of the state if racial discrimination played a significant role in that person being charged, convicted or receiving a sentence of death," Mr. Beskind said. He noted that the prosecution had stricken half of the qualified black jurors for Mr. Robinson's trial.

But Danielle M. Elder, a lawyer for the state, said that statistics alone did not amount to evidence of conscious racial bias that should void a death sentence.

"Statistical disparities do nothing to get this court any further in determining why a juror was struck," Ms. Elder said. She argued that the black jurors who were eliminated from jury service had "completely obvious reasons for being stricken."

Echoing other prosecutors who have criticized the Michigan State University report, which is central to Mr. Robinson's case, Ms. Elder also contended that the study was defective because it could not account for every factor lawyers weigh when selecting jurors. "Jury strikes in capital cases are not by chance," she said. "They're decisions. They're motivated."

Mr. Beskind responded that the Racial Justice Act, which was heavily amended in 2012 and repealed last year, did not stipulate that discrimination had to be purposeful and overt to yield a modified sanction.

The 3 other cases, which were argued as a group before the Supreme Court on Monday, also originated in Cumberland County, which has a population of about 326,000 and includes Fayetteville, one of North Carolina's largest cities.

The death sentences for those defendants, 2 black men and a Native American woman, were reduced in 2012 to life imprisonment without parole.

Ms. Elder accused the county judge in those appeals, Gregory A. Weeks, of making his decisions "before the 1st bit of evidence came in." Judge Weeks also overturned the original death sentence given to Mr. Robinson.

But a lawyer for the 3 defendants, Jay H. Ferguson, cited problematic training programs for prosecutors regarding juror selection before the crimes took place and "the disparate treatment of jurors and strike decisions" as evidence of clear discrimination in Cumberland County.

The Supreme Court did not say when it would issue opinions in the cases. North Carolina has not executed an inmate since 2006.

(source: New York Times)


Florida Supreme Court upholds murder conviction, death penalty

The Florida Supreme Court has affirmed the conviction and death sentence for Toney Deron Davis. In 1995, Davis was convicted of 1st-degree murder, aggravated child abuse and sexual battery.

In December 1992, the victim, 2-year-old Caleasha Cunningham, was left under Davis' care while her mother ran an errand. During that time, an acquaintance of the defendant arrived at the apartment and found the child injured. The victim was found wet, unconscious, and bleeding from her mouth. Doctors examined the child and found bruising, swelling of the brain, and pools of blood in the skull.

The girl later died as a result of 4 separate blows to the head, which caused a cerebral hemorrhage.

In 1995, Davis was found guilty and sentenced to death. He appealed, and each court which reviewed the case upheld his conviction and sentence. Davis appealed again to the Florida Supreme Court, which has now denied this latest set of claims.



Death penalty report is good starting point----Our view: Committee lays out issues for statewide conversion

A committee appointed more than 2 years ago by Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor has made dozens of recommendations on how to change the state's death penalty law. It was a contentious process, as anyone might have predicted. But the final report has done a good job of framing issues that state legislators and the public should weigh in on.

O'Connor created the 22-member committee after reviews by the Ohio State Bar Association and The Associated Press of death penalty cases revealed racial and other disparities from county to county.

O'Connor wisely put off-limits the question of whether Ohio should continue to execute people, which would have overshadowed any other work she assigned the attorneys, legislators, judges, prison officials and law professors on the committee.

The issues she asked the committee to explore related instead to the fairness and uniformity of the process - concerns that led to the biggest and possibly most controversial proposal, that county prosecutors no longer have the final say on whether to seek the death penalty in individual cases. Instead, a panel directed by the state attorney general would be given that authority.

Other recommendations range from limiting the kinds of evidence that qualify cases for the death penalty to requiring judges to give jury instructions in plain English.

Many of the recommendations are themselves reminders of how complex the issues are. Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O'Brien rightly points out, for example, that the suggested ban on executions of those with "serious mental illness" fails to define that term.

But the majority report released last week is an excellent starting point for a necessary statewide conversation about how Ohio and its 88 counties carry out their gravest responsibility.

(source: Canton Repository)


Youngstown man found guilty of murdering woman could face death penalty

The jury that convicted a Youngstown man of murdering a woman will now help decide if he'll be sent to Ohio's death row.

42-year-old Willie Wilks, Jr. reacted with anger on Tuesday morning when a jury in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court found him guilty on all counts for the shooting death of 20-year-old Ororo Wilkins and wounding of 24-year-old Alexander Morales as they stood on the porch of a home on Park Avenue in Youngstown last May.

Wilkins was holding a baby in her arms when she was gunned down.

After deliberating a short time Monday night and part of Tuesday morning, the jury found Wilks guilty of murder, felonious assault and weapons violations.

Upon hearing the guilty verdict on the murder charge, Wilks slammed his hands on a courtroom table and claimed that he did not commit the crime.

Wilks could still be heard shouting after he left the court. Authorities say he kicked a hole in a hallway wall as he was being led away.

The same jury is expected to be back in court next week to begin the mitigation phase of the trial.

Attorneys will present arguments that could determine if the jury will recommend that the judge sentence Wilks to be executed for the crimes, or sentenced to life in prison.

(source: WFMJ news)


Follow facts, not pressure, in criminal cases

Every criminal case should be investigated and tried based on facts, not political winds.

That's crucial to keeping in mind when considering the intertwined murder cases of Anthony Porter and Alstory Simon, now under re-examination by Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez's Conviction integrity Unit. Simon, who was convicted in 1999 for a double murder and is scheduled to be paroled in August 2017, for the last decade has said he was tricked into confessing and wants his conviction thrown out.

Porter, originally sent to death row for the 1982 double murder in Washington Park, was freed in 1999 after Simon gave a videotaped statement that he was the real killer. But on Sunday, the Sun-Times reported that 4 city attorneys had sent a 2001 memo to their boss, then-Corporation Counsel Mara Georges, calling the freeing "a political decision." In an earlier story, the Sun-Times also reported that then chief of criminal prosecutions for the state's attorney's office, Thomas Epach, last fall said in an affidavit that his advice to investigate the case more thoroughly before charging Simon wasn't heeded. Porter had a checkered background, to be sure, but the murder case against him simply raised too many substantial unanswered questions. Dropping the case against Porter was a reasonable call by the state's attorney's office. Also, the other guy, Simon, a 3-time convicted felon, did confess in 1999, repeated his confession 6 months later in court, apologized in open court to one of the victim's mothers and faced other evidence against him. Generally, when people make false confessions under pressure, they recant right away. So we can't agree with the city lawyers who in 2001 said that dropping the case was "political."

But our Sunday Sun-Times story does call welcome attention to something that is very true - it's never crazy to worry that elected officials are feeling political pressure to pursue a case or to drop a case (or even never honestly pursue it).

That certainly was true in the cases of Stephen Buckley, Rolando Cruz and Alejandro Hernandez, who were charged with the murder of Jeanine Nicarico of Naperville just 12 days before a crucial primary election - and who years later turned out to be innocent. The Duke lacrosse players who eventually were exonerated were charged in the course of a 2006 election important to a North Carolina district attorney. Even Chicago's NATO 3 case looks, in retrospect, like authorities were so determined to root out terrorism that they thought they had found it where it didn't exist.

The Porter case was big news because he was just 50 hours away from execution in 1998 when it was put on hold because of his low IQ. Former Gov. George Ryan cited the case when he imposed a moratorium on the death penalty in Illinois. And there's a strong argument Simon should be allowed to withdraw his guilty plea because of an unusual twist: An investigator on the Porter side of the case, who had an interest in freeing Porter, arranged for Simon's lawyer. But even if Simon is innocent, it doesn't mean Porter is guilty.

After all these years, witnesses against both Porter and Simon have changed their stories. Only one thing can be said for sure: Our criminal justice system - and every criminal justice system - inevitably feels political pressure not just to convict, but to free. The biggest challenge for police and prosecutors can be resisting those political winds, however they blow.

(source: Chicago Sun-Times)


Jewish center gunman suspect in Kansas faces hate crime charges, possible death penalty; Frazier Glenn Cross, 73 - also known as Frazier Glenn Miller - was a former 'grand dragon' of the Carolina Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. He was arrested Sunday after allegedly killing 3 people near a Jewish center outside Kansas City. Prosecutors say they have enough evidence to charge him with federal crimes that could get him the death sentence.

An aging Ku Klux Klansman was facing federal hate crime charges Monday, accused of killing 3 people, including a doctor and his grandson, during a Passover eve rampage at Jewish facilities in Kansas.

Prosecutors are confident they have enough evidence to charge Frazier Glenn Cross, 73, with federal crimes that could get him the death penalty.

"We will be filing hate crime charges," said Barry Grissom, the U.S. Attorney for the District of Kansas. "We are in a very good place from an evidence standpoint, and we will be presenting to a grand jury."

Cross of Aurora, Mo., who also goes by the name Frazier Glenn Miller, opened fire with a shotgun Sunday at the crowded Jewish community center in Overland Park and a nearby Jewish elderly home.

Johnson County Sheriff's Office Frazier Glenn Miller, 73, who was charged for a deadly shooting at Jewish facilities near Kansas City, has a long history of anti-Semitism as a member of the Ku Klux Klan, according to a group that monitors hate crimes.

Witnesses said the gunman, screaming "heil Hitler," killed Dr. William Lewis Corporon, 69, and his 14-year-old grandson, Reat Griffin Underwood, ambushing them in the parking lot of Jewish Community Campus of Greater Kansas City.

Cross, former "grand dragon" of the Carolina Knights of Ku Klux Klan, then stormed to the nearby Village Shalom senior living facility, where he gunned down Terri LaManno, 53, who was visiting her elderly mother, authorities said.

While detectives suspect Cross was out to target Jewish victims, Corporon and his grandson were Methodist, relatives said.

Corporon's son, Will, 48, told The News on Monday that his family was overwhelmed with the burden of planning funerals for his slain nephew and the family patriarch.

"It's unlike anything I can imagine," he said over the phone. "These things happen and, wow, it's just random and awful and senseless, you know, that some crazy old nut from the sticks can have some impact on people whose lives he's never even met."

He added that the family isn't spending any energy worrying about the fate of the alleged killer.

"I know there are a lot of people interested in the weirdo, but he's obviously some crazy lunatic," he said. "Whatever's going to happen, is going to happen. We truly don't care. We're glad that if that's him, that he's obviously off the street and isn't going to hurt anybody else."

Grieving mother Mindy Corporon said her father had volunteered to take her son, Reat, an Eagle Scout, to the community center to try out for an "American Idol"-like singing contest.

The mother told mourners gathered at a vigil service Sunday night that she raced to the center from another son's lacrosse game as soon as she heard of the shooting.

"I was there before the police and I was there before the ambulance. And I knew immediately that they were in heaven, and I know that they're in heaven together." She said she got to tell her son and her father that she loved them.

"I was the last person in the family who saw them," the mother said.

Cross was arrested shortly after the shootings at an elementary school near the Village Shalom senior living facility.

Witnesses said he spewed anti-Semitic slurs and repeatedly shouted "heil Hitler" as cops handcuffed him and put in the back of a police car.

Police said Cross fired at 2 others during the rampage, but missed.

A police car is seen at the entrance of the Jewish Community Center in Overland Park, Kan., after 3 were killed when a gunman went on a shooting spree on Sunday.

Cross is expected to make his 1st court appearance as early as Tuesday morning.

The well-known hate-monger led his white supremacist group into the 1980s before forming another, the White Patriot Party, according to the Alabama-based Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate groups.

A nationwide manhunt for Cross was launched in 1987, when he violated the terms of his bond while appealing a North Carolina conviction for operating a paramilitary group.

But authorities soon found him with 3 other men in a Missouri mobile home filled with a cache of automatic weapons, thousands of rounds of ammunition and hand grenades.

Cross eventually pleaded guilty to possession of a hand grenade and received a 5-year sentence in exchange for his testimony against other prominent white supremacists in a 1988 Arkansas case, the Anti-Defamation League said Monday.

"[His] decision earned him the enmity of the majority of the white supremacist movement, which now considered him a traitor to the movement," ADL officials said in a statement.

Cross was released from prison in 1990.

He wrote a disturbing autobiography titled "A White Man Speaks Out" in 1999 about his lifelong involvement with white supremacist groups. He even tried running for Congress in 2006 and the U.S. Senate in 2010, but failed both times.

"He is one of the more frightening characters out there, no question about that," Mark Potok, a senior fellow at the Southern Poverty Law Center, said of Cross.

Sunday's attacks left the small Kansas City suburb shaken.

Friends of the teen victim, a freshman at Blue Valley High School, remembered him as a friendly spirit who often volunteered at the Church of Resurrection.

"He was just a kind spirit. So much talent every day that he showed us all and the smile he gave us every day and his devotion to others. And his church," family friend Samuel Cordes said during Sunday night's vigil.

"He touched the hearts of many," Cordes said.

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback vowed to bring justice to those found responsible for the senseless killings.

"We will pursue justice aggressively for these victims and criminal charges against the perpetrator or perpetrators to the full extent of the law," Brownback said.

(source: New York Daily News)


Defense attorney still concerned with execution drugs

Will we finally see an end in the court battles over execution drugs this month?

Attorney General Scott Pruitt announced in the News Channel Four studios Friday that the state found manufactured versions of all of the lethal injection drugs.

They'll be used to kill Clayton Lockett and Charles Warner this month.

The move will mean the state will not have to use compounding pharmacies to create the drugs.

Earlier this month, the executions were delayed due to a court battle surrounding the effectiveness of the drugs.

At that point, the state was going to use a compounding pharmacy to create the 3-drug cocktail and refused to release the name of the company in an effort to protect pharmacists from threats.

Defense attorneys for the men on death row felt that secrecy was unconstitutional.

They felt the public should know who supplies the drugs so the drugs can be investigated in order to test their ingredients and effectiveness.

With the manufacture-made drugs, Pruitt felt the questions could stop.

"Each of the drugs are now manufactured drugs, and the questions that have been raised by the defense are mute. The executions should happen," said Pruitt. "The manufacturer that makes these drugs are all FDA approved. The drugs they produce are all FDA approved."

However, Federal Defense Attorney Madeline Cohen isn't satisfied.

"We want to know that the drugs that are being used to execute our clients are safe and effective and not going to result in a prolonged and torturous death that is unconstitutional," Cohen argued. "Just to give you an example, the Oklahoma protocol that's being used called for a 50 mg to 100 ml concentration of Midazolam, and our research indicates there is no FDA approved source of manufactured Midazolam in that concentration."

Cohen wants to know the name of the manufacturer to check.

However, Pruitt says he won't reveal the name.

He will only hand over lab studies confirming effectiveness.

"Why do you need to know the source if those things can be affirmed?" Pruitt questioned.

He says he wants to protect the manufacturers from public threats and intimidation.

"As long as the secrecy is being maintained with respect to the source of those drugs, we have no real assurances about their safety," said Cohen.

Despite efforts to delay Lockett's and Warner's executions, the 2 are set to be executed April 22 and April 29.

(source: KFOR news)


UCO debates Oklahoma Justice Commission

A 1 % chance that an innocent person could be executed for murder is justification to end capital punishment, said Greg Munday, who favors the abolition of the capital punishment. The American Democracy Project of the University of Central Oklahoma on Saturday hosted a debate on the best strategy to end the death penalty.

The debate did not focus on whether the death penalty is a good or bad idea, said professor Matthew Moore, UCO debate team director. Instead, the debate focused on whether or not the Oklahoma Justice Commission report is a good solution, Moore said.

"We are asking the question of whether the Oklahoma Justice reforms will actually result in the abolishment of the death penalty," Moore said. Derek Hilligoss spoke in favor of the OJC reforms, while Munday and Austin Fredericks argued against the OJC reforms. Each of the speakers spoke against the death penalty, while favoring a sentence of life in prison without parole.

"Innocent people are dying everyday due to the lack of reforms in our criminal justice system," Hilligoss said. "...4 people were on death row before there was exoneration in Oklahoma alone."

Not only are innocent people being put to death, but the actual cause of the crime is not being solved, Hilligoss said. Convicted people are instantly seen as being guilty in the eyes of everyone, he continued. Families are being torn apart due to wrongful convictions, Hilligoss argued.

Reforms in other states have already improved the number of misidentification cases.

"The Innocence Project shows a case where a lack of reforms of identification allowed a man to be put in jail for 22 years," Hilligoss said. The Post Conviction DNA Act would allow anyone who is convicted of murder to at anytime file for DNA testing with evidence found at the scene of the crime, Hilligoss said. This practice has allowed 24 people in New York to be exonerated from wrongful convictions, he said.

"One state that has already implemented this has exonerated 9 people that would have been killed," Hilligoss said of OJC reforms. The Oklahoma Innocence Collaboration Act would create a group formed by higher education institutes, law enforcement agencies and forensics laboratories to investigate whether people who are sentenced to death are getting the rights they deserve, Hilligoss said.

"These reforms are key steps in making sure that injustice is not something Oklahomans become accustomed to," Hilligoss said. Fredericks suggested that the legal system is so infallible that there is not a zero chance of an innocent person being put to death.

"There are 2 key points. First, there is already momentum being created to abolish the death penalty," Fredericks said. "And 2nd, that reforms just serve to make legitimate and re-entrench the death penalty as practice." Fredericks said there are problems making a "scientific death penalty." A death penalty supported by science makes some people feel supportive of the death penalty, Fredericks said.

"No matter what the case is, unless you can be entirely certain that someone has committed a crime, the death penalty is unjust," Fredericks said. "And no matter how scientific the death penalty is, there is never 100 % certainty."

Munday said the debate is about how to make changes to the death penalty. Abolition of the death penalty is the correct perspective, he said.

OJC reforms makes the abolition of the death penalty more difficult to pass, Munday said. "Thus we should focus our efforts and attention on reaching total abolition of capital punishment, rather than the small reforms like the OJC guidelines," Munday said. Abolition, he argued, is necessary to uphold the credibility of the United States' credibility on human rights.

The U.S. ranks 4th only behind China, Iran and Saudi Arabia on the amount of execution that it allows occur every year, Munday said. The U.S. should not be in the business of executing its own citizens, Munday said. Capital punishment allows the state to pick and choose which citizens it believes are fit to live, he said.

"Abolition is the correct force of action because capitol punishment is morally wrong," Munday said. "Capital punishment takes innocent men and women from their homes and rips them from their families while children are left parentless and pushed into the system."

Audience member Nancy Vollertsen of Edmond is the sister of the late Greg Wilhoit, who died in February. He died in his sleep in California, she said. Wilhoit was exonerated after serving nearly 5 years on death row in Oklahoma for a crime he did not commit.

"We've been talking about post DNA testing," Vollertsen said. "I don't think a lot of people are aware that less than 10 % of cases even have DNA available." Wilhoit's exoneration in the murder of his wife was not a DNA case, said Vollertsen, a board member of Witness to Innocence. "One of our members said, 'I think very eloquently; you can always free a man from prison. You can never free a man from the grave.'"

To view reasons to support capital punishment, go to To learn more about supporting the abolition Capital Punishment, go to

(source: The Edmond Sun)

SOUTH DAKOTA----new death sentence

U.S. man sentenced to death for killing nurse in plot to assassinate Obama

A U.S. man with a history of mental illness was sentenced to death by a jury on Monday for killing a hospice nurse as part of a plot to assassinate President Barack Obama.

James McVay had pleaded guilty but mentally ill to a murder charge in 2012 in the stabbing death of 75-year-old Maybelle Schein. The Sioux Falls, South Dakota jury chose the death penalty, though jurors could have sentenced him to life in prison without parole.

McVay, 43, said he killed Schein and stole her car as part of his plan to drive to Washington and kill the president.

Authorities said McVay walked away from a minimum-security prison in July 2011 in Sioux Falls and was mixing cough syrup and alcohol when he climbed under Schein's slightly open garage door, entered her house, killed her and drove away in her car.

After Schein's car was reported stolen, police used a tracking service in the vehicle to find McVay on a freeway. He was arrested after a brief chase.

Police Officer Kipp Hartman testified that he was trying to get McVay to reveal his name when McVay began saying he "killed a little old lady" in South Dakota and stole her car to get to Washington, D.C., to kill the president.

Richard Dieter, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, earlier this month said the death penalty is traditionally reserved for the worst of the worst, and it's rare for a state to seek the punishment of death after finding someone guilty but mentally ill.

Dieter said the guilty but mentally ill verdict gained popularity in a dozen states as part of the public outcry over John Hinckley being found not guilty by reason of insanity in 1982 in the attempted assassination of President Ronald Reagan.

Prosecutor Aaron McGowan said McVay stabbed Schein 9 times, with the final blow cutting her vocal cords and carotid artery, causing her to bleed to death within 16 seconds.

Public defender Traci Smith on Monday said McVay's characterization by the prosecution as monstrous didn't square with the facts of the case or his history, the Argus Leader reported. Smith said McVay's mental health wasn't properly monitored or cared for by the prison staff. She added that McVay poses no threat when his illness is cared for.

Public defender, Amber Eggert, argued before the jury that McVay has suffered from mental illness as well as alcohol and drug issues for much of his life and his life should be spared.

She said that the night before the killing, McVay mixed alcohol with a DXM-based cough syrup, which can cause hallucinations. McVay said he awoke briefly at 3 a.m. to find spiritual entities surrounding him and awoke again hours later to find them still there, telling him to follow through on his plan, she told jurors.

(source: Associated Press)


'No one else will be harmed': McVay sentenced to death

James McVay, born to a prostitute, fed drugs as a child and raised by the criminal justice system, was condemned by a Sioux Falls jury on Monday to die in South Dakota's death chamber.

The 43-year-old Texas native and lifelong inmate was sentenced to death by lethal injection for the stabbing of Maybelle Schein in her Sioux Falls home. McVay, who pleaded guilty but mentally ill to 1st-degree murder in late 2011, joins 3 other men on death row in South Dakota.

The jury of 7 men and 5 women deliberated just over 6 hours before returning the verdict for the 43-year-old, who pleaded guilty but mentally ill to 1st-degree murder in late 2011.

Members of Schein's family said the jury made a just decision for a man who'd plotted a murderous rampage for months and left an innocent stranger he described as a "piece of meat" in a pool of blood.

"I think it's important that we can feel as though no one else will ever be harmed the way she was, in her bed," said Marge Anderson, Schein's best friend since the 5th grade. "This protects society."

The jury's verdict ensures that McVay will be treated by the Department of Corrections as one of the state's most dangerous inmates. By law, death row inmates are housed alone, not allowed physical contact with anyone but prison staff and are shackled at the hands and feet before moving anywhere in the facility.

Because he'd faked wellness for mental health staff as he plotted to kill and lashed out at officers after his arrest, Minnehaha County State's Attorney Aaron McGowan said McVay had earned his place alongside Briley Piper, Rodney Berget and Charles Rhines.

"I think the jury saw how vile this was, how heinous this was, and I think they also took serious consideration into future dangerousness," McGowan said.

McVay sneaked under Schein's open garage door July 2, 2011, after spending a night under a bridge in Sertoma Park, hallucinating under the influence of cold pills and Jack Daniels whiskey.

McVay said he had been guided by Lucifer to her home, where he woke her and stabbed her nine times before stealing her car and driving it to Madison, Wis., in what he described as the 1st step in a plan to kill and steal his way to Washington, D.C., to assassinate President Obama.

He told the arresting officer in Wisconsin that he had taken pleasure in the murder because Schein was a Christian and that he taunted her as she fought for her life, although he said on the witness stand that he had made that up.

McGowan urged jurors to picture the nightmarish scenario that the 75-year-old hospice nurse found herself in on the morning of her murder.

"The final vision before Maybelle's eyes was seeing this defendant standing over her with a buck knife," McGowan said.

Defense: Influenced by mental illness

Defense lawyers had argued that McVay's behavior was driven by psychosis, a mental illness that bubbled over into the bizarre assassination plot during 2 months in segregation at the South Dakota State Penitentiary.

McVay walked away from a minimum security unit a day after his release into a community transition program to carry out his bizarre mission, but defense lawyers say he had to use drugs to steel himself for the job.

Despite being locked up almost his entire adult life in three states, she said, McVay never had been charged with attacking another inmate or guard. His 8 previous felony convictions were not violent, but largely drug-related.

"The state has continually downplayed the effect of mental illness," Minnehaha County Public Defender Traci Smith said during closing arguments.

McVay had spun out of control because he was uncared for. He made a series of incriminating statements immediately after his arrest, including that he wanted to kill police officers and he wanted the death penalty, because he had been left alone to bask in grandiose fantasies of martyrdom, Smith said.

He also expressed remorse quickly after killing Schein, Smith said. He attempted suicide 2 months after killing Schein, but later decided he had something to offer other mentally ill inmates.

The lawyers also called witnesses who spoke to McVay's troubled childhood. He had been thrown in a pool and left for dead by his birth mother, a heroin-addicted prostitute. His brothers in his adopted family fed him drugs by age 10, sparking a habit that would keep McVay in and out of prison from age 15 through most of his adult life.

Defense lawyers wept as the verdict was read and declined to offer comment afterward.

Schein family: 'A little emotional'

Stan Fetters, Schein's older brother, said he and the 2 rows of friends and family who gathered to hear the verdict Monday night after 7 days hearing the crime recounted felt overwhelmed.

"It's pretty hard to contain yourself at that moment," said Stan Fetters, Schein's brother. "We got a little emotional. But we did as the judge asked and stayed quiet as we could."

Fetters and Anderson said they both hoped Schein could be remembered as a fun-loving woman who spent her life caring for others. The hospice nurse spent most of her career testing the poor, displaced and downtrodden for tuberculosis.

"I would not like her to be remembered as the woman who was so brutally murdered," Anderson said. "She gave so much to society."

McVay will be formally sentenced at a later date. His sentence will automatically be reviewed by the South Dakota Supreme Court, after which he'll be allowed direct and habeas corpus appeals in state and federal court.

All 3 of the men executed by South Dakota in the modern era - Eric Robert, Elijah Page and Donald Moeller - gave up their appeals voluntarily before their deaths.

A 4th man, Robert Leroy Anderson, committed suicide while on death row.

The man who's spent the longest time on death row, Charles Rhines, has a pending appeal in federal court..

Major developments in James McVay case

JULY 1, 2011: James McVay walks away from the South Dakota State Penitentiary's Community Transition Program unit. He shoplifts a knife, liquor, cold pills and clothing from the Walmart on Louise Avenue in Sioux Falls, then spends the night in Sertoma Park.

JULY 2, 2011: McVay slides under a garage door at the residence of 75-year-old Maybelle Schein in southern Sioux Falls. He slashes her throat in her bed, steals her car and drives to Madison, Wis., where he is captured. He says he was on a mission to travel to Washington, D.C., and assassinate President Obama.

DECEMBER 2011: McVay pleads guilty but mentally ill to 1st-degree murder.

MARCH 2014: Jury selection begins for the 2-phase death penalty trial: to determine whether McVay is eligible for the death penalty and whether he should receive it.

APRIL 14, 2014: Jury gives McVay the death penalty.


Briley Piper: Admitted his role in the killing of 19-year-old Chester Allan Poage in 2000 in Spearfish. The state Supreme Court in 2009 overturned a trial judge's decision to sentence Piper to death, saying a jury should decide his fate. A jury then sentenced Piper to death in August 2011.

Charles Rhines: Was convicted in the 1992 stabbing death of Donnivan Schaeffer, 22, of Black Hawk. In January, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected his appeal.

Rodney Berget: Pleaded guilty to 1st-degree murder in the 2011 beating death of Ronald "R.J." Johnson, 63. The state Supreme Court ordered a stay of execution in 2012.


Robert LeRoy Anderson: Sentenced to death in 1997 and 1999 for the murders of Larisa Dumansky and Piper Streyle. Committed suicide in 2003.

Elijah Page: Sentenced to death in 2001 for his role in the murder of Poage. Executed in 2006.

Eric Robert: Sentenced to death in 2011 for his role in murder of Officer Johnson. Executed in 2012.

Donald Moeller: Sentenced to death in 1997 for the rape and murder of Becky O'Connell, 9. Executed in 2012.

(source: Argus Leader)


Death Penalty Opponents React To Verdict

The jurors' decision to sentence James McVay to death isn't sitting well with everyone.

In the 2014 session State Rep. Steve Hickey tried to pass a bill through the South Dakota Legislature. However, it was 1 vote short of getting onto the house floor. Hickey said the verdict handed down Monday evening is an example of why the death penalty is wrong.

He said it's unfortunate the 12 men and women felt fighting violence with violence was the right thing to do. He added human life is a sacred thing that should be respected. Hickey also said Maybelle Schein was against the death penalty. And he said Judge Peter Lieberman never told that to the jury, which would have been important information for them to know. Hickey said it's unfortunate that yet another person now sits on South Dakota's death row.

"People you know see something horrible happen, and the instant human reaction is to bite back," Hickey said. "We've thought that works, maybe it deters people, but I think when people look at the death penalty in America they'll see that all the things we thought it did, it doesn't do at all. It doesn't bring the family closure, in fact it delays closure, it doesn't save anybody body, and in fact it costs everybody more money."

Hickey said there are still options for McVay. He could appeal the decision made Monday, and Hickey said he supports that right.

Hickey said he is going to continue his fight to repeal the death penalty in South Dakota. He said in the last bill, the names of the three men on death row did not appear so their sentences wouldn't have been repealed if the bill were to pass. He said the next time around that might change.

18 people have been executed in South Dakota.

(source: KDLT news)


Judge Won't Halt 2nd Sanity Review Of James Holmes

The judge in the Colorado theater shooting case on Monday rejected defense lawyers' attempts to block a 2nd sanity evaluation of defendant James Holmes.

Arapahoe County District Judge Carlos A. Samour Jr. said he would keep the new examination on hold in case Holmes' lawyers wanted to appeal his order. He also agreed to modify his instructions to the psychiatrist for the new evaluation to address some of the defense attorneys' concerns, but the instructions were not made public.

Holmes pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity to charges of killing 12 people and injuring 70 in the July 2012 attack on an audience watching "The Dark Knight Rises" in the Denver suburb of Aurora. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.

Holmes underwent a mandatory sanity evaluation last year. The key findings have not been released, but prosecutors asked for a new evaluation, saying the doctor who conducted the first one was biased.

Samour ruled the 1st exam was inadequate and ordered a 2nd.

Holmes' lawyers objected, saying the order was improper and violated Holmes' rights.

Many of the specifics of their objections have not been made public, and more than 80 pages of the five orders Samour signed Monday are redacted.

Holmes' trial is scheduled to start in October with jury selection, which is expected to take weeks. It isn't yet clear whether the defense objections to the 2nd sanity evaluation will force another postponement.

The decision on whether Holmes was legally insane - unable to tell right from wrong - will be up to jurors. The opinions of the doctors who conduct the psychiatric evaluations will be key to that decision.

Defense lawyers have also asked for a change of venue, citing intense media coverage and the emotional toll of the attacks on potential jurors in Arapahoe County. The judge has not ruled on that request.

Also Monday, prosecutors agreed with defense lawyers that part of a pretrial hearing scheduled for May 5-6 should be closed to the public and the media during a discussion about a questionnaire that potential jurors will be asked to fill out.

Samour has not ruled on that request either.

(source: Associated Press)

ARIZONA----female may face death sentence

Penalty phase to begin for Arizona woman convicted of fatally beating husband with hammer

Lawyers are scheduled to make arguments Tuesday over whether an Arizona woman convicted of fatally bludgeoning her husband with a hammer should spend the rest of her life in prison or be sentenced to death.

Jurors have already found that Marissa Devault qualifies for the death penalty because she killed Dale Harrell in an especially cruel manner. Defense lawyers are expected to call some of Devault's family members to testify.

Devault was convicted last week of first-degree murder after jurors deliberated for 5 1/2 days.

Prosecutors say Devault killed Harrell in a failed bid to collect on a life insurance policy to repay more than $300,000 in loans from her boyfriend. Devault says she killed her husband in self-defense and told investigators he had physically and sexually abused her in the past.

Harrell, 34, suffered multiple skull fractures in the January 2009 attack at the couple's home in the Phoenix suburb of Gilbert. He died nearly a month later at a hospice because of complications from his head injuries.

Devault initially told investigators that her husband attacked her while she was asleep and choked her until she was unconscious. She also told police that when she woke up, she saw another man who lived at their home beating Harrell with a hammer.

But investigators say Devault later confessed to attacking her husband, saying she pummeled him in a rage as he slept after he sexually assaulted her.

The key prosecution witness was Devault's former boyfriend, Allen Flores, a businessman who is 20 years older than Devault and had loaned her more than $300,000 during their 2-year relationship.

Flores testified that Devault wanted to either hire someone to kill Harrell, or kill him herself and tell police he tried to rape her after a night of drinking.

Devault's attorneys attacked Flores' credibility, noting he was given an immunity agreement on child-pornography allegations in exchange for his testimony. The child pornography was found on Flores' computer during a search that was part of the murder investigation, authorities said.

(source: Associated Press)


Jury finds aggravating factor in Devault murder trial

Marissa Devault could face the death penalty after jurors on Monday found an aggravating factor in her murder trial.

Devault was convicted in the 2009 death of her husband, Dale Harrell, who was fatally beaten with a hammer.

The jury has already spent 2 days considering whether there were "aggravating factors" that would make her eligible.

To make her eligible for the death penalty, the jury had to determine that she killed her husband in an especially cruel manner.

If jurors had found Devault didn't qualify for execution, then a judge would have had to sentence her to life in prison.

Attorneys on both sides will now make arguments to jurors on whether she should be imprisoned or executed.

Prosecutors say Devault killed Harrell in an unsuccessful attempt to collect on life insurance money.

Devault says she acted in self-defense against an abusive husband.

The final penalty phase will begin Tuesday at 10:30 a.m.

(source: East Valley Tribune)


Jesuit death row chaplain: 'We allow revenge to ruin many lives'

Jesuit Fr. George Williams

Age: 56

Profession: Death row chaplain at San Quentin State Prison

Lives in: San Quentin, Calif.

Sr. Camille: Jesuits are admired for their intelligence, learning and leadership qualities. Some readers might wonder if you're wasting your time, your life, ministering to men on San Quentin's death row.

Williams: I've been asked that question many times by colleagues who are correction officers. 2 groups have never asked me that: Jesuits and my friends who know me well. Jesuits know that St. Ignatius spent time ministering to prisoners and other outcasts, and he even mentioned prisoners in the founding documents of the Society of Jesus.

In the "Formula of the Institute," which defines what Jesuits are, Ignatius wrote: "Moreover, he should show himself ready to reconcile the estranged, compassionately assist and serve those who are in prisons or hospitals, and indeed, to perform any other works of charity, according to what will seem expedient for the glory of God and the common good."

Ignatius' vision of what it means to be a Jesuit included serving those in prisons. The educational institutions came later.

My closest friends have always seemed to grasp the value of a life of service to others. I remember that when I began to talk about entering the Society of Jesus while still a captain in the Air Force 30 years ago, my Air Force colleagues for the most part thought I had lost my mind. One Air Force friend who was Jewish got it, though. He said, "I get it, you are trying to answer a higher calling."

What attracted me most to the Society of Jesus were men who were not afraid to "waste their lives" for the ideals of our Christian faith. By the standards of "the world" -- our culture, our social standards -- religious life probably seems crazy to those who measure their value in money and power. But Jesuits are called to a different standard -- the banner of Christ. At its best, the Society of Jesus (indeed, the Christian church) is a countercultural voice in a world hell-bent on selfishness. So working with prisoners has always felt like a calling to me, a great gift. It has been the defining work of my life, and for 20 years it has brought me more joy than I ever could have imagined.

As far as wasting my time with the men on death row, whom some consider "undeserving monsters," I just don't see it that way. For one thing, even though some of them have done horrible things to others, they are still very much human beings. I think each one of them has dignity and value, and God loves each one of them. My job isn't to fix them or undo the damage they've done. I see my work as offering them a path for healing of their souls, to make peace with themselves and with God. I know many are sociopaths, but they are damaged human beings. They are not monsters.

Can you identify your critics?

Some are victims' rights people who think that caring for criminals equals not caring for victims. This is simply not true. I do care very much about the victims of the crimes of the men on death row. (These victims include their own loved ones who have to bear the burden of shame of having a son, brother, father or friend on death row.) I cannot serve both groups, but the care of the victims is something a lot of other people can do and can do better than I could. While I care for the men in prison, others need to be attending to the victims of crime and the families of the incarcerated.

What drew you to this ministry?

How often do we remember that Jesus Christ was arrested, thrown in jail, put on trial, convicted and sentenced to death? That he was given the death penalty and was executed by the state as a common criminal? So was John the Baptist. So were Peter, Paul, James and countless followers of Christ.

How did you get into prison ministry?

When I was a novice making a 30-day Ignatian retreat, the most powerful experience of prayer I had was when, unable to picture Jesus' face in my meditations, I asked him to show me his face. I distinctly remember his reply: "I will show you my face when you are ready to see me."

A few months later, it was time to choose a ministry "experiment." I read the description a novice had written about three years prior about his "experiment" working at one of Massachusetts' state prisons. It sounded utterly horrifying to me. So I saw that as a challenge and opted to try prison ministry. I spent three months at Massachusetts Correctional Institution in Norfolk under the supervision of St. Joseph Sr. Maureen Clark, who is now the Catholic chaplain at the Massachusetts prison for women in Framingham.

The very first day I was there, she took me to visit the men in the "hole." I remember distinctly walking away from one man's cell after we had been conversing through a narrow slot in his door used to pass food through or to handcuff inmates prior to removing them from their cells. The slot was only about 36 inches from the floor, so I had to crouch or kneel to speak to him. As I walked away, it just hit me -- I had been looking at the face of this man in solitary confinement in prison, and it was through him (and thousands more prisoners to come) that Jesus was showing me his face.

Would you please share some personal connection with someone you've met along the way?

Here's a story about an early formative experience in prison ministry, written in April 1998:

Mikey was confirmed a year ago in at the House of Correction. I always have the guys write a letter to God at the beginning of the confirmation class. He wrote in his letter, "I find some answers during Mass on Sunday. But not all. God, maybe when I go through the gates of heaven, You will tell all. I would like to end this letter with I love you God no matter what happens to me."

After he was rearrested that fall and I saw him at the Nashua Street Jail in Boston, we talked several times about getting him into a halfway house. He had a bed waiting for him there two weeks before he died.

About 6 weeks before that, he sent me a card in which he wrote:

Brother George:

I can't thank you enough. I want to let you know you really helped me through some bad times. Brother George, you brang God back in my life and my family too. I really thank God for you. And your always in my prayers. I thank you for believing in me. Not many have. Today my little girls call me Dad and it feels great. Thank you!

Your friend, Mikey

I have felt both the crushing helplessness of the prison ministry and its moments of sheer exhilarating grace. I have felt the power of Christ's suffering and death, as well as his love and compassion incarnate in Mikey's story and in many others', and I am deeply consoled that I have been privileged to offer many prisoners the chance to own and express their love for God in their own words.

As Mikey's letter says, at the time, I was a Jesuit brother. I knew I wanted to be a Jesuit from the beginning, but I was not moved by the idea of being a priest. After working in the jail and prisons for about five years as Brother George, I began to hear different prisoners say to me something along the lines of, "Why don't you be our priest? You know us better than the priests you bring in here for Mass." After about the 100th time I heard this, it dawned on me that I would like to be a priest for them, not for myself, especially for the sacrament of reconciliation. Forgiveness is perhaps the one greatest thing prisoners yearn for. So I asked for permission to change grades in order to be able to minister to the prisoners as their priest. This is something I have never regretted.

When did you begin work in San Quentin?

In 2010, when I was asked if I'd be interested in the job of Catholic chaplain there. I was thrilled at the idea, having visited San Quentin a few times when a fellow Jesuit, Steven Barber, was its chaplain. It seemed both attractive and terrifying, especially the idea of death row. The thought of accompanying a man to his execution as chaplain is nightmarish. But several of the men have asked me to be there for them should they ever be executed. I hope I don't ever have to do this, but I would certainly do it in order to be present to the men.

How does our nation's incarceration rate stand in comparison to that of other countries?

The United States of America is now the prison capital of the world. We incarcerate a higher proportion of our population than any other country on Earth.

What really troubles me is what this says about our country and the culture we accept as normal today. What are we saying to the world when we talk about human rights and the dignity of man yet consign so many of our own citizens to prison and, once there, treat them like animals?

What I see every day are men with faces and names and children and memories who suffer greatly from the pains of life in prison. I know several men in our most highly secured unit who have been in what is essentially solitary confinement for over 20 years. Just to put this in perspective, international standards consider more than 2 weeks in solitary to be akin to torture, if not outright torture. Two weeks. And I know men who have done more than 1,000 weeks.

How many currently call San Quentin's death row home?

About 750, and we keep adding more and more inmates to it.

Of that number, how many make up your congregation?

I see about 100 men on death row who come to Catholic services. But I don't limit my ministry to just Catholics -- I try to meet them where they are and help them no matter what their spiritual path is.

Please describe the setting of what passes for a chapel.

The chapel in San Quentin State Prison's death row is a windowless old shower room encased in a heavy metal cage. Inside it, there are 6 wooden benches bolted to the floor upon which the members of my congregation sit.

There's a harsh florescent light overhead, and as I raise the consecrated host, the light illuminates it. I look past the host to the men in the cage. They are quiet and focused.

Do you wear priestly vestments when you celebrate Eucharist with them?

I wear both priestly vestments and a black stab-proof vest inside my own cage, which is about twice the size of an old phone booth. As required by the department, I padlock myself inside.

Can you give us some sense of what it feels like to be there?

Death row is not very noisy. The impression one gets walking in is like you're in some sort of giant ship or warehouse. There are five tiers back-to-back in the building with 60 cells on each tier. The cells themselves are pretty small: 5 feet wide by about 10 feet long. They don't have windows because all the cells are in the middle of the building, and they are covered at the entrance with heavy black iron mesh and bars. Almost all of the men on death row have a television and a radio, their main contact with the outside world.

I guess if there is one feeling to sum it all up, I'd say "claustrophobic." There's heaviness about the place -- physically, emotionally and spiritually. It's dark.

Have any been executed on your watch?

No, thank God, and I hope none will be. The last execution was conducted in 2006.

Have any been exonerated?

I know of 2 men who had their death sentences reduced to life in prison. I don't know of any who have been completely exonerated of their crime, but we certainly have been reading of cases around the country where more advanced forensic science has proven some prisoners condemned to death innocent.

Some of the men on the row may have committed a single lethal crime; others may have proven themselves serious threats to society. If you could design a system to deal with those convicted of murder, what would it be like?

There are a lot of men at San Quentin who have murdered others. Most of them are probably not serious threats to society, the crimes having been committed while drunk or high or just young and stupid. Some of the most evolved people I've met in my life have been convicted murderers. Although we have a handful of serial killers on death row, most of the men don't fall into that category.

I think no matter what the crime, the punishment of removing a person from society and taking away their freedom is the punishment. Once a person is incarcerated, even if it is for the rest of his or her life, why does his or her life have to be one of unremitting dehumanization? The "country club" propaganda of the right wing is utterly wrong. The argument of "Why should a convicted killer get to watch TV, play sports, get education," you name it, is wrongheaded and based on vengefulness, not justice. Victims and their families need to be given support and opportunities for healing. They don't need to be used to inflame hostility toward prisoners.

Can you share an example of this?

I remember when I worked in Boston, a young man was murdered in a housing project in Charlestown. I knew the killer. The crime was brutal and senseless. But the media and some political interests used the mother of the victim to prevent any improvements in the ways prisoners in Massachusetts were treated. "Why should he get to have Christmas with his kids when my son will never get to have Christmas?" The pain of this woman is clear and poignant. But this pain was then used to enforce a steadily increasing level of dehumanizing treatment by the Massachusetts Department of Correction. By the logic of the victim's mother, we should not give prisoners food or clothing either because their dead victims don't get food or clothing. Instead of just one tragic loss of life, we allow revenge to ruin many lives. The young children of the man who committed the murder were also denied Christmas with their father.

In a time before your life's work began, where and with whom did you grow up?

I was born in Connecticut -- Welsh/Irish/German/Italian/Yankee ancestry. I come from a long line of Protestant blue-bloods. My paternal ancestors arrived in New England in the 1630s. I'm descended from Roger Williams, Anne Hutchinson and Mary Dyer, which prompted my friend, Jesuit Fr. Jim Martin, to observe a long time ago, "You're descended from heretics and witches -- no wonder you became a Jesuit!"

I grew up Catholic but never went to Catholic schools. I had no idea what Jesuits were until I met some in Alaska, where I was stationed as an Air Force officer after college. They impressed me most with their open minds and great senses of humor. I knew I wanted to be like them.

What in your development do you believe equips you for your role?

That is a good question. I think having gone through a period of depression in my 30s helped me know what suffering is. There are all kinds of prisons that people can wind up in, and depression is certainly one awful place to be.

My parents always modeled for me the value of service to others. My father was a firefighter and my mother always expressed compassion for people who were mistreated, so working with prisoners seems to be a way of serving those who society as a whole rejects.

Do any chide you for working in a prison system many consider unjust?

No. I don't get this from anyone who knows me. I think they realize that in order to be able to minister to men and women in prison, one has to be able to work with the system to some extent without becoming co-opted by it. Some people can help change the system through advocacy and even protests, but I feel my calling is to be there in the trenches with the prisoners.

Where do you find support?

From my friends, from the Jesuits I know and live with, and from the prisoners I serve.

How do you relax?

I'm a Jesuit workaholic. What does "relax" mean? Actually, I like to get out to hike in the beautiful places around the Bay Area. I like movies, reading and dinners with friends. I miss having pets or a garden -- where I live doesn't afford the possibility of either -- but I enjoy caring for plants, and once I move to a bigger room, I intend to have a nice aquarium.

How and with whom do you pray?

I pray every day. As Jesuits, our contemplative life is essential. Without daily prayer and meditation, I don't think my work could be sustained. I spend most of my liturgical life in the prison setting, but I enjoy getting out from time to time to see what's going on in the local church in parishes. I also like to visit and see what our evangelical brothers and sisters are doing. This began with my experience of working at an evangelical-sponsored halfway house in Massachusetts. I've imported a lot of their praise music into our San Quentin liturgies.

Does a particular Scripture passage move you?

Hebrews 13:3: "Be mindful of prisoners as if sharing their imprisonment and of the ill-treated as of yourselves."

Thank you, George, for being so utterly mindful of them.

[Mercy Sr. Camille D'Arienzo, broadcaster and author, narrates Stories of Forgiveness, a book about people whose experiences have caused them to consider the possibilities of extending or accepting forgiveness. The audiobook, renamed Forgiveness: Stories of Redemption, is available from Now You Know Media.]

(source: National Catholic Reporter)


9 purported gang members could face death penalty; Attorney asks DA's office to not prosecute as death penalty cases

Alleged members of 3 East Palo Alto gangs who were indicted for murder with special circumstances in March could face the death penalty, San Mateo County District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe said Monday.

The 9 defendants -- Roberto Bustos-Montes, 24; Nina Cragg, 23; Emmanuel Hyland, 25; Tyrone Love-Lopez, 21; Eric Valencia Vargas, 20; Marvin Ware, 26; Raymond Bradford, 28; Jerry Coneal III, 19; and Miguel Angel Rivera Jr., 23 -- are among 16 people who face charges that include murder, attempted murder, conspiracy to commit murder, dissuasion of witnesses and bribery, possession of firearms and attempted robbery. The DA's office announced the indictments on March 24. They include a string of alleged crimes stretching from San Francisco to East Palo Alto between September 2012 and December 2013. All 16 are alleged members or associates of the Da Vill, Sac Street and Taliban gangs, who were at war with each other during this time, according to the DA's office.

The murder charges stem from 4 homicides: the shootings of Christopher Baker, 21, in East Palo Alto on Oct. 5, 2012; Stoney Gipson of San Francisco on Oct. 27, 2012; and East Palo Alto residents Jonathan Alcazar, 24, on Jan. 14, 2013, and Lamont Coleman, 21, on Jan. 26, 2013, according to the DA's office.

Paul DeMeester, the attorney representing Bustos-Montes through the county's private defender program, has called for the DA's office to not prosecute the nine as death penalty cases. He has cited the costs of death penalty trials as the principal reason, Wagstaffe said.

But the majority of California voters rejected eliminating the death penalty in 2012, he noted.

"What Paul is asking us to do is to override California law," he said.

DeMeester could not be reached for comment.

Wagstaffe said that if found guilty, the defendants could receive the death penalty or life in prison without the possibility of parole due to the fact that the murders were committed as gang killings and some defendants have been charged with multiple murders.

But he cautioned that his office has not yet decided on whether to pursue the death penalty in any of the cases.

"Any time you are dealing with multiple murders, the death penalty is a topic of discussion," he said. "We want to give the defense a chance to present mitigating evidence. The 9 people are technically eligible for it, but their involvement is dramatically different."

He added that his office will consider factors such as the role each defendant played in the murders and whether they have a longer track record of crime.

The costs of prosecuting death-penalty cases would not be a hindrance, he said.

"I'm cognizant of taxpayer resources. But you could make the argument, why even charge anyone with murder because of the costs of prosecuting the case? You could prosecute it on a (lesser charge) and save a lot of money," he said.

Wagstaffe said the DA's office wants families in East Palo Alto to feel safe in their homes and when they walk down the street. Since the arrests, he has heard reports from police that the streets have been quiet.

"We've had 2 homicides in the last 3 days, and I'm very pleased to say that neither is in East Palo Alto," he said. "We hope we can make a difference."

Most of the defendants appeared in court on Friday, April 11. Judge John Grandsaert postponed their hearings to await the availability of the grand jury transcript. The case was reset to June 16 for entry of pleas and to set jury trial and pretrial conference dates.

(source: Palo Alto Weekly)


2 California men charged with serial killings of prostitutes

2 Southern California men have been charged with murder in the slayings of 4 women over the last 6 months, after the body of 1 victim was found on the conveyor belt of a recycling center in the city of Anaheim, police said on Monday.

The 2 suspects, Franc Cano, 27, and Steven Dean Gordon, 45, both registered sex offenders from Anaheim, were booked on suspicion of murder late on Friday and remained held without bail, Anaheim police Lieutenant Bob Dunn said.

Both men have since been formally charged with committing 4 killings that police were treating as serial murders, and they are suspected in at least 1 additional homicide, Dunn said.

"We're working with other jurisdictions to ascertain whether there are any further victims," he added.

The investigation began after employees at a recycling facility in Anaheim, about 25 miles south of Los Angeles, found the body of a woman from Oklahoma left slain on a conveyor belt, Dunn said.

Detectives subsequently linked her death to the disappearances of 3 other women who were reported missing last fall from the neighboring city of Santa Ana and who are presumed also to have been killed, Dunn said.

The men, registered sex offenders who had to meet police monitoring requirements, were wearing GPS devices when the women were assaulted and investigators used positioning data to link them to the victims, Dunn said.

He said police have determined that the four women, all of them in the 20s and 30s, were "engaged in prostitution" at the time they were killed, but authorities were not disclosing any details about the circumstances of the murders.

The bodies of the 3 women reported missing in Santa Ana, 1 of them a resident of Las Vegas, have yet to be recovered, he said.

If convicted they face a minimum sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole and are eligible for the death penalty, Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas said in a statement. The men are to be arraigned on Tuesday.

(source: Reuters)


Sex offenders accused of killing 4 O.C. women could face death penalty

2 registered sex offenders could face the death penalty in slaying of 4 women

2 homeless sex offenders accused of killing 4 women in Orange County could face the death penalty after being charged with murder in the commission of rape and lying in wait, authorities said.

Franc Cano, 27, and Steven Dean Gordon, 45, were formally charged Monday, 3 days after they were arrested in an industrial area of Anaheim not far from the trash-sorting facility where the body of 21-year-old Jarrae Nykkole Estepp was found last month on a conveyor belt.

They are also accused of killing Kianna Jackson, 20, Monique Vargas, 34, and Martha Anaya, 28. Police have not said whether they have found their bodies.

Both men were ordered to register as sex offenders for life after they were convicted of lewd and lascivious acts with a child under 14, court records show. Cano pleaded guilty in 2007 to the charge and was sentenced to 3 years in state prison, according to the records.

Gordon was convicted in 1992 of the same charge and was also sentenced to 3 years in prison, court records state.

Cano and Gordon have known each other since at least April 2012 when they cut off their electronic monitoring devices and fled to Nevada, using the aliases Dexter McCoy and Joseph Madrid, according to federal court records. They stayed at the Circus Circus Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas for about 2 weeks, until they were arrested, the records said.

Following their arrests, they pleaded guilty in Nevada federal court to failing to register as sex offenders. As part of their probation, the men had to provide a DNA sample, and their computers were monitored by federal agents, according to records. Gordon and Cano checked in monthly with Anaheim police as required, said Lt. Bob Dunn, a spokesman for the Anaheim Police Department.

The string of disappearances in Santa Ana began in early October soon after Jackson arrived in the city for a court hearing on 4 misdemeanor charges of prostitution and loitering to commit prostitution, according to court records. Jackson had grown up in a small, rural Northern California town but moved to Las Vegas after one semester of college.

Her mother, Kathy Menzies, said Jackson stopped responding to her text messages shortly after she arrived in Santa Ana.

Nearly 3 weeks after Jackson disappeared, Vargas, who grew up in Santa Ana, left a family birthday party and said she was going to the store. She was not seen again.

When Anaya disappeared Nov. 12, she had been planning her daughter's birthday party at a Chuck E. Cheese restaurant. She asked her boyfriend to pick up their daughter so she could work, but stopped responding to his messages later that night.

(source: Los Angeles Times)


Justice Stevens Is Right: Good Or Bad, Death Penalty Is Constitutional----Just because you think something is a bad idea doesn't make it unconstitutional

Justice John Paul Stevens has been getting lots of attention lately for his views on the Second Amendment - he still doesn't like the individual right to keep and bear arms, and would amend the Constitution to get rid of it - but it's his views on the death penalty that have provoked the more troubling reaction.

Here's the back-story: Justice Stevens has published a book, Six Amendments: How and Why We Should Change the Constitution. Three of these amendments are structural: (1) requiring state officials to enforce federal law; (2) eliminating state sovereign immunity; and (3) doing away with political gerrymandering. The other 3 are from the populist-progressive playbook: (4) the aforementioned Second Amendment tweak (which doesn't make sense as drafted); (5) allowing Congress and state legislatures to censor political speech limit the money people can spend on election campaigns; and (6) outlawing the death penalty.

The Atlantic's Andrew Cohen latched onto this last one, lamenting that Stevens is:

a man who consistently upheld capital convictions and the death penalty itself for over 35 years, who helped send hundreds of men and women to their deaths by failing to hold state officials accountable for constitutional violations during capital trials, who more recently endorsed dubious lethal injection standards because he did not want to buck up against court precedent, now wants the Eighth Amendment to read this way, with 5 new words added: ". . .nor cruel and unusual punishments such as the death penalty inflicted."

(The reference to lethal-injection standards relates to the 2008 case of Baze v. Rees, which upheld Kentucky's particular method of execution. Stevens concurred in that ruling but wrote separately to question "the justification for the death penalty itself.")

Now, I don't have any particular ax to grind regarding the death penalty as a policy matter - it's probably warranted for serious crimes, but there are real problems with the way our justice system administers it - but as a question of law, it's hard to argue that it’s always unconstitutional. The Fifth Amendment references "capital" crimes and outlaws putting someone's "life" in jeopardy twice for the same crime, and both the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments protect against being deprived of "life" without due process of law.

To be sure, the Eighth Amendment does prohibit "cruel and unusual punishments," but that just means that the death penalty can't be applied in a particularly inhumane way (for example, vivisection).

Moreover, debates over the death penalty almost always occur in the context of state criminal law, over which the federal government has little authority. Yes, there's a federal criminal code - much of which is itself of dubious constitutional authority given the outlandish reading courts have given Congress's power to regulate interstate commerce - but it imposes capital punishment exceedingly rarely (3 times in the last 50 years, not counting military justice).

All the highest-profile Supreme Court cases thus force the justices to consider whether a state's imposition of the ultimate punishment is "cruel or unusual," not whether the death penalty is unconstitutional altogether. So if you want to abolish the death penalty, you either have to go state-by-state - 18 states have done away with it, 6 since 2007 - or, as Justice Stevens suggests, you have to amend the Constitution.

But just because someone, even a Supreme Court justice, concludes that the death penalty is a bad idea, or immoral, or otherwise inappropriate, doesn't make it unconstitutional. There can certainly be bad policies that are constitutional - or, for that matter, good policies that are unconstitutional.

Indeed, given that it's my wont to label legislation and government action as unconstitutional, I'm frequently asked if there are any policies I like that I nevertheless think violate our founding charter. It's a hard question, given that the Constitution is fundamentally a classical liberal, or libertarian, document, which fits with my political philosophy. Nevertheless, my top 2 examples are environmental regulation - properly conceived; it's inefficient to have a tort-law based system of regulating pollution that crosses state lines - and federal tort reform.

But regardless of my personal views, too many commentators conflate that with which they agree with that which the constitution requires. Justice Stevens, even if he errs in his understanding of the right to armed self-defense and shouldn't be proposing amendments, gets that right.

(source: Ilya Shapiro is a senior fellow in constitutional studies at the Cato Institute and editor-in-chief of the Cato Supreme Court Review; The Federalist)


Boston Marathon survivor calls for death penalty

A Boston Marathon bombings survivor has told ITV News those responsible for the attacks should be handed the death penalty.

Marc Fucarile, who lost his right leg above the knee and broke his spine, Washington Correspondent Robert Moore: "You know they're sick, sick people. They killed people that didn't do anything to them and I think they should pay the ultimate sacrifice.

"I think that anyone that thinks in that direction should also pay the sacrifice".

Tamerlan Tsarnaev, who died in a shoot-out with police four days after the attacks, and his brother Dzhokhar have been accused of carrying out the Boston Marathon bombings.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has pleaded not guilty to 30 charges.

(source: ITV news)


Let's Stop Pretending the Death Penalty Is a Medical Procedure; The use of drugs to carry out capital punishment is putting bona fide medical patients at risk

In January the state of Ohio executed the convicted rapist and murderer Dennis McGuire. As in the other 31 U.S. states with the death penalty, Ohio used an intravenously injected drug cocktail to end the inmate's life. Yet Ohio had a problem. The state had run out of its stockpile of sodium thiopental, a once common general anesthetic and 1 of the key drugs in the executioner's lethal brew. 3 years ago the only U.S. supplier of sodium thiopental stopped manufacturing the drug. A few labs in the European Union still make it, but the E.U. prohibits the export of any drugs if they are to be used in an execution.

Ohio's stockpile of pentobarbital, its backup drug, expired in 2009, and so the state turned to an experimental cocktail containing the sedative midazolam and the painkiller hydromorphone. But the executioner was flying blind. Execution drugs are not tested before use, and this experiment went badly. The priest who gave McGuire his last rites reported that McGuire struggled and gasped for air for 11 minutes, his strained breaths fading into small puffs that made him appear "like a fish lying along the shore puffing for that one gasp of air." He was pronounced dead 26 minutes after the injection.

There is a simple reason why the drug cocktail was not tested before it was used: executions are not medical procedures. Indeed, the idea of testing how to most effectively kill a healthy person runs contrary to the spirit and practice of medicine. Doctors and nurses are taught to first "do no harm"; physicians are banned by professional ethics codes from participating in executions. Scientific protocols for executions cannot be established, because killing animal subjects for no reason other than to see what kills them best would clearly be unethical. Although lethal injections appear to be medical procedures, the similarities are just so much theater.

Yet even if executions are not medical, they can affect medicine. Supplies of propofol, a widely used anesthetic, came close to being choked off as a result of Missouri's plan to use the drug for executions. The state corrections department placed an order for propofol from the U.S. distributor of a German drug manufacturer. The distributor sent 20 vials of the drug in violation of its agreement with the manufacturer, a mistake that the distributor quickly caught. As the company tried in vain to get the state to return the drug, the manufacturer suspended new orders. The manufacturer feared that if the drug was used for lethal injection, E.U. regulators would ban all exports of propofol to the U.S. "Please, Please, Please HELP," wrote a vice president at the distributor to the director of the Missouri corrections department. "This system failure - a mistake - 1 carton of 20 vials - is going to affect thousands of Americans."

This was a vast underestimate. Propofol is the most popular anesthetic in the U.S. It is used in some 50 million cases a year - everything from colonoscopies to cesareans to open-heart surgeries - and nearly 90 % of the propofol used in the U.S. comes from the E.U. After 11 months, Missouri relented and agreed to return the drug.

Such incidents illustrate how the death penalty can harm ordinary citizens. Supporters of the death penalty counter that its potential to discourage violent crime confers a net social good. Yet no sound science supports that position. In 2012 the National Academies' research council concluded that research into any deterrent effect that the death penalty might provide is inherently flawed. Valid studies would need to compare homicide rates in the same states at the same time, but both with and without capital punishment - an impossible experiment. And it is clear that the penal system does not always get it right when meting out justice. Since 1973 the U.S. has released 144 prisoners from death row because they were found to be innocent of their crimes.

Concerns about drug shortages for executions have led some states to propose reinstituting the electric chair or the gas chamber - methods previously dismissed by the courts as cruel and unusual. In one sense, these desperate states are on to something. Strip off its clinical facade, and death by intravenous injection is no less barbarous.

(This article was originally published with the title "The Myth of the Compassionate Execution.")

(source: Editorial, Scientific American)


Sayedee appeal hearing ends

The Appellate Division of the Supreme Court has ended the hearing on Jamaat-e-Islami leader Delwar Hossain Sayedee's appeal against his death sentence meted out by the International Crimes Tribunal (ICT).

A 5-member bench of the Appellate Division, headed by Chief Justice Md Muzammel Hossain, ended hearing of both the prosecution and defence on Tuesday and said an order will be given on Wednesday.

Attorney General Mahbubey Alam was present in the hearing. He was assisted by Additional Attorney General MK Rahman.

Khandker Mahbub Hossain and SM Shahjahan argued for the defence.

The court said during the hearing, "How much time should we give you? The hearing is going on for days and months. You are now repeating it.

"This is not Appellate Tribunal, this is Appellate Division. Here we don't conduct hearings of the Tribunal only," it said.

On Feb 28 last year, the ICT-1 had ordered Sayedee's execution for his involvement in crimes against humanity during the 1971 Liberation War.

Of the 20 charges against him, Sayedee was given the death penalty for 2 - the murder of Ibrahim Kutti and Bisabali, and for setting fire to Hindu households in Pirojpur district in 1971.

6 other charges were also proven beyond doubt but no sentencing followed as he had already been given the death penalty.

Sayedee had, on Mar 28 last year, appealed against the death sentence, seeking acquittal.

The prosecution has appealed for punishment for the 6 other proven charges for the sake of 'full justice'.

The hearing of Sayedee's appeal began on Sep 24.

The Tribunal in its 1st verdict on Jan 21 last year had ordered the death sentence to former Jamaat leader Abul Kalam Azad aka Bachchu Razakar.

But he has not appealed against the verdict as he has been absconding.

In its 2nd verdict on Feb 5 that year the Tribunal had sentenced Jamaat leader Abdul Quader Molla to life.

However, the Supreme Court, on Sept 17, had sentenced Molla to death after hearing appeals filed by Molla and the prosecution.

Molla was hanged on Dec 12.

The Tribunal ordered Sayedee's death sentence in the 3rd verdict.

6 more judgments are pending.

(source: bdnews24)


UN condemns Brunei over new law allowing gays to be stoned to death

The United Nations has condemned Brunei for adopting a new penal code that calls for death by stoning for same-sex sexual activity.

It has long been a crime in Brunei, but the maximum punishment had been a 10-year prison sentence.

However, Brunei, a predominately Muslim state, has now adopted a new penal code that calls for death by stoning for consenting same-sex sexual activity, adultery, rape, extramarital sexual relations, and for declaring oneself to be non-Muslim.

The new penal code will come into effect on 22 April.

"Application of the death penalty for such a broad range of offenses contravenes international law," said Rupert Colville, spokesperson for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).

Rape, adultery, sodomy, extramarital sexual relations for Muslims, insulting any verses of the Quran and Hadith, blasphemy, declaring oneself a prophet or non-Muslim, and murder are the other offences for which the death penalty could be applied under the revised code.

Noting that Brunei has maintained an effective moratorium on the use of the death penalty since 1957, OHCHR urged the government to establish a formal moratorium and to work towards abolishing the practice altogether.

"Under international law, stoning people to death constitutes torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment and is thus clearly prohibited," Mr Colville stated.

He added that the criminalisation and application of the death penalty for consensual relations between adults in private also violates a whole host of rights, including the rights to privacy, equality, freedom from arbitrary arrest and detention.

Hassanal Bolkiah has been the Sultan of Brunei, head of government and state, since 1967.

Brunei gained independence from the UK in 1984.

(source: Pink News)


Tehran government postpones execution of woman charged with killing her accused attacker

The Tehran government has postponed Tuesday's scheduled execution of a 26-year-old Iranian woman charged with killing a man accused of attempting to rape her.

Following last minute pleas, the regime pushed back the hanging of Rayhaneh Jabbari, who was headed to the gallows on charges that in 2007 she stabbed and killed Morteza Abdolali Sarbandi, a former employee of the Iranian Intelligence Ministry.

The government announced that the execution will be postponed but did not give any indication the sentence had been overturned. It also did not disclose if any future execution date had been set.

Jabbari, who has already served 7 years in prison, claims Sarbandi drugged her and attempted to have physical contact with her.

Activists around the globe have been working tirelessly to prove Jabbari's innocence and to have her death sentence revoked.

Then 19-year-old Jabbari met Sarbandi at a cafe, where he learned that she was an interior designer. He then asked her to meet him in his office to discuss a remodeling project, according to Jabbari's accounts.

When Jabbari arrived, she realized the location, a remote, rundown site, did not resemble an office. At that time, Sarbandi offered her a fruit juice, which contained a date-rape drug, or "roofie," based on forensic tests conducted by the police during investigation and related to Fox News by human rights activists.

Jabbari then attempted to defend herself by stabbing Sarbandi in the shoulder with a small pocket knife and fled the scene. Sarbandi bled to death, and Jabbari was later arrested and imprisoned.

"She has been tortured in so many ways in prison. They may have pressured her to confess," said Shabnam Assadollahi, an Iranian activist based in Canada.

Assadollahi and 3 other women, Nazanin Afshin-Jam, Shadi Paveh and Mina Ahadi, launched an international campaign to shed light on Jabbari's case

They successfully circulated a petition that gathered more than 126,700 signatures from around the world.

"This is a verdict of "Ghessas" ["an eye for an eye"], but the details of the case don't make sense," Assadollhai said.

Jabbari's family and advocates, including Assadollahi, have pointed to the fact that a small pocket knife and 2 stabs in the shoulder would not result in fatal consequences for a large man, which is how Sarbandi was described.

Those petitioning against her execution believe that a third party may have been involved in the case and that Jabbari was set up. There is also skepticism that there may have been interference in the case and that crucial evidence that would potentially save Jabbari's life was either tampered with or destroyed.

Ahmed Shaheed, the United Nations' special investigator on human rights also spoke up against the execution, stating that Jabbari did not receive a fair trial and that she should be re-tried because she acted out of self-defense.

(source: Fox News)


Iraq executes more than 600 Iraqis in 4 years; It is worth mentioning that international human rights organisations, including Human Rights Watch (HRW), have criticised these executions in the past years

The Iraqi justice ministry has executed more than 600 "terrorists" in the past four years, the Iraqi justice minister Hassan al-Shimri has said.

Speaking publicly in Al-Nasiriyeh City, Al-Shimri said that his ministry was not famous four years ago. However, he reiterated, it has became known to everyone as a result of the execution of "criminal terrorists." He called this "an achievement" for his ministry.

Al-Shimri noted that the "terrorists" used to completely control the reformatory prisons and run their operations from inside.

The minister said that his ministry has "forcefully" fought "terrorists," brought the prisons under control and prevented any political or religious party from interfering in how his ministry works.

He stressed that executing more than 600 "criminal terrorists" in the past 4 years was an achievement. He was reported saying that the justice ministry has not executed such a huge number since 2003. His ministry ignored calls by a number of Iraqi parliamentarians to cancel the executions based on calls by a number of international organisations.

It is worth mentioning that international human rights organisations, including Human Rights Watch (HRW), have criticised these executions in the past years. In April 2013 HRW accused the Iraqi justice system of failure to meet international standards for fair trials.

"A striking increase in executions in Iraq points to the failure of Iraq's justice system to meet international fair trial standards," the organisation said.

(source: Middle East Monitor)


No crime deserves death

"Context. Context. Context," is my oft repeated advice to my research students. What we say and what it means depends significantly on where, when and how we say it. But of course sometimes there are absolutes. So let's get one thing clear, Mulayam Singh Yadav (MSY) and friends, rape is not a "mistake", it is a crime and should be punished.

However, I along with many, (though by no means all), feminists, am against the death penalty. I would also argue that awarding the death penalty to lower-class men in no way addresses the rape culture in India. So does this mean I agree with MSY?

There is a case for context here too. People seem very confused about what feminists want. And this may be because we are often making nuanced arguments about all kinds of things, but in the present context (that lovely word again), about rape cultures, patriarchal ideologies and systems of justice.

The feminist position is not against punishing the perpetrators, but against the state arrogating to itself the right to kill. We argue that the certainty of punishment is a far greater deterrent than its severity. Further, as was seen in the Shakti Mills case, the death penalty is often awarded by making the "rape is a fate worse than death", "the victim is rendered a zinda laash", kind of arguments that are built around patriarchal notions of honour and in fact co-exist quite happily with rape cultures where everyday forms of sexual harassment and assault are brushed aside in precisely the kind of "boys will be boys" argument that MSY is making, in relation to rape.

Statistical data from across the world demonstrates that men from poor and minority communities make up a disproportionate per cent of death row prisoners. The media reportage of the December 16, 2012, Delhi gang rape as well as the Shakti Mills gang rapes focused relentlessly on the deprived backgrounds of the perpetrators, intentionally or unintentionally, making the case that it is lower-class, and often "footloose migrant" men who are the rapists. This often has the effect of obscuring the fact that rapists are in the majority of cases known to their victims and are often neighbours or kin and also of completely erasing the middle and upper class perpetrators of rape. But more on this anon.

The feminist position then, while against the death penalty and aware of the marginal location of poor men, is quite different from that of MSY and his ilk. Unlike the Abu Azmis and sundry khaps of this country, feminists assert women's right to consent (both within and outside of marriage) and to make choices about our bodies. We reject the offers of conditional safety and demand our right to public space.

The recent comments of MSY and Abu Azmi have the media shrilly baying for their blood and the Right and Left alike denouncing them on various social media. In a similar vein have been comments such as those of Asaram Bapu (himself a rape accused) who counselled that the young physiotherapist could have saved herself if she had called the men her brothers. Khap panchayat member, Jitendar Chattar averred (perfectly seriously) that such acts are caused by the consumption of chowmein which creates 'hormonal imbalance'. Not to be outdone, Nanki Ram Kanwar, Chhattisgarh home minister, argued that the alignment of the stars were to blame for the crime. These assertions are rivalled only by the calls for the policing of women's clothing, the denial of cell phones to women and the calls for women to willingly consent to house arrest, ostensibly in order to stay safe. These constitute in some ways the almost lunatic fringe of the spectrum. I write, 'almost' because unfortunately they are far from few in number. Yet, public debate even in the mainstream media counters them unequivocally.

Far more dangerous, I would argue, are the other voices - the ones that masquerade as progressive. Recently, journalists Manu Joseph and separately, Seema Mustafa wrote articles calling into question the testimony of the Tejpal assault survivor. It is important to mention here that these articles are based on the viewing of CCTV footage that, as per court guidelines, should not have been accessible to them at all.

Joseph under the aim of writing the balanced story jeopardizes the identity of the survivor and succeeds in creating reasonable doubt about the survivor testimony. Mustafa goes a step further and in her concluding lines, argues that the CCTV footage suggests that there was no apparent force that propelled her (the survivor) to enter the lift. Her final words are, "The jury is clearly out on this one".

There was a strong negative response to these articles that accused them of being part of a campaign to discredit the survivor. The Network of Women in the Media wrote to the Press Council of India and the Editors' Guild of India contending that these pieces were against journalistic ethics, were biased against the complainant and could be seen as part of a deliberate attempt to influence the case. In response, Seema Mustafa hit out at feminists for what she perceived was an intolerance to "differing views".

The challenge for feminists then is not just to counter the ludicrous comments of the politicians but to place them alongside those who seem to be making 'reasoned' arguments. Yes it is important to counter the ridiculous misogyny of MSY, but many would rush to agree that certainly these deprived/depraved young men deserve punishment. It is however harder, but just as important, to counter those voices that protect the privilege of the Tarun Tejpals of this world. Ultimately, MSY sympathizing with the perpetrators of the Shaki Mills gang rapes and the victim-blaming engaged in by journalists (among others) in relation to the Tejpal case are part of the same context where if women are attacked, it must be because we asked for it. These and others like them must all be seen and countered as part a spectrum of attacks which are attempting to silence women's voices and capacities to defend ourselves and seek justice.

(source: Shilpa Phadke, DNA India)

APRIL 14, 2014:


New Hampshire can do better

To kill someone to show that killing is wrong makes no sense to me. 2 wrongs don't make a right. The death penalty is wrong. It perpetuates the cycle of violence.

According to Amnesty International, the majority of public executions now take place in just 7 nations: Iran, Iraq, China, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Yemen and the United States. Surely, the U.S. can do better.

Despite 2 of his relatives being murdered, Rep. Renny Cushing of Hampton continues to urge repeal of the death penalty. As he says, killing a murderer gives more power to the killer by turning society into killers. At the New Hampshire Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on April 3, I was deeply moved by the testimony of so many who have experienced murder within their own family and yet they, too, testified in support of repealing the death penalty.

The U.S. can no longer afford to pride itself as a leader in human rights one day and be one of the world's leading executioners the next. Most of the nations of the world have already abolished the death penalty, and in the U.S. 18 states have done the same. Now is the time to make New Hampshire the 19th.

The New Hampshire House has voted in strong support of repeal. I urge the Senate to do the same.


(source: Letter to the Editor, Concord Monitor)


Jury Starts Deliberations In McVay Death Penalty Case

A Minnehaha County Jury is deciding if James McVay should spend the rest of his life in prison or be given the death penalty.

McVay killed 75-year-old Maybelle Schein in her Sioux Falls home in July of 2011, stole her car and claimed to be heading to Washington D.C. to kill the president.

Monday morning, the final witnesses were called to testify and attorneys on both sides gave closing arguments.

Minnehaha County State's Attorney Aaron McGowan asked the jury to put themselves in Schein's shoes as they begin deliberating.

"The final visions before Maybelle's eyes were seeing this defendant standing over her with a Buck knife," McGowan said. "Maybelle fought the last minute and a half of her life."

But Minnehaha County Public Defender Traci Smith said that McVay is a man who suffers from delusions and a mental illness. She sasy McVay was not receiving the proper treatment when he walked away from a transitional program at the South Dakota State Penitentiary shortly before Schein's murder.

"This wasn't the plan of a rational person. Under the delusion he saw him sacrificing himself to accomplish a mission," Smith said. "He was completing the mission based on what he thought Lucifer would have him do."

Smith went on to say that McVay is not the heinous killer many believe him to be but he has become her friend in the three years since his arrest.

"Despite what the prosecution might say he is human," Smith said.

The jury of 7 men and 5 women started deliberations at 12:30 p.m.

(source: Keloland)


Jury: Devault eligible for death penalty in hammer killing

The jury in the trial of Marissa Devault found 1 aggravating factor that would make her eligible for execution, but it was unable to reach a verdict on a 2nd aggravating factor.

Still, Devault could face the death penalty in the 2009 death of Dale Harrell.

The final penalty phase will begin at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday, according to a Maricopa County Superior Court tweet.

Jurors left for the weekend after deliberating a 2nd day on Thursday and reconvened on Monday morning. The court announced the jury had reached its verdict just after 11:30 a.m.

Jurors will now be asked to consider whether she should be sentenced to life in prison or death.

If no aggravating factors had been found, the judge would have sentenced Devault to either the rest of her life in prison or life in prison with the possibility of release after 25 years.

Prosecutor Michelle Arino said Devault carried out the 2009 attack on Harrell in an especially cruel manner for the purpose of getting life insurance money.

Devault's attorney Alan Tavassoli said the argument that the killing was carried out to collect insurance money is undermined by the fact that 1 of the 2 policies in question covered only accidental deaths, and Harrell's death wasn't an accident.

Devault claims she killed Harrell in self-defense and told investigators that Harrell had physically and sexually abused her in the past.

Prosecutors contend the January 2009 attack on Harrell was premeditated and that she wanted to collect on an insurance policy taken out on her husband because she owed about $300,000 in loans from her boyfriend.

They said Devault has given conflicting accounts of her husband's death and that people who Devault claimed had witnessed some of the past abuse didn't back up her claims.

Harrell died nearly a month after the attack at a hospice after suffering complications from head injuries.

The jury convicted her of 1st-degree murder on Tuesday.

(source: KPHO news)


Former bodyguard to Abu Dhabi royal family could face death penalty

A man from Slough could face the death penalty if he is convicted of possessing and selling drugs in Dubai.

Hasnain Ali, 32, who grew up in Cippenham, was on holiday in Dubai in May 2013 when he was arrested.

Foreign Office documents detail claims by Mr Ali that he was subjected to repeated beatings by police, who threatened him with tasers, firearms and the prospect of sexual assault.

The former bodyguard to members of the Abu Dhabi royal family also alleges he was denied access to his family and a lawyer, resulting in him signing a "confession" in Arabic - a language he doesn't understand - related to charges of possessing and selling drugs.

His brother, Jed Ali, has said: "There is no way my brother should be convicted on the basis of a "confession" he was tortured into signing.

"Hasnain must be released and the people responsible for this must be punished."

UK Foreign Office documents which were obtained by legal charity Reprieve, who are representing Hasain, give a detailed account of his treatment including that he "had a gun held to his head," and was "repeatedly kicked" by the Dubai CID officers who arrested him.

A verdict is expected to be reached tomorrow.

(source: Slough Express)


Libya adjourns trial of ex-Gaddafi officials and sons

Libya opened the trial of deposed leader Muammar Gaddafi's sons and dozens of his ex-officials on Monday in a test of its transition to democracy, but it was quickly adjourned as some of the investigations had not been completed.

Neither son, Saadi Gaddafi and Saif al-Islam, was in court at Tripoli's Al-Hadba prison, but the late ruler's spy chief Abdullah al-Senussi was among the former senior aides sitting in blue jumpsuits behind a fenced-off section.

The defendants face charges ranging from corruption to war crimes related to deaths during the 2011 uprising against Gaddafi, who went on the run for months before being captured and quickly killed by rebels.

If convicted, some of them could face the death penalty.

The North African OPEC member has struggled to establish basic institutions and the rule of law as Gaddafi left behind a shell of a government after absorbing all the power into his own hands during his 4-decade rule.

The International Criminal Court and other human rights organisations worry about the fairness of Libya's justice system although the government won the right last year to try Gaddafi's former spy chief at home instead of at the ICC in The Hague.

Saadi Gaddafi, known as a playboy with a brief career in professional football who was extradited to Libya from Niger in early March, did not appear in court because prosecutors said the investigation against him was unfinished.

Gaddafi's more prominent son, Saif al-Islam, remains in the custody of the powerful Zintan tribe in southwest Libya who have refused to hand him over to the central government, saying they believe it cannot provide a secure trial. Saif was only expected to appear via video-link.

The trial began a day after interim prime minister Abdullah al-Thinni resigned following an attack on his family and the ousting of his predecessor barely a month ago.

Proceedings were adjourned until April 27 to give investigators more time to prepare their cases and organise videolinks with the Gaddafi brothers and 6 defendants in Misrata who could not be taken to Tripoli due to a lack of security en route.


Post-Gaddafi Libya has so far been defined by a weak interim government and growing unrest, with former revolutionary fighters refusing to give up their weapons, and armed protesters blockading crucial oil exports.

Addressing the 4 judges, many defendants complained they had not been given access to lawyers or only saw them at court appearances. Reuters counted only 9 lawyers, far fewer than the 25 defendants present.

"I want to be treated like other prisoners. I want visiting rights. I don't have a lawyer. It's not fair," said Senussi, who has been in prison for over a year.

Prosecutors said Senussi had been allowed to see relatives, but denied lawyers had been prevented from assisting clients.

Senussi was joined in the dock by Gaddafi-era prime minister Baghdadi al-Mahmoudi, former foreign minister Abdul Ati al-Obeidi and ex-intelligence chief Buzeid Dorda.

Sidiq Al-Sour, head of investigations for the prosecutor's office, said there were 36 ex-officials on trial. Four defendants had already been released, but not acquitted, and another was sick and unable to attend.

"This case has been riddled with procedural flaws right from the beginning, which have made it grossly unfair to the defendants," Richard Dicker, international justice director at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement.

Defence lawyers have been frustrated by delayed and constrained access to the thousands of pages of evidence. Human Rights Watch also said prisoners had no lawyers present during interrogations. Prosecutors said they only allowed lawyers to view the evidence in their offices to avoid its release to the public.

Libya's justice minister insisted the trial was open to the public and this would ensure the process was fair and not turn into a "Mickey Mouse" show trial.

"I will not allow any crazy stuff, I will make sure it meets international standards ... that is why we are having open trials," Salah al-Merghani told Reuters.

"We heard there were complaints from the lawyers ... The court will see if the complaints are genuine or not."

(source: Reuters)

IRAN----impending female execution

UN Expert calls on Iran to halt execution of Iranian woman expected to take place tomorrow

The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran, Ahmed Shaheed, today urged the Islamic Republic of Iran to halt immediately the execution of an Iranian woman, Reyhaneh Jabbari, reported to be scheduled for tomorrow.

Ms Jabbari, an interior designer by profession, was sentenced to death for the alleged murder of Morteza Abdolali Sarbandi, a former employee of the Iranian Intelligence Ministry, in a case that has raised legal concerns.

"The Iranian authorities should review her case and refer it back to court for a re-trial, ensuring that the defendant due process rights guaranteed under both Iranian law and international law," Mr Shaheed said.

According to reliable sources, Mr. Sarbandi offered to hire Ms. Jabbari on 7 July 2007 to redesign his office. Mr. Sarbandi arranged to take Ms. Jabbari to his office, but instead took her to a residence where he physically and sexually forced himself upon her. Ms. Jabbari reportedly stabbed Mr. Sarbandi in the shoulder in self-defense, fled for safety, and called for an ambulance out of concern for her alleged attacker.

Since her arrest and throughout her prosecution, Ms. Jabbari has maintained that her actions were taken in self-defense, and were aimed at preventing a potential serious assault on her person. She has also alleged being coerced to confess to actions under severe duress.

"Ms. Jabbari's case raises serious due process concerns, particularly with regard to her interrogation and the reluctance of the court to take into account all relevant circumstantial evidence into its judgment," the Special Rapporteur said, stressing that her conviction for pre-meditated murder was allegedly based on confessions made under duress possibly amounting to torture.

"Evidence in the case, including the medical examiner's report highlighting the presence of a tranquilizer in a glass of juice found at the crime scene, possibly intended use in the immobilization and sexual assault the defendant, raises serious questions as to whether or not factors eminently relevant to the case were considered in the court's judgment and sentencing of this young woman," Mr. Shaheed said.

"If her allegations are true, Ms. Jabbari may have been doubly victimized; 1st by her attacker, and then by the judicial system, which is supposed to protect victims of intended and actual sexual and physical assault," the expert stressed. "Sexual violence, often directed against women, must always be fought in all of its forms."

Mr. Shaheed regretted the spike in executions this year in Iran and renewed his call to the Government to immediately halt them. Over 170 persons including at least 2 women have been executed since the beginning of 2014 and a large number of prisoners on death row risk imminent execution.

"The imposition of the death penalty plainly goes against the current international trend to encourage a moratorium on, and abolition of the death penalty. We urge the authorities to join this world trend by establishing a moratorium on execution with a view of abolishing the death penalty," the expert stressed.

(source: NCR-Iran)


As Senate Takes Up Death Penalty, Committee Vote Could Be Key

Senate lawmakers are set to take up a bill this week that would repeal the state's death penalty.

The Senate's Judiciary committee last week voted in favor of recommending the bill for passage, which NHPR's Josh Rogers says could prove key to the measure's ultimate fate.

"Because the bill is emerging from committee with a 3-2 majority and an-ought-to-pass recommendation, that means the 1st vote when it hits the floor will be for its passage. If that vote fails, and it very well could, the bill would then be open to amendment."

New Hampshire hasn't executed anyone since 1939.

Michael Addison is the state's lone death row inmate. He was sentenced to death for the 2006 murder of Manchester police officer Michael Briggs.

This week's Senate vote is seen as the last major hurdle for the proposal.

The House has already passed the bill and Governor Maggie Hassan says she will sign it into law as long as it does not affect Addison's sentence.

(source: New Hampshire Public Radio)


Death penalty bill comments miss the mark

I read an article talking about the death penalty repeal bill and how supporters are saying House leadership is holding up the bill in committee. They say that the only way to do something about it is to suspend rules and force the bill to the floor for a vote.

I need to correct the record for my constituents. Regardless of your position on the death penalty - and I've made mine very clear that I support keeping the death penalty - this bill has had a fair process in the House. It bothers me to hear people say the opposite. We have a process for bills and it has been followed the same as it has been for any other bill.

When Senate Bill 19 came to the House, Speaker Pete Schwartzkopf assigned it to the Judiciary Committee. That was the right committee for the bill, and probably was the best chance for it to get out. Looking at the committee membership, it's apparent that death penalty repeal would not have gotten out of public safety, corrections or administration. Judiciary was the best committee, and the bill's sponsors haven't disagreed.

Most importantly, the bill got a full hearing in committee. It failed by a 6-5 vote. Bills sometimes fail in committee. If you've been a legislator long enough, it's probably happened to you at some point. That's the process. If you don't get the result you want, you can try to change some minds or you can try again next session. You don't accuse people of abusing the process.

It's fair to point out that Rep. Schwartzkopf had this happen to him a few years ago. He introduced a bill and couldn't get a committee hearing, so he brought the bill to the floor - because the process wasn't being followed. The next session, he got his committee hearing on the same bill and it failed in committee. Pete walked away from the bill because he respected the committee’s decision.

This is a contentious bill for a lot of people, but you cannot say that it hasn't been given a fair hearing. I think everyone should keep that in mind when talking about it.

John C. Atkins----State Representative 41st District

(source: Cape Gazette)


NC high court to review sentences changed under Racial Justice Act

The Racial Justice Act was repealed by state lawmakers almost a year ago, but questions about whether the short-lived legislation will have any life after its death go before the state's highest court on Monday.

The N.C. Supreme Court is scheduled to hear arguments in the cases of the 4 prison inmates who had their death sentences converted to life without possibility for parole under the act.

Though the justices will weigh arguments specific to the plights of Marcus Robinson, Tilmon Golphin, Quintel Augustine and Christina Walters - the inmates whose sentences were changed - the rulings could have an impact on cases of other death row inmates who filed racial-bias challenges before the repeal of the landmark act.

All but a few of the 153 death row inmates have cases pending in the court queues. Their challenges contend that racial bias had a role in their fate, and they plan to cull from studies showing, among other things, that African-Americans are systemically excluded from serving on death-penalty juries.

Prosecutors refute such claims, arguing that the race of a potential juror rarely plays into their decision for keeping or excluding someone from the panel. But Racial Justice Act advocates counter that a study of 173 capital trials over a 20-year period in North Carolina shows otherwise.

Though there have long been legal avenues for prisoners challenging sentences with claims of racial bias, those who continue to advocate for the overturned act highlight what they describe as shortcomings of those procedures.

Racial biases, they say, can infect the outcome of cases in nuanced ways that do not always produce the “smoking-gun” statement or evidence a judge might need.

A Michigan State University study of capital cases in North Carolina between 1990 and 2010 shows that qualified black jurors were more than twice as likely as whites to be removed from juries by prosecutors with peremptory strikes.

Judges were not allowed to consider those kinds of statistics when weighing racial bias claims until North Carolina adopted the Racial Justice Act.

The 2009 legislation, adopted in a vote along partisan lines, provided inmates and people accused in capital cases a way to use statistics to bolster their bias claims.

The law, the only of its kind in the country, was weakened by additional legislation in 2012 by the N.C. General Assembly two years after Republicans gained control of both chambers. It was overturned in 2013 after the Republicans also had control of the governor's office.

Critics of the law had long contended it was nothing more than a back-door attempt to do away with the death penalty in North Carolina.

1 case heard under law

Robinson, 41, housed in Brown Creek Correctional Institution, a medium-security prison in Polkton, about 120 miles southwest of Raleigh, was the only prisoner to have his challenge heard under the 2009 law.

Robinson was convicted of killing 17-year-old Erik Tornblom in 1991, and he was sentenced to death for the murder.

Cumberland County Judge Gregory Weeks ruled in April 2012 that race had played a role in Robinson's case, and his ruling touched on statistics about jury selection within Cumberland County and from across the state.

In challenging the decision, prosecutors argued that Weeks' ruling - and ultimately the Racial Justice Act - was based on a range of statistics that were too broad.

"A defendant convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to death can obtain relief in post-conviction review under the RJA even if the capital defendant has never experienced any racial discrimination in his own case at any stage of the criminal process," North Carolina prosecutors contend in their challenge. "This is an absurd result and cannot be a correct interpretation of the RJA." After that ruling, legislators changed the act to limit the statistics inmates could use to bolster their claims.

Weeks ruled after that amendment that Augustine, Golphin and Walters had experienced similar bias, both on a county level and statewide, and changed their sentences to life in prison without possibility for parole.

Augustine, 36, still in Central Prison after the 2012 ruling, was convicted of shooting Fayetteville police Officer Roy Turner Jr. to death in November 2001.

Walters, a Lumbee Indian housed at the N.C. Correctional Institution for Women, was convicted of killing 2 white women and shooting a black woman in a gang initiation murder in 1998.

Golphin, 35, in Lanesville Correctional Institute, was convicted of killing a state trooper and a sheriff's deputy during a traffic stop in 1997.

Augustine and Golphin are both black. Augustine's victim was black and Golphin's were white.

A decision in the N.C. Supreme Court case could be months in coming.

But questions from the justices could offer a glimpse of the strengths and weaknesses of the cases.

(source: News & Observer)


Capital punishment back before North Carolina Supreme Court

North Carolina's highest court is again looking into the state's capital punishment laws.

The state Supreme Court scheduled oral arguments Monday in 2 cases involving convicted murderers whose trials were scrutinized under the now-repealed Racial Justice Act. The justices may decide whether the 4 condemned prisoners resentenced to life in prison should have to return to death row.

Marcus Robinson, Tilmon Golphin, Quintel Augustine and Christina Walters originally were sentenced to death, but a Cumberland County judge gave them reduced sentences because he said race played unjust roles in jury selections.

The law was repealed last year. Critics of the law say it was flawed and only extended death penalty appeals further.

North Carolina hasn't executed anyone since 2006 because of litigation.

(source: Associated Press)


Attorneys to argue today over accused killer's confession in slaying of 14-year-old Gloria Pointer

Defense attorneys for a Cleveland man accused of killing 14-year-old Gloria Pointer in 1984 want a judge to throw out his confession because authorities failed to let him speak with an attorney.

Cuyahoga County prosecutors countered, saying Hernandez Warren, 59, "was ready and willing to confess" to the rape and slaying. They also said that he knew his rights, as officers read them to him on multiple occasions.

They said Warren told officers that he "knew this day would come" when he would be charged in the girl's death.

"(Warren's) attitude was clear - he wanted to provide his version of the homicide without the assistance of counsel," prosecutors wrote in court documents. They added that "there was no indication that the detectives placed undue pressure on him to talk."

The issue of whether the confession can be used at Warren's trial will go before Common Pleas Judge David Matia today in what could be a days-long hearing. He is charged with aggravated murder. If convicted, he could face the death penalty. His trial is set for Sept. 8.

Over 2 days of interviews, Warren told authorities that he attacked Gloria while she was on her way to Harry E. Davis Junior High School, prosecutors said in documents. He told authorities that he sexually assaulted her and then beat her with a pipe, prosecutors said.

Defense attorneys David Grant and Mark Stanton said in documents that Warren "made dozens of references to wanting an attorney and/or wanting to make a phone call." They said detectives ignored his requests. They said his rights were violated, adding that "Simply stated (Warren's) requests for an attorney were ignored by police."

Prosecutors, however, said Warren's requests were ambiguous. They said in documents that "unless the suspect actually requests an attorney, questioning may continue." They also stressed that officers did nothing wrong in the interviews.

Warren was arrested in May and quickly indicted after prosecutors said a DNA profile from evidence in the case matched the Cleveland man. The partial profile had been identified years before but never entered into crime databases that identify criminals and link crimes.

He was released from prison about 10 years ago after serving a 15-year sentence for a rape and felonious assault.

Warren spoke with authorities May 13. Besides aggravated murder, he is charged with rape and kidnapping.

Gloria Pointer's partially undressed body was found Dec. 6, 1984, in a back stairwell leading to the basement of an East 105th Street apartment building.

Her walk to school normally took just 15 minutes. She had left slightly earlier on the day she was attacked so she could stop at a friend’s home to get a comb for a new hairstyle. She was to earn an award for perfect attendance the day she died.

Defense attorneys motion asking that Hernandez Warren's confession to police be suppressed.



Cheatham defense attorney labeled self 'country lawyer' without death penalty experience

Lawyer Dennis Hawver referred to himself as a country lawyer as he appeared before a disciplinary panel to defend his law license in his handling of a capital murder case.

"It's a country practice," Hawver told the three panelists when he testified in November. Hawver told them his law practice in "rural" Jefferson County included 60 % civil work and 40 % criminal cases, all in his home county and surrounding counties. He works in a one-lawyer office.

Hawver's business card carries on the country theme, reading, "Your country lawyer." Printed on a mellow blue card stock, the car features a tree standing in a lush, grassy field. For about 10 years, Hawver practiced law in Hawaii.

While defended by Hawver, Phillip D. Cheatham Jr., now 40, was convicted in the shooting deaths of two women and the wounding of a third woman. The shootings occurred in December 2003 in a southeast Topeka house.

After he was convicted in 2005, Cheatham was sentenced to death and to prison terms totaling more than 78 years. On Jan. 25, 2013, the Kansas Supreme Court overturned Cheatham's conviction and death sentence based on Hawver's ineffective assistance of counsel. Cheatham's retrial is pending.

But 1 of 3 lawyers sitting on the panel has taken Hawver to task for his country lawyer posturing.

Philip D. Ridenour, the panel's presiding officer, said that while country lawyers often know their clients well and do a good job handling their legal needs, they may not be competent to handle a complex, difficult capital murder case and might lack the training and skills to defend someone who might face the death penalty.

In the 27-page final hearing report, Ridenour included a 2-page "concurring note" talking about the advantages and limitations of being a "country lawyer." For more than 40 years, Ridenour has practiced law in Cimarron in Gray County, which has a population of about 6,000, according to 2010 census figures.

"I have practiced law as a country lawyer in one of the most rural areas of the state of Kansas for more years than Mr. Hawver has been a lawyer," Ridenour wrote.

"We country lawyers live among our clients and come to know them well, to understand their backgrounds, experiences, concerns and aspirations, values and beliefs," Ridenour wrote.

After more than 40 years of life and law practice in southwest Kansas, no "outside" lawyer or law firm can expect to give "my clients the same informed quality of advice on the sorts of legal issues that routinely arise," Ridenour wrote.

"But the converse is also true," Ridenour wrote. "As a country lawyer, I am unqualified and do not have the time or the resources to handle questions that arise in complex legal issues I have never dealt (with) or never had the necessity to research."

Ridenour said he is professionally required to decline to represent a client on a legal issue he is unqualified to handle and he also must recognize the legal issues he is unqualified to represent a client on.

Hawver has admitted he was unqualified to represent Cheatham in a capital case, Ridenour wrote.

"Untold additional hours of time of Kansas judges and lawyers have been and continue to be required to try to remedy the harm done by Mr. Hawver," Ridenour wrote. "Mr. Hawver had a professional duty to decline the representation; he failed to do so, and that failure constituted a violation of the Kansas Rules of Professional Conduct."

The panel of the Kansas Board for Discipline of Attorneys submitted its final hearing report on March 14. In the report to the Supreme Court, 2 panelists urged the justices to disbar Hawver, and 1 suggested indefinitely suspending him from practice.

This past Monday, Hawver filed his exceptions to the final report, challenging the panel's findings and the recommendation to discipline him.

In lieu of discipline, Hawver urged the panel in November to order him not to handle any murder cases but to allow him to handle other cases in his rural law practice.

The panel also found Hawver's conduct "caused actual injury to the administration of justice. As a result of the respondent's misconduct, a capital murder case has been remanded for a 2nd trial."

In the hearing report, the panel's conclusions included that Hawver "was not competent to represent Cheatham," including he didn't appreciate the difference between trying a murder case and a capital murder case.

(source: Topeka Capital-Journal)

OKLAHOMA----impending executions

Oklahoma Secures Non-Compounded Execution Drugs

Lawyers for the state of Oklahoma said in a letter to attorneys for 2 death row inmates that no compounded drugs would be used in their executions.

In a letter from Assistant Attorney General John Hadden on Friday the state informed lawyers for Clayton Lockett and Charles Warner that the state had secured non-compounded vercuronium bromide, the 2nd of the 3 drugs it intends to use in the inmates' executions.

"The state previously had acquired manufactured versions of the 2 other drugs used in the lethal injection process (midazolam and potassium chloride)," AG Spokesman Aaron Cooper said in an email. "This means all 3 drugs to be used in the executions of Locket and Warner will be from manufactured sources. There will be no compounded drugs used in their executions."

Lockett and Warner sued the state in February over what they called a "veil of secrecy" surrounding state execution protocol. Lockett is set to be executed April 22, and Warner is set to die a week later.

(source: KGOU news)


Finally, a death sentence for Gregory A. Bowman

Time dulls the jagged edges of evil, so we have an obligation to remind one another and teach youngsters so that the acts are not reduced to icons and abstractions. We teach about suffering by victims of Hitler, Stalin and other pogroms for that reason.

We also remember for those who weren't even born that a 14-year-old girl walking home from the spring musical at Belleville West and a 21-year-old nurse's aide stopping at the ATM both disappeared in the late 1970's. A serial rapist and murderer ended their lives and traumatized others.

Gregory A. Bowman is now 62 and awaiting another hearing on whether he should face the death penalty in Missouri for the rape and murder of a third young woman, 16-year-old Velda Rumfelt. The legal system in Illinois failed to keep him locked up for the murders of Elizabeth West and Ruth Ann Jany, and the system in Missouri failed to make the death penalty stick for Rumfelt's killing.

Enter a little cosmic justice: The Missouri death hearing is delayed because Bowman is terminally ill. Bowman's being judged in a higher court, and we who lived through his depravity carry the obligation to remember.

(source: Belleville (Ill.) News-Democrat)


Jury mulls whether woman convicted in husband's hammer-beating death qualifies for execution

Jurors are scheduled to resume deliberations Monday on whether an Arizona woman convicted of fatally beating her husband with a hammer qualifies for the death penalty.

The jury has already spent two days considering whether there were "aggravating factors" that would make Marissa Devault (dev-WAH') eligible for execution in Dale Harrell's death in 2009.

If such factors are found, jurors will decide whether she should be sentenced to life in prison or death.

But if those factors aren't found, a judge will sentence Devault to the rest of her life in prison or life in prison with the possibility of release after 25 years.

Prosecutors say Devault killed Harrell in an unsuccessful attempt to collect on life insurance money.

Devault says she acted in self-defense against an abusive husband.

(source: Associated Press)

UTAH----female may face death penalty

Police Find Remains of 7 Babies

Megan Huntsman, 39, was arrested on 6 counts of murder. Her arrest came after the discovery in a previous home Huntsman lived in. Police found the remains of 7 babies in Huntsman's old home in Pleasant Grove, Utah.

The question that comes to mind is why not 7 counts. Apparently the authorities have discovered 1 of the babies was stillborn. How they came to that conclusion is a mystery at the present time.

It has been reported that the current residents were the Huntsman's older children, 2 adults and 1 teenager. It is baffling but the current residents have lived there for 3 years after Huntsman moved out. How did they not make this discovery before is just unbelievable. Had the ex-husband, Darren West, not come over to the home to clean, would anyone even know now?

When West began to clean the garage on Saturday is when the discovery of the remains was made.

The remains were found in a container and reported to the authorities immediately. Once the authorities were contacted they obtained a search warrant for the home and the current residents of Huntsman. During the execution of the warrant the authorities discovered an additional 6 containers, each had the remains of infant bodies in them. Nothing was discovered as of yet in Huntsman's current residence

The ex-husband or Huntsman's children are not suspects at this time. It comes into question why the older children or the ex-husband did not know what was going on. Could Huntsman have really hid the remains of 7 babies she had killed in her Utah home? What about her pregnancies? Did no one wonder what happened to the babies after her pregnancy? This horrific crime has brought up more questions than answers.

Neighbors were shocked at the horrific discovery and accusations of the former resident. They appeared to be nice people and good neighbors on the outside. Huntsman had even done some babysitting for one of her neighbors. How scary that prospect must be now after the shocking revelation of horrific crimes occurring in that home.

The bodies of the babies were sent to the medical examiner's office to be tested. They will be testing for cause of death and taking DNA samples to determine if Huntsman is the parent of all the babies. The prospect that the remains of the babies were not Huntsman just makes this story even more heart wrenching. The Utah examiner will give answers on the remains of the 7 babies police found in the Huntsman's home as soon as the results come back.

Huntsman will make her 1st appearance in front of the court on 6 counts of murder on Monday. The appearance will more than likely be a bail hearing to determine if Megan Huntsman will remain in custody. Huntsman was charged with only 6 counts in the Utah discovery but there were remains of seven babies discovered by police so another charge of murder may be coming. Utah does use the death penalty in rare cases. They have sought 7 cases in the last 5 years. Will they seek the death penalty in this case? The pressure will be on prosecution to get it right as this will more than likely be a high profile case as the facts begin to come out.

(source: Guardianlv)


Secret Drugs, Agonizing Deaths

Facing a critical shortage of lethal injection drugs, prison officials in a number of states have recently engaged in an unseemly scramble to obtain new execution drugs, often from unreliable and even illegal sources. Not only does this trend raise serious questions about the constitutionality of executions, it also undermines the foundations of our democratic process. In the name of security, states are now withholding vital information about their death penalty procedures - from death row prisoners' lawyers and from judges, whose stamp of approval they need to impose the ultimate sanction, as well as from the public, in whose name the sentence is carried out.

States have long shielded the identities of executioners, a reasonable policy that should not interfere with judicial review of execution procedures. But in the past year, Georgia, Missouri, Tennessee and other states have expanded the reach of their secrecy laws to include not just the execution drugs used, but even the pharmacies that supply them.

These laws hide the information necessary to determine if the drugs will work as intended and cause death in a humane manner. For states to conceal how they obtain the execution drugs, whether those purchases comply with the law and whether the drugs themselves are legitimate prevents courts from analyzing the legality and constitutionality of death penalty procedures. And that deprives the public of informed debate.

For more than 30 years, every state carrying out executions by lethal injection used the anesthetic thiopental, in combination with other drugs. In 2011, the American pharmaceutical firm Hospira stopped making thiopental. Departments of corrections at first responded by importing it from abroad, but the federal courts ruled that the Food and Drug Administration was prohibited from allowing in the unapproved drugs.

Other states replaced thiopental with pentobarbital, which eventually became the new norm. But Lundbeck, a Danish manufacturer of pentobarbital, did not want its name or its product (Nembutal) associated with executions. Changing its distribution system, it made sodium pentobarbital unobtainable for executions.

With that avenue closed, most states bought pentobarbital from compounding pharmacies, which mix small batches of drugs to order, and whose products are not approved by the F.D.A. Other states have turned to new drugs, including midazolam and hydromorphone.

Even as states adopted riskier and untested drugs, they argued that the identities of the suppliers must remain secret to insulate them from criticism. But that consideration can hardly trump the Eighth Amendment's protection against cruel and unusual punishments.

These are not academic concerns. Both compounded pentobarbital and the mixture of midazolam and hydromorphone have resulted in executions that went very wrong.

After receiving an execution dose of pentobarbital, an inmate should quickly lose consciousness and be without awareness until death occurs. But according to The Associated Press, after the drug was administered to Eric Robert in South Dakota in October 2012, he "appeared to be clearing his throat and then began gasping heavily," and "his eyes remained opened throughout." His heart beat for 10 minutes after he stopped breathing, suggesting the drug was not fully effective.

When compounded pentobarbital was administered to Michael Lee Wilson on Jan. 9, in Oklahoma, he cried out, "I feel my whole body burning." 7 days later, Ohio executed Dennis McGuire with midazolam and hydromorphone. A witness reported: "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." Mr. McGuire took more than 20 minutes to die. No wonder prisoners have been demanding to know how they will be executed - even as departments of corrections refuse to tell them. Recently, courts in 3 states have addressed such legal battles. An Oklahoma trial court decided in favor of the inmates, ruling that Oklahoma's secrecy law violated the state Constitution's right of access to the courts. Similarly, federal courts in Louisiana ordered the department of corrections to produce information about what drugs would be used in a coming execution and whether they had been tested.

But the prisoners usually don't win. More typical are 2 Texas cases with April execution dates. Although longstanding precedent requires the Texas Department of Criminal Justice to disclose the source of execution drugs, the department has refused to reveal the identity of its new supplier. A federal judge halted 1 execution at least until disclosure was made, but the department won an appeal and the United States Supreme Court declined to intervene. Both executions went ahead.

The Eighth Amendment requires that the ultimate punishment our society can impose and the means by which it is carried out are subject to the highest level of scrutiny. If prison officials conceal crucial information from judges, lawyers and the public, we have only their word that the drugs will cause death in a manner that complies with the Constitution. Clearly, we can't leave that to trust.

(source: Op-Ed; Megan McCracken and Jennifer Moreno are staff lawyers in the Death Penalty Clinic at the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law----New York Times)


Never said rape victims should be punished, says Abu Azmi; Abu Azmi had said women having sex outside marriage should also be hanged.

Samajwadi Party leader Abu Azmi, who is in a soup for making controversial comment on rape, has said that he never advocated punishing rape victims.

A TV channel quoted him saying that he had said that everyone should show solidarity with the rape victim.

He said that he never meant that the rape victims should be punished and that only a mad person would say such things.

Replying to a question on Yadav's remark, the former Rajya Sabha member and sitting MLA had told Mid-Day: "Rape is punishable by hanging in Islam. But here, nothing happens to women, only to men. Even the woman is guilty."

"In India, if you have sex with a person with consent, it's fine. But if that same person complains, it's a problem. Nowadays, we see a lot of such cases. Girls complain when someone touches them, and even when someone doesn't touch them. It becomes a problem then, and the man's honour is ruined in this. If rape happens with or without consent, it should be punished as prescribed in Islam," Azmi added.

National Commission for Women had issued a notice to the state SP chief for his insensitive remarks.

Azmi's remarks, however, did not find favour with his son and SP's Lok Sabha candidate from Mumbai North Central constituency, Farhan Azmi, who disagreed with his father and advocated death penalty for rapists.

His daughter-in-law, actress Ayesha Takia Azmi also expressed shock on Twitter, saying she was ashamed at the remark.

(source: India Today)


Lebanon charges 38 over Tripoli clashes

Lebanon's Military Prosecutor Saqr Saqr Monday charged an additional 38 individuals over gunbattles in the northern city of Tripoli.

Among the 38 suspects were 18 from the mainly Alawite Tripoli neighborhood of Jabal Mohsen and 20 from nearby predominantly Sunni Bab al-Tabbaneh, according to a judicial source.

The 2 districts have been feuding since the 1975-1990 Lebanese Civil War, but the traditional rivalry between them has been aggravated by the 3-year-old crisis in neighboring Syria.

Only 2 of the suspects - one from Jabal Mohsen and another from Bab al-Tabbaneh - are in custody. The others remain at large, the source told The Daily Star.

The source said among the Bab al-Tabbaneh suspects were 2 field commanders known as Bilal Baqqar and Raef Dandashi.

Saqr charged all 38 men of undermining the authority of the state, belonging to an armed organization and murder conspiracy. The suspects could face the death penalty if convicted.

Saqr referred the case and the 2 detained men to Military Investigative Judge Fadi Sawwan who is expected to interrogate the suspects on Thursday.

The Lebanese Army said it arrested a wanted suspect identified as Suleiman Mahmoud al-Ali from Jabal Mohsen, part of a larger security plan to end violence in the restive city.

(source: The Daily Star)


Death penalty policies being drawn up in PNG

Policy-makers in Papua New Guinea are drawing up a framework on how the death penalty might work there.

The justice minister, Kerenga Kua, says once the policy is written up, members of government will debate the details.

He says the government will have the final say on which execution method will be used - lethal injection, firing squad, deprivation of oxygen, hanging, or electrocution.

Mr Kua says the government will choose which method is used by what the public wants, resources availiable and the need to use the most humane method that preserves human dignity.

"We will drive a message that this nation is very serious. It is up to its neck, fed up with violent, gruesome crimes already and is prepared to stand up for itself and the majority of the law abiding citizens. I'm definitely certain that a lot of would-be criminals would be deterred by it."

Kerenga Kua says there are 14 prisoners on death row, all of whom have exhausted their avenues of appeal.

(source: Radio New Zealand)


Controversial public executions in Iran draw crowds

The punishment of criminals in Iran is sometimes carried out in public. Ahmed Shaheed, the UN special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran, has reported several cases of public execution and the humiliation of criminals. According to his March 2013 report on human rights in Iran, Shaheed "joins the [UN] Secretary-General's view that 'executions in public add to the already cruel, inhuman and degrading nature of the death penalty and can only have a dehumanizing effect on the victim and a brutalizing effect on those who witness the execution.'"

However, public executions constitute a small percentage of all executions in Iran, as is the case with criminals being publicly flogged or humiliated. In a recent case, three thieves were given 74 lashes in public. These occurrences have become more common and intensified since the launch of a police operation targeting petty criminals some 8 years ago. In some cases, male criminals were stripped in public and forced to wear women’s clothing or have a toilet ewer hung around their necks.

The police and the Justice Department defend these punishments and have even called them necessary. Lt. Gen. Ahmadi-Moghaddam, the high police commissioner, has frequently defended the police's harsh and humiliating treatment of the street toughs, stating that these criminals' intimidating character and notoriety must be broken in front of the people they terrorize.

Ahmadi-Moghaddam said that by mistreating criminals - including a case of forcing two convicts to wear women's clothing in the city streets - the police were simply enforcing a court-ordered punishment. At the same time, he does not fully approve of these punishments and has encouraged judges to employ more deference when handing out such rulings.

Due to a spike in a return to criminal activity, the police have concluded that the most effective way to break the character and standing of the convicts is in public, thus preventing them from continuing their criminal actions. However, since the public aspect of punishment is considered extra punishment in itself, the carrying out of such measures needs to take place under the supervision of courts. Based on Article 290 of Iran's penal code, the place and manner of carrying out a flogging punishment has to be decided by the court, which then ascertains its compliance with Sharia and principles of public safety.

A judicial official in the province of Tehran told Al-Monitor that convicts with extensive records are punished publicly in their own neighborhoods, so victims can have a chance to bring up charges. Also, in cases where the convict enjoys local notoriety or has committed a crime of public security, he will be punished publicly to deter other local criminals.

Based on a judicial system memorandum, public execution can only take place when it is seen as necessary for the community. Additionally, no one can photograph the event without a permit from the head of the judicial system.

Others believe that public punishments have not only been unsuccessful in bringing a sense of safety to society, but they have even failed as a preventive measure. years ago, a man convicted of raping 30 women - known by the pseudonym the Black Scorpion - was executed publicly. Before his execution, one of his victims told Shargh newspaper: "Once, during the public execution of another rapist, a man was molesting and abusing me! Public execution does not prevent this sort of crime."

Public executions occasionally bring out compassion in the people watching. The unusual reactions of the criminals, showing their lack of remorse, also weaken the effects of the punishment. In one such event, a murderer known by the pseudonym Ahmad Roussi (Russian Ahmad) kissed the penal officer, while another murderer called Kavousi laughed throughout the whole ordeal, waving to the crowd.

Serious criticism of the inhumane and humiliating aspects of these punishments, as well as their total disregard for human rights, has also been raised. 2 months ago, Ahmadi-Moghaddam quoted a speech of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to police, reminding them of the need to be respectful of criminals' rights so as to avoid answering these convicts' complaints on judgment day.

Some religious figures also oppose these punishments. Ayatollah Sanei, a marja, or religious authority, in Qom, was asked a question in this regard. He replied that Sharia stipulates there is no need for public punishment, except in cases of adultery. He also specified that if public punishment violates human rights, bothers the convict's relatives or creates a negative view of Islam, then it is forbidden. He also said that taking children to witness these punishments is a sin and equally forbidden.

Surprisingly, Ayatollah Nouri Hamadani, a pro-government marja in Qom, replied differently. Penalties are better carried out in public, he said, and if it has adverse effects on some, then they should not participate.

In Islam, there is another punishment, tashheer, which is basically public naming. It is designed for cases of bearing false witness, fraud and embezzlement. Tashheer has a practical use: By identifying a criminal, others will be saved from further incidents of fraud.

In the end, public punishment enjoys popularity, and it seems there is little will to change it. Instead, many insist it continue.

(source: Al-Monitor)


Iran court overturns former U.S. marine's death sentence

Iran's Supreme Court has overturned the death sentence handed to a former U.S. Marine convicted of espionage, with the penalty being cut to 10 years in jail, media reported Sunday.

Amir Hekmati, a dual U.S.-Iranian citizen, was arrested in August 2011, put on trial and found guilty of spying for the CIA. In January 2012, he was sentenced to death.

His lawyer was quoted on Sunday as saying the sentence had now been overturned.

"The death sentence was overruled in the country's Supreme Court and reduced to a 10-year jail term," attorney Mahmoud Alizadeh Tabatabie told the Sharq daily newspaper.

Hekmati, born in the United States to Iranian parents, served as a U.S. Marine and as a private contractor who provided translation services. His family insists he was visiting Iran to see relatives.

U.S. lawmakers and his family had appealed to Iran to free him, saying it would serve as a goodwill gesture after Tehran reached an interim deal with the United States and other powers on suspending its nuclear program.

The former Marine's father, Ali Hekmati, who lives in Michigan, has said his son is suffering from a brain tumor.

The U.N. Human Rights Council's Working Group on Arbitrary Detention in December faulted Iran for not charging Hekmati for 6 months after his arrest and for letting his lawyer see him only briefly, without access to the case file.

The panel said Iran's "non-observance of international norms" in the case was "of such gravity as to give the deprivation of liberty of Mr Hekmati an arbitrary character."

U.S. President Barack Obama raised the case of Hekmati and 2 other U.S. citizens in a landmark telephone conversation last September with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.

Since Iran elected the more moderate Rouhani, the Hekmati family has seen hopeful signs with the ex-Marine's grandmother being allowed to visit him.

(source: Al Arabiya)

APRIL 13, 2014:


'Spider' response given until June----More delays as long federal appeal continues

20 years will have come and gone by the time the Michael Dean "Spider" Gonzales case is resolved, with a recent extension in federal court to allow document responses by June 9.

Gonzales, who is in the middle of a federal habeas corpus appeal on his 1994 capital murder conviction and subsequent 2009 resentencing to death, is claiming in his appeal that he was not competent to stand trial in 2009; he had ineffective assistance of legal counsel; the trial court violated his due process by not inquiring into his competency; and doubt about his guilt remains due to a number of factors.

Gonzales was convicted in the April 22, 1994, stabbing deaths of Manuel and Merced Aguirre, and Gonzales said in testimony he was going to rob the couple. Autopsy testimony revealed that Merced Aguirre had at least 80 wounds, many of which were defensive, and Manuel Aguirre had at least 5 fatal wounds.

Rick Aguirre, who lives in San Antonio and is one of the slain couple's sons, said he doesn't believe the case will see a resolution until several years down the road.

"I prefer sooner than later, but as long as he's locked up and it goes forward, as long as we end up where it's resolved..." Rick Aguirre said. "I'd prefer it to be sooner, but I'll continue to wait for it to be resolved."

Rick Aguirre is still aware of the anniversaries - the 20th anniversary of his parents' death in less than 2 weeks and the 20th anniversary of Gonzales' trial in December.

He said he keeps up with the case through his family and email updates from the attorney general's office.

On the other side, one of Gonzales' friends said she doesn't feel the wait is fair for Gonzales either.

Adonica Nunez, who said she has known Gonzales her whole life and feels like he is family, said they should already know what will happen to Gonzales.

"I don't think it's fair to either party," Nunez said. "But I don't believe in the death penalty either. You can't kill somebody and say that's justice."

Nunez also said she doesn't believe the allegations against Gonzales are true, but said she hasn't spoken with him since after his resentencing hearing because they had an argument.

Members of the Aguirre family have multiple times said they hope to see an execution date set for Gonzales.

And while the appeal has been going on for almost a year and a half, earning him a stay of execution on his original March 21, 2013, execution date, a law expert said that's not out of the ordinary.

Arnold Loewy, a professor at the Texas Tech School of Law, said death penalty cases in general take longer than others, and it's a good thing to avoid executing innocent people.

Loewy said there have been a number of cases where a person was on death row for close to 20 years and was eventually found to be factually innocent. Loewy, not knowing the specific facts of Gonzales' case, said it's not unusual for this type of appeal to last years.

"I think we have a sense that most people don't really want to rush the procedures," Loewy said.

Ector County District Attorney Bobby Bland said whenever he takes on a capital murder case, he uses the Gonzales case as an example of how long it can take before the case is resolved.

"It's obviously taken way too long. Nobody wanted it to take this long," Bland said. "I always felt like it never should have been reversed in the first place."

Bland said with the death penalty under scrutiny, the outcome can be unpredictable.

"My hope is that it will proceed forward in a more rapid fashion, but at this point, you never know," Bland said.

According to a document explaining the federal habeas corpus appeal created by the Oregon Department of Justice, a person convicted of a crime must raise federal constitutional claims in court to begin the appeal.

The person can only use evidence that has previously been admitted unless an evidentiary hearing for new evidence is held, according to the document.

At the end of the case, according to the document, the federal judge has the option to either uphold the conviction and sentence, order a new trial, modify the sentence, or order other relief as necessary.

Then, either party may appeal the decision made by the judge, according to the document.

In Gonzales' case, both his attorneys and the attorneys for the Texas Attorney General have filed requests to extend deadlines for filing their responses to each other.

While Gonzales' attorneys have claimed he was not competent to stand trial during his resentencing, lawyers with the attorney general's office have said that claim is not reviewable by federal courts, and even it if was, they claim Gonzales was competent and the 358th District Court was not required to hold a competency hearing in this case.

(source: Odessa American)


Texas Executions

Tommy Lynn Sells was executed on Thursday, April 3 and Ramiro Hernandez-Llanas was executed on Wednesday, April 9 in Huntsville, Texas. The fact that these 2 executions made national headlines caught my attention. Judge Vanessa Diane Gilmore, a US District Judge for the Southern District of Texas and an appointee of former president Bill Clinton had earlier halted their executions on grounds that not enough details about the drug, pentobarbital, were available to the plaintiffs. In reading one of the legal documents, the 8th Amendment cites 'cruel and unusual punishment'. The condemned prisoner must show 'that the risk is substantial when compared to the known and available alternatives'.

The legal documents state:

The information both inmates seek, as the Sells panel described it, is the source of the pentobarbital, documentation reflecting the purchase of the drug, the timing and means of storage of the drug, the date of manufacture/mixing of the drug, any lot numbers which may exist, the raw ingredients used to make the drug and the source of same, the testing that was conducted on the drug and the results of that testing, and the laboratory and names of its personnel which conducted the testing.

I remember one of my first questions about 'cruel and unusual punishment' what about the victim? Sells was convicted of 13 slayings, including the death of 9-year-old Mary Bea Perez who was celebrating Fiesta in downtown San Antonio with her family in April of 1999. Sells managed to abduct her and days later her decomposed body was found in Alazan Creek. Sells claims he killed 50 or more people and was able to get away with so many murders because he was a 'drifter'. A convicted murderer, Ramiro Hernandez Llanas had escaped from a Mexican prison and found refuge working at a ranch in Kerrville, Texas. He murdered his employer, Glen H. Lich and then proceeded to terrorize and rape Lich's wife repeatedly. It is interesting that their lawyers and Judge Gilmore felt it necessary to grant them some clemency knowing it would fail. The injunction to stop their executions was reversed by the US 5th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Texas is known for its death penalty and leads the nation with 514 executions since 1976. To date, in Texas there have been 6 executions in 2014. Contrast this with the number of abortions in Texas during 2011, which was 73,200. These numbers should put the fear of God in all of us. All life is sacred but shouldn't the innocent get a reprieve before the guilty? This court injunction to halt the executions by an activist liberal judge shows how progressives care more about the pain and suffering of an adult convicted serial killer and murderer than the life and pain and suffering of an innocent unborn or the mother.

(source: Sonja Harris,


New lethal drug supply found for Texas executions

A serial killer was put to death on April 3 in Texas. This followed the U.S. Supreme Court rejecting the lawyers' demand that the source of the lethal injection drug be revealed.

The person put to death was Tommy Lynn Sells, 49. He is the first inmate to be injected with a dose of newly replenished pentobarbital, according to The Guardian. A jury convicted Sells of capital murder in 2000 for the death of Kaylene Harris and slashing of her 10-year-old friend, Krystal Surles, who survived and helped police find Sells.

Prior to the execution the Supreme Court declined a request from Sells' attorneys to delay the killing. The lawyers wanted more information from the Texas Department of Criminal Justice about the supplier of the new drug stock. However, Texas state prison officials argued that the pharmacy must be kept secret to protect it from threats of violence.

The issue of the source of execution drugs is a growing one. Questions arisen in several states in recent months, particularly as numerous pharma companies have refused to sell their products if they will be used in executions. One such company is the Danish pharmaceutical firm Lundbeck.

Pentobarbital (sometimes called pentobarbitone) is a short-acting barbiturate. In high doses, pentobarbital causes death by respiratory arrest.

Faced with a diminishing supply, Texas officials have resorted to using compounding pharmacies. These facilities are not as heavily regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). As Digital Journal readers are aware, compounding pharmacies have been under the spotlight in recent years due to a run of contamination issues.

Texas is the U.S.'s busiest state for the death penalty. With a new supply of a killer-drug found, the state is set to continue with its death penalty mandate.

(source: Digital Journal)


Reasons HB 1170 is wrong

This week the fate of a death penalty repeal bill will be debated on the floor of the New Hampshire Senate.

While HB 1170 passed the House with room to spare, its fate in the Senate is not so clear. However, the best guess is the vote will be close.

One reason for an expected close vote appears to be a much greater concern House Bill 1170 would spare cop killer Michael Addison the death sentence, which he is currently appealing.

We sometimes wonder if our editorials have an impact. At least in the case of HB 1170, our words help motivate an effort to amend the bill.

In past editorials we have pointed out that to eliminate the death penalty will most likely take Addison off death row.

That concern was brought to the floor of the House by Steve Vaillancourt, R-Manchester, after reading one of our editorials.

We differ on the fate of HB 1170, standing in opposition to repeal. Vaillancourt favors repeal. But he does agree with us that you can't have your cake and eat it to. That to repeal the death penalty going forward while arguing it remain in force for Addison is wrong.

That argument failed to persuade in the House, with the bill passing 225-104.

In the Senate, however, the vote is expected to be much closer and our concerns for equal justice taken more to heart. That means the issue of Addison's fate could make all the difference.

Evidence of this came during the bill's consideration by the Senate Judiciary Committee

According to news reports, committee chair Sen. Sharron Carson, R-Londonderry, echoed our concerns - that if the death penalty is repealed Addison may not be executed. His reasons, however, were a bit different.

Under the bill, Addison's death sentence does not change. However, Carson argues if portions of the proposed law dealing with the capital murder procedure and the execution are repealed, it would make a death sentence impossible.

On the other hand, our concern has been that the courts now considering Addison's appeal would be hard pressed to uphold his death sentence if the legislature deems it unjust for all but the killer of Manchester Police Officer Michael Briggs.

But even if the court grants the distinction, we have little doubt a governor somewhere down the road will commute Addison's death sentence - in the name of fairness.

In a court of law, all this would add up to reasonable doubt that New Hampshire should repeal the death penalty.

And we hope the Senate is convinced to allow Addison and future killers to be executed.

As noted in prior editorials, we understand moral objections to the death penalty. And we respect those who argue it is wrong.

What we don't countenance - and neither should the Legislature - is the schizophrenic belief that future murderers should live and Addison should die.

Appearing on WGIR Wednesday, former N.H. Attorney General and now U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte rebutted the argument HB 1170 would not affect Addison's death sentence.

"I think that is absurd. These people who are voting on this need to understand they could effectively be commuting Michael Addison's sentence - or reducing his sentence for having killed Michael Briggs in the line of duty," Ayotte said. "I think that is wrong. I think it is sending the absolute wrong message. That may be a good political explanation, but it is not a good legal explanation."

(source: Opinion, Foster's Daily Democrat)


Justification of the death penalty

Re "Execution secrets" (Speak Out, April 4):

I disagree with Speak Out writer Margit Suesser. I believe in the death penalty, if for no other reason than it guarantees this monster will never claim another victim.

I could care less if that person ever gets the right to know what drug will be used to kill him/her. I believe in an eye for an eye.

I find it barbaric that a law lets these monsters live for years before getting what they deserve, if at all. Do you really think these people would live each day in prison thinking about what they did? I hardly think so.

It also saddens me that the people who coddle these monsters rarely think about the victims who had no say whatsoever in the way they died or why.

Think about all of this if one of your loved ones should ever have the misfortune to be a victim to one of them.

Charles Smith----Weaver

(source: Letter to the Editor, Anniston Star)


US the only developed country executing people

It was horrifying to read in The Enquirer a report titled "Death sentences continue in Ohio" (April 6). I note that 12 executions are already scheduled for this year and next.

Since 1999, 54 Ohio individuals, all men, have been executed.

The U.S. is the only developed country still putting people to death. Belgium, for instance, had its last execution in 1863; Switzerland in 1874; Sweden in 1921; Ireland in 1944; West Germany in 1949; and England in 1955.

In the 1960s, a governor of Ohio, Michael DiSalle, wrote a book about his opposition to the death penalty. He felt that the only way to protect citizens was to eradicate the causes of violent crime – in poverty and destitution, racial abuse and mental illness. "I believe human life is a divine gift," DiSalle wrote, "and deliberately to destroy it is as much a crime for the state as for the individual."

To take a man who has done no one any harm, in 15-20 years in prison, walk him down a corridor, strap him to a table and poison him to death - what kind of people would not shrink from so brutal an act by their own government?

Martha Stephens, Paddock Hills

(source: Letter to the Editor,


Oklahoma says it has obtained secret supply of execution drugs

Oklahoma officials on Friday said the state had obtained manufactured pharmaceuticals from a secret supplier for use in the executions of 2 men later this month, avoiding concerns over the use of compounded drugs but leaving unanswered questions about how it obtained them.

In a letter to defence lawyers, an assistant attorney general, John Hadden, said the state "has recently acquired a manufactured source of vecuronium bromide. That means there will be no compounded drugs used in the executions of your clients. This will resolve the concerns you and your clients have expressed regarding compounded drugs."

Despite a judge's ruling that a state drug secrecy law violated the inmates' constitutional rights, Hadden declined to identify the supplier of the new drugs.

"This information is irrelevant to your clients and disclosure could lead to harassment or intimidation which will have a chilling effect on the state's ability to acquire these drugs for future executions," Hadden wrote.

Oklahoma plans to execute Clayton Lockett on 22 April and Charles Warner on 29 April. Both were convicted of murder and rape.

The state said on Friday it would use midazolam, vecuronium bromide and potassium chloride to kill the men, with dosages untried in US executions. Florida uses the same combination of drugs, but employs a dosage of midazolam, which acts as a sedative, that is 5 times larger than what Oklahoma plans to use. Vecuronium bromide is a paralytic agent; potassium chloride stops the heart.

Oklahoma had planned to use a different drug - compounded pancuronium bromide - as the 2nd drug in the method, but lawyers objected to the use of loosely regulated compounded drugs that may lack purity and cause an unconstitutionally cruel death.

Hadden said the state will now use drugs that are approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

Madeline Cohen, a lawyer for one of the men due to be executed, said the state needs to reveal details beyond that the pharmaceuticals were manufactured rather than compounded.

"If they disclosed that the drugs were manufactured by a specific company, in a particular lot, and imported with this licence, for example, we would have some ability to evaluate that," she said.

"Without that, we don't know if it's actually an FDA-approved drug or if it has been imported or sold legally, or if it is what the state says it is."

She said there is no FDA-approved midazolam that comes in the concentration specified in Oklahoma's lethal injection protocol, and the state has not said if it will dilute the drug to make the concentration.

The state could change the concentrations in the protocol, if any numbers were incorrectly written, Hadden said in his letter.

(source: The Guardian)


No reason to relocate Aurora theater shooting trial

The responsibilities of jurors in a death penalty case are extraordinary and abundantly clear.

They know they hold a defendant's life in their hands. And they very well might see bereft victims' families in the courtroom every day.

In combination with rigorous pre-trial screening for potential biases, there is every reason to believe jurors will take their mission very seriously and decide a case fairly - even for accused mass killer James Holmes and even in Arapahoe County.

Our strong belief in the integrity of jurors and the effectiveness of the voir dire process undergirds our opposition to Holmes' demand last week that his murder trial be moved to another venue.

District Judge Carlos A. Samour Jr. should deny that request.

In a motion filed with the court, the defense claims the media coverage on the case has been unrelenting. The 39-page pleading is filled with one reference after another to the many news articles and television pieces that have been done on the case.

Well, when 12 people are shot dead in a movie theater and dozens more injured by a gunman with hair dyed red to imitate a movie character, yes, there's going to be news coverage of that event. A lot of it.

It was a tragedy in the community that reverberates to this day.

The depth of the anguish caused by the July 2012 shootings is another reason Holmes argues the trial should not be held locally.

"The impacts of this case on the community are sufficiently complex and deep-seated that they cannot be cured, even by individual voir dire," the defense contends.

History doesn't bear out such a claim.

There are many examples of high-interest cases that have been successfully tried in the communities where the crime occurred.

No one can credibly argue, for example, that George Zimmerman's rights were infringed on when he was tried in Sanford, Fla., for the shooting death of Trayvon Martin. Zimmerman was found not guilty in the case despite highly unflattering, intense coverage.

As with the Zimmerman case, there's no place to which the Holmes case could even be transferred where it hasn't been highly publicized.

The answer is not one that involves relocation. Rather, it's one that centers on the integrity of the process and belief in the people who solemnly swear to uphold it.

(source: Editorial, Denver Post)


Maricopa County prosecutors seek death penalty against man accused of fatally stabbing boy

Maricopa County prosecutors are seeking the death penalty against a man charged with fatally stabbing his 12-year-old half-brother.

Prosecutors say 27-year-old Andrew Ward should face the death penalty in the March 12 killing of Austin Tapia because Ward killed a child in an especially cruel manner.

Investigators say Ward explained his motive by saying, "Honestly, I just felt like killing."

Ward has pleaded not guilty to a murder charge in Tapia's death.

While in jail, Ward was booked on suspicion of 1st-degree murder in the April 2 death of his cellmate at the Lower Buckeye Jail.

Investigators say Ward used a golf pencil to stab 33-year-old Douglas Walker in the eyes, beat him and forced a plastic bag and peanut butter sandwich down Walker's throat.

(source: Associated Press)


Hypocrisy in how we handle death penalty

I was fascinated by the long article in The Republic on March 27 describing the great difficulty the Arizona Department of Corrections is having in finding just the right "cocktail" for them to put people to death.

Doesn't anyone see the hypocrisy in the fact that the majority in Arizona are Christians who believe in the Ten Commandments, one of which is "Thou shalt not kill," and we continue to work so hard to find just the right way to do it?

And that when a person on death row wants to commit suicide we go to great lengths to keep him from doing it so we can do it later?

It is curious to me that in Arizona we struggle to continue a practice that many other states have outlawed.

Marge Thornton, Tempe

(source: Letter to the Editor, Arizona Republic)


Jodi Arias Retrial Set for September; Arizona Capital Murder Trials Have 3 Parts

The Jodi Arias retrial has been pushed back from March 17 because Juan Martinez, the prosecutor in the Arias case, is prosecuting in another trial that conflicts with Arias' trial. According to the Arizona Republic, Juan Martinez is scheduled to begin the trial on May 12.

Capital-murder trials in Arizona have three parts. First, a jury determines whether the person is guilty of 1st-degree murder. Then, jurors determine whether there are any aggravating factors. Jodi Arias was found guilty on May 8, 2013. The jury found that the murder was committed in an especially cruel fashion one week later. The 33-year-old Arias was convicted of killing her boyfriend at his suburban Phoenix home in 2008. Jodi Arias said she did it in self-defense. She claimed Travis Alexander had a violent outburst while they were shooting a nude video and she dropped his camera. The jury found her guilty but couldn't decide whether to sentence her to life in prison or give her the death penalty but the jury couldn't reach a verdict on her sentence.

Under Arizona law, Jodi Arias' murder conviction stands, but prosecutors can pursue a death sentence in the penalty phase with a new jury. If the 2nd jury fails to reach a verdict, the death penalty would be removed as an option. Judge Stephens would then sentence Jodi Arias to either spend her entire life behind bars or be eligible for release after 25 years.

The Jodi Arias retrial is being delayed because Juan Martinez, the prosecutor in the Arias case, will be busy with another trial that conflicts with Jodi Arias' retrial. The trial is the oldest capital murder case in Maricopa County and may also be a death penalty trial. Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Joseph Welty ruled the trial of Bryan Hulsey, who was accused of killing a police officer in the Phoenix area in 2007 will go 1st. The Bryan Hulsey trial is scheduled to begin May 12.

Judge Sherry Stephens denied 2 motions by Jodi Arias to fire her lead attorney, Kirk Nurmi.

Jodi Arias delivered a 12 page handwritten letter saying that she no longer trusts her lawyer Kirk Nurmi. Arias says that she hasn't seen the Nurmi since the end of the 1st phase of the trial on May 23. Jodi Arias' complaint says he "does not listen or respond to my concerns."

In the motion, Jodi Arias wrote "Mr. Nurmi, however, in his utter poverty of people skills, simply said to me with contempt, 'You're not going to get your way just because you throw a tantrum.' Judge, this was no tantrum. Far from it. This was a full-blown emotional meltdown. I wasn't throwing a fit, I was falling apart. Having known me for 3.5 years at that point, Kirk Nurmi should have easily discerned this, but his failure to do so shows he lacks the capacity for empathy and chooses anger over attempting to understand any impairment his client may be experiencing in direct relation to the case and court proceedings."

Cassandra Collins's, Jodi Arias' cellmate claimed that the convicted murderer said she wanted to give the prosecutor a "Mafia Bowtie," slang for cutting his throat. Jodi Arias was convicted of cutting the throat of Travis Alexander. Jodi Arias says her former cellmate's claims are lies.

Because of the excessive publicity, Jodi Arias attorneys have already filed motions requesting that the sentencing phase of the trial be moved out of the Phoenix area. Jodi Arias' lawyers filed a motion for a change of venue after finding that 70 % of the media coverage in the state started in Maricopa County. Lawyers also want Jodi Arias trial live stream television coverage prohibited for the retrial.

(source: kpopstarz)


NFP calls for referendum on death penalty

The death penalty was abolished in the early 90's in South-Africa.

With an increase in violent crime, rape and farm murders groups from various sectors of society has called for its reinstatement.

Recently the National Freedom Party (NFP) Women's Movement joined these groups in a call for the return hangman and his gallows.

The standard method for carrying out executions was hanging, sometimes of several convicts at the same time.

The number of executions steadily rose during the 1st half of the 20th century, the only country in the world to see a clear and unbroken development in such a direction.

Mandatory death penalty for murder was abolished in 1935. at the same time, criminal justice saw an increased racialisation in disfavour of the non-white majority, who was represented in the vast majority of culprits in capital cases.

Hanging was maintained following the instatement of a Republic in 1961. The last execution carried out by the South-African government was the hanging of Solomon Ngobeni in November 1989. The last woman executed was Sandra Smith on 2 June the same year along with her boyfriend Yassiem Harris, in all cases following a murder conviction.

(source: The New Age)


2 prisoners hanged in Bandar Abbas Prison

Early morning on Sunday, the Iranian regime hangmen in Bandar Abbas Prison in Iran hanged 2 men, a state-run news agency reported.

The 2 men were identified by their initials as A.M. and M.A., according to the report by Tasnimnews affiliated to the terrorist Quds Force of the Iranian regime.

The report said "Qisas (law of retribution) was carried out for the 2 prisners in Bandar Abbas Prison".

The rate of hangings has increased sharply over last year, since Hassan Rouhani, the regime's new president has taken office.

In a report to the U.N. Human Rights Council, the United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said between 500 and 625 people were executed last year, including 57 in public. More than 40 people were executed during the first half of January 2014, he said.

"The new government has not changed its approach regarding the application of the death penalty and seems to have followed the practice of previous administrations, which relied heavily on the death penalty to combat crime," Ban said.

(source: NCR-Iran)


URGENT: Iranian Woman Reyhaneh Jabbari (26) at Imminent Danger of Execution----The 26 year old Iranian woman Reyhaneh Jabbari might be executed in less than 48 hours. Reyhaneh is sentenced to death for the alleged murder of a former ministry of intelligence officer whom she stubbed in self defense 7 years ago. Iran Human Rights urges all countries with diplomatic relations with Iran to use all their channels to stop the execution.

Unofficial reports from Iran indicate that the death sentence of the 26 year old Iranian woman Reyhaneh Jabbari can be carried out on Tuesday April 15.

Reyhaneh Jabbari, aged 26, was arrested in 2007 for the murder of Morteza Abdolali Sarbandi, a former employee of Iran's Ministry of Intelligence. Following her arrest, Reyhaneh Jabbari was held in solitary confinement for two months in Tehran's Evin Prison, where she did not have access to a lawyer or her family. Reyhaneh confessed that to the murder immediately after her arrest, though she did not have a lawyer present at the time she made her confession. She stated that the murder took place in self-defence.

Reyhaneh Jabbari was sentenced to death under qesas ("retribution-in-kind") by a criminal court in Tehran in 2009. The death sentence was upheld by the Supreme Court the same year. Her family was told in March 2014 that the sentence had gone for implementation and unofficial reports indicate that she might be executed on Tuesday.

IHR urges the international community to act immediately in order to stop the execution of Reyhaneh. Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam, the spokesperson of IHR, said: "International reactions may be the only possibility to save Reyhaneh. We ask all the countries with diplomatic relations with Iran to use all their channels to stop Reyhaneh's planned execution".

According to IHR's annual report on the death penalty at least 687 people were executed in 2013, the highest number in more than 15 years in Iran. So far in 2014 at least 170 people have been executed, 96 being announced by the official reports.

(source: Iran Human Rights)

APRIL 12, 2014:

TEXAS----impending execution

The Cost in Time and Money of the Death Penalty

Time is running out for convicted killer Jose Villegas, who was convicted of fatally stabbing his ex-girlfriend, her mom and her 3-year old son in 2001.

Villegas is out of appeals, and after 14 years on death row, is set to be executed next Wednesday.

The appellate process is long and arduous for all death penalty cases, and it's also an expensive undertaking. From trial to execution, studies show it costs taxpayers on average more than $1.5 million.

As of this week, Villegas' request to withdraw his pending execution has been in the judicial process for 14 years. He is 1 of 5 Nueces County defendants sentenced to death.

"I'm ready. Ain't no point in staying in here any longer," convicted murderer Daniel Lopez said. "I'm in a, in a box. So I'm ready, right."

Lopez was convicted in 2010 of capital murder in the death of Corpus Christi Police Lt. Stuart Alexander. He has made it clear that he wants to be put to death, but the appeals process for him continues.

"Let me have my final say," convicted murderer John Henry Ramirez said. "Let me say my peace, you know. Before you kill me, know what I mean?"

Ramirez was convicted of capital murder in 2008 for the 2004 stabbing of Times Market clerk Pablo Castro. His appeal is also in the works.

As is the case for 33-year old Richard Vasquez, who was convicted of capital murder and sentenced to death for the 1998 beating death of 4-year old Miranda Salazar, his girlfriend's daughter.

"I want to end these proceedings and let the sentence be carried out," convicted murderer Larry Hatten said.

On Thursday, Hatten, who 22 years ago was sentenced to death for fatally shooting a 5-year old boy, asked to be executed.

The cost of justice is expensive.

"Well, the point is, we don't want to execute someone who hasn't had every opportunity possible," Appellate Prosecutor Doug Norman said.

Norman said it is the cost that ensures the integrity of the criminal justice system. Even if an inmate waves all appeals, Norman said that person's mental competency is called into question.

"You know, the courts really want to make sure that that's his will, that he understands and he's able to understand," Norman said. "He's mentally able to understand the consequences of the decision he's making."

Death penalty opponents said the cost of the death penalty is so expensive, close to $1.5 million, while life without parole will cost taxpayers $1 million to house a prisoner for 50 years.

(source: KIII news)


Skinner transcripts received by attorneys----Defense attorneys requesting extension to 21-day deadline.

Attorneys with the state Attorney General's Office and convicted murderer Hank Skinner's defense team say they have received copies of the court transcripts from Skinner's evidentiary hearing in Gray County on Feb. 3 and 4.

Receipt of the transcripts triggers a 21-day period for attorneys to file their findings from the witness testimony back to the 31st District Court.

Lauren Been, a spokeswoman for the AG's Office, said both sides are required to respond.

Skinner, who is on death row for the brutal murders of Pampa resident Twila Busby and her 2 adult sons on New Year's Day 1993, is being represented by attorneys Douglas Robinson and Robert Owen. If District Judge Steven Emmert rules favorably for Skinner, his attorneys could seek an appeal.

Emmert does not have a deadline to file his decision, but his bailiff, Wayne Carter, said the judge wants to move along quickly with the case.

A spokeswoman from Robinson and Owen's office in Washington D.C. said Thursday they are waiting for a few exhibits from the court and are requesting the court to extend the filing deadline to May 30.

Skinner was not at the hearing in which both sides presented evidence from a series of recent DNA tests.

Skinner's original attorney, Harold Comer of Pampa, did not seek DNA testing at the time of his original trial, partly out of his concern that the results would have implicated his client.

According to Skinner's attorneys, new DNA test results support the inference that Busby's uncle, Robert Donnell, who made sexual advances to Busby on the night of the killings, committed the crimes and not Skinner.

The AG's office maintains that DNA and crime scene evidence overwhelmingly point to Skinner as the killer.

(source: The Pampa News)


Struggles continue in Petetan jury selection

It has taken attorneys in the capital murder trial of Carnell Petetan 6 weeks to select 12 jurors, but the trial can't start until 2 alternate jurors are selected.

Jury selection in Petetan's case has taken about twice as long as in most death penalty cases, with attorneys questioning or considering 316 potential jurors to seat 12.

By contrast, in the past 2 capital murder cases in which McLennan County prosecutors sought the death penalty, attorneys went through 185 prospective jurors or fewer and jury selection took about 3 weeks.

The 12th juror might not have made the panel if defense attorneys Russ Hunt Sr., Walter M. Reaves Jr. and Michelle Tuegel had not run out of their allotted 15 strikes and Judge Ralph Strother, frustrated by the amount of time it has taken, denied their request for more strikes.

Strother told the defense team Thursday they chose to strike "several eminently qualified jurors" and now they would have to live with those choices.

Juror 12 is a 44-year-old fireman and a former prison guard.

Petetan, 36, of Port Arthur, is on trial in the 2012 shooting death of his estranged wife, Kimberly Farr Petetan, at her Lake Shore Drive apartment in Waco.

Officials have said Petetan shot Kimberly Petetan in front of her 9-year-old daughter and then kidnapped the girl. He was arrested later that night in Bryan.

Petetan, who was released from prison five months before the alleged killing, served 20 years for attempted murder. He claims to suffer from an intellectual disability that his attorneys say makes him ineligible for the death penalty.

Court officials say the delay in jury selection has been caused by potential jurors who have expressed extreme views on both sides of the capital punishment issue. There are some who don't think the death penalty should ever be used and those who think it should be used more often.

In either event, attorneys are using strikes to dismiss those who they think have views unfavorable to their side of the case.

McLennan County District Attorney Abel Reyna and his top assistants, Greg Davis and Michael Jarrett, have used 6 of their allotted 15 strikes.

On Friday, the defense used its one and only remaining strike to dismiss a prospective alternate juror.

Strother has said if 2 alternates can be selected on Monday, testimony will begin Tuesday morning. If the panel is not completed on Monday, testimony will begin the next day after the alternates are seated, Strother said.

Court officials expect the trial to last at least 2 weeks.

The rest of the jury panel includes a 62-year-old retired man, a 62-year-old businessman, a 61-year-old female homemaker, a 26-year-old female nurse, a 41-year-old female teacher, a 69-year-old retired minister, a 26-year-old male engineer, a 44-year-old male heavy equipment operator, a 40-year-old male college administrator, a 50-year-old female real estate agent, and a 46-year-old female mortgage officer.

(source: Waco Tribune)


USA Violates International Law; Executes Mexican Citizen

The United States has once again violated international law, with its execution of Mexican citizen Ramiro Hernandez, who was denied the consular attention included in a Vienna convention, the United Nations charged today.

"Mr. Hernandez did not have consular access, established in Article 36 of the Vienna Convention for Consular Affairs," OHCHR spokesperson Rupert Colville told the press.

Colville recalled that in 2004 at the U.N. headquarters in Geneva, the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued a resolution noting that the United States should review and reconsider the cases of 51 Mexicans sentenced to death, including the case of Hernandez, since they had not received the required assistance.

"Under international law, the violation of the right to consular notification affects due process, so, we are witnessing a new case of arbitrary deprivation of life by a signing country, since 1992, of the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights", Colville highlighted.

The spokesperson said Wednesday's execution, which took place in Texas was regrettable.

This is the 16th time the United States has applied the death penalty this year; the 6th in Texas. The U.N. opposes this punishment under any circumstance, but even more so in the recent case due to the aforementioned violations, Colville stressed.



Attorneys for Craigslist killing suspect say knife was improperly seized

Attorneys for Miranda K. Barbour claim the knife investigators say was used in November's Craigslist-related killing was confiscated improperly.

A suppression motion filed Thursday in Northumberland County court is based on a technicality. The search warrant affidavit listed a Market Street address in Selinsgrove but the knife was confiscated Dec. 9 in a Water Street house with the same number.

Barbour, 19, is accused of using the knife to repeatedly stab Troy LaFerrara in her car in Sunbury on Nov. 11 while her husband Elytte, 22, allegedly restrained him from the backseat with a piece of television cable around his neck.

The Barbours are jailed without bail awaiting trial on criminal homicide, robbery and other charges. They were living in Selinsgrove after they moved from North Carolina where they were married.

District Attorney Anthony J. Rossini Friday expressed confidence the knife will be allowed into evidence because he said there is sufficient evidence to support a search without a warrant.

The owner of the Water Street home gave permission to search, the knife was not in an area where the Barbours were permitted to be and therefore they had no expectation of privacy, he said.

"In this case, given the area where the knife was hidden, we believe the owners' consent was sufficient to sustain the search," he said.

Miranda Barbour is accused of arranging through Craigslist a meeting with LaFerrara, 42, of Port Trevorton, in a parking lot along Routes 11-15 north of Selinsgrove. She drove him to Sunbury while her husband was hiding on the floor of the backseat under a blanket, the charges allege.

LaFerrara was stabbed repeatedly and his body was found in alley behind Catawissa Avenue. Rosini has filed notice he intends to seek the death penalty if the couple is found guilty of 1st-degree murder.

(source: PennLive)


Racial Justice Act rulings could provide road map for other cases

The fate of dozens of death row inmates hoping to have their sentences commuted to life in prison could be decided by a pair of cases scheduled to be heard by the state Supreme Court on Monday morning.

At issue is if and when capital defendants can make use the Racial Justice Act and which version of the now-repealed law applies to their cases. The act allowed defendants to use statistics, among other evidence, to show that race-based decisions played a role in the choices made by prosecutors or other court officials.

Despite its 2013 repeal by the General Assembly, the Racial Justice Act remains part of a thicket of legal questions that continue to impose what amounts to a de facto moratorium on the death penalty in North Carolina. More than 150 defendants have filed motions for relief under the act, and the 2 cases on Monday's docket give the seven Supreme Court justices their first chance to pick through a number of issues related to the act.

"Even if all four of these defendants win, it doesn't mean everyone else is going to win," said Ken Rose, senior staff attorney with Durham-based Center for Death Penalty Litigation.

Cases involving Racial Justice Act claims are complicated by the fact that, after a legislature controlled by Democrats passed the original measure in 2009, a Republican-lead General Assembly revised the measure in 2012 before eliminating it entirely last year.

Opponents of the act in both of its forms focus their ire on its use of statistical evidence. But Rose said those statistical findings have helped defense lawyers find specific instances of race-based decision-making by prosecutors that would have otherwise remained hidden.

"Almost all the judges handling these cases have looked at it and said that the state Supreme Court is going to have to give us guidance on this," Rose said.

Lawyers and advocates on both sides of the larger death penalty debate agree that decisions in the cases scheduled for oral arguments Monday could answer questions with which Superior Court judges hearing Racial Justice Act claims are struggling.

"It is my understanding that these two cases, if they are upheld, will certainly provide a road map for future RJA hearings," said Peg Dorer, the executive director of the North Carolina Conference of District Attorneys. "If they are overturned, then I think that could end the RJA entirely."

However, those familiar with the cases to be heard Monday say there are enough issues at play that the court could ignore the broader questions surrounding the Racial Justice Act and craft rulings that fit only the four murder convictions at hand. No matter the outcome, experts on both sides of the issue say there are still plenty of thorny issues the courts have to sort through before carrying out another death sentence.

Death penalty still on hold

North Carolina has not executed a prisoner on its death row since Aug. 18, 2006, when Samuel R. Flippen was put to death by lethal injection for the beating death of his 2-year-old stepdaughter.

Since then, an evolving tangle of state and federal court cases have blocked the state from proceeding with any new executions. Currently, there are 153 inmates on North Carolina's death row, including 2 women.

Aside from the Racial Justice Act cases, the state cases providing the biggest roadblock to executions involve challenges brought in 2007 by prisoners contesting the methods and procedures governing how condemned prisoners are put to death. Those individual challenges were consolidated into a single case.

The prisoners claimed the state had not gone through the proper process to write its death penalty rules and that the actual lethal-injection procedure violated state and federal constitutional prohibitions against cruel and unusual punishment. In particular, the defendants claimed that the combination of drugs used could render them immobile but still able to feel pain as the lethal drugs were administered.

That case reached the state Court of Appeals, but before appellate judges could make a decision, the General Assembly passed Senate Bill 306 in last summer. The same measure that wiped the Racial Justice Act off the books also set down new death penalty procedures and gave the state Secretary of Public Safety the ability to issue new execution protocols.

Secretary Frank Perry signed a new 1-drug protocol in October.

Writing for the appeals court, Judge Robert C. Hunter said the case had to go back to the trial court because the facts had changed.

Among the issues the prisoners will press at that new trial will be whether Perry can actually issue new rules on his own or whether the state should go through the formal rule-making process that governs everything from environmental regulations to historical designations.

"Much more mundane, pedestrian things in state government get much more consideration and process," said David Weiss, an attorney who has been in private practice but will be returning to work for the Center for Death Penalty Litigation this month. "This is so serious and so complicated, it seems like, at a minimum, there ought to be some sort of public process."

Weiss would not guess how long it would take to re-hear the case in the lower courts. However, given that it took years for the original cases to reach the Court of Appeals, it is unlikely a final decision will be forthcoming quickly.

Once issues related to the method of execution are settled, there are sure to be other legal challenges. Rose pointed to a number of death penalty cases in which evidence analyzed by the crime lab could be called into question after high-profile problems identified with the lab. Also, there are at least three federal cases that are on hold waiting for the outcome of state cases.

Perhaps most telling about the length of time it would take to clear the remaining legal hurdles: The Department of Public Safety has not yet obtained pentobarbital, the drug called for in the new execution protocol.

2 cases, 4 inmates, many questions

The 1st of the 2 cases the Supreme Court will consider Monday involves Marcus Robinson, who was convicted for the 1991 shooting death of a 17-year-old, Erik Tornblom. Robinson was the first inmate whose sentence was commuted to life without parole under the Racial Justice Act.

Although the exact number has changed, prosecutors who appealed the Robinson decision said no fewer than 152 motions under the act were filed prior to 2013.

Cumberland County District Attorney Billy West and lawyers with the Attorney General's Office declined to speak about pending litigation. But in their briefs to the state Supreme Court, they argued that Superior Court Judge Greg Weeks had made critical mistakes in applying the RJA to Robinson's case.

State prosecutors argued that, under Weeks' ruling, "A defendant convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to death can obtain relief in post-conviction review under the RJA even if the capital defendant has never experienced any racial discrimination in his own case at any stage of the criminal process. This is an absurd result and cannot be a correct interpretation of the RJA."

In their briefs, lawyers for Robinson said the RJA didn't require them to show specific instances of racism in Robinson's case, but they were able to cite "over a hundred evidentiary examples" from cases throughout North Carolina.

His lawyers also argued that the RJA process allowed them to find specific examples of discrimination in Robinson's case.

"Prosecutors intentionally used the race of (potential jurors) as a significant factor in decisions to exercise peremptory strikes in capital cases in North Carolina," Weeks wrote in his ruling.

The 2nd case has three defendants - Quintel Augustine, Tilmon Golphin, and Christina Walters - but will involve many of the same issues. However, the timing of that case complicates it.

Justices will have to decide whether the original Racial Justice Act applies to the inmates or whether a redrafted RJA passed in 2012 that limited the use of statistical evidence should apply.

In the 2012 version of the law, the General Assembly limited the use of statistics in RJA cases. The original bill allowed the courts to rely on statewide data. The revised bill required that there be statistical findings with regard to the specific county or prosecutorial district in which a case was heard.

The 3 defendants in the Golphin case argue they should win because both state and county statistics bear out their claims and because they were able to use the RJA hearing to find evidence of specific race-based decisions by prosecutors in their own cases.

"The court found that the prosecutor recorded negative comments about black potential jurors, repeatedly explicitly referred to the race of jurors and disparaged black potential jurors on the basis of group characteristics," lawyers for the trio wrote.

Given those specific instances, it is possible that the Supreme Court could rule about the specific circumstances in the two cases and leave broader RJA questions aside. Perhaps the most pressing is which version of the RJA, if any, applies to a case - even for defendants who have yet to be charged or tried.

"If their crime occurred before the repeal, that can't be taken away," Rose said. He and other lawyers say the state can't retroactively change laws about crime and punishment.

But Phil Berger Jr., Rockingham County's district attorney and president of the state Conference of District Attorneys, said prosecutors disagreed.

"It was a statutorily created right," Berger said of the RJA. The legislature, he said, should be able to take it away.

Like many prosecutors and victims' families, Berger describes the RJA as an attempt to derail the death penalty entirely.

"Justice was done by the prosecution, by the judge and by the jury, and these defendants were appropriately sentenced for their heinous crimes," he said.

If there were instances of discrimination, Berger said, the defendants "ought to be able to go through the normal appeals process."

However, Berger did agree with others familiar with the RJA that the court's decisions in Monday's cases will affect other RJA cases in his district and across the state.

"These are essentially test cases to see how the act will be applied going forward," he said.

(source: WRAL news)


DA seeks tougher penalty in stabbing----Dacula man charged with 2013 slaying of Gainesville woman

The Gwinnett County District Attorney's office has given notice of intent to increase the punishment in the slaying of a Gainesville woman.

Peggie Robinson, 61, was stabbed to death in Dacula by 35-year-old Wolf Griffin, according to investigators with the Gwinnett County Police Department.

Police said they believe she was facilitating the custody exchange of a child between Griffin, the 6-year-old boy's father, and her son's ex-girlfriend, when she encountered Griffin on the afternoon of Dec. 28 at 2995 Evergreen Eve Crossing, Griffin's residence in Dacula.

Robinson had been acting an intermediary between Griffin and the 6-year-old boy's mother. The 2 were involved in a prolonged dispute over the child's custody. And according to her obituary, Robinson had devoted a significant amount of time and energy to helping raise the child, named Paul.

"In her role as Nana Peggie, she found joy and happiness," her obituary states. "In the end, she gave her life for this child. She believed that children deserve to have adults in their lives that care about them unconditionally. Her life is testimony to that belief."

Robinson was also described as an avid lover of animals. She served on the board of the Humane Society and could frequently be found at PetSmart working in the adoption center, her obituary states. A North Georgia College graduate, she worked in the insurance industry and later became a financial adviser in partnership with her father at Merrill Lynch in Gainesville.

Griffin was arrested at the scene. He was indicted on 2 counts of murder and one count of aggravated assault on Feb. 19.

The maximum penalty for murder with aggravating circumstances is the death penalty. Intent to seek the death penalty is usually filed as a separate motion.

The minimum sentence for murder would be life with parole. The minimum sentence for aggravated assault is 1 year.

Police said Griffin admitted to killing Robinson. His defense attorney, Lewis Lawrence, filed a motion in February challenging whether the statements by his client were made voluntarily. The judge ordered Griffin to be mentally evaluated in March.

Notice was filed April 3 by the district attorney's office, citing Georgia code, that "any criminal conduct or conviction described in the police report, or any discovery materials, would be used by the state in aggravation of punishment." Assistant District Attorney Robbie King also filed notice the prosecution would attempt to impeach Griffin's testimony if he testified, based on his prior criminal convictions.

Griffin is being held in the Gwinnett County Jail.

(source: Gainesville Times)


New Smyrna Beach drug dealer on trial, accused of killing informant

A New Smyrna Beach drug dealer was so determined not to go back to prison that he was willing to kill and that, prosecutors said at his trial Friday, is what James Desmond Booth did.

Prosecutors say Booth ambushed and gunned down a police informant who would have testified against him.

The 30-year-old Booth could face the death penalty if convicted of 1st-degree murder in the Jan. 25, 2011, killing of Debra Gibson, 46, an Edgewater woman who was a confidential informant, or "CI," for police. Booth is also charged with witness tampering in the trial before Circuit Judge Randell H. Rowe III in the Volusia County Courthouse in DeLand.

Booth had sold drugs to Gibson in August 2010, and he was arrested for that sale in December 2010, Assistant State Attorney Ed Davis, who is prosecuting the case along with J. Ryan Will, told the panel of 12 jurors plus three alternates.

"After his arrest when he found out that Debra Gibson had been working for the police as a CI he decided to kill her, because in his words he was not going back to prison," Davis said.

As Davis spoke about the killing he motioned with his right hand at Booth. Booth, dressed in a cream-colored suit and blue shirt and tie, stared down at his table, apparently reading something.

Booth's defense attorney J. Peyton Quarles said in his opening statement that there were plenty of people in the illegal drug community that would have had an interest in getting rid of Gibson. Quarles said during his opening statement that another woman said there was a man in the house known by his nickname "G" just before Gibson was shot.

Quarles also said that Booth did not know that Gibson was the confidential informant.

Prosecutor Davis said Booth had Jessica Hickson, a New Smyrna Beach prostitute nicknamed "Dirty Foot" who was also one of his drug customers, lure Gibson to Hickson's house on Oak Street. It was Hickson who initially told police about a man named "G" but she later changed her story.

Prosecutors say the setup worked this way: Gibson had wanted to trade some pills for crack cocaine and Hickson said she could arrange that.

Hickson called Booth to tell him they were headed to her house on Oak Street near New Smyrna Beach. Booth then told his girlfriend Magean Elizabeth Ward, 31, of New Smyrna Beach to park her car in the area of the house. Booth dressed himself in all black and grabbed a long-barreled .38-caliber revolver.

Hickson thought Booth was going to rough up Gibson, Davis said. But when they arrived Booth wasn't there. Hickson started calling Booth telling him Gibson was at the house and asked where he was. Gibson grew worried and decided to leave.

When Gibson walked out of the house, Davis said, Booth jumped out from some bushes and shot her 4 times: once in the back of the head, once in the back of the neck, a grazing shot to an arm, and once in the face.

Booth then ran to Ward's car and told her to drive. The two headed to a spot along the canal in New Smyrna Beach where Booth heaved the revolver into the water, near a spot with a coquina wall, Davis said.

Next they went to a Dumpster where Booth stripped to his underwear and threw away his clothes. Then he told Ward he needed to go get some clothes and then he wanted to go someplace where they would be seen, Davis said. They headed to the Surf Lounge.

But eventually Ward and Hickson both talked to police about what happened. Ward led police to where Booth tossed the gun in the water and divers found the rusting revolver with 6 empty shell casings in the cylinder, prosecutors said.

Hickson, 33, was charged with witness tampering. Ward has been charged with accessory after the fact to a capital felony.

Prosecutor Will called Hickson to the stand late Friday. He asked her who killed Gibson.

"Mr. Booth," Hickson said.

Hickson admitted initially lying to police and telling them that someone named "G" was responsible. Will asked her why she lied.

"I just had seen what happened to someone who talks to the police," Hickson said.

(source: New Journal)


Barahona Seeks To Have Attempted Murder Trial Moved To Miami

The Miami man accused of killing his 10-year-old adoptive daughter and nearly killing her twin brother wants his attempted murder trial moved out of Palm Beach County.

According to the Palm Beach Post, attorneys for Jorge Barahona asked Circuit Judge Sandra McSorely on Tuesday to move the case to Miami.

The Palm Beach trial is scheduled to start in May for the attempted murder of Victor Barahona in February 2011.

Barahona, along with his wife Carmen, already faces a potential death penalty for the murder of Victor's twin sister, Nubia.

The grisly case began on Valentine's Day 2011 when Nubia Barahona's decomposing body was found in her father's pesticide truck alongside I-95 in Palm Beach County. Her brother was alive but he had been doused with chemicals. He was found in the front seat, suffering from severe chemical burns.

The judge has not ruled on the request to move the trial.

Nubia and Victor were adopted by the Barahonas in 2009 after living in their home since 2004. The kids, authorities discovered, had endured starvation, beatings, medical neglect and they had been tied and forced to stay in a bathtub.

The Department of Children and Families came under fire during the course of the police investigation into Nubia's death for failing to piece together warning signs from medical professionals and school officials that something was wrong in the Barahona home. A Blue Ribbon task force was charged with looking into DCF's handling of the case. he agency blamed it on a system wide failure, including poor judgment by child protective investigators, overwhelming caseloads and missed opportunities at every turn.

(source: CBS News)


Gonzalez death sentence upheld in Billings murders

The Florida Supreme Court unanimously upheld the conviction and death sentence for the man authorities said masterminded the robbery and killings of Byrd and Melanie Billings nearly 5 years ago.

Leonard Patrick Gonzalez Jr., 40, was convicted in 2010 of 2 counts of 1st-degree murder and 1 count of home invasion robbery with a firearm.

Gonzalez led a group of men who forced their way into the Billings home in Beulah in July 2009 and gunned down the couple during an attempted robbery. The Billingses had 17 children, 13 of them adopted. 9 of the children were home at the time of the killing.

On Feb. 17, 2011, Circuit Judge Nicholas Geeker followed a jury recommendation and sentenced Gonzalez to death.

In imposing the death sentence, Geeker found as aggravating factors that Gonzalez had a conviction for a prior violent felony, that the murder was committed during the course of a robbery, and his crimes were heinous, atrocious and cruel.

In upholding the conviction, the state Supreme Court found that the convictions were supported by competent, substantial evidence, according to the State Attorney’s Office.

"We're very pleased with the decision and the court's opinion on the sentence and use of the death penalty," said Assistant State Attorney John Molchan, who prosecuted Gonzalez along with State Attorney Bill Eddins.

Although Gonzalez's direct appeal was denied, he still can attempt to have his conviction or sentence overturned.

Gonzalez has the option to seek post-conviction relief, a review of whether deficiencies in his attorney's performance led to Gonzalez’s conviction. He also can file a petition for a U.S. District Court to review the case, which could overturn the conviction or overturn his sentence.

(source: Pensacola News-Journal)


Secret city attorney memo called death row decision 'political'

Fight or settle?

That was the question in 2001 when the city was facing a multimillion-dollar lawsuit filed by high-powered attorneys representing former death row inmate Anthony Porter.

In the lawsuit, Porter accused the city of putting him on death row for nearly 17 years for a double murder in 1982 he didn't commit.

The stakes were high for the city, with a potentially huge payday for Porter if the city went to trial and lost.

But after reviewing the evidence in the case, 4 city attorneys sent a memo to their boss, then-Corporation Counsel Mara Georges, with an answer:

Let's fight.

At the heart of the memo, obtained by the Chicago Sun-Times, is an explosive allegation that's never been made public.

The memo alleges that the decision by Cook County prosecutors to drop the murder case against Porter and charge Alstory Simon - who made a videotaped confession to the murders - was a "political" one.

"A political decision was made that this case should be put to rest because it caused too much publicity against the imposition of the death penalty, caused great doubt about the validity of death penalty punishment for mentally challenged individuals and incited a significant amount of negative press concerning death row reversals," the memo said.

The 4-page memo outlined the key evidence in the case against Simon that led to Porter's release, including Simon's confession. The city's attorneys noted Simon's wife gave a statement implicating him in the 1982 killings. She later recanted that statement on her death bed.

The memo also said there was still compelling evidence against Porter, including statements from 7 witnesses, 1 of whom later died. 1 witness, Kenneth Edwards, told a grand jury in 1999 - after Porter was freed - that he saw Porter pull the trigger and kill Jerry Hillard and Marilyn Green in the bleachers near a pool in Washington Park on the South Side.

Another man said Porter robbed him of $2 at gunpoint on the pool deck just before the killings on that warm day, Aug. 15, 1982.

Still, the state's attorney's office was comfortable releasing Porter, despite the evidence against him, because he served some prison time, the memo said.

"The State's Attorney's Office felt that some justice was served because he [Porter] served 15 [sic] years behind bars and any conviction for the armed robbery would be considered time-served," the memo said.

The memo from the attorneys doesn't make clear what they based their conclusions on regarding the political nature of the prosecution. In an interview, attorney Kimberly E. Brown, who was on the team, said she couldn't recall.

But Brown, who's in private practice now, said: "All the evidence lined up against Anthony Porter," adding that the circumstances leading to Porter's release and Simon's prosecution "seemed very, very fishy."

In 2005, Porter's lawsuit went to trial in U.S. District Court, and a jury found in favor of the city. Porter didn't get a dime, a decision that stunned many observers.

After the verdict was announced, the city's trial attorney, Walter Jones, pointed to Porter in the courtroom and said: "The killer has been sitting in that room there all day."

One of Simon's current attorneys, Terry Ekl, said the 2001 memo supports Simon's claim that he was railroaded.

At the urging of Ekl and attorney James Sotos, the Cook County state’s attorney's office last year opened a new review of Simon's conviction. Earlier this month, the office's chief of criminal prosecutions interviewed Simon.

Simon, who is serving a 37-year prison sentence, is eligible for parole in 2017.

The Sun-Times reported last week that Thomas Epach - Cook County's chief of criminal prosecutions in 1999 - has raised questions about Porter's release and Simon's prosecution.

Epach last fall gave a sworn affidavit to Ekl saying then-Cook County State's Attorney Richard Devine didn't heed his advice to investigate the case more thoroughly before charging Simon. The 1999 decision followed a local television station's airing of Simon's videotaped confession.

"In my years of experience as a prosecutor, it is my opinion that it was highly unusual, if not unprecedented, to make a decision to release an individual convicted of murder based upon the broadcast of a video, the reliability and authenticity of which had not been thoroughly investigated and established," wrote Epach, who is now retired.

Devine told the Sun-Times last week that he didn't recall Epach expressing doubts about the decision to charge Simon in 1999. There was no "substantive claim" that Simon was innocent at the time, he said.

"I can't go into the mind of a person who pleads guilty," Devine added.

But Ekl accused the prosecutors and Simon's defense attorney at the time, Jack Rimland, of failing Simon.

During Simon's guilty plea before a judge, neither side mentioned eyewitness evidence that was favorable to Simon.

Then-Assistant State's Attorney Thomas Gainer Jr. presided over a grand jury in 1999 that was convened to reinvestigate the murders and the circumstances surrounding Simon's confession.

The grand jury obtained fresh statements from three witnesses who put Porter in the bleachers at the time of the shooting and from Edwards, who said Porter pulled the trigger.

The grand jury also heard from Paul Ciolino, a private investigator who was working with Northwestern University professor David Protess and his students to free Porter from death row.

Ciolino acknowledged to the grand jury that he obtained Simon's videotaped confession through deception, by showing him a video of an actor who claimed he knew Simon committed the murders. On the confession tape, Simon said he committed the killings in self-defense after he thought he saw one of the victims, Jerry Hillard, pull a gun on him at the pool.

On Sept. 7, 1999, Simon appeared before Judge Thomas Fitzgerald to enter his guilty plea. The judge asked about the evidence that prosecutors would have presented if the case had gone to trial.

Gainer, the prosecutor, said he would have presented testimony about Simon's confession and his wife's statement implicating him.

He also said he would have presented 4 witnesses who saw people in the bleachers and heard gunshots.

But Gainer did not tell the judge that the witnesses were favorable to Simon and implicated Porter.

"There was a great deal of media attention brought to bear upon the statement by Alstory Simon to private investigator Paul Ciolino," Gainer told the judge, according to a transcript. "It was heralded as a confession to the murder of Marilyn Green and Jerry Hillard. We have reviewed that statement at great length. And we think that based on that statement and all of the other evidence, that this is an appropriate sentence."

Jack Rimland, the defense attorney for Simon, didn't tell the judge about evidence that pointed to Porter, either.

Asked about those omissions, Devine told the Sun-Times that witness testimony against Porter was also in the record of Porter's 1983 trial.

"Judge Fitzgerald, I am certain, was aware of that background," Devine said.

In court, the judge didn't mention the Porter evidence before accepting Simon's guilty plea.

Ekl, meanwhile, said Rimland's representation of Simon posed a potential conflict of interest. Simon got his defense attorney, Rimland, through the man who took his confession. Rimland and Ciolino - the private investigator who worked to free Porter - shared the same office. Ciolino told the grand jury he recommended Rimland to Simon.

Rimland declined to comment last week.

But he has previously said that he obtained a good deal for Simon - 37 years - as opposed to the death sentence that Porter got. He has also responded to questions about his potential conflict of interest, telling reporters after he was hired to represent Simon in 1999: "I will look out for his [Simon's] best interests."

Gainer, who is now a Cook County judge, declined to comment. Epach didn't return a call seeking comment.

Porter's supporters have said the latest attempt to free Simon serves only to smear Porter, an innocent man.

They also note that his release was a driving force for former Gov. George Ryan to declare a moratorium on the death penalty in Illinois.

The Cook County state's attorney's office hasn't said how long the review of Simon's conviction will take.

(source: Chicago Sun-Times)


Suspect must be guilty of aggravating factor to get death penalty

In South Dakota, the jury must find a suspect guilty of at least 1 aggravating circumstance in order to impose the death penalty.

There are currently 3 men on death row in our state - Charles Rhines, Briley Piper and Rodney Berget. In the past decade, 3 men have been executed. Elijah Page in 2007 for the murder of Chester Allan Poage; Eric Robert in 2012 for the murder of correctional officer Ron Johnson; and Donald Moeller in 2012 for the murder of Becky O'Connell.

Anyone under 18 at the time of the crime is constitutionally exempt from death penalty charges.

These are the aggravating factors:

--The murder was especially heinous, atrocious, cruel or depraved (or involved torture)

--The capital offense was committed during the commission of, attempt of, or escape from a specified felony (such as robbery, kidnapping, rape, sodomy, arson, oral copulation, train wrecking, carjacking, criminal gang activity, drug dealing, or aircraft piracy) - The defendant knowingly created a grave risk of death for 1 or more persons in addition to the victim of the offense - The murder was committed for pecuniary gain or pursuant to an agreement that the defendant would receive something of value

--The defendant caused or directed another to commit murder, or the defendant procured the commission of the offense by payment, promise of payment, or anything of pecuniary value

--The murder was committed to avoid or prevent arrest, to effect an escape, or to conceal the commission of a crime

--The defendant has been convicted of, or committed, a prior murder, a felony involving violence, or other serious felony

--The capital offense was committed by a person who is incarcerated, has escaped, is on probation, is in jail, or is under a sentence of imprisonment

--Any murder is wantonly vile, horrible, and inhuman if the victim is less than 13 years of age

The victim was a government employee, including peace officers, police officers, federal agents, firefighters, judges, jurors, defense attorneys, and prosecutors, in the course of his or her duties

--The person murders a peace officer or fireman who is acting in the lawful discharge of an official duty and who the person knows is a peace officers or fireman

--The victim was a correctional officer

(source: KSFY news)


McVay, Brother To Take Stand In Death Penalty Case

James McVay and his brother will be taking the stand on Friday as his death penalty case continues.

McVay admits to killing Maybelle Schein 3 years ago in Sioux Falls.

Early Friday morning, the defense called James Aiken to the stand. Aiken runs a correctional consulting firm and said on the stand that McVay seems ready to accept spending the rest of his life behind bars.

His defense argues McVay is sorry and a prison sentence is a sufficient punishment.

Prosecutors say he would be a threat to others if he gets life in prison, rather than the death penalty.

(source: Keloland)


Aurora theater judge denies defense request on "frivolous" motions

The judge overseeing the Aurora movie theater murder case on Friday denied defense attorneys' request to reconsider calling some of their motions "frivolous."

In March, Arapahoe County District Court Judge Carlos Samour canceled 2 weeks of hearings on arguments related to the death penalty. Defense attorneys have filed several motions challenging the constitutionality of the death penalty in Colorado.

After reading 5 defense motions concerning the death penalty, Samour said he didn't find it necessary to hold the hearings, which were scheduled for the end of April and beginning of May.

Soon after, the judge denied those motions and called 4 of them frivolous. He noted that the Colorado Supreme Court had already rejected similar arguments in previous cases.

In a motion filed Thursday but made public on Friday, attorneys for James Holmes - who faces the death penalty for killing 12 and injuring dozens more in a 2012 attack at the Century Aurora 16 movie theater - asked Samour to reconsider his characterization of the motions and criticized the judge for doing so in a public filing.

"When the Court wrongly denigrates defense counsel in its orders for filing 'frivolous' motions, it improperly undermines the important role of defense counsel in our adversarial system and incorrectly portrays defense counsel as wasting the Court's time," the filing read.

But Samour quickly shot back on Friday, and said none of the motions he denied in March sought to change existing death penalty laws and they failed to present legitimate arguments.

"Instead, his motions urged the Court to disregard binding case law directly on point," he wrote.

Currently, the trial is set to begin in October.

(source: Canon City Daily Record)


Death penalty sought against man in boy's death

Maricopa County prosecutors are seeking the death penalty against a man charged with fatally stabbing his 12-year-old half-brother.

Prosecutors say 27-year-old Andrew Ward should face the death penalty in the March 12 killing of Austin Tapia because Ward killed a child in an especially cruel manner.

Investigators say Ward explained his motive by saying, "Honestly, I just felt like killing."

Ward has pleaded not guilty to a murder charge in Tapia's death.

While in jail, Ward was booked on suspicion of 1st-degree murder in the April 2 death of his cellmate at the Lower Buckeye Jail.

Investigators say Ward used a golf pencil to stab 33-year-old Douglas Walker in the eyes, beat him and forced a plastic bag and peanut butter sandwich down Walker's throat.

(source: Associated Press)


Attorney says San Mateo County DA shouldn't seek death penalty against 9 murder defendants

An attorney for 1 of the 9 murder defendants indicted by a San Mateo County criminal grand jury last week said Friday that District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe should not seek the death penalty.

"With limited funds, he (Wagstaffe) should drop death for all 9 of these people," Paul DeMeester, a participant in the county's private public defender program, said outside the county Hall of Justice in Redwood City. He said death penalty trials are costly because defendants must have 2 lawyers to ensure sufficient representation and the preparation work is more exhaustive and time-consuming. Life in prison without parole is a better option, he noted.

DeMeester represents Roberto Bustos-Montes, 24, of East Palo Alto, accused in the fatal shooting of 27-year-old Stoney Gipson, who died in San Francisco on Oct. 7, 2012; and Lamont Coleman, killed on Jan. 26, 2013, in East Palo Alto.

In Gipson's case, DeMeester said San Mateo County is trying his client for a homicide that allegedly took place in San Francisco. That city's district attorney, George Gascon, has publicly spoken against the death penalty, citing the potential for wrongful convictions and the expensive trial costs.

"We've made no decision," Wagstaffe told The Daily News on Friday. "We'll do a very thorough review of every case."

Wagstaffe acknowledged death penalty trials are expensive and indicated that will be taken into account as his office decides how to proceed.

But he noted that in 2012 the majority of California voters said no at the polls when asked if they wanted to end capital punishment.

"What Paul (DeMeester) is asking me to do is asking me to override the will of the electorate," Wagstaffe said.

All but one of the defendants is currently represented by publicly-funded private defenders, Wagstaffe said.

In all, 14 men and 2 women ranging in age from 19 to 28 have been charged with crimes under the grand jury's indictment. All are members or associates of 3 East Palo Alto gangs that were at war against each other, according to prosecutors.

The murder charges that the 9 defendants face are related to 4 homicides: the shooting of Gipson and Coleman as well as of Christopher Baker, 21, on Oct. 5, 2012 in East Palo Alto, and Jonathan Neri Alzacar on Jan. 14, 2013, in East Palo Alto. Other charges include attempted murder, conspiracy to murder, firearms possession, attempted robbery, dissuading witnesses and bribery.

The arrests, announced on March 24, concluded a year-long investigation by multiple law enforcement agencies that was called "Operation Sunny Day," the code reportedly used by gangs to announce a killing.

The defendants appeared in court Friday to be arraigned, but Judge John Grandsaert postponed the proceedings until June 16 to give defense attorneys time to review the indictment.

Friends and family members of the defendants and the homicide victims packed the courtroom. Among them was Annette Booker, 56, the mother of Lamont Coleman, who reportedly was gunned down because gang members believed he had cooperated with police.

"They shot him in the back 3 times," Booker said. "They set him up. Somebody called him and he left his girlfriend's house. They said he was snitching."

Booker knew the men who allegedly killed her son and said they used to hang out in her East Palo Alto home and called her "mama."

Now she wants prosecutors to seek the death penalty against them.

"They killed my son," Booker said. "Why should they still live?

(source: Mercury News)


Tsarnaev friend asks judge to dismiss charges

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 20, faces a 30-count federal indictment stemming from the twin April 15, 2013, bombings.

One of the college friends of alleged Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev asked a federal judge Friday to dismiss charges that he lied to investigators about visiting Tsarnaev's dorm room several days after the attack, saying he repeatedly told authorities he could not recall the visit because he was high on marijuana.

Robel Phillipos attended the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth with Tsarnaev, and he ultimately admitted that he accompanied 2 friends to Tsarnaev's dorm room after authorities released a picture of the suspected bomber to news organizations. The other 2 friends were later accused of removing evidence from the dorm room, including a backpack filled with fireworks and a computer.

Lawyers for Phillipos said in a court filing Friday that their client spent the entire day of the visit smoking marijuana and that federal agents would not accept his repeated statement that he did not recall entering the room. Phillipos, who knew Tsarnaev from their days at Cambridge Rindge and Latin School, also gave differing accounts of what the other 2 friends did, but said he could not recall clearly, because he was "stoned."

The lawyers asserted in a motion to dismiss the case that Phillipos was repeatedly interrogated over seven days and was forced to sign a statement of what occurred, much of which he did not remember. They also noted he did not have a lawyer.

"Phillipos had no intention of misleading the authorities in any way," the attorneys, Derege B. Demissie and Susan Church, said in a prepared statement.

The court request was one of several filings Friday in US District Court in Boston related to Tsarnaev's case and the charges against his friends, who were accused of lying to authorities and covering up evidence.

Tsarnaev, now 20, faces charges that carry the possibility of the death penalty related to the April 15, 2013, bombings that killed 3 people and injured more than 260. He and his older brother and alleged accomplice, Tamerlan, were also accused of fatally shooting an MIT police officer before trying to flee. Tamerlan, 26, was killed during a confrontation with police in Watertown.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is being held without bail at the federal prison at Fort Devens in Ayer.

In one of the court filings Friday, federal prosecutors asked a judge to force Tsarnaev's defense lawyers to disclose by May 7 whether Tsarnaev suffered from any type of mental illness and whether he will present that claim as part of his defense or to prevent the death penalty.

Defense attorneys have not suggested in court filings so far that Tsarnaev was mentally ill. But they have indicated they will argue he was under the "psychological domination" of his older brother, who had turned toward radical Islam. They have asked prosecutors to turn over any evidence supporting that claim.

In a separate filing Friday, prosecutors disputed claims from Tsarnaev's lawyers that the FBI recruited Tamerlan as an informant, and they maintained that they have turned over all information in the case that they are required to under court rules. A federal judge has slated a hearing for Wednesday on defense lawyers' arguments for more records, but prosecutors argue those requests are "hyperbole" by an "imaginative defense team" fishing for information.

Prosecutors also asked US District Court Judge George A. O'Toole Jr. to force defense lawyers to turn over any evidence they plan to use in the scheduled November trial.

In the days after Tsarnaev's arrest, authorities charged Phillipos and 2 friends, Dias Kadyrbayev and Azamat Tazhayakov, both college students from Kazakhstan.

They allegedly went into Tsarnaev's dorm room after receiving a text message from him saying they could take what they wanted, after his photo had been released. Kadyrbayev and Tazhayakov allegedly threw out a backpack and fireworks tubes, and took his computer. The backpack and fireworks were later recovered from a New Bedford landfill.

Kadyrbayev and Tazhayakov, who have been charged with obstruction of justice, have been held without bail, and face deportation. Phillipos, a US citizen and native of Massachusetts, has been charged with lying to authorities about the visit to the dorm room and has been released on $100,000 bond.

On Friday, Kadyrbayev's lawyer asked a federal judge to dismiss the case, saying the charges are too broad, that his client would not have known of the consequences, and that authorities have failed to specify what acts he committed were illegal.

Kadyrbayev also asked a judge, if the case is not dismissed, to strike any references to terrorism and "to the emotional and difficult facts of the bombing," saying it could prejudice a jury.

(source: Boston Globe)


Q&A: Death penalty proponent Robert Blecker

Our Q&A is with New York Law School professor Robert Blecker, death penalty proponent and author. Based on thousands of hours inside maximum security prisons and on death rows in several states, his recently published crime-and-punishment memoir "The Death of Punishment" urges a fresh look at our criminal justice system.

You have heard the arguments from appellate lawyers who are trying to block executions that use untried drugs, based on the objection they might cause pain. What's your reaction?

This whole controversy obscures deeper disagreements about the death penalty itself. Abolitionists - those who oppose capital punishment - try to clog the system with specious attacks. Clearly we can administer a lethal anesthetic to painlessly kill. Why should the FDA approve the drug? This is not medicine to cure; it's poison to kill.

A massive dose of anesthetic might produce dying twitches, making it falsely appear that the condemned, completely unconscious, experiences pain. To maximize its deterrent effect, ideally punishment should appear painful to the public while actually experienced as painless to the punished.

I once witnessed an execution. It struck me as obscenely similar to my father-in-law's death in a hospice: The dying lay on a gurney, wrapped in white sheets, an IV in his arm, poison coursing through his veins.

How we kill those we love should never resemble how we kill those we rightly detest. Thus, I too, oppose lethal injection, not because it possibly causes pain, but because it certainly causes confusion - conflating medicine with punishment.

What form of execution do you favor?

I prefer the firing squad. I would allow a representative of the victim's family, if they wanted, to take the first shot from any range, before the sharpshooters finished the execution.

In your book, you lay out the case for retributive justice, kind of a just-deserts doctrine. Please explain.

We have the responsibility to punish those who deserve it, but only to the degree they deserve it. Retributivists do not justify the death penalty by the general deterrence or safety it brings us. And we reject over-punishing no less than under-punishing. How obscene that aggravated murderers who behave well inside prison watch movies and play softball.

We also find it obscene, as the ACLU has recently documented, that 3,000 persons serve life without parole for non-violent crimes in the U.S. For all true retributivists, the past counts. Don't ask us what good will it do. Regardless of future benefits, we justify punishment because it's deserved. Let the punishment fit the crime. The past counts.

How does retribution differ from revenge, in your view?

Opponents wrongly equate retribution and revenge, because they both would inflict pain and suffering on those who have inflicted pain and suffering on us.

Whereas revenge knows no bounds, retribution must be limited, proportional and appropriately directed: The retributive punishment fits the crime. We must never allow our satisfaction at doing justice to deteriorate into sadistic revenge.

DNA tests have proven the fallibility of the U.S. justice system, something we've seen frequently in Texas. How do you defend capital punishment in light of that?

Social life proves the fallibility of every human institution. We do imperfectly define, detect, prosecute and punish crime. We have not yet provably but nevertheless have, most probably, executed an innocent person in the modern era. Any true retributivist feels sick at this thought. We support the mission of the Innocence Project.

Fortunately, as we raise the stakes we drastically reduce the mistakes. Before we sentence a defendant to life without parole, and especially before we condemn him to die, I would require a higher burden of persuasion than proof beyond a reasonable doubt. A jury should have no nagging doubts, however unreasonable. Before they sentence a person to die, a jury should be convinced beyond any residual doubt that he did it, and also be convinced "to a moral certainty" that he deserves to die.

Many times daily we risk the lives of those we love for the sake of convenience. Surely then, we will occasionally risk the lives of those we detest for the sake of justice.

You take issue with some death sentences, wondering whether the system has always targeted the "right people." Who are the "right people," and when has the system gone overboard?

We can never exactly and exhaustively define in advance the worst of the worst - those who most deserve to die. But thousands of hours documenting the lives and attitudes of convicted killers these past 25 years have shown me clear examples of who deserve to die.

As "The Death of Punishment" urges, we should reserve capital punishment for those who rape and murder, especially children or other vulnerable victims, serial killers, hired killers, torture killers, mass murderers, and terrorists.

It comes down to cruelty and viciousness, really: Did the killer exhibit intense pleasure or a selfish depraved, cold indifference? As Aristotle taught us, evil lies at the extremes.

At the same time, we should refine our death penalty statutes to eliminate other aggravating circumstances: Robbery-murder has put more killers on death row than any other aggravator, and too often unjustifiably so. Texas particularly makes a huge moral mistake, in my view, by focusing on future dangerousness, rather than past desert.

We can construct prisons to incapacitate the dangerous. We should only execute those who most deserve it. And not randomly. Refine our death penalty statutes and review the sentences of everyone on death row. Release into general population those who don't really deserve to die. The rest we should execute - worst first.

Overall, you suggest that the American system has lost its appetite for punishment. Can you explain?

As bizarre as this sounds, inside prisons it's nobody's job to punish. Consult the department of correction's mission statement in the 50 states, including Texas. You will not find the word "punishment."

Officers and prisoners in the many prisons I've visited in 7 states - but not yet Texas - speak with one voice: "What a guy did out there is none of my business. I only care how he behaves once he's inside."

Vicious cowards who prey on the vulnerable, once captured, often become the best behaved - "good inmates" from corrections point of view. They live the good life inside prison, with the most privileges. Thus, even as we mouth it, we mock our basic credo of justice: Let the punishment fit the crime. Inside prison, too often, those who deserve it most, suffer least.

Explain your idea of "permanent punitive segregation" for convicted killers and how it is or isn't catching on among decision-makers.

Whether we keep or abolish death as punishment, we need to rethink prison for the worst of the worst. A jury should specially convict and condemn them to permanent punitive segregation. Life for them, every day, should be painful and unpleasant - the harshest conditions the Constitution allows.

They would eat only nutraloaf, a tasteless patty, nutritionally complete but offering no sensory pleasure. All visits should be non-contact and kept to a constitutional minimum. A person who rapes and murders a child, or tortures another to death should never touch another human being again.

These most heinous criminals would never watch TV. They would get one brief, lukewarm shower a week. Let photos of their victims adorn their cells - in their face but out of reach.

Connecticut, even as they abolished the death penalty, recently took steps in this direction. Let's reconnect crime with punishment. For the question of justice really is not whether they live or die, but how they live until they die.

(source: Editorial writer Rodger Jones conducted and condensed this interview; Dallas Morning News blog)


Shocking remarks: Boys make mistakes, it's not right to give death penalty for committing rape, says SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav

Joining the bandwagon of making irresponsible & callous remarks, Samajwadi Party supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav today made a shocking comment by saying that he is against death penalty for committing rape.

In his rally speech today in Moradabad district of western Uttar Pradesh, the former Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister said that it's not right to give death penalty for committing rape.

Giving example of Mumbai's Shakti Mills gangrape case, the SP chief said, "Boys make mistakes and if we come to power, we will check misuse of anti-rape law."

"Those 3 are given capital punishment," he added citing example of convicts of the infamous gangrape case in the financial capital of the country.

In Shakti Mill case, Court found 3 culprits repeat offenders and awarded them capital punishment for the gang rape of a photo-journalist last year.

The amendments in anti-rape law were made after recommendation of Justice Verma committee which was formed after December 16 Delhi gangrape case.

(source: ABP Live)


Rape victim Is guilty too, should be hanged: SP leader

A day after Samajwadi Party leader Mulayam Singh created controversy by saying rapists should not be hanged, another leader has now caused a storm by saying women having sex outside marriage should be hanged, including rape victims.

In an interview with a Midday reporter, Maharashtra unit chief Abu Azmi reportedly said, "It's the death penalty for rape in Islam. But here, nothing happens to the woman; only the man bears the punishment. But, even the woman is guilty. In India, if you consent to sex, there's no problem. But if there's a complaint, then there's a problem. These days, the number of such cases has increased where girls go and complain whenever they want. If one touches them, they complain, and if no one touches them, they still complain. Then, the problem starts, and the man's honour, which he has earned throughout his life, is destroyed. Rape with or without consent should be punishable as per Islam."

Azmi went on to say that the solution to rapes is that any woman who goes with a man, with or without her consent, should be hanged, along with the rapist.

However, his son expressed disagreement with these comments and said that he believes in awarding death sentence to rapists.

(source: Kashmir Times)


Stop Mass Executions in Egypt

An Egyptian court has sentenced 528 men to death, most in their absence, following a grossly unfair mass trial.

The convicted men are supporters of ousted President Mohamed Morsi and were tried for their alleged role in a riot in which one policeman died.

This mass trial represents the largest number of death sentences handed down in one case in recent years. It is a grotesque example of the shortcomings and selective nature of Egypt's justice system.

This is definitely not justice. Its the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment, and it could be an attempt to wipe out political opposition.

(source: Amnesty International)

APRIL 11, 2014:


Fort Bliss soldier accused of killing infant son arraigned----Pfc. Adam Keith Jackson is accused of killing his son and faces capital murder charges in the February death; he has pleaded not guilty

A Fort Bliss soldier was arraigned Thursday on capital murder and injury to a child charges in connection with his infant son's death.

A state district court grand jury indicted Pfc. Adam Keith Jackson, 22, earlier this month in the death of 11-month-old Aiden Jackson. He has pleaded not guilty.

A capital murder conviction carries an automatic sentence of life in prison if the death penalty is not sought. State prosecutors have not said whether they will seek the death penalty against Jackson.

Police arrested Jackson, who is originally from Georgia, on Feb. 24. He remains incarcerated at the El Paso County Jail Annex on a $250,000 bond. His next court hearing is scheduled for May 8 before 210th District Judge Gonzalo Garcia.

According to Jackson's indictment, prosecutors allege Jackson struck Aiden on the head and neck with and against an unknown object and choked the boy, causing his death. Jackson is also accused of failing to provide "care, protection and control" despite his duty as a parent to do so.

A police complaint affidavit states Jackson allegedly admitted to dropping his son in his crib about 10 p.m. Feb. 7 after Jackson became frustrated with the boy's crying. At the time, Jackson was caring for Aiden while the boy's mother ran errands.

Jackson allegedly told police that the next morning, he discovered Aiden was unconscious and called for help.

Aiden was later pronounced dead at University Medical Center.

The affidavit also states that after a search warrant was executed, police found blood in Aiden's crib and bloody clothes belonging to Aiden in a dumpster located in the parking lot of the apartment complex.

An autopsy showed Aiden had a fractured skull and injuries to his throat and ankles, according to the affidavit.

(source: El Paso Times)


Mexican Government Condemns Texas Execution Of 'Mentally Impaired' Inmate

The Mexican government condemned the execution of a Mexican national for fatally beating a former Baylor University history professor and attacking his wife more than 16 years ago.

On Wednesday, the Mexican government's Ministry of Foreign Affairs released a statement saying the execution of Ramiro Hernandez Llanas, 44, through lethal injection was "in clear violation of the judgment of the International Court of Justice."

"The Government of Mexico expresses its most vigorous protest at the failure to comply," the ministry said.

Hernandez Llanas was in the United States illegally when he was arrested for the October 1997 slaying of 49-year-old Glen Lich. Just 10 days earlier, Lich had given Hernandez Llanas a job helping with renovations at his ranch near Kerrville, about 65 miles northwest of San Antonio, in exchange for living quarters.

Investigators said Hernandez Llanas lured Lich from his house by telling him that there was a problem with a generator, then repeatedly clubbed him with a piece of steel rebar. Armed with a knife, he then attacked Lich's wife. She survived and testified against Hernandez Llanas, who also had been linked to a rape and a stabbing.

Strapped to a gurney inside the death chamber, Hernandez Llanas asked for forgiveness. He also said he was at peace and thankful for being able to see relatives, and he urged them not to be sad.

"I'm happy... I am sorry for what I have done," he said, speaking in Spanish during a nearly 5-minute final statement. "I'm looking at the angel of God."

He raised his head from the gurney three times and blew 3 loud kisses toward a brother, a sister and 2 friends watching through a window. He also thanked prison officers and the warden.

"I say this with a lot of love and happiness: I have no pain and no guilt. All I have is love," he said.

As the lethal drug took effect, he snored loudly twice, then appeared to go to sleep. Within seconds, all movement stopped. He was pronounced dead 11 minutes later, at 6:28 p.m.

Lich's son, who also witnessed the execution, declined to speak with reporters afterward.

Hernandez Llanas was the 2nd Texas inmate to receive a lethal injection of a new supply of pentobarbital. Texas Department of Criminal Justice officials have refused to identify the source of the powerful sedative, contending secrecy is needed to protect the drug's provider from threats of violence from capital punishment opponents. The U.S. Supreme Court backed the state's position in a related case last week.

Texas and other states that have the death penalty have been scrambling for substitute drugs or new sources for drugs for lethal injections after major drug makers - many based in Europe with longtime opposition to the death penalty - stopped selling to prisons and corrections departments.

Hernandez Llanas' appeals were exhausted, and the Texas parole board on Tuesday refused to delay his death sentence or commute it to life in prison.

He was among more than 4 dozen Mexican citizens awaiting execution in the U.S. when the International Court of Justice in The Hague, Netherlands, ruled in 2004 that they weren't properly advised of their consular rights when arrested. A measure mandated by the U.S. Supreme Court to enforce that ruling has languished in Congress.

The issue raised by the Mexico's Ministry of Foreign Affairs regarding an alleged violation of an international court judgment never surfaced in Hernandez Llanas' appeals, which focused primarily on claims that his mental impairment made him ineligible for the death penalty. Testimony from psychiatrists who said he was not mentally impaired and would remain a danger was faulty, his attorneys argued.

According to trial testimony, Hernandez Llanas was arrested just hours after the attacking Lich and his wife. He was sleeping in the bed where he had wrapped his arm around the terrorized woman, who managed to wriggle from his grasp and restraints without waking him and call police.

Evidence showed Hernandez Llanas was in Texas after escaping from a Mexican prison, where he was serving a 25-year sentence for a 1989 bludgeoning murder in Nuevo Laredo. He was linked to the rape of a 15-year-old girl and a stabbing in Kerrville. While awaiting trial, evidence showed he slashed another inmate's face with a razor blade. In prison, he was found with homemade weapons.

"This is exactly why we have the death penalty," Lucy Wilke, an assistant Kerr County district attorney who helped prosecute Hernandez Llanas, said ahead of the execution. "Nobody, even prison guards, is safe from him."

Hernandez Llanas was the sixth prisoner executed this year in Texas, the nation's busiest death penalty state.

(source: Fox News)


Dispatches: 3 Strikes in Texas Death Penalty Case

Just after 6:00pm local time this evening the state of Texas is scheduled, once again, to put a man to death in blatant disregard of his rights.

The man, 44-year-old Ramiro Hernandez Llanas, from Mexico, was convicted in 2000 for capital murder. At the time of his arrest, law enforcement officials failed to inform him of his right to contact the Mexican consulate for assistance, as required under the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, an international treaty to which the US is a party. "Consular notification," as this requirement is known, is an essential due-process protection, because consular offices can assist with much-needed legal assistance and representation. That's all the more important when a defendant faces the ultimate punishment.

If this scenario sounds familiar, it's because just 2 months ago the state of Texas executed another Mexican national, Edgar Tamayo, who hadn't been told of his right to consular notification–over the objections of both the Mexican and US governments.

Hernandez's case is particularly poignant because it raises so many other rights concerns. For one: He has presented evidence that he has an intellectual disability, evidence one law professor notes was "overwhelming". The US Supreme Court has ruled in the 2002 case that it is cruel and unusual punishment to execute someone with such a disability. (The Court is currently considering a case, Hall v. Florida, which may clarify and expand that protection.)

Hernandez has also sought a temporary stay of the execution on the grounds that the state refuses to divulge the name of the company supplying the lethal injection drugs for his execution. His attorneys have pointed to the risk of using an unverified, secret drug in an execution, which could result in excruciating pain. A federal judge granted the stay a week ago, but the Fifth Circuit court of appeals reversed that decision on Monday.

Governor Rick Perry has the authority to delay this execution. Though he may not be moved by arguments around international law, he needs to look no further than the Texas Constitution, and the rights declared within its first article, to justify a delay: a right to due process and a ban on cruel and unusual punishment. Tack on the lack of accountability involved in the state's refusal to disclose the source of the drugs, rendering it impossible for Hernandez's defense to even determine whether the particular mix of drugs involved would support a claim for cruel punishment, and that's not 1, not 2, but 3 strikes against human rights.

(source: Human Rights Watch, April 9)


New Hampshire's centuries-old death penalty could be repealed; Senate Judiciary Committee recommends repealing state's death penalty

The New Hampshire Senate Judiciary Committee is recommending passage of a bill to repeal the state's death penalty.

The 3-2 vote Thursday sets the stage of a potentially historic vote by the Senate to repeal the state's centuries-old death penalty.

The committee voted 2-2 Tuesday with one member absent. The tie vote would have sent a message to the Senate that it ought to be killed.

The committee reconsidered the issue Thursday, in deference to Democrat Donna Soucy of Manchester, who missed Tuesday's meeting due to a family medical issue.

The state is the closest to repealing the death penalty that it's been since 2000, when both houses of the Legislature approved a proposal, but then-Gov. Jeanne Shaheen vetoed it.

The Senate is due to vote on repeal April 17.

(source: WCVB news)


Committee gets votes needed to move death penalty repeal bill forward

Repealing the death penalty picked up a little more life Thursday when the Senate Judiciary Committee revisited an earlier decision.

On Tuesday, the Senate Judiciary Committee had voted 2-2 to kill House Bill 1170, but on Thursday members voted 3-2 to pass the bill the House approved by a better than 2-to-1 margin.

Committee member Sen. Donna Soucy, D-Manchester, had to take her father to an appointment Tuesday and was unable to return in time for the committee vote.

She cast the deciding vote on Thursday to recommend the bill pass the Senate.

The chairman of the committee, Sen. Sharron Carson, R-Londonderry, has concerns that passing the bill could prevent the state from carrying out the death sentence on Michael Addison, who was convicted of capital murder of Manchester police Officer Michael Briggs in 2006.

Under the bill, Addison's death sentence does not change, according to the bill's prime sponsor, Rep. Renny Cushing, D-Hampton, noting that state law forbids changing any sentence that occurred prior to a law's repeal.

He said the state Supreme Court ruled on the issue in its 2014 opinion in New Hampshire v. Kurt Carpentino.

Supporters had proposed an amendment to clarify that Addison would remain on death row if the bill passes and to extend the death penalty possibility for capital murders committed before July 1.

Cushing praised Soucy for taking a stand on the bill.

"People are being thoughtful," he said. "The conversations will continue."

The Senate is expected to vote on the bill April 17, and it will likely decided by 1 or 2 senators.

In committee, Carson and Sen. David Boutin, R-Hooksett, voted to kill the bill, while Sens. Sam Cataldo, R-Farmington, Bette Lasky, D-Nashua, 2 bill sponsors, and Soucy voted to approve the bill.

New Hampshire has not executed anyone since 1939.

(source: Union Leader)


4 people involved with death penalty cases argue for repeal

St. Ann Catholic Church's Salt & Air Committee held an adult panel last month, educating against the death penalty.

The Rev. Walter Everett spoke of his own personal loss - his son Scott, who had been murdered at the age of 24, and how the tragedy caused him to form an unlikely bond with the man who murdered him.

"Nobody should have to bury a son or a daughter," he said. "When it's a violent death...that increases the trauma exponentially."

He was 1 of 4 people who spoke at St. Ann on March 13 about repealing the death penalty in the state of Delaware.

Everett said that he and his family had difficulties throughout the entire process - not only dealing with the grief aspect, but with the legal system.

After visiting his son's apartment, Everett had been given information by neighbors that he thought was pertinent to the case against his son's murderer. Upon arrival at the police station to share the news, he said, he was not given the time of day.

"They didn't even have the courtesy to face us. They were busy reading the morning paper and drinking coffee," he said, adding that, after he began to tell the officers what he had heard, they turned around. "'Look - you don't need to do this. We've already made an arrest... We've had 4 homicides this weekend, and we're burned out,'" he recalled them telling him.

Everett said that, after stewing in his anger about his son's death and the lack of empathy from police, he attended a meeting for survivors of homicide, at which someone who had lost a loved one said that anyone who commits murder "should be taken out and shot immediately - no questions asked."

"I was angry, and I understood her anger. But I certainly didn't agree with her conclusion, because I've always opposed the death penalty."

Everett soon found out that the woman had had a loved one die more than 14 years earlier.

"They were saying that after all that time," he emphasized, adding that he wondered at the time if, years later, he would be just as angry about the loss of his son.

Scott Everett's murderer, Mike Carlucci, received a plea bargain, reducing his charges to 2nd-degree manslaughter and getting a sentence of 10 years in prison, out in 5.

At his trial, Carlucci apologized to the Everett family.

"'I'm sorry I killed Scott Everett. I wish I could bring him back. Obviously, I can't. These must sound like empty words to the Everetts, but I don't know what else to say. I'm sorry,'" Everett recalled him saying.

Taking the apology as a sign from God, Everett wrote Carlucci on the anniversary of his son's death, with the letter concluding, "I forgive you."

From that, the 2 men began writing to each other, and eventually Everett visited Carlucci in prison. He would even eventually testify at a parole board hearing for Carlucci's early release.

"'You're not the same guy who killed Scott, You're not the same guy who went to prison,'" Everett recalled telling Carlucci. "Mike is doing extremely well these days," he added.

Everett said that Carlucci is a good person and that, had he been executed, he would not have had the opportunity to turn his life around.

"That doesn't mean Mike should die and another one of God's people should be killed," he said. "God doesn't want us to take into our hands the killing of another human being."

Kristen Froehlich, president of Delaware Citizens Opposed to the Death Penalty, agrees. Froehlich's brother David was murdered in Connecticut in 1995, along with four other young men. He and his roommates had been in a rent dispute with their landlord, who would later shoot them and set fire to the house in which they were living.

"It was the worst of the worst," she said. "The whole community, as you can imagine, was devastated. We're all sort of shell-shocked... nobody knows how to feel when there's been an event like that."

Froehlich said it took 3 years for the case to go to trial - something she said she had at one point been overly focused upon.

"When people say, 'We need to kill that person,' I can understand that. I can understand that visceral reaction..." she explained. "That wasn't helping me. It increased the sense of powerlessness I felt."

Froehlich said that attending survivor groups helped her work through the grief she was dealing with following her brother's tragic death.

"In my fumbling around trying to live, I started to going to survival groups... That's what really has helped me heal. None of it had to do with the legal piece," she said.

Froehlich said her brother's murderer was sentenced to life in prison, which she said was enough.

"I was satisfied that he was safely away and would not hurt anybody else," she said. "That would in no way have healed my pain," she said of the man's potential execution. "It would not have given me closure in any degree."

Barbara Lewis, the mother of former death row inmate Robert Gattis, whose 1992 death sentence was commuted to life in prison without parole in January 2012, spoke about the grief and shame she and her family endured throughout.

"I'm ashamed, hurting, and there's really no one to talk to," she said of how she felt following her son's arrest. "Boldly I stand before you today and say: no mother, no daughter should have to live through what we lived through."

Grattis had taken the life of his girlfriend, in what Lewis described as a "fatal attraction."

She said that, following her son's conviction, she had lost 2 people in her family to violent crimes, but she didn't know how to process what was happening to her family as a result of her son's actions.

"Every day I got up knowing, 'They're going to kill my son'... Every individual became a possible person who was going to execute my son," she said, recalling herself asking, "'God, what good am I supposed to get from this?'"

She said that the trial, and later impending execution, cast a shadow on her entire family, even when taking her granddaughter to college as a freshman.

"We're standing there and she said, 'Grandmom, are they going to execute my uncle?'"

Lewis said that, although she is a woman of God, a great deal of her strength came from a support group she attended.

"It gave me life when I was sinking deep and sad - not the church where I was a member. They didn't know what to do because they don't deal with this issue... I never thought I'd be standing here... We were good people, raised in the church. We had moral values, but my son got on a road and he didn't know what to do. He got into a bad relationship."

Lewis said she wasn't seeking pity but wanted to encourage others to take the time to consider that "You can't kill 1 person and fix the world."

"We want to live in a community that has a place for forgiveness, reconciliation, moral values and people who will talk to each other," she said. "Get onboard and morally talk about it - 'What do we really want in the state of Delaware?' Give it real deep thinking."

Brian Boyle of the Delaware Repeal Project said that he has met people who are for and against the death penalty.

"I try to find a place where we can agree," he said, noting that everyone seems to agree that citizens want safe communities and innocent people shouldn't be executed, and that Senate Bill 19, to repeal the death penalty, should be debated and receive a vote by a full House.

Boyle said that the death penalty is not needed in order to have safe communities.

"That's not a deterrent," he said, noting that Delaware is the 3rd highest state in executions per capita, and also for crime. "The death penalty does not keep us safe in Delaware."

Boyle also said that death penalty cases are, on average, 3 times more costly than those that don't include a potential death penalty.

"Legal costs for a death penalty are astronomical," he said, stating that, in Maryland, an average death penalty case costs $3 million, while a case seeking life in prison costs an average of $1 million. "I would posit to you that there are better things we can spend our money on."

He added that there has been a 10 % failure rate with execution sentences in the United States, meaning that 10 % of death penalty sentences could involve a suspect who might be exonerated of the crime of which they were convicted.

"We shouldn't execute innocent people," he said. "For every 10 people we kill in this country, we exonerate 1 person. I don't know if there is an acceptable fail rate when it comes to someone's life, but certainly 10 % is unacceptable."

In speaking to human rights, Boyle said that everyone agrees that justice should be fair.

"That's not the case," he said of the death penalty in Delaware. "We have the highest minority population on death row, at 78 % - higher than Texas. When you look at the race of the victim, the bias is even stronger. A study by Cornell University found that a black defendant who kills a white victim is 6.5 times more likely to receive the death penalty than a black victim.

"The majority of murder victims in Delaware are African-Americans, but the majority of people on death row are there for killing white victims. So, what does that say about our value of life?"

Boyle pointed out that, last year, Senate Bill 19, which would repeal the death penalty in Delaware, passed in the Senate by a vote of 11-10. The bill was reviewed by the House Judiciary Committee, but after debate it failed to make it out of committee by a vote of 6 to 5.

"I would argue that, even if you agree with the death penalty, you don't agree with that when we live in a democracy," he said. "It deserves a vote from all... We think Senate Bill 19 deserves a vote."

Following their individual presentations, members of the audience spoke to the panel.

"I think, as a citizen of the United State of America, that is mournful that we present ourselves as the moral leaders of the world but we have this tremendously flawed system and this terrible error," said Jeannie Fleming. "That it just destroys our credibility on speaking about human rights."

Boyle agreed and said that the United States currently ranks 5th in the world in executions, along with countries including Iran and Iraq.

"Those countries are not democracies. They are certainly not human-rights champions."

Daniel Cowell, a psychiatrist, thanked the panelists for their time and said he believes that change must come from within.

"If you work with people, you will learn after many years, unless change comes from within - maybe by providence, maybe by insight, maybe by exposure by a good loving role model - if it lasts, it has to come from within."

He spoke directly to Lewis and said there are no guarantees, but that the world needs more loving homes.

"We need more homes like yours, with involved and caring people who try their very best to do... That's where it begins."

Ann Crawford said that, earlier in the evening, she hadn't been sure if she would brave the cold to attend the panel.

"I wasn't sure I would come tonight, but I'm so glad I did," she said. "It really has made an impact on me, and I want to thank you so much. When you hear the impact, it makes all the difference."

Froehlich urged those who attended the panel to take what they had heard about the death penalty home with them and to start a conversation.

"Take what you hear tonight and have conversations... and keep the conversation going."

(source: Coastal Point)


Allentown businessman shot in neck in killing, prosecution will 'likely' seek death penalty, district attorney says

Eric Ervin was just trying to sell his BMW on Craigslist.

Police said Ervin exchanged calls and text messages with Tyrell Young about meeting to look over the 2003 BMW series 745 LI, which Ervin had listed on the online site for $18,000.

The 2 met at Ervin's business, Aces High Auto Detailing, in the 600 block of Nelson Street in Allentown, on Tuesday evening and Young even went on a test drive, Lehigh County District Attorney Jim Martin said today.

But at 1 a.m. Wednesday Ervin's girlfriend had not heard from him and called police to file a missing person's report.

Police went to Aces High where they found Ervin's body in a car trailer on the property, Martin said. Ervin was shot in the neck and a shell casing was found at the scene, Martin said. No one reported hearing gun shots.

Martin said prosecutors don't know the exact time Ervin was killed, but estimated it was between 6:45 p.m. and 7:45 p.m. based on Ervin's cellphone records.

Car found in Reading

After Ervin's body was discovered, police put out an alert for the BMW.

At the same time, officers began gathering cell phone records and found the phone of the man who was communicating with Ervin, later identified as Young, was in the 100 block of South Fourth Street in Reading, according to court records.

Reading officers found the car, with Young driving it, at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday on South Fourth Street, Martin said.

An officer standing outside the car saw a handgun inside. The FN Herstal 5.7 caliber gun was reported stolen from Cumru Township on Jan. 13, police learned.

The casing found where Ervin's body was discovered matches the ammunition in the gun, Martin said. Young has a felony conviction related to a carjacking in Northampton County and cannot legally possess a firearm, Martin said.

The 27-year-old Young admitted shooting Ervin with the gun, court records say.

Young, of Reading, was initially held in Berks County on charges related to the stolen car and stolen gun. He was brought to Lehigh County this afternoon and arraigned before District Judge Michael D'Amore on charges including homicide for Ervin's death.

Young is now in Lehigh County Prison without bail.

Because the killing was done during the commission of a felony -- stealing the car -- Martin was asked if he will seek the death penalty.

Martin said it's too early to tell but "it's likely."

Finding a safe place to sell

Prosecutors today commended the teamwork between Allentown and Reading police, which led to a speedy arrest in the case.

"That is truly fine police work," Martin said.

Fitzgerald took the opportunity to remind residents to use well-lighted, public locations, including police stations, when selling items online. The police chief said some jurisdictions have set up "safe zones" where online transactions can take place.

"You never know who is on the other side of the keyboard," Fitzgerald said.

In this case, the other person was a convicted carjacker.

In 2005, Young, who was 19 at the time, was sentenced to 6 years and 9 months to 16 years and 6 months in a Pennsylvania state prison for a carjacking in Northampton County.

Records say Young went to Faulkner Chevrolet-Cadillac in Hanover Township and took a ride in a $62,000 Cadillac Escalade with Sharon Cafiso-Solomon, who had to drive because he had no driver's license. While the two were traveling along Stoke Park Road in Hanover Township, Young pulled out a knife and told Cafiso-Solomon to pull over in a supermarket parking lot.

Young drove away but was later captured by police on Route 33 after fleeing at speeds exceeding 100 mph, records say.

When reached by phone today, Solomon declined to talk about the case.



Wrongful Conviction: Compensate James Richardson

The presumption of innocence is - or is supposed to be - a hallmark of justice in the United States. Yet for decades the burden has been on James Richardson to prove that he was innocent of the murder charges brought against him in 1968.

A poor, black citrus picker, Richardson was accused of poisoning to death his 7 children in rural DeSoto County. Its county seat of Arcadia is just 47 miles south of Polk's county seat in Bartow.

Richardson was convicted by a jury of 1st-degree murder and served 21 years in state prison, 5 of them on death row. In 1972, his sentence was commuted to life in prison.

In 1988, the Sarasota Herald-Tribune revealed that the children's former baby-sitter admitted to the October 1967 killing of Richardson's children. What's more, then-Gov. Bob Martinez was given information showing that prosecutors did not provide, as required by law, the defense attorney with evidence that would have supported Richardson's claim of innocence.

In response, Martinez - to his credit - appointed a special prosecutor to review Richardson's case. The investigation was led by Janet Reno, who was then the Dade County state attorney and later became U.S. attorney general.

Reno issued a scathing report that cited evidence of perjury and police brutality. Criticizing both the DeSoto sheriff and state attorney at the time, she wrote: "A totally inadequate and incomplete investigation was conducted." Furthermore, Reno concluded that "not only couldn't the state prove James Richardson was guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, but James Richardson was probably wrongfully accused."

In April 1989, Richardson was released from prison. Subsequently a court vacated his judgment, conviction and sentence.


Richardson's release was welcome, but it did not compensate for the fact that, as a direct result of a severely flawed prosecution, he had faced the death penalty, and lost 21 years of his life, his health and his ability to earn a decent living.

He later sought compensation from the state, based on a 2008 law that makes it possible for Florida to award individuals wrongly convicted with $50,000 for each year spent in prison.

Unfortunately, the state attorney at the time challenged Richardson's petition.

In 2009, an administrative-law judge found a clear "absence of evidence proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt." However, the judge denied the compensation claim, concluding that Richardson failed to meet the law's burden to prove that he was innocent. That failure was no surprise: Witnesses in the Richardson case and potential culprits in the poisoning murders had died. Evidence (much of it questionable in the first place) had disappeared.

More recent legislative attempts to compensate Richardson were met with indifference or concerns about exposing the state to additional liabilities.


Yet 2 legislators - Sen. Geraldine Thompson, D-Orlando, and Rep. Dave Kerner, D-Palm Beach - recognize the moral case for compensating Richardson for the state's wrongful actions. They are the sponsors of bills that would compensate Richardson at the same levels authorized under the 2008 law.

Senate Bill 326 and House Bill 227 deserve the support of legislators and the public - and passage this year, before the measure is too late to help Richardson, who is 78.

Only Richardson, not his heirs or representatives, would be able to seek compensation, by the terms of the bills. An exemption to the prove-your-innocence requirement would only apply to people who were convicted or sentenced before Dec. 31, 1979, and had their cases examined by a special prosecutor and charges dropped by a state attorney. The exemption would end in 2018.

If this legislation is adopted, requiring wrongly convicted Floridians in the future to prove their innocence to gain compensation would still cause concern. However, the need for reasonable criteria to prevent frivolous claims and protect taxpayers' interests is understandable.

Richardson was denied fundamental rights - to a fair trial, to liberty. Providing compensation is a small price to pay to this victim of injustice. Do so now, before this poor man is gone.

(source: Editorial, The Ledger)


Grand Jury indictments include possible death penalty case

A Cullman County Grand Jury handed down multiple indictments this week in circuit court including a capital murder charge of an elderly Cullman man.

2 men were indicted for the murder of Frederick William Galin, 71, who was slain in his St. Joseph Drive home on December 19, 2013.

John Edward Cole, 31, was indicted on charges of capital murder (2 counts), burglary 1st degree (4 counts), theft of property 1st degree and receiving stolen property. The upgraded capital murder charge carries the possibility of the death penalty.

(source: Cullman Times)


Capital murder conviction for Calhoun County suspect in 1999 shooting

A Calhoun County cold case from 1999 closed with a conviction Thursday afternoon.

Jurors found 38-year-old Torrance Perin Vincent guilty on 2 counts of capital murder. Vincent shot and killed 20-year-old Prince Damian Wright during the robbery and burglary of Wright's home in Weaver in December 1999.

Wright and 5 of his friends were playing a game of Dungeons & Dragons when Vincent and 2 other men entered the house through the back door to steal marijuana and money. Witnesses said the men wore masks and had guns.

Wright defended himself against Vincent, who fired 1 shot which traveled through Wright's arm, face and chest. The medical examiner said Wright bled to death.

"He was in his own home, minding his own business, and he died on the floor of his own home, for a little bit of money," district attorney Brian McVeigh told jurors in his closing arguments.

"It wasn't necessary. It wasn't justified. It was not self-defense or accident. If we don't hold him responsible, what message does it send to this community? What message does it send to his mother and father?"

One of the other intruders, Bokassa Montgomery entered a guilty plea to felony murder in 2001. He told police at the time that Vincent was the shooter, but investigators were unable to find another witness to place Vincent at the scene of the crime.

Weaver police lieutenant Charles Plitt continued to search for leads in the case. In 2008, a witness told investigators she remembered seeing Vincent bleeding several hours after the shooting. Police matched Vincent's DNA to blood found on the pants worn by Wright on the day he died.

"It's been a long road but we're happy for the family. We're happy for the verdict that we've received today. It's a blessing," Plitt said.

Wright's friends testified the masked burglar who shot Wright removed the victim's wallet from his pants. Then the 3 intruders stole money and drugs from the other people playing the game, which Montgomery confirmed in his testimony.

"When you're 5 guys sitting there, playing a board game, and you're high and you see your friend shot and killed, do you need any more convincing they intend to kill you and you need to comply," assistant district attorney Lynn Hammond asked the jury.

She told them she started working for the district attorney's office 5 years before the shooting happened.

"It is one that has pended a long time, not only for Mr. and Mrs. Wright, but Chuck Plitt of Weaver. I remember when it happened. This deserves justice," Hammond said.

"It has waited a very long time for justice. It has waited a very long time for attention. It has waited a very long time for this man to serve his time, to pay his price for taking a life."

The district attorney said he is glad the family has closure after all these years. McVeigh joined the district attorney's office 3 months after the shooting, and the case was pending his entire time there. He became district attorney about 2 years ago, and said it is a good day to close the case.

"From here I feel like all the pressure is relieved a little bit. That family can rest throughout this weekend knowing that the person that killed their son will be held accountable," McVeigh said.

The sentencing phase of the trial will begin Monday. Jurors will hear testimony from witnesses who will ask them to consider the death penalty, or sending Vincent to prison for the rest of his life, without the possibility of parole.

McVeigh said the prosecution does not intend to request a particular sentence. "We're just asking the jury to make an appropriate decision," he said.

(source: ABC News)


OHIO'S DEATH PENALTY; Panel advises slashing list of capital offenses ---- Report also urges exempting mentally ill

The ultimate punishment under Ohio law would be reserved for the "worst of the worst," and mentally ill people could not be executed if recommendations from a state task force become law.

That's a big "if."

The panel, named 2 years ago by Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor and the Ohio State Bar Association, also calls for taking the death penalty off the table simply because a death occurred during the commission of a felony, such as a robbery, kidnapping, and murder. The task force wants to open to public view elements of the state's clemency process that now occurs behind closed doors.

Some of the recommendations would require legislative action, far from a sure thing. Others could be accomplished through change in judicial rules adopted by the Supreme Court.

The death penalty itself was never on trial. A moratorium on carrying out executions during the review process was also not considered.

Instead, the task force concentrated on the application of capital punishment in Ohio, when it would and would not be appropriate, the long-term preservation of evidence, and racial and geographic disparities in its implementation.

The 22-member task force - consisting of judges, legislators, prosecutors, defense attorneys, and members of law enforcement and academics - was not unanimous in support of all 56 recommendations. A separate dissenting report from some members, in particular prosecutors, is expected to follow.

Highlights of the recommendations include:

-- Mandatory recording of interrogations of suspects while in custody.

-- Taking the death penalty off the table for someone legally determined to be suffering "severe mental illness" at the time of the crime or at the time of scheduled execution. Court rulings have already found that executing the mentally retarded is unconstitutional.

-- Removing the death penalty as an option simply because a death occurred during the commission of certain felonies, such as kidnapping, rape, aggravated arson, aggravated robbery, and aggravated burglary.

-- Creation of a Capital Litigation Fund to pay for all costs for the prosecution and defense of capital cases.

-- Prohibiting the death penalty in cases lacking biological or DNA evidence, a recorded voluntary confession, a video recording "conclusively" linking the defendant to the murder, or other factors as determined by the General Assembly.

-- Prohibiting the death penalty in cases where the prosecutor relied on jailhouse informant testimony uncorroborated by other evidence.

-- Requiring the Ohio Parole Board to record clemency hearings and its private interviews with condemned inmates with those recordings considered public record.

-- Mandatory continuing education on racial bias for attorneys and judges involved in capital cases.

State Sen. Bill Seitz (R., Cincinnati), a task force member, said he agrees with most of the recommendations, but he questioned whether some may condemn the report as a whole.

"I come at this from the standpoint of knowing my colleagues in the legislature," he said. "The minute the prosecutors say we are not for this, it's not going to happen. ... If you put too many controversial recommendations in here, you're going to have the whole ... report go into the trash can."

Chief among his disagreements with the final report is the elimination of "felony murder."

But that is one of the most important recommendations in the report, according to Ohio Public Defender Tim Young.

"You limit the death penalty to just the most heinous murders," he said.

A running theme throughout the report was providing "adequate funding" for such costs as public defenders for indigent defendants.

"It impacts both sides," Mr. Young said. "... The defense has always been underfunded. Almost everywhere in every case there isn't adequate funding. ... We have long fights to hire experts that are desperately needed. Funding has got to go up significantly."

Judge Linda Jennings of Lucas County Common Pleas Court, a task force member, said she generally agrees with the report and will not join in the dissent.

"It was difficult, because sometimes we would have discussions about whether or not we should even have the death penalty," she said. "We knew we could not even consider that. We had to just look at the [American Bar Association] recommendations and see in Ohio where there was a problem and see what we could recommend to make it more fair."

State Sen. Edna Brown (D., Toledo), who did not serve on the task force, has unsuccessfully sought the end of the death penalty in Ohio.

"Decades of studies have shown that capital punishment is arbitrarily applied, enormously expensive and wasteful, fails to deter criminal activity, and always carries the possibility of sentencing an innocent person to death," she said. "Unfortunately, the task force was prohibited from exploring abolishment, the only solution that fully addresses these systemic flaws."

(source: Toledo Blade)


'With these rules, you couldn't execute Timothy McVeigh,' argues task-force dissent

A deeply divided Ohio Supreme Court Death Penalty Task Force wrapped up 2 years of work yesterday, but odds are not all the sweeping recommendations will be adopted. During a contentious 4-hour final meeting, the committee approved 56 recommendations in a draft report - including banning execution of the mentally ill, creating a statewide capital-litigation fund, requiring DNA or video evidence for a capital-murder conviction and reserving capital punishment for the "worst of the worst" crimes.

(source: Columbus Dispatch)


poll----should Ohio change its death penalty policy?----vote at:



This state wants to bring back electric chair, citing shortage of lethal drugs for executions: Justice?

Lawmakers in Tennessee are fixing to fire up Old Sparky again. That's right, politicians in the Volunteer State are talking about bringing back the electric chair to speed up the execution of some 81 inmates on death row.

The move by the state Senate comes as lethal drugs used in executions have become increasingly more difficult for states to secure. This, because international drug companies frown upon executions and U.S. pharmacies who supply the drugs have come under pressure from death penalty opponents.

So Tennessee Senators voted overwhelming this week to reinstate the electric chair to execute capital inmates in the event that the state is unable to procure the necessary chemicals to perform lethal injections, is reporting.

The Capital Punishment Enforcement Act would provide the state's Department of Corrections with the legal backing to kill inmates with the electric chair as an alternative, according to The Tennessean. The state House is advancing a similar measure.

And a similar move to bring back the electric chair is underway in Louisiana, as well.

Background according to Time: The vote follows the Volunteer State's decision last year to use the sedative pentobarbital as the lethal pharmaceutical agent to execute.

States that rely on pentobarbital are increasingly having a difficult time procuring a steady source of the drug, as European pharmaceutical firms object to supplying their products to execute inmates.

Despite the passage of the bill, activists remained hopeful that the chair will not see active duty again in Tennessee.

Executive director for the Death Penalty Information Center Richard Dieter told Reuters that execution by electrocution is "painful and torturous," which means the use of the chair would likely be challenged in court on the grounds that such a method violates the Constitution's protections against cruel and unusual punishment.



Convicted killer sick, sentencing delayed a year

A man convicted of one killing and suspected in 2 others may never face a possible death sentence in Missouri, in part because of sentencing delays caused by a prosecutor's stroke and the killer's own failing health.

Gregory Bowman, 62, was convicted of abducting and strangling a teenager in St. Louis County in 1977. He was also convicted of killing a 14-year-old girl and a 21-year-old woman in Belleville, Ill., both in 1978, but the convictions were overturned and he was never retried.

The Missouri Supreme Court upheld Bowman's conviction in the Missouri case in 2011 but ordered a new sentencing hearing. Unusual circumstances have led St. Louis County Circuit Judge David Vincent to allow repeated delays, the latest moving the hearing to April 2015. That hearing would determine whether Bowman would be sentenced to life in prison without parole, or death.

Bowman's original attorney was Stephen Evans. He was convicted of federal fraud charges last year and is serving a 15-month prison sentence.

A public defender was appointed for Bowman. But in January, the assistant St. Louis County prosecutor handling the case suffered a stroke, said Colleen Blake, Vincent's clerk. The judge was also informed that Bowman has a serious and potentially fatal kidney ailment, Blake said. She did not know specific details of the illness and a Missouri Department of Corrections spokesman declined to comment, citing privacy rights.

Bowman's attorney, Robert Steele, did not respond to messages seeking comment. St. Louis County prosecutor Robert McCulloch declined to comment.

The Missouri victim, 16-year-old Velda Rumfelt, grew up in the St. Louis County town of Brentwood before moving to Kansas City, Mo., to live with her mother. In June 1977 she hitched a ride back to suburban St. Louis with an acquaintance, and the 2 spent the day at the Six Flags St. Louis amusement park.

Then she disappeared, last seen walking with an older man along a street. Her body was found in a field the next day. She had been sexually assaulted and strangled with a shoestring.

A year later, 2 killings shook Belleville, another St. Louis suburb. Bowman confessed to killing 14-year-old Elizabeth West and 21-year-old Ruth Ann Jany.

West was last seen alive April 22, 1978, as she walked away from her high school. Her body was found nearly 2 weeks later in a small creek near Millstadt, Ill. Jany, a nurse, disappeared from a bank parking lot on July 7, 1978. Her body was found several months later.

Bowman pleaded guilty in March 1979, but recanted days later, claiming his statements were coerced. He was convicted, but a judge granted a new trial in 2001 after a St. Louis Post-Dispatch investigation indicated that Bowman had been denied information about police tricks that created doubt about the confession. Bowman was briefly freed on bond in January 2007.

Meanwhile, St. Louis County police obtained Bowman's DNA profile from Belleville investigators, and used it to connect him to the killing of Rumfelt. He was arrested soon after his releases in Illinois, and convicted in 2009. Illinois prosecutors said at the time they did not intend to re-try Bowman on the Belleville killings.

In April 2011, the Missouri Supreme Court ruled that during the sentencing phase of Bowman's trial in the Missouri case, jurors improperly heard information about the Belleville murders. The conviction stood but the court ordered a new sentencing hearing.

Bowman is imprisoned at the Potosi Correctional Center in southeast Missouri.

(source: Associated Press)


Federal prosecutor in Topeka to serve on death penalty review committee; Committee evaluates whether to recommend AG should order prosecutors to seek death penalty

Before a federal prosecutor can seek the death penalty against a defendant in U.S. District Court, a tiny committee of attorneys throughout the United States must evaluate the case.

If the Attorney General's Review Committee on Capital Cases recommends pursuing the death penalty, the case is shipped to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, who makes the ultimate decision on whether to pursue capital punishment.

On April 16, senior assistant U.S. attorney Tony Mattivi, who is posted in Topeka in the U.S. Attorney's Office, will join that group.

"I'm definitely looking forward to it," Mattivi said Thursday. "It will be a very interesting and challenging experience for me and definitely a learning opportunity. It will be a great chance to work with some very talented and very smart people."

Mattivi, 49, has been a federal prosecutor for 15 years. Mattivi's regular assignment is handling national security cases and a general caseload of prosecuting defendants charged with federal offenses.

Mattivi grew up in Colorado Springs, Colo., worked for 10 years as a paramedic, including during his time as a college student, graduated from Metropolitan State College of Denver, then graduated from the Washburn University School of Law in 1994.

Before joining the U.S. Attorney's Office, Mattivi was an assistant Shawnee County district attorney, then an assistant Kansas attorney general. Mattivi also is an adjunct law professor at Washburn.

The capital case review committee is made up of senior officials from the Department of Justice's criminal division and the deputy attorney general's office, as well as experienced assistant U.S. attorneys. Assistant U.S. attorneys serve 2-year terms on the committee.

For a defendant to be considered for the death penalty, the case must have 2 basic criteria.

"It has to be a federal case, and then for the death penalty to be considered, there has to have been an intentional murder," Mattivi said.

When a potential capital case surfaces, copies of the case file are sent to each of the 6 committee members hearing it, then you study the case, and you do your own analysis as to whether the death penalty can and should be sought, Mattivi said.

Then, via conference calls, committee members discuss the case and decide whether to seek the death penalty, he said.

Committee members can expect to review several cases a month. The majority of the committee work can be done in their offices.

The committee has 11 prosecutors, but at any given time some will be in court prosecuting cases or otherwise tied up.

Members serve on a rotating basis and carry normal caseloads because the assignment isn't a full-time commitment. As a prosecutor, Mattivi has presented cases to the committee, sometimes seeking the death penalty and sometimes making a "no-seek" recommendation. That means the prosecutor doesn't ask for authorization to seek the death penalty.

Mattivi has been involved in death penalty cases that were resolved with plea agreements rather than going to trial, where jurors would have to decide verdicts and whether to impose death penalties.

Once the committee decides to seek or not seek the death penalty, that will end Mattivi's role in a case. If Mattivi has a Kansas case that may involve the death penalty, he won't hear the case as a member of the death penalty review committee.

(source: Capital Journal Online)


Anti-death penalty group to honor Okla. legislator

An anti-death penalty group plans to honor an Oklahoma lawmaker who filed legislation to study Oklahoma's use of capital punishment.

The Oklahoma Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty will honor Democratic Rep. Seneca Scott of Tulsa during its 23rd annual membership meeting on Saturday.

Scott introduced a bill to propose creation of a Death Penalty Review Task Force. Among other things, it would have examined whether prosecutors seek the death penalty uniformly, whether the death penalty is applied randomly in the state and the cost of capital punishment trials and appeals. The measure died in the House Rules Committee.

Death Penalty Information Center records indicate Oklahoma has executed 110 prisoners since 1976, when the U.S. Supreme Court reinstituted capital punishment. Another 132 were executed by the state prior to 1976.

(source: Associated Press)

ARIZONA----female faces death penalty

Jurors mull execution for Marissa Devault

Jurors who convicted an Arizona woman of fatally beating her husband with a hammer are scheduled to resume deliberations Monday over whether she warrants the death penalty.

The jury at the trial of Marissa Devault has already spent 2 days considering whether there were "aggravating factors" that would make her eligible for execution for the 2009 death of Dale Harrell.

If such factors are found, jurors will decide whether she should be sentenced to life in prison or to death. But if those factors aren't found, a judge will sentence Devault to either the rest of her life in prison or life in prison with the possibility of release after 25 years.

Prosecutors say Devault should face the death penalty because she carried out the crime in an especially cruel manner for the purpose of collecting on life insurance, pointing out that Devault caused a fist-size hole in Harrell's skull.

Defense attorneys say Devault never filed any claim in Harrell's death and added that the insurance-money theory is undermined by the fact that 1 of the 2 policies in question covered only accidental deaths - and Harrell's death wasn't an accident.

Authorities say Devault killed Harrell in a failed bid to collect on a life insurance policy to repay about $300,000 in loans from her boyfriend. Devault says she killed her husband in self-defense and told investigators that he had physically and sexually abused her in the past.

Harrell, 34, suffered multiple skull fractures in the January 2009 attack at the couple's home in the Phoenix suburb of Gilbert. He died nearly a month later at a hospice because of complications from his head injuries.

Devault initially told investigators that her husband attacked her while she was asleep and choked her until she was unconscious. She also told police that when she woke up, she saw another man who lived at their home beating Harrell with a hammer.

But authorities say Devault, 36, confessed to the killing after bloodstain evidence showed Harrell was alone in the bed at the time of the attack.

The key prosecution witness was Devault's former boyfriend, Allen Flores, a Yale University-educated management consultant who is 20 years older than Devault and had loaned her $300,000 during their 2-year relationship.

Flores testified that Devault wanted to either hire someone to kill Harrell, or kill him herself and tell police he tried to rape her after a night of drinking.

Devault's attorneys attacked Flores' credibility, noting he was given an immunity agreement on child-pornography allegations in exchange for his testimony. The child pornography was found on Flores' computer during a search that was part of the murder investigation, authorities said.

(source: Associated Press)


Defense medical expert offers new cause-of-death opinion in Williams trial

A 3rd defense medical expert is offering yet another opinion on the child abuse beating death of 5-year-old Talia Williams.

Pediatrician and child abuse expert Eli Newberger said Thursday morning in U.S. District Court that when Talia died on July 16, 2005 she was experiencing multiple organ system failures liked to injuries sustained in preceding months. He said her body would have had difficulty repairing the injuries because of food deprivation.

Newberger, however, said he is not able to pinpoint exactly what killed the girl. "I cannot identify a single organ system the failure of which is associated with Talia's death," he said.

Talia's father, former Schofield Barracks soldier Naeem Williams, is on trial in for capital murder for killing his daughter. He is facing the death penalty for killing a child through child abuse or as part of a practice and pattern of assault and torture.

Williams has already testified that Talia never got up from a blow he delivered to her back, causing her to hit her head on the concrete floor of their military family quarters at Wheeler Army Airfield.

A previous defense medical expert testified that Talia died from infection of her blood and back of her abdominal cavity wall from injuries she could have suffered 17 days earlier.

Talia's stepmother Delilah Williams testified that she stomped on Talia multiple times and slammed her stepdaughter's head into a wall on June 29, 2005.

Another defense medical expert testified that the girl died from complications of injuries to her head, chest and abdomen that could have sustained during Delilah Williams's admitted stomping.

Forensic pathologist Dr. Kanthi De Alwis performed Talia's autopsy in 2005 when she was Honolulu Chief Medical Examiner. Dr. De Alwis testified that Talia died when her head hit a flat object. The impact caused Talia's brain to twist inside her skull cutting off connections to the area of the brain that controls breathing.

(source: Honolulu Star Advertiser)


STUDIES: Murder of Female Victims More Likely to Result in Death Sentence

A recent study by researchers at Cornell Law School found that the gender of the murder victim may influence whether a defendant receives the death penalty. Using data from 1976 to 2007 in Delaware, the study found that in cases with female victims, 47.1% resulted in death sentences, while in those involving male victims, only 32.3% were sentenced to death. The researchers looked at a number of factors other than the victim's gender that might have affected sentencing decisions, including the heinousness of the crime, whether there was a sexual element to the murder, and the relationship between defendant and victim. The study found that some of the gender effect in sentencing could be explained by factors other than just the gender of the victim. Crimes involving sexual violence were more likely to result in a death sentence, as were crimes in which the victim and defendant knew one another, and victims of both of those types of crimes are more likely to be women.

The authors concluded, "While more research needs to be done, using both larger databases and information from other regions, our analyses suggest that victim gender continues to influence capital sentencing decisions."

(C. Royer, et al., "Victim Gender and the Death Penalty," 82 University of Missouri-Kansas City Law Review 429 (forthcoming, 2014)).

(source: DPIC)


This has been a big week in the death house in Texas. The state executioner was assigned to dispatch not 1, but 2, evildoers. He could put away his needle with the satisfaction of a job well done. 5 more executions are scheduled before summer.

Texas is No. 1 in the business, having dispatched 513 men and women (nearly all men) since the states were freed by the U.S. Supreme Court to resume state-sanctioned killing in 1976. Virginia and Oklahoma are 2nd, each with 110 executions (so far), but measured by executions per capita, Oklahoma, which competes with Texas to be No. 1 in so many things, is No. 1.

Opinions on capital punishment are sharply divided and passionately held, but the stereotype that executions are favorites of conservatives is slowly dissolving. Young conservatives seem particularly willing to take another look at the death business.

Roy Brown, the former majority leader of the Montana House of Representatives, founded an organization called Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty, and he travels the country spreading the word. He led a forum, in partnership with the Young Americans for Liberty, last month at Georgetown University. Marc Hayden, the group's national coordinator, says he finds conservatives deciding the death penalty is "wasteful, unfair, error-prone and out of step with conservative values."

No one, liberal or conservative, disputes the fact that it's a grisly business, once universally endorsed by both church and state. There's the story that an ancient mariner, cast ashore when his ship foundered on the rocks, looked up to see a gallows outlined against a gray, wintry sky. "Thank God!" he cried out. "I've landed in a Christian country." The hangman once presided over a thriving business.

Now, not so much. Only 32 states retain the death penalty and it has been abolished in many places overseas. The preferred chemicals used in executions are no longer manufactured in the United States, and European manufacturers will no longer sell to the states for executions. But capital punishment is still popular in many places, particularly in the South.

Bill Clinton famously interrupted his 1st presidential campaign in 1994 to return to Arkansas to preside over the execution of Ricky Ray Rector, a mentally retarded black man. When it was time to walk the last mile, Rector carefully put aside a piece of pecan pie, saved from his last meal, to enjoy "later."

Capital punishment is nowhere as popular as in Texas, where swift and harsh justice is prized. The late Joe Frank Cannon, a Houston lawyer known as "greased lightning," was appointed to represent poor defendants so many times that 10 of his clients were executed. Greased lightning or not, Joe Frank often went to sleep during trials, twice when his clients were sentenced to death.

This was regarded by the courts merely as an impediment to the rocket dockets much loved by judges, and the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals held that "the Constitution requires a defendant to be represented by a lawyer; it doesn't say the lawyer has to be awake." A federal appeals court disagreed, but only after asking whether the lawyer had slept through "important parts" of the trial.

Executions can be badly botched. Witnesses to a Mississippi execution had to be banished when they were overcome after the prisoner started banging his head on a steel pole in the chamber, apparently to hasten death. The executioner was drunk.

The electric chair, largely abandoned because lethal injections are less expensive, is particularly "problematic." Prisoners occasionally catch fire, and the sight and scent overcomes everyone watching.

DNA has rescued some innocent prisoners from death row, but states are always loath to admit mistakes. No one should confuse the law with justice. One governor of Illinois, deeply troubled when new evidence freed an innocent man 2 days before his scheduled execution, commuted to life the death sentences of 167 others awaiting execution because he did not think the death penalty could be administered fairly.

Prisoners on death row are nearly all bad men (and women), who deserve no mercy on their own merits. But killing them does not deter others; first-degree murder is by definition a crime of unthinking passion. Death removes evildoers from society, but at the price of coarsening and making cheap that society.

No one feels better after the state commits premeditated murder in the name of the law. Society keeps trying new methods of execution, eager to relieve pangs of conscience. But conscience is a stubborn overseer, and won't be satisfied until death gets no sanction and the executioner is banished for once and all.

(source: Wesley Pruden is editor emeritus of The Washington Times)


For 300 years Britain hanged homosexuals

When President Museveni signed the Anti-Homosexuality Act into law, Europe and the United States went into overdrive.

Aid was and continues to be cut. Threats were made if the law was not repealed. Travel bans are to be imposed on those responsible for the law. How can we be so stupid to the extent that we criminalise a human right?

These punitive actions are intended to bring us back to our senses. Now our minister of Foreign Affairs has rushed to America to cool down angry donors. But I think the Americans and Europeans are taking it out on us because of a collective sense of guilt. The anger is not about us. It is an attempt to cleanse a deeply-soiled conscience.

They are struggling to come to terms with their past and we have offered the opportunity for them to look good. In 1533 King Henry VIII signed into law the Buggery Act. The law prohibited all homosexual activities and prescribed the death penalty for contravention. In addition, all property of the convict was confiscated. The heir(s) would inherit nothing.

The death penalty was scrapped in 1861 and replaced with life imprisonment. For over three hundred years, British courts convicted and the government hanged its citizens for male-male sexual activity. A sample of records shows that between 1806 and 1861 alone, 8,921 men were prosecuted for sodomy in Britain. Four hundred and four were sentenced to death.

The 1st person to be convicted under that law was Walter Hungerford who was beheaded (not hanged) at Tyburn in 1540.The last 2 were James Pratt and John Smith, both hanged on November 27, 1835.

For attempted sodomy, the prison sentence was severe and included pillory. This sentence consisted of being put on display in a marketplace or crossroads with your head protruding from a piece of wood. People would then gather to taunt, jeer, mock and laugh at the convict. Often he was pelted with rotten food and mud, but sometimes the crowd used stones and bricks ending in the death or maiming of the convict. This sentence was abolished in 1837.

But too many suspects were being acquitted due to difficulties in proving sodomy. Accordingly, the Criminal Law Amendment Act of 1885 introduced a new offence called gross indecency. This offence did not require evidence of homosexual activity. Actions such as "lewd" touching between males fell under that offence.

It became easier to prove and punish homosexual activity. Oscar Wilde, the Irish writer and poet, served 2 years in prison with hard labour (kiboko) for gross indecency. It was not until 1967 that the British government decriminalized sodomy but only for males above 21 years. It remained a crime for those below that age until 2001. From 1533 to 2001 homosexual activities were punished in Britain as a crime.

In my view, this holier-than-thou attitude by the West is nothing but a coverup for a collective sense of guilt. And it is unfair to take it out on Uganda. It does not cleanse their guilt. What is required is for the West to come clean instead of bullying others.

In 2009 Prime Minister Gordon Brown made an official apology on behalf of the British government in respect of Alan Turing who was prosecuted in the British courts for homosexuality in 1952. He was given a choice: prison or be chemically castrated. He chose to be castrated. He committed suicide in 1954.

On December 24, 2013, the Queen gave him a posthumus pardon. Today, he is widely recognised as the father of theoretical computer science which is responsible for the technological advances we have made in this century.

But an apology in respect of one man is not enough. The apology should extend to the thousands the British government hanged over a period of 300 years. Their heirs should be compensated for the properties the British government routinely seized.

President Obama and all European leaders should also offer the same apology and reparations. Sodomy was a criminal act punishable by death all over Europe and the United States. It was decriminalised in Netherlands in 1811, Portugal 1852, Italy 1889, Iceland 1940, Switzerland 1940, Sweden 1944, Greece 1951, Ireland 1982, Germany 1994, Romania 1996, Bosnia 1998 and Northern Cyprus 2014. But laws like gross indecency were introduced instead.

The 1st American state to decriminalise homosexuality was Illinois in 1961, followed by Connecticut in 1969.Florida, both Carolinas, Idaho, Texas and 10 other states refused to decriminalise homosexual activities until the Supreme court forced them to do so as recently as 2003.

For Western governments to claim not to understand how we can criminalize homosexuality is the highest level of legal hypocrisy and diplomatic absurdity. To now claim it is a human right, there is need for an explanation as to how they forgot to include it in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948.

The offence of sodomy became law in Uganda by virtue of Section 15 (2) of the Uganda Order in Council 1902. By that Order, laws of general application subsisting in Britain automatically become law in Uganda.

Therefore, from 1902 homosexuality was a crime in Uganda carrying a sentence of life imprisonment. It was amended by the Penal Code Act of 1930 by altering the sentence to 14 years with hard labour (kiboko). Attempted sodomy was maintained at 7 years. By section 10 of ordinance 21 of 1955, corporal punishment (kiboko) was removed.

That is what the British handed to us on October 9, 1962 and that is what we have religiously followed. The Bahati law simply builds on the British position. Even if the Bahati law is repealed, homosexual activities will continue to be a crime, thanks to the British.

Billions have been poured into this country with a law forbidding homosexuality on our books since independence; so what is new today? Guilt!

What is needed now is not this holier- than-thou attitude but an apology to Uganda for bringing "bad laws' here. Another apology should be rendered to any Ugandan who suffered as a result of the "bad" laws and compensation made. Thereafter, we require an exhaustive explanationas to why values the West held dear for 500 years have now become very bad.

You cannot lead me to do something for over 100 years and when you change your mind you order me to change mine as well. Patronizing!

Instead of travel restrictions on Bahati and his colleagues, they should be given free visas and their expenses paid to travel to America and Europe and study this subject more deeply. That is how civilized nations ought to behave. Who knows, Bahati may change his mind.

Lastly, there is no consistency. In an interview with NTV last week, the American ambassador, when quizzed why there were no aid cuts when the Public Order Management law came into force, claimed the Act itself was not bad but rather its implementation. I don't think so and I will be proven right when the Constitutional court strikes that law down. As it surely will do.

(source: Wandera Ogalo; The writer is a former politician and veteran advocate----The Observer)


Court rules May 27 on killer's appeal

A man who was convicted and sentenced to hang in 2005, for the murder of his 16-year-old cousin three years earlier in Diego Martin, suffers from a borderline personality disorder that makes him impulsive and self-destructive, said psychiatrist Dr Gerard Hutchinson at the Court of Appeal on Tuesday.

In December 2005, Marcus Jason Daniel was found guilty of stabbing to death Suzette Gibson and sentenced to the death penalty by former High Court judge Justice Herbert Volney.

During the trial, Daniel said he was listening to heavy metal rock music and was high on drugs when he murdered Gibson.

Following the conviction and sentence, Daniel approached the Court of Appeal and subsequently the Privy Council, arguing that his conviction was unsafe.

In 2008, the Privy Council remitted the matter to the Court of Appeal after three clinical and forensic psychiatrists concluded that he suffered from the disorder and satisfies the criteria for alcohol and drug-induced psychosis.

The law lords had said that the diagnosis raised a credible defence of diminished responsibility and should have been raised at the trial.

During Tuesday's hearing before Chief Justice Ivor Archie and appellate judges Justices Rajendra Narine and Prakash Moosai, Dr Hutchinson said after getting 2 different accounts of the killing by Daniel, it seemed likely that Daniel had a mixed personality disorder that also included traits of an anti-social personality, marked impulsivity in certain areas, self-mutilative behaviour and affective instability.

He said the treatment of such cases was challenging given that the traits are persistent, adding that it would be based on the patient's own commitment to stopping the substance abuse.

Hutchinson said, ideally, the best chance is long-term psychotherapy and treatment in an institution similar to St Ann's Psychiatric Hospital, as opposed to prison.

The Appeal Court will give its judgment on May 27.

(source: Trinidad Express)


Death Sentences In Egypt 'Mockery Of Justice' - Analysis

A group of 8 United Nations human rights independent experts have urged the Egyptian authorities to quash the 529 death sentences announced in Egypt and give the defendants new and fair trials, in line with international human rights law.

"The right to life is a fundamental right, not a toy to be played with. If the death penalty is to be used at all in countries which have not abolished it, international law requires the most stringent respect of a number of fundamental standards," the experts said in a news statement.

On March 24, 2014 the 529 defendants were convicted of various charges, including membership in an unlawful organization