and Updates (as of 12/22/96)

JULY 30, 2015:


Living without the death penalty in Texas

Texas has gone nearly 7 months into 2015 without imposing the death penalty. In some cases, juries declined to send another convicted killer to Texas' death row, opting instead to put them behind bars for life.

It's part of a trend of the death penalty falling out of favor not only with juries but also with prosecutors who seek it - even in Texas, the nation's death penalty leader, where a record 49 death sentences were handed down in 1994.

The numbers show, according to former veteran District Attorney Tim Cole, that applying the death penalty is no longer the go-to or indispensable tool that prosecutors once regarded it.

"We're proving as a state that we can live without the death penalty," says Cole, who had a reputation as a no-holds-barred lawman through four terms as DA for Archer, Clay and Montague counties.

Now a Fort Worth defense attorney, Cole was keynote speaker at this year's annual meeting of the Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty. In a guest column for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram last week, he stated, "Texas should join the 19 U.S. states where the death penalty has been abolished."

Cole elaborated in a follow-up interview with this newspaper, which has been calling for an end to the death penalty since 2007.

Cole said his rationale is not rooted in moral objections to taking a life. Rather, he said, years of seeing the justice system's deep flaws and the arbitrariness of capital punishment caused him to take his stand.

"If you could show me a perfect system, I'll give you the death penalty," Cole said.

But error-free and evenhanded it's not and will never be. We agree with Cole: A system that allows the possibility of fatal error cannot be defended. The growing list of wrongfully convicted men in Texas appears to be making a difference in the jury room.

Further, Cole has seen from the inside how community and financial pressure bear on a DA's decision to seek one punishment vs. another. That means, he said, that a similar crime could mean the death penalty in one county but a prison sentence a few miles away in another jurisdiction. It comes down to the call of a single elected official whose annual budget may or may not bear the expense of a murder trial.

Cole does not foresee a day that state lawmakers will abolish the death penalty in Texas, but he said they should at least clean up the system. For example, prosecutors should be barred from making deals for the testimony of jailhouse snitches to secure an execution, Cole said. It's a ghastly practice at the center of many notorious Texas murder cases that have unraveled.

In the meantime, Cole said he looks forward to a permanent decline in use of the death penalty. We hope so. It appears that routinely sending dozens of defendants to death row each year is a thing of the past. That's a bright spot in a state that once justified its liberal - and, sometimes, reckless - use of capital punishment.

Ex-DA on death penalty

From an interview with former District Attorney Tim Cole:

"If you can show me a perfect system, I'll give you the death penalty. But you can't. You can't show me a system that's so perfect that you could show me we'd never execute an innocent person."

"I don't think our Legislature will ever vote it out. I don't think they'll abolish it. I think at some point it will kind of wither away, and the Supreme Court may say, one of these days, it violates the Eighth Amendment."

"There are probably a lot of people who have already been executed where those cases would not be death penalty cases these days."

"It's become more acceptable for a district attorney not to seek death."

(source: Editorial, Dallas Morning News)


The Wrong Man----The Story of the Only NYPD Officer Ever Sentenced to Death - 100 Years Ago Today

A century ago today, Charles Becker became the first and only NYPD officer to be executed on death row. But was the cop framed for a famous gangland murder?

When it came to scandal, the Tammany leader Big Tim Sullivan said, New York was a 9-day town. But in the case of the murder of his friend Herman "Beansie" Rosenthal, a gangster and gambling house proprietor, Sullivan's adage proved spectacularly untrue. Charles Becker, an NYPD lieutenant, was 1 of 5 men convicted of the murder, and he remains the only New York City police officer sent to the electric chair. Though the case was sensational and the conviction a travesty, Becker is little remembered today, and defended less. Both failures are all the more disgraceful because the prosecution was undertaken for a noble cause, that of political reform in general and police reform in particular.

As with any criminal trial that is transformed into social allegory, the cause trumped the case; facts that contradicted it were held not as false but as heretical, demanding suppression instead of debate. Later generations seeking lessons from the past are likelier to dwell on episodes of clear-cut triumph or transgression. Who wants to commemorate a battle without heroes?

In most tellings of the city's political history, the struggle between Tammany Hall and Reform is recounted in nearly Manichean terms. The gangsterism and graft of Tammany sometimes reached a stupendous scale, but the machine also represented the largest part of New York City, with all its immigrant energy, and its legacy includes the New Deal. For what it was worth, its lack of affectation was commensurate with its lack of principle, as when Alexander "Clubber" Williams, a police inspector, replied when asked why he failed to close the brothels in his district: "Because they were kind of fashionable at the time." In Tammany's case, a sense of humor was a not-quite-saving grace, but it pointed to the pragmatism that accounted for its durability and many decencies. By contrast, Jacob Riis lamented that every reform movement - a term broad enough to encompass opponents of 80-hour workweeks and naughty postcards - ought to be assigned an official humorist, to save them from conceit and worse.

The late 19th century New York Times index shows more coverage of the topic of “Police Abuses” than “Politics” as a whole. In a sense, crime in the city has always been covered more like sports than news, as an intensely personal and symbolic contest. And if it seems like the rival teams of cops and crooks have gotten together to fix the game, the reaction of the fans can be truly fanatic. As Andy Logan, who wrote the definitive history of the Becker case, observed, “Sweat shops, child labor, yellow dog contracts, the political and industrial exploitation of the vast new immigration…the open purchase of political office, gross corruption involving municipal contracts…All these civic evils were properly deplored from time to time, but there were intervals when it seemed that the most hideous sin of all in the minds of Americans…was the greasing of the palms of city policemen by prostitutes, gamblers, and small-time local criminals.” In the Republican campaigns against Tammany, charges of police grafting were both pretextual and true, guaranteed to command headlines and periodically occasion a Republican or Fusion win at the polls. Reformers tended to be middle to upper-middle class, Protestant and Republican, and the subjects of reform were those who were not. Around the turn of the century, there were a series of investigations by the legislature and eminent citizens - the Lexow Committee, the Mazet Committee, the Committee of 9. John D. Rockefeller led a grand jury on the "white slave trade" in 1909. The press followed mostly because the copy could be wonderful - as when Reverend Parkhurst went undercover to play leapfrog with naked can-can dancers - and the more destructive graft of Tammany, in the awarding of municipal contracts, was too dull to sustain public interest.

Becker was perfectly cast as a bad cop, arrogant, brutal and greedy. He was the protégé of Clubber Williams, and modeled himself after his mentor in his physicality - both in his courage and the free use of his nightstick - and the vigor with which he fattened his assets and his arrest record. Once, he saved a man from drowning; another time, he locked up a woman for asking him for directions. A fellow cop remarked that Becker would lock up his own grandmother if it would make him look good downtown. When he was 1 of 3 lieutenants who ran gambling squads, it was known that only one of them would make captain, and so Becker stepped up both his raids and his payoffs.

At the time, raids were sometimes carried out to settle a personal or political score, but for the most part, they were conducted as an elaborate dance between the police, the politicians, and the gambling establishment. Enforcement occurred more or less by appointment, so that the criminal justice system could show that it was taking action with the minimum inconvenience to criminals: "stiffs" were provided for arrest, in cases designed to fall apart long before trial. Becker pushed things, however, seeking to make a name for himself with heavy hands and grasping ones. A Hearst reporter warned him of a plot to frame him, not long after his appointment to the squad. Becker had even employed a press agent to keep his name in the papers. It would soon be unnecessary.

Herman Rosenthal's pursuit of the media also led to his undoing. As Big Tim was fond of saying, "God and the people hate a chesty man," and Rosenthal redefined chestiness. He had been prosperous and well-connected until 1909, when the Legislature forbade racetrack betting, then his chief source of income. As his operations suffered, he decided to make the new reforms work for him by refusing to pay off a $5000 bet, welshing all the way up to the Court of Appeals, which held in his favor. When his fellow gamblers tried to prevail on him to honor the debt, loaning him money themselves, he stiffed them as well. At that point, anonymous letters began to find their way to the desks of Police Commissioner Rhinelander Waldo and District Attorney Charles Whitman, who ordered raids on his gambling houses until only one remained.

Later that night, Rosenthal went to the Hotel Metropole, an establishment thick with hoodlums, including men who had tried to kill him before and whom he had tried to kill as well.

Rosenthal then began to publicly denounce police corruption, which lost him whatever chance remained to regain a business-like footing with colleagues on both sides of the law. He waged war against the NYPD, under the table and over it, boasting that his connections were such that he would have any cop who interfered with him transferred, and, for a time, his relationship with the declining Big Tim meant that the threat wasn’t an idle one. He attempted to swear out warrants against a captain and inspector who raided his establishments. Overall, the fight had a small-time and vaguely farcical quality - when a policeman was posted to his last premise, Rosenthal locked the poor man inside - though the joke was wearing dangerously thin.

Rosenthal was steadily losing money, friends, and political cover, even after his claim that Becker was his silent partner received sensational treatment by a reporter named Herbert Bayard Swope at the World, 1 of the 2 papers in New York which inspired the phrase "yellow journalism." The day after the story appeared, DA Whitman agreed to meet with Rosenthal, but the gambler's charges failed to impress him. Later that night, Rosenthal went to the Hotel Metropole, an establishment thick with hoodlums, including men who had tried to kill him before and whom he had tried to kill as well. He seemed to revel in the attention, until an associate asked him to step outside, where he was gunned down in what may have been the 1st drive-by shooting in gangland history.

The killers were a picturesque lot: the gunmen were Whitey Lewis, Lefty Louis, Dago Frank, and Gyp the Blood, who preferred bombs to guns "because I likes to hear da noise," and they were hired by a number of Rosenthal's former associates, led by the utterly hairless Bald Jack Rose. The murder was a predictable and routine matter of internal underworld discipline. No one was particularly surprised, though Commissioner Waldo exclaimed, "Ye Gods!" when he heard, realizing that the timing was awkward. Mayor Gaynor's reaction was more typical, remarking, "Got him, did they?" The previously underwhelmed Whitman now broadcast through Swope that the death was "a challenge to our very civilization."

The reactions of the three officials were wholly in character. Waldo was a clueless but amiable gentleman amateur, whom the patrolmen thought well of because he'd redesigned their greatcoats so the pockets were larger. Once, when he received an anonymous complaint about Becker's grafting, he forwarded it to him for investigation. (Becker returned the letter, stating that it was inappropriate for him to pursue the matter.) Gaynor, who was known as "the most cantankerous man ever to sit in City Hall," had a temper that worsened when a deranged city employee shot him in the neck. Gaynor was the kind of figure that made Tammany difficult to pigeonhole; he was the candidate the machine put forward during a period of scandal, to show its best face, but his presence in the organization showed that there were men of probity among their ranks, who could rise and sometimes rule. His performance as mayor was widely admired, and reformers warmed to him, as did the press, which loved his habit of quoting Epictetus and Homer, when Tammany epigrams were more in the vein of Sullivan on chesty men. Gaynor and Whitman detested each other, though both liked Commissioner Waldo.

Theodore Roosevelt once said of Charles Whitman, “The truth is not in him.” Socially and politically ambitious, Whitman was a low-level Republican functionary whose first career break was winning the presidency of the Board of Magistrates after other factions deadlocked over their preferred candidates. After his election as district attorney, he stopped at a bar one night and noticed, upon finishing his drink, that the time was twenty-three minutes after the legal one a.m. closing. When he brought up his concern with the bartender, he was told not to worry, that the police wouldn’t bother them. Whitman then proceeded on a sort of investigative pub-crawl, visiting several more saloons before going to a precinct to demand the arrest of all who had provided him hospitality. His sobriety and sense were both questioned, but his wishes were carried out, and subsequent outings were conducted with the press in tow so that the exploits of the “crusading D.A.” received suitable fanfare. From that time, Whitman developed a relationship with Swope, whose career in journalism, in the early years, bore a closer resemblance to that of P.T. Barnum than Edward R. Murrow: He was a political ringmaster and an impresario of public spectacle. In exchange for exclusives, Swope made Whitman exactly the kind of hero he wanted to be—not only a fearless crimefighter, but one who would cut short a Newport vacation with the Vanderbilts to get the job done. Swope claimed, credibly, to dictate the D.A.’s press releases. His love of gambling led to his own underworld intimacies, particularly with Arnold Rothstein, who was later immortalized in The Great Gatsby as Meyer Wolfsheim, “the man who fixed the 1919 World Series.” Swope was the best man at Rothstein’s wedding, and frequently borrowed money from him. As it happened, Becker raided one of Rothstein’s establishments in the months before the killing. With his Rosenthal story, Swope had a production that languished during rehearsals—even Whitman had to be bullied into a tepid expression of interest—until the murder gave him a Broadway smash. Becker himself was well-acquainted with controversy, after a conflict with the novelist Stephen Crane in 1896. Crane's The Red Badge of Courage had been published the year before, and the now-famous author had begun work on sketches of low life in the Tenderloin, in the vein of his earlier Maggie: A Girl of the Streets. It was also reported that Crane was writing about the police, not sympathetically, and his encounter with Becker would not improve his view. At 2 in the morning, Crane was walking with two women he had picked up when he met a 3rd, named Dora Clark, before being suddenly set upon by Becker, then a young patrolman, who announced that all three women were under arrest for prostitution. Crane saved one woman by insisting that she was his wife; in the end, Becker took only Clark in. Crane appeared in court with Clark to testify on her behalf. That he had written a favorable profile of the magistrate in the days before the hearing doubtless assisted in the swift dismissal of the charges. The reaction from police inspired Crane to leave the city to cover the Spanish American War. In reality, the incident wasn't simply ugly but complicatedly so: Dora Clark was a prostitute, and she'd been feuding with the local precinct since she'd spurned the advances of a somewhat dark-skinned patrolman named Rosenberg because she believed he was black, telling him, "How dare you speak to a decent white woman!"

If nothing else, the incident lends a measure of irony to the ethnic politics of the Rosenthal murder. Jewish leaders took issue with Mayor Gaynor’s denunciation of the “lawless foreigners” who were the principals in the case (all were Jewish, excepting Dago Frank, of course) and Swope flatly manufactured anti-Semitic statements which he attributed to Becker, a Protestant of German descent, in order to fan the flames. The cultural casting of the scandal, in which Jewish gangsters and Irish cops and ward-heelers were turning a great city into a cesspool of corruption, were essential to its fascination in the hinterlands and abroad. The story was national and international news, to a degree that is difficult to imagine today. For the foreign press, New York City was America, and it was often the only city that other regional papers covered on a regular basis. Laws were passed in Washington, but life, in its most vivid and meaningful form, took place in New York. (New Yorkers didn't disagree - at the turn of the century, a Tammany leader denied a young associate appointment to the position of county clerk in Manhattan, saying, "He's a good boy, but that job requires brains and experience. He'll have to be satisfied with going to Congress.") Even so, the reaction from otherwise sober parties was decidedly unhinged. One western paper editorialized that, in spite of its opposition to the death penalty, "In this case we would not raise the slightest protest if Becker and his gunmen were sent heavenward ... New York State has our permission to assemble the entire police force of New York and, in the presence of officers and men, blow Becker and his band of cutthroats to Jericho." Locally, the coverage was no less relentless or ridiculous - in Swope's paper, the Rosenthal murder was a crisis "infinitely worse than the one that confronted the nation at Gettysburg," and it made the front page 136 days out of 186.

Becker's connection to Rosenthal was indeed tantalizing. While he was preparing a libel suit in response to Rosenthal's claim that they were business partners, he had a longstanding relationship with Bald Jack Rose, as fellow players in the vice game. Becker was driving through midtown at the time of the murder, and when he arrived home, reporters called to tell him about it. He then drove back downtown to the crime scene, an act that was portrayed as the gloating of a shameless killer. But the case against him simply wasn't there: it was a "murder by proxy, twice removed," as Logan puts it, in which Becker's interests and the overwhelming weight of the evidence showed him to be innocent of the charges against him, perhaps for the 1st time in his career. Becker came to believe that Rose may well have told Rosenthal that he was a silent partner in his business. Because Rosenthal had made so many complaints about so many cops over the years, Becker would have been among the few who might have considered offering protection. When Becker raided his house, wrecking it and arresting his nephew, Rosenthal's last story ignored all the other officers and officials with whom he’d been warring. Why Becker would wreck an establishment that he owned, and why he'd invest with a man who'd been losing money and fighting cops for years, were questions that were barely asked, let alone answered.

Whitman was untroubled by the gaps in his story. Bald Jack Rose and several other conspirators were jailed in the Tombs until their testimony jibed with his theory. The lower floors of the Tombs were ankle-deep in water, and the cells measured 7 by 3 1/2 feet; they were without plumbing and virtually without ventilation, during a summer when the temperature was regularly in the 90s. These immediate discomforts paled before the prospect of the electric chair at Sing Sing, however, and when Whitman offered Rose and 2 other admitted killers outright freedom in exchange for testimony against Becker, there was little hesitation on their part. Other witnesses for the prosecution were paid generously, while witnesses for the defense were intimidated and worse; one reporter who provided an alibi for Becker was fired by his paper soon after.

Whitman requested that the governor call an extraordinary session of the State Supreme Court to hear the cases, and he was further obliged when Judge John Goff was assigned. Goff had been chief counsel for the Lexow Committee, which had elicited Clubber Williams' memorable statement regarding the fashionability of brothels. For Williams to attend the trial every day was a gesture more impressive for its loyalty than its strategy. Becker's pregnant wife, Helen, was not permitted to sit in view of the jury. Goff granted virtually all of the prosecution's motions and denied those of the defense, seating a close friend of the prosecutor's as a juror. He ordered the trial to begin one week after the arraignment. In record-breaking heat, he ordered the fans shut off, the windows closed, the shades drawn, and permitted 15 minutes for lunch. He charged the jury as a prosecutor, repeating Whitman’s allegations as facts. The trial lasted just over 2 weeks, deliberations only a few hours.

Becker's pregnant wife, Helen, was not permitted to sit in view of the jury.

When Becker was convicted, public acclaim for Whitman was vast; he was discussed as a candidate for mayor, governor, even president. Becker underwent a less public transformation: on death row at Sing Sing, he became a quiet leader and counselor of other inmates, and won the respect of the warden. He converted to Catholicism. He maintained his innocence of the murder, but made little pretense about the other aspects of his career, and refused any overtures to implicate others in exchange for leniency. His wife lost her baby in childbirth, but the moment of public sympathy was brief when it was reported that the doctor had told her during delivery that he could save either her or the child, and she chose to live. In one paper, she was likened to Lady Macbeth.

Helen Becker was, in fact, a figure of almost implausible decency and forbearance, a schoolteacher devoted to "backward pupils," who bore her embarrassment of misfortunes with great grace: "My husband was under sentence of death. I had lost my baby, our money was gone, my housekeeper had killed herself, my mother had died, my dog Bum had bitten a man and been shot, my pet canary bird had died. Then I thought: 'Well, anyway, I'm not blind.' The very next morning I woke up with a sore eye. That struck me as funny, and I wrote it to Charley in my next letter. I am glad I have a sense of humor. I think it has often saved me from suffering and it has made me see amusing things to put in my letters to my husband."

When the Court of Appeals ordered a new trial, in a scathing and lengthy decision, there was widespread outrage, and muttered warnings to Whitman that his political viability was contingent on a conviction. Many of his own prosecutors were disgusted with him, and it was joked around the office that Whitman was lucky that he didn't have to submit the case to a jury of his own staff. At the new trial, Judge Samuel Seabury was more decorous than Goff had been, but no less biased in his rulings. Becker was again found guilty. By the time the appeals were filed, Seabury had been appointed to the Court of Appeals, and though he recused himself from the case, his new colleagues did not reverse him. A Democratic bill to ban capital punishment was not introduced for fear it might save Becker. Becker's last hope was for the commutation of his death sentence, but Whitman had realized his ambition to become governor then, and he would have sole discretion on any plea for clemency. On the eve of the execution, Whitman lashed out again, proclaiming Becker's guilt and strongly suggesting that he'd killed his 1st wife, though she'd died of tuberculosis. When Helen Becker went to the governor to plead for her husband's life, she found him too drunk to stand, unable to comprehend her.

As he was led to the chamber, Becker said, rather cryptically, "I am sacrificed for my friends." All reports related that he faced death unflinchingly, aside from those of Swope, who portrayed him in a state of panic. Becker did receive a stay of execution of a momentary and grisly sort, when he survived his first 2 rides in the electric chair. His body spasmed wildly, and a jet of flame leapt from his temple, but when the current was shut off, the examining doctor found that his heart was beating. His funeral at the church of St. Nicholas of Tolentine in the Bronx was well-attended, mostly by police, and it was described by the Times as a "scandalous spectacle." Indignation surged when Helen Becker put a plaque on her husband's grave, in Woodlawn Cemetery, that read:



There were calls for her to be fired from her job as a schoolteacher, but the moment passed. The police removed the plaque several weeks later.

Helen Becker never married again, and lived quietly until the 1960's. Clubber Williams died in 1917, and he was buried near Becker in Woodlawn. In Whitman's campaign for reelection in 1918, he would become as ardent a Prohibitionist as he had been a drinker, but he was defeated by Tammany's man, Al Smith, who served 4 terms of lasting distinction and went on to become the 1st Catholic to run for president as the candidate of a major party. Herbert Bayard Swope would go on to win 3 Pulitzer Prizes for reporting. In the city, a new system was organized so that the police role as conduit between the politicians and the gangsters was much reduced. Cops like Becker were replaced by 1 man, Swope's great friend, Arnold Rothstein, who became organized crime's 1st great modernizer.

Proponents of reform saw the Becker execution as a great act of purification. Opponents might not have minded it so much, either, seeing it as an opportunity to get back to business for another generation. Big Tim Sullivan might have been wrong in his 9-day estimate for the shelf life of a scandal, but it's hard to argue with his larger point about the fickle and fleeting nature of public concern, whether we forget from ordinary distraction or willful amnesia. He was committed to a sanatorium in 1912, the year Rosenthal was killed, suffering delusions as a result of tertiary syphilis. He wandered away the next year, and was hit by a train.

(source: The Daily Beast)


Death row inmate Smyrnes claims isolation cruel and unusual punishment in Westmoreland County case

Convicted killer Ricky Smyrnes wants a job.

But with a long waiting list for the few employment opportunities for inmates, Smyrnes sits in his small cell on death row at the State Correctional Institution in Greene County for 23 hours a day with little to do, according to his lawyers.

Smyrnes' "alone time," along with the continued moratorium on the death penalty ordered earlier this year by Gov. Tom Wolf, constitutes cruel and unusual punishment, his lawyers said.

Smyrnes' defense team on Wednesday asked that an expert be appointed to help make their case that the ringleader in the 2010 torture slaying of Jennifer Daugherty should have his death sentence overturned.

"Experts ... have written extensively and litigated issues concerning solitary confinement ... all resulting in courts finding that such indefinite periods in solitary confinement are cruel and unusual as they inflict mental suffering upon individuals," said defense lawyers Brian Aston and Jim Fox.

Westmoreland County Judge Rita Hathaway ordered that a hearing be conducted on the defense's request to hire an expert witness. A hearing date hasn't been set.

Smyrnes, 29, formerly of Irwin, was condemned to death following a jury trial in 2013 where he was convicted of 1st-degree murder. Daugherty, 30, of Mt. Pleasant, was mentally challenged.

Prosecutors said Smyrnes led a group of 6 Greensburg roommates who held Daugherty captive for 2 days. They humiliated, abused, beat, tortured and eventually stabbed her to death. Her body, wrapped in Christmas lights and garland, was stuffed into a trash can and left under a truck parked in a snow-covered school parking lot.

Witnesses said Smyrnes was one of two men who stabbed Daugherty and led "family meetings" in which a vote was taken to kill their captive.

District Attorney John Peck said the death penalty is the proper sentence for Smyrnes and questioned the discomfort of his living conditions.

"Certainly he must prefer being on death row rather than having the death penalty imposed upon him," Peck said. "Clearly this was one of the worst homicide cases we've had in Westmoreland County, at least in my career."



Death penalty hardly tough on crime

2 positives arise from the death-penalty confrontation among Gov. Wolf, District Attorney Seth Williams, and Attorney General Kathleen Kane ("Wolf calls on court to uphold his moratorium on death penalty," July 22). It keeps capital punishment under the spotlight, and it also makes it clear that many Democrats differ little from Republicans in important areas.

Williams, Kane, and other tough-on-crime officials of either party seem to have given no consideration to the words of George Bernard Shaw: "It is the deed that teaches, not the name we give it. Murder and capital punishment are not opposites that cancel one another, but similars that breed their kind."

In addition, capital punishment inevitably kills some innocents; wastes vast fortunes of public revenues; likely prevents no homicidally inclined people from committing murder; and unjustly punishes utterly innocent families and friends of the condemned, a punishment that lasts long after the execution.

|John Jonik, Philadelphia,

(source: Letter to the Editor,


Is Florida's death penalty system constitutional?


Florida's policy at issue

Millions of dollars are about to be wasted on the 8 death trials scheduled for this fall in Duval County. It is likely these cases will be overturned by a U.S. Supreme Court case that will not be decided until the summer of 2016.

The Hurst vs. Florida case challenges Florida's death sentencing rule that allows for a simple majority, a 7-5 jury vote, to sentence someone to death. This is the lowest threshold in the U.S. for a death sentence.

In the few states that use the death penalty, nearly all require a 12-0 jury decision to sentence someone to death. Most experts agree Florida cases with less than 12-0 jury are at risk of being overturned by Hurst vs. Florida.

If overturned, the retrials of these 8 Duval County defendants will cost Florida taxpayers several million dollars more than the $51 million already spent each year in pursuit of death sentences.

It does not have to be this way. Courts throughout Florida are granting stays or continuances on death sentencing hearings and death trials until after the U.S. Supreme Court rules in June 2016.

At the very least, we should demand the courts and state attorney wait until we know if Florida has an illegal sentencing policy.

It is reckless and wasteful and above all cruel to make the victims' families endure a 2nd trial that forces them to relive the worst moments of their lives again.

Another reasonable option is a sentence of life without parole for these defendants. A life sentence delivers swift justice, keeps the dangerous person locked up forever, gives victims closure and costs Florida $51 million less per year than death cases.

Durie Burns, Orange Park

(source: Letter to the Editor, Florida Times-Union)


Richard Glossip Challenging Death Penalty To Stave Off Execution

An Oklahoma death row inmate is once again asking the Supreme Court to stop his execution. Richard Glossip is scheduled to die by lethal injection 7 weeks from today.

Glossip was involved in the recent Supreme Court case that upheld Oklahoma's lethal injection method. He's petitioning the high court again, this time challenging the death penalty in general.

In 1997, Barry Van Treese was beaten to death at an Oklahoma City hotel. Glossip didn't kill Van Treese, but he has been convicted and sentenced to death for hiring the man who did: Justin Sneed.

"If this is allowed to continue they are going to kill an innocent man," said Glossip.

Glossip is the next inmate scheduled to be executed in Oklahoma. Last month, the Supreme Court ruled Oklahoma's lethal injection method was constitutional. But in his dissent, Justice Breyer said it was time for the court to consider the constitutionality of the death penalty.

So Glossip's attorney's obliged. In the petition they are challenging the death penalty on the grounds that innocent people could be executed.

Attorneys say Glossip's case has "exceptional circumstances" that an Oklahoma Appeals Court observed "No Forensic evidence linked (Glossip) to murder and no compelling evidence corroborated Sneed's testimony." And it quoted a federal judge who said "the evidence of [Mr. Glossip's] guilt was not overwhelming."

"I'm hoping they say, 'Look, we have claims of innocence here. We have to check this out before we move ahead,'" said Glossip.

Glossip says there are other innocent people awaiting execution across the nation. He hopes the Supreme Court takes up his case not just for him, but for them as well.

"There's been people who have been executed who are innocent and that's just something we got to stop."

There is no timeline on when the Supreme Court can make a decision on if they will take up Glossip's case. Glossip's execution is scheduled for September 16.



Retired minister to lead Nebraskans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty

A retired Methodist minister will be the next executive director of Nebraskans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty.

The Rev. Stephen Griffith was hired to lead the organization founded in 1981 as a death penalty repeal organization. The group played a major role in the Nebraska Legislature's repeal of the death penalty earlier this year.

Griffith recently retired after serving 13 years at St. Paul United Methodist Church in downtown Lincoln. During his career in the ministry, Griffith also served in Omaha, Lexington and other Nebraska communities.

He replaces Stacy Anderson, who led the group for 4 years before recently taking a position with a repeal organization in Denver.

(source: Omaha World-Herald)


Justice for Mongols motorcycle gangster? Death penalty possible if guilty of Pomona cop shotgun murder

A reputed Mongols motorcycle gang member accused in the shooting death of a Pomona SWAT officer was ordered Wednesday to stand trial on a capital murder charge.

David Martinez, 37, is also facing a special circumstance allegation of murder of a police officer, making him eligible for the death penalty if he is convicted, should the District Attorney's Office pursue capital punishment.

At a preliminary hearing that began Wednesday and concluded late Wednesday morning, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge M. L. Villar said she was convinced there was sufficient evidence to proceed to trial on the murder charge with related gang and gun allegations.

Martinez is accused of firing a shotgun at 45-year-old Officer Shaun Diamond as the lawman was helping to serve a warrant last Oct. 28 at the suspect's home in San Gabriel.

Diamond was helping to open the outer door of the home as part of a multi-agency operation targeting the Mongols gang when an interior door was opened and a single shotgun blast rang out, striking him in the neck. He died the next day.

A Montebello police detective with 14 years on the force testified that Martinez, when brought out of the house at 138 N. San Marino Ave., told him "I shot a cop. I shot a cop. I was scared. I was scared. I shot a cop."

Defense attorney Edward Esquela suggested during his cross-examination of a gang expert with the Montebello Police Department that Martinez was trying to defend his family and believed the SWAT officers who pounded on his door and entered the home were gang members.

Esquela did not present an affirmative defense but offered a "hypothetical" in asking the gang expert about whether a particular crime would be considered for the benefit of a gang, apparently hoping to see that allegation dropped.

His hypothetical shooter was asleep in a back bedroom when he wakes to pounding on a door and sees who he thinks is his father being shot.

"He believes in his mind and in his heart that he is protecting his family," Esquela said.

A Pomona police officer who was in the house when Diamond was shot testified that Martinez said, "I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I thought you were the Mongols."

Deputy District Attorney Andrew Kim pointed out that Martinez's parents both testified that they heard the police warnings and that the mother could clearly identify the men on her porch as police officers.

Esquela also suggested that what Martinez's parents identified as an explosion, and the Pomona officer later clarified that he believed to be a shot, may not have come from inside the house.

There is "not 1 scintilla of evidence before this court that that explosion came from a shotgun ... fired by Mr. David Martinez," the defense attorney told the court.

Kim countered that the coroner identified Diamond's wound as coming from a shotgun, adding that there was "no evidence that a firearm or any explosive device was used" to breach the door.

"The fact that the defendant admitted shooting a police officer and was found holding a shotgun" should be sufficient evidence, Kim said.

Prosecutors have not yet decided whether to seek the death penalty against Martinez, who has been held without bail since his arrest and is due back in court Aug. 13 for arraignment.

Sheriff's officials said Martinez has a criminal history that includes assault with a deadly weapon and domestic violence.

A motorcycle, motorcycle jackets and T-shirts adorned with gang insignia were found in a back bedroom of the house, along with several other gang- related items, including a gang "constitution."

An expert testified that the jacket included patches worn only by Mongols members and included patches as rewards from the gang, including one reading, "respect few, fear none."

"In shooting a police officer, that gang member's reputation is going to skyrocket," Detective Craig Adams testified.

Diamond had 16 years of experience in law enforcement. He worked with the Los Angeles Police Department from 1995-2002, then with the Montebello Police Department from 2002-03. The married father of 2 joined the Pomona Police Department in 2006 and its SWAT team 2 years later.



Fresno court reviews 35-year-old death penalty case

35 years ago, Donald Griffin was given the death penalty for raping and murdering his 12-year-old stepdaughter, Janice Kelly Wilson, whose mutilated body was found alongside a rural road north of Kerman near the San Joaquin River.

On Wednesday, Griffin's lawyers were in Fresno County Superior Court, asking a judge to spare his life because he is intellectually disabled.

The hearing in Judge Wayne Ellison's courtroom is the 1st of its kind for Fresno County, the product of a 2002 U.S. Supreme Court ruling called Atkins v. Virginia that says executing mentally disabled individuals violates the Eighth Amendment's ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

In their ruling, the justices said it would be up to judges in each state to define who is intellectually disabled.

Griffin, who is on death row in San Quentin State Prison, didn't attend Tuesday's hearing. Sacramento attorney Mary McCombs, a supervising deputy in the state Public Defender's Office, and San Francisco attorney Michael Laurence, executive director of the Habeas Corpus Resource Center, represented him.

They contend Griffin has been intellectually disabled since childhood.

Prosecutors Robert Mangano of the Fresno County District Attorney's Office and George Hendrickson of the Attorney General's Office, however, contend that while Griffin may be borderline mentally disabled, he still knew what he was doing when he raped and killed his stepdaughter, who was known as Kelly, in December 1979.

The hearing is expected to take three weeks because both sides plan to call experts - and possibly Griffin's relatives - to the witness stand to determine whether the inmate, now 66, is intellectually disabled.

The stakes are high for the prosecution because if Ellison finds Griffin mentally disabled, Griffin won't be executed. Instead, he will spend the rest of his life in prison, a goal that McCombs said she has been fighting for years.

During a break Wednesday, McCombs said she asked prosecutors several times to let Griffin spend the rest of his life in prison, but the offers were rejected.

"The District Attorney's Office has a propensity to waste taxpayers' money because, no matter what happens here, Griffin will never be executed," McCombs said. That's because he has not exhausted all of his state and federal appeals, she said.

Despite what McCombs says, prosecutors are sticking to their plan to keep Griffin on death row, said Assistant District Attorney Steve Wright.

"We are proceeding on this case because the citizens of Fresno County who sat on the jury and listened to the evidence decided that the death penalty is the appropriate and just punishment," Wright said.

"There is no price tag on justice for innocent victims," he said.

Kelly's mutilated body was found by a motorist Dec. 13, 1979. The girl had been raped, sodomized, stabbed in the neck, strangled and cut open with a hunting knife, prosecutors said.

Griffin was 30 and had no prior criminal record when he was first tried, convicted and sentenced to death for Kelly's murder in 1980. Though he admitted the murder, he denied sexually assaulting the girl.

Since then his case has been tangled in a lengthy legal fight.

In 1988, the California Supreme Court upheld the conviction, but overturned the death sentence, ruling that the jury in the 1980 trial was wrongly told that if they sentenced Griffin to life in prison without possibility of parole, the governor could modify that sentence so Griffin eventually could be paroled.

In his 2nd trial in 1992, a new jury gave Griffin the death penalty again. And 12 years later, the California Supreme Court upheld Griffin's death sentence.

A 2002 U.S. Supreme Court ruling called Atkins v. Virginia generally says executing intellectually disabled individuals violates America's Eighth Amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

But Griffin's case is now back in a Fresno courtroom because in 2008 the state's high court said he presented enough evidence to qualify for a hearing under the Atkins ruling.

Court records say Griffin suffered physical abuse as a child under his father's harsh discipline. In addition, he was subjected to "severe and violent sexual abuse" within his extended family, the documents say.

On Wednesday, McCombs said there is ample evidence to prove Griffin has been intellectually disabled since childhood. Her witnesses include J. Gregory Olley, a professor at the University of North Carolina and expert in the field of forensic psychology as it relates to intellectual disability and the death penalty; and Daniel Reschly, a professor of education and psychology in Peabody College at Vanderbilt University and expert on special education.

Olley testified Wednesday that Griffin was the product of an impoverished home. His parents were cotton pickers. Griffin could not read while growing up in the Tranquility area and barely does it at 1st-grade level today, Olley said.

"He was a loner and withdrawn. He was disheveled in his appearance," Olley testified.

Because of his speech impediment, he was reluctant to go to school. "Kids would call him dummy and retard," the psychologist told the judge. Though he was friendly, he could not find friends because he was not a good conversationalist, Olley said.

For the penalty phase of his 1st criminal trial, Griffin was tested when he was his 30s.

Olley testified that the testing revealed that Griffin was better at solving problems that he could see or touch. But he could not solve abstract problems or problems dealing with words, Olley testified.

On cross-examination, Mangano suggested that Griffin was smart enough to plan Kelly's murder. But Olley said that wasn't the case; Griffin had the victim's blood on his shoes, clothing and truck. Authorities also apprehended Griffin quickly, Olley testified.

Griffin's parents are dead, but a key piece of evidence came from his mother, Lola, who testified in the 1980 trial. Olley testified that Griffin's mother described him "as a slow student" who was separated from other students and put in a special class for intellectually disabled students.

"But did she ever say her son was mentally retarded or diagnosed as mentally retarded?" Mangano asked.

No, Olley replied. But back then, "slow" meant mental retardation, he said. "People used 'slow' to avoid the stigmatization of mental retardation," Olley testified.

(source: The Fresno Bee)


Is the death penalty dead?

Some believe prosecutor Dan Satterberg's announcement Wednesday will have far reaching implications.

"Today I am announcing my decision to with withdraw the notice of intent to seek the death penalty in the case of the State vs. Michele Anderson.

"These sorts of the decisions reverberate all over the state," said criminal defense attorney Todd Maybrown.

Maybrown believes Wednesday's announcement about Anderson, along with the jury's decision to spare Joseph McEnroe's life for the Carnation killings, and another jury who last week sentenced cop killer Christopher Monfort to life in prison, point to a turning of a tide.

"There have been many points along the way here when it seemed clear that the time has come that we as a community say we don't need the death penalty," Maybrown said. "We get no benefit from the death penalty, and resources are so scarce that we have to be more thoughtful."

"I pretty much reject the 'It's too expensive argument,'" said Snohomish County Prosecutor Mark Roe. "The reason I reject it is because the same people who are making (the argument) are the same people who are pursuing a strategy to make it expensive."

Roe is reluctant to generalize about the death penalty because every case is different. Out of more than 30 aggravated murder cases, he was in favor of seeking the death penalty on only 3 of them.

"I think what it really shows is prosecutors and jurors in the state of Washington are really careful. And thoughtful about when they seek the death penalty and jurors, and when they vote to carry it out," Roe said.

But some are worried the Carnation case will impact their own.

"70 % of me wants him to get the death penalty," said Falana Young-Wyatt. She struggles between wanting justice for her son and her Christian faith.

Young-Wyatt is waiting for her son's accused killer to come to trial. Dwone Anderson-Young and his friend, Ahmed Said, were gunned down a year ago in Seattle. The defendant, Ali Muhammad Brown, has been charged with aggravated murder for the 2 killings and the murders of 2 others. Prosecutors haven't decided whether to pursue the death penalty.

"Is life in prison enough punishment? He's going to be walking around breathing getting 3 meals a day. He's still alive. And my son isn't alive," said Young-Wyatt.

Mixed feelings about the death penalty aside, this mom admits she will be disappointed if her son's killer doesn't face the worst possible sentence the state has to offer.

(source: KING news)

NORTH KOREA----execution

Hyon Yong Chol disparaged Kim Jong Un prior to execution, analyst says----Hyon's execution is part of Kim’s larger strategy of reducing a bloated military elite, a South Korean analyst said Wednesday.

Former North Korean Defense Minister Hyon Yong Chol was executed for making disparaging remarks about Kim Jong Un, and the North Korean leader poses a greater threat than his father to South Korea, an analyst said Wednesday.

Chung Sung-jang, a researcher at South Korea's Sejong Institute said intelligence gathered from a defector indicated the purged Hyon often referred to Kim as a "young person," Yonhap reported.

Hyon also held several other grievances toward Kim and had criticized him for neglecting his duties, according to a Seoul spy agency report in May.

Hyon's complaints eventually reached Kim, and they factored into the North Korean leader's decision to eliminate his defense minister.

But Kim's purge of Hyon was not an impromptu gesture that emerged from a personal vendetta, South Korean outlet Newsis reported.

According to Chung's analysis, Hyon's execution is part of Kim's larger strategy of reducing a bloated military elite, a plan that includes the ongoing personnel changes and demotions taking place within the elite ranks of North Korea's military.

There are signs, however, other government offices remain relatively stable, Chung said.

Chief of the Korean People's Army General Staff Ri Yong Gil has "safely maintained his position" since August 2013, the analyst said, and no high-ranking officer at Pyongyang's national security apparatus has been rotated out.

Among the core military elite, only Hyon's execution is confirmed, but executions employ cruel methods, Chung said.

"It would be realistic to see Kim Jong Un as more threatening than [his father,] Kim Jong Il," Chung said.

In May, sources in North Korea said Hyon may have been executed with anti-aircraft machine guns, a few days after he was last seen in public in late April.

(source: United Press International)


As EU officials visit Tehran, juvenile offenders are facing execution

European diplomats flocking to Iran, including German Vice-Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel, EU High Representative Federica Mogherini, and French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, have chosen economic interests over human rights, especially considering the ongoing and imminent illegal execution of several juvenile offenders, denounced FIDH, DHRC, and LDDHI.

"While we believe that dialogue is the way forward, states cannot ignore the fact that Iran is the world’s second greatest executioner and is currently threatening juvenile offenders with the death penalty." stated Karim Lahidji, FIDH President.

The use of the death penalty in Iran has been increasing over the past several years, with 2015 slated to witness a record number of executions in the country since 1989 [1], if executions continue at the present rate. Iranian authorities have officially acknowledged 246 executions between 1 January and 15 July 2015, although credible sources have reported a further 448 executions. This is only slightly below the number of executions reported for the entire year in 2014, indicating a very worrying trend of increasing executions. Several thousand others are believed to be on death row in Iran at present, for crimes ranging from murder to drug trafficking to blasphemy.

In addition to the disturbingly high number of executions, Iran ranks first among the few countries that execute juvenile offenders. At least 160 of those currently on death row in Iran are believed to have been under 18 years old at the time they allegedly committed their crimes, which is a direct violation of international law, including the Convention of the Rights of the Child which Iran has signed and ratified.

"Despite the execution of juvenile offenders being forbidden under international law, Iran continues this practice today in the face of warming relations with the West," declared Karim Lahidji. "The international community, including the EU, has a responsibility to make human rights a central component of their relations with Iran and to insist that these violations stop immediately."

On 15 April of this year, Iran executed Javad Saberi for murder, despite having been only 17 years old and suffering from a serious mental illness when he allegedly committed his crime. There are several other juvenile offenders who await a similar fate: Salar Shadizadi is due to be executed on 1 August 2015 for a murder he supposedly committed when he was 15 years old. Hamid Ahmadi is also at imminent risk of execution, even though there are doubts about his age when he allegedly committed murder; some reports indicate he was 15 years old at the time, others register him as 16 years old. Saman Naseem, also sentenced to death for a crime he allegedly committed when he was 17 years old, was thought to have been secretly executed 5 months ago, and only just resurfaced in Zanjan prison. [2]

Our organisations urge the Iranian Government to immediately halt the execution of all juvenile offenders and to repeal the death penalty for minors, in accordance with international law, as a first step toward the full abolition of the death penalty. Furthermore, we implore the international community to insist that any economic and political relations with Iran must be contingent on the latter's respect for human rights and its compliance with its obligations under international law.

(source: FIDH)


2 Prisoners Charged with Murder Saved from Execution by Plaintiffs

2 prisoners charged with murder and sentenced to death were pardoned by the plaintiffs on their cases, according to official and unofficial reports in Iran.

The website of the Prosecutions Office in Kerman reported on a young prisoner who was sentenced to death 6 years ago for murder and was recently pardoned from execution by the murder victim's family. The prisoner's age and name was not published in the report.

Close sources have reported about another prisoner charged with murder who was saved from execution last week. Iranian authorities reportedly took the prisoner, Davoud Alambeigi, along with 13 other prisoners to be hanged to death, but he was saved last minute by the plaintiff on his case file. According to the close sources, 12 of the prisoners taken for execution along with Alambeigi were executed.

(source: Iran Human Rights)


Church urges Pakistan to renew moratorium on death penalty

The Catholic Church in Pakistan has urged the government to reinstate its moratorium on the death penalty a day after 8 more convicts were executed in Punjab province on July 29.

Some 188 people have been hanged in Pakistan since the lifting of a 6-year moratorium on capital punishment in December last year following a massacre at a Peshawar school in which 145 people were killed, 132 of them children.

Rights groups, the United Nations and the Church have criticized the move, saying most executions fall short of international norms. Trials often do not follow due process, they say.

"We strongly oppose capital punishment, especially so since the legal system in Pakistan is flawed," said Cecil Chaudhry, executive director of National Commission for Justice and Peace (NCJP), the Pakistan Church's human rights body.

"The Catholic Church values human sanctity and believes nobody should have the right to take life," he added.

He lamented the execution of Aftab Bahadur Masih, a Christian death row inmate who was hanged just before the start of Ramadan last month despite serious doubts about his age. The dead man's family says Masih was just 15 when he was alleged to have committed murder.

The Church's call to halt executions echoed a similar appeal made by the United Nations shortly before the 8 convicts were put to death on July 29.

The UN also called for Pakistan to commute without delay the sentences of those awaiting execution. Over 8,000 people are currently on death row across the country.

"The death penalty is an extreme form of punishment and, if used at all, should only be imposed for the most serious crimes, after a fair trial that respects the most stringent due process guarantees as stipulated in international human rights law," said Christof Heyns, the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions.

"I reiterate my previous call to Pakistan to continue the moratorium on actual executions and to put in place a legal moratorium on the death penalty, with a view to its abolition," he said.

The Special Rapporteur also drew attention to the case of Shafqat Hussain, whose trial, he says, fell short of international standards. Convicted for a crime reportedly committed as a child, Hussain is scheduled to be executed on August 4.



Voicing concern: EU renews call for restoring ban on executions

The European Union has renewed its call for reinstating the moratorium on death penalty in Pakistan as the country resumed executions following a break in Ramazan. The EU call coincided with the execution of 8 convicted murderers across Punjab on Wednesday.

In a statement, the 28-nation bloc noted that this week executions had been resumed in Pakistan following a temporary suspension during the holy month. "More than 170 people have been executed in Pakistan since December 2014, when the government lifted a moratorium on executions in place since 2008," the statement said.

"The EU is deeply concerned by Pakistan's decision to lift the moratorium on executions in place since 2008 and to resume executions at an alarming pace. The EU is strongly opposed to capital punishment in all cases and has consistently called for its universal abolition," it added.

The EU urged Pakistan to reinstate the moratorium immediately to commute the sentences of persons sentenced to death as first steps towards the abolition of the death penalty and to respect fully all its international obligations.

"Pakistan is a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and the Convention against Torture, which affirm the right to fair trial, prohibit the death sentence for crimes committed by persons under 18 years of age and require prompt and impartial investigation where there is reasonable ground to believe that torture has been committed. Effective implementation of these conventions is a requirement under the GSP+ scheme," the EU statement said.

Pakistan lifted the moratorium on death penalty following the massacre at the military run school in Peshawar in December last year. Islamabad has insisted that its decision was not in violation of any international law.

(source: The Express Tribune)


Yakub Memon's execution: Death penalty no answer to terror

As the Supreme Court's verdict ended Yakub Memon's final hope to stop his hanging, a majority of voices opined that death penalty was not the answer to terrorism, and underlined that he was not the main accused.

"You have to differentiate between this person, who has surrendered before the court and the other people who are in Pakistan," CPI-M politburo member Brinda Karat told IANS.

"The senior officer in-charge of the operation himself wrote that death sentence was not correct," she said commenting on the resurfacing of an article by former RAW official B. Raman, who had written that Memon had entered into an agreement with the government.

Activist John Dayal said he was "deeply saddened at the court ruling". "I continue to oppose the barbaric concept of death penalty which has never deterred determined criminals. I am ashamed and embarrassed as a citizen at the gloating I see on TV channels. I wonder if this will expedite the process of justice for the victims of targeted violence against the citizens of India in 1984, 1993, 2002, 2008 and 2014", said Dayal.

Hyderabad Lok Sabha member Asaduddin Owaisi said Memon was given the death sentence because he did not have any political backing, unlike the killers of former Punjab chief minister Beant Singh and former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi.

Owaisi, head of the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen, said if Memon was to be hanged, the perpetrators of the Babri mosque demolition should also be hanged.

"If capital punishment given by court of law can bring closure to innocent victims of a bomb blast, I demand capital punishment should also be given to actual sin, the demolition of the Babri Masjid," he said.

Social activist Sandhya Gokhle echoed similar views. "The decision is disappointing. Even yesterday, there was a difference of opinion amongst the judges. He was denied justice after spending 20 years in prison. They should have considered the RAW official's letter. This is a vendetta because he is Tiger Memon's brother, otherwise the other people associated with the case have not been given death penalty," Gokhle said.

Author K.R. Meera, who wrote the book "Hang Woman", said: "We can't put an end to terrorism by hanging one person." Ved Marwah, a former Indian Police Service (IPS) officer who was also the governor of Manipur and Mizoram, said the Supreme Court has done the right thing by not intervening at this late stage.

He, however, added: "My personal views on death penalty are that a life sentence should be the last recourse." There were a few others who supported the death penalty.

Former Border Security Force director general Prakash Singh said: "The Supreme Court has taken the right decision. A message should go to those carrying out terrorist activities."

"In fact, I find it disappointing that in an incident where 250 people died, only one person could be hanged. It is also very late despite cases being registered under TADA." He also questioned the authenticity of the article by the ex-RAW official, saying its resurfacing after so many years was very "mysterious".

Shiv Sena's Sanjay Raut said: "Now they will know what is death, what is the pain. The pain Mumbai faced. The government and the Supreme Court have taken decisions in consonance with the views of the people of India."

(source: Deccan Herald)


Hanging Yakub Memon Makes Us Murderers Too

The news of the hanging of Yakub Memon has been greeted across the country with reactions ranging from dismay to scarcely-concealed bloodlust. I joined the public debate by expressing my sadness that our government has hanged a human being, whatever his crimes may have been. State-sponsored killing diminishes us all, I added, by reducing us to murderers too. I stressed that I was not commenting on the merits of this or any specific case: that's for the Supreme Court to decide. My problem is with the principle and practice of the death penalty in our country.

The overwhelming evidence suggests that the death penalty cannot be justified as an effective instrument of the state. Look at the numbers: there's no statistical correlation between applying the death penalty and preventing murder. About 10 people were executed from 1980 to 1990 for the offence of murder under section 302 of the India Penal Code, but the incidence of murder increased from 22,149 to 35,045 during the same period. Similarly, during 1990-2000, even though about 8 people were executed, the incidence of murder increased from 35,045 to 37,399. However, during 2000-2010, only one person was executed and the incidence of murder decreased from 37,399 in 2000 to 33,335 in 2010. No correlation: QED.

The death penalty does not actually deter an individual from committing an offence. In fact, studies show that an individual is rarely aware of the legal implications of his acts - in other words no criminal decides not to commit a crime because he is aware that a death sentence might follow. Additionally, the ambiguous application of the "rarest of the rare" principle enunciated by the Supreme Court further disables an individual from determining what offence would actually lead to a sentence of death penalty, and what would instead lead to life imprisonment. For any punishment to be an effective deterrence, it is important for ordinary people, especially potential criminals, to understand a clear relation between an offence and its punishment; but the odds of being hanged even for murder are very unpredictable indeed.

Studies have also proved that the application of the death penalty in India depends on various variables such as the biases of the judiciary, the arbitrariness of the Executive, social and communal biases, public outrage (especially against those complicit in terrorism or crimes against women involving rape and murder), the economic status of the accused (many more poor criminals are executed than well-off ones), and the quality of legal representation. The judicial use of expressions like "the collective conscience of the community has been shocked" to justify the death penalty testifies to the room for subjectivity and the grave risk that ill-informed media rhetoric can affect a decision.

Our existing criminal justice system leaves much room for errors and biases, especially because the system is created and implemented by humans. There is a possibility that the investigating agency is not able to collect sufficient and relevant evidence, the legal counsel is not competent enough to assess and defend his case, the judge is influenced by personal biases and media reports, and a lengthy criminal trial destroys the evidence. All such factors can never lead to an error-free assessment; it's a worrying basis to take a human life.

These factors leave much room for the arbitrary and disproportionate application of capital punishment. While 436 death sentences were imposed by the lower courts in the four years from 2010-13, 280 were commuted to life imprisonment and only 2 people were actually executed. However, all death sentences have not been commuted: many stay in an appalling limbo for decades. There are no comprehensive parameters to ascertain whether a person has been rightfully executed. It is morally difficult to justify taking such an extreme step when there is so much ambiguity about both the fairness of the death penalty and its efficacy.

The Law Commission had organized consultations just a couple of weeks ago to assess the effectiveness of the provisions governing the death penalty in India and the purpose of the penalty itself. This had been prompted by the Supreme Court taking note of the errors, the arbitrariness, and the judicial bias affecting the award of a death sentence. Unsurprisingly, based on the evidence and the opinions presented at the Law Commission's hearings, there was a general consensus on the inability of the courts to adopt a fair and non-discriminatory approach to the death penalty, and overwhelming opinion in favour of its abolition.

I am told my comments on social media this morning were met by a response from the government that I should not be politicizing the issue. I don't see anything political in my statement of principle. But since politics has been mentioned, let me respond that it would be disingenuous to suggest that the imposition of the death penalty is free from any political motivations. After all, the final decision on mercy petitions or to commute a death sentence is taken by the political executive, which advises the President, who has the final say in deciding the execution of a death sentence but, is expected to act in accordance with the guidance of the Council of Ministers. The decision is therefore bound to be influenced by popular public opinion and political calculation.

The fundamental issue remains that innumerable studies and statistics support the view that there is no direct correlation between death penalty and deterrence. So why have it? The answer is simple: revenge and retribution. He killed (or participated in killing), therefore he should be killed. Is that a worthy act for a State? Should our society be practising the philosophy of 'an eye for an eye'? Revenge is not an acceptable justification for any governmental punishment. And the inept criminal justice system and the existing judicial and economic biases, which are further aggravated by inflamed public opinion, can hardly ensure the fair use of the death penalty, so we may in some cases be exacting revenge on the wrong people. Innocent, reformed and reformable people have been given the death penalty even though they no longer pose any serious danger to society.

There's only one possible conclusion as far as I'm concerned. The provisions governing capital punishment cannot be reformed. Therefore the death penalty should be abolished.

(source: Dr Shashi Tharoor is a two-time MP from Thiruvananthapuram, the Chairman of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on External Affairs, the former Union Minister of State for External Affairs and Human Resource Development and the former UN


India executes Mumbai bomb plotter Yakub Memon----Media caption Yakub Memon, who has been executed by hanging, tried using all legal routes to plead for mercy, as Yogita Limaye reports

India has carried out the execution of Yakub Memon, the man convicted of financing the deadly 1993 Mumbai bombings.

Memon was hanged at a prison in Nagpur in the western state of Maharashtra.

The serial blasts killed 257 people, and were allegedly to avenge the killing of Muslims in riots a few months earlier.

India rarely carries out death sentences - only 3 other people have been executed since 2004.

There was tight security around the Nagpur prison on Thursday morning, and in parts of the state capital, Mumbai.

The March 1993 blasts targeted a dozen sites, including the Bombay Stock Exchange, the offices of national carrier Air India and a luxury hotel.

Yakub Memon with a police guard in MumbaiMemon was sentenced to death in 2007 after being convicted of providing financial and logistical support for the bombings.

Memon was hanged hours after the Supreme Court dismissed a final plea to stay the sentence.

His lawyers had argued that executions can only be carried out after 7 days have passed following the rejection of a mercy petition.

The court opened its doors in the dead of the night to hear his last appeal for mercy, but rejected it just before dawn.

The court ruled that because his first mercy petition had been rejected last year, the execution met the required rules, said media reports.

History of Mumbai attacks

March 1993: Series of explosions kill 257 people and injure 713

August 2003: 4 bomb attacks kill 52 people

July 2006: 7 bombs go off on crowded trains within 11 minutes, killing more than 180 people and wounding hundreds

November 2008: Gunmen carry out a series of co-ordinated attacks across 7 high-profile locations, including 2 luxury hotels, city's main commuter train station, a hospital, a restaurant and a Jewish centre, killing 165 people.

Pakistan-based militants blamed for the attacks and peace efforts between the 2 countries derailed. 9 of the attackers also killed. Pakistani national Mohammad Ajmal Amir Qasab, who was captured alive, hanged in November 2012.

July 2011: 3 near-simultaneous explosions during Mumbai's evening rush hour kill 18 people and injure 131

Memon, a chartered accountant, was sentenced to death in 2007 by a special court in Mumbai after being convicted of providing financial and logistical support for the bombings.

He was the only one of 11 people convicted for the bombings to have his death sentence upheld on appeal. The sentences on the others were commuted to life imprisonment.

The additional chief secretary of the state government confirmed to the BBC that Memon's body would not be buried inside the prison compound, and would be handed over to his family once a post-mortem had been carried out.

The Yakub Memon case

05 August 1994: Yakub Memon is picked up from the New Delhi railway station; he claims he gave himself up in Nepal eight days earlier.

27 July 2007: 12 including Memon sentenced to death, 20 given life sentences.

21 March 2013: Supreme court commutes sentences of 10 but confirms death penalty for Memon, saying "his commanding position and the crime of utmost gravity" warranted no less.

May 2014: President Pranab Mukherjee rejects Yakub's mercy petition.

9 April 2015: Supreme Court rejects mercy plea, confirms death for Yakub.

30 July 2015: Supreme Court rejects final petition filed by Memon - he is executed hours later.

Memon's case has divided opinion in India, with many calling for the suspension of the death sentence.

Yakub Memon's brother, Tiger, is widely seen as having been the mastermind behind the attacks, alongside gangland boss Dawood Ibrahim. Both remain in hiding.

Several influential journalists, politicians and members of civil society had sent a letter to the president asking for him to "spare him from the noose of the death for a crime that was master-minded by someone else to communally divide India".

(source: BBC news)


Political war of words erupts over Memon's execution

A political war of words erupted on Thursday over the execution of 1993 Mumbai blast convict Yakub Memon, with a section of opposition leaders speaking against the death sentence.

Congress general secretary Digvijaya Singh fired the first salvo, saying that the BJP- led government should show "similar commitment" in all cases of terror as it showed in the case of Yakub Memon.

"I hope similar commitment of the government and the judiciary would be shown in all cases of terror, irrespective of their caste, creed and religion," he said in a tweet following Memon's execution in the Nagpur central jail on Thursday morning.

Party colleague and former union minister Shashi Tharoor said he was "saddened" by Memon's execution.

"Saddened by news that our government has hanged a human being. State-sponsored killing diminishes us all by reducing us to murderers too," Tharoor tweeted.

"There is no evidence that death penalty serves as a deterrent, to the contrary in fact. All it does is exact retribution, unworthy of a government," the Thiruvananthapuram parliamentarian said.

"I'm not commenting on the merits of a specific case; that's for the Supreme Court to decide. Problem is death penalty in principle and practice," he added.

Communist Party of India (CPI) parliamentarian D. Raja, meanwhile, said that the death penalty should be done away with in the country.

"India should say an emphatic no to capital punishment.... It does not mean we do not have sympathy with those (blast victims') families, but by snatching away one life will not bring back all those lives," Raja said.

All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen leader and Hyderabad parliamenarian Asaduddin Owaisi said the government should ensure death sentence in all similar cases.

"Death sentence should also be given to Babu Bajrangi, Maya Kodnani, Col. Purohit and Swami Aseemanand," he said.

While Babu Bajrangi and Maya Kodnani are accused in the Gujarat riots, Col. Purohit and Swami Aseemanand are accused in the Malegaon blast.

The ruling BJP slammed the leaders opposed to the hanging, Tharoor and Digvijaya Singh were foresaken by the Congress as well, which said it was their "personal views".

Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said the views were that of the leaders concerned and not of the Congress.

Former home secretary and BJP parliamentarian R.K. Singh said those making such comments did not have national interests on their minds.

"These people don't think about national interest. Whether he (Yakub) had to be hanged or not was not to be decided by the government but the court, and the president uses his judgement after that...," he said.

Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs, Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, said justice had been done.

"Justice has been done; this increased the people's faith in the judicial process. He got 2 decades to prove his innocence, and he was proven guilty," he said.

Yakub Abdul Razzak Memon, convicted in the March 12, 1993 Mumbai serial blasts, was hanged till death at Maharashtra's Nagpur central jail on Thursday morning.

(source: Business Standard)


CPDR Protests Against The Unjust Death Penalty To Yakub Memon

The Committee for Protection of Democratic Rights (CPDR) planned demonstrations to protest against the government’s plan to hang Yakub Memon on 30 July at the Nagpur Central Jail. The demonstrations were planned today (28 July 2015) at 5 pm Near Dadar Railway Station (East). There was a significant support from youth organizations and students to the demonstrations and we expected a good turnout of activists and public support. During the entire day the Police repeatedly phoned up the CPDR activists, whose numbers were given on the CPDR pamphlet and kept asking the details about demonstration and about the police permission, clearly to spread scare among the activists.

The venue, the East side of the Dadar Railway Station was already filled up by police and media people. As the activists reached the spot with placards, pamphlets and banners, they were pounced upon by the police who whisked them away to the Matunga Police Station. The activists however managed to shout slogans and throw some pamphlets to people. In all they arrested about 50 people which included students of Tata Institute of Social Science (TISS) and some other institutes, and were charged under Unlawful Assembly and Mumbai Police Act. They were detained for nearly 3 hours during which the police reverberated with various slogans denouncing the death penalty to Yakub Memon. Advocate Pradeep Mandyan of CPDR reached the Police Station and mediated their release on PR. Among the arrested were Maharukh Adenwala, Susan Abraham, Suresh Rajeshwar, Monica Sakhrani, Jyoti Punyani, Arun Fereira, Sudhir Dhawale and Feroze Mithiborwala of Bharat Bachao Andolan.

Other activists escaped the arrest and distributed pamphlets at various railway stations including CST.

Anand Teltumbde is General Secretary of Committee for Protection of Democratic Rights



Death penalty wrong in principle and practice: Tharoor

Congress leader Shashi Tharoor on Thursday said that although he did not want to comment on the execution of 1993 Mumbai terror attacks convict Yakub Memon but said that death penalty is wrong in principle and practice.

"I am not commenting on the merits of any case because that is for the Supreme Court to decide. My position is that death penalty is wrong in principle and practice. Lots of studies have been conducted which confirm that death penalty has no deterrent effect, statistics also suggest that," said Tharoor. Memon's body was handed over to his family members after the 1993 Mumbai terror attacks convict was hanged in the Nagpur Central jail earlier today.

Meanwhile, security has been tightened outside the terror attack convict's Mumbai residence following his execution.

Memon was hanged at the Nagpur Central jail today morning after his 2nd mercy plea before President Pranab Mukherjee was rejected late last night.

(source: The Times of India)


Death penalty in 'peace-loving' India may not be right, says NCP

Commenting on 1993 Mumbai terror blast convict Yakub Memon's execution, the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) on Thursday said that implementing capital punishment in 'peace-loving' India may not be right.

"Debate over whether or not the capital punishment should be implemented is going on in the whole world and also in our nation. Personally I feel that in a peace-loving place like India, where we use names of people like Gandhiji, punishment like this may not be right," Tariq Anwar told ANI.

"I think in the future we will reach to a conclusion. Whatever happened with Yakub, our court took the decision. We believe in the court. We don't doubt that Yakub was guilty. He was guilty and he needed to be punished, but the rest of the nation was suggesting that he shouldn't be hanged and given some other punishment," he added.

"Maybe the Supreme Court didn`t accept the suggestion. Now, that he is hanged, we need to decide in the future whether or not the capital punishment should exist," said Anwar, adding "The way the whole world is debating on the capital punishment, I think we will soon reach to a conclusion."

Memon's 2nd mercy plea before President Pranab Mukherjee was rejected late last night.In an unprecedented move, a 3-judge bench of the Supreme Court presided over a fresh hearing of the case throughout the intervening night of Wednesday and Thursday before dismissing the final appeal for mercy by Yakub, the only person to be sentenced to death for the series of bombings in Mumbai.

While Yakub Memon's lawyer Anand Grover had sought a reprieve of 14 days to challenge rejection of mercy plea by the President, Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi maintained that if mercy petitions are filed over and over again, death warrants will never be executed.

The apex court had on Wednesday also dismissed the curative petition of Yakub, saying proper procedure was followed in disposing of Yakub's curative petition.Memon was convicted for being the "driving spirit" behind the blasts that killed at least 257 people at separate landmarks in the financial capital, including the Bombay Stock Exchange and two crowded markets.

(source: Zee News)


Society's Severest Criticism

The past fortnight saw the execution of Ajmal Kasab, the Pakistani Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorist who had been captured in the attacks on Bombay in November 2008, just days before the fourth anniversary of the same attack. Not surprisingly, death penalty abolitionists used the opportunity to argue their case against state execution (yet again) before the public. It is not difficult to be sceptical of state power and fear its familiar abuse. However, the Indian judiciary has set the bar quite high with its "rarest of the rare" doctrine that there is less to fear in terms of judicial error in the awarding of society’s severest criticism.

The question whether the death penalty should exist is not a matter of law but of philosophy. That it has been upheld repeatedly by the highest court of the land is enough to cement its legal position. Yet laws reflect societal values, and the real question that faces us is if a law that allows the state to take the life of an individual should be on the books in the first place.

Those who oppose the death penalty do so on multiple grounds - its irreversibility, its low correlation to deterrence, the rejection of retribution and vengeance as one of the foundational elements of justice, and its inhumanity. Barring the 1st concern, the rest seem like a haute-bourgeois tantrum, insisting upon the imposition of a saccharine prettiness on society. The emphasis on mercy, reformation, and rehabilitation find little resonance with the victims of crimes; the unbridled optimism - naivete? - that comes through is neither practical nor sound. What the abolitionists seem to have lost sight of is that the penalty is considered only for the severest of crimes committed in the most exceptional manner.

So far, the proponents of the death penalty have defended the practice while the opponents have fired a barrage of questions. There are, however, a few questions for them too: firstly, what is their rejection of collective retribution based on? 2nd, what is the success rate of rehabilitation of the most dangerous criminals, and what is the potential for recidivism? 3rd, what exactly is inhuman about a state execution in which efforts have been made to ensure that death is quick and painless? 4th, what makes institutionalised mercy a virtue?

The notion of retribution is ancient and has religious - middah kenegged middah - as well as secular - lex talionis - origins. Interestingly, the principle was supposed to curb retributive impulses of a wronged party in early societies! Apart from finding some basis in utilitarian principles such as the removal of a criminal from society serving the greater good, capital punishment also has some support from deontological ethics. The German philosopher, Immanuel Kant, believed that retributive justice was not merely about punishment but also about respect. Treating a criminal as a case of social maladjustment was not only an enormous loophole but also ignored the rationality of the perpetrator of a crime. If the basis of law and society sees man as a rational actor, it is hardly logical to disregard so foundational a belief when it comes to criminal behaviour.

The new mantra of rehabilitation that has taken hold of prison reforms has certainly had its successes, but most of these have been among inmates who have been incarcerated for non-violent crimes. One wonders if rehabilitation would work on hardened criminals capable of carrying out the rarest of the rare crimes. Would it have worked on Ajmal Kasab? Osama bin Laden? Uday Hussein? Were one inclined towards an emotional plea, a brief summary of former president Pratibha Patil's pardons would be appropriate here. Logic alone, however, should suffice (but the emotional impact of coming face to face with gruesome crimes should be noted). Faced with a death sentence, everyone is keen on disavowing their crimes, but what is the probability - and danger - of recidivism? No longer is the question merely a philosophical inquiry but it can have devastating consequences on thousands of lives.

It is also alleged that state execution is inhuman. The act itself seems quick and relatively painless - hanging by the long drop method causes severe trauma to the upper cervical spine and causes near instantaneous death. This is far kinder than the victims of those the state apparatus has sentenced to death, but that is neither here nor there. The assertion is that voluntary taking of life is cruel and unusual. This assumption, however, takes no account of the context in which a human life is being taken and the process by which that decision has been reached; nor does it consider the consequences of not doing so. Arguing that the death penalty is not humane tries to make an absolute moral judgement. The only problem is that everything functions within limits.

A final point for consideration is the option before the state for clemency. Mercy is not an act that can be deserved, or one would then be entitled to it. It is, properly considered, an act that one has no claim to. Furthermore, the mercy being sought is not personal but institutional. There is yet another twist - one must be careful to distinguish between charity, pity, forgiveness, and mercy. The 1st has no implication of pardoning or reducing guilt, the 2nd refers to the adjustment of guilt to an appropriate level, the 3rd is quite clear in its intent, and the fourth implies a 2nd chance a moral improvement. Unfortunately, this is a personal decision, one that society cannot make collectively. Mercy, if shown, can meaningfully come only from the kin of the victims - who but the wronged can bestow such a magnanimous gift?

People like Kasab, bin Laden, and Hussein are not merely criminals; those who commit the rarest of rare crimes represent a tumour in society that must be excised. If rehabilitation were truly the answer, there would be no war, no hatred, no racism, no strife of any kind today. We would all be generous, happy, eco-friendly, virtuous, community-conscious, and dharmic individuals. The horror of some crimes forces us to reflect upon those members of our species that have gone wildly wrong, and it is too close for comfort - it could have been us. Our discomfort must not, however, lead us to specious moral arguments. In that Great Book, the Mahabharata, we learn a most important lesson from Draupadi in the Vana Parva: "Revenge is not always better, but neither is forgiveness; learn to know them both so that there is no problem."

(source: Jaideep Prabhu,


On India's Continued Use of the Death Penalty

Capital punishment or the death penalty has been abolished completely in 103 countries. 50 countries have not used it for the past 10 years or more or they practice a moratorium. Public opinion against the death penalty around the world is increasing. According to Amnesty International, 37 countries had the death penalty in 1994, compared with 22 today. In Europe and Latin America, the practice has essentially been entirely banished and an increasing number of African countries are reviewing their laws. Recently, 2 victims, 1 in China and the other in the US, were found to be innocent following their executions. Can the state give back their lives?

India, the world's largest democracy shamelessly continues to apply the death penalty. On Sunday the famous Bollywood star, Salman Khan, tweeted against the death penalty for Yakub Memom who was accused in the 1993 Mumbai serial bomb blasts case and was ultimately executed on the July, 30 2015. Immediately after the tweet, he received support from former Bollywood star and present BJP Member of Parliament, Shatrugan Sinha.

What followed was a shameful reflection on the rich heritage of India as a tolerant and non violent country. Goons from the BJP and Shiv Sena gathered in large numbers and protested in front of Salman Khan's house. The actor withdrew his tweets.

Without going into the merits of the case, one needs to understand that the state is meant to protect its subjects, not necessarily by killing those who have caused harm to fellow subjects of the state. If revenge is the answer, the state need not exist. Hammurabi's code of laws was discarded as draconian ages ago. There is no greater glory to the state than showing mercy and compassion to its offenders.

Death penalty has been there since time immemorial and the argument is that it acts as a deterrent to those who may think of committing a heinous crime, but has it had the desired result over thousands of years? One who has made up his mind to terrorize and kill innocents is never deterred by the consequences of his action.

The Indian public needs to understand that terrorism is not the biggest killer in India, poverty and misguided government policies are. Farmer suicides have killed more than 300,000 farmers since independence in 1947. (There was a 26% increase in farmer suicide in 2014 alone).

Diseases, unsafe roads and railways are the biggest killers and the state does not highlight these issues as there are no political gains to be had. More than 200 prominent people in India have sought clemency for Yakub Memon. By killing Yakub Memom, will the 250 victims of the 1993 blasts be brought back to life, or would his execution bring solace to all the families of those victims? What has happened to this country of Mahavira, Buddha, Ashoka the Great? The world over we Indians are respected for the Gandhian ideals of truth and ahimsa (non violence). We were the torch bearers of Human Rights around the world. Would the hanging of Yakub Memom satisfy our collective thirst for blood? Here I am reminded of the few lines of George Orwel’s essay, A Hanging: It is curious, but till that moment I had never realised what it means to destroy a healthy, conscious man. When I saw the prisoner step aside to avoid the puddle I saw the mystery, the unspeakable wrongness, of cutting a life short when it is in full tide. This man was not dying, he was alive just as we are alive. All the organs of his body were working - bowels digesting food, skin renewing itself, nails growing, tissues forming - all toiling away in solemn foolery. His nails would still be growing when he stood on the drop, when he was falling through the air with 1/10 of a second to live. His eyes saw the yellow gravel and the grey walls, and his brain still remembered, foresaw, reasoned - even about puddles. He and we were a party of men walking together, seeing, hearing, feeling, understanding the same world; and in 2 minutes, with a sudden snap, 1 of us would be gone - 1 mind less, 1 world less.

The greatest pleasure and the path to inner peace is in forgiving and not seeking revenge. Forgiveness would surely elevate India as a morally powerful country ready to take up the leadership role for those who are victims of terrorism.

(source: Paul Newman, International Policy Digest)


After Yakub Memon's execution, here's the case to retain death penalty

The hanging of Yakub Memon gives us a good reason to start the debate over the death penalty. I would like to make out a case in favour of retaining the death penalty.

The main arguments trotted out in favour of the abolition of capital punishment are these. First, we should not be party to taking precious human life. 2nd, sentencing someone to death when facts may later prove him or her innocent means irreparable injustice will be done. 3rd, death is never a deterrent. And, a 4th, that retribution should never be the aim of capital punishment. It is primitive and barbaric to seek death even for the worst crimes.

Let me agree that none of these arguments are invalid in toto. But they are not as strong as they appear to be at first glance.

Let's take the 1st argument. Every human life is precious, no doubt. The right to life is the most fundamental of rights. No state should be allowed to take it away easily.

But no fundamental right is without riders either. Free speech, property and faith, all these are rights subject to reasonable restrictions. Sure, the right to life is even more fundamental, but this only means that the right to take it away has to be foolproof and not amenable to subjective readings.

When someone is a terrorist, killing people at will, or a serial murderer or rapist, is this person’s right to life all that sacrosanct all the time?

Also, we need to evaluate the death sentence compared to the alternative: a life sentence. Is living life in a dingy cell somehow more humane than sending the killer to the hangman? When suicide bombers voluntarily kill themselves for psychic gains, why is the right to life somehow so sacrosanct? They want to die anyway - and they don't believe in other people's right to live.

Let me add 2 more elements to this argument. Why is only human life so valuable, and not that of animals or other fauna? Why is it so unethical to hang a human being, but perfectly all right to murder animals by the million when this causes global warming, makes our diets excessively fatty and cholesterol-laden, and also leads to needless suffering to creatures whom we dominate?

Moreover, what if keeping a person alive can cause even more deaths? Keeping Maqbool Butt alive led Kashmiri separatists to the kidnap and murder of an Indian diplomat in Birmingham in the early 1980s. Boko Haram, Al-Qaeda, Indian Mujahideen, Al Shabaab, and ISIS will do anything to get the release of their jailed comrades. Keeping Maulana Masood Azhar and Sheikh Omar in jail caused the Kandahar Indian Airlines hijack and may even have contributed to the 9/11 mass murders at the Twin Towers. When keeping deadly killers alive in jail can tempt their compatriots to indulge in more killings, how is this justified?

When it comes to demented people who kill or rape for pleasure and revenge, and when they do so out of mental sickness, is it better to keep them rotting in jail or end their suffering and potential threats to society - including other jailbirds?

Sometimes, the greater good is more important than the life of one individual. Hence the death penalty is not something we should reject out of sheer emotion.

Let's take the next argument - that sending someone to the gallows when he may be innocent is the worst form of injustice. This is a reasonably good argument, but we need to examine it closely for its implications.

There are 2 kinds of states - malevolent ones, that are run by dictatorships and hence outside the rule of law, and democratic ones, which do give the accused a chance to prove their innocence. In the 1st case, there is no point arguing against the death sentence since that kind of regime is against any argument that is not in favour of it.

In democratic regimes, where the rule of law is reasonably expected to operate, the accused have a chance to prove their innocence. Let's remember, Yakub Memon got 21 years to prove his innocence, and failed. However, the real issue here is whether he (and others on death row) got reasonable support from the law so that they don't end up on the gallows for want of an adequate defence. In big cases, the courts themselves provide legal support; the real problem lies with the poor and weak in criminal cases that do not catch the public eye. It is a travesty that the bulk of the people languishing on death row are from these segments of society. This problem needs remedying by strengthening the law - a law which provides state legal support for the poor. Maybe, a group of concerned citizens can serve as watchdog to ensure that this gets done.

That still leaves the question of the non-guilty facing a death rap because of poor evidence gathering by the criminal investigation teams.

This is a valid argument, but not an overpowering one. Reason: the fact that mistakes will be made occasionally should not be used to kill the idea of death penalty in the rarest of rare cases. Once we create a basic list of crimes that fits this "rarest of rare" category, the rules for applying the death sentence can be tightened suitably so that convictions based on weak evidence should automatically attract nothing more than lifers. This is a reasonable safeguard to have - and it can be codified into law.

The 3rd argument, that capital punishment is never a deterrent, is actually the weakest of them all. If death is no deterrence, is a jail term (even a lifer) a better deterrent? Ask yourself: if you intend to kill, not out of some degree of temporary insanity or driven by extreme emotion, nothing is a deterrent. If you kill after plotting assiduously for it, you are prepared for any consequences. So death or jail will be no deterrent anyway. I believe that punishment itself does not deter too many crimes involving the killing of people, but it is still needed to send out a message to society. Punishment is how we educate ourselves on what is acceptable or unacceptable to a society. This is the prime purpose of any punishment, death or jail, regardless of whether it deters or not.

The last argument, that death penalty cannot become a form of retribution, I personally disagree with. States punish crimes with punishment, including death, so that people don't take law into their own hands and seek retribution directly. Punishment by the state is vital to keep ordinary citizens from taking the law into their own hands - some form of retribution is vital for closure, for righting wrongs. Of course, an occasional Gandhi or a Buddha may not want retribution, but most societies are held in place by the promise of retribution for wrongs inflicted, and not by the forgiving nature of the wronged. Retribution is a human emotion that needs to be acknowledged - just as love, anger and hate are - and punishment is vital if society is not to sink into wanton lawlessness.

These are some of the reasons why I think the death sentence should be retained. But it cannot be wayward and arbitrary. We need a specific set of crimes which are defined as rarest of rare and not leave it to the imagination of all-to-human judges to decide this. This is what the debate on capital punishment needs to focus on, not whether it should be abolished.

It may be possible to abolish death penalties in extremely advanced countries where people are normally law abiding and the state is strong enough and has enough resources to even attempt to correct the behaviour patterns of deadly criminals. But India is not anywhere near that stage. We need the death penalty for our own reasons at this stage in our development as a civilised society. Let's not fool ourselves into thinking that we must do what the Joneses do to their killers in Scandinavia or Europe. That way lies chaos and disaster.

(source: R Jagannathan,


NU clerics want death penalty for corruption

Muslim clerics across the nation have urged law enforcement agencies and courts to be steadfast in dealing with corruption and money laundering, and bold enough to hand down death sentences to those found guilty of corruption.

The religious leaders from the country's largest Islamic organization Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) said corruption and money laundering were extraordinary crimes against humanity because of their adverse impacts on the nation, state and community. "We clerics are in favor of the death penalty if conditions are supportive and requirements are met," NU Syuro board chairman for legal affairs Ahmad Ishomuddin told the media in Yogyakarta on Wednesday.

The recommendation on the death penalty for those involved in corruption was 1 of the 7 points of the "Recommendation on Prevention and Eradication of Corruption and Money Laundering" directed at the government.

The recommendation was part of the conclusion of the 2-day Nusantara (archipelago) Cleric Assembly themed Building Pesantren Anti-corruption Movement, organized by the NU and the Gusdurian Network National Secretariat in Yogyakarta, which began Tuesday. Gusdurian is a network of activists who promote the ideas on peace and pluralism of former president Abdurrahman "Gus Dur" Wahid.

The meeting was attended by 30 religious figures from 27 cities in 10 provinces across the country.

"Among the requirements [for the death penalty] are if corruption and money laundering are committed at a time when the country is in peril, during economic or social crises, or committed repeatedly," added Ishomuddin.

Meanwhile, Umar Faroeq, from the Ma'had Jami'ah Pesantren STAI Mathali’ul Falah Islamic boarding school in Pati, Central Java, said Nusantara clerics also studied about the death penalty handed down to corrupt people from the viewpoint of Muslim clerics long ago.

"It exists in the Maliki and Hanafi [Islamic teaching] schools, and the condition is very clear, that is, when it is done repeatedly," said Umar. He added that an edict on the death penalty for corrupt people had not been issued by clerics from long ago because they were very careful and paid attention to aspects of human rights. "But now we are in a time of crisis and it's time to implement it," he pointed out.

Umar said the recommendation also described various forms of corruption, such as bribery, embezzlement, looting, extortion, power abuse, theft and fraud.

Money laundering is categorized as a sin according to Islamic perspectives, because it is part of a conspiracy of sin and enmity, harms the government, business world and economic system, encourages crime and puts people in danger, he added.

Gusdurian Network coordinator Alissa Wahid said the recommendation also served as a basis for the NU to carry out anti-corruption measures based in Islamic boarding schools. "The recommendation will enable Islamic boarding school caretakers and Islamic-based schools as well as members of the NU community to understand corruption," said Alissa.

The eldest daughter of Gus Dur added that the recommendation would also be conveyed to clerics attending the 33rd NU Congress in Jombang, East Java, in early August.

Meanwhile, Yogyakarta Legal Aid Institute (LBH Yogyakarta) director Hamzal Wahyudin said he agreed that serious measures needed to be taken to eradicate corruption, but disagreed with the death penalty for such offenses.

"The death penalty is against basic human rights so it is not feasible in Indonesia," said Hamzal.

He said there were alternative forms of punishment that could serve as deterrents, such as a life sentences, deprivation and revoking the political rights of those found guilty.

"I believe they are sufficient," he stressed.

(source: The Jakarta Post)

JULY 29, 2015:


Death penalty bill headed to McCrory

Doctors would no longer have to be in the room when an inmate is executed, under a bill the House voted to send Gov. Pat McCrory on Wednesday.

House Bill 774, which passed the Senate earlier this week and cleared the House a final time on a 74-34 vote, would also shield the makers of drugs used in executions and the specific protocols for carrying out the sentence from public view.

"Passing this bill is a step toward enforcing a law that's already on the books," Rep. Leo Daughtry, R-Johnston, told his colleagues.

"The majority seeks to pass this bill to restart executions. This will not do it," Rep. Rick Glazier, D-Cumberland, said, adding that the measure is "inherently flawed and ultimately doomed to failure."

Attempts to shield specifics of execution drugs and procedures from public scrutiny, Glazier said, would merely bring more lawsuits that would further delay executions.

North Carolina has not executed an inmate since 2006. Legal challenges over the death penalty have dealt with whether doctors are required to participate in executions, how the execution protocol was approved and, under the since-repealed Racial Justice Act, whether sentencing in some cases was tainted by racial bias. Across the nation, the drugs used in executions have also been the subject of litigation.

Daughtry argued that the bill was not a complete veil on the process.

"You will know what drugs are being used. You just won't know where they came from," he said. "This bill protects the company, but you will know what chemicals are in the cocktail."

(source: WRAL news)


Bidding adieu to anti-death penalty activist Steve Dear

When Steve Dear announced his departure as executive director of People of Faith Against the Death Penalty, he posted it with Thomas Merton's "Letter to a Young Activist," from 1966. It begins: "Do not depend on the hope of results."

Don't depend on results, or even the hope of results?

I was dimly aware of Merton, a prolific writer and Catholic mystic. At other times in my life, I'd have passed over his advice without pause. Results, as I learned in my youth, are why you keep score. But now, I did pause. Full stop.

"When you are doing the sort of work you have taken on," Merton continued, "essentially an apostolic work, you may have to face the fact that your work will be apparently worthless and achieve no result at all, if not perhaps results opposite to what you expect."

I've admired Steve Dear virtually since he came to the fledgling PFADP organization in 1997. Simply put, he's been a fixture in the restless circle of social justice work in the Triangle, a fighter for a cause.

And Dear's work got results. Under his leadership, PFADP became a force, in North Carolina and throughout the country, for abolishing capital punishment. Yes, 31 states, including ours, still have the death penalty. But executions in the United States are down sharply. Last year, there were just 35, and 20 were in Texas and Missouri.

North Carolina, which put 32 men to death between 1999 and 2005, has executed no one since Aug. 18, 2006. For complicated reasons, a major one of which was the growing influence of PFADP, a virtual moratorium took hold then, and it continues - though Republicans in the General Assembly appear determined to end it soon and resume the killing.

I had 2 reactions, therefore, to seeing Dear's resignation with Merton's advice. One, I hoped that Dear didn't doubt his impact. 2, I'm finding it hard to depend on the hope of results myself as I observe our state's and our nation's corruption. I drove to Carrboro to meet with Dear for a pep talk.

When Dear gets up to speak at his going-away party, he'll probably tell how the Rev. Robert Seymour, mild-mannered Chapel Hill pastor, pounded the table at Gov. Jim Hunt, shouting that if the death penalty is such a deterrent, Hunt should stage the executions outdoors -"right outside your window!"

Dear organized 25 delegations of faith leaders to meet, first with Hunt, later with Gov. Mike Easley, seeking clemency for convicted murderers about to be put to death. Hunt and Easley each commuted two death sentences to life in prison. They let the rest go.

All those executions and the others that PFADP and its thousands of supporters fought unsuccessfully to stop took their toll on Dear. The ceaseless organizing, the press conferences, protests, sit-ins at Central Prison on execution nights, and, above all, the knowledge that a life would be snuffed out if mercy was denied pushed Dear to work for weeks on end with no days off and little sleep.

Merton's advice: "You are probably striving to build yourself an identity ... to protect yourself against nothingness, annihilation. This is not the right use of your work."

"I am impatient," Dear said when we talked. "I wanted results. I wanted to end the damned thing" - the death penalty. "I was driven by a sense of obligation."

But finally, after 9 years of relentless battle, he was hurting physically (with herniated discs, "organizer's back," caused by too many boxes with too many pamphlets carried to too many events) and stressing out.

A 5-month sabbatical in 2006, supported by the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation, helped him to grasp Merton's wisdom: "Offer yourself, offer your gifts. But don't hang your ego on the outcome. What's much more important is the life you lead and the people around you," Dear says now.

Dear is moving to Eugene, Oregon, where his wife, a doctor, has accepted a position and where he will do some consulting. But also - in Nike's uber-healthy hometown - he will go to the gym, lose weight and prepare for the next challenge at age 51.

Merton was right, Dear says, that we can't control "the big results." We can control what we live for and who we chose to live and work with. For more than an hour, Dear regaled me with stories about PFADP's many other heroes - unsung pastors, local organizers, forgiving family members of murder victims - who did the work that I was crediting to him. OK, but I saw him bust his butt.

His last take on 18 years at PFADP: "I have gratitude. Deep gratitude. I'm so grateful for all the beautiful people I've gotten to know."


Honoring Steve Dear

What--A party with People of Faith Against the Death Penalty

Why--PFADP's longtime executive director, Steve Dear, is moving to Oregon

Where--United Church of Chapel Hill, 1321 Martin Luther King Blvd.

When--Friday, July 31, 7 - 9 p.m.

And No charge to attend, but donations accepted



Attorney general seeks execution date for death row inmate

The state of Mississippi wants to execute Richard Gerald Jordan, the longest serving inmate on death row, on or before Aug. 27.

(source: Associated Press)


Defense argues against death penalty for Kelly

Defense attorneys for accused murderer Ricky Kelly made their argument before a judge Wednesday that the option of the death penalty should be excluded from the case.

Prosecutors announced in December 2014 their intention to seek the death penalty against Kelly, accused of fatally shooting Lajuante "B.B" Jackson in August 2005 in the Sheppard Square housing complex to protect his drug-trafficking organization.

The case in Jefferson Circuit Court is the latest attempt to convict Kelly, who was originally charged with complicity to 8 murders in 2011. Those charges were dropped in 2013 and the case moved to federal court. That case was also dropped in August 2014 due to a death of a key witness set to testify against Kelly. That month, the case moved back to circuit court when Kelly was indicted on just 1 murder charge.

A motion to exclude the death penalty was filed by Kelly's former public defender Amy Hannah in March. She argued in her motion that the commonwealth consistently had failed to turn over evidence in the case, missing agreed upon deadlines, and that the death penalty should be removed as a sanction.

Current defense attorney Mac Adams told Judge Angela McCormick Bisig in court that the case is no further along in 2015 than it was years ago when Kelly was first arrested. He referenced the multiple changes in prosecutors and defense attorneys and many delays in the court system over the years.

"The delay is prejudice," Adams said, adding Kelly has waited years for a trial and is going to continue to wait until at least April 8, 2016, when a jury trial is scheduled in Bisig's court.

Current prosecutor, assistant commonwealth attorney Elizabeth Jones Brown, argued that disputes over evidence do not rise to the level of death penalty exclusion.

"It's not an appropriate remedy for what happened in the case," she said, noting the entirety of known evidence now has been turned over to the defense.

Kelly is next due to appear in court Oct. 8. Bisig said she will consider the arguments and issue a written ruling sometime before the next court date.

(source: Courier-Journal)


Prosecutors seek death penalty against Ricky Kelly

The commonwealth's attorney argued Wednesday for the death penalty in the Ricky Kelly murder case.

A court hearing to determine whether high-profile murder suspect Ricky Kelly will face the death penalty has been postponed.

A judge denied a motion to reduce the bond for a high-profile murder suspect.

Defense lawyers have renewed their efforts to get a high-profile murder suspect out of custody on bond.

Kelly is accused of killing Lajuante Jackson in 2005.

The prosecutor has called it a murder-for-hire case.

At one time, Kelly was accused of 8 slayings.

The single case against him has dragged through the courts for 5 years.

After a federal case against Kelly fell apart because a key witness was killed, the state continued to pursue a conviction in Jackson's death.

Jackson was killed on South Clay Street in what the prosecutor said it was a murder for hire to cover up a drug-trafficking operation.

If he is convicted, the commonwealth wants Kelly to receive the death penalty.

Kelly's attorneys said that the fact the case has dragged on so long, with numerous delays in getting discovery and going from state to federal and back to state court, are reasons not to put the death penalty on the table.

"It's not Ricky Kelly's fault this has been going on for 5 years. It's not his doing. All he's done is been along for the ride, and he's still here with new attorneys," defense attorney Mac Adams said.

"There are legal reasons a court can exclude a penalty, but I don't think they are covered by this motion," prosecutor Elizabeth Jones Brown said.

Judge Angela McCormick Bisig said she'll consider the death penalty arguments and issue a written ruling before the next court date in October.

Kelly's trial is scheduled for next spring, but Adams said that based on the 5 years' of discovery in the case, he doubts that the defense will be ready by then.

(source: WLKY news)


Deadline looms for Neb. death penalty referendum

Teri Roberts sat at a table at the Firebarn Bar and Grill Tuesday. The petitions in front of her were filled with names of Douglas County residents supporting the statewide petition drive to put Nebraska's death penalty referendum.

"I was for the death penalty before we lost our daughter. And so my beliefs haven't changed with our personal story," Roberts said.

Her daughter, Andrea Kruger, was 1 of Nikko Jenkins f4 murder victims in 2013. He went on a rampage shortly after his release from prison.

Roberts has manned tables at petition drives already. She knows many of the people who approach the table to sign the petitions. The conversation drifts between personal topics and the referendum almost effortlessly.

"We're not here discussing our personal story. We're just simply saying, 'This issue is important and we, as a family, believe that it should be up to the voters of Nebraska,'" said Roberts.

Nebraska state legislators repealed the state's death penalty at the close of the Unicameral session in May. Capital punishment supporters are canvassing the state drumming up support for their petition drive. The group is down to the final 30 days, hoping to get signatures from at least ten percent of registered voters in 38 Nebraska counties by August 27, saying the numbers would put the issue on the ballot and suspend the Unicameral's repeal.

"We have a 1-house Unicameral system here. The 2nd house is the people through the referendum and petition process. So, that's what we're doing," sand Nebraskans for the Death Penalty field manager Rod Edwards.

Their effort has been met with pushback. Another group, Nebraskans against the Death Penalty launched ads urging voters not to sign the petitions.

Critics of capital punishment call the death penalty a false promise to victims' families who spend decades waiting for closure as those who committed the crimes go through lengthy appeals processes.

There are powerful stories on both sides.

"It doesn't matter what side of the issue they are on," said Roberts. "Every voter has the right to vote on this."

The issue could hit the 2016 general election ballot if supports gather enough signatures.

(source: KMTV news)


Prosectors won't seek death penalty for Michele Anderson

Michele Anderson, the former Carnation woman accused of killing her family on Christmas Eve 2007, will no longer face the death penalty.

The King County Prosecutor's Office is expected to announce Wednesday morning that they have withdrawn their notice to seek the death penalty. An official close to the case confirmed the decision.

The news comes after 2 separate King County Superior Court juries declined to send convicted cop killer Christopher Monfort and Joseph McEnroe, Anderson's former boyfriend and her co-defendant, to death row. Both men are serving a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Anderson, 36, is charged with 6 counts of aggravated murder for killing 3 generations of her family as they gathered for a holiday celebration at her parent's home. Killed were Wayne, 60, and Judy Anderson, 61; their son Scott and his wife, Erica Anderson, both 32; and the younger couple's children, 5-year-old Olivia and 3-year-old Nathan.

McEnroe, 36, told jurors during his trial earlier this year that Michele Anderson coerced him to kill her family.

McEnroe testified that he and Anderson armed themselves and drove to the home of her parents, Wayne and Judy Anderson, on Christmas Eve 2007. Once inside, McEnroe distracted Judy Anderson, who was wrapping Christmas gifts, while Michele shot her father, O'Toole told the jury.

After Michele's gun jammed, McEnroe then killed Wayne and Judy Anderson.

The 2 then hid the bodies and carefully cleaned the home and waited for Anderson's older brother, Scott, his wife, Erica, and their 2 young children, McEnroe said.

Once the family arrived, Anderson shot her brother, McEnroe testified. McEnroe then shot Erica Anderson and the children because he didn't want witnesses.

During his testimony last month, McEnroe said that he killed Olivia and Nathan, the 2 children, because "if they weren't already corrupted they would be by this [witnessing the murders]. The only decent thing to do was to free them."

"At least they didn't suffer," he said.

Pam Mantle, Erica Anderson's mother, said Wednesday morning that the decision is "a relief."

"It's been devastating for all of our friends and family," said Pam Mantle. "We're all just worn out from the whole thing. It's almost 8 years."

(source: Seattle Times)


Texas jury sentences child killer to life in prison instead of death in sign times are changing

In America's death penalty capital, this one seemed like an open and shut case.

In an act of apparent spite, Gabriel Armandariz murdered his defenceless young sons, hid them underneath his Texas home and sent pictures of their bodies, including one hanging in a wardrobe, to the childrens' mother Lauren Smith.

In 1 text to Smith, Armandariz, who complained of her partying ways, wrote: "I commend the spirits of these 2 boys to the Lord. I would much rather be with them than be out partying with friends."

Alongside a picture of himself with the 2 boys on a bed, Armandariz also texted: "We love u, goodbye".

Police found the bodies of Luke, 8 months, and Gatlin, 2, within hours of the disturbing texts. Armandariz, 32, later confessed.

The 2011 murders sent chills down the spines of the hardest Texans. Armandariz, it seemed, was destined for the death chamber.

But when the case came to trial earlier this year, something happened in the courtroom that would have never happened 10 years ago. A jury returned a life in prison verdict. Armandariz, described as a "lying, manipulative baby killer", would be spared the execution chamber.

Texas newspaper the Fort Worth Star Telegram reported jurors came to their decision after 8 hours.

"The lawyers were crying. The jury was crying. Trial observers were crying," journalist Tim Cole wrote.

So what happened? Did the men and women of the jury go soft? If they did, they're not alone.

Not 1 Texas jury has sentenced a single guilty party to death this year.

That's in stark contrast to the 48 people executed in Texas in 1999, or 39 executed in 2000, or 24 executed in 2009.

Experts say it's a trend that will soon see the death penalty abolished in even the most conservative US states.

Peter Norden, a member of the World Coalition Against the Death Penalty and adjunct professor at RMIT University, said there's been a "big shift" in the way Americans view capital punishment.

"It's happening," he told

"Abolition of the death penalty is happening throughout the world quite rapidly. The states are the toughest nut to crack but it'll definitely happen. There are signs of it already."

Those signs include a jury in Texas deliberating for just 10 minutes before returning with a non-death-penalty verdict this year and Nebraska becoming the 1st conservative state since 1973 to reject death by lethal injection.

So what's behind the shift?

On the surface, it has everything to do with jurors being offered life without parole as a means of punishment. That sentencing option was only adopted in Texas in 2005.

Prof Norden said botched executions also played an important role.

"The breakdown in the system of executing was a dramatic scandal," he said.

He was referring to the execution of Clayton Lockett, described as "cruel and unusual".

Lockett, on death row in Oklahoma for the brutal kidnapping, rape and murder of a teenager in 1999, suffered through a torturous 43-minute execution after an untested combination of drugs were incorrectly administered.

9 months after Lockett's botched execution, Oklahoma put to death another prisoner in similarly distressing scenes.

Charles Warner, a child rapist and murderer, cried out from the death chamber "My body is on fire" as his lethal injection was administered.

The incidents sparked a US Supreme Court hearing into whether death by lethal injection is unconstitutional.

Prof Norden said world trends were also impacting juries.

"For a long time, criminal justice in the states has been black and white. In the last 5 years or so there's been a rethink.

"There was for so long a sense that the threat to Americans was from within. Now it's external."

He said wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the threat from Islamic State have changed the way Americans view their own citizens.

There are still 31 US states where the death penalty applies. They include Alabama, California, Missouri, Washington, Indiana and Texas. States that recently abolished the practice include Nebraska (2015), Maryland (2013), Illinois (2011), New Mexico (2009) and New York (2007).

"The abolition family is growing in numbers," Prof Norden said. "It's only a matter of time."



Iranian Authorities Hang 14 Prisoners to Death, 3 of the Executions Carried Out in Public----In the past 1 days Iranian authorities have reportedly hanged 14 prisoners to death, 3 of the executions were carried out in public.

Based on official and unofficial reports, Iranian authorities have executed at least 14 prisoners in the province of Alborz since Monday.

Close sources say seven prisoners with drug charges were hanged to death on Monday in Karaj Central Prison. On Saturday the Iranian authorities had reportedly transferred the 7 prisoners along with 2 more prisoners to solitary confinement. The executions of the 2 others prisoners have reportedly been delayed for unknown reasons.

On Tuesday 4 prisoners at Ghezel Hesar Prison were hanged to death for drug charges, according to close sources. The prisoners were reportedly removed out of their prison wards on Sunday and transferred to solitary confinement along with 2 more prisoners. The executions of the 2 other prisoners have reportedly been delayed for unknown reasons.

Today Iranian authorities hanged 3 prisoners to death in a public area in the city of Karaj, reports state media Mehr News. The report does not mention the names of the prisoners or their charges.

(source: Iran Human Rights)


UN drugs deal with Iran is sending people to the gallows.

Jannat Mir was in the 9th grade when he left Afghanistan for Iran. Like many who journey across the border, he was probably looking for more opportunity in the comparatively more stable neighbouring country. But instead, on the 18th April 2014, 15- year- old Jannat was hanged in Dastgerd prison in the city of Isfahan, Iran.

He had been arrested by the Iranian authorities and sentenced to death for allegedly moving heroin across the border. Jannat didn't have access to a lawyer and, after his death; the Iranian authorities reportedly did not allow the family to take the body back to Afghanistan.

A month before Jannat was executed, Yuri Fedotov, the Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), applauded the Iranians' effort to combat drug trafficking. "Iran takes a very active role to fight against illicit drugs Fedotov told reporters. "It is very impressive." While Janat was in custody, UNODC was co-funding a $5.4m project that provided support for Iran's war on drugs.

Many have lost their lives to this war. So far this year, the Iranian authorities are believed to have executed an equivalent of more than 3 people per day; 80% of those awaiting execution are convicted of drug-related offences, according to the Iranian authorities. UNODC is now reportedly about to finalise a new multimillion-dollar funding package for Iran's counter-narcotics trafficking programmes, despite the country's high execution rate of drug offenders.

The new 5- year deal will be funded with money from some European donors. The UK, Denmark and Ireland have stopped funding the Iranian campaign due to the human rights concerns. However, according to the organisation Reprieve, France and Norway continue to give money.

The news of the deal comes at a time when Amnesty International called Iran out for its "staggering execution spree". Last week, the group released a statement noting that the Iranian authorities are believed to have executed an astonishing 694 people between 1 January and 15 July 2015; an unprecedented spike in executions. Amnesty pointed to Iran's Anti-Narcotics Law as a possible explanation of the spike. The law provides mandatory death sentences for a range of drug-related offences, including trafficking more than 5kg of narcotics derived from opium or more than 30g of heroin, morphine, cocaine or their chemical derivatives.

Under article 6(2) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Iran has ratified, the death penalty may be applied only to the "most serious crimes". The UN Human Rights Committee has said that drug offences do not constitute "most serious crimes", and that use of the death penalty for drug offences violates international law. According to figures obtained from Iran Human Rights Documentation Centre (IHRDC), in one week in June this year, 47 people were allegedly hanged for the crime of drug trafficking, although most were not "officially" recognised.

The death penalty sentences are handed down by a flawed legal system, notes Rod Sanjabi, Executive Director of IHRDC. "There's typically no appeal, no right to appeal," he says. "The trial court judgement is final and that's even in death penalty cases, which is quite starkly in violation of domestic law, let along international obligations." The standard of evidence is typically not very high, he adds, noting there is reliance in the Iranian legal system on confessions: "The arrest will be followed by some lengthy period, sometimes days, sometimes weeks, sometimes months, of pre-trial detention where the defendant is in held incommunicado for periods of time, kept in solitary confinement, usually denied legal counsel... they'll be held for this long pre-trial period, specifically with the aim of extracting a confession from them."

Human rights organisations have campaigned for the UN to freeze the funding of Iran's anti-narcotic efforts on account of this. In December 2014, six organisations; Reprieve, Human Rights Watch, Iran Human Rights, the World Coalition Against the Death Penalty, Harm Reduction International and the Abdorrahman Boroumand Foundation called on UNODC to follow its own human rights guidance, which explicitly stated that UNODC actions should take every opportunity to further the realization of human rights.

They described the agency's decision to continue funding supply-side counter-narcotics efforts in the country as "ineffective if not counterproductive." This point was reiterated in the Amnesty International press release. Earlier this year, the deputy of Iran's Centre for Strategic Research admitted that the death penalty has not been able to reduce drug trafficking levels.

What would be more effective argues Sanjabi, is to tackle the underlying issues pushing people towards drug trafficking. "There are, in the border areas especially, a widespread lack of opportunity for youth, educated or uneducated," he said. "It is probably far more effective for the state to focus on creating those opportunities and far more constructive as well, rather than to simply continue to deal with the drug trafficking problem in a reactive manner."

Reprieve spoke to Memo about the deal. Maya Foa, Director of Reprieve's death penalty team, said: "Iran has hanged hundreds of alleged drug offenders this year, but the UNODC still refuses to come clean about its generous new funding deal for Iranian drug police.

"It is an untenable hypocrisy for European nations like France and Germany to claim they oppose capital punishment "in all circumstances" while funding raids which send drug mules to death row. If these states' commitments on the death penalty are to count for anything, they should impose effective and transparent conditions to ensure their aid does not lead to executions", she added.

As UNODC looks set to provide millions of dollars to Iran for its counter-narcotics efforts, the spike in executions will no doubt continue to rise. And the UN will continue to have blood on its hands.

(source: Jessica Purkiss, Middle East Monitor)


Bangladesh apex court upholds top BNP leader's death penalty

The panel, led by Chief Justice Surendra Kumar Sinha, upheld the death sentence of the 66-year-old leader of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) for involvement in the killing of a herbal medicine company owner Nutan Chandra Singha, Awami League leader Mozaffar Ahmed and his son, and 2 incidents of genocide in the country's southeastern region in Raozan, Chittagong, the Daily Star newspaper reported.

On 1 October, 2013, the worldwide Crimes Tribunal-1 found the BNP leader guilty of crimes against humanity during the War of Liberation and condemned him to death.

But defence lawyer Khandaker Mahbub Hossain said Chowdhury's legal team was disappointed and would seek a review of the judgement at the same court.

"The verdict has fulfilled our expectations", said Attorney general Mahbubey Alam.

A Bangladeshi activist celebrates after the Supreme Court cleared the way for the execution of opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party leader Salauddin Quader Chowdhury, convicted of war crimes in Dhaka, Bangladesh, Wednesday, July 29, 2015.

Salahuddin Chowdhury, leader of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party, was acquitted of 1 charge, but the Supreme Court upheld the rest of the convictions.

Security has been beefed up in places in Dhaka and Chittagong, some 242 km southeast of the capital city.

SQ Chowdhury was charged for committing crimes against humanity by the war tribunal. He was, however, acquittal over the killing of Satish Chandra Palit in Raozan, for which the tribunal had sentenced him to 20 years in jail. His father was also a former speaker of Pakistan and served as an acting president several times.

Later, he joined BNP and was elected to parliament on its tickets.

He is the 2nd former minister to have the death sentence upheld after Jamaat-e-Islami's Ali Ahsan Muhammad Mujahid and the 5th to get a verdict on the appeal against the tribunal's judgment.

After the partition of India in 1947 and until 1971, Bangladesh was known as East Pakistan.

Another Jamaat leader Abdul Quader Molla, convicted of war crimes in 1971, was executed on December. 12, 2013.

After returning to power in January 2009, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, the daughter of Bangladesh's independence hero Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, established the 1st tribunal in March 2010, nearly 40 years after the 1971 fight for independence from Pakistan.



Moncho demands immediate execution of verdict Gonojagoron Moncho has demanded the immediate execution of the Supreme Court verdict that upheld the death penalty to war criminal Salauddin Quader Chowdhury. Moncho spokesperson Imran H Sarkar made the demand immediately after the verdict was pronounced by the 4-member Appellate Division bench headed by Justice SK Sinha on Wednesday morning. "The evil force and conspiracy against the country has been destroyed through the verdict," Sarkar said. He also demanded quick execution of the death penalty Jamaat-e-Islami leader Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mujaheed. Earlier in the day, the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court upheld a war tribunal's death sentence to BNP leader Salauddin Quader Chowdhury for committing crimes against humanity during the Liberation War in 1971. The International Crimes Tribunal 1 sentenced him to death on four charges. The Supreme Court upheld the judgement. The top court also upheld Salauddin Quader's conviction in 4 other charges. On October 1, 2013, the tribunal found notorious war criminal Salauddin, 66, guilty of 9 of the 23 charges brought against him by the prosecution. Salauddin, who had served then prime minister Khaleda Zia as her parliamentary affairs adviser during 2001-06, appealed against the tribunal verdict on October 29, 2013. He was arrested on December 16, 2010, and shown arrested in war crimes case on December 19 the same year. The tribunal indicted him on April 4, 2012. (source:


Rajiv Gandhi Killers Will Not Hang, Confirms Supreme Court

The Supreme Court today confirmed its decision of commuting the death sentence to life imprisonment of three persons convicted of killing former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi.

The apex Court dismissed the curative petition filed by the Centre which was seeking a review of the decision in February last year.

Centre's curative petition said that the victims in the former Prime Minister's assassination case were not heard before commuting their death sentence.

In February last year, the Court had commuted the death sentence of 3 persons - Santhan, Murugan and Perarivalan, citing the 11-year delay in deciding their mercy petitions.

The 3 convicts are lodged in a Vellore prison. Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated on May 21, 1991 in Sriperumbudur, Tamil Nadu.

(source: ndtv)


India should say no to death penalty, says CPI's D Raja

Reiterating his party's opposition to capital punishment, Communist Party of India (CPI) leader D. Raja on Wednesday said India should say no to the death penalty.

"We continue to hold our position, we oppose capital punishment. India should say no to capital punishment," Raja told ANI.

"In this regard I am moving a private member resolution in the Rajya Sabha, its listed for 31st July. Till the Government and Parliament decide upon death penalty statute, India should have a moratorium of death sentences," he added.

The Supreme Court earlier rejected 1993 Mumbai balsts convict Yakub Memon's petition on his death warrant, paving the way for his execution tomorrow.

He is expected to be hanged inside the Nagpur jail at 7 a.m. tomorrow.

The apex court had earlier dismissed the curative petition of Yakub. A 3-judge bench comprising Justices Dipak Misra, Prafulla C. Pant and Amitava Roy said proper procedure was followed in disposing of Yakub's curative petition.

(source: ANI news)


Pakistan Must Release Asia Bibi To Demonstrate Protection For Its Religious Minorities - Analysis

Pakistan's Supreme Court took an encouraging step forward last week when it decided to reconsider blasphemy charges against Pakistani Christian woman, Asia Bibi, who is facing a death sentence. This decision provides an opportunity for Pakistan to acquit Bibi and show the world its commitment to protecting its religious minorities. The U.S. must prioritize the issue of religious freedom in its dialogue with Pakistan to discourage any further persecution of religious minorities and to undercut support for Islamist extremist ideologies that leads to targeted violence against these vulnerable communities.

Bibi, a mother of 5 and a farmworker, was arrested in 2009 after her Muslim co-workers alleged that she had committed blasphemy during an argument about sharing the same water bowl. In November 2010, she was sentenced to death by a Pakistani trial court, a decision that was upheld by the Lahore High Court in October 2014.

Growing Intolerance

Under Pakistani law, blasphemous acts include making derogatory remarks against the Muslim prophet Muhammed and defiling the Koran. Allegations of blasphemy are often fabricated and are commonly used to intimidate religious minorities or settle personal vendettas, including against fellow Muslims. Moreover, blasphemy charges do not require proof of intent or evidence, and there are no penalties for false allegations. Since the laws do not provide details on what constitutes a violation, accusers have broad leeway to define what they deem an offense. In 2013, 38 individuals were imprisoned in Pakistan on blasphemy charges.

Pakistanis who have sought changes to the blasphemy laws or who have defended those wrongly accused have often been killed, demonstrating the rise in religious intolerance and support for extremist ideologies there. In early 2011, Pakistan's Governor of the Punjab Salman Taseer and Minority Affairs Minister Shahbaz Bhatti were assassinated by religious extremists because of their efforts to defend Bibi and roll back the controversial blasphemy laws. Human rights lawyer Rashid Rehman was assassinated in June 2014 for defending an English professor, Junaid Hafeez, who was accused of blasphemy. Rehman had received several death threats in the weeks prior to his assassination, but the Pakistani government failed to provide him with protection.

Former Pakistan People's Party parliamentarian and Pakistani Ambassador to the U.S., Sherry Rehman, introduced a bill in parliament in late 2010 to amend the blasphemy laws, but she was later forced to withdraw it under political pressure. Ambassador Rehman continues to face threats from extremists due to her support for re-examining the legislation and removing the death penalty as punishment. In January 2013, the Supreme Court of Pakistan approved admission of a blasphemy case filed against Ambassador Rehman for remarks she made on a television program in November 2010. The growing influence of extremist ideologies are endangering Pakistan's minority communities and jeopardizing the country's democratic institutions and values, including freedom of religion and speech.

The miscarriage of justice against Bibi is just the latest example of declining religious freedom in Pakistan. The U.S. Commission for International Religious Freedom's 2015 Annual Report calls on the State Department to designate Pakistan as a country of particularly concern (CPC) under the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA) - something it has called for since 2002.[1] 95 % of Pakistan's population is Muslim, including a 20 % Shia minority, which increasingly faces brutal attacks by Sunni extremists. Ahmadis (about 2 % of the Pakistani population), who consider themselves Muslim but are not recognized as such under Pakistani law, also face discriminatory legislation that prohibits them from calling themselves Muslims or their places of worship mosques, performing the Muslim call to prayer, using the traditional Islamic greeting in public, or publicly quoting from the Koran.

Bibi's case is a particularly pernicious example of the negative effects of blasphemy laws. Bibi's family has been forced to go into hiding, and Muslim clerics placed a $5,000 bounty on her head.[2] Bibi also faces extreme health challenges, including intestinal bleeding, that could be life-threatening.[3] If the Supreme Court rules in favor of Bibi, the court would overturn the decision by the Lahore High Court to sentence Bibi to death. If Bibi were released from jail, her life would still be in grave danger from vigilantes who could decide to take the law into their own hands. In April 2012, a Pakistani man accused of blasphemy was shot dead by religious zealots after he was acquitted and released from prison.

The U.S. Must Prioritize Religious Freedom in Pakistan

The growing pattern of religious intolerance and persecution of religious minorities in Pakistan is threatening the very fabric of Pakistani society and undermining democracy, not to mention putting the lives of millions of members of religious minorities in danger. The U.S. must make the protection of Pakistan's religious minorities a central plank of its dialogue with the country. More specifically, the U.S. should:

--Publicly advocate for the release of Asia Bibi. While the Pakistani Supreme Court has taken a step in the right direction with its decision to review Bibi's appeal, the U.S. must keep up the pressure for her immediate release from jail and help ensure that she receives proper medical care.

--Announce that unless Pakistan makes substantive changes to its blasphemy laws and how they are implemented, it will be designated a "Country of Particular Concern" under the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA). The IRFA was passed in 1998 and requires the U.S. Secretary of State to designate annually "countries of particular concern" and to take specific action aimed at improving religious freedom in those countries. A CPC is defined as a country in which the government either engages in or tolerates severe violations of religious freedom.

--Urge Pakistan to review all blasphemy cases. In 2014, the Pakistani courts conducted a review of blasphemy cases but did not include in the review any cases against members of religious minority groups.[4]

--Encourage Pakistan to implement steps called for by the Pakistani Supreme Court in 2014, including creating a special police force to protect religious minorities and elevating the work of the religious minority commission. The U.S. should structure its aid programs to support these activities through technical assistance, training, and exchanges.

--Support increased civil society engagement between Americans and Pakistanis to help elevate the voices of moderation and tolerance in Pakistan. There are plenty of Pakistani citizens who are working hard and, indeed, risking their lives to reverse extremist trends and ensure the rights and freedoms of all Pakistanis. U.S. - Pakistan government-to-government interactions alone will not get the job done. There is a need for more and deeper civil society engagement between our 2 countries that can help mobilize grassroots support for preserving religious freedom.

Reviving Pakistan's Founding Vision

Pakistan's founding father, Muhammed Ali Jinnah, supported the idea of Islam serving as a unifying force and believed Pakistanis had a responsibility to uphold the principles of religious freedom and to protect the rights of religious minorities. Releasing Asia Bibi from jail would be a good first step in reviving the country's founding ideals of religious tolerance.

(source: About the authors: Lisa Curtis is Senior Research Fellow for South Asia in the Asian Studies Center, of the Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for National Security and Foreign Policy, at The Heritage Foundation. Olivia Enos is a Research Associate in the Asian Studies Center----

SAUDI ARABIA----execution

Saudi executed for smuggling hashish

Saudi Arabia executed one of its citizens for drug trafficking on Tuesday. Saif Al-Hadissane was found guilty of smuggling a large amount of hashish and was executed in the Al-Ahsa region of eastern Saudi Arabia, the Interior Ministry said in a statement carried by the Saudi Press Agency.

The Interior Ministry has cited deterrence as a reason for carrying out the death penalty because of the physical and social harm caused by drugs. Under the Saudi law, drug trafficking, rape, murder and armed robbery are punishable by death.

(source: The Saudi Gazette)


Moncho demands immediate execution of verdict

Gonojagoron Moncho has demanded the immediate execution of the Supreme Court verdict that upheld the death penalty to war criminal Salauddin Quader Chowdhury.

Moncho spokesperson Imran H Sarkar made the demand immediately after the verdict was pronounced by the 4-member Appellate Division bench headed by Justice SK Sinha on Wednesday morning.

"The evil force and conspiracy against the country has been destroyed through the verdict," Sarkar said.

He also demanded quick execution of the death penalty Jamaat-e-Islami leader Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mujaheed.

Earlier in the day, the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court upheld a war tribunal's death sentence to BNP leader Salauddin Quader Chowdhury for committing crimes against humanity during the Liberation War in 1971.

The International Crimes Tribunal 1 sentenced him to death on four charges. The Supreme Court upheld the judgement. The top court also upheld Salauddin Quader's conviction in 4 other charges.

On October 1, 2013, the tribunal found notorious war criminal Salauddin, 66, guilty of 9 of the 23 charges brought against him by the prosecution.

Salauddin, who had served then prime minister Khaleda Zia as her parliamentary affairs adviser during 2001-06, appealed against the tribunal verdict on October 29, 2013.

He was arrested on December 16, 2010, and shown arrested in war crimes case on December 19 the same year. The tribunal indicted him on April 4, 2012.



Sudanese pastors facing execution make final plea for justice; verdict set on Aug. 5

The lawyers representing the 2 South Sudanese pastors facing the death penalty made their closing arguments on July 23 in Khartoum before a judge who, sources said, appeared to be favouring the prosecution, according to Christian News.

A verdict is expected at a hearing on Aug. 5.

Speaking before the judge at the Khartoum Bari Court, the defence lawyers of Yat Michael and Peter Yein Reith maintained that agents of the National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) illegally apprehended 49-year-old Michael on Dec. 14 last year and 36-year-old Reith on Jan. 11.

"Justice requires that you don't judge [arrest] simply because you doubt [suspect] them without any concrete evidence," one of the lawyers said.

Michael was arrested by authorities after he delivered a message of encouragement to a North Khartoum church amid a looming state-aided takeover of the congregation's property.

Reith was taken by security agents after he submitted a letter from the leaders of the South Sudan Presbyterian Evangelical Church which requested for information on the whereabouts of Michael.

A national intelligence agent accused the 2 of gathering information for a human rights group.

However, the charges, which include espionage and promotion of hatred against or among sects, were created months after their arrest.

Spying under the Sudanese Penal Code is punishable by death while inciting hatred is punishable by up to 2 years in jail.

"The judge in the last hearing seemed to be supporting the prosecution," said the source who asked not to be named. "The whole issue is politically motivated, and the 2 pastors are innocent, but the lawyers asked the judge to respect laws and the constitution and not aid NISS in violation of the Constitution."

The pastors are also accused of undermining the constitutional system - which is punishable by death - life imprisonment, and confiscation of property.

Disclosure and obtaining information and official documents is punishable by a year in prison while blasphemy or insulting religious creeds is punishable also by a year in jail or a fine or a maximum of 40 lashes.

The national intelligence agency used as evidence maps and easily accessible documents said to have been taken from the pastors' confiscated laptops.

A NISS study guide, which the pastors said was not in their computers before their arrest, was also presented as evidence.

The persecution of Christians intensified in Sudan following the secession of South Sudan in July 2011. President Omar al-Bashir is pushing for the country's adoption of a stricter version of sharia law and for the recognition of Islamic culture and the Arabic language only.

Since 2012, Sudan has kicked out foreign Christians and razed church buildings on the claim that they belonged to South Sudanese. Sudanese authorities have also been raiding Christian bookstores and arresting Christians, with some state agents even threatening to kill South Sudanese Christians who do not leave or cooperate with them in their effort to get rid of Christians.

Sudan ranked 6th on Christian support organisation Open Doors' 2015 World Watch List of 50 countries where Christians face persecution, moving up from 11th place from the previous year.

(source: Christian Today)


Colombian model who has her own TV show faces death penalty in China for carrying drugs 'inside her laptop'

A 22-year-old Colombian model is facing the death penalty after she was caught with a plastic bag full of drugs hidden inside her laptop.

Juliana Lopez seemed to have the world at her feet, running a trendy boutique and hosting a television show, as well as being a well-known professional football player.

And winning the Miss Antioquia beauty pageant, she was going to participate in the Miss World Medellin competition this week but her family suddenly lost contact with her while she was in China to purchase items for her shop.

Worried about her whereabouts, her family contacted the Colombian embassy saying that she had vanished. She had apparently flown into the airport in the city of Guangzhou, in the southeast Chinese province of Canton, after which they lost contact with her.

Chinese officials confirmed to the family she had been arrested for drug smuggling. It was not specified what kind of narcotics were inside her laptop but police say they found a large quantity of a banned substance.

Lopez plays for the women's team Divas del Futbol in Medellin. She is also a student at the University of San Buenaventura, in the city of Bello, in the north central Colombian district of Antioquia.

Carrying drugs in China is not only banned, but can carry the death penalty and relatives and friends are now desperately trying to collect money to get top lawyers and a team sent over to defend Lopez. They also want family and friends to travel over to support her.

The smiling profile picture of the model's Facebook page was taken on her first visit to China last year, and she has since been back to buy goods for her business.

Alejandro Duque is the coach of Divas del Futbol. He said: 'Juliana was the central point of the group, she spoke a lot with the press and she gave her face to the team.'

About the drug charges he added: 'She is a good girl, student, model, contestant of beauty contests, and she has always been an athlete.'

He said he had last seen her 2 weeks ago shortly before she travelled to China to buy shoes, clothes and other accessories.

Duque said: 'My heart tells me that she is not guilty, she is a fighter. She cannot be sentenced yet, I have hope that she is innocent and that everything can be sorted out.'

According to the newspaper El Tiempo, the Colombian Foreign Ministry has provided legal assistance and support to Lopez and her family through her mother, Nubia Sarrazola.

A spokesman for the ministry said: 'We work to ensure the preservation of the rights of private individuals and the right to a proper defence and the presumption of innocence, as well as respect for due process and the preservation of her personal integrity and her health.'

But the Chinese police investigation could take between 6 months and 2 years and the amount of contact the model will be allowed with her family is likely to be limited.

Currently, there are 138 Colombian prisoners in China's jails for a range of offences and 12 of them have been sentenced to death. 9 of these cases have been frozen thanks to the efforts of the Colombian government. Another group of 11 has been sentenced to life imprisonment.

Of those detained, 90 % were linked with drugs-related crimes and the rest were related to prostitution.

China executes the highest number of people of any country annually and is believed to put to death more than the rest of the world put together, according to Amnesty International.

(source: Daily Mail)


Double Murderer Plans to Represent Himself During Appeal

Notorious killer Raghunandan Yandamuri, who has been sentenced to death for killing an Indian American baby girl and her grandmother in their Pennsylvania home, will represent himself during an appeal to the Pennsylvania State Supreme Court.

Following a hearing July 20, Montgomery County, Penn., Court of Common Pleas Judge Steven O'Neill ruled that Yandamuri could represent himself but also appointed two standby attorneys Stephen Heckman and Henry Hilles, who had also served as standby attorneys for the killer during his trial, at which he also represented himself.

"As much as this court is reluctant to grant such relief, I feel I am compelled to," O'Neill said, as reported by local media. O'Neill characterized Heckman and Hilles as "zealous advocates" who "uphold the Constitution every waking day of their lives." Yandamuri had fired Heckman before his trial, but O'Neill re-appointed him as stand-by counsel.

Following a 2-week trial in October 2014, Yandamuri, 29, was convicted of 2 counts of 1st-degree murder in the 2012 deaths of 61-year-old Satyavathi Venna and her 10-month-old grand-daughter Saanvi Venna at their apartment home in King of Prussia, Penn., in October 2012. The software engineer - who is in the U.S. on an H-1B visa - attempted to kidnap Saanvi in an attempt to get a $50,000 ransom from her parents. Yandamuri, whose wife was pregnant with the couple's 1st child at the time of the killings, was heavily in debt, largely due to his gambling addiction.

Saanvi was the 1st child of software engineers Latha and Venkata Venna; Satyavathi was Venkata's mother. The Yandamuris and Vennas lived in the same apartment complex and were frequent guests at each other's homes.

The Andhra Pradesh native was sentenced Nov. 20, 2014 to death by lethal injection ( Before his sentence was delivered, Yandamuri told Judge O'Neill he wished to die. "I don't want this hearing; I would rather take the death penalty."

Heckman and Hilles both stated that Yandamuri has a tough road ahead, noting the difficulty of finding resources at the prison library and the killer’s inchoate ramblings during oral and written arguments.

A hearing date has not been set. New York attorney Ravi Batra told India-West after Yandamuri was sentenced to death that the Indian government could technically invoke Article 36 of the Vienna Convention of Consular Relations and return Yandamuri to India to escape the death penalty, as a local consulate had not been informed of the charges against the software engineer.

The U.S. has never ratified the VCCR.



Don't add secrecy to the lethal-injection formula

The legislative urgency to get North Carolina back into executing murderers has reached a fever pitch that looks a lot like bloodlust. It's an ugly spectacle.

A bill approved by the state Senate late Monday would cast a shroud of secrecy over executions and could end physician participation in them.

The measure - House Bill 774 - would repeal a requirement that a physician monitor all executions. It would instead allow any licensed medical professional - a physician assistant, a nurse or even an emergency medical technician - to supervise the administration of the lethal injection.

That change is rooted in the state's inability to find doctors willing to preside over executions. Most argue that it's a violation of their medical codes of ethics and the Hippocratic oath. That's one key reason why there have been no executions in North Carolina for the past nine years, a problem for some lawmakers that they appear desperate to solve.

The bill also would cast a dark curtain over the details of executions, barring release of the names of the companies that make or provide the drugs used for lethal injections. Nor could there be disclosure of the kinds of drugs or the sequence of their administration. And the state Rules Review Commission would lose its oversight of execution protocols.

In short, North Carolina executions would mostly turn into a state secret, away from any possible oversight.

What all of this will do, we expect, is heighten the likelihood that the courts will find North Carolina's executions to be the "cruel and unusual punishment" that the Constitution forbids.

This attempt to obscure the execution process comes at a time when serious questions are being raised about the death penalty, including 2 justices of the U.S. Supreme Court wondering in an opinion this year whether the death penalty is constitutional.

That debate will surely continue, and it should. We need thoughtful discussion of the issue and whether we're imposing a fair sentence or simply seeking revenge for a terrible crime.

What we don't need is a General Assembly slicing away at reasonable public understanding of the state's execution protocols, instead choosing to wrap it all in secrecy.

We'd like to believe it's still our government, not the personal property of a privileged few in the halls of state government.

(source: Editorial, Fayetteville Observer)


Santa Rosa gets first crack at man accused in killing spree

The 1st of 2 separate murder trials for a man charged with a trio of Gulf Coast homicides will be in Santa Rosa County.

In a court hearing Tuesday afternoon, the defense counsel for Derrick Ray Thompson, 42, told Judge John L. Miller that the 14th Judicial Circuit will allow Thompson to stand trial for the murders of Milton spouses Steven and Debra Zackowski before he is prosecuted for the slaying of a Panama City businessman.

Miller set a tentative trial date of mid-to-late April, 2016.

Thompson allegedly killed the Zackowskis in July 2014 after a dispute over maintenance work Thompson was performing at the couple's Goliath Road home. Investigators say Thompson then stole the Zackowskis' vehicle, drove it to Bay County the following day to the home of Allen Johnson - a Panama City club owner Thompson was acquainted with - killed and robbed Johnson, then used the proceeds to buy narcotics.

Thompson was captured outside a Troy, Ala,, hunting lodge the next morning. He was reportedly still driving Johnson's vehicle and armed with a rifle and several hand guns.

Thompson, who has been charged with 3 counts of premeditated 1st-degree murder, has pleaded not guilty to all charges.

Prosecutors in both Florida districts indicated they would seek the death penalty in the case.

Preparations are continuing for a Panama City trial in regard to Johnson's murder. A trial date for that case has not yet been set.

(source: Pensacola News Journal)


1st U.S. Exonerated Death Row Prisoner Dies

David Keaton, 63, the 1st man in the U.S. to be exonerated from death row, died July 3 in Florida. Keaton was one of the Quincy 5, a group of young, black men that lived in Quincy, Fla., a small town west of Tallahassee. The 5 men were arrested for the murder of a Leon County Sheriff at a Tallahassee convenience store. Their arrests led to protests in Quincy and Tallahassee from those who believed the young men to be innocent.

Through coerced confessions and false eyewitness testimonies, Keaton was put on trial, and sentenced to death in May 1971, at age 18. None of the evidence added up until a Tallahassee private investigator found ballistic and fingerprint evidence leading to the overturning of Keaton's and the other's convictions. 3 men from Jacksonville were arrested and convicted of the murder leading to Keaton's exoneration.

When he was finally released in 1979, Keaton, who was never compensated from the state of Florida for his false imprisonment, went on to become a founder of Witness to Innocence, an organization made up of exonerated men and women from death row. After his exoneration, he appeared before the Florida Cabinet, and had his voting rights restored.

A movie about the Quincy 5, called "Exonerated," was released in 2005. Keaton was played by Danny Glover.

At this writing, 154 prisoners have been exonerated from death row based on solid evidence; 25 of those are from Florida, the highest number in the nation. Since 1979, when Florida restarted executions, 90 prisoners have been put to death by electric chair or lethal injection. This number means nearly one in four death row sentences have been overturned. There are still nearly 400 prisoners awaiting execution on Florida's death row. Florida is the only state that does not require a unanimous jury vote to recommend a death sentence.

"David was not clear on much of what transpired at his trial and sentencing," said Floridians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty executive director Mark Elliott. "He said he was traumatized and numbed by the process. He knew he was innocent and thought the system would not convict an innocent man. The state kept no record of the jury vote for death. I asked Dave what the jury vote was and he said all he remembered was the judge saying he would be put to death. He said the judges words overshadowed everything else that happened."

In 2002, Keaton along with 3 other exonerated death row prisoners, and 80 other marchers, led a march from Florida State Prison in Raiford, to the governor's office in Tallahassee, to deliver 20,000 petitions asking Gov. Jeb Bush, a Catholic, to call a "Time Out on Executions." Bush was out campaigning for re-election at the time.

Keaton was described as a gentle and stoic devout Christian. He lived a simple life, working as a landscaper and tree trimmer until he was injured and needed a wheelchair. He often spoke with students about his experience and encouraged them to complete their education. A poet, and singer of gospel music, he worked to overturn the death penalty as long as he was physically able.

(source: National Catholic Reporter)


Nebraska Senator Bob Krist Explains Why He Said "No" to the Death Penalty

The death penalty has for years been a polarizing issue in the United States. Proponents and opponents alike have strong opinions and strong emotional responses to the issue. In May, 2015, the Nebraska legislature overrode a governor's veto to abolish the death penalty in that state. One of the unusual aspects of this occurrence is that a conservative legislature overrode the veto of a Republican governor to eliminate the death penalty.

One of those voting to repeal the death penalty was Senator Bob Krist. In a recent opinion piece in the Omaha World-Herald, Krist explained his concerns about the death penalty Krist explains his position in this report. [Note: In his op-ed piece, Senator Krist refers to information from the Death Penalty Information Center as to the cost of carrying out executions.

Krist explains that he reached his decision on the death penalty issue based on hearing 6 years of data about it. Among the things that came to light are the considerable expenses of any death penalty case, from the decision to seek the penalty to the actual carrying out of it. He now supports a sentence of life without parole instead of death. "Civilized society does not need the death penalty."

In Krist's op-ed piece he notes that "[m]ore than 15 states have done cost studies on the death penalty." He notes that all of them concluded that the death penalty was more expensive than life imprisonment. Krist thinks the evidence is compelling for someone who analyzes the issue on the basis of cost, and he believes other states will come to see the logic of Nebraska's position. Of course, people who are seeking vengeance will be unlikely to consider the cost to the public.

Another aspect of carrying out the death penalty is the long string of cases challenging the way in which the penalty is carried out, in particular lethal injection. A number of states have struggled to find a lethal drug solution that would pass muster with the Supreme Court. Even if states tried to go back to the electric chair, the gas chamber, hanging, or the firing squad, there would probably continue to be challenges and problems. Krist does not believe that there will be a completely acceptable solution in his lifetime.

As to ways to reduce the expense of carrying out the death penalty, the only thing that would reduce those expenses would be to change the appeals process. Of course, there is already an extensive appeals process for all felony convictions. One important reason for all those appeals is that errors in the trial process are found. Occasionally, innocent people have been put to death. Given all of the problems that have occurred with faulty convictions, Krist says, it is difficult to draw a line after which appeals would not be allowed.

Voters in Nebraska may have the opportunity to vote on the death penalty. Krist says he supports letting the voters consider the issue. He believes that the majority of voters would support what the legislature has done.

(source: Senator Bob Krist represents the 10th district in the Nebraska legislature. He served 21 years in the Air Force, retiring as a lieutenant colonel. He held key leadership positions directing critical missions including the high-visibility Looking Glass mission at Offutt Air Force Base. He was appointed to fill a legislative vacancy in 2009 and won his election to the office in 2010. His district includes part of Omaha----Legal Broadcast Network)


Aurora Theater Shooting Trial: Father of James Holmes Testifies as Jurors Weigh Death Penalty

Robert Holmes, the father of convicted Aurora theater shooter James Holmes, took the stand on Tuesday to describe his son as a somewhat introverted high school and college student, who did well academically, but who displayed unusual expressions in the months leading up to his July 20, 2012 shooting rampage in an Aurora, Colo. movie theater.

James Holmes has been convicted in the deaths of 12 people and the attempted murder of 70 others. Jurors are now in the sentencing phase of the trial, as Holmes' lawyers present testimony from Holmes' family members and friends in an effort to spare him the death penalty. Last week, the jury found that there were "aggravating factors" in Holmes' shooting massacre, meaning that they will consider capital punishment.

Much of the day was spent reviewing family photos and videos, showing a relatively normal family life in which James Holmes loved playing soccer and took to playing video games like World of Warcraft.

"He was always, actually, an excellent kid," Robert Holmes said when asked by a defense attorney to describe his relationship with his son.

The father, who has been present throughout the trial with his wife, Arlene, testified that he was unaware in 2012 was suffering from suicidal and homicidal thoughts, as he had confessed to a therapist before the theater shooting. Robert Holmes said that they were aware that their son was seeing a psychiatrist, and instead were worried that he was depressed after dropping out of graduate school in Denver. But the psychiatrist would not provide them with details.

Robert Holmes said that other family members did suffer from mental illness.

Robert and Arlene Holmes live in San Diego, and recalled noticing something different about his son's expression when he visited in California for the holidays in 2011. He described it as an "odd facial expression," or "kind of a grimace or a smirk." Holmes said that the expression was similar to one from his son's mug shot, which was shown to the jury.

The defense played 2011 voice mail messages from the father to his son. Robert Holmes said that he was concerned as he hadn't heard from him in some time.

"We were finding it hard to have phone contact," Robert Holmes said, adding that his son would sometimes answer email. By the spring of 2012, he said that he was "looking for clues of depression." To their surprise, when they talked to him on July 4, 2012, just weeks before the shooting rampage, they found that he "was really chatty," whereas he typically would give short answers.

"It was unusual, but it wasn't alarming," he said. "I was looking for clues of depression."

Arlene Holmes is expected to testify on Wednesday.



Father of Colorado theater shooter was unaware he was seeing psychiatrist before deadly attack

James Holmes came home for winter break from graduate school looking haggard and making odd facial expressions that looked similar to the wide-eyed smirk he flashed in one of his first jail booking photos after he opened fire on a crowded Colorado movie theater 7 months later, his father said.

Robert Holmes testified that he never suspected his son was mentally ill before he killed 12 people in the July 2012 attack, but he and his wife became increasingly concerned in the months before the shooting. They rarely spoke to their son by phone, but he had stopped returning their calls entirely. The phone call they received instead was from their son's psychiatrist, saying he Holmes was dropping out of his prestigious neuroscience program.

"We didn't know he was seeing a psychiatrist," Robert Holmes said. He and his wife thought their son was depressed or suffering Asperger's syndrome, but the doctor would not return their calls seeking more information.

So they planned to visit him, but it would be too late. The flight Robert Holmes booked instead was to see his son looking sullen and confused during his first court appearance.

Robert Holmes will return to the stand Wednesday to continue testifying as his son's defense team tries to show that even this killer is loved and has people who still care about him.

Death sentences must be unanimous, and the judge has explained to jurors that their decision will be highly personal. While jurors have already found Holmes was legally sane at the time of the attack, his defense is hoping at least one juror will agree that his mental illness and family ties reduce his moral culpability so much that he deserves the mercy of a life sentence instead.

Defense attorneys will also call his mother, Arlene Holmes, to the stand as they prepare to rest their portion of the sentencing phase, which has included several dozen family friends, teachers and former neighbors who said the Holmes they knew was shy, mild-mannered and polite - not the kind of young man who would gun down innocent strangers.

As Robert Holmes testified Tuesday, jurors saw pictures and home-movies from Holmes' unremarkable childhood: A younger Holmes on the soccer field; Holmes graduating high school; Holmes smiling at the family dinner table; Holmes playing in the surf at one of the many beaches near their quiet California neighborhood.

The father said his son was an isolated teen with few friends, but he wasn't too concerned, since he was similar growing up. The younger Holmes never brought a girlfriend home, and his father rarely, if ever saw him with friends.

His parents were thrilled to learn he had started dating in graduate school, Robert Holmes said. So when his 1st relationship ended, he knew it wasn't a good sign.

"We knew some things weren't going well there," Robert Holmes said.

When it came time to cross-examine the older Holmes, District Attorney George Brauchler focused on what the parents didn't know or didn't tell jurors: that James Holmes' mother took him to a counselor when he was just 8 because he was throwing things and acting out, and that once he was in college he lost touch with his younger sister, and never inquired about her well-being. Brauchler will continue questioning Robert Holmes Wednesday.

While Robert Holmes occasionally glanced at his son during his testimony, the two did not acknowledge each other until near end of the day. Robert Holmes mouthed something at this son, who waved slightly at him. They both smiled.

The father said that he has only seen his son in jail 3 times because he typically does not allow visitors. During a rare visit, James Holmes "was clearly really messed up," his father said. "But he told us he loved us."

(source: Associated Press)


Death penalty possible for man convicted of killing Phoenix Officer Travis Murphy

A man convicted of 1st-degree murder in the shooting of a Phoenix police officer is facing the death penalty.

Jurors on Tuesday found aggravating factors in the case against Danny Ledezma Martinez. They will return at 1:30 p.m. to begin the penalty phase.

Martinez was found guilty of first-degree murder earlier this month in the 2010 shooting of Officer Travis Murphy.

Prosecutors had previously said they would seek the death penalty in the case.

The 34-year-old Martinez was accused of shooting Murphy with an AR-15 type rifle early on the morning of May 26, 2010.

Officers were responding to a suspicious person call and Murphy was gunned down in front of a central Phoenix home. The 4-year veteran later died at a hospital.

Phoenix police say Martinez has an extensive record of violent crimes.

Records show he served more than 3 years in prison on weapons charges from the Tucson area and was released in 2009.

(source: ABC news)


Mistrial declared in penalty phase of man convicted of killing Vallejo Officer Jim Capoot

A mistrial has been declared in the penalty phase of the death penalty trial of the man convicted of killing Vacaville resident and Vallejo Police Officer Jim Capoot.

Juror's found Henry Albert Smith Jr., 41, guilty of 1st degree murder of the officer last week.

Today, however, a juror was excused for a hardship and no alternate jurors remain.

That means that the same jury that convicted Smith last week of 1st degree murder with special circumstances and robbery in connection with the Nov. 17, 2011 gunshot slaying of Capoot, will not determine his punishment.

Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty and jurors in the case were expected to begin a penalty phase this week in which they would decide whether Smith would be sentenced to life in prison without parole, or go to death row.

The mistrial came as a juror in the case is set to move out of state at the end of the week. These plans were made known to Judge Peter B. Foor and the attorneys in the case during the jury selection process months ago.

However, the start of the trial was stalled for 3 weeks by a state court of appeal, and another week of testimony was lost due to a sudden illness.

The guilt phase of the trial took nearly a month longer to complete than anticipated. Foor explored numerous options with the juror in hopes she could stay an extra 2 weeks, but ultimately found it would pose an undue hardship on her and her family.

Despite the mistrial, Smith's conviction remains and a new jury will be selected to determine his punishment.

Attorneys will return Aug. 31 to select a date when jury selection would begin for the penalty phase.

Defense attorneys noted at the end of Tuesday's hearing that they would file a number of motions, including a change of venue motion, in the meantime.

Smith remains in Solano County Jail custody.

(source: The Reporter)


The cost of convicting the innocent

I edit the National Registry of Exonerations, which compiles stories and data about people who were convicted of crimes in the United States and later exonerated. The cases are fascinating and important, but they wear on me: So many of them are stories of destruction and defeat.

Consider, for example, Rafael Suarez. In 1997 in Tucson, Suarez was convicted of a vicious felony assault for which another man had already pleaded guilty. Suarez's lawyer interviewed the woman who called 911 to report the incident as well as a 2nd eyewitness. Both said that Suarez did not attack the victim and, in fact, had attempted to stop the assault. A 3rd witness told the lawyer that he heard the victim say that he would lie in court to get Suarez convicted. None of these witnesses were called to testify at trial. Suarez was convicted and sentenced to 5 years.

After these facts came to light in 2000, Suarez was released. He had lost his house and his job, and his plan to become a paralegal had been derailed. His wife had divorced him, and he had lost parental rights to their 3 children, including 1 born while he was locked up. Suarez sued his former lawyer, who by then had been disbarred. He got a $1 million judgment, but the lawyer had no assets and filed for bankruptcy. Barring a miracle, Suarez will never see a penny of that judgment.

The most depressing thing about Suarez's case is how comparatively lucky he was. He was exonerated, against all odds, because his otherwise irresponsible lawyer had actually talked to the critical witnesses and recorded those interviews despite failing later to call them at trial.

Suarez served 3 years in prison for a crime he didn't commit. The average time served for the 1,625 exonerated individuals in the registry is more than 9 years. Last year, 3 innocent murder defendants in Cleveland were exonerated 39 years after they were convicted - they spent their entire adult lives in prison - and even they were lucky: We know without doubt that the vast majority of innocent defendants who are convicted of crimes are never identified and cleared.

The registry receives 4 or 5 letters a week from prisoners who claim to be innocent. They're heartbreaking. Most of the writers are probably guilty, but some undoubtedly are not. We tell them that we can't help; we are a research project only, we don't represent clients or investigate claims of innocence. Fair enough, I guess, but some innocent prisoners who have been exonerated wrote hundreds of these letters before anybody took notice. How many innocent defendants have I ignored?

Innocence projects do handle these cases, or at least some of them. They receive many times more letters than we do. I've spoken with lawyers who do this work, and who have successfully exonerated dozens of defendants. Most of them have clients who remain in prison despite powerful evidence of their innocence that no court will consider. And they all know that there are countless innocent defendants hidden in the piles of pleas for help that they will never have time to investigate.

How many people are convicted of crimes they did not commit? Last year, a study I co-authored on the issue was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. It shows that 4.1 % of defendants who are sentenced to death in the United States are later shown to be innocent: 1 in 25.

Death sentences are uniquely well- documented. We don't know nearly enough about other kinds of criminal cases to estimate the rate of wrongful convictions for those. The rate could be lower than for capital murders, or it could be higher. Of course, in a country with millions of criminal convictions a year and more than 2 million people behind bars, even 1 % amounts to tens of thousands of tragic errors.

The problem may be worst at the low end of the spectrum, in misdemeanor courts where almost everybody pleads guilty. For example, in July 2014 Wassillie Gregory was charged with "harassment" of a police officer in Bethel, Alaska. The officer wrote in his report that Gregory was "clearly intoxicated" and that "I kindly tried to assist Gregory into my cruiser for protective custody when he pulled away and clawed at me with his hand."

The next step in the case would normally be the last: Gregory pleaded guilty, without the benefit of a defense lawyer. But Gregory was exonerated a year later after a surveillance video surfaced showing the officer handcuffing him and then repeatedly slamming him onto the pavement.

In the past year, 45 defendants were exonerated after pleading guilty to low-level drug crimes in Harris County, Texas They were cleared months or years after conviction by lab tests that found no illegal drugs in the materials seized from them.

Why then did they plead guilty? As best we can tell, most were held in jail because they couldn't make bail. When they were brought to court for the 1st time, they were given a take-it-or-leave-it, for-today-only offer: Plead guilty and get probation or weeks to months in jail. If they refused, they'd wait in jail for months, if not a year or more, before they got to trial, and risk additional years in prison if they were convicted. That's a high price to pay for a chance to prove one's innocence.

Police officers are supposed to be suspicious and proactive, to stop, question and arrest people who might have committed crimes, or who might be about to do so. Most officers are honest, and, I am sure, they are usually right. But "most" and "usually right" are not good enough for criminal convictions. Courts - judges, prosecutors, defense attorneys, sometime juries - are supposed to decide criminal cases. Instead, most misdemeanor courts outsource deciding guilt or innocence to the police. It's cheaper, but you get what you pay for.

We can do better, of course - for misdemeanors, for death penalty cases and for everything in between - if we're willing to foot the bill. It'll cost money to achieve the quality of justice we claim to provide: to do more careful investigations, to take fewer quick guilty pleas and conduct more trials, and to make sure those trials are well done. But first we have to recognize that what we do now is not good enough.

(source: Samuel R. Gross, a law professor at the University of Michigan, is the editor of the National Registry of Exonerations;


Qatar said to consider tougher penalties on drug dealing

Qatar is considering a crackdown on drug dealers who sell to adolescents, according to local press.

The Gulf state wants to impose harsher punishments on dealers to curb drug use among school and college students, an official told Arabic daily Al Sharq.

Amr Aly Al Hemeidy, assistant director of the Ministry of Interior's narcotics department, was quoted as saying the most dangerous drugs used by addicts in Qatar are cocaine, heroine and morphine.

Other common drugs are tramadol, captagon and Lyrica, he said.

According to a report in Doha News, current penalties for drug use and dealing range from jail time to the death penalty, as well as fines of up to QR500,000 ($137,000).

Al Hemeidy was reported to have stated that drug abuse has a negative effect on families, and called on residents to cooperate with authorities to create a "drug free" society.

His department is working with other ministries to run awareness raising campaigns in schools to highlight the dangers of drug use to students, parents and teachers, and advise on prevention.

If Qatar introduces tougher penalties it would be the latest a series of moves to clamp down on drug dealing in the country. In June, it was reported that the customs department had foiled 317 attempts to smuggle drugs into the country in 2014.

And the government has installed new devices at Hamad International Airport to detect drug smugglers.



Bangladesh's apex court upholds top opposition leader's death penalty

Bangladesh's apex court has upheld the death penalty for a top opposition party leader for war crimes including mass killings during the country's war of independence 43 years ago.

A 4-member bench of the Supreme Court (SC) bench headed by Justice Surendra Kumar Sinha delivered the verdict on Wednesday morning, upholding the death penalty against the 65-year old Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) leader Salauddin Quader Chowdhury.

The International Crimes Tribunal (ICT)-2 in October 2013 awarded death sentence to the leader, who is now behind the bar.

Justice ATM Fazle Kabir, head judge of ICT-1, had then announced that 9 out of 23 charges, which include mass killings, murder, genocide and conspiracy to kill intellectuals during the country's Liberation War in 1971, against the 64-year-old leader were proved beyond reasonable doubt.

Defense lawyer Khandaker Mahbub Hossain told journalists shortly after the announcement of the verdict on Wednesday morning that they will file a review petition with the SC.

The judgment was, however, greeted with huge relief in and outside the courtroom.

Talking to media, Attorney General Mahbub-e-Alam, among others, expressed satisfaction with the verdict against the accused.

This was the 1st time that the SC delivered verdict on war crimes charges against a member of the parliament and leader of the BNP headed by ex-Prime Minister Khaleda Zia, a rival of current Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.

Security has been beefed up in places in Dhaka and Chittagong, some 242 km southeast of the capital city. Paramilitary Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) troops have been deployed to thwart any untoward incident after the verdict against Chowdhury, member of BNP's Standing Committee, the highest policy-making body of the party.

In April 2012 Chowdhury was indicted on the charges of genocide, murders, abductions, torture in confinement, loot, arson attacks and complicity in other atrocities committed in Chittagong in 1971.

In his closing arguments in the case, Defense counsel AKM Fakhrul Islam claimed that the prosecution failed to prove the charges and expressed the hope that his client would be acquitted.

Son of the then Convention Muslim League party leader Fazlul Qader Chowdhury, Salauddin Quader Chowdhury was elected MP from different constituencies in Chittagong since 1979.

Chowdhury's father, who actively opposed the creation of independent Bangladesh and allegedly committed war crimes, died at jail when his trial was going on.

Fazlul Qader Chowdhury was also a speaker of Pakistan National Assembly and Acting President of Pakistan from time to time before the independence of Bangladesh.

Salauddin Quader Chowdhury was a lawmaker and minister in General Hussain Mohammad Ershad's government in the 1980s. He quit former military strongman's Jatiya Party in the 2nd half of the 1980s and founded his own party.

In 1996, Chowdhury and his National Democratic Party took part in the then opposition Bangladesh Awami League party-led movement against the then BNP government that saw the introduction of non- party caretaker government for holding parliamentary polls.

Later, he joined BNP and was elected to parliament on its tickets.

The latest verdict came about 3 months after Muhammad Kamaruzzaman, a Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami party leader convicted of war crimes, was executed in April, the 2nd execution for crimes against humanity committed during the country's war of independence in 1971.

Another Jamaat leader Abdul Quader Molla, convicted of war crimes in 1971, was executed on Dec. 12, 2013.

Both BNP and Jamaat have dismissed the court as a government " show trial" and said it is a domestic set-up without the oversight or involvement of the United Nations.

Muslim-majority Bangladesh was called East Pakistan until 1971. The government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said about 3 million people were killed in the 9-month war.

After returning to power in January 2009, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, the daughter of Bangladesh's independence hero Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, established the first tribunal in March 2010, almost 40 years after the 1971 fight for independence from Pakistan.

(source: Xinhua)


Libyan envoy to Vatican decries death penalty issued to Gaddafi's son

The death sentences handed Tuesday to deposed dictator Muammar Gaddafi's son Saif al-Islam Gheddafi and 8 other former top regime officials are "unacceptable", according to Libya's internationally recognised government's envoy to the Vatican.

"They are sentences issued in the absence of a legitimate state and under the threat of arms," the Tobruk government's envoy to the Vatican Mustafa Ali Rugibani told Adnkronos International (AKI).

Gaddafi's military intelligence chief Abdullah al-Senussi and his last prime minister, Al-Baghdadi Ali al-Mahmoudi were among the 9 people sentenced to death by a court in Tripoli for war crimes and other offences during the 2011.

23 other former officials were given sentences ranging from life imprisonment to 5 years in prison, 4 people were acquitted, and 1 was referred for medical treatment and not sentenced.

"It is my personal opinion that this sentencing unacceptable given Libya's current situation," said Rugibani.

"The sentences must be appealed in order that a new trial can take place under a legitimate government that will guarantee the rule of law."

The Islamist parliament in Tripoli refused to put its signature to a UN-sponsored accord between Libya's warring factions to create a national unity government, which was signed in Morocco on 12 July.

The country's internationally recognised parliament, the House of Representatives in Tobruk in eastern Libya, signed the deal.

Libya, plunged into chaos after the 2011 ouster of Gaddafi, with 2 parliaments and governments vying for power and armed groups battling for control of the country's oil wealth.

( source: Adnkronos International)


The Show Trial of Saif Qaddafi: a Manufactured Death Sentence

In 2007, candidate Obama said "(t)he president does not have the power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation."

Straightaway after entering office, he expanded drone attacks against Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen. He increased troop strength in Afghanistan after pledging to end war by yearend 2009.

US-led NATO aggression on Libya followed. Obama lied claiming Gaddafi "attack(ed) his (own) people. (So) we took ... swift steps answer his aggression."

A litany of Big Lies followed. "Innocent people were targeted for killing," Obama blustered. "Hospital and ambulances were attacked."

"Journalists were arrested, sexually assaulted and killed ... Water for hundreds of thousands of people ... was shut off. Cities and towns were shelled. Mosques were destroyed."

"Gaddafi declared he would show no mercy to his own people" - willful Obama deception. He tried justifying the unjustifiable, adding "I authorized military action to stop the killing and enforce UN Security Council Resolution 1973."

International law is clear. Nations may not attack others except in self-defense - and only if UN Security Council authorized.

America wasn't attacked, nor other NATO countries. Gaddafi threatened no one, including his own people. The longer war raged, the more popular he became. Libyans rallied around him for safety and security - hoping he'd be able to restore peace and stability.

At war's end, he was brutally sodomized and murdered in cold blood. On November 19, 2011, his son Saif was arrested trying to flee Libya to safety, held captive by Zintan rebels, tortured, until he was tried in absentia in Tripoli and convicted by kangaroo tribunal proceedings affording him no chance for justice.

He was declared guilty by accusation - sentenced to death by firing squad along with 8 other former Gaddafi officials, including former intelligence chief Abdullah Senussi, and 2 former prime ministers, al-Baghdadi and Abuzaid Dorda.

A total of 32 defendants were tried - 23 got lesser sentences and fines. Attorney John Jones represented Saif. "It was clearly a show trial" for all defendants, he said. "It was basically a trial by militia" lasting 2 days - conducted by an illegitimate Islamist regime controlling Tripoli after ousting the US-installed one operating from Tobruk.

"Lawyers were intimidated," said Jones. "The judges were intimated. Lawyers had to leave the case." Controlled proceedings excluded the right to a proper defense. Only 2 intimidated witnesses for Saif were allowed. No evidence against him was presented.

Prosecutors relied solely on torture extracted information - what no legitimate tribunal permits. Transitional Justice and Rule of Law Division of the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) human rights director Claudio Cordone said:

"Concerns over the trial include the fact that several defendants were absent for a number of sessions. The evidence of criminal conduct was largely attributed to the defendants in general, with little effort to establish individual criminal responsibility."

"(I)t is particularly worrisome that the court handed down 9 death sentences. International standards require that death sentences may only be imposed after proceedings that meet the highest level of respect for fair trial standards. The United Nations opposes the imposition of the death penalty as a matter of principle."

Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Ravina Shamdasani, added:

"We had closely monitored the detention and trial and found that international fair trial standards had failed to be met. Among the key shortcomings is the failure to establish individual criminal responsibility in relation to specific crimes."

Other serious issues included lack of access to lawyers, torture and other forms of ill treatment, as well as illegitimate trials conducted in absentia.

An UNSMIL press release said "(d)uring their pre-trial detention defendants were denied access to lawyers and family for prolonged periods, and some reported that they were beaten or otherwise ill-treated, but UNSMIL is not aware of any investigation into these allegations."

"Many defendants were not represented by a lawyer during the pre-trial process, which deprived them of a crucial opportunity to establish their defence. Defence lawyers said they faced challenges in meeting their clients privately or accessing the full case file, and some said they received threats."

"They were constrained by the court to 2 or 3 witnesses per defendant and some said that witnesses were reluctant to appear in court due to fears about their safety. The court did not respond to defence counsel requests to examine prosecution witnesses."

US-led NATO turned Africa's most developed country into a cauldron of endless violence, deprivation and despair.

Tens of thousands were murdered in cold blood. Multiples more were injured and/or displaced. Violence, instability, insecurity and chaos reflect daily life. No end in sight looms. Millions of Libyans live in constant fear.

Obama bears full responsibility for raping, ravaging, destroying, and plundering a nation threatening no others. Anarchical charnel house conditions replaced it.

Dystopian harshness persists. Libya is a failed state. Central authority is absent. Public services aren’t provided. Corruption and criminality are rampant. Conditions are in free fall. Human misery is extreme.

Libya is one of many high crimes on Obama's rap sheet. Perhaps he plans Libya 2.0 for Syria, Iran, Lebanon and Yemen. Longstanding US/Israeli plans to redraw the Middle East map suggest it.

(source: Stephen Lendman,


PNG police demand 3 Australian Manus guards return to face rape questions

Manus Island detention centre managers have been threatened with arrest in Papua New Guinea for perverting the course of justice unless 3 Australian guards accused of rape are returned for questioning.

PNG police are investigating allegations the trio, who worked for Wilson Security, allegedly drugged and gang-raped a local woman who also worked at the centre.

They are angry the group were removed from the island ahead of a formal investigation.

The alleged victim had made an official complaint to police this morning and supplied some evidence.

Manus Island provincial police commander Alex N'Drasal said he has set a deadline to arrest centre managers after close of business on Thursday unless the three men are flown back to co-operate with the police investigation.

"Their actions have perverted the course of justice," he said.

Rape convictions carry the death penalty in PNG.

The immigration department today confirmed the three staff members had been stood down and returned to Australia over an "incident".

"The alleged incident was inconsistent with expected behaviours and contrary to the service providers code of conduct," the department said.

It categorically rejected claims it has been involved in a cover-up over the issue.

"The implication that the Wilson staff were removed to avoid prosecution, or removed without consultation with relevant PNG authorities, is simply wrong," the department said.

The department said its personnel had personally briefed senior representatives of the PNG police on the decision to remove the three workers from the island and they had agreed with the proposed action.

Commander N'Drasal denied the department's version of events and said it had not followed proper procedures.

Wilson Security has refused to comment on the matter, referring media inquiries to the immigration department.

The department maintains it will support and assist PNG authorities should "there be a case to answer in relation to this matter".

The department said on Monday that it had not been notified of any allegation of sexual assault.

But today it clarified it was "made aware immediately in mid-July of an incident involving three service provider staff and a locally engaged staff member".

Further comment has been sought from the department.

(source: The Australian)


Politicians 'ignored' over attempts to attend Halawa trial

A member of the Committee on Foreign Affairs and Trade said it had made a number of requests over the past 6 weeks seeking to send a representative to visit the Irish teenager, whose trial is due to begin on Sunday.

Fianna Fail Senator Mark Daly also alleged a further request he made personally to the Egyptian Embassy in Dublin, to be allowed observe the trial, was ignored.

The situation threatens to spark a diplomatic row ahead of the high-profile case.

Mr Daly said he finally got a response from the embassy yesterday. The correspondence said a formal request would be considered, but cautioned that "the pressure of time and security arrangements" were considerations.

Mr Daly said he believed earlier requests had been "ignored" and that this raised further questions over the trial process.

Queries submitted by the Irish Independent to the Egyptian Embassy about the issue were not responded to yesterday.

Human rights groups have expressed concerns that Mr Halawa will not receive a fair trial.

The 19-year-old has been held since his arrest in August 2013 during protests in Cairo against the toppling of former Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi.

The Dubliner was one of 488 people charged with 2 murders, an attempted murder, the sabotage of a police precinct, the use of explosives, arson and the use of force against police officers.

The charges, which he denies, carry the death penalty.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny told the Dail last May it appeared Mr Halawa was now facing less serious charges.

However, this has been disputed by the Belfast human rights law firm Kevin R Winters, which is representing Mr Halawa.

The defence team also includes a barrister from Doughty Street Chambers, the London law practice of Amal Clooney.

Lawyers for Mr Halawa met with officials from the Department of Foreign Affairs yesterday to discuss the case. Solicitor Darragh Mackin said afterwards: "The issue in respect of the charges has still not been cleared up."

Sinn Fein MEP Lynn Boylan has also requested access to the trial and to Mr Halawa in prison.

She is travelling to Egypt on a diplomatic passport afforded to MEPs having been granted a visa on Monday.

(source: Irish Independent)


Chinese murderer of 6 sentenced to death

A Shanghai court on Wednesday gave the death penalty to a man who shot dead 5 people, including a soldier, and beat another to death.

Fan Jieming, 64, had a dispute at a chemical factory in the city's Baoshan district on June 22, 2013, before committing the murders.

Fan was convicted of murder, robbery, forcible seizure and illegal possession of guns, Xinhua news agency reported.

(source: Indo-Asian News Service)


8 more murder convicts hanged in Pakistan

8 more death row prisoners, who were convicted for murders, were sent to gallows in different prisons of Punjab on Wednesday.

According to Samaa correspondent, three murder convicts were hanged in district jail in Attock city early in the morning. A father and his son were among the 3 condemned prisoners.

Officials said 5 other death row convicts were executed in jails of Sargodha, Multan, Kasur, Jhang and Gujarat.

Authorities on Monday resumed executions following a one-month break during Ramazan.

Over 180 people have been executed since December when the country ended a 6-year moratorium on the death penalty following a Taliban attack on a school in Peshawar that killed more than 150 people -- mostly children -- in the country's deadliest ever terror attack.

Among those currently on death row are murder convict Shafqat Hussain who is scheduled to be hanged on Aug 4 in Karachi.

His case has drawn international criticism because his family and lawyers say he was under 18 at the time of the killing and claim he was tortured into confessing.

Amnesty International estimates that Pakistan has more than 8,000 prisoners on death row, most of whom have exhausted their appeals.



venile Offender Accused of Murder at 15 May Be Executed on Saturday----Amnesty International has issued a warning about the imminent execution of a juvenile offender in Iran

Salar Shadizadi is a juvenile offender in Rasht Prison who is reportedly set to be hanged to death on Saturday, August 1st for a murder crime he reportedly committed when he was 15. Salar's death sentence was confirmed by Iran's Supreme Court.

In a recently published statement by Amnesty International the NGO urges Iranian authorities to stop Salar's execution.

In April 2015 Iranian authorities executed Jamal Saberi, a juvenile offender who was 17 years old at the time he was arrested and charged with murder and drug possession. Jamal was sentenced to death by Iran's Judiciary and hanged in Rajai Shahr Prison along with 4 more prisoners charged with murder. Jamal reportedly suffered from severe psychological disorders and was held in Omid Abad Psychiatric Ward for some time before his execution.

Iran is signatory to the United Nation's International Covenant of Civil and Political rights where in Article 6 it states: "Sentence of death shall not be imposed for crimes committed by persons below 18 years of age..."

(source: Iran Human Rights)


27th anniversary of massacre of 30000 political prisoners in Iran

Saturday marks the 27th anniversary of the massacre of 30,000 political prisoners in Iran. In the summer of 1988, one month after Ruhollah Khomeini was forced to accept a cease-fire in his 8-year war with Iraq, the fundamentalist ruler of the mullahs' regime ordered a mass execution of all political prisoners affiliated with the main opposition group People's Mojahedin Organization of Iran, PMOI (Mujahedin-e Khalq, MEK).

The brutal prison massacre, which has been described by some international human rights lawyers as the greatest crime against humanity that has gone unpunished since the Second World War, saw the execution of some 30,000 defenseless prisoners.

Near the end of the Iran-Iraq war, Khomeini who felt that defeat was imminent, decided to take his revenge on the political prisoners. He issued a fatwa (or religious decree) ordering the massacre of anyone who had not repented and was not willing to collaborate fully with the regime.

Khomeini decreed: "Whoever at any stage continues to belong to the Monafeqin (PMOI) must be executed. Annihilate the enemies of Islam immediately." He added: "Those who are in prisons throughout the country and remain steadfast in their support for the PMOI are waging war on God and are condemned to execution...It is naive to show mercy to those who wage war on God."

The Iranian regime has never acknowledged these executions, or provided any information as to how many prisoners were summarily killed. Young girls, old parents, students, workers, and many of those who had already finished their sentences prior to 1988 were among those who vanished in the span of a few months. Their bodies were dumped into mass graves, including in Khavaran Cemetery near Tehran.

Khomeini had assigned an "Amnesty Commission" for prisoners. In reality it was a "Death Commission: comprised of the three individuals: A representative of the Ministry of Intelligence, a religious judge and a prosecutor. Most trials lasted for just a few minutes and resembled more of an interrogation session. The questions were focused on whether the prisoner still had any allegiances to the PMOI (MEK), whose supporters made up more than 90 percent of the prisoners. If the prisoners were not willing to collaborate fully with the regime against the PMOI (MEK), it was viewed as a sign of sympathy to the organization and the sentence was immediate execution. The task of the Death Commission was to determine whether a prisoner was an Enemy of God or not. In the case of Mojahedin prisoners, that determination was often made after only a single question about their party affiliation. Those who said "Mojahedin" rather than the derogatory term "Monafeqin" (meaning hypocrites) were sent to the gallows.

None of the perpetrators of the 1988 massacre of political prisoners in Iran and none of the regime's senior officials including the Supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, have been brought to justice to date.

(source: NCR-Iran)


Yakub to be hanged tomorrow as SC, Guv reject pleas

Yakub Memon, the sole death row convict in 1993 Mumbai blasts case, will be executed at 7 am tomorrow (Thursday) in Nagpur Central Prison after a 3-judge Supreme Court bench dismissed his petition against the scheduled execution.

Maharashtra Governor Vidyasagar Rao too rejected Memon's mercy petition.

Minutes before Governor rejected the mercy plea, the SC bench said that Yakub's curative petition was rightly disposed off and that there were no procedural lapses. Yakub had questioned the process.

Rejecting his plea, the bench said that the Supreme Court does not find fault with the issuance of death warrant by TADA court.

Talking to reporters, Special Public Prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam said, "SC has today rejected petition (curative) filed by Yakub and dismissed all the contentions raised by him."

"The procedures tomorrow will depend on what Maharashtra Governor and President's decision on Memon's mercy petition," he added.

The bench headed by Justice Dipak Misra, before rising for lunch recess, had said it would pronounce the order on Wednesday itself, if the counsel for the parties 'cooperate'.

Senior advocate Raju Ramachndran, appearing for Memon, initiated arguments by referring to the separate, divergent orders passed by Justice A.R. Dave and Justice Kurian Joseph on Tuesday and said that the procedures established by the law have not been followed while deciding the curative petition of the convict.

Ramachandran said, "The judges, who were part of judicial process earlier, must be party to curative petition. It cannot be decided by judges who are strangers to the matters."

He further said that besides the 3 senior most judges, the curative petition should have been circulated to the judges, if available, who had decided the criminal appeal and the review petition.

Senior advocates T.R. Andhyarujina and Anand Grover both supported the contention of Ramachandran and said that this death warrant is illegal and can not be executed tomorrow.

Attorney general Mukul Rohatgi, who is presently continuing his argument, said that the court should not forget the fact that it was the 1st terror attack at the heart of the country that had led to the death of 257 persons and several hundred injured.

Memon and 11 others were slapped with the death penalty by the special TADA court in July 2007 for the 1993 bomb blasts.

The apex court by its March 21, 2013 verdict upheld his death sentence while commuting the death sentence of 10 others (1 having died subsequently) to life imprisonment.

The court on April 9 again dismissed Memon's plea for the review of his death sentence, as it had earlier dismissed a similar plea seeking recall of the March 21, 2013 verdict.



SC Paves the Way for Yakub Memon's Hanging; Maharashtra Governor Rejects His Mercy Plea

The Supreme Court on Wednesday denied the 1993 Mumbai serial blasts convict Yakub Memon any relief as rejected both his petitions, even as the Maharashtra Governor rejected his 2nd mercy petition, paving the way for his execution on 30 July.

Memon had moved SC seeking quashing of the death warrant issued against him by a special Tada court of Mumbai on 30 April claiming that he had not exhausted all his legal remedies when he was awarded the death penalty. He had also sought a stay on his execution.

A 3-judge bench, constituted by Chief Justice HL Dattu, rejected both his pleas one after the other in the afternoon.

Justice Dattu had constituted a larger bench of Justices Dipak Misra, Prafulla C Pant and Amitava Roy after a 2-judge bench differed in their opinions on Memon's petitions.

Meanwhile, Maharashtra Governor C Vidyasagar Rao also rejected Memon's plea for mercy, media reports said.

Earlier on Wednesday Memon filed a 3rd mercy petition to President Pranab Mukherjee despite the fact that he had rejected his 1st plea seeking pardon.

(source: International Business Times)


Activist lost his family in a bomb blast, campaigns against death penalty of the terrorist

The usual reaction of any person who had lost his family members in a bomb attack would be to hang the person responsible for the bomb blast. Some even go a mile ahead, wishing how they would kill the terrorist who was responsible for the terrorist attacks which had taken away their friends or someone who lived across their street.

Similar intellectuals echoed Tushar's comments and said 'Terrorists are very friendly people. One should be friends with them to know how cool they are'.

But Tushar Nair, a 45-year old activist and a well known Intellectual, stands tall amongst this usual blood-seeking communals. Having lost his wife, son and daughter in a gruesome terror attack 10 years ago in Mumbai, Tushar is now leading the call for canceling the death penalty of the sole terrorist who was behind the bomb blast that killed his family.

Sanghi Ram (name & religion changed) who is now getting ready to face the execution next week had been trying his best to escape the noose. While there were usual calls from the usual suspects to cancel his death penalty on various grounds ranging from his religion to his mental instability (not due to religion though), petition from Tushar Nair seemed to have shocked even the rest of liberals and activists.

One such activist said, "We calling for the rejection of death penalty of terrorists is fine. We never witnessed any bomb attacks and we mostly retire back to our AC rooms with glass of wine after condemning any terror attack and delinking it from religion in our tweets. But, Tushar lost his most loved family in that terror attack, for which this person is going to be hanged. This is shocking. Does he really bat for it? Or is he planning to finish him like how Naseeruddin Shah did in 'A Wednesday?"

We finally managed to get in touch with Tushar. Sporting a smile, he said, "I had been raising my voice against oppression of minorities in India ever since my college days. And now, with a Hindutva government at the centre, I'm worried about the state of minorities. I had even signed petition to block death penalty of Guru and Kasab. And, this person who had planted a bomb that killed my family ... well ... my family members were from majority. No matter how many people die, majority is anyway going to lose only a small fraction. But, if minorities are hanged or killed, then it is a great blow to their population. And that is why, I initiated a signature campaign against death penalty granted to that terrorist. I would even accept him as member of my family, upon his release, to prove that I’m a secular and my ideology is plural. Now, excuse me, I need to prepare letter template to save future terrorists from being hanged."



Commute Yakub's death penalty to honour Kalam

Former West Bengal Governor Gopalkrishna Gandhi has appealed to President Pranab Mukherjee to reconsider the mercy petition of death row convict Yakub Memon as a "fitting tribute" to former President APJ Abdul Kalam whose "conscientious opposition" to capital punishment is widely known.

In his appeal to the President, Gandhi said Kalam had, as recently as earlier this month, expressed his opposition to the concept of capital punishment.

"He expressed this opinion to the Law Commission, which has been holding deliberations regarding the desirability and efficacy of the death penalty. It would, I suggest, be a fitting tribute to the humane legacy of President Kalam to grant Yakub Memon his life, for which course there are also other compelling reasons," Gandhi wrote.

President Mukherjee had last year rejected Yakub's mercy plea.

Underlining that he was writing this appeal as matter of urgent, general and public interest, the former Governor cited a case of 1997 when the then President Shankar Dayal Sharma reversed earlier decision and commuted death penalty of two boys from Andhra Pradesh on the appeal of Mahashweta Devi and other eminent citizens on the eve of their scheduled execution.

Gandhi said it established "the supreme constituent power of the President of India under Article 73 of the Constitution, to reverse his earlier decision, and heed voices of conscience to commute a death sentence."

"Yakub Memon submitted to Indian jurisdiction, when he may quite easily have evaded justice. A respected officer of Indian intelligence has spoken of his cooperation with the law, thus rendering the death penalty completely inappropriate in this case. Former Supreme Court judges have openly said that his execution would be unjust," he said.

Yakub is the sole death row convict in the 1993 Mumbai blasts case. 12 coordinated blasts had rocked Mumbai on March 12, 1993, leaving 257 dead and over 700 injured.



10 Years: 1,303 Death sentences, only 3 executions

A death sentence such as the one handed to Yakub Memon, lone convict of the 1993 Mumbai serial bombings is common in India, with 1,303 capital-punishment verdicts between 2004 and 2013, according to this National Crime Record Bureau (NCRB) prison statistics report.

However, only 3 convicts were executed over this period, one each in West Bengal (2004), Maharashtra (2012) and Delhi (2013). India saw an execution-free period of seven years between 2004 and 2012.

On 14 August 2004, Dhananjoy Chatterjee was hanged at Alipore Central Jail in West Bengal on his 42nd birthday, convicted for the rape and murder of a teenage girl.

On 21 November 2012, Mohammad Ajmal Amir Kasab the only terrorist to have survived the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks, was hanged in Pune's Yerwada Jail.

On 9 Februrary 2013, Mohammed Afzal Guru, a convict in the 2001 Parliament attack case was hanged inside Delhi's Tihar jail.

In addition, 3,751 death sentences were commuted to life imprisonment during this period.

Former chartered accountant Memon is set to be hanged on 30 July 2015, the day he turns 53. A debate has now broken out over the verdict against him and the death sentence in general.

In July 2007, Yakub and 11 others were convicted and sentenced to death by a special court for planning or carrying out the 1993 Mumbai bombings that killed nearly 260 people and injured 700.

In March 2013, the Supreme Court upheld Memon's death sentence, while commuting the death sentence of 10 others (one died later) to life imprisonment.

On social media, a raging debate with dubious data

Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Subramanian Swamy reacting to assertions that only Muslims were being hanged recently said that 170 people have been hanged in India after 1947 with only 15 of them Muslims, according to Asian News International (ANI).

Since independence, at least 60 Muslim (according to their surnames) convicts were hanged, according to the Death Penalty Research Report by National Law University, Delhi.

The report compiled data from central prisons but is not an exhaustive list because many states did not provide complete information.

Some states provided such reasons: Kerala and Andhra Pradesh authorities said termites destroyed records.

The 35th Law Commission report, released in 1967, said more than 1,400 prisoners were executed from 1953 to 1963 but does not give religion-wise details of hanged convicts.

2007: Year of death sentences

The most death sentences were awarded in 2007 (186), followed by 164 in 2005. That year 2005 1,241 death sentences were commuted to life imprisonment, the most ever.

Uttar Pradesh awarded the most death sentences (318) over the last 10 years. Maharashtra was second with 108, followed by Karnataka (107), Bihar (105) and Madhya Pradesh (104).

Top 5 States (Prisoners Awarded Capital Punishment, 2004-2013)

These top 5 states comprise almost 57% of all capital punishments awarded in the country between 2004 and 2013.

In Delhi, 2,465 prisoners had death sentences commuted to life imprisonment (between 2004 and 2013). Jharkhand and Uttar Pradesh were 2nd with 303 death sentences commuted to life imprisonment, followed by Bihar (157) and West Bengal (104).

Top 5 States (Sentences Commuted To Life Imprisonment)

Delhi alone accounted for nearly 66% of all prisoners whose death sentence was commuted to life imprisonment between 2004 and 2013.

Death sentence abandoned by 160 countries not India, China, US and Japan

About 160 countries have abolished the death penalty in law or practice while 98 have abolished it altogether, according to this United Nations report.

In 2007, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution towards the abolition of capital punishment and the protection of human rights when it endorsed a call for a worldwide moratorium on the death penalty.

Apart from India, other prominent countries that opposed the resolution to abolish the death penalty include China, Japan and United States.

In 2013, nearly 778 executions were reported in 22 countries, a 14% growth over 682 executions in 2012.

On Monday, Pakistan executed 2 murder convicts following a 1-month break during the holy month of Ramzan. This adds to 176 executions since December 2014, after a 6-year moratorium on the death penalty.



Yakub's mercy plea: A matter of life and death; How will the President react?

He has to consider all the angles in the case and then decide. Under Article 72 of the Constitution, the President can grant him pardon, suspend or commute a sentence of death or change the penalty to life imprisonment.

However, he does not act on his own and is advised by a council of ministers, which too has been clearly mentioned in the Constitution.

Once the sentencing has been done by the Supreme Court, even a foreign national can send a mercy petition requesting the government to hold the death sentence.

A mercy plea can also be sent to the governor of the state concerned who then forward it to the MHA. Apart from this, the convict can also file a mercy plea from the jail through his family, lawyer or can even email it to the MHA.

Just a few years ago, the Union Ministry of Law told the MHA that the President's power to grant pardon, reprieves, respites or remissions of punishment under Article 72 was "absolute and cannot be fettered by any statutory provisions" under the Code of Criminal Procedure or prison rules.

The president also exercises the power of commuting the death sentence to life imprisonment, which means the convict is to stay in jail for the rest of his life till natural death.

Yakub has 50-50 chances

While the fate of Yakub solely depends on the last moment decision of the President, MHA data till date is rather discouraging.

It shows that Presidents, barring Narayanan and Pratibha Patil, have shown little mercy in the appeals. According to the information released by the government under the RTI Act, out of the 77 mercy pleas decided by the Presidents between 1991 and 2010, 69 were rejected.

While R Venkatraman (1987- 1992) rejected them mercilessly, former Presisent Partibha Patil was the most generous of them all. During her tenure from 2007-2012, she spared several serial murderers.

Several Presidents have also been alleged of religious favouritism or political considerations while judging a mercy plea.



Mercy petition filed by Guru was never sent to Dr. Abdul Kalam: Pancholi.

A day after the death of the former Indian president APJ Abdul Kalam, Civil Rights lawyer and renowned Indian civil society member, N.D. Pancholi Tuesday claimed that Home Ministry of India was so eager to hang Kashmiri youth Muhammad Afzal Guru that it never sent mercy petition filed by Guru's wife to the then president APJ. Abdul Kalam.

N.D. Pancholi said that ever since Guru was arrested, the Home Ministry was determined to execute him and in fact Parliament attack convict had lost all the hope in Indian Justice System.

Pancholi said that, "a death warrant had been issued to Afzal Guru, convicted in the Parliament terror attack case sometime in October 2006, and a mercy petition was filed in a hurry on behalf of his wife.

Advocate Nandita Haksar and I had helped draft the petition. Nandita suggested that we should seek an appointment with the President of India---Dr APJ Abdul Kalam-- on behalf of Guru’s mother, wife and minor son for a personal hearing."

"I was skeptical as never before had a President given any such opportunity to the family of a death row convict. Moreover, the Union Home Ministry was deadly against Guru, determined to ensure his execution. Nevertheless we decided to try, and I wrote to the President. To our surprise within 2 days I received a phone call from Rashtrapati Bhawan that Dr. Abdul Kalam, the President, had accepted our request and we were asked to meet him the day after."

"Guru's wife, mother and minor son including Nandita Haksar and I went to meet the President. Nandita and I were part of the delegation as the advocates. The meeting lasted for about 1 hour. Dr. Kalam first ascertained whether the ladies from Kashmir could talk in Urdu/Hindustani. Getting an answer in the affirmative he said that he would like to hear the family first. Both the mother and wife placed their woes before him and he listened patiently and attentively to both of them, with intermittent questioning. He was affectionate to the child who was about 8/9 years old. Both Nandita and I made our legal submissions. The President's staff took down notes. He looked serious, and appeared considerate. At the end of the meeting he said that he would look into it. We came out of the meeting with a glimmer of hope."

"Before filing the mercy petition on behalf of the wife, we wanted Afzal Guru himself to file it personally on his own behalf. But he was not willing as he thought it to of no use, as he felt the government was determined to hang him. So the petition was filed by the wife. After the meeting with President Abdul Kalam, both Guru's wife and mother met and gave him the details, as to how they were given a patient hearing."

"Afzal Guru had already read the news and seemed to be moved by the unprecedented gesture shown by Dr.Kalam to his family. The mercy petition by the wife was prepared in haste and we were of the opinion that a properly well drafted document should be prepared and be filed on behalf of Guru himself. This time it was easy to persuade him. In the first para of his petition Afzal wrote in the petition addressed to the President of India:

"....I myself had no hope that I would get a hearing. However, after my wife, Tabassum, my mother, Ayesha Begum and son Ghalib, told me how graciously you had received them I was really moved and it kindled a new hope that I may still get justice." But the Home Ministry was determined to deny justice to Afzal Guru.

"We came to know later that the mercy petition filed by him was never sent to Dr. Abdul Kalam Azad, with or without the comments of the Ministry. By the time he with its comments by the Ministry. By that time Dr. Kalam had come to entertain doubts about the death sentence in itself. He raised the question as to how it was that only those persons who belonged to the poorer and marginalized sections of society were getting death sentences! He publicly expressed his doubts."

"The Home Ministry seems to have been scared by his unconventional views. So the mercy petition of Afzal Guru was not sent to Dr. Abdul Kalam. More so, as he had already returned 50 mercy petitions in 2005 back to the Home Ministry for consideration. He had dismissed only one petition that of Dhananjay Chatterji, a lift operator, which he did reluctantly as he said himself later on. This delay by the President helped death row convicts like Devinder Pal Singh Bhullar and three others accused in the Rajiv Gandhi case. As later the Supreme Court commuted their death sentence into life imprisonment on the ground that there was unexplained delay in deciding their mercy petitions. These had been dismissed by present President Pranab Mukherjee sometime in 2013."

"Afzal Guru would have been alive today on the same grounds had the government not hanged him secretly on Feb 9,2013 without following due procedures. This was done just done a few months before the judgment of the Supreme Court that gave relief to Bhullar and the others. Dr. Abdul Kalam was at heart a man of the people and remained so when he became the President of India. He led a simple life even as the President. In him lay a pious soul and kind heart who sought to serve society according to dictates of his conscience. He was against the death penalty and his views in this regard are a significant contribution to the human rights movement for its abolition."

(source: The Kashmir Monitor)

JULY 28, 2015:


Ex-prosecutor suspended for mocking death penalty defendant

Former Deputy Attorney General R. David Favata has been suspended from practicing law in Delaware after he repeatedly belittled a defendant and lied to the judge during a Kent County death penalty trial.

Favata's conduct at the trial led the state's Supreme Court to overturn the conviction and death sentence for the 28-year-old defendant, Isaiah McCoy, earlier this year.

McCoy is now awaiting a new trial for the charges stemming from the 2010 murder of 30-year-old James Munford.

The Supreme Court on Monday took the additional step of suspending Favata for 6 months and 1 day. He will have to show he has been rehabilitated in order to be re-admitted to the Bar.

Favata has been a member of the Bar in Delaware since 1988. He worked as a prosecutor for the Department of Justice from 1998 until his retirement in March, a department spokesman said.

The Supreme Court's 21-page decision Monday said Favata committed several ethical violations during the case, including the following:

-- As McCoy cross-examined a key witness, the girlfriend of the victim, Favata objected and expressed his own opinion that McCoy was guilty. Favata said: "She obviously hasn't spoken to the defendant since he shot her boyfriend."

-- Favata told McCoy in one conversation to "start acting like a man." In another conversation about McCoy's attire, Favata said: "I don't care. You can dress him up. He's still a murderer."

-- Favata made demeaning comments about McCoy's choice to represent himself. He said, for example: "Quite frankly, the defendant might not be aware because he lacks legal training." "I have been to law school, Your Honor. I understand the rules." "The trouble with dealing with somebody with a limited education and no legal education is he doesn't clearly understand what he's reading."

-- Finally, Favata, while in the presence of McCoy during a court recess, spoke about "Omerta," an Italian mafia code of silence. Favata said he would put a detective back on the stand to tell everyone that McCoy was a snitch. He added that McCoy could have trouble back in prison after the other inmates learn he is a snitch.

McCoy alerted the judge to the comments, but Favata denied them.

The prothonotary, who was in the room and overheard Favata's comments, was disturbed that he lied to the judge and wrote a note saying McCoy was telling the truth.

Favata eventually admitted the comments were meant to be heard by McCoy.

The judge attempted multiple times to rein in Favata's behavior, according to the decision. The judge said he didn't appreciate the remarks and "disrespectful" antics.

The jury found McCoy guilty of multiple charges for killing Munford in the Rodney Village Bowling Alley parking lot during a drug deal that was supposed to be for 200 ecstasy pills and crack cocaine.

The Supreme Court granted McCoy a retrial in January, citing Favata's unprofessional conduct. The court called his conduct the "antithesis" of the standards for lawyers in Delaware.

"Although most of the misconduct occurred outside the jury's presence, the conduct set a tone for the trial that was disturbing and unacceptable and increased the potential that the jury would decide the case by discounting the defendant's version of events for inappropriate reasons, a factor made even more important given the centrality of witness credibility in this case," the court wrote.

The court ended by saying that any sanction other than a suspension would fail to provide "necessary protection for the public."

The court's decision was unanimous, except for Justice James T. Vaughn, Jr. who partially dissented to the length of the suspension.



Kuwait court sentences 4 Egyptians to death

A court in Kuwait has sentenced 4 Egyptians to death over the killing of a Pakistani guard at a construction site.

The Egyptian nationals were sentenced on Tuesday. They were charged with murder using a hammer.

The 4 men confessed to killing the Pakistani national at the construction site where they stole 36 tons of steel, before selling it all for USD 18,000.

The verdict can be appealed.

3 other Egyptians were also sentenced to 7 years in prison for helping the four commit the crime.

In Kuwait, dozens of people are thought to be on death row over, mostly, murder and drug crimes, where execution is carried out by hanging.

Except for a return of the death penalty in 2013, execution has generally not been used in Kuwait since 2007.

Since the death penalty was introduced in Kuwait in the mid 1960s, some 71 people have been executed.

(source: Presstv)


Pakistan court grants stay of execution to paraplegic prisoner

A court in Pakistan today stayed the execution of a paraplegic man who was set to hang tomorrow (Wednesday).

Abdul Basit, 43, was convicted and sentenced to death for murder in 2009. In 2010, he contracted tubercular meningitis in prison, which left him paralysed from the waist down. Despite being unable to stand, and reliant on a wheelchair, a 'Black Warrant' issued last week scheduled his execution for July 29th.

The Lahore High Court today upheld an appeal by lawyers for Basit who argued that his execution would constitute cruel and unusual punishment, violating the fundamental right to human dignity enshrined in Pakistan's Constitution.

The Pakistan Prison Rules of 1978 - the statute regulating executions - state that the rope for hanging must be the correct length, in order to avoid prisoners facing protracted strangulation (if it is too long) or decapitation (if it is too short). The rules state that the rope's length is determined by measuring it from "the lower jaw of the condemned prisoner as he stands on the scaffold." This and other procedures set out in the Prison Rules cannot be followed in Basit's case, leaving open the possibility of a botched hanging.

The Court has now given the government 2 weeks to respond to the appeal with a hearing scheduled for August 17th.

Pakistan's law makes provisions for mercy to be granted in cases where prisoners are suffering from severe "ill-health". The Government's failure to acknowledge this and commute Basit's sentence appears to form part of a worrying trend involving the blanket dismissal of all mercy petitions considered since executions resumed in 2014. Over 180 prisoners have been hanged in Pakistan's recent rush to the gallows and recent reports suggest that many more who have now had their mercy petitions dismissed without proper consideration may be next in line.

Among them is Shafqat Hussain, convicted and sentenced to death when under 18, who was yesterday issued with a 'black warrant'. His execution has been set for August 4th despite widespread concerns over torture and the government covering up evidence - notably a school record - that could prove his age.

Kate Higham, caseworker at human rights NGO Reprieve, said: "We are enormously relieved by the court's decision today. To allow Pakistan's government to continue with the hanging of a paraplegic man would have been in clear violation of Pakistani law, not to mention an affront to basic common decency. The government must now commute Basit's sentence."

(source: Reprieve)


Court suspends death warrants of a prisoner

A Lahore High Court division bench Tuesday suspended death warrants of a condemned prisoner who was scheduled to be hanged in Faisalabad central jail on July 29.

The bench also sought a reply from Faisalabad Jail superintendent within 2 weeks. The bench headed by Justice Aalia Neelum passed the orders on a petition filed by death row prisoner Abdul Basit with a plea to suspend his execution.

During the hearing, petitioner's counsel Azam Nazir Tarar arguing before the bench submitted that Abdul Basit was awarded death penalty in a murder case and he was scheduled to be hanged in Faisalabad Jail on July 29. He pointed out that the petitioner got injured in a ransacking incident in jail and his lower body had been paralysed.

He said that the petitioner had moved afresh mercy petition to the president on new grounds. He pleaded the court to stay the execution till the decision of fresh mercy appeal. At this, the court suspended death warrants and sought reply from the jail superintendent within 2 weeks.

(source: Pakistan Herald)


Iran regime to hang man for crime allegedly committed aged 15

The regime in Iran plans to execute over the weekend an Iranian who was 15 years old when he was alleged to have committed a crime, Amnesty International has said.

"Juvenile offender Salar Shadizadi is at imminent risk of execution for a murder allegedly committed when he was 15 years old. He is scheduled to be executed on 1 August. Salar Shadizadi was arrested in February 2007 on a charge of murdering a friend. He was sentenced to death in December that year, under the Islamic principle of qesas (retribution-in-kind), by Branch 11 of the Criminal Court of Appeal in the northern province of Gilan. His sentence was upheld 3 months later, by Branch 37 of the Supreme Court," Amnesty International said in an Urgent Action appeal on Monday.

"Salar Shadizadi was arrested in February 2007 after his friend's dead body was found in a garden belonging to Salar Shadizadi's family. Salar Shadizadi was subsequently arrested and accused of fatally stabbing the deceased victim in the neck. The circumstances of the crime are not clear to Amnesty International," the international human rights group said.

"After several years on death row, Salar Shadizadi was transferred to solitary confinement on 7 July 2013 in preparation for execution. The authorities, however, halted the execution at the last minute and allowed Salar Shadizadi to submit a request for judicial review under Article 91 of Iran's 2013 Penal Code, which gives judges the discretion not to impose the death penalty if they determine that a juvenile offender did not understand the nature of the crime or its consequences, or if there are doubts about the offender's 'mental growth and maturity'."

"Later that year, Branch 13 of Iran's Supreme Court accepted the request for judicial review and sent the case back to the court of first instance to examine the issue of Salar Shadizadi's maturity at the time of the crime. The court of first instance referred Salar Shadizadi to Iran's Legal Medicine Organization (LMO) for psychological examination. The LMO found that 'there is no evidence to conclude that Salar Shadizadi was insane at the time of the crime but examining his mental growth seven years after the event is impossible.' Based on this finding, Branch 13 of the Supreme Court upheld the original death sentence. In its reasoning, the Supreme Court stated: 'presumptively, mental maturity is present after children reach the age of maturity [which is 15 for boys and nine for girls] and the rebuttal of this presumption requires proof which has not been established in this case.'"

"At least 72 juvenile offenders are believed to have been executed in Iran between 2005 and 2014 and at least 160 juvenile offenders are believed to be on death row," Amnesty International added.

European Union foreign policy chief Ms. Federica Mogherini is on her 1st official visit to Iran on Tuesday. Since taking office she has not condemned the flagrant human rights abuses that are rampant in Iran.

9 prisoners were on Monday hanged collectively in a detention center in the city of Karaj, west of Tehran.

Also on Monday 2 other prisoners, identified as Saeid Ganji and Firouz Nouri-Majd, were hanged in Iran's notorious Qezelhesar Prison in Karaj.

The hangings bring to at least 27 the number of prisoners that have been executed in Iran in the past week.

(source: NCR-Iran)


Woman caught with 82 handbags filled with 12 kg of methamphetamines from China

North Jakarta Police Commissioner Susetio Cahyadi announced yesterday that his officers had seized 12 kilograms of methamphetamines, said to be worth Rp 18 billion, originating from Guangzhou, China.

As is often the case, the meth was concealed in an unusual container, or rather containers. Specifically, it was sewn into the lining of 82 ladies' handbags.

According to Susetio, the meth filled fashion accessories were seized at a boarding house on Jalan Jatayu in Kebayoran Lama, South Jakarta, on Tuesday, July 7.

"The meth was received by Jumi Yenita, a 26 years old," he said at his office yesterday, as quoted by Tempo.

Susetio said the meth was ordered from China by a Nigerian citizen named Jhon Ladiord Okori. After the meth arrived in Penjaringan, North Jakarta, Jhon contacted Jumi to pick it up.

After Jumi picked up the product, Susetio said police followed her and caught her with the narcotics in her room. Police later arrested Jhon on Thursday, July 9 at the same boarding house.

Jumi claimed she did not know the bags contained meth. "Jhon asked me to take the bags and paid me Rp 1 million." Jhon also denied ordering the drugs, saying he was just buying bags from China to sell here.

The head of North Jakarta's Drug Investigation Unit, Assistant Commissioner Apollo Sinambella, said each bag contains 1-2.5 grams of meth that was destined to be circulated throughout Jakarta.

For their actions, Jumi and Jhon have both been charged with drug smuggling with a maximum prison sentence of 20 years or the death penalty.

(source: Coconuts)

SAUDI ARABIA----execution

2nd Saudi execution for drug trafficking after Ramadan pause

Saudi Arabia beheaded one of its citizens for drug trafficking on Tuesday, in the 2nd execution after a pause for Ramadan.Saudi Arabia beheaded one of its citizens for drug trafficking on Tuesday, in the second execution after a pause for Ramadan.

Saif al-Hadissane was found guilty of smuggling a large amount of hashish.

He was executed in the Al-Ahsa region of eastern Saudi Arabia, the interior ministry said in a statement carried by the official Saudi Press Agency.

SPA had reported no executions during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan and the Eid al-Fitr holiday which followed it from July 17.

The latest beheading brings to 104 the number of executions in the kingdom this year, a sharp increase on the 87 recorded during the whole of 2014, according to AFP tallies.

This year's figure is still below the record 192 which human rights group Amnesty International said took place in 1995.

Human Rights Watch has accused Saudi authorities of waging a "campaign of death" by executing more people in the first 6 months of this year than in all of last year.

Echoing the concerns of other activists, the New York-based group said it had documented "due process violations" in Saudi Arabia's legal system that make it difficult for defendants to get fair trials even in capital cases.

Under the conservative kingdom's strict Islamic sharia legal code, drug trafficking, rape, murder, armed robbery and apostasy are all punishable by death.

The interior ministry has cited deterrence as a reason for carrying out the punishment. It has also talked of "the physical and social harm" caused by drugs.

(source: Economic Times)


Flawed trial of al-Gaddafi officials leads to appalling death sentences

Today's convictions of more than 30 al-Gaddafi-era officials, including the imposition of 9 death sentences, follow a trial marred with serious flaws that highlight Libya's inability to administer justice effectively in line with international fair trial standards, Amnesty International said.

Among the 9 people sentenced to death for war crimes and other offences during the 2011 armed conflict are Colonel Mu'ammar al-Gaddafi's son, Saif al-Islam al-Gaddafi, and the former Head of Military Intelligence, Abdallah al-Senussi. 23 other former officials were given sentences ranging from life imprisonment to 5 years in prison, 4 people were acquitted, and 1 was referred for medical treatment and not sentenced.

"Instead of helping to establish the truth and ensuring accountability for serious violations during the 2011 armed conflict, this trial exposes the weakness of a criminal justice system which is hanging on by a thread in a war-torn country with no central authority," said Philip Luther, Middle East and North Africa Programme Director at Amnesty International.

"It's a case that was always going to test the judiciary, but in the end it has shown the difficulties of delivering justice at a time when the rule of the gun overpowers the rule of law.

"The death sentences - the ultimate human rights violation - add further insult to injury, and should be overturned on appeal."

It is expected the convictions will be appealed to the cassation chamber of Libya's Supreme Court. The rights to a fair trial of those found guilty today require a full, independent and impartial review of the procedures and evidence used against them and the Supreme Court must address the serious allegations of fair trial and human rights violations in this case when it hears the appeal. To do this it must exercise its power to review both the evidence seen at the trial and the trial court's interpretation of the law.

Amnesty International has long called for Saif al-Islam al-Gaddafi to be surrendered to the International Criminal Court (ICC), which has an active arrest warrant in his name.

"The Libyan authorities refused to hand Saif al-Islam al-Gaddafi to the ICC to prove they could administer justice nationally. So far they have failed as he has been subjected to a string of violations. He was effectively tried and sentenced in absentia and continues to be held in isolation in a secret location without access to a lawyer," said Philip Luther.

"The only route to real justice for the victims of serious crimes perpetrated during the 2011 conflict is to surrender Saif al-Islam al-Gaddafi to the ICC and ensure fair trials for all detained al-Gaddafi loyalists."


The trial of the "symbols of the former regime", as it is known in Libya, ran from 24 March 2014 to 21 May 2015. Saif al-Islam al-Gaddafi, Abdallah al-Senussi and 35 other officials, including former diplomats, ministers and members of security agencies, were charged with a string of offences during the 2011 uprising and ensuing conflict. These include: indiscriminate shelling, incitement to rape, giving orders to open fire at demonstrators, recruiting and arming mercenaries and engaging in acts of vandalism, looting and killing.

Amnesty International believes that many of the 37 defendants have been denied the right to legal counsel, to remain silent, to be promptly informed of the charges against them, to challenge the evidence brought against them, and to be present at trial. In some cases, detainees were held incommunicado and in unofficial detention places for extended periods.

Saif al-Islam al-Gaddafi, who was held in militia custody in Zintan, and seven other defendants held in Misratah were tried via video link. At times, the poor quality of the satellite link undermined their ability to follow proceedings. Saif al-Islam al-Gaddafi stopped appearing via video link after the start of the conflict in western Libya last year, which ended in the ousting of Zintan brigades from Tripoli, meaning he was effectively tried in absentia.

The organization understands that many defendants were interrogated without having a lawyer present, despite repeated requests and guarantees provided in Libyan law. Allegations of torture and other ill-treatment raised by the defence do not appear to have been duly investigated. Some were assigned lawyers only after the trial had begun, undermining their right to an effective defence.

Many defence lawyers were not able to visit their clients in private in al-Hadba prison, a high security detention facility where the trial was also held. Some dropped the case amid claims that they were threatened, intimidated and harassed.

The prosecution's case was largely based on evidence obtained from some 240 witness statements though none was called to the court or subjected to cross-examination. By contrast, defence lawyers were only allowed to call 2 witnesses per defendant and expressed difficulties in calling witnesses due to the security situation.

The trial was held against the backdrop of renewed conflicts, which led to the collapse of central authority and a split of state institutions in mid-2014. Since then, all sides have perpetrated serious human rights abuses and violations of international humanitarian law, some of which amount to war crimes. The violence has substantially reduced the international community's ability to monitor the proceedings, and has further weakened the criminal justice system. The Ministry of Justice of the internationally recognized government based in the east said that it would not recognize the court's verdict.

(source: Amnesty International)


UN human rights officials seriously concerned by verdicts in trial of former members of Qadhafi regime

The verdicts in the trial of 37 Qadhafi regime officials, including against the former leader's son, Saif al-Islam Qadhafi, handed down today by the Tripoli Court of Assize, has drawn serous concern from senior United Nations human rights officials in Libya, as well as in Geneva, amid fears the trial did not meet international standards on a number of fronts.

"Concerns over the trial include the fact that several defendants were absent for a number of sessions. The evidence of criminal conduct was largely attributed to the defendants in general, with little effort to establish individual criminal responsibility," said Claudio Cordone, Director of the Human Rights, Transitional Justice and Rule of Law Division of the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL).

The court also announced today that Saif al-Islam Qadhafi, son of Muammar Qadhafi, and 6 others had been tried in absentia. Qadhafi, former intelligence chief Abdullah al-Senussi, Qadhafi's last Prime Minister al-Baghdadi al-Mahmudi and 6 other defendants were sentenced to death by firing squad, points out a press release issued by UNSMIL.

Mr. Qadhafi - the 1st defendant on the list of 37 - was connected by videolink from Zintan, where he is jailed, only to 4 of the 24 sessions. Libya has not complied with the International Criminal Court order to surrender him.

The defendants were charged with a wide range of offences relating to the attempted suppression of the 2011 revolution.

8 others officials of the fallen regime received sentences of life imprisonment, and the remainders of those convicted received sentences to between 12 and 5 years. 4 defendants were acquitted of all charges.

"The prosecution did not present any witnesses or documents in court, confining itself entirely to the written evidence available in the case file, thus missing a historic opportunity to construct a public record of crimes committed by the former regime - a key step in Libya's transitional justice process", regretted Mr. Cordone.

During their pre-trial detention, he added, defendants were denied access to lawyers and family for prolonged periods, and some reported that they were beaten or otherwise ill-treated, but UNSMIL is not aware of any investigation into these allegations.

Defence lawyers said they faced challenges in meeting their clients privately or accessing the full case file, some saying they received threats and that witnesses were reluctant to appear in court due to fears about their safety. The court did not respond to defence counsel requests to examine prosecution witnesses.

"Given these shortcomings, it is particularly worrisome that the court has handed down nine death sentences," Mr. Cordone said. "International standards require that death sentences may only be imposed after proceedings that meet the highest level of respect for fair trial standards. The United Nations opposes the imposition of the death penalty as a matter of principle."

Moreover, the next step in the judicial process is only cassation - a review of the application of Libyan law, not of questions of fact - rather than a proper appeal as required by international standards. "UNSMIL had previously urged the Libyan authorities to reform their national legislation introducing the possibility of an appeal for verdicts of the Court of Assize, in line with their obligations under international human rights law," Mr. Cordoned reminded.

UNSMIL, he stated, will review the verdict once published in full over the coming period before completing its full assessment of the trial.

Many of these concerns were echoed in Geneva by Ravina Shamdasani, spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, who told reporters that her Office (OHCHR) is "deeply disturbed" at the verdicts and sentences handed down today.

"We had closely monitored the detention and trial and found that international fair trial standards had failed to be met. Among the key shortcomings is the failure to establish individual criminal responsibility in relation to specific crimes," she said, adding that there were also serious issues relating to access to lawyers, claims of ill-treatment, and trials conducted in absentia.

Ms. Shamdasani stressed that while it is crucial to ensure accountability for serious human rights violations, "this needs to be done with scrupulous adherence to international fair trial standards and with full respect for the rights of the defendants. Failing this, injustice is only compounded."

"The UN opposes the use of the death penalty in all circumstances. In this case, where fair trial standards have clearly not been met, we strongly deplore the imposition of the death penalty," she said, urging that Libyan authorities to ensure that legal reforms are introduced as a matter of urgency, to ensure that human rights are fully respected in the administration of justice and that verdicts of the Court of Assize can be appealed and are not only subject to cassation.

(source: UN News Centre)


Executions under Greg Abbott, Jan. 21, 2015-present----9

Executions in Texas: Dec. 7, 1982----present-----527

Abbott#--------scheduled execution date-----name------------Tx. #

10---------August 12----------------Daniel Lopez----------528

11---------August 13----------------Tracy Beatty----------529

12---------August 26----------------Bernardo Tercero------530

13---------September 2--------------Joe Garza-------------531

14---------September 29-------------Perry Williams--------532

15---------October 6----------------Juan Garcia-----------533

16---------October 14---------------Licho Escamilla-------534

17---------October 28---------------Christopher Wilkins---535

18---------November 3---------------Julius Murphy---------535

18---------January 20 (2016)-----Richard Masterson--------536

(sources: TDCJ & Rick Halperin)


Senate approves expediting changes to NC death penalty drugs

The state Senate has given approval to legislation expediting North Carolina's ability to obtain new drugs for lethal injections, overriding objections of death-penalty opponents who want more public input on the execution process.

Senators voted along party lines Monday in favor of the bill after hearing limited debate from Democrats, who in committee last week voiced strong concerns over transparency for the process that's been under fire following botched executions in several states.

After Sen. Angela Bryant, D-Nash, was unsuccessful in her attempts to add amendments countering the bill's most objectionable provisions, Democrats silenced their debate amid a busy schedule.

The bill could receive concurrence in the House this week, but its Republican sponsors cautioned it will likely face a lengthy legal challenge if passed.

(source: Associated Press)


'I don't trust court-appointed lawyers:' Mobile man to defend himself in death penalty case

Ignoring a judge's sound advice, Carlos Edward Kennedy choose on Monday to represent himself in his capital murder retrial.

"I don't trust court-appointed lawyers," Kennedy said, explaining his decision. "I don't trust them at all."

The bizarre case returned to Mobile County Circuit Court earlier this month after the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals reversed the conviction of former Mobile County Circuit Court Judge Joseph "Rusty" Johnston.

Ruling that Johnston overstepped his judicial authority, the criminal appeals court stated that the judge should have let Kennedy represent himself instead of appointing an attorney to him against his wishes. The retrial is set for April 18.

In 2013, Kennedy was sentenced to death after he was convicted of raping and killing 69-year-old Zoa White inside her home in June 2010. Police found blood with DNA matching Kennedy, along with a palm print and a fingerprint.

Laurie Miller, White's daughter, called the decision to "absolutely heartbreaking."

"No family needs to go through this twice," Miller said. "It's a revictimization."

Mobile County Circuit Court Judge Charles Graddick, who is overseeing the case, told Kennedy multiple times that he was making a bad decision. In Alabama, all court-appointed attorneys in death penalty cases must have a minimum of five years of legal experience in criminal matters.

"Frankly, there are no advantages whatsoever with a layperson representing themselves," Graddick said. "Especially where a person was charged with an event that might cause them to lose their life."

On multiple occasions, Graddick asked Kennedy if he was sure of his choice and warned him of the repercussions.

"I think you're making a huge mistake," Graddick said.

As a precaution, Graddick appointed Mobile attorney Jason Darley to assist Kennedy with any legal issues if so requested. But Darley can't file any motions in the case unless Kennedy tells Graddick first.

"I don't agree with it, but it's your decision," Kennedy said.

Near the end of the hearing, Graddick explained some basic court procedures to Kennedy so that he knew how to act when the trial begins.

"I think it's going to be interesting to say the least," Graddick said.



Federal judge throws out death sentence of man convicted in murders of Calendar's Restaurant employees

A federal judge on Monday threw out Todd Wessinger's death sentence in the shooting deaths 2 decades ago of restaurant co-workers Stephanie Guzzardo and David Breakwell.

U.S. District Judge James Brady ordered a new penalty phase hearing be held for the 47-year-old man who has been on death row for 18 years.

Brady's decision did not disturb Wessinger's 1st-degree murder convictions for the Nov. 19, 1995, shooting deaths of Guzzardo, 27, and Breakwell, 46, at the now-closed Calendar’s Restaurant on Perkins Road that Guzzardo managed.

Wayne Guzzardo, Stephanie Guzzardo's father, called Brady's ruling a stab in the back.

"We're so disappointed. It just took the wind out of us again," Wayne Guzzardo said Monday of his and his wife, Carol's, reaction to Brady's written ruling. "He has no compassion for the victims."

Brady, who held an evidentiary hearing in January and March on Wessinger's claim that his trial attorneys provided him ineffective assistance at the 1997 penalty phase of his capital murder trial, ruled Monday that those lawyers were indeed deficient, thus violating Wessinger's constitutional rights.

"We believe the judge's ruling is the correct and appropriate decision under the law," said Rebecca Hudsmith, federal public defender for the Middle and Western Districts of Louisiana and one of Wessinger's current attorneys.

East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney Hillar Moore III said he has great respect for Brady but disagrees with his decision. Moore said his office will review the ruling and file an appropriate response.

"Everyone, including Wessinger, deserves a fair trial with competent counsel," Moore said. "It seems as if it is never the murderer's fault that the death penalty is imposed. It's lack of family upbringing, the police, prosecutor, court or defense counsel."

If the judge's ruling stands on appeal, Wessinger will be entitled to a new penalty phase hearing in the 19th Judicial District Courthouse.

Wessinger's attorneys had argued to Brady that one of his trial lawyers, the now-deceased Billy Hecker, was appointed to represent Wessinger just 6 months before the start of his trial and was ill-prepared.

Wessinger's attorneys also contend the jury never heard expert opinions about what they have described as Wessinger's recently uncovered, significant neurological problems, or from lay witnesses about what they claim are compelling family issues such as poverty, abuse, violence and alcoholism.

"The question remains, had these witnesses been contacted and had a mitigation investigation been done to reveal these lay and expert opinions, is there a reasonable probability that the result of the sentencing proceeding would have been different?" Brady asked in his ruling, adding that he did not ponder the question "lightly."

"After considering the mitigation evidence presented at the evidentiary hearing before us, which was not presented to the sentencing jury, this Court finds there is a reasonable probability that the evidence of Petitioner's brain damage and other impairments, as well as his personal and family history would have swayed at least one juror to choose a life sentence," he wrote.

Stephanie Guzzardo was making a 911 call when she was shot. She begged Wessinger not to kill her.

Wessinger, a former Calendar's dishwasher at the time of the killings, shot a 3rd employee in the back, but that worker survived. Wessinger's gun jammed when he tried to shoot a 4th employee in the head.

"The evidence presented was overwhelming. This was a premeditated double homicide," Moore said. "Wessinger's clear intent was to murder everyone."

Brady noted that Hecker inherited Wessinger's case from Baton Rouge lawyer Orscini Beard in January 1997 after Beard was indicted on felony theft charges. Hecker's father died in April 1997. Wessinger was found guilty and condemned to die in June 1997.

Before Hecker died, the judge said, Hecker acknowledged in an affidavit that he did not hire a mitigation specialist to investigate the case.

(source: The Advocate)


Missouri Is 7 Times More Likely to Execute if Victim is White - 14 Times More Likely if Victim a White Female

A new study discovered that any convicted murderer in Missouri whose victim was white is seven times more likely to receive the death penalty than murderers with black victims, reported

Researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill found that the Missouri criminal justice system so randomly applies the death sentence that it could be unconstitutional. Murderers with white victims are 7 times more likely to be executed than if the victim was black. Murderers whose victims are white females are 14 times more likely to receive the death penalty.

The study also found that less than 40 % of murder victims are white, but 81 % of convicted murderers who received the death penalty killed a white person. A person's locale also influences the likelihood of receiving the death penalty. Someone convicted of murder in St. Louis County, where Ferguson is located and has a large black population, is 3 times more likely to receive the death penalty than someone from another county. If convicted in the City of St. Louis, the person is 13 times more likely to be executed.

This racial disparity isn't exclusive to the state of Missouri. It's prevalent across the entire country. Black people are arrested at a higher rate than white people for the same crimes. There's still an epidemic of racism in America.



Citing Breyer's Dissent, Okla. Inmates Want Death Case Reheard

After absorbing defeat in the U.S. Supreme Court lethal-injection case Glossip v. Gross in June, lawyers for three Oklahoma death row inmates decided to take advantage of what they saw as the decision's silver lining.

That bright spot was Justice Stephen Breyer's unusual dissent that declared the time had come for the court to take a full re-examination of capital punishment, rather than a piecemeal approach.

The inmates' legal team on July 24, citing Breyer's dissent, urged the Supreme Court to rehear the Glossip case. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg joined Breyer's dissent.

"We let things resonate a bit after we read the opinion," assistant Arizona federal defender Dale Baich told the NLJ on Monday. But Breyer's dissent kept coming back in conversation, and it seemed like a reason to continue the litigation, Baich said. "This was something new - an issue that was not briefed, but 2 justices decided to write about it."

Baich acknowledged that the court almost never rehears already decided cases, and the petition would not have been filed if not for the Breyer dissent. But the lawyers realized that the stories of each of the three Oklahoma appellants in the Glossip case illustrated the points Breyer made in his dissent, so it seemed worthwhile to file the new petition. "That is what makes this case a good vehicle for addressing the justices' concerns," Baich said.

"The 3 petitioners here are well suited to present the full briefing for which Justices Breyer and Ginsburg called, on issues such as the unreliability, arbitrariness, delay, and decline in the application of capital punishment, which render such punishment unconstitutional under the 8th and 14th Amendments," the petition said.

Breyer said that as currently carried out, capital punishment is unreliable and has resulted in the execution of innocent people. The rehearing petition notes that Richard Glossip (left) has long insisted he was innocent in the murder of his boss at an Oklahoma City motel. His conviction was based on one witness's testimony, which has since been called into question.

Another plaintiff, John Grant, also illustrates the arbitrariness of the death penalty that Breyer also discussed. Grant's lawyer was inexperienced and lacked the resources to present mitigating evidence, according to the petition.

Benjamin Cole, the third plaintiff in the Glossip case, has been in solitary confinement on Oklahoma’s death row for more than a decade. "He has not left his cell for years at a time," the petition states, adding that the conditions of his imprisonment has exacerbated his mental illness.

In his dissent Breyer highlighted the "dehumanizing effect" of long periods of solitary confinement on death row. The rehearing petition also mentioned Justice Anthony Kennedy's discussion of the "terror" and "infamy" of solitary confinement in the Davis v. Ayala case.

Oklahoma is not required to respond to the petition unless the Supreme Court requests that it do so. The state didn't immediately comment on the Glossip petition.

Even if the high court does not reconsider the Glossip case, Baich is hopeful the Breyer dissent will reverberate at the trial level and on direct appeal.

"I think it is going to be an issue that percolates up," said Baich, who has litigated death row appeals for 27 years. "The justices are saying these are issues they are interested in. Over time, cases may develop to the point where positions will change."



Death Penalty Upheld for Homer Roseberry Despite Ineffective Counsel

The Arizona Supreme Court upheld a 2003 death-penalty decision for Homer Ray Roseberry, an Arizona resident convicted of 1st-degree murder in the death of Fred Fottler. (In October, 2000, Roseberry agreed to transport about 1,000 pounds of marijuana in his motor home for a drug cartel, while secretly planning to steal the drugs and resell them. But before the trip he was instructed by the cartel to bring along Fottler. This clearly didn't comport with the plan, so he killed Fottler as he slept in the motor home and dumped his body by the highway.)

The opinion, filed this morning, threw out Roseberry's claim that his previous lawyers did a poor job representing him, and instead concluded that Roseberry "suffered no prejudice from any deficient performance by appellate counsel."

After Roseberry's initial trial ended in a guilty verdict and a death sentence, his case went to the state Appellate Court. "The appellate attorney realized after he filed his initial brief that he had left out an incredibly important legal point, and the court refused to let him amend it," says Matthew Newman, Roseberry's current attorney. That important point, he goes on to explain, was no small detail.

Here's what happened: In 2002, right before Roseberry went to trial: The U.S. Supreme Court decided in Ring v. Arizona that a person could be sentenced to death by a jury only, not a judge. According to Newman, Roseberry's case was the first one the assigned judge had presided over during this new era of law, and he gave the jurors faulty instructions for how to consider evidence. Instead of telling them to consider all mitigating evidence - which, as Newman explains, "is anything whatsoever that might make a juror decide this guy doesn't deserve the death penalty" - the judge told them to only consider mitigating evidence that had a direct link to the case. (The legal term for this is causal nexus.)

To be clear, Roseberry was not barred from presenting his mitigating evidence, but the jury was instructed not to consider it unless it had a direct effect on the case.

The detail Roseberry's appellate attorney forgot to point out is that a year after the jury returned a death verdict, but two months before his case went to the appellate court, the decision in a different case, Tennard v. Dretke, found that instructing a jury to only consider some evidence violates the Eighth Amendment. Hence the basis for Roseberry's most recent appeal was that his appellate attorney messed up big time by not pointing this out and that Roseberry should be entitled to a new penalty phase hearing.

The Supreme Court "agreed with my argument that [jurors] have to be told that they need to consider all mitigating evidence," Newman says, but then the court claimed it performed its "own independent review of the case" and maintained that Roseberry deserved the death penalty.

"Our independent review of Roseberry's death sentence considered all the mitigation evidence presented, without requiring a causal connection to the crime, and we found it not sufficiently substantial to call for leniency," the court writes in today's decision.

So, to summarize, the Arizona Supreme Court said that even though Roseberry's previous attorney had made a mistake, the court independently looked over the entire case and decided capital punishment still was appropriate. "Any error in juror instruction was cured when this court considered all mitigation evidence [and] independent review serves as a constitutional means to cure sentencing errors," the judges write.

During Roseberry's initial trial, he presented 10 mitigating factors, 5 of which were considered causally connected to the case - that he could not "appreciate the wrongfulness of his conduct or...conform his conduct to the requirements of the law;" that at the time of the crime, he was "under unusual and substantial duress;" that he "was only a minor participant in the murder;" and that he couldn't have "reasonably" known beforehand "that his conduct [shooting a sleeping person 3 times at close range] would [kill the person;] and that he was 56 at the time of the crime.

The other 5 mitigating factors, which the jury was told not to consider, include "his love of family and his good character; his medical conditions, including diabetes, hypertension, sleep apnea, asbestosis, depression, and 2 prior comas; mental impairment; the death of his 2 young children; and his lack of criminal history."

"In this case, the evidence was overwhelming that Roseberry killed Fottler so that he could steal the load of marijuana," the court writes today. "We therefore conclude that the [previous] court did not abuse its discretion in denying relief [to Roseberry's appeal] because any deficiency in appellate counsel's performance was cured by this court's independent review."

There is currently no date set for Roseberry's execution, and if it does advance in court, which Newman thinks is likely, the defense will file a stay of execution for the duration of the proceedings.

"If your lawyers do something wrong, the decision should be overturned [and the evidence reconsidered]," Newman says.



New court brief says judge botched Scott Peterson's 2004 trial

Scott Peterson got a bum trial in 2004, his appeals attorney says in the latest California Supreme Court brief from a case that captured attention around the globe and landed the Modesto fertilizer salesman on death row for the murders of his pregnant wife and unborn son.

"Because of various errors committed by the trial court, he did not receive the fair trial to which he was entitled," the document reads. Peterson's Oakland attorney, Cliff Gardner, blames Judge Al Delucchi, who died of cancer in 2008, for legal missteps, and not celebrity defense attorney Mark Geragos of Los Angeles, who gave up television commentary on the matter to lead Peterson's camp when the case ballooned to blockbuster status.

"The trial in this case was certainly not perfect," Gardner said in the document. "Far from it."

Another attorney is working on a separate but parallel effort to have Peterson freed from custody while waiting for Supreme Court justices to weigh his appeal.

Substitute teacher Laci Peterson, 27, was 8 months pregnant when she disappeared on Christmas Eve 2002. Her husband, then 30 and now 42, said he had been fishing in a newly purchased boat in San Francisco Bay and returned to an empty house; the badly decomposed bodies of mother and fetus washed ashore nearly four months later.

To escape pervasive publicity, Scott Peterson's trial was moved from Modesto to the Bay Area, where he was convicted of double murder in late 2004 and sentenced to die. Gardner formally appealed Peterson’s sentence in July 2012, focusing on Delucchi's alleged errors in jury selection and allowing evidence that helped prosecutors while barring testimony that could have helped Peterson's defense.

The office of California Attorney General Kamala Harris countered each objection in a January document, and Peterson's latest 181-page reply brief was filed Thursday with the state Supreme Court. Much of the document restates previous contentions, such as:

-- Delucchi improperly excused some prospective jurors because they shared objections to the death penalty on written questionnaires.

But 13 specifically stated in other answers that they might be able to set aside their views, to comply with the law, Gardner said in the latest brief. All should have been questioned verbally, but none were, Gardner contended.

"The improper exclusion of even a single juror based on opposition to the death penalty requires a new penalty phase," Gardner said in the brief.

-- The judge allowed testimony about a certified dog picking up Laci Peterson's scent at the Berkeley Marina 4 days after authorities believed her husband launched his 14-foot boat to dump her body. The dog had failed 2/3 of tests with similar conditions; "No case anywhere in the country has approved admission of such evidence with such a track record," Gardner said.

A study of scent tracking in 2011 - 7 years after the Peterson trial - concluded that dogs gave false alerts, or signs at having found a scent trail, 85 % of the time when their handlers were aware of where the scent was supposed to be, Peterson's brief says. Prosecutors' reliance on tracking testimony "ignores case law, scientific research and common sense as well," Gardner concluded.

He additionally noted that "the FBI requires a success rate of 90 % before admitting dog scent identification evidence."

Also, Delucchi gave jurors "1-sided instruction" by telling them the dog evidence could be used to convict Peterson but not telling them that it could be used to acquit him, Gardner contended.

-- Delucchi prevented Geragos from showing a video of a similar boat capsizing under like conditions, with a man about Scott Peterson's size disposing of a mannequin about Laci's size in the bay. But the judge allowed prosecution testimony about stability experiments on the same boat model performed in a freshwater swimming pool in Indiana 25 years before the trial.

The judge offered to let Peterson’s defense camp recreate the experiment with authorities watching. That would have been "an indefensible intrusion" into the defense process, inconceivable in most courts, Gardner said.

-- After the trial was moved from Modesto to Redwood City, Delucchi refused a defense plea to move it again to Los Angeles.

Gardner cited another case that had been moved after a surveys found that 52 % of prospective jurors had been exposed to pretrial publicity, and a 3rd trial that moved when 30 % believed the defendant was guilty before hearing evidence. Yet Delucchi denied Geragos' request even though 96 % of prospective jurors in San Mateo County knew about the Peterson case and 45 % believed he had killed his wife.

"The publicity which attended the Scott Peterson trial was beyond anything any of the participants had ever seen," Gardner wrote. "If this is not an extreme case, then the term has lost all meaning."

-- Harris' office had noted that Geragos did not exhaust his peremptory challenges - his right to excuse prospective jurors without explaining why - and concluded that he must have been satisfied with those finally selected. That idea "has no basis in the real world. None," Gardner wrote. He contended that Geragos, having lost his motion to move the trial, knew from questionnaires the views of remaining prospective jurors and simply opted to "make the best of a bad situation."

-- A prosecution witness specializing in tides acknowledged he was not an expert on how bodies might be carried by water currents, yet Delucchi allowed him to testify about that very thing.

-- Harris' office made much of the fact that Scott Peterson rented 5 vehicles at different times to spy on dive teams searching for bodies in the bay, surmising that he was "checking to see if searchers were looking in the right place." But prosecutors left out that he also drove to the Medeiros boat launch area of the O'Neill Forebay at San Luis Reservoir, where authorities conducted a similar search, and watched, also speaking to no one.

"Under (prosecutors') theory, there was no reason for him to travel there," Gardner said.

Harris' office in January had said that Peterson was "fueled by the trifecta of selfishness, arrogance and wanderlust" and sought to escape marriage and impending fatherhood. They noted "overwhelming evidence," albeit circumstantial, of his guilt, including subscriptions to pornographic television programs less than 2 weeks after Laci vanished, selling her vehicle and considering selling their home less than a month later, stopping mail and using a nursery they had prepared for storage.

Gardner scoffed at prosecutors' "insistence that no errors at all were made at trial and that this was the perfect trial," at one point exclaiming with sarcasm, "The golden fleece has been found."

State Supreme Court justices could elect to weigh Gardner's appeal after or at the same time that they consider Peterson's request to be freed while awaiting the appeal; that petition has yet to be filed.

"This case gets in line behind their other cases, so it's not something that will happen quickly," said Birgit Fladager, who steered a team of prosecutors from Stanislaus County in the Peterson case before winning election as district attorney.

California has not had an execution in nearly a decade, and 751 condemned prisoners were on death row as of July 6.

(source: The Modesto Bee)


US priests join bishops' opposition to the death penalty

Voicing their nearly universal opposition to the death penalty, Catholic priests in the U.S. are supporting the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops' call to end capital punishment.

"As the largest association of Catholic priests in the United States, we endorse the bishops' stance," said Fr. Bernard Bonnot, chair of the Association of U.S. Catholic Priests' leadership team, in a press release. "As priests and pastors, we support the bishops in our prayers, in our preaching and in our public witness."

The endorsement comes as the USCCB calls for a recommitment to its 2005 campaign, A Culture of Life and the Penalty of Death. "We urged a prudential examination of the use of the death penalty, with the aim of helping to build 'a culture of life in which our nation will no longer try to teach that killing is wrong by killing those who kill. This cycle of violence diminishes all of us,'" wrote Cardinal Sean O'Malley of Boston and Archbishop Thomas Wenski of Miami in a July 16 joint statement. The 2 prelates are the chairmen of the USCCB's Committee on Pro-Life Activities and the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, respectively.

AUSCP's April 2015 survey showed that 99 percent of its members who responded agreed that the organization should "support the call of Pope Francis to abolish capital punishment by endorsing the stance of USCCB's Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development."

In a March 20 statement, Francis condemned capital punishment, calling the practice "inadmissible, no matter how serious the crime committed."

"It is an offense against the inviolability of life and the dignity of the human person," Francis said, adding that the death penalty "does not render justice to the victims, but rather fosters vengeance."

O'Malley and Wenski's statement encourages "all people of good will" to learn about the church's stance on this issue, as well as to pray for victims of crime, those on death row, and workers in the criminal justice system, and to "advocate for better public policies to protect society and end the use of the death penalty."

(source: National Catholic Reporter)


Fell inmate attack allegations will be part of case

Federal prosecutors in the murder case against a Vermont inmate are planning to use information during possible death-penalty proceedings about an alleged attack the man made on another death-row prisoner.

Prosecutors intend to seek execution for Donald Fell, 35, accused in the 2000 kidnapping and killing of North Clarendon grandmother Terri King.

Fell was convicted and sentenced to death once before, but his conviction was overturned. He has pleaded not guilty to the murder.

A judge ordered the case retried after determining serious juror misconduct occurred during Fell's 1st trial in 2005.

Fell was on death row at the Federal Penitentiary in Terre Haute, Indiana, from 2006-14, according to court documents.

A civil-rights lawsuit filed in Indiana alleges that Fell attacked death-row inmate James Roane Jr., 49, in 2012 at the behest of a 3rd condemned inmate, a member of the white supremacist group Aryan Brotherhood.

Federal prosecutors stated in a motion they plan to use information regarding the attack as proof of Fell's potential "future dangerousness" in the penalty phase of his retrial - assuming he's convicted. Defense lawyers also have requested documents about the incident, stating they need the material to defend Fell against the death penalty, court papers show.

The Burlington Free Press uncovered the lawsuit during an investigation this summer following vague mentions in court and in court paperwork about an unspecified incident involving Fell. Defense lawyers formally informed prosecutors of the lawsuit July 9, according to court papers. The Free Press report was published June 25.

The Federal Bureau of Prisons has yet to respond to a Freedom of Information Act request filed June 17 by the Free Press.

Prosecutors in July secured the release of Roane's medical records. Fell stabbed the inmate with a 10- to 11-inch metal shank in an attempt to kill him, according to the lawsuit.

Roane was convicted of murder in Virginia in the mid-1990s.

Fell's attorney John Philipsborn has asked the court to issue an order requiring disclosure of documents the defense seeks.

Fell's attorneys are seeking all records related to the Roane incident and to Fell's time in state and federal prison. However, Philipsborn wrote in court papers that there are "concerns about the completeness of available BOP records," referring to information held by the Bureau of Prisons.

Philipsborn also stated that government lawyer Bruce Hegyi traveled to the Federal Penitentiary in Indiana for an investigation of his own into the allegations. The lawsuit states that a guard ordered Fell to stop stabbing Roane, but Hegyi told Fell's attorneys that a third inmate might have broken up the fight, according to court documents.

"I did not see any followup interviews of that inmate," Philipsborn wrote, adding there also was no documentation of an interview of the inmate accused of having sanctioned the attack or with other inmates who witnessed the incident.

"I asked Mr. Hegyi about this state of affairs and in doing so indicated that in my experience such interviews are normally documented in BOP files," Philipsborn said. "Further, I am informed and believe that BOP has institutional staff that is involved in investigations of incidents such as the Roane incident of 2012."

Philipsborn declined comment when reached Monday by the Free Press.

Fell is not named as a defendant in the Roane lawsuit. He remains under a death sentence in the Terre Haute prison.

Federal prosecutors are planning to file in early September a notice of intent to seek the death penalty against Fell. Lawyers will continue discussing the disclosure of information at the case's next hearing, set for Sept. 11.

Since leaving death row, Fell is being held at the Brooklyn Metropolitan Detention Center in New York while his criminal case is pending in Vermont.

A jury trial is scheduled to begin in September 2016 in Rutland. Fell has pleaded not guilty to murder, kidnapping and car-theft charges.

Prosecutors say Terri King, 53, was kidnapped as she arrived for work at a Rutland Price Chopper by Fell and an accomplice. They later beat her to death in New York as she prayed for her life.

The accomplice, Robert Lee, died in prison before trial.

Fell won a new trial last year when U.S. District Judge William K. Sessions III ruled a juror on the original panel had investigated the case on his own, in violation of court orders.

(source: Burlington Free Press)


The Pope and the death penalty

His Holiness Pope Francis is scheduled to visit Uganda in November 2015. One thing most Ugandans do not know about him is that he supports the abolition of the death penalty.

On March 20, 2015, His Holiness wrote a letter to the International Commission against the Death Penalty (ICDP) on the matter. As an individual who supports the abolition of the death penalty, I wanted to highlight some of the arguments His Holiness put forward in the letter.

In his letter to the ICDP, His Holiness argued that the death penalty undermines the purpose of punishment. Punishment has 5 purposes namely: retribution, deterrence, rehabilitation, reconciliation and restorative justice.

The death penalty solely serves a purpose of retribution as vengeance for the crime that was committed and undermines the wholesome purpose of punishment. As His Holiness rightly states, "It does not render justice to the victims, but rather foments revenge". If the death penalty is replaced with long-term imprisonment, the offender is able to appreciate the wholesome purpose of punishment by participating in the rehabilitative, reconciliation and restorative aspect. With regard to the second purpose - deterrence - proponents of the death penalty have often argued that the death penalty deters crime.

There has, however, been no empirical evidence to support this argument. In 2009, Micheal L. Radelet and Traci L. Lacock published the results of their study that revealed that 88% of leading criminologists believed that the death penalty does not have a greater deterrent effect than long-term imprisonment.

Our lawmakers should, therefore, consider replacing the death penalty with long-term imprisonment. Imposition of the death penalty negates the other 3 purposes of punishment - rehabilitation, reconciliation and restorative justice. Indeed, punishment in Uganda has traditionally focused on retribution and deterrence.

More emphasis should be put on rehabilitation, reconciliation and restorative justice. Rehabilitation is aimed at reforming the offender to prevent recidivism. Interactions with the Uganda Prisons Service have revealed that the rate of recidivism is very low especially for capital offenders.

Article 126 (2) (d) of the Constitution of the Republic of Uganda, 1995 promotes reconciliation between parties in both civil and criminal cases, which would be curtailed by the death penalty. The aim of reconciliation and restorative justice is to bring the offender and victim together to foster healing.

His Holiness further argued in his letter to the ICDP that "the death penalty loses all legitimacy due to the defective selectivity of the criminal justice system and in the face of the possibility of judicial error." This is true because policing and judicial systems around the world are not infallible. For instance, on December 17, 2004, the High Court of Nakawa sentenced Patrick Lwanga Zizinga to death for the murder of his alleged wife. Yet in fact, his wife at the time, Annet Nakibuuka, was still alive and Zizinga had no connection to the deceased, Annet Nakiwala. During Zizinga's mitigation hearing in 2013, the court held that there was no evidence that he participated in the murder and it remained questionable as to who committed the murder.

Zizinga was, therefore, released, but not after spending 11 years and 3 months in prison with 8 1/2 on death row. If Uganda actively executed people like it is done in China or Iraq, an innocent man would have been killed. As the His Holiness rightly argued in his letter to the ICDP, "human justice is imperfect and the failure to recognise its fallibility can transform it into a source of injustice."

In conclusion, the validity of the death penalty in our penal laws needs to be re-examined. This is not only because it has the potential to affect innocent people, but it also undermines the purpose of punishment. Instead, efforts should be geared to ensure that our prisons are rehabilitative and foster full re-integration of offenders into society.

(source: Opinion; Catherine Komuhangi is a lawyer and human rights activist----New Vision)


Death Sentence Under Spotlight

2 death-row prisoners have launched a legal assault on the validity of the death penalty, arguing that it is not in conformity with the new constitutional dispensation. In a lawsuit filed in the Constitutional Court recently, the 2 -- Farai Lawerence Ndlovu and Wisdom Gochera listed Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa and Prosecutor-General Mr Johannes Tomana as respondents.

They are seeking to scrap from the statutes Sections 47 of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act (Chapter 9:23) and Sections 337 and 338 of the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act (Chapter 9:07).

The duo argue that the sections are not in conformity with the Constitution and should be declared unconstitutional.

They also want an order for all prisoners on death row awaiting execution in the country to have their sentences commuted to life in light of the provisions of Section 48 of the new Constitution.

Prominent lawyer Mr Tendai Biti is representing the duo in the case that draws fresh attention to the ongoing argument over whether the penalty should be used in Zimbabwe at a time when most developing countries have abandoned it.

Ndlovu has been on the death row for 3 years, while Gochera has cloaked 13 years at Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison awaiting execution.

Under the new law the penalty of murder can only be imposed where murder has been committed in aggravating circumstances,among other things.

Neither the Code nor the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act makes any reference to aggravated circumstances.

Ndlovu, in his affidavit submitted to the apex court in the land, stated that the new Constitution that came into force on May 22 2013, provided for the right to life under Section 48.

"It, however, allowed derogation of the right to life through a law that may be passed imposing the death penalty," he stated.

"Neither section 47 of the code nor section 337 and 338 of the criminal procedure and evidence act... are in conformity with the constitution in particular section 48 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe."

He further stated that although the 2 were convicted and sentenced in terms of the old law under an old Constitution, they were entitled to the benefit of the current supreme law.

"I contend that we cannot be executed now in light of the provisions of the new law and more importantly in light of the fact that the law envisaged under section 48 (2) of the Constitution has not been passed," he said.

He argued that the question of sentence and the carrying out of any sentence was a matter of procedure governed by the existing law.

Gochera also filed his supporting affidavit. Ndlovu and Wellington Kadzira were in 2012 convicted for the murder of Michael Sunderland and Geoffrey Andrew Povey.

Kadzira has since died in prison.

The trial court heard that the 2 told the deceased pair that there was a gold rush near Kwekwe River and got into the back of the deceased's vehicle.

They put cyanide poison into water bottles that were at the back of the vehicle, resulting in the death of Sunderland and Povey after they drunk the poisoned water.

Gochera was convicted of murder with actual intent by the High Court in 2002 for murdering South Africa's Spoornet International Railway executive secretary in September 2001.

Both Ndlovu's and Gochera's automatic appeals were dismissed, leaving them with 1 last option, to plead for Presidential parole.

(source: The Herald)


Restore death penalty for drugs - Maranon

Negros Occidental Gov. Alfredo Maranon Jr. yesterday said the death penalty for heinous crimes should be reimposed, especially for the illegal drugs trade.

If the death penalty is reimposed, it will greatly lessen the drug menace, he said.

The proliferation of illegal drugs is our biggest problem now, and most killings are drug-related, he said.

Maranon said even in the time of Jesus Christ, the death penalty was imposed. It is the Church that is opposed to the death penalty, he said.

But the drug problem is all over and must be stopped, he said.

He lauded Senior Supt. Samuel Nacion, officer-in-charge of the Negros Occidental Police Provincial Office, for the recent numerous drug seizures and arrests in the province.

"He (Nacion) is doing good, I hope he will keep it up," the governor said.

On the investigation into the murder of Negros Occidental Board Member Renato Malabor in Isabela town on June 28, the governor said witnesses have already surfaced.

The witnesses took a long time to come forward because they were afraid, he said.

But when asked if the witnesses were under protective custody, he said no comment and refused to give further details.



Indian court puts off last-minute decision on death-row bomb convict

India's Supreme Court has put off by a day a decision on whether to stay the execution of the only person sentenced to death for India's deadliest bomb attack, meaning the convict will learn his fate just hours before he is due to be hanged on Thursday.

Yakub Memon was convicted as the "driving spirit" behind blasts in Mumbai in 1993 that killed at least 257 people, but his case has divided opinion in India, with several eminent figures saying the sentence is too harsh.

Police consider Memon's brother, "Tiger" Memon, and mafia don Dawood Ibrahim to be the main masterminds behind the attack, carried out to avenge the destruction of an ancient mosque by Hindu zealots in 1992. Both remain in hiding.

The Supreme Court last week rejected one appeal, but Memon again approached the court arguing an order to hang him was passed while he still had legal recourse available.

A 2-judge Supreme Court bench on Tuesday gave a split verdict and referred Memon's mercy plea to a larger bench of justices, which is due to hear the case on Wednesday.

Supporters of Memon's plea said he cooperated with investigating agencies and that he was the only person of several convicted to face the death penalty for the bombings, which targeted landmarks in Mumbai, then known as Bombay.

His imminent hanging in the central city of Nagpur has ignited a debate in the media, and his cause has been taken up by Bollywood superstar Salman Khan.

Memon's plea has been turned down by the president. Several prominent people, including lawmakers and retired judges, on Sunday asked the president to reconsider.

Calls for reprieve grew after an Indian news website last week released a 2007 article written by intelligence official B. Raman, who coordinated Memon's arrest in 1994, and said he believed he should not be hanged. Raman has since died.

"In their eagerness to obtain the death penalty, the fact that there were mitigating circumstances do not appear to have been highlighted (by the prosecution)," Raman said in the article.

(source: Reuters)


SC refers Yakub Memon's death penalty to a larger bench

The Supreme Court on Tuesday referred the death penalty of 1993 Mumbai serial blasts convict Yakub Memon to a larger bench due to the difference of opinion of 2 judges.

Chief Justice H.L. Dattu will constitute a larger bench. The matter will be heard tomorrow.

The apex court had sought a clarification from Attorney General on rules for curative petition as Memon says death warrant was issued before the Supreme Court's decision on his petition.

The apex court had said that it cannot go on merits of Memon's case, and added that nothing further is required as everything has been decided.

Memon had sought a stay of his death sentence after the apex court had on July 21 rejected his mercy petition.

Memon moved the apex court contending that the death warrant for his execution was issued before he could exhaust the legal remedies available to him. He also sought that his death sentence be stayed by the apex court.

(source: ANI News)


Yakub Menon case: Facts show how badly legal system failed

It would be a national tragedy of epic proportions and a significant miscarriage of justice if Yakub Memon hangs for his role in the 1993 Mumbai blasts. Only 1 final decision by the Maharashtra Governor, on Memon's mercy petition, and a 3rd appeal in the Supreme Court now stand between him and the hangman.

Facts now emerging (or re-emerging) in the public domain show how badly the legal system has failed in Memon's case. A letter written by B Raman, a former intelligence involved in Memon's return and now published posthumously by, and a 2007 report by journalist Maseeh Rahman about how the Memons led by Yakub returned to India after the bombings, make it amply clear that most of the Memon family may have participated only passively in enabling the bombings.

There is good reason to believe that after the initial anger over the Mumbai communal riots of 1992 evaporated, most of them did not want to stay prisoners of Pakistan's ISI, which helped mastermind the blasts. The Memons who deserve to be hanged are Tiger and Ayub (still in Pakistan as ISI protectees). They were at the core of the conspiracy to bomb several public places in 1993, which left 257 people dead. It is their hands that dripped with blood; Yakub was possibly the gullible brother who got splashed in red when the thundering caravan of public anger passed by him.

This is not to say he was blameless, but he certainly was not the man who deserved the maximum punishment for the sufferings of those who died in the 1993 blasts.

Both Raman and Maseeh Rahman are clear (I) that the Memons who returned in 3 batches to India in 1994 came back largely voluntarily (barring Yakub, who may have been caught through luck or a negotiated surrender). The families' return was aided by the Indian CBI. Prima facie this establishes the fact that even if anger and fear may have prompted the Memons to aid (or passively support) the bombings which later led them all to flee to Pakistan, they had hoped that Indian law would treat them with fairness.

Raman and Rahman's writings suggest that Yakub provided crucial evidence to link his brothers' evil deeds with Pakistan, but, surprisingly, neither he nor his family got the benefit of becoming approvers in the case which could have led to lighter sentences for their roles in the blasts. This is yet another classic case where a weak state has chosen to show strength against the weak by indirectly winking at injustice. Strong states do not let public emotions and political posturing get in the way of delivering real justice.

In the Indian case, the political need to satiate public anger against the Memons made the "weak" Narasimha Rao government ignore the real reasons why the Memons came back and decided to treat Yakub and some other Memons as key villains deserving no leniency. (Even if they came back only to save their property, the fact is they came back to face Indian law.) This is known is psychology as displaced aggression. If you can't hit back at the person who wronged you, you hit out at those who are easily available. Hear what Raman had to say about Yakub: "The cooperation of Yakub with the investigating agencies after he was picked up informally in Kathmandu and his role in persuading some other members of the family to come out of Pakistan and surrender constitute, in my view, a strong mitigating circumstance to be taken into consideration while considering whether the death penalty should be implemented."

Maseeh Rahman wrote that Tiger Memon's father actually "thrashed" him when he heard his son has used the services of Pakistan to plant the bombs in Mumbai. The law has let the Memons who returned down. Weak-kneed politicians and the legal system have used a voluntary surrender to pretend they had caught dreaded terrorists to show they mean business.

There are 3 tragedies inherent in the Yakub story. First, there is the inability of the political and legal system to deliver real justice and focusing instead on what is easy to do. Yakub was an easy target and he is being shown no mercy just to prove that the state means business when it comes to dealing with terrorism. Actually, it proves the opposite. It testifies to the impotence of the state which cannot bring the real culprits, Dawood Ibrahim and Tiger Memon, to justice and is instead happy to send someone else to the gallows. The only message being sent is that the next time one should not trust the Indian legal system to help those who surrender voluntarily and seek to nail the real criminals.

Second, if Memon is hanged despite the facts that are now re-emerging, it will prove yet again that political support is the key to getting convicts an easier sentence. We know that political support in Punjab and Tamil Nadu helped both Balwant Singh Rajaona (convicted for the assassination of Punjab CM Beant Singh) and the 3 convicts facing death sentences for the Rajiv Gandhi assassination. If Yakub Memon is hanged for lesser offences that what Rajaona and Rajiv's assassins have been convicted for, it would make this assessment obvious.

Third, the final tragedy would be to establish religion as the central issue in tackling terrorism. Politicians are happy to mouth the truism that terror has no religion, but that is not how they behave. It would be a real tragedy if the only politician batting for Yakub Memon is a Muslim politician like Asaduddin Owaisi of MIM. All the so-called "secular" parties are staying mum for reasons of political cowardice.

The BJP and Narendra Modi's government, which have no reason to guard their Right flanks against charges of appeasement of Muslims, should use this as an opportunity to show they are not blind to issues of justice involving the minority community. Without in any way reducing the culpability of various members of the Memon family for aiding or abetting the Mumbai blasts, the hanging of Yakub Memon, if it finally comes to that, would be a triple disaster for the country.

Giving the victims of the blasts a sense of closure does not mean denying a fair deal to the Memons who came back to face Indian law. Hanging Yakub would also mean Tiger Memon was right in advising him not to return.

Maseeh Rahman's report quotes Tiger Memon of warning Yakub: "Tum Gandhiwadi ban ke ja rahe ho, lekin wahan atankwadi qarar kiye jaoge" (You are going as a Gandhian, but over there you will be labelled a terrorist). If Yakub hangs, it would prove Tiger Memon right. Pakistan's ISI will have the last laugh. It could not prevent Yakub's surrender. Now India is doing its job of killing off someone who didn't kowtow to the ISI.

Is that what secular India wants?

(source: R Jagannathan; The writer is editor-in-chief, digital and publishing, Network18


APJ Abdul Kalam: The man who opposed death penalty

Former president APJ Abul Kalam Azad did not favour the death penalty like his predecessor. But unlike his predecessor, he himself heard to the government and the people.

A defence scientist and a Bharat Ratna before he was elevated as President, India's bachelor president had spoken out against death penalty on at least on 3 occasions while in office and sent back nearly 50 cases of capital sentences back for reconsideration.

The only mercy plea that he rejected was from Dhannajay Chatterji, a lift operator convicted of rape and killing a young girl in Kolkata, in 2004. Kalam indicated later that he had done so reluctantly.

During his tenure at Rashtrapati Bhavan, Kalam became the only President to send back petitions from 50 death row prisoners to the government in 2005, listing out reasons why the UPA government should consider clemency in each case.

When the home ministry decided to reject his advice in all the cases, he decided against rejecting any more mercy petitions. Many of them were later granted mercy when the Centre reconsidered the petitions in UPA II.

A decade later, Kalam volunteered to respond to a law commission consultation paper on the death penalty. Speaking from his experience at Rashtrapati Bhavan, Kalam recalled the outcome of the study by the President's office to examine the mercy petitions. "This study revealed to my surprise that almost all the cases which were pending had a social and economic bias," the former President said.

It is a question that Kalam had raised publicly in office too.

The book "Capital Punishment: A Hazard to a Sustainable Criminal Justice System?" points how Kalam digressed from the prepared text at a lecture delivered at Hyderabad's National Policy Academy in October 2005. He rhetorically asked why there were only poor people on death row.

A few days later, he again stressed on the need for a comprehensive policy on the death penalty after all aspects relating to it and mercy petitions were discussed in Parliament.

(source: Hindustan Times)


2 more murder convicts hanged across jails in Punjab

2 more convicts of murder were hanged at jails across Punjab on Tuesday morning.

Akhtar and Karim were hanged at Attock District Jail and Multan Central Jail.

Karim was sentenced to death for murder of a man following a robbery in 2003, while Akhtar was sentenced to death for the murder of man in December 1989.

Earlier, Anti Terrorist Court (ATC) on Monday once again issued the death warrants of Shafqat Hussain over the murder of 7 year old child.

Shafqat Hussain will be hanged on August in the central jail of Karachi. ATC issued the warrants of Shafqat Hussain for the 7th time.

It is pertinent to mention here that death execution of Shafqat Hussain, prolonged due to Human Rights commission claim that he was underage at time of committing the murder.

Capital punishment was awarded by the Islamabad High Court on May 11, 2015.

In 2004, Shafqat Hussain had killed a 7 years old child after kidnapping him. The stay order against the execution of death penalty has been discharged by the court



Britain accused of 'funding Pakistan death penalty' through MILLIONS given in foreign aid

The Foreign Office has been accused of 'enforcing the death penalty' in Pakistan by handing over millions of pounds in aid to the country's drugs law enforcers.

Pakistan is the biggest recipient of the Government's 11billion pounds foreign aid budget, with the Asian country benefiting from 338million pounds last year.

Anti-death penalty charity Reprieve says at least 13m pounds of that money is going to the country's Anti-Narcotics Force (ANF), which it said results in many being hanged for drug offences.

The charity wants the release of the Government's human rights checklist, known as the Overseas Security and Justice Assistance guidance, which must be completed before cash can be granted.

It made a Freedom of Information request for the publication of the secret documents but this was refused by the Foreign Office on the grounds it could hinder Britain's relations with Pakistan, as well as the work of UK Government's secret services.

The charity has made a legal appeal claiming there is a "strong and overwhelmingly compelling public interest" in the content of the papers.

Maya Foa, a director at Reprieve, said: "The British public deserves to know how much of its money is funding hangings in Pakistan, particularly as the country continues its aggressive execution spree."

Currently there are 8,000 on death row in Pakistan, with 23 Britons among those awaiting execution for drug offences.

Reprieve said 12.8m pounds given by the Government through the UN Office for Drugs and Crime is being used by the ANF to secure convictions, which the Pakistan government boasts are at 92 % of all cases.

The fund aims to stop the flow of drugs from neighbouring Afghanistan and has seen training given to Pakistan enforcement teams, as well as equipment.

A Foreign Office spokesman said: "It remains our longstanding policy to oppose the death penalty in all circumstances as a matter of principle.

"The UK and Pakistan have a shared interest in working together to tackle organised crime including the trafficking of drugs.

"The British Government is not aware of any case in Pakistan where UK counter narcotics cooperation has led to a death penalty sentence. We continue to review the situation as we have always done."



Christian Mother Asia Bibi's Potential Freedom Could Be 'Watershed Moment' for All Christian Victims Prosecuted for Blasphemy, Group Says

Imprisoned Christian mother of of five, Asia Bibi, is facing the death penalty after being accused of blasphemy in 2009 by angry Muslim women, who were upset that she drank from the same drinking water as them.

The potential release of Christian mother of five Asia Bibi, who recently saw her death sentence in Pakistan temporarily suspended, could be a "watershed moment" for all Christians falsely accused of blasphemy, a watchdog group has said.

"This could be a watershed moment as never before has a Christian blasphemy law victim had to appeal to the Supreme High Court, the majority are released at High Court. However the legal precedent that may be created as a consequence of a successful appeal could provide protection to future Christian victims faced with cases championed by aggressive, hatred fueled Islamic imams, while actual false eyewitnesses fail to appear during any stage of the court process," Wilson Chowdhry, president of the British Pakistani Christian Association, told The Christian Post on Monday.

"Moreover, a precedent could also limit the type of allegation that will be accepted by courts as a potential blasphemy. For instance, Asia Bibi's appeal focuses on the question she asked 'My Christ died for me, what did Muhammed do for you?' Despite 500 clerics in Pakistan believing the contents of the sentence was blasphemous, the majority of liberal imams outside of Pakistan believe the question exhibits little that could be construed as a blasphemy," Chowdhry added.

Bibi has spent 6 years in prison for that question, which she apparently asked of a group of Muslim women who were insulted that she drank from the same water supply as them.

After heavy international pressure on Pakistan, the Supreme Court temporarily suspended her death sentence last week, when an appeals case against her conviction began.

Chowdhry, whose group has been appealing for Bibi's freedom and has started a global petition for her cause, told CP that the case is set to be one of the most scrutinized legal procedures in Pakistan.

"The important issue that should be broached is how will the nation of Pakistan react to the potential release of Asia Bibi," he continued.

"A strong security team is required to protect Asia and her family as evidential animosity toward the family is immense. The family will no doubt flee Pakistan, most likely escaping to France where they have already been given honorary citizenship."

Bibi's family has been threatened by extremists, with clerics offering a bounty for her death if she is freed, as reported by Mail Online earlier in July. Christians and other religious minorities in Pakistan are often targeted not only by the government's blasphemy laws, but also by Islamic mobs who seek to take justice into their own hands.

The BPCA president said what will happen to all those who have falsely accused and threatened Bibi will also be very important.

"Will they be sentenced for perjury? Will the imam be stripped of his title and position and made to face his own court trial? Will any of those that ever attacked Asia physically or verbally be punished for their crimes? In a country where money rules and injustice is ubiquitous, I very much doubt justice will prevail in this situation," Chowdhry said.

"We can but hope that some focus on such matters will materialise, as the current impunity for crimes of this nature has to be addressed, and what impression counter arrests would make."

Bibi is also suffering from health problems while in prison, among all her other concerns, and is having trouble walking, her family has said.

Bibi's husband, Ashiq Masih, has said reports that she is on her death bed have been exaggerated, however, and revealed that she has since been treated by doctors.

Masih noted that his wife "smiles every time I visit her, she's so strong. Whenever we meet she asks for updates in the case. She asks me about the lawyer. She is so frustrated. But she has strong belief that she will be released."

The Christian mother's family has also been appealing for donations so they can visit her more frequently. Currently they are only allowed to see her once every 15 days, and have been denied by Pakistani authorities a request to see her moved closer to the family in Lahore.

Chowdhry noted that the legal fees for the court case have also risen as they have entered the next stage of the Supreme Court appeal, and is hoping the international community can help the struggling family.



The wretched march to the gallows

In many ways Abdul Basit's story is a tale of Pakistan's appalling desertion of its prison population. Once a person is pushed through the indomitable prison gates, he enters a black hole in the state's consciousness - denied all rights and dignity and left at the complete mercy of prison guards who are accorded unfettered powers to crush any signs of dissent and maintain order. The reality becomes particularly stark when one looks at the flaws inherent in Pakistan's criminal justice system. Infested with corruption and incompetence, Pakistan's police rely on torture and intimidation to procure damning confessions from the poor, mentally ill and socially marginalised to finish off their caseloads. Those who enter the dark abyss of our prisons are guilty mainly of being born on the wrong side of DHA, Gulberg and Cantt. The state is apathetic to the violations of their human dignity, as in its eyes, they always had less of it to begin with.

Abdul Basit was convicted for murdering a man during a heated altercation in 2009. True to standard police practice, the case against him was devoid of any proper investigation and comprised primarily of multiple accounts constructed by collaboration between the police and the relatives of the deceased. Abdul Basit maintained his innocence throughout the trial however he was awarded the death sentence and his subsequent appeals to the High Court and Supreme Court were rejected.

In 2010, while Abdul Basit was kept at Faisalabad jail, he began complaining of severe headache and an extremely high temperature. His family narrate that his headache became so severe that he would scream and bang his head against the wall for any form of relief. His anguish was only met with apathy by jail authorities despite repeated pleas from his family. It was discovered later that based on his symptoms Abdul Basit had contracted Tuberculosis (TB) meningitis in prison. Despite the knowledge that TB, if left untreated, could result in permanent damage, the jail authorities denied him any access to the requisite healthcare and simply confined him to a solitary cell to prevent an outbreak. It was only after Abdul Basit succumbed to a month of indelible pain and lost consciousness that he was transferred to DHQ hospital in Faisalabad.

At the DHQ, it was discovered that his condition had deteriorated so critically that he fell into a coma for 3 weeks. Eventually his family was informed that as a result of neglect and a lack of timely treatment he had contracted Tuberculosis (TB) meningitis. Over the course of thirteen months his condition plummeted - he became paralysed from the waist down and would suffer from long-term consequences of spinal cord atrophy for the rest of his living existence. Abdul Basit will never walk again. He has lost all control of his basic bodily functions. Various medical officers have classified his chances of recovery as 'minimal'. In 2011, a Medical Board at Services Hospital Lahore deemed that management of his medical condition "would be very difficult in jail".

However, Abdul Basit remains in prison. His days are spent confined to a cot in solitary confinement - no access to people or life outside the 4 walls of his death row cell. He is dependent on jail staff for his most basic hygiene, such as going to the toilet. He has even been denied access to a wheel chair with the result that he suffers from bedsores. He leads an undignified, inhumane and unhygienic life - failed by the government, prison system and the criminal justice system.

Furthermore, despite his permanent and life changing disability and humiliating imprisonment, Abdul Basit faces execution on Wednesday, 29 July. Under Rule 107 (iv) of the Prison Rules (1978) ill health is a ground for clemency from execution. However, the President of Pakistan in January 2013 rejected a petition from Abdul Basit's family requesting to commutation of his death sentence to life imprisonment on the basis of his disability.

Abdul Basit's case is surely unique due to his permanent disability. However, in many ways, it is the face of the state's executions since the lifting of the moratorium on the death penalty in December 2014 - cruel, vengeful and futile in its self-proclaimed quest to eradicate terrorism. Abdul Basit is not a terrorist nor does he pose a violent threat to society. He has already forsaken his dignity, freedom and liberty to the flaws of our inequitable justice system. Abdul Basit deserves compensation from the state for being subjected to the lack of care and discriminatory treatment during his time in prison rather than being pushed off to the gallows without any compassion and consideration of his permanent disability. However, the state is gearing up to take his life on Wednesday - another faceless number in the conveyer belt of civilian executions that will supposedly bring us closer to peace and stability.

(source: The Nation)


DFA, DOJ officials to meet with Indon execs over Mary Jane Veloso case

Officials of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) and Department of Justice (DOJ) are scheduled to meet with their Indonesian counterparts on July 29 to discuss developments in the cases filed in the Philippines against the recruiters of Mary Jane Veloso, it was learned.

DFA and DOJ official will also discuss with Indonesian officials of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Law and Human Rights, and the Attorney General's Office the assistance available under the Treaty on Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Among Like-Minded ASEAN Member Countries (ASEAN MLAT), the DFA said in a statement.

DFA Undersecretary for Migrant Workers Affairs Jesus Yabes told this is part of the government's continuous commitment to provide assistance to Veloso.

Veloso is the Filipina mother of 2 who is on death row in Indonesia after being convicted of drug trafficking. She was saved from the death penalty at the last minute in April after President Aquino met with Indonesian President Joko Widodo at the ASEAN Leaders' Summit to appeal her case saying that Veloso is a victim of human trafficking.

The arrest of Veloso's recruiters, who are now in jail for the offense, was part of the evidence the Philippine government presented to Indonesia to convince them that she is a victim and not a criminal.

The objective is to get Veloso's clemency, said Yabes. But as of now, Veloso is still on death row.

Veloso's other fellow death row inmates, who included 4 from Africa, 3 from Australia, and 2 each from Brazil, France, and Indonesia, were executed.



4 nabbed, drugs seized in 2 cases

State Narcotics Criminal Investigation Department (NCID) has nabbed 4 suspects and seized drugs worth RM24,000 in 2 arrests under Section 39(B) of the Dangerous Drugs Act, 1952.

Its chief Supt Lukas Aket said his men picked up a man and a woman in their early 30s during the 1st raid at a residence in BDC here at about 10pm on July 23.

"The team also seized 60 ecstasy pills, weighing 18.84g, 360 erimin 5 pills (97.60g) and ketamin (8.95g). All these are valued at about RM12,000.

"We also confiscated a unit of Toyota Wish that is estimated at around RM70,000 and cash of RM1,103. The 2 suspects will be remanded until July 31," he told a press conference at the Media Centre of Kuching police headquarters at Jalan Badruddin here yesterday.

Lukas said the NCID raided another residence in Kota Samarahan near here at 1.39am on July 25, arresting a man and a woman, both in their 20s, and seizing ganja weighing 1,135.2g.

"We estimate the value of the seized ganja to be about RM12,000. The 2 suspects will be held on remand until July 31.

"Both cases are being investigated under Section 39(B) of the Dangerous Drugs Act, which carries death penalty by hanging if convicted."

From Jan 1 to July 26 this year, he said the department had seized ganja weighing 3350.16g, syabu (1,631.44g - crystal), ketamin (485.58g), ecstasy (2,854.15g in powder and 1,109 pills), eramin 5 (1,059 pills) and nospan (15,159 pills).

"Of the 4,603 cases over the same period, 137 cases involved supply of drugs while 887 were cases of drug possession and the remaining ones were urine cases tested positive for drugs."

Of the total number of cases, Lukas said 1,656 had been brought to court, with 601 cases resulting in convictions.

He added that sentences for the 601 convicted cases involved jail terms between two months and 18 years as well as fines of between RM1,500 and RM7,000.



Libya court sentences Kadhafi son, 8 aides to death

A Libyan court on July 28 sentenced slain dictator Moamar Kadhafi's son Seif al-Islam and 8 other defendants to death for crimes during the 2011 uprising.

Former intelligence chief Abdullah Senussi and Kadhafi's last prime minister Al-Baghdadi al-Mahmudi were also among those sentenced to death.

Seif al-Islam was not in court because he is held in the southwestern hill town of Zintan by militia opposed to the Tripoli authorities.

The trial, which opened in the Libyan capital in April last year, has been dogged by criticism from human rights watchdogs and an unresolved dispute with the International Criminal Court in The Hague over jurisdiction in the case of the Kadhafi son.

The 37 defendants were charged with crimes including murder and complicity in incitement to rape during the 2011 uprising that toppled the dictatorship.

The militia holding Seif al-Islam is loyal to the internationally recognised government which fled to the remote east last August when a rival militia alliance seized the capital and set up its own administration.

Seif al-Islam's sole appearances before the court have been by video link and there have been none since May last year.

Most of the other defendants are held in the capital, but some are held in Libya's third city Misrata which is loyal to the Tripoli authorities.

The UN Security Council referred the conflict in Libya to the ICC in February 2011 amid Kadhafi's repression of the popular uprising against his decades-old regime at the height of the Arab Spring.

Seif al-Islam is wanted by the Hague-based court on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

ICC prosecutors say that as part of his father's "inner circle", he "conceived and orchestrated a plan to deter and quell, by all means, the civilian demonstrations against Kadhafi's regime".

He has been held in Zintan since his capture in November 2011 despite repeated ICC demands for Libya to hand him over for trial.

Charges before the Tripoli court also included kidnapping, plunder, sabotage and embezzlement of public funds.

Human rights groups have expressed concerns about the trial, criticising the fact that the accused have had only limited access to lawyers and key documents.

(source: Hurriyet Daily News)


Lawyer labels Gaddafi sentence 'judicially sanctioned execution'

The lawyer representing Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, son of the slain Libyan leader, before the International Criminal Court condemned as a "show trial" the proceedings leading up to the death sentence that was passed on him in Tripoli on Tuesday.

"The trial has been declared illegal by Libya's own justice minister," said British trial lawyer John Jones, who has led efforts to have Gaddafi brought to the international tribunal in The Hague, where he would not face the death penalty.

"The whole thing is illegitimate from start to finish... It's judicially sanctioned execution," he told Reuters.

Gaddafi faces charges at the ICC relating to brutal reprisals meted out to protesters taking part in the 2011 revolution that ended his father's decades-long rule.

The court, which has no police force of its own, relies on states to cooperate voluntarily with its arrest warrants. Life imprisonment is the heaviest penalty it can impose.

(source: Channel News Asia)


Japanese 'haiku' killer sentenced to death

A convicted Japanese murderer who left a haunting "haiku" poem behind after his grisly deeds was sentenced to death on Tuesday.

The district court in southwestern Yamaguchi prefecture handed down the sentence 2 years after Kosei Homi, 65, was arrested for killing 5 elderly residents in a tiny mountain hamlet.

The victims, in their 70s and 80s -- who reportedly represented about 1/3 of the community's population --- were battered to death.

Prosecutors acknowledged that Homi suffered from a paranoid mental disorder but argued he was competent to stand trial.

Defence lawyers immediately appealed the sentence.

Japan and the United States are the only major advanced industrial nations that continue to have capital punishment.

In July 2013 police found 3 corpses in fire-gutted houses and subsequently uncovered 2 more bodies in separate homes.

Homi was arrested days later, being spotted dressed only in his underwear in mountains near the hamlet.

At Homi's house, a "haiku" poem was stuck to the window, which read: "Setting a fire -- smoke gives delight -- to a country fellow."

The haiku is a traditional Japanese form, a 3-line verse of 17 syllables in a 5-7-5 arrangement. It customarily evokes natural phenomena frequently as a metaphor for human emotions.

(source: Agence France-Presse)


11 prisoners hanged in Iran - 27 executions in past week

9 prisoners were on Monday hanged collectively in a detention center in the city of Karaj, west of Tehran.

Also on Monday 2 other prisoners, identified as Saeid Ganji and Firouz Nouri-Majd, were hanged in Iran's notorious Qezelhesar Prison in Karaj.

The hangings bring to at least 27 the number of prisoners that have been executed in Iran in the past week.

The 9 prisoners executed at dawn on Monday in the Karaj detention center were identified as Omid Mohammadi-Dara, Mostafa Ghafarzadeh, Omidreza Karampour, Shahriar Hassan-Zadeh, Hossein Afghan, Yareh Hassan-Zadeh, Sasan Salari, Meysam Hosseini-Nejad, and Amanollah Baluch-Zehi.

Faced with escalating popular discontent and unable to respond to the rightful demands of the majority of the Iranian people who are living under the poverty line, the religious fascism ruling Iran - dubbed the 'godfather of ISIS' by the Iranian people - is ramping up suppression.

On Thursday, Amnesty International said that the Iranian regime has executed an astonishing 694 people between January 1 and July 15, 2015.

"Iran's staggering execution toll for the 1st half of this year paints a sinister picture of the machinery of state carrying out premeditated judicially-sanctioned killing on a mass scale," it said.

Since mullah Hasssan Rouhani took office as President, more than 1,800 prisoners have been executed in Iran.

(source: NCR-Iran)

JULY 27, 2015:


The amazing excuse for keeping death penalty drugs secret

The North Carolina Senate is scheduled to take up legislation this evening that would, among other worrisome things, strike a large and troubling blow for the cause of government secrecy. The subject is the death penalty and the legislation in question would specifically amend the state public records law to make clear that citizens will be prohibited from finding out information about the drugs that will be used kill people in their name - including who makes them. This is from an Associated Press story from last Thursday:

"The state Senate could vote as soon as next week on legislation clarifying executions are exempt from state requirements for the public rule-making process. That would allow officials to find new drugs for lethal injection more quickly and with less public review. The bill also eases restrictions on the types of drugs used and prohibits disclosing where they are manufactured."

As bad is all of this is, however, listen to the explanation for this provision advanced by the bill's main sponsor:

"When asked by a Democratic member of the Senate Judiciary Committee whether his bill decreased transparency, Rep. Leo Daughtry, R-Johnston, said he agreed it did. But he argued that a certain level of secrecy was required to protect drug manufacturers.

"If you tell them where the drug comes from, there will be 300 people outside the building,' Daughtry said.

In other words, lawmakers want to keep the drugs secret so that, well, so that no one will find out what they are or where they come from and then, perish the thought, use the information to communicate with the pharmaceutical companies that make them.

What an outrageous concept! Citizens using public information to find out the identities of the companies to whom their government is giving public funds to buy drugs to kill people in the public's name and then, perhaps, exercising their First Amendment rights to target protests against those companies.

This from lawmakers who came to power championing "transparency" and an "open" and "small" government.

Perhaps the stunning hypocrisy of all this (not to mention the very troubling precedent that would be established) explains why the North Carolina Press Association (of which - full disclosure - NC Policy Watch is a member) opposes the legislation.

Let's hope that, regardless of their views on the death penalty, lawmakers wake up to the real world dangers of this new provision and the symbolic, Big Brother-like message it sends.



Federal judge throws out death sentence of man convicted in murders of Calender's Restaurant employees

Condemned killer Todd Wessinger deserves a new sentencing hearing in the 1995 slaying of 2 Baton Rouge restaurant employees because his attorneys were deficient at the 1997 penalty phase of his capital murder trial, a federal judge ruled Monday when he threw out Wessinger's death sentence.

U.S. District Judge James Brady's 15-page decision did not disturb Wessingger's 1st-degree murder convictions for the Nov. 19, 1995, shooting deaths of Stephanie Guzzardo, 27, and David Breakwell, 46, at the now-closed Calendar's Restaurant on Perkins Road. Guzzardo managed the store.

But if Brady's ruling stands on appeal, Wessinger, 47, of Baton Rouge, would be entitled to a new penalty phase hearing in the 19th Judicial District Courthouse.

Wessinger's attorneys had argued to Brady that 1 of his trial lawyers, the now-deceased Billy Hecker, was appointed to represent Wessinger just 6 months before the start of the trial and was ill-prepared.

Wessinger's attorneys also contend the jury never heard about what they have described as Wessinger's significant neurological problems as well as compelling family issues such as poverty, abuse, violence and alcoholism.

"This Court finds there is a reasonable probability that the evidence of Petitioner's brain damage and other impairments, as well as his personal and family history would have swayed at least one juror to choose a life sentence," Brady wrote.

Wessinger, a former Calendar's dishwasher at the time of the killings, shot a 3rd employee in the back, who survived. His gun jammed when he tried to shoot a 4th worker in the head.

(source: The Advocate)


Hearing held for 4 charged in gun store owner death

1 of 4 suspects has waived his right to a preliminary hearing in the death of a Shawnee gun store owner killed during a botched robbery.

Jon Bieker, 44, died after the Jan. 9 shooting at his store called She's a Pistol, 5725 Nieman Rd. Police said gunfire erupted after 4 men tried to rob Bieker and his wife, Becky Bieker.

Jon Bieker managed to shoot 3 of the suspects. 1 of the injured suspects fled along with the getaway driver. Police said they arrested those 2 as they tried to gain entry at a nearby home.

Jon Bieker later died at an area hospital after gunfire erupted when the suspects tried to rob him and his wife, who was not shot but suffered minor injuries after she was punched in the face.

Johnson County prosecutors have charged Hakeem Willie Malik, 18, Londro Emanuel Patterson, 19, Deanthony Armond Wiley, 19, and Nicquan Ke-Aaron Midgyett, 19, with felony 1st-degree murder, attempted aggravated robbery and other charges.

During a preliminary hearing Monday, the 1st defendant, Wiley, waived his right to a preliminary hearing and said he'll plead guilty at a later hearing. The preliminary hearing is scheduled to determine if probable cause exists to take the defendants to trial.

Becky Bieker vows to attend every court hearing and do everything she can to ensure they serve the maximum amount possible. Prosecutors have not said whether they will seek the death penalty.

"I will not be quiet," she said. "I want them to serve the absolute maximum. If anything less, then I am going to be a thorn in the DA's side."



Fero's Bar murder trial begins 2nd week in Denver court----Dexter Lewis is accused of stabbing to death 5 people at a Denver bar. He could face the death penalty if convicted.

The trial of Dexter Lewis, accused of stabbing 5 people to death in a Denver bar in 2012, entered its 2nd week on Monday.

Court is scheduled to begin at noon Monday. The major question for the prosecution is whether or not one of its star witnesses, Joseph Hill, will take the stand.

Lewis, Hill and 2 others are accused of entering Fero's Bar & Grill on Oct. 17, 2012, intending to rob it. When they left, 5 people had been stabbed to death inside. Joseph Hill and his younger brother, Lynell Hill, both pleaded guilty and received lengthy prison terms. Lewis - who prosecutors say killed all 5 victims - has pleaded not guilty. He could face the death penalty if convicted. The 4th man, Demarea Harris, was serving as a federal informant at the time and was never arrested or charged. Lynell Hill already testified for the prosecution, and Harris is expected to testify.

Joseph Hill was to testify on Thursday, but refused. His plea agreement - which resulted in a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole - could be rescinded if he does not testify. That means he, too, could face the possibility of the death penalty.

Week 1 of the trial saw extensive testimony from emergency responders and Lewis' wife, along with Lynell Hill.

Families of the victims may be called on to testify at some point in the trial. The 5 victims were: Young Fero, 63; Daria Pohl, 21; Kellene Fallon, 44; Ross Richter, 29; and Tereasa Beesley, 45.

(source: The Denver Post)


A Death Sentence Issued after Consent of the Complainants

The images below are evidences that show the procedure of issuing an execution sentence for Ehsan Shah Qasemi, who has been charged with murder of a "Nahi e Monkar", (Vice Preventer), and has been sentenced to death. The images show that the death time was 3 years after the conflict and the person who had been beaten up, had already signed a formal consent and had received some money as well, as compensation or treatment expenses.

According to the report of Human Rights Activists News Agency in Iran (HRANA), Ehsan Shah Qasemi and his friends had a conflict with a member of "Basij", called Ali Khalili, in July 2011, after he gave them a warning as a "Vice Preventer" and then in the fighting, Ehsan Shah Qasim knifed Ali Khalili.

Ali Khalili was hospitalized for some time and had couple of surgeries and was discharged from hospital, but he died three years later, in April 2014.

Ali Khalili and his family in the case of the conflict gave consent to Ehsan Shah Qasemi, but after his death again that case began to flow and Ehsan Shah Qasemi was charged with murder. Iran's chief coroner announced that his death (Ali Khalili) is not unconnected to being stabbed.

Amnesty International also issued a statement condemning the execution of Ehsan Shah Qasemi and stated that Ehsan Shah Qasemi has not had a good and fair trial and access to a lawyer of his choice and, in principle, he had been tried once and was forgiven.

After the death of Ali Khalili, a group called him as a "martyr of enjoining good and forbidding wrong".

Ehsan Shah Qasemi is now in Rajai Shahr prison awaiting for Ali Khalili family's consent, or execution to take over.

(source: Human Rights Activists News Agency)


Attorneys for South Sudanese Pastors Facing Execution Make Final Appeal for Justice

Attorneys for 2 South Sudanese pastors facing the death penalty made their closing arguments on Thursday (July 23) before a judge who appears to favor the prosecution, sources said.

Defense lawyers concluded their case at Khartoum Bahri Court with the assertion that agents from the National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) illegally arrested Yat Michael on Dec. 14, 2014 and Peter Yein Reith on Jan. 11.

"Justice requires that you don't judge [arrest] simply because you doubt [suspect] them without any concrete evidence," 1 lawyer said.

Michael, 49, was arrested after delivering a message of encouragement to a North Khartoum church in the face of a government-aided take-over of the congregation's property. The 36-year-old Reith was arrested after submitting a letter from leaders of their denomination, the South Sudan Presbyterian Evangelical Church (SSPEC), inquiring about the whereabouts of Michael.

During their trial a NISS official accused the pastors of collecting information for a human rights group. The charges, including espionage and promoting hatred among or against sects, were formed months after authorities arrested them.

"The judge in the last hearing seemed to be supporting the prosecution," said a source who requested anonymity. "The whole issue is politically motivated, and the 2 pastors are innocent, but the lawyers asked the judge to respect laws and the constitution and not aid NISS in violation of the constitution."

The charge of spying (Article 53 of the Sudanese Penal Code) is punishable by death, life imprisonment or prison and confiscation of property. The charge of promoting hatred among or against sects (Article 64) is punishable by up to 2 years in prison.

The pastors are also charged with undermining the constitutional system (Article 50), punishable by death, life imprisonment, or imprisonment and confiscation of property; disclosure and obtaining information and official documents (Article 55), punishable by 2 years in prison or a fine; blasphemy/insulting religious creeds (Article 125), punishable by 1 year of imprisonment or a fine or no more than 40 lashes; disturbance of the public peace (Article 69), punishable by 6 months of prison, or a fine or no more than 20 lashes; and joint acts in execution of a criminal conspiracy (Article 21). NISS has presented as evidence maps and other easily accessible documents taken from their confiscated laptops, as well as a NISS study guide that the pastors say was not on their computers when they were arrested. During their trial, the defense presented an IT expert who testified about how easy it would be for others to plant the documents on their computers without their knowledge, according to Middle East Concern (MEC).

A retired general also testified that the documents used as evidence against the pastors are in the public domain and are not related to military or other state secrets as the prosecution has alleged, according to MEC.

The defense attorney on Thursday told the judge that Michael did not violate Sudanese law - specifically, "insulting religious creeds" - while preaching at Khartoum Bahri Evangelical Church, as he was just carrying out his duty as a pastor.

"To urge believers to be zealous for their church is not an insult against God," the attorney said.

The defense team asserted that the 2 pastors were illegally detained for a long period without trial.

"This is illegal and against the Bill of Rights called for in Sudan's constitution," they stated in a filing with the court.

The lawyers called on the court to respect the constitution rather than excessive powers granted to NISS to arrest and detain any person at length without trial. NISS is manned by hard-line Islamists who are given broad powers to arrest Christians, black Africans, South Sudanese and other people lowly regarded in the country that President Omar al-Bashir has pledged will be fully Arabic and Islamic.

The defense stated that the court should drop charges against the 2 church leaders due to a critical lack of physical evidence.

"These charges are built on sand," they concluded in their filing.

A verdict is expected at a hearing on Aug. 5.

The Khartoum Bahri Evangelical Church that Michael had encouraged in December was the subject of government harassment, arrests and demolition of part of its worship center as Muslim investors tried to take it over. Police in North Khartoum on Dec. 2 beat and arrested 38 Christians from the church that Michael encouraged and fined most of them. They were released later that night.

On Oct. 5, 2013, Sudan's police and security forces broke through the church fence, beat and arrested Christians in the compound and asserted parts of the property belonged to a Muslim investor accompanying them. As Muslims nearby shouted, "Allahu Akbar [God is greater]," plainclothes police and personnel from NISS broke onto the property aboard a truck and 2 Land Cruisers. After beating several Christians who were in the compound, they arrested some of them; they were all released later that day.

Harassment, arrests and persecution of Christians have intensified since the secession of South Sudan in July 2011, when Bashir vowed to adopt a stricter version of sharia (Islamic law) and recognize only Islamic culture and the Arabic language. The Sudanese Minister of Guidance and Endowments announced in April 2013 that no new licenses would be granted for building new churches in Sudan, citing a decrease in the South Sudanese population.

Sudan since 2012 has expelled foreign Christians and bulldozed church buildings on the pretext that they belonged to South Sudanese. Besides raiding Christian bookstores and arresting Christians, authorities threatened to kill South Sudanese Christians who do not leave or cooperate with them in their effort to find other Christians (see Morning Star News).

Sudan fought a civil war with the south Sudanese from 1983 to 2005, and in June 2011, shortly before the secession of South Sudan the following month, the government began fighting a rebel group in the Nuba Mountains that has its roots in South Sudan.

Due to its treatment of Christians and other human rights violations, Sudan has been designated a Country of Particular Concern by the U.S. State Department since 1999, and the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom recommended the country remain on the list in its 2015 report.

Sudan ranked 6th on Christian support organization Open Doors' 2015 World Watch List of 50 countries where Christians face most persecution, moving up from 11th place the previous year.

(source: Christian News)


APJ Abdul Kalam: The man who wanted death penalty to go, dies

Former president APJ Abul Kalam Azad did not favour the death penalty like his predecessor. But unlike his predecessor, he himself heard to the government and the people.

A defence scientist and a Bharat Ratna before he was elevated as President, India's bachelor president had spoken out against death penalty on at least on 3 occasions while in office and sent back nearly 50 cases of capital sentences back for reconsideration.

The only mercy plea that he rejected was from Dhannajay Chatterji, a lift operator convicted of rape and killing a young girl in Kolkata, in 2004. Kalam indicated later that he had done so reluctantly.

During his tenure at Rashtrapati Bhavan, Kalam became the only President to send back petitions from 50 death row prisoners to the government in 2005, listing out reasons why the UPA government should consider clemency in each case.

When the home ministry decided to reject his advice in all the cases, he decided against rejecting any more mercy petitions. Many of them were later granted mercy when the Centre reconsidered the petitions in UPA II.

A decade later, Kalam volunteered to respond to a law commission consultation paper on the death penalty. Speaking from his experience at Rashtrapati Bhavan, Kalam recalled the outcome of the study by the President's office to examine the mercy petitions. "This study revealed to my surprise that almost all the cases which were pending had a social and economic bias," the former President said.

It is a question that Kalam had raised publicly in office too.

The book "Capital Punishment: A Hazard to a Sustainable Criminal Justice System?" points how Kalam digressed from the prepared text at a lecture delivered at Hyderabad's National Policy Academy in October 2005. He rhetorically asked why there were only poor people on death row.

A few days later, he again stressed on the need for a comprehensive policy on the death penalty after all aspects relating to it and mercy petitions were discussed in Parliament.

(source: Hindustan Times)


CLMC demands abolition of death penalty----"Stop the vengeful execution of Yakub Memon", the NGO says

The Civil Liberties Monitoring Committee (CLMC) on Monday came out strongly condemning the decision of the Indian government authorities stating that it explicitly disagrees with judiciary on the death penalty to Yakub Memon, who has undergone trial under a draconian law TADA and convicted by the TADA court.

"This Committee strongly believes that draconian laws are made only to target politically weak communities, especially Muslim community. Earlier, as it has happened with Afzal Guru and now the same is being repeated with Yakub Memon. This Committee strongly believes that the death penalty is cruel, inhuman and degrading and this Committee is opposed to its use, everywhere in the world, for whatever may be the cause, it is unjust, unreasonable and can never be acceptable to a civilized society," Lateef Mohammed Khan, general secretary, CLMC, said in a statement here.

"Memon has surrendered himself with a hope that he will get justice, but the injustice which is happening to him and previously with Afzal Guru is exposing the fact that India is under 'Hindutva Raj'," the statement said, adding, "It is a matter of grave concern that under these circumstances and present trend of killing in fake encounter and hanging, the people of politically weak community i.e. Muslims, are feeling insecure and have a threat that they may be targeted at any time in the name of terrorists."

"Muslims are forced to think that sacrificing Muslims lives has become necessary to satisfy the 'Parliamentary democracy' and 'majoritarian people' wishes!!" he said.

"In India it is exposed that death penalty is used against people who have been tortured into confessing, it is part of a shady criminal justice system and it is used in unfair or politically motivated trials," Khan alleged. The Indian system is becoming so prejudiced that if there is any Muslim standing a trial, he is conceived as a terrorist and deserve capital punishment. And if any person from other community stands on trial with similar charges, how much ever dangerous he or she may be, they are perceived to be nationalist and the trial will go soft and at the end any punishment against them will be out of question. "This double standard of justice will be great threat to peace, security and life and liberty of marginalized sections of India," he further added.

"It is a matter of fact that Yakub Memon is a victim of nexus of corrupt Parliamentary system of India and compromised criminal justice system. He has become a scapegoat for despicable politically motivated intentions. Manmohan Singh led UPA government hanged Afzal Guru to satisfy the 'collective conscience of people' with a clear intention to please the Hindutva vote bank for shrewd political calculations. Now Modi led NDA government is on same stride selecting Memon and trying to hang him as it is required to divert the attention of masses from the scams and failure of government's sham promise of 'Ache din'," the statement claimed.

The Civil Liberties Monitoring Committee went further to appeal to the people to raise the voice to abolish the death penalty. The death penalty is an irrevocable error, because "all legal systems do make mistakes, as long as it exists many innocent lives will be at the gallows."

"We demand the Government to withdraw its decision to hang Memon because if this execution sees the light of the day, it will be nothing but hanging of justice in this nation," Khan added.



Pakistan must extend death penalty moratorium

In the week ahead, hangings are to resume in Pakistan as the federal government's monthlong moratorium on executions has expired with the end of Ramadan. The hangings should not resume and the government should urgently reinstate its moratorium on all executions.

That would not only be the principled thing to do, but also a humane and moral stance - given the gross irregularities that have almost come to define a broken criminal justice system.

Even then, the death penalty does not have a place in a modern and democratic society. But advocates of the death penalty here tend to rely on 2 lines of defense.

First, there are occasions when there is reasonable doubt that the accused has committed the crime.

In such scenarios, the broader failures of the criminal justice system should not be used to shield criminals, according to the pro-death penalty camp.

Second, what about the victims' families - do they not deserve justice for their relatives, in the cases where the death penalty is handed down for murder? Both those arguments are specious, however.

To begin with, to deny the death penalty to any convict is not the same as setting him free.

At no point does opposing the death penalty translate into setting criminals free - death-row convicts ought to remain in jail until a system is in place to determine fairly and impartially if any of them deserve to be released at some point before their natural lives come to an end.

A life spent behind bars, cut off from society and deprived of one's freedom, is a significant and, where applicable, a deterrent-inducing punishment.

That also helps address the issue of the rights of the victims' families - there is certainly punishment involved where a murder has been convicted, but a punishment determined by the state and not based on bloody notions of vengeance and retributive justice. That, though, is only a lopsided debate.

The criminal justice system is not about merely the exceptions and the perceived rights of some individuals - it is about the totality of society and balancing multiple needs in the most sensible way possible.

In Pakistan, where the criminal justice system routinely convicts roughly 10 % of the accused, there is extreme disparity in the kind of legal representation rich and poor accused can access.

It is well-known that the prison population is skewed toward the less well-off segments of society.

Therefore, even when courts find beyond reasonable doubt that an accused is guilty of a crime that attracts the death penalty, there is a great deal of doubt about whether the legal representation of the accused put forward the best possible defense.

Finally, there is the tragic reality that a wide range of crimes attract the death penalty in Pakistan - not just terrorism, murder and extreme sexual violence. Extending the death-penalty moratorium is necessary.

(source: Editorial, Dawn)


Death Penalty 2015: The Good and the Bad

The first 6 months of 2015 have seen starkly contrasting developments on the death penalty. While the bad news has been very bad, the good news has been very good.


1. Indonesia resumed executions.

The year began on a tragic note when Indonesia, ignoring pleas from around the world, put 6 people to death for drug trafficking. The executions were the 1st in Indonesia since 2013.

2. Pakistan may soon be counted among the world's top executioners.

Pakistan is edging closer to membership of the unenviable club of the world's top executioners (China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and USA). At least 150 people have been put to death since a freeze on executions was lifted in December 2014, following a Taliban attack on a school in Peshawar.

3. Indonesia and Pakistan used crime and terrorism as an excuse to bring back executions.

Both Indonesia and Pakistan justified bringing back the death penalty by claiming it is an effective response to crime and terrorism. But there is no evidence to show that the death penalty is more effective at addressing crime than a prison term, nor does abolition lead to a sharp increase in crime, as some fear.

4. Iran looks set to surpass its execution figures for 2014.

Iran has so far this year executed nearly 700 people - many of these executions were not officially acknowledged. In 2014, Amnesty recorded at least 743 executions in Iran over 12 months. That the country put more than 600 people to death just 6 months into this year is deeply troubling.

5. Saudi Arabia has already executed more people than it did in 2014.

Amnesty has recorded 102 executions in Saudi Arabia so far this year, exceeding the total number of executions (at least 90) for 2014. Almost 1/2 of these executions were for drug-related offences.


1. 3 countries abolished the death penalty in the first 3 months of 2015.

In January Madagascar abolished the death penalty for all crimes. Fiji followed suit in February. And in March, the South American State of Suriname also removed the death penalty from its legal books. The abolition of the death penalty in 3 countries in the space of 3 months gives further momentum to a trend that has been evident for decades - the world is consigning capital punishment to history.

2. Another 3 countries are close to abolishing the death penalty.

The Mongolian Parliament is considering a draft penal code abolishing the death penalty. Burkina Faso and South Korea are also considering similar draft laws.

3. The trend towards abolition in the USA is picking up steam.

1 more US state, Nebraska, has abolished the death penalty, becoming the 19th abolitionist state in the USA. And in February, Pennsylvania's governor announced a suspension of all executions.

4. Those countries that execute are in the minority.

Over the last 5 years, the average number of countries that have carried out executions each year stands at 22.

5. More than 1/2 the world's countries have abolished the death penalty.

In total, 101 countries have completely abolished the death penalty - that's more than 1/2 the countries in the world. Another 33 countries are abolitionist in practice - meaning they have not executed anyone for at least 10 years and have a long-standing policy of not executing. Despite the sharp rise in executions in some countries, abolitionist countries still represent the clear global majority.

(source: Amnesty International)


NC Senate to take up execution protocol changes

As botched executions across the country have turned the public focus toward methods used to kill death-row inmates, the state Senate is poised to take up a bill that would hide the supplier, manufacturer and dosage of lethal drugs used for capital punishment in North Carolina.

The bill, titled "Restoring Proper Justice Act," is scheduled for a vote by the full Senate Monday night. The proposed legislation, which was introduced in the state House of Representatives by Rep. Leo Daughtry, a Republican from Smithfield, also repeals the law requiring physicians to monitor lethal injections.

Instead, under the wording approved on Thursday by a Senate judiciary committee, medical professionals, such as physician assistants, nurse practitioners, registered nurses, paramedics or emergency medical technicians could stand in if a doctor refused.

Daughtry, who was at the committee meeting to introduce the proposal already approved by the House, said several times the lawmakers were not there for "an argument about the death penalty." "We already have the death penalty," Daughtry said. "The roadblocks in front of the death penalty have stopped us from using the punishment."

Though North Carolina is 1 of 31 states with the death penalty, there has not been an execution since 2006. A series of lawsuits filed in the state courts has created a de facto moratorium on executions for the past 9 years. And some wonder whether more legal challenges will follow the proposed changes to the execution protocol.

"It's not going to speed up executions," said Ballard Everett, a Republican consultant with Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty who voiced his opposition at the committee meeting. "Lawsuits are inevitable with this piece of legislation.

"So we're encouraging the legislature to really debate the bigger question - so if we're not going to use the death penalty, why not go ahead and replace it with life in prison without parole and save the state $11 million dollars this year?"

The debate last week, though, was about how much information the public should possess about North Carolina's execution protocol. Botched executions in Oklahoma, Ohio and Arizona in 2014 have prompted some states to hide that information from public view and oversight. Other states have called for more openness.

The North Carolina bill would exempt the execution procedure from any oversight by the state's Rules Review Commission and leave the decision about whether to make the protocol public up to the secretary of the state Department of Public Safety, a non-elected post.

Sen. Angela Bryant, a Democrat and lawyer from Rocky Mount, introduced several proposed amendments in an attempt to remove the cloak of secrecy from the way the state carries out its harshest punishment. "This is not a time to remove public input and awareness of what you're doing in government," Bryant said.

There are 148 people on North Carolina's death row, 1 of whom has been there since 1985.

In 2013, the public safety secretary changed North Carolina's execution protocol from using a three-drug cocktail to a single-drug lethal injection. The change came at a time when many European-based drug manufacturers had banned U.S. prisons from using their drugs in executions. The protocol change also came shortly before an important court hearing for a lawsuit filed by N.C. death row inmates in 2007, challenging the lethal injection as "cruel and unusual punishment" and therefore a constitutional violation. That lawsuit is pending.

Bryant failed to persuade the Senate judicial committee to provide the public with information about the manufacturer of the lethal drugs to be used in executions. "It's a volatile issue," Daughtry said. "If you tell them where the drug comes from, there'll be 300 people outside the [manufacturer's] building. That is not something we want to occur."

Bryant responded: "Abortion is a controversial thing, but we don't try to hide where the clinics are. There could be 300 people out there, and you'd stand on your head for their rights."

David Weiss, a staff attorney for the Durham-based Center for Death Penalty Litigation, argued during the public comment period for more openness for what he described as "one of the most important, one of the most serious functions that our state government undertakes."

"The process should be done openly, transparently so the people of North Carolina have input," Weiss said. "This really removes transparency from the execution process."

(source: News & Observer)


Tenn. lethal injection trial continues with dueling experts

The Tennessee Supreme Court says the death penalty is constitutional, so there must be a constitutional way to carry it out. But attorneys for 33 death row inmates say lethal injection isn't one of them.

In a trial that began July 7, they are trying to prove lethal injection carries an unacceptably high risk of extreme suffering and can cause a lingering death.

The 2nd claim is a novel one. It is based on the theory that an overdose of sedatives can put inmates into a death-like coma without truly killing them for hours.

Attorneys for the state disagree. Davidson County Acting Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Feng Li is an expert witness in the case. He says lethal injection should leave a prisoner unconscious within seconds and dead within minutes.

(source: Associated Press)


Readers sound off on the death penalty

Editor's note: Readers universally wrote in to support of ending the death penalty after the publication of the Tennessee Voices column written by Rev. Judy Cummings and state Rep. Harold M. Love. If you agree with their views or have an opposing view, please send your letters to the editor to . Letters should not exceed 250 words and should include your full name and contact information for verification purposes.

No sacrificing innocent blood

Re: "It's time for Tennessee to reconsider the death penalty," by Judy Cummings and Harold M. Love, July 20.

As was pointed out in yesterday's op-ed, saving public money is a responsible reason to do away with capital punishment.

But really, isn't the fact that we might be killing innocent people reason enough?

In fact, isn't that what the death penalty aims to prevent?

Linda Crossan----Franklin 37064


Capital punishment cruel

In light of the recent information in The Tennessean, the death penalty makes absolutely no sense, is expensive to taxpayers and may result in the death of innocent individuals.

Additionally, it is possibly in conflict with cruel and unusual punishment legislation.

Let us just stop!

James Dickson----Nashville 37215


It's time for Tennessee to reconsider the death penalty

Closure denied to victims

My brother Thomas was murdered 6 years ago this month in Nashville.

Thanks to the outstanding work of the Metro Nashville Police Department and the District Attorney's Office, Thomas' killer was arrested in 2011 and sentenced to life in prison in 2013.

It was a long 4 years for my family, but now it is over.

We have legal finality.

A different reality awaits a victim's family in a capital case.

It averages 22 years in Tennessee from sentencing to execution.

As a family member of a murder victim, I believe that we need to ensure swift and sure justice for a victim's family.

Instead, the death penalty prolongs the pain and stretches a family's suffering over decades.

It diverts resources that could be used for counseling, financial assistance and on-going support for a victim's family.

Life in prison in Tennessee means a murderer won't even be eligible for parole until he has served 51 years.

We also have life without the possibility of parole.

With alternatives like that, it is time we stop the prolonged suffering that a murder victim's family endures in a capital case.

The death penalty is a wasteful, inefficient and unjust government program.

It is time to follow the lead of other states like Nebraska and end the failed policy we call the death penalty.

Davis Turner----Nashville 37215


Tennessee can do better

As I read the opinion piece written by Harold Love and Judy Cummings, I found myself wondering why Tennessee continues to maintain the death penalty.

For one thing, the death penalty system put victims' families through decades of litigation at an exorbitant cost, but keeping a system that risks executing someone who is innocent is almost too much for me to fathom.

Come on Tennesseans, we can do better.

Fran Rajotte----Nashville 37221


Wasteful spending

I just read with much interest the op-ed by Representative Love and Reverend Cummings and thought their points were well taken.

How much longer can we support a death penalty system that is so broken and so costly?

As our schools, roads, medical systems are in need of money we spend endless amount on death penalty cases when that money could be used elsewhere.

That's to say nothing of keeping innocent people locked up for years.

Makes one wonder how many more innocent people are there because they are poor and don't have the resources to explore their case.

Let's make changes. Now.

Margaret Turner----Nashville 37205

(source: Letters to the Editor, The Tennessean)


Man accused in 2013 abduction, stabbing death of 6-year-old to appear in court

A man accused of killing a 6-year-old girl in 2013 and dumping her body in a garbage bin will appear in court Monday morning.

Matthew Flugence, 21, is accused in the abduction and stabbing death of Ahlittia North. North went missing on July 13, 2013. Following a frantic 3-day search, investigators found the 6-year-old's body in a trash bin near her family's Harvey apartment.

Jefferson Parish prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for Flugence, who authorities say allegedly sexually abused the child before stabbing her behind a row of apartments on Destrehan Avenue in Harvey. Flugence pleaded not guilty, saying that the 6-year-old seduced him, our partners at Times Picayune report.

Flugence had family ties with the North. His uncle was her stepfather, according to investigators.

A status hearing will take place on Monday.

(source: WVUE news)


Deadline for death penalty petition comes in 1 month----Leaders on both sides of debate say campaigns going well

Supporters of the death penalty have about a month left to collect enough signatures to get on the ballot.

Leaders on both sides of the debate said their campaigns are going well. Supporters of the death penalty said they won't release how many people have signed the petition, but said they are pleased with their progress.

Supporters have until the end of August to gather signatures. The signatures of 5 percent of voters will put the measure on the ballot, while 10 percent of voters will suspend the death penalty ban from becoming law.

"The fact of the matter is we do have dangerous criminals, and the death penalty is an important tool to protect law enforcement. Think about our corrections officers who go into our prisons every day and deal with these dangerous people," said Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts.

Death penalty opponents are also getting their message out.

"If we can buy these illegal drugs, that's going to be $55,000 which the FDA says you're not going to be able to buy them, so there's no way to carry out the death penalty in Nebraska. There never will be, so why bother putting it back on the books," said Mark Welsch of Nebraskans for Peace.

(source: KETV news)


Quinnipiac Poll finds Colorado voters oppose tougher gun laws----The poll also found that Colorado voters support the death penalty

A Quinnipiac University poll released Monday shows Colorado voters oppose tougher gun control laws, especially among men and Republicans.

The poll showed voters oppose such laws 56-39 %, with a 80-18 % opposition among Republicans. Independent voters oppose tougher laws by 59-35 % while Democrats support tougher laws 76-19 %.

According to the poll, men oppose tougher laws 69-27 %, while women support them 51-44 %.

The poll, completed as part of a swing state gauge that also included Iowa and Virginia, questioned 1,231 Colorado voters with a margin of error of 2.8 % points.

The poll also found Colorado voters approve 51-40 % of Gov. John Hickenlooper's work. The voters also approved of U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet by 41-34 % approval rating though the poll showed voters say 40-32 % that he does not deserve reelection in 2016.

Voters gave U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner a 48-28 % approval rating, according to the poll.

"With wide partisan and gender gaps, only 26 % of Colorado voters say the death penalty should be abolished and replaced with life in prison with no chance of parole," according to a Quinnipiac University news release Monday. "67 % say continue the death penalty."

The finding comes as jurors in the Aurora theater shooting case weigh whether or not to execute James Holmes for his 2012 attack on an Aurora movie theater that left 12 dead and 70 injured. The jury convicted him earlier this month.

The poll found Colorado voters support 63-32 % the death penalty rather than life in prison without parole for Holmes.

"With James Holmes awaiting sentencing for the movie theater massacre, there is barely a thread of sentiment in Colorado for abolishing the death penalty," Tim Malloy, assistant director of the poll, said in the release.

(source: Denver Post)


A death sentence with no date in sight

Michael Morales was supposed to be executed February 21, 2006, in California's San Quentin State Prison after a jury found him guilty of killing 17-year-old Terri Winchell. He had been convicted of beating her unconscious with a hammer, crushing her skull, then dragging her to a vineyard where he raped and stabbed her 4 times -- all part of a love triangle gone bad.

The execution, scheduled for 7:30 p.m., never took place.

An hour before, state officials notified a federal court that it could not provide a licensed physician to assist because physicians were ethically prohibited from participating in executions. No one was able to administer the only legally available lethal chemicals. The case eventually led to the state's current moratorium on all capital punishment.

It's been close to a decade since California executed a death row inmate, thanks in large part to significant state and federal legal challenges to its constitutionality as well as the years it takes to resolve each case.

"A death sentence in this state really means life without parole," says Paula Mitchell, an adjunct professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles.

There are 751 inmates on death row in California -- more than any other state -- and they've spent an average 17.5 years wading through the legal system. It begins with extensive jury selection for capital crime cases. Defendants often wait up to 5 years for appeal attorneys to be assigned, and even longer for the state Supreme Court to begin hearing their cases.

"The average time for the California Supreme Court to decide these death penalty appeal cases is about 15 years, but some cases have lasted 20 to 25 years," Mitchell says. "Other states with the death penalty, like Texas, have an intermediate court of criminal appeals to handle the direct appeals and lighten the caseload for those states' courts of last resort."

Many of California's most well-known convicted criminals are far more likely to die in jail than face execution. While the state executed 13 people between 1978 and 2006, 49 died from drug overdoses, suicides and other causes such as cancer since the last execution took place. Richard Ramirez, the serial killer, rapist and burglar known as the "Night Stalker," died in jail after more than 23 years on death row.

Other high-profile cases are adding years to the waiting list: Scott Peterson, who was convicted of killing his wife, Laci, and unborn son, has been on death row for 10 years. Richard Allen Davis, who kidnapped and murdered 12-year-old Polly Klaas, has been awaiting execution for 19 years. Kevin Cooper, who was convicted of murdering the Ryen family and whose case is featured on this week's CNN Original Series "Death Row Stories," has been on death row since 1985.

Mitchell said she believes the lengthy process exists not just to provide procedural protections for the defendants but also because of the lack of political will at the state Legislature to restart executions.

"Politicians get to say, 'We have the death penalty, look at all the people we have on death row,' but the delays allow them to spare the public from the gruesome act of an execution," Mitchell said.

Statewide support for capital punishment has been steadily declining. A Field Poll in September found 34% opposed to the death penalty, and 56% in favor -- that's the lowest level in nearly 50 years. Voters narrowly defeated Proposition 34 3 years ago, which sought to replace the death penalty with life without the possibility of parole.

In July 2014, U.S. District Judge Cormac Carney ruled the state's death penalty unconstitutional because it violates the Eight Amendment's ban on cruel and unusual punishment. Carney said inmates face sentences that "no rational jury or legislature could ever impose: life in prison with the remote possibility of death."

Many families of victims who support the death penalty continue to pressure Gov. Jerry Brown, an opponent of capital punishment, to uphold the law by taking the necessary measures to restart executions. The Supreme Court recently upheld the use of lethal injection drug midazolam that many had argued was "cruel and unusual punishment," causing states such as California to move forward with finding a new court-approved, single-drug lethal injection protocol.

"The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation should announce the protocol this November. The state will open up the procedure to public comment for a year, and after that district attorneys can go to Superior Court to set execution dates for condemned murderers," says Michael Rushford of the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation.

That means Morales, who was sentenced to death 32 years ago, could see his execution rescheduled for as early as November 2016.

"Many of these families have made reaching justice in their case their life's work. They see restoring enforcement of the death penalty in California as something bigger than justice in their particular case," Rushford said.

Brown, who voted in favor of the failed Proposition 34's bid to do away with the death penalty in 2012, has pledged to uphold the state's capital punishment law. But as governor, he holds a trump card regarding all death row cases: He can try to spare their lives by commuting their sentences to keep them in jail until they die.

That is, of course, if 4 out of 7 state Supreme Court justices agree with him.

(source: CNN)

USA----book review

Living with death: Book Review: 13 Ways of Looking at the Death Penalty----Author's argument against capital punishment is compassionate and thought-provoking, but could go deeper

If you're going to put somebody to death for a crime, you'd want to be sure they'd committed it, right? Yet prisoners, guards, chaplains, lawyers and others who are acquainted with death row estimate that a sizable percentage of people there - perhaps 7 % - never committed the crime for which they are convicted. In 1/3 of death-penalty convictions that have been overturned, there's been a signed confession by the accused. In 75 % of those that have been reversed based on DNA evidence, the accused was "identified" by at least 1 eyewitness.

Those are some of the statistics you'll find in "13 Ways of Looking at the Death Penalty," by Italian activist Mario Marazziti. The book is best for dipping into rather than reading straight through - less an analysis than a series of chapters on different facets of the death penalty.

Marazziti, who projects a compassionate, reasonable tone, is at his best in writing about people such as the curator of the prison museum in Huntsville, Texas - the state with the largest prison population in the nation - who says, "My feelings about the death penalty are very mixed. But I guess it ... goes to the basics that we shouldn't be killing each other."

In a chapter about death-row inmates who have been exonerated, Marazziti interviews Curtis McCarty, who was on death row for 19 years: "I learned humility ... I do not hate. Anyone. If I did I would still be a prisoner."

In a chapter titled "Life Row," Marazziti talks with murder victims' relatives who have come to believe that affirming life and putting people to death, whatever their crimes, are contradictory ideas. As Marietta Jaeger - whose 7-year-old daughter was kidnapped and murdered - puts it, "The loved ones who have been wrenched from our lives by violent crime deserve more beautiful, noble and honorable memorials than premeditated, barbaric, state-sanctioned killings." These chapters in particular give the sense of how capital punishment affects the people involved - the accused, the convicted, the prison workers, the families of victims.

Marazziti points out that retribution, as a reason for putting people to death, often becomes emotionally empty. The cost of a murder trial and of keeping someone on death row for years of appeals is counterproductive, compared to a life sentence in prison. The experience of being on death row is often transformative for those who survive it, as they learn to value their life and the lives of others in ways they never did before their convictions.

The experience of overseeing the application of capital punishment often has transformative and unexpected effects.

Also thought-provoking are the chapters of statistics and facts, most of which could be useful in a game of trivia. Number of countries that execute by beheading: 1. Number of countries that execute for drug-related offenses: 13.

Least effective are the chapters about Marazziti’s international campaign against the death penalty, which read as if his community of Sant'Egido single-handedly built the movement, which actually has risen and fallen through most of the 20th century. Marazziti's practice of working on the level of governments and international diplomacy creates strange bedfellows for him, as when he lauds Uzbekistan, well known for its bloody repression of protesters, for eliminating the death penalty. He makes it sound as if the process of abolition is mainly a matter of petitions to governments, rather than a change in hearts and minds of populations.

The book leaves some questions unasked. Is life imprisonment without possibility of parole really a humane alternative, especially considering the amount of abuse and solitary confinement that takes place in U.S. prisons? Elimination of execution for drug-related crimes is a gain, of course, but what about elimination of the drug war? And if the president can sentence somebody to death by drone, doesn’t that count as a kind of death penalty? Similarly, the author doesn't devote even one of his 13 chapters to exploring how intertwined the death penalty is with maintaining social control and repressing minorities and political oppositions.

The book suggests that nothing fundamental in our culture needs to change to eliminate the ultimate punishment; Marazziti's view is that abolition would be consistent with the values of our civilization. But underneath its advocacy of democracy and humanism, Western civilization has a much darker tradition that includes warfare, torture, repression and exploitation, which kill many more people than are put to death by lethal injection. One likely reason that the death penalty exists is that it is rooted in this darker tradition, which ultimately elevates social control, property rights and profit over human rights. Yes, the death penalty needs to be abolished. But it's only a symptom of a much larger problem

(source: Street Roots News)


6 arrested in Hanoi with 120 kg of heroin in gas cylinders

Investigators from the Ministry of Public Security have arrested 6 people for allegedly trying to smuggle nearly 120 kilograms of heroin in used gas cylinders to China.

They cut the bottom of the cylinders and put the drugs inside before welding the parts back, the police said, adding it was the 1st time someone had been caught in Vietnam attempting it.

Officers in Hanoi busted the operation last Thursday when they checked three parked cars and found a gas cylinder with traces of welding at the bottom.

They found 42 kilograms of heroin inside it and arrested all 6 people in the cars.

They found the rest of the heroin in two other cylinders along with 2 pistols at a restaurant owned by the kingpin, Nguyen Quoc Hung, 32.

Hung and the others said they brought the drugs from Son La Province on the Laos border to Hanoi and were on their way to China.

Vietnam has some of the world's toughest drug laws.

Those convicted of trafficking more than 600 grams of heroin or more than 2.5 kilos of methamphetamine face death.

Producing or selling 100 g of heroin or 300 g of other drugs also carries the death penalty.

(source: Thanh Nien News)


Thai among 17 busted in Vietnam-Laos drug blitz

Vietnam has a Thai man and 17 others after a blitz on drug crime uncovered major stashes of heroin, cannabis and precursor chemicals, state media said Monday.

6 Vietnamese were arrested in Hanoi after being caught with some 120 kilogrammes of heroin hidden inside household gas canisters, the Thanh Nien newspaper said on Monday.

"The suspects confessed to having brought the heroin from northern mountainous Son La province to Hanoi," the report said.

Eleven more people were arrested in a separate operation targeting drugs being smuggled into Vietnam from Laos, the state-run Vietnam News reported.

"Ten Laos nationals and one suspect from Thailand were arrested in the Laos province of Bolikhamxay on July 23," during the "largest ever" joint operation between Vietnamese and Laos police, the report said.

Some 5.5 tonnes of precursor chemicals and cannabis were seized during the raid, the report said.

It did not specify what the chemicals were for but precursors are needed to manufacture a range of synthetic drugs including methamphetamines, which are popular across Southeast Asia.

Communist Vietnam has some of the world's toughest drug laws. Anyone found guilty of possessing more than 600 grammes of heroin, or more than 20 kilos of opium, can face the death penalty.

Convictions and sentences are usually revealed only by local media, which is strictly under state control.

The "Golden Triangle" region covering part of Myanmar, Laos and Thailand was once the world's top source of opium but has been overtaken by Afghanistan.

Vietnam has sentenced dozens of foreigners to death for drug offences, but it has been decades since a foreign national was executed in the country.

The communist government enforces compulsory "rehabilitation" programs for the country's estimated 140,000 drug addicts, which rights groups have strongly criticised, pointing to allegations of forced labour and abuse.

(source: Bangkok Post)


AG hopeful about full verdict in 3 wks

Attorney General Mahbubey Alam has expressed hope that the Supreme Court will release its full verdict, which upheld the death sentence on Jamaat-e-Islami leader Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mojaheed for war crimes, in 2 to 3 weeks.

After the verdict is released the government can start the process of Mojaheed's execution, the attorney general told The Daily Star yesterday. On June 16, the SC in the short verdict upheld Mojaheed's death penalty for planning and instigating the killing of intellectuals and professionals near the end of the Liberation War.

After release of the full verdict Mojaheed can file a review petition with the SC within 15 days, but if it is rejected his last option to save himself is presidential clemency.

(source: The Daily Star)


Worker to die for killing co-worker in Gazipur

A spinning mill worker was awarded death penalty for killing his colleague Mohammed Masud Miah, 16, of same factory in Gazipur.

A. K. M. Enamul Haque, the district and session judge of Gazipur announced the oreder against convict Mohammed Abdul Halim, 26, son of Mohammed Masud Mondol of Monar Potol village under Sonatola upazila in Bogra district.

Public prosecutor of Gazipur advocate Haris Uddin Ahmed said, Mohammed Masud Miah,16, son of Shah Alam of Joysen village under Pirgachha upazila in Rangpur district was a worker of Hanif Spinning Mill at Mouchak area under Kaliakoir upazila in Gazipur district.

He lived with his family in a rental house owned by one Abdur Rashid at Dulipara area of the upazila and worked as a worker of Hanif Spinning Mill. On March 16, in 2011, police recovered the slaughtered body of Mohammed Masud Miah from the ground floor of the factory.

The deceased father Shah Alam filed a case with Kaliakoir police station accusing some unidentified men.

Later, investigation officer of the case and sub inspector of Kaliakoir police station Mohammed Saiful Alam arrested Abdul Halim as a suspect. Abdul Halim later admitted of his involvement with the murder to police.

Police submitted the chargesheet against Abdul Halim on May 14 in 2011 after investigation.

After a long hearing, the Judge of Gazipur district and session judge court awarded the verdict to Abdul Halim on Sunday. The court also fined Tk 10,000 to the accused.

(source: The Financial Express)


2 Baluchi men hanged in southern Iran prison

2 Iranian men were hanged on Sunday in the main prison in Bandar Abbas, southern Iran.

The 2 men, originally from Iran's Sistan-va-Baluchestan Province, south-eastern Iran, had been imprisoned in Bandar Abbas for the past 2 years.

Their hanging followed the execution on Saturday of 3 men in a prison in the city of Ilam, western Iran.

The 3 men, only identified by their initials A.K., R.E. and N.S., were hanged in the central prison of Ilam, the regime's judiciary in Ilam Province said on Saturday.

On Wednesday (July 22), in a criminal act, the inhuman regime collectively hanged 10 prisoners in Gohardasht (Rajai Shahr) Prison in Karaj, west of Tehran. Another prisoner was hanged on the same day in Esfahan Prison, central Iran.

These atrocities were committed simultaneous with a major protest by Iranian teachers last week outside the regime's Majlis (Parliament) demanding freedom for their imprisoned colleagues and their basic rights.

Faced with escalating popular discontent and unable to respond to the rightful demands of the majority of the Iranian people who are living under the poverty line, the religious fascism ruling Iran - dubbed the 'godfather of ISIS' by the Iranian people - is ramping up suppression.

On Thursday, Amnesty International said that the Iranian regime has executed an astonishing 694 people between January 1 and July 15, 2015.

"Iran's staggering execution toll for the 1st half of this year paints a sinister picture of the machinery of state carrying out premeditated judicially-sanctioned killing on a mass scale," it said.

Since mullah Hasssan Rouhani took office as President, more than 1,800 prisoners have been executed in Iran.

Turning a blind eye by the international community, especially the European Union and the United States, regarding the catastrophic human rights situation in Iran emboldens the mullahs' regime to step up suppression and slaughter the Iranian people. Any relations with the Iranian regime must be contingent upon an improvement of the situation of human rights in Iran, including the release of all political prisoners.


Another 2 hanged in Iran, 10 more on death row

2 more prisoners were hanged Monday morning in Iran's notorious Qezelhesar Prison in the city of Karaj, west of Tehran.

The 2 prisoners were identified as Saeid Ganji and Firouz Nouri-Majd.

Ganji, Nouri-Majd and at least 1 other prisoner in Qezelhesar Prison were transferred to solitary confinement on Sunday in preparation for their execution, and their relatives were contacted to meet with them in the prison for a final time.

There are reports that the number of prisoners awaiting imminent execution in the jail could in fact be higher.

Another 10 death-row prisoners in Iran have been transferred to solitary confinement in preparation for their execution.

9 prisoners, being held in a detention center in Karaj, west of Tehran, were transferred to solitary confinement on Saturday in preparation for their execution. On Sunday, their relatives were told to come to the jail to meet for a final time with their loved ones.

The 9 prisoners were identified as Omid Mohammadi-Dara, Mostafa Ghafarzadeh, Omidreza Karampour, Shahriar Hassan-Zadeh, Hossein Afghan, Yareh Hassan-Zadeh, Sasan Salari, Meysam Hosseini-Nejad, and Amanollah Baluch-Zehi.

At least 18 prisoners have been executed in Iran in the past 6 days.

(source for both: NCR-Iran)


Pakistan resumes capital punishment after 1 month break: officials

Authorities on Monday resumed executions by hanging 2 murder convicts following a 1-month break during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan that ended last week.

The hangings, which took place in the central city of Multan early in the morning, brought to 176 the total number of people executed since December when the country ended a 6-year moratorium on the death penalty, according to the independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan.

"2 prisoners, Farooq alias Farooqa and Karim Nawaz, who had been awarded capital punishment, have been hanged in central jail in Multan today," Chaudhry Arshad Saeed, a senior government advisor for prisons in the Punjab province told AFP.

"Both of these convicts were awaiting the death penalty for murdering people in separate cases. They have been executed today after resumption of hangings following a temporary moratorium because of Ramadan," he said.

Another senior official of the prisons department who is responsible for all operations confirmed the hangings.

Pakistan ended its 2008 - 2013 moratorium on the death penalty following a Taliban attack on a school in Peshawar that killed more than 150 people -- mostly children -- in the country's deadliest ever terror attack.

The death penalty was initially reserved for terror convicts but was extended to all capital crimes in March.

Critics say the country s criminal justice system is marred by police torture and poor legal representation, meaning many of those now facing the gallows have not had a fair trial.

Among those currently on death row are murder convict Shafqat Hussain, whose case has drawn international criticism because his family and lawyers say he was under 18 at the time of the killing and claim he was tortured into confessing.

The European Union, the United Nations and human rights campaigners have all urged Pakistan to reinstate the moratorium.

Amnesty International estimates that Pakistan has more than 8,000 prisoners on death row, most of whom have exhausted their appeals.

(source: Dunya News)


Militants in minority in Pakistan execution drive, deterrent effect debated

When Pakistan resumed executions after the massacre of 134 pupils at an army-run school last December, the government promised hangings would help deter Islamist militants.

A Reuters analysis of 180 people hanged since late December, however, shows that fewer than 1 in 6 were linked to militancy.

Hangings are set to resume this week after a hiatus for the Muslim month of fasting, and the findings raise questions over whether Pakistan's capital punishment is having the desired effect.

Lawyers and rights groups say several cases that ended in execution had serious legal shortcomings, and although the campaign is broadly popular at home it has drawn condemnation from international partners.

Within 6 months, Pakistan has become the world's 3rd-ranking country in terms of executions, behind China and Iran.

Of 180 people executed since January, 29 were convicted of assassinations or assassination attempts, sectarian murders, a hijacking or killing of security officials - falling under a broad definition of militancy.

Almost all were hanged immediately after the massacre. Since then, most executions were of murderers with no militant links.

Officials say the death penalty has deterred militant attacks.

"You've seen the number of terrorist attacks going down drastically," the prime minister's special assistant for law, Ashtar Ausaf Ali, told Reuters. "One of the reasons is fear. Fear of being executed."


He did not provide figures, but the executions coincide with a steady fall in militant attacks since 2010, when the military began seizing territory from Taliban insurgents. A further crackdown launched a year ago was another factor.

There was no dramatic decline this year, however, suggesting the link to executions was "not major", said Muhammad Amir Rana, head of the Pakistan Institute for Peace Studies, which runs a database on militant attacks.

That showed 976 people died in the first 6 months of 2014, 747 in the 2nd 6 months of 2014 and 612 in the first 6 months of 2015.

The Taliban and other militants scoffed at the idea that hanging might stop them.

"When we can blow up ourselves to hit targets and embrace martyrdom, how can hangings scare us?" one militant asked.

The interior ministry did not respond to requests for comment for this article.

One senior security official said the death penalty was designed to quench public thirst for vengeance after the school massacre, while at the same time leaving militant groups deemed useful untouched.

Some militants have historic links with Pakistan's powerful armed forces and intelligence, which used them as proxy forces against arch-rival India. Several banned groups still operate freely and hold public rallies.

"It was never meant for militants, and if it was, it was only for those few who were no longer dancing to our tune," said the official, who asked not to be named because of the sensitivity of the matter.

The military did not respond to requests for comment, but has denied operational links to militants.

Ali said many jailed militants had appeals pending, and they would be executed if the appeals failed.

About 100 cases have gone to secret military courts set up after the Peshawar attack and 27 judgments have been passed, Ali said. The case files are secret.

Pakistan's antiquated and overburdened justice system does not have public data on executions, the number of people on death row and the crimes for which they are being held.

Reuters analysed databases of news reports collated by legal aid group Reprieve and rights group Amnesty International. Not all the reports were verified.


European legislator Richard Howitt said the hangings were "a cause of great European concern" and could endanger a tax break for Pakistan linked to human rights.

The "GSP plus" status gives Pakistani manufacturers favourable access to European markets and generated more than a billion dollars in increased trade for Pakistan last year.

"I want to appeal to Pakistan to refrain from further executions which could indeed impinge renewal of trade preferences with the EU," he told Reuters. Human rights lawyer Saroop Ijaz has worked on dozens of death penalty appeals, and says an overwhelming number show "staggering incompetence" in the criminal justice system.

Police rarely gather evidence, he said, instead relying on witnesses who may be bribed or intimidated. Some defendants are tried in a language they do not speak, and some say they were tortured into confessing.

Poor defendants are represented by public defense lawyers, typically paid 10-14,000 rupees ($100-$140) a month. They often don't show up.

Naval officer Zulfiqar Ali Khan was hanged after being convicted of a double murder 16 years ago. His lawyers said he was defending himself during a robbery.

His court-appointed lawyer did not meet him once outside of court, present evidence in his defensse or properly challenge witness statements, said legal aid group Justice Project Pakistan.

"Poverty did not allow us to hire a private lawyer at any stage," said Khan's brother Abdul Qayyum, a low-paid clerk. "I cannot forget the moment I received the body of my brother... I will take the sense of loss and helplessness to my grave."

(source: Reuters)


ATC re-issues death warrants of Shafqat Hussain

Anti Terrorist Court (ATC) on Monday once again issued the death warrants of Shafqat Hussain over the murder of 7 year old child.

Shafqat Hussain will be hanged on August in the central jail of Karachi. ATC issued the warrants of Shafqat Hussain for the 7th time.

It is pertinent to mention here that death execution of Shafqat Hussain, prolonged due to Human Rights commission claim that he was underage at time of committing the murder.

In 2004, Shafqat Hussain had killed a 7 years old child after kidnapping him. The stay order against the execution of death penalty has been discharged by the court.



4 handed down death

The Additional District and Sessions court sentenced to death four murder accused on 2 count and fined them in a double murder case.

Additional District and Sessions Judge Zulfiqar Naeem Ranjha handed down death penalty on 2 counts to 4 murder accused including Shah Nawaz alias Shahni, Afzal alias Aslah, Qaisar Ali and Mohammad Zaman and fined them Rs700,000 each.

According to prosecution, the accused have shot dead two persons in Chak 202 JB in the remit of Langrana area in 2011 on resistance during a dacoity.

All the accused are belonging to caste Rajoka and Chak 202/JB.

(source: The Nation)


Lindsay Sandiford: David Cameron's death row dilemma

Trade and counter-terrorism co-operation are officially at the top of David Cameron's agenda on a two-day visit to Indonesia as part of a tour of South East Asia.

But there's 1 issue the prime minister might be less keen to talk about.

Lindsay Sandiford, a 59-year-old grandmother, finds herself on death row in Indonesia's notorious Kerobokan Prison, not knowing when she might face a firing squad.

It's 2 1/2 years since the former legal secretary from Cheltenham was sentenced to death after being caught smuggling 4.8kg (10.6lb) of cocaine from Bangkok to Bali.

Her lawyers argued she was pressured into smuggling the drugs by a criminal gang.

She co-operated with the Indonesia police in a sting operation leading to the arrest of several members of that gang.

But at her sentencing hearing in 2013, that co-operation appeared to count for nothing as she was given the death sentence.

All appeal attempts have so far come to nothing.

'Delicate business'

It is a potentially awkward moment for Mr Cameron.

He is expected to announce hundreds of millions of pounds worth of trade deals with Indonesia.

At the same time a British citizen faces being lined up and shot.

Sandiford's legal team, which she is struggling to pay for, will be hoping Mr Cameron can exert some pressure on Indonesian President Joko Widodo when the 2 men meet here in Jakarta.

But it is a delicate business.

In the past such pressure has not worked.

So far this year Indonesia has executed 12 foreigners for drugs offences.

Perhaps the highest profile of them were 2 Australians Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, the ringleaders of the Bali 9 drug ring.

They were executed in April after being caught trying to smuggling 8.3kg (18.2lb) of heroin from Bali to Australia in in 2005.

In their case the Australian government was publicly critical of Indonesia in an effort to get Jakarta to reverse the sentences.

Australian ministers even threatened to cut off foreign aid.

It didn't work.

Indonesia did not appear to like being told what to do.

'Risks well-known'

And the death penalty for drugs offences has broad public support in Indonesia.

"Take one life to save the lives of many," one Indonesian man, who didn't want to give his name, told us on the beach in Bali.

"Drugs ruin people's lives."

And there can be no doubt that smuggling drugs in Indonesia, a country whose harsh treatment of drug offenders is well known, is a very stupid thing to do.

The rewards may be great but so are the risks.

"Britain or Australia don't criticise the United States which has executed hundreds of people," the man added.

And there is an element of double standards here.

Nobody realistically expects Britain to jeopardise trade ties with the US where there are 3,000 people currently on death row, including British citizens.

Or with China, which executes thousands of people every year.

In the run-up to the execution of Chan and Sukumaran there were large public demonstrations in support of the Indonesian government.

The death penalty is a vote-winner here.

So Mr Cameron is likely to try to avoid talking publicly about Sandiford's case.

Any pressure will probably be applied discreetly and behind the scenes.

Certainly speaking to Sandiford's legal team, you get the impression they want to avoid any public criticism of the Indonesian government or justice system.

What they would like is for the British government to help fund Sandiford's legal costs, something it has so far refused to do despite numerous legal challenges.

So despite Mr Cameron's visit, Sandiford's fate remains very much uncertain.

For more than 2 1/2 years, she has sat on death row, not knowing how many days, weeks, months or years she has left to live.

(source: BBC news)


SC should reconsider validity of death penalty, says ex-judge----Court had earlier held that capital punishment can be awarded only if there are "zero mitigating circumstances"

The Supreme Court on Monday will hear an urgent and limited plea from Yakub Memon the sole death row convict in the 1993 Mumbai blasts case. Former Supreme Court judge Justice K.T. Thomas said it was time to re-consider the majority decision of the Supreme Court in the Bachan Singh case, which upheld the death penalty as constitutional.

In reconsidering Memon's death penalty, the Supreme Court has to also follow the principle set out in its April 2013 judgment in Shanker Kisan Rao Khade vs Maharashtra case that capital punishment can be awarded only if there are "zero mitigating circumstances" favouring the convict.

The litmus test

The judgment held that the death penalty should not be given merely because the judge concerned thinks it fit. The award of death penalty should be "society-centric" and the litmus test is whether society will approve the awarding of death sentence or not. To accomplish this, the court has to look into a variety of factors like society's abhorrence, extreme indignation and antipathy to the crime.

"Courts award death sentence since situation demands so, due to constitutional compulsion, reflected by the will of the people and not the will of the judges," the Supreme Court held.

Raman article

The apex court could take a re-look at the sentencing in the light of the new circumstances - namely the article by former R&AW officer B. Raman favouring clemency to Memon, and consider commuting his death sentence to life.

"The article is in public domain, and so the court under Article 32 can suo motu take cognisance of a document of that nature. Without discounting the tragedy of the blasts, Memon did provide valuable information about Pakistan involvement in the blasts, in the training and handling of explosives. Evidence was collected on the basis of information given by him. He performed valuable services to the nation, and if we had promised him that this would be taken as a mitigating factor in court, we as a nation should keep our promises," senior advocate and Rajya Sabha MP K.T.S Tulsi said.

Mr. Tulsi is one of the signatories to a petition submitted by eminent citizens to the President to reconsider the death penalty to Memon.

Memon unaware

But strangely, Memon himself has been singularly quiet about these circumstances and not sought clemency on their strength even as successive courts dismissed his appeals, review and curative petitions.

"May be he did not know the implication of the fact that his help to the agencies would be a mitigating circumstance in court for commuting the death penalty. May be he was precluded from saying anything. May be his lawyer did not present it in courts ... There are many points which the apex court should consider now," a legal expert said on condition of anonymity.

(source: The Hindu)


Schizophrenia to B Raman's letter: 6 arguments Yakub Memon may make in his plea to SC

The Supreme Court on Monday will hear a plea from Yakub Memon, the sole convict facing the death penalty for his involvement in the 1993 serial blasts in Mumbai which killed 257 people. Memon's execution is presently scheduled to be held on 30 July.

A bench of Justices AR Dave, Amitava Roy and Arun Mishra will be hearing the plea against the death sentence. Here's a quick roundup of the arguments that the former chartered accountant could present in front of the court:

The breaking of procedure to hang him

In his petition, Memon has argued that there is undue haste being shown to carry out his execution even as he is to run out of legal options to prevent it.

Memon alleged that "death warrant proceedings were carried out in Mumbai" while he is in jail in Nagpur, and therfore he was not represented by his lawyer.

The petition also said the death warrant was issued by the TADA court in Mumbai when his curative petition was already pending in the apex court, "thereby presumptuously pre-determining its negative outcome." A death warrant was therefore issued against him even before he could exhaust his last legal remedy - a curative petition.

Memon is likely to argue that the warrant for the execution needed to issued 14 days before it was to be carried out, and its date couldn't have be fixed before his curative petition was considered by the Supreme Court, reports the Times of India. Memon's curative petition was dismissed by the apex court on 21 July.

Memon could be holding out hope is because the apex court in a Uttar Pradesh murder case had earlier said that such warrants cannot be issued just because the death sentence has been confirmed, unless the convict has exhausted all legal options.

The anti-death penalty argument

The Death Penalty Litigation Clinic, associated with the National Law University in Delhi, is also going to be arguing against the execution.

Senior counsel T R Andhyarujina had appeared for the clinic, which has been filing petitions in apex court against the execution of death penalty in different cases.

Andhyarujina, if he appears today as well, is likely to argue that Memon wasn't given proper notice of the death warrant proceedings so that he could seek appropriate legal counsel.

The B Raman argument

The publication of a letter by former RAW official B Raman in which he argued against Memon's death penalty is also likely to be brought up before the apex court. Raman in a piece written for Rediff in 2007, had argued that Memon deserved leniency in sentencing on account of the assistance he provided to investigating agencies and bringing his family back from Pakistan.

The Indian Express reports that former Supreme Court judge HS Bedi has argued that the piece should be considered suo motu by the apex court. Bedi has asked that the Supreme Court bench consider reconsider the execution by either sending it back to the trial court or using its own powers under the Constitution of India.

However, as we've pointed out earlier, the apex court had already considered the argument that Memon's role in aiding the investigating agencies but had refused to commute the death sentence on account of it.

The schizophrenia argument

Memon, in his plea, has claimed he has been suffering from schizophrenia since 1996 and remained behind the bars for nearly 20 years. While seeking the commutation of the death penalty earlier, he had argued that a convict cannot be awarded life term and the extreme penalty simultaneously for the same offence.

Memon will be hoping to get a commuting of sentence much like Devinder Singh Bhullar, who was to be hanged, but his execution was put off on the grounds that there had been inordinate time taken in considering his mercy pleas and the fact that he was suffering from schizophrenia.

"Mental illness, schizophrenia and insanity are grounds for commuting the death penalty in Devinder Pal Singh Bhullar's case," the then Chief Justice P Sathasivam had said in March 2014.

The plea before the President

A group of prominent citizens has written to the President seeking a commutation of his sentence and Memon is likely to cite it as a reason to stall his execution. Eminent lawyer Ram Jethmalani and leaders from four political parties were among around 300 people who on Sunday urged President Pranab Mukherjee to reconsider Memon's mercy plea.

Those who endorsed the petition included BJP's Shatrughan Sinha, Congress' Mani Shankar Aiyer, CPI-M leader Sitaram Yechury, CPI's D. Raja, actor Naseeruddin Shah, filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt, activist Tushar Gandhi, lawyer Vrinda Grover and economist Jean Dreze.

The 15-page petition submitted to the President claimed there are "substantive and fresh grounds" that can be considered on merits to give reprieve to Memon's.

The President had earlier dismissed Memon's plea for mercy that had been filed by his brother Suleiman.

The plea before the governor

In his petition, Memon has argued that he has already approached the Maharastra Governor with a plea for mercy. Memon had filed the mercy plea immediately after the Supreme Court dismissed his curative petition.

There has been no decision from the Maharashtra Governor on the plea so far as it considers the 2000-page document submitted by Memon.

While there has been an impressive groundswell of support for clemency over the past week, and spanning all political quarters, it remains to be seen if any of it will force the Supreme Court to reconsider its judgement.



No closure in hanging Yakub Memon

There is something prima facie obnoxious about the death penalty. It turns the state into a killer by the force of law, whereas its primary responsibility is to act as the protector of the life and limbs of all its citizens. Yes, it can be argued that the exception is to be made in case of criminals who commit such heinous crimes that they deserve to die. Moreover it can be argued further that in our country, we have a judicial system and questioning the death penalty in any case is like expressing a vote of no confidence in the Supreme Court, and this is akin to blasphemy.

But the moral argument against death penalty simply does not leave any scope for this final form of punishment. Whatever be the legal sanctity and collective judicial wisdom, the Supreme Court is ultimately manned by humans. Now humans, even if they are mighty judges of the Supreme Court cannot give life to anyone, so it stands to reason that they should not have the power to take anyone's life. Thus rests the case against death penalty. The sooner we abolish it from our legal system, the better it will be for us to become a more civilized country. There are other aspects to the entire debate about death penalty like its futility in checking crime, but this moral element is the strongest factor against it.

The debate has come alive after it has been decided that Yakub the chartered accountant from the jointly family of Memons charged with the conspiracy to engineer the 1993 Mumbai serial blasts that claimed 257 lives should be hanged. Among the many arguments for hanging Yakub is the proposition that it shall bring closure to the victims of the serial blasts. This of course is apart from the judicial verdict that has pronounced him guilty of engineering those blasts. In the last few days, we have heard arguments from politicians and celebrities alike that Yakub is being hanged for being a Muslim. But this is the season of disclosures from spooks. An entire book devoted to such disclosures by a former IB and RAW chief Amarjit Singh Dulat is in the public domain, and after the Yakub hanging was announced there is another article by a respected ex- IB and RAW chief B Raman doing the rounds which points to the mitigating circumstances that go against a death penalty for him. Interestingly, another article in the same context by a journalist shows that as Yakub had told the courts, his brother Tiger's (the mastermind of the blasts and still in Pakistan under ISI protection) assessment of the situation has proved very accurate: "Tum Gandhiwadi ban ke ja rahe ho, lekin wahan atankwadi qarar kiye jaoge (You are going as a Gandhian, but over there you will be labelled a terrorist)."

Simply put if Yakub was expecting that at least his life would be spared for cooperating with the Indian authorities in coming back from Pakistan, where along with his entire family he was under the protection of the ISI, then his hopes have been dashed. Unable to get his brother Tiger and Ayub, the 2 persons who actually masterminded the crime, the authorities seem content with hanging. They have no time for such niceties as the supposed promise at the time of his 'surrender' in Kathmandu that his role in exposing the ISI's involvement in the serial blasts would be rewarded. It is a matter of relief that Raman, the man who played a major role in getting the Memons from the clutches of the ISI, and helped to nail the role of the Pakistani agency in this act of terror is no longer alive. Or else, he would be a troubled man. His word given on behalf of the sovereign Indian state has been clearly betrayed.

The emerging Indian state is too keen to display its strength. It has an abhorrence to be even being perceived as a soft state, more so in the context of Pakistan. So whatever be his role, in this case Yakub is seen as the 'driving spirit' behind the crime and the person has to be punished to the fullest possible extent. This was the case with Afzal Guru who was nowhere near Parliament when it was attacked in December 2001, but was sentenced to death and hanged. In handing out such death penalty, the Supreme Court also does not insist that the actual 'murder' be committed by the person. Perhaps, the sense of public outrage associated with the crime is more of a compelling reason than actual use of the weapon to kill by the accused. But what kind of closure will Yakub's death by hanging mean when his brother Tiger and Ayub are out of the reach of our authorities? What kind of show of strength would it amount to, when the main culprits are free? Would it mean that the Indian state is now more empowered to fight the terror battles? Would it any way persuade the Pakistanis to cooperate in the trial of the accused in Mumbai 26/11 terror attacks? Or would it help us get Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi who is now in ISI's safe house?

If hanging Yakub is expected to provide closure for the victims of the 93 riots, it can be seen as a mitigating cause in favour death penalty, without compromising on the basic opposition to that idea itself, in the sense that it serves the cause of the wider community coming to terms with that tragedy. But then it is seldom that other person's death serves as a consolation for the loss of your own loved ones. This is essentially an argument that comes from those arm chair moralists and preachers on television debates who have never suffered such loss. Grief at the death of a loved one is very personal, as poet Sahir Ludhianvi once put it so eloquently in Mohammad Rafi's Hum Dono song: "Kaun rota hai kisi aur ki baat pe ai dost, sabko apni hi kisi baat pe rona aaya"...

(source: Free Press Journal)


Shouldn't Perpetrators Of Riots Get Sentenced to Death?: Owaisi

AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi has alleged that the then Narendra Modi government in Gujarat had asked the prosecution not to press for death sentence to former minister Mayaben Kodnani and Bajrang Dal leader Babu Bajrangi, convicted in 2002 post-Godhra riot case.

The Hyderabad Lok Sabha MP questioned whether those responsible for killing people during riots should get death penalty.

"Kodnani and Babu Bajrangi were convicted by a Court, which sentenced them to life imprisonment in connection with the killing of 92 persons. The prosecution wanted capital punishment. But Modi, who was then Gujarat Chief Minister, asked prosecution not to appeal against the ruling (in HC) and let the punishment be life sentence," the All-India Majlis-e- Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) leader alleged.

"Shouldn't those who killed 92 persons get death sentence?...When should capital punishment be awarded?," the 46-year-old controversial politician asked.

He was addressing a public meeting here last night on the occasion of 7th death anniversary of Sultan Salahuddin Owaisi, a former President AIMIM.

In August 2012, a court in Gujarat had awarded life term to Kodnani, a former BJP Minister and Bajrangi in the Naroda-Patiya massacre case.

During his speech, Asaduddin, who had recently suggested that 1993 Mumbai blasts convict Yakub Memon was awarded capital punishment because of his religion, read out a media report against the death penalty.

"...Is it not true that Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal had met then President Pratibha Patil with a mercy petition seeking clemency for Rajoana (assassin of former Punjab Chief Minister Beant Singh)?" he said.

Asaduddin challenged the BJP, which shares power in Punjab with Shiromani Akali Dal, to hang the killers of Beant Singh.

"If you have zero tolerance towards terrorism then prove it. I am challenging BJP to demand that the killers of Beant Singh be hanged...But they will not do so," he said.

The AIMIM leader said Babri Masjid was demolished in 1992 but that case is still dragging on.

Senior BJP leader L K Advani is an accused in the Babri case, but he has been honoured with Padma Vibhushan, he said, adding if there is a case against him he will be treated differently.

"If there is a criminal case on me, I will not get passport...Is this justice?," he asked.

Babri Masjid is a matter of getting justice. Gujarat riots and massacre of Sikhs in 1984 in Delhi are also issues related to getting justice, the AIMIM leader said.

On Babri Masjid issue, he said "we will abide by the Supreme Court order."

The apex court earlier this year had sought responses from senior BJP leader L K Advani and others on a plea against dropping of criminal conspiracy charge against them in the Babri mosque demolition case.



Retd K'taka HC judge wants Yakub's death penalty waived

Retired Karnataka High Court judge Justice H N Nagmohan Das said his firm conviction that death penalty should be abolished was the primary reason he signed a petition submitted by prominent people from various walks of life to President Pranab Mukherjee on Sunday to waive the death sentence awarded to Mumbai blasts convict Yakub Memon.

"I am against death penalty and for reformation. I want Memon's death penalty be waived not as a retired high court judge or a senior advocate but as a human being," Das, a native of Mulbagal in the Kolar district of Karnataka, told Deccan Herald.

He currently practises as designated senior advocate in the Supreme Court in New Delhi. "There was talk in the Supreme Court corridors on a draft of the mercy petition to be submitted to the President about a week ago. The draft, finalised by about 5 retired high court judges, came to me and I decided to sign it as I firmly oppose capital punishment," said Das.

"We should condemn any acts of terrorism, but the death penalty awarded to Memon will not serve any purpose," he said, adding: "We can still reform a convict however cruel he may be, and there is scope for this in the judicial system. We are a civilised society, and have marched forward. We are progressing day by day, and hence the existence of death penalty means a civilised society marching backward."

(soruce: Deccan Herald)


Yakub's death penalty sends message 'India is not soft on terror': BJP

Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Shaina NC on Sunday said that the death penalty for 1993 Bombay blasts accused Yakub Memon would send a message to the terrorists' world over that India is not soft on terror.

She said that the victims of the blast have been waiting since long for this trial.

"1993 blast victims have been waiting for so many years for this trial. There are the conspirators and there are the masterminds. We will get to the masterminds, but right now it's imperative that this conspirator is hung to death. So, it sends a message to the terrorists world over that India is not soft on terror," NC told ANI here.

2 senior bureaucrats of Maharashtra had yesterday met Governor C. Vidyasagar Rao to discuss the mercy petition moved by Yakub Memon, who is to be executed on July 30.

Additional Chief Secretary (Home) K.P. Bakshi and Principal Secretary (Law and Judiciary) M.A. Sayeed had an hour-long meeting with the Governor in this regard.

Memon has been sentenced to death for his role in the 1993 Mumbai blasts.

The Supreme Court had earlier this week rejected his last-minute appeal and upheld his hanging for July 30.

Memon had challenged the apex court's order arguing that legal procedure was overlooked in awarding him death penalty. He said that the special TADA (Terrorists and Disruptive Activities (Prevention)) court, which ordered him death warrant in 2007, did so before he could exhaust all his legal options.

(source: ANI news)

JULY 26, 2015:


Some relatives have followed the path to death row

It's possible, a district attorney said last week that, after a long legal trail, John Barry Hubbard could follow in the footsteps of his father, to Alabama's death row.

Hubbard and his cousin, Gary Wade Rowland, are both charged with capital murder in the kidnapping of Hubbard's ex-girlfriend and the shooting death of her sister Tuesday. Hubbard's father James Barney "J.B." Hubbard was executed by lethal injection in 2004 for the 1977 murder of a Tuscaloosa grocer.

If Hubbard and Rowland were sent to death row, however, it wouldn't be the 1st time in Alabama - or the nation - close relatives ended their lives among the condemned.

"It's not a common phenomenon but it does happen," said Robert Dunham, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center.

In Alabama, both Stephen and Robert Pilley ended their lives on death row.

Stephen Pilley, 53, died in 2009 of liver disease while awaiting execution. He and another man were sentenced to death in the 1994 execution-style murders of 5 people at the Changing Times Lounge - 1 of the biggest mass slayings in Birmingham history.

Pilley's uncle, Robert S. Pilley, died in the electric chair in 1946 for robbing and killing George Nolan Goatley the night of July 11, 1944, at Goatley's sandwich shop at 1309 Tuscaloosa Avenue in Birmingham.

Other examples around the nation of relatives ending up on death row, either for the same or separate crime, included:

--Father and son Bruce and Josh Woodbury are on Oregon's death row for the deaths of two people in a bank bombing.

--In Pennsylvania, Freeman May was sentenced to death and is now serving life after his death penalty was overturned. But for a time both he and his son, Landon May, were on that state's death row. Landon and Freeman May were charged in separate offenses.

--South Dakota death row inmate Rodney Berget awaits execution for killing a prison guard with a pipe during an attempted escape. His older brother, Roger Berget, was convicted in 1987 of killing a man for his car and was executed in 2000 after spending 13 years on Oklahoma's death row, according to USA Today.

--Brothers Robert and James Bryant were sentenced to death for separate murders committed in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, respectively. Both death sentences were later overturned, and both then received life sentences, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

--Milton and Noel Montalvo were separately tried and sentenced to death for the same slaying in Pennsylvania. Both are still on death row, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

--In Ohio, brothers Ronnie Bridgeman (now Kwame Ajamu) and Wiley Bridgeman were convicted and sentenced to death for the same offense and later exonerated, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

--In North Carolina, intellectually disabled half-brothers Henry McCollum and Leon Brown were sentenced to death for the same offense. The 2 were released from death row in 2014 after being exonerated by DNA testing.

Why might close relatives end up on death row, particularly for unrelated crimes that happened years apart?

Dunham, who represented death row inmates in Pennsylvania for 20 years and taught at Villanova's law school for 11 years, said each case would have to be looked at individually. Factors could include a family history of violence or drug and alcohol abuse, he said.

Dunham noted some studies on epigenetics, the study of how gene traits can be turned on or off by a person's environment and passed on to another generation.

One Birmingham professor sees no link between DNA and the factors that might land 2 relatives on death row.

"There is no real evidence at this time of any link with DNA," said Jeffery T. Walker, professor and chair of the Department of Justice Sciences at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

"It is probably more coincidence than anything else," Walker said.

Walker, however, said they researchers do know that certain behaviors tend to run in families. "For example, 'hot headedness' is a trait that is often common among family," he said.

"We do not know for sure if there is something psychological, biological, or if it is just growing up in that environment that does it; but it does happen. That may have some play in these instances," Walker said.



Tenn. lethal injection trial continues with dueling experts

The Tennessee Supreme Court says the death penalty is constitutional, so there must be a constitutional way to carry it out. But attorneys for 33 death row inmates say lethal injection isn't one of them.

In a trial that began July 7, the inmates' attorneys have been trying to prove the injection of deadly chemicals into a prisoner's veins carries an unacceptably high risk of extreme suffering and can cause a lingering death.

The case comes just weeks after the U.S. Supreme Court upheld Oklahoma's lethal injection procedure, which uses different drugs than Tennessee but considered some of the same broad issues.

Inmates' attorneys say the claim of lingering death is a novel one. It is based on the theory that an overdose of sedatives can put inmates into a death-like coma without truly killing them for hours.

One witness who is an expert in resuscitation told the Davidson County Chancery Court it might be possible to revive an inmate who had been declared dead half an hour later or more. Another witness who is an expert in anesthesiology suggested that an inmate could recover spontaneously.

Attorneys for the state say the idea of spontaneous recovery is pure speculation, and that there is no chance an inmate will be resuscitated once an execution has started. They say the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled inmates are not entitled to pain-free death. Nonetheless, they say that is what lethal injection generally provides.

Dr. Feng Li, Davidson County's acting chief medical examiner, offered testimony that a high dose of the sedative pentobarbital - Tennessee's current lethal injection drug - would leave a prisoner unconscious within seconds and dead within minutes. Once the inmate was unconscious, he or she would not feel any pain, Li said.

Experts for the two sides also have clashed over whether drugs made to order by a pharmacist are too risky to use. The only commercial producer of pentobarbital has placed restrictions on its distribution to prevent it from being used in executions.

The trial will continue on Aug. 3.

Tennessee has not executed an inmate for more than five years because of legal challenges and problems obtaining lethal injection drugs. In 2013 and 2014, state lawmakers tried to jump-start the process by moving from a 3-drug lethal injection method to a 1-drug method and reinstating the electric chair as a backup. But both of those changes brought new legal challenges, and all previously scheduled executions have been put on hold.

Faced with similar problems, Oklahoma enacted a law allowing execution by nitrogen gas as a backup to lethal injection. Utah reinstated the firing squad.

(source: Associated Press)


Verifiable facts on the death penalty

In the July 12 Local View column, "Thoughts about the death penalty: Correcting the record," Bob Evnen's stated goal was to correct facts and figures concerning the death penalty. Evnen wrote, "Everyone is entitled to their own opinion but not their own facts." However, rather than correct any facts about the death penalty, he simply states his own opinions as facts to support his position.

Mr. Evnen makes the argument that the death penalty somehow saves money because when prosecutors seek the death penalty, defendants will always plead guilty rather than risk going to trial and receiving a death sentence. He then makes the assumption that without the death penalty "criminal defendants and their lawyers" will "roll the dice" and force prosecutors to have more trials. These assertions must be examined in light of recent history and verifiable facts.

The use of the death penalty as a prosecutorial "tool" to force individuals to plead guilty does not save money and leads to unjust outcomes. The now notorious case of the Beatrice 6 is a perfect example of this. The payments for the false convictions has been $2 million dollars.

In 2006, the same scenario almost repeated itself in Murdock, Nebraska, where Matthew Livers and Nicholas Sampson were suspected in a double homicide. Law enforcement used the threat of the death penalty to obtain a false confession which could have led to false convictions and possible death sentences, but for the stubbornness of defense attorneys and the hunch of an investigator which led to finding the real killers. That effort resulted in the complete exoneration of Sampson and Livers. The state entered a $1 million settlement with the two men. How did the threat of the death penalty save money here?

2 recent Nebraska cases also contradict Evnen's assertion. One is the case of Melicio Camacho in Dakota County and the other is that of Jose Oliveira-Coutinho, known throughout Omaha as "the Brazilian case." Camacho was accused of 1st-degree murder and the state sought the death penalty. He was accused of breaking into a home and suffocating a girl during a sexual assault. By Evnen's logic, the threat of the death penalty would mean Camacho would plead guilty to avoid the death penalty. In fact, evidence in Camacho's case showed he offered to plead guilty to 1st-degree murder without the death penalty but the state refused. The end result? Tens of thousands of dollars spent in litigation, a guilty verdict and a life sentence. How did the threat of the death penalty save money in his case?

In Oliveira-Coutinho's case, a Brazilian family -- a husband, wife, and 7-year-old child -- went missing. Toward the end of a co-defendant's trial where the state was seeking the death penalty, the co-defendant confessed that he personally killed the family at the direction of Oliveira-Coutinho. As a result of cooperating, the co-defendant received a plea deal to 2nd-degree murder and a sentence of 20 years. The state charged Oliveira-Coutinho with 3 counts of 1st-degree murder and sought the death penalty. However, this did not force a plea deal and he went to trial. The end result? Again, after tens of thousands of dollars in litigation, he was found guilty and given a life sentence. How did the threat of the death penalty save money in his case?

Evnen cites one case to show how the death penalty resolves cases and saves money. Michael Petersen shot his wife in Buffalo County and then went to Hall County and shot his former lawyer. Evnen states, "Rather than face the death penalty, the defendant pleaded guilty to the charges in both counties and was sentenced to life in prison." However, rather than providing evidence to support his theory, Evnen asserts facts that are not consistent with known facts about the case.

In Buffalo County, the prosecutor did not seek the death penalty. Petersen pleaded guilty to 1st-degree murder in April 2014 and was sentenced to life in prison in May 2014. As part of a plea agreement in Hall County, Petersen pleaded to 1st-degree murder, and the state dismissed a weapons charge and agreed not to seek the death penalty. Petersen was sentenced to life in prison on Aug. 19, 2014. However, to say Petersen pleaded guilty rather than face the death penalty is demonstrably false. At sentencing, his lawyer explained to the court that Petersen pleaded guilty to save his son from having to testify at trial and because he had already been sentenced to life in Buffalo County, not because he wanted to avoid the death penalty. Petersen had attempted suicide in jail while his cases were pending and succeeded in killing himself in prison on Sept. 22, 2015. These are not the actions of a man taking a deal to avoid a death sentence.

Evnen claims too much of the cost and much of the criticism of the death penalty is attributed to decades of appeals, and that we just need to limit individuals' rights to appeals in death penalty cases, like Virginia and Texas do. Limiting appeal rights would be little solace for those whose appeals were cut off before they could receive relief from the appellate courts. For example, in Nebraska, from 1976 to today, 33 individuals have been sentenced to death. Of those, 15 have had their sentences commuted or vacated through appeals. 8 of these waited over 10 years before appeals resulted in their sentences being commuted. 6 of these waited over 19 years. Which of the 15 should have been denied the appeal that resulted in their removal from death row?

(source: Opinion; Christopher Eickholt is a Lincoln attorney----Lincoln Journal Star)


In death penalty crusade, Ricketts not as in sync as he thinks

Gov. Pete Ricketts says he draws on his Catholic faith for his positions on gay marriage (against), abortion (against) and the death penalty ... (for).

Wait, what?

Catholic leaders in the past 40 years have come out resoundingly against the death penalty, citing reasons from Jesus Christ to the uneven way the death penalty has been administered in this country. The same church that once handed over heretics to be burned at the stake has thrown out old reasons that it had used to justify the death penalty.

"A good Catholic today cannot say in good conscience that the Catholic Church's official teaching supports the death penalty. Because it does not," said the Rev. Jim Bretzke, a moral theologian based at Boston College.

The church is not as vocal or absolute on the issue as it is on, say, abortion. This may explain why Catholics are split on the death penalty and why some - like Ricketts - even find justification for it in church teaching.

The Nebraska governor says there's a Catholic basis for his zealous support. The lifelong Catholic lobbied hard against the Nebraska Legislature's landmark repeal of the death penalty this year. He vetoed the repeal law. And after senators overrode that veto, Ricketts poured his own money - $100,000, with more to come, he said - into a ballot measure to put the vote to Nebraskans.

Regardless of how the ballot initiative turns out, he's seeking to follow through with the executions of 10 men currently on Nebraska's death row.

Ricketts is the governor of a state, not a bishop of a diocese.

Even so, he says his position is compatible with church policy.

"The Catholic Church does not preclude the use of the death penalty under certain circumstances: That guilt is determined and the crime is heinous. Also, protecting society," Ricketts said in an interview. "As I've thought about this and meditated on it and prayed on it and researched it, I've determined it's an important tool."

But Catholic theologians say the church doesn't provide as much of an exception as Ricketts claims. The sole allowable circumstance, they say, is the protection of society when there's no other option; but even then, wrote then-Pope John Paul II in 1995, such situations today would be "very rare, if not practically nonexistent." It does not matter, says the church, how bad the crime is, or how much the criminal might deserve it, or how hurt the victims' families feel. Nor whether the death penalty would send a message to other would-be criminals.

"The death penalty can only be justified if it's the only way to defend society," said Julia Fleming, who heads Creighton University's theology department. "It's not a question of how heinous the crime is. The question is: Can you defend society by another means? And if you can defend society by any other means, then you can't use the death penalty." The church's position should have been clear to the governor. The Nebraska Catholic Conference lobbied to repeal the death penalty. Nebraska's archbishop and 2 bishops signed a joint statement calling for repeal. Omaha Archbishop George Lucas wrote in the Catholic Voice recently that "we cannot teach that killing is wrong by killing."

"We would not make Nebraska a better place," the archbishop wrote, "by a communal decision to take the life of man or woman - no matter how abhorrent their conduct - when justice can be served in another way."

Yet Ricketts is standing firm. In an interview, he tried to give a Catholic basis for his position.

He cited historical figures, such as St. Augustine (fourth century), who gave an early justification for war. And St. Thomas Aquinas (13th century), who said states had an obligation to cure the body if it meant cutting off a limb.

"If you look, almost without exception the church fathers believe the state has a right in certain circumstances to use the death penalty," Ricketts said.

Subsequent church leaders outlined situations - such as self-defense - when the taking of another life would be permissible. Some argued in favor of other justifications that included reform, deterrence and retribution.

Then times changed and societies became more adept at protecting themselves with prisons. In the 1970s, when the U.S. Supreme Court initially put a moratorium on the death penalty before eventually letting states decide, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops came out against the death penalty.

They got rid of the old arguments, pointing out that you can’t reform someone you kill. They said it's doubtful that killing a killer stops future murderers. And when it comes to retribution, the bishops said, punishment is justified - but the death penalty is not.

"We maintain that this need does not require nor does it justify taking the life of the criminal ...," the bishops said. "Such a punishment might satisfy certain vindictive desires that we or the victim might feel, but the satisfaction of such desires is not and cannot be an objective of a humane and Christian approach to punishment."

Pope John Paul II's 1995 encyclical, "Evangelium Vitae," carried even more authority.

In it, the pope said that if a state can use bloodless means to protect society, then it must - because that is more in line with human dignity and a respect for life. Since 1997, the catechism has incorporated that message.

Most recently, Pope Francis has called for abolishing the death penalty altogether.

Creighton's Fleming said the current teaching does retain the death penalty as a last resort in certain circumstances.

Say you live in a primitive hunter-gatherer society, and there's a serial killer running rampant. The death penalty would be allowed by the church, Fleming said, if it were the only way to stop the killer.

"But we aren't living in a hunter-gatherer society," she said.

Ricketts said he doesn't relish the idea of putting people to death. He said he sees the death penalty as a way to keep Nebraska society - particularly corrections officers - safe.

He rejected the notion that prisons alone can do the job. He said life sentences do not always mean that.

Ricketts is far from the only Catholic to support the death penalty. In a Pew Research Center survey in March, support for the death penalty among U.S. Catholics was 53 %, mirroring support in the general population (56 %), despite trends that suggest support is dropping.

Nor is this the only issue where many Catholics aren't exactly in line with church teaching. (See contraception, artificial.)

Ricketts says his Catholic faith is important to him. He has children in Catholic schools. He has given to Catholic causes, notably helping Holy Name School keep its doors open. His father, Joe, who put $100,000 of his own money into the death penalty ballot initiative, is building a large Catholic retreat center.

But maybe the governor shouldn't try to give a Catholic argument for the death penalty.

Roger Bergman from the Justice & Peace Studies Program at Creighton University suggested that Ricketts just say this: I disagree with the church.

"He can say 'I agree on other issues, but not on this one,'?" said Bergman. "And most Catholics, if they're honest, would have to say the same thing."

(source: Column, Erin Grace,


Theater Shooting Trial----The death penalty in Colorado: has there been enough conversation?

The death-penalty phase of a trial is underway in Centennial, and a dealth-penalty case is just beginning in Denver. Colorado clearly is having the conversation about capital punishment that Gov. John Hickenlooper sought when he granted a death-row inmate a reprieve.

But how much Hickenlooper contributed to the discussion is still up for debate.

What is not contested is that Colorado has long been reluctant to impose the death penalty. Only 1 person has been executed in nearly 50 years, and only 3 inmates are sitting on death row.

That could change, though.

An Arapahoe County jury this month found James Holmes guilty of the Aurora theater massacre and now is deliberating whether to sentence him to life or death.

A Denver County jury on Monday began hearing testimony in the trial of Dexter Lewis, who is charged with killing 5 people at Fero's Bar & Grill. A 2nd person in the case could also face the death penalty.

Denver District Judge John Madden agreed to allow the media to film opening and closing arguments in the Lewis trial, despite protests by the prosecution and defense.

The judge said he thought the coverage would provide a contribution to the governor's call for the community to engage in a meaningful consideration of the death penalty, a discussion he does not believe is underway despite publicity over Holmes' trial.

But others say Hickenlooper's call for a conversation led to the formation of the Better Priorities Initiative, aimed at ending the death penalty, and a series on capital punishment at both the Denver Seminary and the Iliff School of Theology.

Among the events at the seminary are workshops in October looking at the pros and cons of capital punishment from a "biblical and theological perspective."

"The governor felt the faith community needed to be a vital part of the conversation," said the Rev. Jim Ryan, the former director of the Colorado Council of Churches.

Hickenlooper believes the conversation started in earnest 2 years ago with testimony during the 2013 session on a bill to repeal the death penalty. The Democratic-sponsored bill died after the Democratic governor indicated he didn't support it because he thought the issue should be raised with the people and not just with their elected representatives.

The issue exploded that May when Hickenlooper granted an indefinite reprieve to death- row inmate Nathan Dunlap, who killed 4 people and wounded a 5th 2 decades earlier.

The decision did not affect the other two on death row, Sir Mario Owens and Robert Ray, who were convicted in the 2005 murder of 2 people who were going to testify at a trial. Any execution date that the pair may face, pending the exhaustion of all their appeals, is years away.

"It is likely that my decision in this case will continue the intense conversation Coloradans are having about the death penalty," Hickenlooper wrote in his executive order granting Dunlap the reprieve.

At the time, Hickenlooper said he would lead the discussion in town halls and statewide talks with local leaders.

"I'm not aware that's happened, and I think I would have been aware of it," Senate Minority Leader Lucia Guzman, D-Denver, said in a recent interview.

"What kind of conversation was Lucia looking for? What kind of conversation was she expecting?" Hickenlooper asked.

Kelly Maher, executive director of the conservative Compass Colorado, doesn't believe Hickenlooper lived up to his promise.

"He has yet to hold a single meeting about the issue, much less a statewide conversation," she said. "The loudest sound coming from the governor on this critical topic is a deafening silence."

That's in contrast, some believe, to Hickenlooper's efforts on oil-and-gas issues, where a task force was formed and met statewide after measures were pulled from the ballot.

Hickenlooper countered he has explained his position on the death penalty plenty in the last 2 years - including during his tough re-election bid in 2014 - and has received lots of feedback.

"People said they appreciated the conversation," he said.

Attorney Phil Cherner, who was on Dunlap's appeal team, agreed that the death penalty was a hot topic during Hickenlooper's race against Republican Bob Beauprez, but said at other times it hasn't been.

"Some days the death penalty is closer to the front page than others," Cherner said.

Only Thursday morning, Hickenlooper lamented that one problem with death-penalty cases - which can string out for years, as Dunlap's did - is that "you create 2-bit celebrities out of killers and a platform for copy-cat behavior."

"Cases go on forever," Hickenlooper said. "Footage is pulled back up."

Just hours after the interview, a gunman opened fire in a Louisiana movie theater, killing 2 before killing himself. News stories mentioned the 2012 Aurora theater shooting; footage compared pictures of the gunmen.

Hickenlooper also pointed to Nebraska's decision in May to override its governor's veto and repeal the death penalty. Conservatives there opposed capital punishment for religious, financial and practical reasons, making Nebraska the 19th state to ban capital punishment.

Guzman opposes the death penalty even though her father was murdered.

"I have never felt that it helps to kill someone who kills someone," she said.

Crime is also personal for Rep. Rhonda Fields, D-Aurora. It was her son, Javad Marshall-Fields, and his fiancee, Vivian Wolfe, who were gunned down in Aurora as they were set to testify in a pending murder case.

Although a death-penalty ban would not be retroactive, Fields believes outlawing capital punishment would make it easier for a governor to commute the sentence of her son's killers to life in prison.

"One of the fears I've had was after all that I went through, the trials, the juries, there was a lot of investigative work pursued for Javad and Vivian, and to have that undone, it would be difficult for me to bear that," she said.

Death row

The number of inmates on death row in various states:

Alabama: 201

Arizona: 124

Colorado: 3

Louisiana: 85

Oregon: 36

Tennessee: 73

Utah: 9

Wyoming: 1


(source: Denver Post)


Man convicted of killing teen during robbery attempt----Jury finds that Francisco Roy Zavala Jr. killed Eric Sargeant Jr. during the commission of a robbery, making him eligible for the death penalty. Closing arguments begin for co-defendant, Francisco Siordia.

After less than a day in deliberations, Francisco Roy Zavala Jr. on Thursday, July 23, was convicted of murder and a special circumstance that makes him eligible for the death penalty in the stabbing death of Hemet High student Eric Sargeant Jr. in 2013.

The same jury will hear evidence of aggravating and mitigating factors in a penalty phase trial starting Tuesday, July 28, that will help them evaluate whether to recommend a sentence of life in prison without parole or the death penalty to Judge Stephen Gallon, who is hearing the case in Southwest Justice Center.

The defendant became eligible for the death penalty after the jury found a special circumstance that the slaying occurred during the commission of a robbery.

Zavala is blamed for wielding a kitchen boning knife and stabbing Sargeant multiple times during what prosecutor Daniel DeLimon said testimony showed was a brazen after school cell phone robbery on Acacia Avenue in East Hemet.

His attorney, Richard Swanson, suggested his client was responsible only for non-life-threatening stab wounds, and that a knife a co-defendant admitted possessing was never found and may have caused the fatal wounds to the front of Sargeant's body. DeLimon reminded jurors an expert found that Zavala's knife could have been used to inflict all 7 or 8 wounds.

Several passers-by testified they saw 3 males chasing and beating the victim, and 1, later identified as Zavala, was seen stabbing the teen, who died later at a hospital. Sargeant gave a dying declaration to investigators in a taped interview played for the jury that described the robbery attempt.

A 2nd jury for co-defendant Francisco Atencio Siordia, 19, began hearing closing arguments in the case against him Thursday. The Hemet resident is charged with murder in commission of a robbery or attempted robbery. Because he was a juvenile at the time of the Jan. 14, 2013, crime, he is not eligible for the death penalty

His attorney, Stephen R. Sweigart, is expected to finish his presentation today, followed by rebuttal by DiLimon and deliberation by the jury.

While Siordia did not administer the fatal stab wounds to 16-year-old Eric Sargeant Jr., DeLimon told his jury that he should still be found culpable for the crime of murder because of the decisions he made.

The prosecutor recounted testimony that Siordia decided to go out in East Hemet with 2 others looking for someone to rob, exhibiting predatory behavior "like sharks;" participated in chasing and beating Sargeant; hid with the others; and called a friend to pick up the trio.

The 3rd defendant, Joseph Venegas, now 17, made a plea agreement with the Riverside County District Attorney's Office to testify against his co-defendants in exchange for a lesser conviction of voluntary manslaughter and an 11-year sentence, split between a juvenile facility and adult prison once he turns 18.

Siordia testified during the trial and Zavala did not.

Defense attorney Sweigart described the crime as senseless, committed against an "innocent 16-year-old child that did nothing, zero provocation." But he contended well-intentioned witnesses were mistaken and that while his client was present, he was in the middle of the street, trying to get young Joseph Venegas away from the scene of the assault.

He also disputed testimony by Venegas that there was talk in advance at the home where Venegas and Siordia lived about going out to rob someone.

Sweigart said there was testimony and Facebook messages to support a different scenario in which Siordia was leaving the house to meet up with his brother to get some marijuana.

(source: Press-Enterprise)


Engineer runs over man he suspected of having affair with wife ... then stabs him to death

Suspecting a dentist of having an affair with his wife, Sun Hongli ran him over with his car, then got out and stabbed him to death.

The engineer, 38, could now face the death penalty in the United States after he was charged with murder Tuesday last week. Sun is from Singapore, Chinese daily Shin Min Daily News reported.

The dentist, 54-year-old Liu Xuan, had last year hired Sun's wife to work at his dental practice in the city of Irvine, in California, local media said.

Sun and his wife had separated and begun divorce proceedings last year, only to change their minds and get back together.

Last week, Sun waited at a car park in his Mercedes-Benz SUV, then knocked Liu down when he turned up.

Liu survived, and tried to get up, but Sun got out of his car and stabbed him. Liu was later pronounced dead at the scene.

Sun also stabbed a female associate of Liu's who attempted to intervene, but she is expected to survive her injuries.

Local media also reported that Sun and his wife were married in Singapore 12 years ago. They have an 8-year-old son.



Must teach lesson to those who stand with enemies of humanity': Ramdev

Yoga Guru Baba Ramdev on Sunday said that along with hanging the traitors, it is equally important to teach a lesson to the supporters of those who are against humanity and nation.

"Hanging traitors is important, but it is also important to teach a lesson to all those who stand with the enemies of humanity and nation," he said.

Ramdev's reaction come after Bollywood actor Salman Khan in a controversial tweet said that Yakub Memon should not be hanged as the real culprit is the latter's brother Tiger Memon.

Yakub Memon has been sentenced to death for his role in the 1993 Mumbai blasts.

The Supreme Court had earlier this week rejected his last-minute appeal and upheld his hanging for July 30.

Yakub had challenged the apex court's order arguing that legal procedure was overlooked in awarding him death penalty. He said that the special TADA (Terrorists and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) court, which ordered him death warrant in 2007, did so before he could exhaust all his legal options.



To Hang or Not to Hang

As a rule, I have tended to desist commenting on any controversy that surrounds an impending death penalty. My position as a social activist against capital punishment goes back more than four decades. On a personal level,it often placed me in embarrassing positions-my late father, a senior judicial figure who had actually pronounced the judgement in the landmark Kotra murder case, firmly believed that a proven case of 1st degree murder merited no mercy and there were occasions when I had to campaign against his judgements.

Needless to say that this penchant often lead to charges of being 'chicken hearted'; unfairly in my view! I genuinely believed and still maintain that death penalty by itself does not lead to an enhancement of collective satisfaction within the society. Even when statistics are touted to prove that crime figures in Saudi Arabia are much lower than most of the European countries, I tend to argue that the satisfaction quotient in the Western European countries is higher without even indulging in a debate on whether these comparisions are valid given the contextual dissonance between the 2 societies.It must also be remembered that in the United States, the provinces which have abolished the death penalty have consistently shown lower crime figures than the ones that still retain it.

However I have accepted the position that as long as the highest court in the lands believes that capital punishment is a valid and legal constitutional provision, it can be exercised and it is a matter of some solace to note that the Court has ruled that it should be pronounced only in the rarest of rare cases which has resulted in a dramatic fall in the instnces where the sentence is carried out.

Let me state at the outset that I am revolted at what Yaqub Memon has done! The Supreme Court has found him guilty and I would much rather go by its version rather than the version put forward by the parties with vested interests. While Asaduddin Owaisi seems to harbour a perverse belief that a non-Muslim is inherently opposed to any meting out of justice to Muslims,there are others who covertly or overtly harbour alarming antipathy towards Muslims which exceeds any humanitarian threshold and allows them to enter the most pernicious stereotypes. We can expect a reaction from them to Owaisi in very near future.

I would tend to ignore these ill-informed and motivated rantings and treat them with contempt that they rightfully deserve. My opposition in this particular case perhaps may have been motivated by my opposition to capital punishment but it mainly on an issue that is far more fundamental i.e. the sanctity of the commitment made by the government officials on behalf of the state.

There have been suggestions that Memon actually surrendered and that a commitment was given to him that he would be dealt with leniently if he cooperated with the law enforcers in India. The late B.Raman was an intelligence officer of repute and an arch nationalist. His letter which has just been revealed by the makes some very pointed statements. Madhu Trehan, the current Editor of Newslaundry ( a portal where until recently I penned columns) who was the only journalist to have interviewed Memon, in a recent interview w, described Memon as someone who was not believable but admitted that she came back not being very sure whether he had actually surrendered or was nabbed the the police. If he had indeed voluntarily surrendered, then it is reasonable to entertain an iota of doubt that there had been some plea bargaining in the process. Raman is on the mark when he states that one of the prices we have to pay for being a democracy is to honour the commitment the state makes even to a supremely undesirable person like Memon.

To the best of my knowledge, the government has not given a categorical assurance that such plea bargaining was not a part of any deal. Doubts have been sown in many minds including my own and for the sake of the credibility of the Indian justice system , a response from the Indian government is necessary.

There are those who have commented that an undertaking of this nature has never been given by India at any time. I would counter that by stating that they have forgotten history. In the early 1970's when the Chambal ravines were dangerously infested with the most murderous dacoits who had ,according to those times, unbelievably high bounties on their heads. Mohar Singh carried a bounty of Rupees 2 lacs ( the equivalent figure would be in crores today). It was another dacoit Madhosingh (carrying a bounty of Rupees 1.5 lacs) who approached Jayaprakash Narayan expressing a desire among his fellow criminal to surrender. JP made it plain that they would have to pay for their transgressions but gave them only one undertaking -that they would not be sentto gallows.

JP did not represent the state and was giving them this assurance purely in his personal capacity capacity of a person who carried some moral authority. The government of the day agreed. Vast number of dacoits voluntarily emerged from the Chambal ravines and laid down their weapons. They were taken into custody and tried. But as the state had given an undertaking, not a single one of them was sentenced to death.

My point in this adumbration is that there are precedents when death penalty has been withheld because of some state undertaking. The whole point is whether that was the case here. If so , much to many people's regret, we would have to settle for life imprisonment.

But again did this actually happen! We wait for an answer from the government!

(source: Ashok Jahnavi Prasad, The Citizen)


Hanging is the least inhuman form of execution: Apex court

The Supreme Court has a history of deliberating over the death penalty; but, irrespective of its musings on this extreme punishment whose constitutionality it, however, upheld, there has been an agreement among benches that hanging is the least inhuman form of execution.

The latest iteration of this declaration came in a 2014 verdict where a bench headed by former Chief Justice of India P Sathasivam declared that based on past decisions of the SC and "on the basis scientific evidence and opinions of eminent medical persons hanging is the least painful way of ending the life.''

CJI Sathasivam, had in March 2013 confirmed the death sentence given in 2007 by trial court to Yakub Memon, younger brother of absconding 1993 blast mastermind Tiger Memon, for being a blast conspirator under the anti terror activities law. In January 2014, Justice Sathasivam authored a verdict where he accepted earlier majority pronouncements that held hanging to as the "most humane'' mode of execution of the sentence. But he laid down guidelines requiring a post mortem to be done after the execution to know if the hanging was done properly without inflicting pain due to suffocation as that would be violative of 'due procedure'.

The criminal procedure code section 354(5) prescribes the method of hanging in India to execute capital punishment. The predilection using a noose as punishment had led activist SC judge V R Krishna Iyer to declare way back in 1974 that life sentence should be the rule and death, an exception. Later after the landmark 25-year-old ruling held that death sentence be given in "rarest of rare'' cases, in 1983, the SC had, notwithstanding the criticism about inconsistencies in imposition of death sentence, had tackled the issue of how cruel and barbaric the system of its execution by ''hanging till death'' was. The majority ruling by then CJI Y V Chandrachud had held hanging to be a mode. ''not relentless in its severity'' and ''does not violate right to life under Article 21''.

''Hanging consists of a mechanism which is easy to assemble. The preliminaries to the act of hanging are quick and simple and they are free from anything that would unnecessarily sharpen the poignancy of the prisoner's apprehension. The chances of an accident during ...can safely be excluded. The method is a quick and...eliminates the possibility of a lingering death.'' It said.

"At the moment of final impact when life becomes extinct, some physical pain would be implicit in the very process of the ebbing out of life. But, the act of hanging causes the least pain imaginable on account of the fact that death supervenes instantaneously,'' the 1983 judgment relied on in 2014 said. The system of hanging, as now used, avoids to the full extent the chances of strangulation which results on account of too short a drop or of decapitation which results on account of too long a drop. "The system is consistent with the obligation of the State to ensure that the process of execution is conducted with decency and decorum without involving degradation of brutality of any kind,'' the SC held.

The SC said, in the wake of assertions that there is a dearth of hangman in prisons, a PM is obligatory to find that the cause of death is dislocation of vertebrae, not strangulation. "Constitution permits the execution of death sentence only through procedure established by law and conducting a PM would ensure that this procedure is just, fair and reasonable,'' Justice Sathasivam had said last year.


A 1962 UN report said: "Hanging remains the most frequent method in use". It lists over 25 countries of the world in which the method of hanging is used for executing the death sentence.

In the US, only hanging is an option only in two states, one of which is Washington; most states execute through lethal injections.

"Hanging does not operate now through suffocation, but by a `long drop', invented by Prof. Haughton of Dublin, which dislocates the vertebrae and is calculated to produce an instantaneous and painless death."

In 1983 the SC said: "Humaneness is the hall-mark of civilised laws. Therefore, torture, brutality, barbarity, humiliation and degradation of any kind is impermissible in the execution of any sentence. The process of hanging does not have any of these, directly, indirectly or incidentally.''

In a dissenting view, Justice P N Bhagwati who had also struck down the validity of death sentence due to the method of its execution, had held that, "The physical pain and suffering which the execution of the sentence of death involves is also no less cruel and inhuman. In India, the method of execution followed is hanging by the rope. Electrocution or application of lethal gas has not yet taken its place as in some of the western countries.''

WHAT SC said in 2014:

In the light of repeated arguments regarding dearth of experienced hangman in the country, post mortem after an execution must be obligatory. This is to find the cause of the death of the convict ; to know if it is by dislocation of the cervical vertebrate (as required) or by strangulation which results on account of too long a drop. Making post mortem obligatory will ensure just, fair and reasonable procedure of execution of death sentence.

(source: The Times of India)


72 Muslims Hanged in India against 1,342 Hindus and Others

If the Supreme Court rejects Yakub Memon's appeal to suspend his execution for his role in the 1993 Mumbai bomb blasts, he will take his last walk at 7 am on July 30 - to the gallows at Nagpur Central Jail. The bombings were meant to avenge the demolition of the Babri Masjid, which India’s liberal and secular establishment still condemn as an attack on the minorities. However, a new report by Death Penalty Research Project of the National Law University (NLU), Delhi shows that of the 1,414 prisoners in the available list of convicts hanged in post-Independence India, only 72 are Muslims - not even 5 % of the total executions. The report, however, clarifies its list is not meant to be a reference for the total number of prisoners hanged in India since 1947.

--Of the 27 prisoners hanged in Andhra Pradesh till 1968, only 2 were Muslims.

--Of the 25 hanged in Delhi, only 4 were Muslims.

--Of the 103 hanged in Haryana, there was only 1 Muslim.

--Of the 39 hanged in Karnataka, only 3 were Muslims.

--Of the 78 convicts hanged in Madhya Pradesh, only 5 were Muslims.

--Of the 56 hanged in Maharashtra, there were only 5 Muslims.

--Of the 366 prisoners who went to the gallows in UP, only 45 were Muslims.

--Of the 32 convicts who were hanged in West Bengal, only 7 were Muslims.

The death list in some states is tainted with gallows humour: in Kerala, no records are available because the authorities confessed termites ate them all. The story is similar in Andhra Pradesh, where termites have made a meal of all records pertaining to executions after 1968.

The report was compiled by NLU researchers from the responses received from India's Central jails. Certain prisons provided information for only a certain period of time, or like Tamil Nadu, refused to give any data. According the report, in Jammu and Kashmir, the playground of Islamist terror, not 1 Muslim has been hanged. Official statistics of terrorist killings in J&K are available only up to 2009, which note that over 47,000 people have died in terror-related violence. The up-to-date numbers would be higher. The Human Rights Watch has noted that thousands of Kashmiri Hindus have been killed over the past 10 years by terrorists and Muslim mobs. Additionally, in Haryana, Odisha, Rajasthan and Punjab, not a single Muslim convict has gone to the gallows. In India's capital, Delhi, Muslims comprise 11.7 % of the population, making it the 2nd largest community after Hindus. Here for every Muslim, 5 members of other communities climbed the scaffold. Executions are carried out in Jail No. 3, Tihar Jail.

Sections of the media and politicians such as Asaduddin Owaisi, leader of the Andhra Pradesh communal outfit, the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen, and Abu Azmi, Samajwadi Party leader from Maharashtra, are protesting the death sentence. Owaisi accused the government of hanging Memon only because he is a Muslim and questioned why the death sentences of those convicted in Rajiv Gandhi's assassination case were commuted to life imprisonment. He had wanted Bangladeshi anti-fundamentalist author Tasleema Nasreen to be beheaded and had called MLAs kafirs and Hindus impotent. He was jailed for making hate speeches, but no harm came to him. In united Andhra Pradesh, his state, 27 convicts were hanged of which only 2 - Jonada Muslalaiah and Sk. Babu Sahib - were Muslims.

Azmi had accused the government "of making moves against Muslims". He claimed that according to the chargesheet, Memon was innocent. "He did run away with his brother but he has not committed any huge crime," said the Maharashtra legislator. In his own state - where there were 63 terror-related incidents this year alone, (around 9 a month) and 139 in 2014 (around 12 a month) - 56 were hanged for various offences. Of these, only 4 Muslim convicts - Abdul Rehman Imrankhan, Abhasjhan Wazirkhan, Munwvar Haun Shah, and Ajmal Amir Kasab - climbed the scaffold, just 7.14 %. This amounts to 13 criminals of other faiths for every Muslim. Kasab was a Pakistani terrorist and part of an ISI-trained team, which killed 166 innocent people and wounded 293 in the bloody invasion of Mumbai in November 2008.

(source: New Indian Express)


Yakub Memon's death penalty sends message India is not soft on terror: BJP----The1993 blast victims have been waiting for so many years for this trial. There are the conspirators and there are the masterminds. We will get to the masterminds, but right now it's imperative that this conspirator is hung to death. So, it sends a message to the terrorists world over that India is not soft on terror, NC told ANI here.

Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Shaina NC on Sunday said that the death penalty for 1993 Bombay blasts accused Yakub Memon would send a message to the terrorists world over that India is not soft on terror.

She said that the victims of the blast have been waiting since long for this trial.

2 senior bureaucrats of Maharashtra had yesterday met Governor C. Vidyasagar Rao to discuss the mercy petition moved by Yakub Memon, who is to be executed on July 30.

Additional Chief Secretary (Home) K.P. Bakshi and Principal Secretary (Law and Judiciary) MA Sayeed had an hour-long meeting with the Governor in this regard.

Memon has been sentenced to death for his role in the 1993 Mumbai blasts.

The Supreme Court had earlier this week rejected his last-minute appeal and upheld his hanging for July 30.

Memon had challenged the apex court's order arguing that legal procedure was overlooked in awarding him death penalty. He said that the special TADA (Terrorists and Disruptive Activities (Prevention)) court, which ordered him death warrant in 2007, did so before he could exhaust all his legal options.

(source: DNA India)


CPI (M) opposes Yakub Memon's death penalty

The Communist Party of India (Marxist) on Sunday opposed the death penalty awarded to 1993 Bombay blasts convict Yakub Memon, saying that the latter had helped the Indian agencies.

"CPI (M) in principle opposes capital punishment to Yakub Memon and others...Yakub Memon helped Indian agencies, he should not be given capital punishment," CPI (M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury told ANI.

The CPI (M) leader's reacting came after Bollywood actor Salman Khan tweeted that Yakub Memon should not be hanged as the real culprit is the latter's brother Tiger Memon.

Meanwhile, a petition endorsed by eminent jurists, the Members of Parliament, leaders of political parties, eminent individuals from different walks of life has been submitted to President Pranab Mukherjee requesting him to consider the mercy plea against the execution of Yakub Memon's death sentence.

Yakub Memon has been sentenced to death for his role in the 1993 Mumbai blasts.

The Supreme Court had earlier this week rejected his last-minute appeal and upheld his hanging for July 30.

(source: ANI news)


Labor condemns Indonesian death penalty

Labor has formally condemned Indonesia's execution of Bali 9's Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran.

The party's national conference on Sunday passed a resolution that "condemns these executions in the strongest possible terms" and commits a future Labor federal government to push for a global moratorium on the death penalty.

Drug smugglers Chan and Sukumaran were executed by firing squad in late April amid an outcry from Australia at Indonesia's continued use of the death penalty.



Death-row Indonesian maid 'nearing release'

The much-publicized case of Satinah binti Jumadi Ahmad, 41, an Indonesian maid jailed in Saudi Arabia since 2009 for killing her employer's wife and stealing money, could be nearing an end soon.

"Indonesian Embassy officials will visit Buraidah next week to check the status of the case," said Dede Achmad Rifai, an embassy official, here Saturday.

The maid is lodged in a jail in Buraidah. The Indonesian government has formally appealed to Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman to pardon her after it paid SR7 million in blood money to the victim's family. "The employer's family has already pardoned the maid, thus settling the private claims," said Rifai.

He, however, said that the public rights issue need to be settled before Satinah is finally set free.

The maid has been awaiting her death sentence since 2011 when she was found guilty of killing her employer's 70-year-old wife and stealing SR37,970 in 2007.

The Indonesian government has fought a long battle to save the maid and had managed to get the execution delayed several times since her conviction.

Rifai said: "There are 18 workers, mainly housemaids, who have been awarded death penalty by various courts." This includes nine female workers in the Western Province alone for their alleged involvement in various crimes. The embassy has been trying to seek clemency in most of the cases.

In 1 case, according to a report published by Jakarta Post, an Indonesian daily newspaper, 5 Indonesian migrant workers sentenced to death in a murder case have been released by the court after receiving forgiveness from the victim's family.

The 5 workers have been identified as Saiful Mubarak, Samani Muhammad, Muhammad Mursyidi, Ahmad Zizi Hartati and Abdul Aziz Supiyani. Charges against these 5 people were for killing a Saudi national, Zubair bin Hafiz Ghul Muhammad, in 2006.

The Indonesian diplomatic missions in Riyadh and Jeddah are still trying to resolve several cases ranging from petty crimes to death penalty matters.

(source: Arab News)


Pak court stays hanging of 'mentally-ill' prisoner

A Pakistani court has stayed the execution of a former policeman, convicted for killing his colleague, as it sought a report from jail authorities over his family's claims that he is "mentally-ill".

The district and sessions judge here had earlier issued death warrant for the convict, Khizar Hayat, for July 28.

However, the prisoner's mother filed a stay application through Justice Project Pakistan (JPP), a non-government organisation working for prisoners' rights, in the district court, which yesterday stayed the hanging.

JPP's counsel Sara Belal had told the judge that the jail authorities in 2008 diagnosed that Hayat, 41, had been suffering from paranoid schizophrenia.

Arguing that national and international laws did not permit hanging of insane persons, the lawyer requested the court to set aside death warrant and stop the execution of Hayat.

Hayat, who was a police constable, was arrested in 2001 for killing a fellow policeman. A trial court awarded him death sentence in 2003.

The Lahore High Court division had earlier decided the matter of Hayat's mental health and allowed the execution after the jail officials told the court that at the time of filing mercy petition before the President, the medical examination of the condemned prisoner was conducted and he was found fit.

The medical officer concerned had also told the court that the prisoner was having symptoms of depression for which anti-psychotic medication was provided to him and he was a fit person.

Executions in Pakistan resumed in December last year, ending a 6-year moratorium, after Taliban fighters gunned down 154 people, most of them children, at a school at Peshawar.

Hangings were initially reinstated only for those convicted of terrorism offences, but in March they were extended to all capital offences.

More than 8,000 prisoners are on death row in Pakistan and about 160 convicts have been executed since the Nawaz Sharif government lifted moratorium on death penalty.

The Pakistani government had halted the executions during the month of Ramadan that ended last week.

(source: Business Standard)


Islamist "Justice": Slow Painful Death for Christian Mother in Pakistan

While working as a farm laborer on a hot day, Asia Bibi was told to fetch water. When she returned, Muslim coworkers refused to drink from the water, saying it was unclean because a Christian had touched it.

6 years later, Asia Bibi still has not been executed. Instead, sick, isolated, and regularly beaten by both prison guards and Muslim inmates, she has evidently been left to rot to death.

Every time any Western organization calls for her release, Pakistani Muslims threaten to take Sharia law into their own hands. One mosque prayer leader has even offered $6000 to anyone who kills her -- a strong incentive, since many in Pakistan would probably kill her for free.

According to Islamic law, the word of a Christian is not valid against the word of a Muslim. Accusations of blasphemy against Christians by Muslims routinely result in the Christians being imprisoned, beaten, and sometimes killed -- in some cases even without evidence. Pakistan does not require proof of a crime, only allegations -- often made for extraneous reasons, and totally unfounded.

Pakistan's authorities appear to have found a solution to at least one of their problems in the international arena: Aasiya Noreen -- or "Asia Bibi" -- a 50-year-old Christian woman and mother of 5, who has been on death row for 6 years for allegedly insulting Muhammad.

Instead of executing Asia Bibi and further advertising to the international community that theirs is a savage and backwards nation -- and instead of releasing her and provoking millions of angry Muslims to turn on the government and accuse it of supporting "apostasy" -- Pakistan's authorities appear to be letting time, wretched conditions, severe maltreatment, and beatings slowly kill her.

Asia Bibi and 2 of her 5 children, pictured prior to her imprisonment.

Recent reports state that she is deathly ill and "so weak she could hardly walk." Mission Network News says that Asia Bibi has "internal bleeding, abdominal pain, and is vomiting blood. If she does not receive immediate medical care, she could die."

According to Bruce Allen of Forgotten Missionaries International, "She suffers terrible pain, and she can hardly eat. ... Here's this woman, languishing in a prison under this death sentence for a crime that she vehemently denies."

In June 2009, while working as a farm laborer on a hot day, Asia Bibi was told to fetch water. Because she had drunk some of the water, the Muslim workers refused it: both the cup and the water were, they said, unclean because a Christian had touched them.

Before the "cup" incident, it seems, a feud between Asia and one of her Muslim neighbors concerning property damage had existed.

After the "cup" incident, her enemies and some of the Muslim workers complained to a Muslim cleric. They accused Asia Bibi of making insulting statements about the Muslim prophet, Muhammad. Her official "crime," therefore, which she vehemently denies, is "insulting" the Muslim prophet Muhammad.

Shortly after the complaint was registered, a mob stormed her home and severely beat her and her family, including her children. They put a noose around her neck and dragged her through the streets. She was then arrested; and in November 2010, a Punjabi court fined her and sentenced her to death by hanging, in accordance to Section 295-C, which prohibits on pain of death any insult against the Muslim prophet Muhammad.

Because her case attracted attention and condemnation from the international community, 6 years later, she still, mercifully, has not been executed. Instead, however, sick, isolated and regularly beaten by prison guards and Muslim inmates, she has evidently been left to rot to death.

In late 2011, a female prison-officer -- assigned to provide security for Asia -- was discovered beating her, "allegedly because of the Muslim officer's anti-Christian bias, while other staff members deployed for her security looked on in silence."

In late December 2013, Asia Bibi, a Catholic, sent a message to Pope Francis, saying that, "only God will be able to free me. ... I also hope that every Christian has been able to celebrate the Christmas just past with joy. Like many other prisoners, I also celebrated the birth of the Lord in prison in Multan, here in Pakistan... I would have liked to be in St. Peter's for Christmas to pray with you, but I trust in God's plan for me and hopefully it will be achieved next year."

It was not. In 2014, a Pakistani court upheld her death penalty. Recently, Pope Francis called for clemency for Asia Bibi while the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom pressed the Obama administration to designate Pakistan a "country of particular concern."

Last year, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, citing Asia Bibi in particular, as well others, called for the use of the $900 million in U.S. aid to Pakistan as leverage to help persecuted religious minorities. If these funds are not used as leverage, nearly $1 billion in U.S. aid can be seen as "rewarding" Pakistan for being openly unjust to its minorities.

Christian minorities are still arrested for "defaming Muhammad" -- that is, if a Muslim mob does not get to them first and burn them alive, as happened to a Christian couple last year, and as was recently attempted against a mentally disabled Christian man.

According to Wilson Chowdhry of the British Pakistani Christian Association:

Asia Bibi is by no means the only Christian on death row for blasphemy in Pakistan. There are a number of others, and there are also other Christians who are in there for crimes they did not commit, and are in effect in there because they are Christians.

People have to contact leaders of their nations and ask them to engage on dialogue with the Pakistani government for humanitarian rights alone renew the primary place of human rights when they engage in dialogue with foreign governments which habitually violate them. We see what happens when someone tries to challenge the blasphemy laws in Pakistan, it got 2 key politicians killed.

In a country with such animosity against Christians, I don't believe a Supreme Court judge will be brave enough to exonerate her.

A report from 2012 found that "Since 1990 alone, 52 people have been extra-judicially murdered on charges of blasphemy" in Pakistan.

Yet every time any Western entity calls for her release, Pakistani Muslims threaten to take Sharia law into their own hands and murder her. 5 years ago, a mosque prayer leader announced that anyone who manages to kill her would be rewarded with $6,000. It is a strong incentive, considering that many in Pakistan would probably kill her for free.

As Asia Bibi's husband, Ashiq Masih, puts it:

"The Maulvis [clerics] want her dead. They have announced a prize of Rs 10,000 to Rs 500,000 for anyone who kills Asia. They have even declared that if the court acquits her they will ensure the death sentence stands.

"I am planning our protection. If she is set free I hope we are moved to a safer country, as Pakistan cannot protect her.

"She has not made any mistake. We all know she has not committed any crime. We all know how Pakistan treats Christians. She was framed, she never committed any crime."

Even some of those who have stood up for Asia Bibi have been murdered: two of her most prominent advocates, Governor Salmaan Taseer and Minority Affairs Minister Shabaz Bhatti, were both slaughtered. Taseer was shot 27 times by Mumtaz Qadri -- his own bodyguard -- as he left his mother's home. The bodyguard cited as his motive that the governor was supportive of a Christian woman accused of blasphemy.

After the murder, more than 500 Muslim clerics voiced support for the crime, and further pushed for a general boycott of Taseer's funeral. Supporters of Mumtaz Qadri blocked police who were attempting to arrest him, and some supporters showered him with rose petals.

As for Bhatti, a Christian, Taliban-linked Muslims murdered him for his outspoken position against Pakistan's blasphemy law and his support for Asia Bibi. His car was ambushed and sprayed with bullets. A letter left at the scene said that anyone who tried to tamper with Pakistan's blasphemy law would suffer the same fate.

Bhatti, who received innumerable death threats, predicted his own murder. In a prerecorded video released after his death, he said, "I believe in Jesus Christ who has given his own life for us ... and I am ready to die for a cause ... I am living for my community ... and I will die to defend their rights."

The investigation into his murder was so lax (a series of suspects were freed) that it has been suggested that the Pakistani government may have been involved in -- or at least sympathetic to -- his assassination, for being a Christian and opposed to the blasphemy law.

Pakistan does not require proof of a crime, only allegations -- often made for extraneous reasons, and totally unfounded.

Pakistanis' extreme sensitivity to any potential insult to Muhammad is reflected in several laws in the nation's penal code. Section 295-C reads:

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 (PBUH) shall be punished with death, or imprisonment for life, and shall also be liable to fine.

Because non-Muslims -- particularly Christians, who by definition are known to reject Muhammad's prophecy -- are more likely to be suspected of blasphemy, and because, according to Islamic law, the word of a Christian is not valid against the word of a Muslim, blasphemy accusations by Muslims against Christians routinely result in the Christians being imprisoned, beaten and killed. Sometimes the accused is killed even when there is no evidence.

In Pakistan, this scenario plays itself out over and over again. Christians, who reportedly make up less than one percent of the population in Pakistan, are especially vulnerable to charges of blasphemy.

Years before Asia Bibi was falsely accused, in 1994, Amnesty International reported:

Several dozen people have been charged with blasphemy in Pakistan over the last few years; in all the cases known to Amnesty International, the charges of blasphemy appear to have been arbitrarily brought, founded solely on the individuals' minority religious beliefs. . . . The available evidence in all these cases suggests that charges were brought as a measure to intimidate and punish members of minority religious communities . . . hostility towards religious minority groups appeared in many cases to be compounded by personal enmity, professional or economic rivalry or a desire to gain political advantage. As a consequence, Amnesty International has concluded that most of the individuals now facing charges of blasphemy, or convicted on such charges, are prisoners of conscience, detained solely for their real or imputed religious beliefs in violation of their right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.

The British Pakistani Christian Association has started a petition calling for Bibi's release, and offers more ways to help Asia's case and help her husband Ashiq with legal fees.

In a recent interview, Asia Bibi's husband said:

"I really love her and miss her presence. I cannot sleep at night as I miss her. I miss her smile; I miss everything about her. She is my soulmate. I cannot see her in prison. It breaks my heart. Life has been non-existent without her. ... My children cry for their mother, they are broken. But I try to give them hope where I can."

Raymond Ibrahim is author of Crucified Again: Exposing Islam's New War in Christians;


Gambian leader grants pardons but coup plotters remain on death row

Gambian President Yahya Jammeh pardoned several death-row inmates on Wednesday, the 21st anniversary of his arrival to power, but notably excluded those accused of launching a failed coup in December.

Days after warning that prisoners on death row should expect to have their sentences implemented, Jammeh announced that "all those convicted of treason from 2013 to 1994 and (who) are in death row or are serving life imprisonment are hereby pardoned."

Among those benefitting from the amnesty are a former army chief of staff convicted of treason in 2010 and 4 army captains convicted of trying to overthrow the autocratic president in 2006.

Gammeh made no mention, however, of those convicted over December's foiled attack on the presidential palace, while he was on a trip to Dubai.

In March, 3 soldiers were sentenced to death and 3 others given life sentences by a military tribunal over the abortive coup, according to military sources and the rights group Amnesty International.

The 6 were overlooked by the president in his speech, with the 50-year-old leader instead announcing pardons for convicted murderers who had spent at least ten years behind bars, with the exception of those jailed for particularly gruesome murders or serious attacks on children.


Jammeh has ruled the thin sliver of a country that straddles the River Gambia in west Africa with an iron fist since seizing power in a bloodless coup in 1994

He is regularly accused of serious rights abuses. Last week, he gave notice of an impending end to the country's three-year unofficial moratorium on executions, in a move he presented as a response to a rising murder rate.

Last month, the government announced it would hold a referendum on expanding the list of offences punishable by death to any crime deemed sufficiently serious by parliament.

A date for the referendum has yet to be set.

In a statement Wednesday Amnesty International said the human rights situation in the nation of 1.7 million people had "deteriorated sharply" over the past year.

"A severe backlash following December's failed coup attempt has seen a spike in the numbers of arbitrary arrests and enforced disappearances," Sabrina Mahtani, the organization's west Africa researcher, said.

Amnesty linked the situation to the "steep rise" in illegal migrants from Gambia trying to reach Europe and called on the international community and regional Ecowas bloc to "address Gambia's declining human rights record".

(source: Africa Review)


Iranian Authorities Hang 3 Men to Death for Rape

3 prisoners were hanged to death in a compound at Ilam Central Prison on Saturday morning, according to the Public Relations Department of the Province of Ilam quoting Ilam's Chief Justice. The prisoners, announced as A.K., R.A., and N.SH, were reportedly executed for the mutual kidnapping and rape of a woman. Their execution sentences were reportedly confirmed by Branch 22 of Iran's Supreme Court.

(source: Iran Human Rights)


Online panel of experts and politicians Monday discuss human rights abuses in Iran

European lawmakers and U.S. human rights experts as well as official of the Iranian Resistance will on Monday hold a live online conference on the appalling state of human rights in Iran and the steps the international community must take in response. In the 1st half of 2015 alone, the regime in Iran has executed over 700 people, the equivalent of 1 person every 7 hours.

More than 1,800 people have been taken to the gallows during Hassan Rouhani's presidency. European Union Foreign Policy Chief Ms. Federica Mogherini plans to visit Iran on Tuesday to hold talks with officials of the Iranian regime following the nuclear deal earlier this month. Human rights defenders have described her planned trip and the silence of the EU with regards to the dire human rights state in Iran as "shameful."

Monday's online panel will include Ms Julie Ward, a Member of the European Parliament from the United Kingdom; Senator Lucio Malan, Secretary of the presidency of the Italian Senate; Prof. Donna Hughes, leading international researcher on human trafficking from the University of Rhode Island; Mr. Bruce McColm, President of the Institute for Democratic Strategies and Mr. Mohammad Mohadessin, the Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the National Council of Resistance of Iran. There will also be a video message from Giulio Terzi, former Foreign Minister of Italy.

The panel will take questions by Twitter.

Send your questions to @4freedominIran unsing #IranFreedom

When: Monday, July 27, at 5:00pm European time (11:00am EDT)

The event will be broadcast live on

(source: NCR-Iran)


Mogherini's Iran trip encourages more executions ---- Mogherini's upcoming trip to Tehran and meetings with those responsible for 120,000 political executions and 700 executions in the past 6 months encourages further executions and violates the values of democracy and human rights, and must be cancelled

The Foreign Affairs Committee of the National Council of Resistance of Iran reiterates that the upcoming trip to Iran by Ms. Federica Mogherini, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, and meetings with leaders of the ruling religious fascism encourage this regime to continue torture and executions. It urges all supporters of human rights, women's rights and democracy to take urgent action for the cancellation of this trip. This and other trips to Iran under the mullahs' rule run counter to the national interest of the Iranian people and their determination to overthrow this regime and establish democracy and popular rule in Iran.

Ms. Mogherini plans to meet with those responsible for 120,000 political executions and the massacre of 30,000 political prisoners in the summer of 1988. Amnesty International in a press release on July 23 wrote that in the 1st half of 2015 at least 694 prisoners have been executed in Iran, adding: "Iran's staggering execution toll for the 1st half of this year paints a sinister picture of the machinery of the state carrying out premeditated, judicially-sanctioned killings on a mass scale. ... We are likely to see more than 1,000 state-sanctioned deaths by the year's end."

Ms. Mogherini will be meeting in Tehran with those bearing chief responsibility for the export of terrorism and fundamentalism and the massacre of the innocent peoples of Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Lebanon. These officials should be tried for crimes against humanity for their crimes both inside Iran and abroad.

In the nine months that Ms. Mogherini has taken the helm in Schuman Square, some 1,000 prisoners have been executed in Iran, women have faced the most severe pressures, and religious and ethnic minorities have faced extensive repression and discrimination; however, Ms. Mogherini has refrained from uttering even a verbal condemnation of these daily atrocities. This is disgraceful for the European Union whose very foundation is based on countering fascism and supporting democracy and human rights.

While every day hundreds of Iranian women are arrested, fined and flogged by the agents of the regime on the bogus charge of 'mal-veiling', Ms. Mogherini plans to please the mullahs and obey their instructions by wearing a veil in her meetings with human rights criminals such as Hassan Rouhani, Ali Akbar Rafsanjani, Javad Zarif and Ali Larijani. Ms. Mogherini's action is a blatant insult to all Iranian women.

The NCRI Foreign Affairs Committee strongly condemns this trip and urges Ms. Mogherini not to put salt on the Iranian people's wounds, even if she refuses to doing anything to ease their pain and suffering.

The Iranian people, in particular the women, youth, political prisoners, and the families of those who have been executed, expect human rights and women's rights defenders in Europe and particularly in Italy to take action to halt this visit which is considered as a dagger to the heart of democracy and human rights.

(source: Foreign Affairs Committee of the National Council of Resistance of Iran)


Duterte: Death to human traffickers----Tough-talking mayor says modern-day slavery as bad as drug peddling

Mayor Rodrigo Duterte is pushing for the execution, through the death penalty, of human traffickers, saying their crime is as worse as destroying the lives of people through illegal drugs.

Duterte said while existing laws against human trafficking are "okay," the death penalty should be carried out on traffickers to put emphasis on the gravity of the crime.

He said if he were the President, he would not hesitate to execute human traffickers and have the crime of human trafficking listed down as punishable by death.

A massive crackdown on human trafficking, he said, would be carried out if he were President. He said harshness is the only manner by which he would deal with human traffickers, who had taken victims hundreds of people, many of them children.

He said if he were to decide, he would offer all-out support for victims of trafficking and their families so they won't hesitate to press charges against their predators.

Last year, lawyer Barbara Mae Flores, prosecutor in the Department of Justice in Southern Mindanao, said the low rate of conviction in human trafficking cases was the result of pressures such as being scared, fear of stigma, lack of financial means of the victims, and a tedious process to pursue a case against aggressors.

"Sometimes victims will just have to desist from filing a case," Flores said.

For example, of 63 cases filed in Southern Mindanao since 2003, Flores said 11 had been dismissed because the victims were too scared to press charges. At least 12 other cases had been archived for lack of witnesses.

One good news, though, she said, is that 30 of the cases are still active in court, which means many victims were also willing to help prosecute human traffickers.

Rolando Lopez, a former agent of the US Federal Bureau of Investigation, said during an antitrafficking summit here last year that human trafficking is "as bad as drug trafficking."

"The money that is made in illegal drugs is the same in human trafficking," Lopez said.

Amy Muranko-Gahan, founding director of antihuman trafficking group Global Impact, said the number of people being trafficked was "massive" as there are 27 million people "living in some kind of slavery" worldwide today.

"It's more than any time in history that we have slaves," she said.

Exploitation takes place when predators take advantage of the weaknesses of vulnerable individuals for financial gain or turn them into some form of slave, Muranko-Gahan said.

In the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), for example, armed conflicts and natural calamities, which trigger massive displacements, make the 5-province region a lucrative ground for human traffickers, according to ARMM Executive Secretary Laisa Alamia.

Alamia said the economic hardships that come with displacements make people vulnerable to human traffickers.

"Traffickers become creative nowadays as they lure parents on promises of jobs and easy money for their children," Alamia said.

He said in 2014 alone, there were 387 victim-survivors of human traffickers in Maguindanao, Sulu, Lanao del Sur, Basilan and Tawi-Tawi.

Duterte admitted that arrests were being made like that of four trafficking suspects, including a Malaysian, in Zamboanga City about 2 weeks ago.

Duterte was referring to the July 8 arrest reported by the Zamboanga City Police and the rescue of 32 women, 11 of them minors.

He also cited the arrest in Northern Mindanao of Australian sex offender Peter Gerard Scully, who now faces rape and human trafficking charges.

But to make the law more "biting," he said offenders should be sent to the death chamber.

Duterte reiterated his belief that hardened criminals should not just be sent to prison.

"Let's not allow them to commit more crime that would make life miserable for law-abiding citizens," he said.

(source: Philippine Inquirer)

JULY 25, 2015:


Handyman charged with murder of recent Drexel graduate

Philadelphia police have released the name of the man they say sexually assaulted, beat and strangled a recent Drexel University graduate inside her West Philadelphia apartment.

56-year-old James Harris of West Philadelphia is now facing murder, rape, robbery, burglary and related charges.

Police say fingerprints and DNA evidence connected Harris to the crime.

The body of 27-year-old Jasmine Wright was found last Thursday in the rear bedroom of her 3rd floor apartment in the 200 block of South 50th Street.

Harris had been held for days on burglary charges. Police say he is a career criminal who had been hired to do maintenance work in her West Philadelphia building.

\ Police say Harris has a long and violent history, including the murder of his father and the sexual assault of a 15-year-old girl.

A week prior to the murder, Harris had been banned from the building after being evicted from his own apartment, just 3 doors away from where Wright had been living.

Police say Harris had kept his keys and was seen entering the building 30 minutes prior to when Wright arrived home, and then broke into her apartment.

With this information, police initially arrested Harris on burglary and criminal trespass charges.

Police say they later learned that when Wright arrived home she was on her cell phone talking to her mother, and it was then that Harris attacked her. Wright's mother told police she heard a struggle before the phone went dead.

Investigators believe Wright was beaten and strangled next to the bed, but she was placed on the bed after the attack.

Harris then allegedly tried to clean the crime scene using bleach.

Wright graduated just four weeks ago from Drexel with a Masters in Environmental and Occupational health.

Police believe she had been dead for 24 hours when her body was discovered by the property manager.

Her father, who lives in the Bronx, had asked the manager to check on her because he hadn't heard from her.

As for a motive in the crime, police say that remains unclear.

Philadelphia Police Captain James Clark described Harris' violent past by saying, "He's 56 years of age, he has 31 priors. Back in '82 he was arrested for killing his own father. He's been arrested several times for sexual assault, several robberies, several burglaries. I mean, he's a monster. We're very happy to get him off of the streets."

Why Harris was out on the streets in the first place befuddles police.

"It's a hard pill for us to swallow, so hopefully now we got it right. Hopefully he'll spend the rest of his life in jail like he should have been a long time ago," said Capt. Clark.

Capt. Clark couldn't say enough about the people who worked so hard on this case.

"Homicide Detectives Burke and Joyce worked around the clock. Give kudos to the crime scene unit and the chem lab - they worked on their days off to expedite the DNA," he said.

Capt. Clark says he hopes this time that Harris gets the death penalty upon conviction, but that's something the Philadelphia District Attorney will have to consider later down the road.

(source: WPVI news)


Suspect in Easton Good Samaritan murder could claim insanity, mental impairment

When Jeffrey S. Knoble Jr. allegedly confessed to his mother to killing another man in Easton, he assured her that "they were safe now" before showing her a cellphone video of the body, police said.

2 months later, when Knoble heard the evidence against him during a preliminary hearing in May, the 25-year-old Riegelsville man had several outbursts in court, proclaiming his innocence and refusing to sign legal paperwork at the proceeding's conclusion.

Last month, Northampton County prosecutors formally notified Knoble that he could face the death penalty if found guilty of murdering 32-year-old Andrew "Beep" White in a downtown Easton hotel room. Again, Knoble lashed out in court, railing against the media and a justice system that he called corrupt.

Is Knoble mentally ill? That's a question that his public defenders are exploring.

In a legal filing Friday, defense attorneys Robert Eyer and Matthew Goodrich said they may offer a mental-health defense at trial, including the possibility that their client was insane or operating under diminished capacity. Knoble is being evaluated by a forensic psychologist, Dr. Frank Dattilio of Salisbury Township, who will be preparing an expert report, the filing said.

Mental health defenses can involve the claim that a defendant is not guilty by reason of insanity, though that is rare and an extremely high legal hurdle. But mental health can also be used to argue a defendant is guilty of a lesser degree of homicide, and lacked the specific intent to kill that is required for first-degree murder - the conviction that prosecutors intend to seek with Knoble.

Knoble is accused of shooting White, of Easton, in the back of the head early March 11 at the Quality Inn on South Third Street, then recording a video of the dead man's body. Authorities have called White a "good Samaritan," saying he had tried to help Knoble, renting a room for him because he had no place to stay.

Knoble's mother, Lori Knoble, has testified that her son played the cellphone video for her during a car ride later that morning after she picked him up on a West Ward street. The video recorded Knoble speaking, then panned to the feet of what turned out to be a corpse, she said.

On Friday, First Deputy District Attorney Terence Houck said he believes that Knoble has no mental problems that diminish his culpability.

"As far as his outbursts in court, he's just a baby," Houck said. "He doesn't want to follow the advice of his lawyers, I guess."

Houck said Knoble is "100 percent fine" and "completely sane," with his actions "premeditated, deliberate and well thought out."

Eyer, Knoble's lead lawyer, did not return a phone call Friday.

JJudge Emil Giordano has said he wants Knoble to be tried in December. The mental-health notice was part of a package of pretrial filings by the defense.

Knoble is also seeking to have his statements to police suppressed, and his trial heard by an out-of-county jury due to the publicity his case has received. The filings also ask Giordano to take the death penalty off the table, arguing that prosecutors' claims that Knoble robbed White and illegally possessed a firearm don't hold up.

Knoble was arrested the day of the shooting, after his mother called police. But Knoble was initially charged only with terroristic threats, based on Lori Knoble's report that he had repeatedly threatened to shoot and kill police officers, according to court records.

When Lori Knoble spoke to police, authorities had no reports of a shooting death in the Easton area. White's body wasn't discovered until that evening, after a friend of his contacted police with concerns that she had not seen or heard from him, police said.

Houck wants the homicide and terroristic threats cases to be tried together, saying that they are "inextricably intertwined." On Friday, the defense said it opposes the request as unfair to their client.

"The sole accomplishment in joining the two dockets for trial would be to offer irrelevant and inflammatory evidence which would tend to characterize the defendant in a prejudicial and negative light," Eyer and Goodrich wrote.

(source: Morning Call)


Senate bill could clear way for state executions to resume

Opponents of the death penalty and the sponsor of a bill changing North Carolina's execution laws on Thursday debated how much transparency the public needs into the process.

The state Senate could vote as soon as next week on legislation clarifying executions are exempt from state requirements for the public rule-making process. That would allow officials to find new drugs for lethal injection more quickly and with less public review. The bill also eases restrictions on the types of drugs used and prohibits disclosing where they are manufactured.

When asked by a Democratic member of the Senate Judiciary Committee whether his bill decreased transparency, Rep. Leo Daughtry, R-Johnston, said he agreed it did. But he argued that a certain level of secrecy was required to protect drug manufacturers.

"If you tell them where the drug comes from, there will be 300 people outside the building," Daughtry said.

Daughtry and staffers for the Judiciary Committee said the state Department of Public Safety voluntarily publishes details about the execution process. However, they said, a limited supply of the drugs used in lethal injections could cause the state to quickly seek alternatives.

That prompted Sen. Angela Bryant, D-Nash, to condemn the bill for limiting public debate about the execution process. Bryant tried unsuccessfully to adopt an amendment that would make state executions subject to the public rule-making process, which they are not now.

Oklahoma and other states have faced inquiries into their lethal injection protocol after several botched executions.

"Obviously, we are trying to short-circuit opposition to what is a controversial act," Bryant said.

The Restoring Proper Justice Act would also amend the state's death penalty law by allowing certain medical professionals other than a physician to be present for the execution. A physician would still be required on premises to certify death.

After voting down amendments proposed by Bryant, the committee voted in favor of the bill. The House passed a version of the bill in April, but if it passes the Senate, the House must then concur because of a minor technical correction.

The American Civil Liberties Union opposes the legislation, and other death penalty opponents spoke against it at the Judicial Committee hearing, as did a representative for the North Carolina Press Association.

According to the DPS website, North Carolina executes prisoners using a 5 gram dose of pentobarbital.

The last time North Carolina carried out an execution was in August 2006. The state has 148 people on death row.

(source: Associated Press)


Death Penalty or Life? Convicted Ga. Cop Killer Sentenced----Jamie Hood was found guilty earlier this week of killing Officer Buddy Christian and resident Omari Wray, and wounding Officer Tony Howard.

Convicted cop killer Jamie Hood will not have to face the death penalty for murdering an Athens, Ga., police officer in 2011, a Clarke County jury decided Friday.

The jury, which took two hours to reach a decision, decided Hood should be sentenced to life without parole, according multiple media outlets.

Hood, who never denied killing Officer Elmer "Buddy" Christian nor wounding Officer Tony Howard on March 22, 2011, acted as his own lawyer during the month-long trial, believed to be the first time a defendant in Georgia has represented himself in a death penalty case, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

He argued that the shootings were self-defense because his younger brother had been killed by police nearly 15 years ago.

On Monday, Hood was convicted on 36 of the 70 charges he faced, including murdering Kenneth Omari Wray in December, 2010, in a separate incident, WXIA-TV reported.



New Court Filing Challenges Legality Of Death Penalty

"It's a long shot, but the Breyer dissent was inviting people to challenge the death penalty. They just accepted the invitation."

Someone has taken up Justice Stephen Breyer's invitation to challenge the constitutionality of the death penalty.

Breyer suggested in a dissenting opinion last month that the death penalty "very likely violates the Eight Amendment," and called for the U.S. Supreme Court to address "that very basic question."

The plaintiffs who lost Glossip v. Gross, the case pertaining to Breyer's dissent, on Friday filed a petition for the high court to re-hear their case.

The plaintiffs, all inmates on Oklahoma's death row, challenged the use of midazolam, the controversial drug used in several botched lethal injections. When the Supreme Court ruled against them, new execution dates were set almost immediately.

Richard Glossip, the lead plaintiff in the case, is now scheduled to be the first executed, on Sept. 16.

The plaintiff's attorneys are now arguing in their petition for a more basic reason to eliminate the death penalty: Glossip is innocent.

"That's what I wanted them to do them the first time," Glossip told The Huffington Post by phone Friday of his attorney's argument. "We're fighting. That's all that matters."

The petition argues that the plaintiffs "exemplify important reasons why the death penalty is unconstitutional."

Glossip, who has been on death row for 18 years, has always maintained his innocence. Despite having no criminal past and no forensic evidence to condemn him, he was convicted solely on the testimony of a convicted murderer who cut a deal to save himself.

In the case of plaintiffs John Grant and Benjamin Cole, attorneys argue that arbitrariness, delay and dehumanization are other factors that make the death penalty unconstitutional -- all issues Breyer noted in his dissent as well.

Grant, for instance, was represented by an attorney who the petition says was "self-medicating for untreated bipolar disorder" and quickly married and then divorced her co-counsel in Grant's case, all during his trial. The attorney was later suspended from practice and ultimately resigned from the bar.

"It would be appropriate for the Court to use this case to address the constitutionality of the death penalty because the outcome will turn not on facts specific to any single litigant, but on circumstances common to the administration of the death penalty," the petition reads.

Breyer wrote in his dissent that the "circumstances and the evidence of the death penalty's application have changed radically" since the court upheld the constitutionality of the death penalty nearly 40 years ago.

The unusually fiery oral arguments in ?Glossip v. Gross ?were only a warmup to the scathing dissenting opinions the liberal justices would eventually pen -- opinions Justice Antonin Scalia dismissed as "gobbledy-gook."

"It's a long shot, but the Breyer dissent was inviting people to challenge the death penalty," Kathleen Lord, one of Glossip's attorneys not involved in the latest Supreme Court filing, told The Huffington Post Friday. "They just accepted the invitation."

(source: Kim Bellware, Hufufington Post)


Prisoners who lost lethal injection case seek rehearing on death penalty

The death-row prisoners who lost their Supreme Court case over lethal injection methods last month will ask the justices Friday to rehear the case as a test of the death penalty's overall constitutionality.

Their petition follows the court's 5-4 ruling on June 29, the last day of the term, that Oklahoma can use the sedative midazolam as part of a 3-drug protocol despite evidence that it may not render prisoners incapable of feeling pain.

That decision included an unexpected dissent from Justices Stephen Breyer and Ruth Bader Ginsburg questioning whether the death penalty is no longer constitutional. The 2 liberal justices cited death-row exonerations, arbitrary racial and geographic application, decades-long delays between sentencing and executions and a decline in the use of capital punishment by courts and states.

Supreme Court refuses to ban controversial method of execution

"It would be appropriate for the court to use this case to address the constitutionality of the death penalty because the outcome will turn not on facts specific to any single litigant, but on circumstances common to the administration of the death penalty," attorneys for death-row inmates Richard Glossip, John Grant and Benjamin Cole said.

A similar effort was mounted 2 weeks ago by Missouri prisoner David Zink, but the Supreme Court refused to delay his execution, and he was put to death July 14.

A more likely candidate for the Supreme Court to consider whether the death penalty is constitutional will come before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit in late August. In that case, a federal district judge already has declared California's death penalty unconstitutional because of long delays and inadequate funding.

Last month's Supreme Court case concerned the specific drug used by Oklahoma and some other states to sedate prisoners before lethal drugs are administered. While Florida has used midazolam with apparent success, 3 botched executions in Arizona, Ohio and Oklahoma resulted in condemned prisoners exhibiting "cruel and unusual" pain -- something the 8th Amendment to the Constitution prohibits.

The high court's 5-member conservative majority ruled that states may continue to uses midazolam because the defendants could not suggest an alternative -- a burden that the court's 4 liberal members criticized.

But the ruling was overshadowed by the lengthy dissent, written by Breyer, that catalogued a long list of problems surrounding the death penalty since the court reinstated it in 1976 and invited a broader challenge.

"As Justice Breyer's opinion explains, the 'circumstances and the evidence of the death penalty's application have changed radically' since this court upheld the constitutionality of the death penalty nearly 40 years ago," the new petition for rehearing says. "The 3 petitioners here are well suited to present the full briefing for which Justices Breyer and Ginsburg called, on issues such as the unreliability, arbitrariness, delay, and decline in the application of capital punishment, which render such punishment unconstitutional under the 8th and 14th Amendments."

(source: USA Today)


Judge: juror's electric chair shirt 'had no meaning'

Judge Carlos Samour decided Friday morning to investigate an alternate juror's decision to wear a T-shirt sporting images of an electric chair to the death penalty portion of the trial of the murderer who shot killed 12 people in an Aurora movie theater.

After investigating the matter at the request of defense attorney Dan King, Samour ultimately decided that the T-shirt from the band Metallica "had no meaning" and decided to move forward with the trial.

"To be candid, this falls into the category, for me, of 'just when you think you've seen it all' something that happens in this case," King said, after handing the judge a copy of an article published by 9NEWS on Thursday. "I, frankly, am at a loss, your honor, about what to do about this, if anything."

King went on to suggest that the court should try to figure out why juror 983 wore the t-shirt for Metallica's 1984 album "Ride the Lightning" by questioning him.

Prosecutors said they noticed the shirt in court Thursday, and also offered the court a theory about the album's title track being in opposite of the imagery.

"That particular song from that album 'Ride the Lightning' can certainly be interpreted more as an anti-capital punishment type of song," said prosecutor Jacob Edson.

The judge brought in the alternate juror to ask why he wore a Metallica T-shirt to the trial.

"I didn't think we were actually going to get in the courtroom yesterday," Juror 983 said.

Alternate jurors were being kept in a separate room from jurors on Thursday morning, while the 12 deliberating jurors worked on a verdict to decide there were aggravating factors that potentially qualify the convicted mass murderer in the case for the death penalty.

The judge asked specifically whether the juror intended to convey any message by wearing the shirt.

"No, no intention of any message at all," the man replied. "Just, I like the group."

The juror in question has worn metal-themed shirts to court before.

"I don't think it even registers with him what was on the back of the T-shirt," observed District Attorney George Brauchler, after the man left the courtroom. "I think he felt like he was answering the court in terms of 'geez, I would have worn a better T-shirt had I known I was going to be in court.'"

The defense and judge agreed that the juror seemed unaware of the imagery of an execution on the shirt and decided there was no message intended by it.

The judge went on to opine on this reporter's motive for publishing the story in the first place.

"He made a story out of it because he wanted to show he's the smartest kid in the classroom," Samour said. "And he even mentioned that in his story, too. 'None of the lawyers and the judge noticed it.'"

(source: WMAZ news)


Judge Appoints Defense Team for Dale Eaton in Death Sentence Re-hearing

Natrona County District Attorney Mike Blonigen's desire to hold new death penalty hearing for murderer Dale Eaton inched forward Friday.

During a short status conference, Natrona County District Court Judge Daniel Forgey named 2 attorneys to handle the defense of Eaton, who was convicted in 2004 of the 1988 murder of 18-year-old Lisa Marie Kimmell and was sentenced to death.

Eaton himself was not in court on Friday.

The legal wranglings began November when Wyoming U.S. District Court Judge Alan Johnson overturned the sentence, writing that the state violated Eaton's Sixth and 14th Amendment rights by failing to provide or allow effective representation.

That sent the case back to Natrona County District Court.

Further complicating matters is that Johnson's order required a new death penalty hearing to be set within 120 of his order.

Johnson gave Blonigen the choice of letting Eaton serve a life sentence without the possibility of parole or to again argue for the death penalty. Blonigen wanted the death penalty.

Eaton's murder conviction itself is not being challenged.

A new hearing for the death penalty in district court would require Eaton to have a defense team not related to the Wyoming Public Defender's office.

On Jan. 5, Blonigen filed a motion asking the court for an evaluating of Eaton's competency and for the appointment of a defense counsel, and to let the state district court know he was seeking the death penalty.

Terry Harris, who is representing Eaton in the federal courts, told the state district court 15 days later that he wanted a delay in the state proceedings until matters in federal court had been resolved, according to a document filed by Forgey. Any state district court proceedings would be premature, Harris wrote.

That, in effect, stopped Johnson's 120-day deadline.

On July 1, Forgey wrote that Harris had not sent state district court any information indicating the federal proceedings were over since Harris' Jan. 20 request to delay the proceedings. "This court is perplexed, under these circumstances, to learn that there appear to be ongoing issues litigated in the federal court regarding this court having to yet appointed the defendant counsel," Forgey wrote.

Blonigen, however, wanted the state court to proceed regardless of Eaton's legal matters before the Wyoming U.S. District Court or the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

So Friday, Forgey held the status conference to further move along the local proceedings.

He appointed Harris as associate counsel for Eaton. And Forgey will name Sean O'Brien as the lead counsel as soon as certain paperwork is cleared through the Wyoming State Bar. Harris and O'Brien are part of Eaton's legal team in the federal habeas corpus hearing in federal court.



Jury returns 1st-degree murder verdict in death penalty case involving Vallejo officer's slaying

Henry Albert Smith Jr., 41, showed no emotion as the verdicts that make him eligible for the death penalty were read Friday, while the wife of the Vallejo police officer he was found guilty of killing in 2011, sitting just feet away, fought to contain hers.

After a monthlong trial and weeks of deliberations that went in fits and starts due to repeated illnesses and other juror issues, an 11-woman, 1-man jury convicted Smith, a Fairfield resident, of 1st-degree murder with special circumstances in connection with the Nov. 17, 2011, gunshot slaying of Vacaville resident and veteran Vallejo police Officer Jim Capoot. Smith, the jury ruled, robbed a Vallejo bank that afternoon, touching off a pursuit and foot chase into a North Vallejo backyard where Capoot was fatally shot.

A tense courtroom prior to the reading of the guilty verdicts remained quiet throughout most of the proceeding as both sides of the courtroom, mostly representative of Smith's family and supporters on one side and the Capoot family and friends on the other, obeyed Judge Peter B. Foor's order to refrain from making any outbursts.

In the front row, where she had sat for the entirety of the trial, Capoot's wife, Jennifer, surrounded by her daughters and family, sat with her head in her hands. Barely looking up after the reading of the verdicts, prosecuting Deputy District Attorney Karen Jensen was standing there, offering her hand from across the bar.

Smith was found guilty of 1st-degree murder and robbery with enhancements for use of a gun, along with being a felon in possession of a firearm. The jury also found special circumstances which alleged: murder during the commission of a robbery; murder to avoid lawful arrest; and murder perpetrated against a peace officer lawfully performing their duty, to be true.

Life in prison without parole, or the death penalty, are the two options the jury will now have to decide. They will return Monday morning to discuss how the penalty phase will proceed.

Attorneys have indicated previously that the penalty phase could take several weeks, and time would be needed for both sides to line up witnesses.

Complicating matters, a juror is expected to make a move out of state at the end of next week. No alternates remain.

Trial testimony indicated a masked man entered a Bank of America branch on Springs Road on Nov. 17, 2011. A security officer testified it appeared the man was disguising himself to look old.

Upon robbing the bank, the suspect was followed out by a bank patron, Nabil Saleh, who followed the robber's gold SUV at high speeds through the streets of Vallejo. According to testimony, Capoot was flagged down by Saleh at a stoplight, and Capoot quickly found himself in a high speed pursuit of the SUV.

The chase, captured on a windshield mounted video camera, showed a PIT maneuver at Mark Avenue and Janice Street. Capoot could be seen chasing the suspect down the street until going out of view.

One of the first officers to arrive on scene, Vallejo police Officer Peppino Messina, testified it was Smith driving the SUV, and later running from Capoot on foot.

Just after Messina exited his patrol vehicle and began to call for his K-9 partner, gunshots rang out.

Running in the direction he last saw Capoot, Messina said some bystanders pointed to a house across the street. Capoot's lapel microphone could be seen draped over the fence.

Officers made it into the backyard only to find Capoot alone, laying unresponsive under an apple tree.

He was shot three times from behind, according to testimony. One bullet fatally entered his back under the protective covering of a bulletproof vest.

It was Vallejo police Officer Alan Caragan who saw a man down the street from where Capoot was slain hop a fence back onto Janice Street.

Officers raced toward him and took the man, identified in court as Smith, into custody.

Inside his left front pant pocket was a loaded .40-caliber semi-automatic Glock pistol.

When test fired, the Glock firearm produced markings on the cartridge casings that an expert opined were an identical to those found on the shell casings in the backyard where Capoot was slain.

Further evidence of the bank robbery was found in the SUV, which was registered to Smith's wife.

A mask, bank bags with roughly $3,500, sunglasses and a set of fake teeth were inside.

A DNA expert testified that Smith was a contributor for the DNA on the mask and the DNA on the fake teeth were his.

Yet, after officers swabbed Smith's hands for gunshot residue at the Vallejo Police Department, the results came back absent for trace elements found in gun powder, an aspect Smith's defense argued pointed to his innocence.

However, after his hands were swabbed, Det. William Badour asked Smith if anyone else was in the SUV with him.

"He said, 'I was alone. No one else was in it,'" Badour testified.

Capoot never unholstered his weapon, according to testimony. A bullet strike to the slide mechanism rendered it inoperable, police testified.

The day Capoot was killed, he wore a T-shirt under his protective vest in memory of Art Koch, a Fairfield police sergeant killed in the line of duty in 1984.

(source: The Reporter)


Oakland man arraigned Friday in Hayward officer's killing

50 uniformed Hayward police officers stood stone-faced on one side, and the suspect's family cried silently on the other as a dazed-looking 21-year-old Oakland man was arraigned Friday on capital murder charges in the killing of Sgt. Scott Lunger.

"We are devastated for the officer that passed away, I'm devastated for my son, but I believe in God, and I believe that while the investigation goes on, my son will be cleared," Mark Anthony Estrada's mother, Raquel Estrada, told a swarm of reporters outside Judge Scott Patton's courtroom. "I don't think he's guilty."

While police have been unable to determine why the 48-year-old father of 2 was shot, they've produced enough evidence to prompt the Alameda County District Attorney's Office on Friday to file special circumstances murder charges against Estrada that make him eligible for the death penalty or life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O'Malley said in a statement before the hearing that she is committed to doing everything within her power to ensure "justice will be served."

Lunger, a 15-veteran of the Hayward force, was fatally shot in the head about 3:15 a.m. Wednesday after pulling over a driver for swerving through a residential neighborhood. A backup officer returned fire, hitting Estrada in his left side without ever seeing his face.

That officer's harrowing account of Lunger's killing was retold by his attorney, Michael Rains, who declined to name the 7-year Hayward veteran because, Rains said, investigators are looking into whether the defendant has gang ties that would put the officer's life in danger.

"Scott (Lunger) was very much a mentor to him," Rains said. "It's a tough memory to see someone you are so close to ... in that precarious situation."

The officer was just pulling up to Myrtle and Lion streets when he saw Lunger slowly make his way to a white Chevy Silverado truck registered to Estrada.

The officer heard Lunger say over the police radio that the truck didn't pull over right away, but Lunger hadn't seemed concerned, Rains said.

Lunger cautiously approached the driver's side door. He was about 10 feet away with his flashlight illuminating the driver's window in the early morning darkness, his gun holstered, when he reacted to something "disturbing," the officer told his attorney.

"He heard the sergeant say something that equated to 'Oh, (expletive)," Rains said. "Almost instantaneously, he heard what he thought was a gunshot and saw the sergeant just crumple to the ground.

The officer began to fire at the truck in self-defense, Rains said, but couldn't see who was inside.

Within a span of 30 seconds, Lunger was shot and the officer returned fire, emptying his clip with about 13 shots, then tending to his fallen partner as the suspect fled.

Rains said it was a very traumatic event for his client, who felt close to Lunger. Lunger was his field training officer, and he worked under him both on the SWAT and overnight patrol teams. He is on paid leave and receiving counseling.

About 20 minutes after Lunger was pronounced dead at Eden Medical Center, police located the Silverado. It had been abandoned at 98th and Edes avenues, not far from the Estrada family's East Oakland home. Detectives found a bullet hole and blood on the driver's seat and 2 expended 9 mm casings on the floorboard, according to a probable cause declaration. More bullet holes on the driver's side were consistent with bullets fired by Lunger's backup officer.

At a hospital, Estrada admitted he was shot in the driver's seat of his vehicle near A Street in Hayward but would not answer when asked who had shot him, police said.

A 9 mm handgun, unused rounds and an associated gun magazine were found at the crime scene. More 9 mm ammunition and casings were found at Estrada's house, police said. They also collected undisclosed evidence that Estrada is affiliated with a gang.

His attorney, Richard Pointer, said that Estrada has no criminal record and no gang connections. He is asking the public to reserve judgment against the high school graduate and roofer, whom his mother described as a "good boy" with a "good heart," as the investigation continues to unfold.

He is being held without bail and returns to court Aug. 25. Lunger's funeral is scheduled for 10 a.m. Thursday at Oracle Arena in Oakland.

(source: San Jose Mercury News)


Fell loses bid to block death penalty trial

Donald Fell's death penalty retrial will go forward after he lost his bid to have the federal court address unresolved claims of prosecutor misconduct from his 1st trial.

In an opinion issued by federal Judge Geoffrey W. Crawford this week, issues left from a 2014 retrial hearing were put to rest and Fell will not have these claims heard in court.

Before Crawford's decision, Fell's defense had filed a motion claiming Fell was entitled to relief beyond a retrial - including dismissal of charges or dismissal of the death penalty - because of his accusations against the prosecution.

"The court concludes that the claims raised by the defense are legally insufficient to bar a retrial or the death notice, and accordingly denies both motions," Crawford wrote in his decision.

After Fell was convicted and sentenced to death in 2006 for the 2000 kidnapping and killing of 53-year-old Terry King of North Clarendon, he filed claims of juror and prosecutor misconduct.

His claims led to a retrial hearing last year. After ruling there was juror misconduct, federal Judge William K. Sessions III ordered a retrial for Fell; the remaining claims were not heard by Sessions because there would be a new trial.

In recent pretrial hearings, Fell's new defense team brought these unresolved issues to U.S. District Court and Crawford invited them to file a brief regarding these claims.

Fell alleges the prosecution was improper, inflammatory and included misstated information during his jury trial and sentencing.

"In its closing argument in the penalty phase, the prosecutor greatly exaggerated the nature and result of the alleged assault on a young man named Eike," his defense wrote, referring to an incident when Fell allegedly beat a man into a coma.

At issue was the use of the word "coma," which is defined as a loss of consciousness for more than six hours. The man was unconscious for less than one hour, according to court records.

The defense was seeking to prove intentional prosecutor misconduct that would bar a retrial, Crawford wrote in this opinion.

"The court must provide him with adequate remedies for the constitutional violations, which potentially include dismissal of the charges and/or the death notice," Fell's defense wrote in the motion to revisit the unresolved issues.

According to Crawford's decision, the court has already granted the defendant a new trial.

"The law of case doctrine commands that when a court has ruled on an issue, that decision should generally be adhered to by that court in subsequent stages in the same case," the judge wrote.

Fell claims his case is different because it is a death penalty case and there are repeated instances of alleged intentional misconduct.

"The court concluded, however, that none of the misconduct Fell has identified - individually or in the aggregate - was deliberately committed to provoke a mistrial and avoid an anticipated sentence of less than death." Crawford wrote.

Also at issue in the pretrial phase of his new trial, was whether Fell should be shackled during his hearings.

Crawford ruled he should, citing several violent incidents during Fell's incarceration, including a 2012 incident in a Terre Haute, Ind., prison where Fell allegedly stabbed another inmate.

"There are several reasons for this decision. The principal one is that Mr. Fell was involved in a serious incident involving another inmate several years ago," Crawford wrote in his shackling decision. "The other is that this judge is new to the case and to Mr. Fell. A little caution at the outset is generally appropriate and rarely a cause for regret."

Because the issue of Fell's "dangerousness" has come to light in the pretrial issues, his defense filed a motion Thursday for the release of all his bureau of prison documents, dating back to 2000.

A hearing is scheduled in Burlington on Sept. 11. His retrial for the death of Terry King is scheduled for September 2016.

Fell is currently housed at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn.

(source: The Rutland (Ver.) Herald)


The battle continues on that grimmest of topics, the death penalty

The death penalty is a grim topic. It's taking a forceful act of my will to set me to the task of writing about it. But a few events have converged, one involving me slightly, and I want to tell you.

The event that involves me: On July 5, I agreed to be a plaintiff in a suit against the Missouri Department of Corrections. Four of us petitioned Missouri to stop illegal procurement of the drugs being used to execute inmates sentenced to death. The execution of David Zink was scheduled for July 14, and we hoped to stop it. Our motion was dismissed by the circuit judge and is being appealed. David Zink was executed. The day before he was killed, Missouri set the date for a 6th execution of the year, that of Roderick Nunley.

In a separate suit filed a week later by news agencies, the court ruled that "the public has a right to know the source of the illegal drugs the state uses to kill people in the public's name," according to the legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri, Tony Rothert. However, we still don't know the source.

Meanwhile, a new study released by University of North Carolina professor Frank Baumgartner calls Missouri's application of the death penalty so arbitrary and so unfairly administered that it could be unconstitutional. Baumgartner said in an interview that it's proof that black lives don't matter: Between 1976 and 2014, there were more than 11,000 homicides and 80 executions, 2.1 % when the victim is white and 0.3 % when the victim is black.

David Zink seems to me to be an example of that arbitrary application. He had a disturbed childhood and dismissed his attorney to conduct his case himself. As a prisoner, he lived in an honor wing of the institution.

Meanwhile, Nebraska citizens are gathering signatures to hold a referendum on the death penalty following the state legislature's abolishing it.

In January 1999, Pope John Paul II visited St. Louis when an execution had been scheduled. In response to the pope's request, Gov. Mel Carnahan commuted the death sentence of a triple murderer, Darrell Mease. As I remember it, the men executed right before and after Mease both might have been actually innocent, and neither one has the same reputation of "worst of the worst" as Mease. That's ironic. The governor was heavily criticized for his act of clemency.

These executions hang heavy over our society. I certainly feel a cumulative weight of the deaths, though I try not to read too much about the cases. So I'm grateful I could join in a small legal action, an effort to halt the killing. And I hope that Pope Francis, along with his calls for climate action and rejection of abortion, remembers to speak for the men and women on death row.

(Mary Ann McGivern, National Catholic Reporter)


Legal eagles want life to replace death

The Supreme Court has in the past admitted that its own death penalty jurisprudence is arbitrary. The present law, laid down in 1980 in the Bacchan Singh Vs State of Punjab, which established the 'rarest of the rare' doctrine is subjective and opinions on this issue differ, Law Commission chairman and former chief justice of Delhi High Court Justice A P Shah has said.

Justice Shah made these observations at a recently concluded deliberations on death penalty where he was joined by many other former judges of high courts, most of whom sought abolition of the capital punishment which they believed was "immoral (to take life), does not deter (crimes), and is irreversible."

"In the Bacchan Singh case itself, the SC admitted that death penalty is awarded arbitrarily," Justice Shah said and gave the example of Harbans Singh Vs State of UP case of 1982 where three persons were awarded the death penalty and their appeals went before three different benches of the Supreme Court. "Each bench pronounced a dramatically different sentence. This case highlights the state of contradiction and confusion that surrounds the death penalty jurisprudence in India," Shah observed.

The former Delhi High Court chief justice calls this a "legal lottery" as there is little to differentiate those cases in which death penalty is given and those in which life imprisonment is awarded, except may be composition of the bench. "The personal predilection of judges impact whether death penalty or no death penalty is imposed in any given case," he pointed out.

Justice Shah called for a review of the "inhuman act" when international criminal law has abolished death penalty even for the most heinous crimes including genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.

Former judge of the Bombay High Court Justice Hosbet Suresh, who had never given a death sentence, concurs with Justice Shah. "Various observations come from SC from time to time, but all of them have led to arbitrariness," Justice Suresh said and favoured dropping of 'special reasons' from the statute books to award a death sentence. Rejecting the option of 'rarest of the rare' crime for death penalty, he said, "We should choose life imprisonment instead." His observations were part of the law panel's consultation on death penalty.

Justice Prabha Sridevan, former judge of the Madras High Court, recounts one of her experiences at the consultation. "One of the first cases I heard as a judge was a case of rape and murder of a young girl by three men. It was a sensational trial. Women's groups sat through proceedings and the trial court had awarded the death penalty," she said.

When the case came to the high court, she commuted the sentence to life imprisonment. Thereafter she received anonymous letters, criticising her judgment. However, recently she discovered that the first accused in the case was now a gold medallist. "He undertook his studies while serving his term in prison," she said, emphasizing that the "duty of the state is to protect life and allow it to reach its fullest potential." Justice Sridevan applauded the Naroda Pattaya judgment where the judge didn't award the death penalty where it could've been easily categorised as the 'rarest of the rare'.

Justice Bilal Nazki, chairman of the Human Rights Commission of Bihar and former chief justice of Orissa High Court, too finds death penalty arbitrary. "There is no doubt that death penalty is arbitrarily applied, but what are the reasons," he asks, and tries to blame the "baggage" his brother judges carry when they are elevated to the bench.

He said there is no adequate background checks with respect to the "baggage" that a person may be carrying when appointed as a judge. Justice Nazki narrated an interesting account. "Chambers and court halls are allotted to judges according to seniority. In Allahabad HC, after an SC judge retired, his chamber and hall was allotted to a judge of a higher caste. Then puja was done before the new judge entered his chamber. This is the baggage we carry," he said.

(source: The Times of India)


Pakistan executes nearly one person a day after Peshawar school massacre

Pakistan has been executing nearly one person a day after it resumed the death penalty following the December 2014 Peshawar school massacre, in which Pakistani Taliban insurgents killed 150 people, including 134 children.

In the aftermath of the attack, Pakistan announced it would lift a 6-year-moratorium on the death penalty in order to curb terrorism in the country.

Since then, dozens of people, including child offenders, have been executed amid growing international concern. Human rights groups have warned that several death sentences are in breach of both domestic and international laws and that inmates often confess after being tortured.

In March, the United Nations urged Pakistan to reinstate the moratorium as there is no scientific proof that the death penalty serves as a deterrent or contributes to combating crime or violent extremism.

IBTimes UK spoke with Kate Higham, from the death penalty team at Reprieve, on the escalation of executions and the need to reinstate a moratorium on capital punishment to avoid human rights abuses.

In June, Pakistan executed Aftab Bahadur amid international outrage. Bahadur was arrested and sentenced to death at the age of 15 in 1993, and was executed even after his lawyer tried to introduce new evidence that could prove his innocence.

As with Bahadurs case, the death sentence handed to Shafqat Hussain has also drawn international criticism. Hussain, still on the death row, was sentenced to death in 2004 for allegedly kidnapping and killing a 7-year-old boy.

Hussain, who was 14 at the time of the sentence, was granted a last-minute reprieve in March and in June 2015, when Pakistan stayed the execution following the intervention from human rights groups, which warned Hussain had confessed to killing the boy after being tortured in his jail.

(source: International Business Times)


Executions not a priority: Attorney General

After executing over a dozen drug convicts amid international outrage since January, the Attorney General's Office (AGO) claims that it has yet to schedule a 3rd round of executions, following the most recent one in April.

Attorney General M. Prasetyo said on Friday that the AGO had yet to discuss the next executions, specifically those of Frenchman Serge Atlaoui and Mary Jane Veloso of the Philippines.

"I have not even thought about it yet. We are focusing on other, more important tasks that need to be completed soon," he told reporters at the AGO headquarters in South Jakarta.

"We hope that it was clear through the 1st and 2nd round of executions that we will be firm and not tolerate any drug violations," said the attorney general.

Both Atlaoui and Veloso were slated to be among a group of death row inmates who faced a firing squad on April 29 for drug trafficking charges.

However, Atlaoui's most recent appeal was rejected by the Jakarta State Administrative Court (PTUN) on June 22.

Atlaoui has repeatedly denied the charges against him, saying that he had been hired to install industrial machinery at what he thought was an acrylics factory in Tangerang, Banten, where he and several others were busted in a 2005 police raid.

Meanwhile, Veloso's execution was delayed by the AGO at the last minute after she was named a witness in a human trafficking case being investigated by Philippine authorities. She was arrested in possession of 2.6 kilograms of heroin at Adisucipto International Airport in Yogyakarta in 2010.

Superstar Filipino boxer Manny "Pacman" Pacquiao, who is also a member of the Philippine House of Representatives, made efforts to meet with Veloso and the Indonesian House of Representatives on July 10. However, Prasetyo has said that the meeting was unlikely to result in a postponement of Veloso's execution as the AGO was "waiting on the legal process in the Philippines to conclude".

Meanwhile, National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) member Siti Noor Laila said that the commission remained firm in its anti-death penalty stance."As we have said previously, Komnas HAM still does not agree with the death penalty because it violates the right to life," she told The Jakarta Post on Friday.

Siti Zuhro, a senior political analyst with the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI), told the Post on Friday that the government's position might well be due to international pressure.

However, she noted that it would be unwise for Indonesia to back down from conducting further executions as it would show the country was reluctant to uphold its laws, an image that it was currently trying to shed. "[President Joko] "Jokowi" [Widodo] has already affirmed that we are at a red light with drugs and that we will uphold our law," Zuhro said.

Zuhro added that being firm about the executions could work positively for Indonesia, especially during the creation of international treaties, as it would show that the state held true to its word.

(source: Jakakrta Post)


Lebanese Need Justice, Not Executions

It reportedly began as a traffic dispute and ended in a vicious public murder, a man stabbed to death in broad daylight on a busy sidewalk in central Beirut.

Bystanders captured the attack on film and footage clearly shows a man repeatedly stabbing George Ibrahim al-Reef despite pleas from al-Reef's wife Rola. The authorities later arrested Tarek Yateem, a bodyguard for the powerful chairman of Societe Generale de Banque au Liban (SGBL) and charged him with premeditated homicide - a crime punishable by death. Lina Haider, who was traveling in the car with Yateem, is charged with being an accessory to al-Reef's murder.

Brutal images of George's murder galvanized the Lebanese public. Some called for the immediate and public execution of the accused, claiming that was the only way to ensure political connections do not prevent the application of justice.

While the public's frustration with the flawed Lebanese justice system is understandable, executions aren't the solution.

A recent Lebanon report by the International Crisis Group called law-breaking, especially among the well-connected, a norm which often goes unpunished.

The current media and public discourse that began with this murder has now become focused more generally on the politicization of the judicial system. One local journalist wrote that the Lebanese people no longer trust the state and the judiciary. In this context, the calls for the death penalty can be seen as demands for serious accountability in the absence of an independent and effective judiciary.

Executions are not the answer. Between the barbaric execution of Lebanese soldiers by extremist groups, violent attacks on Alawite, Sunni, and Shiite neighborhoods, the last thing Lebanon needs is more killing, even state-sanctioned.

The death penalty in all cases is an inherently cruel punishment that cannot be reversed even when miscarriages of justice are found to take place. Furthermore, study after study suggests that capital punishment does not deter crime more than other sanctions.

Human rights need to offer an effective moral guide in turbulent times. Government officials need to show they are addressing concerns by strengthening the rule of law and protecting the justice system from political interference, not through executions. Promoting a culture of accountability and access to fair trials is a step towards abolishing widespread impunity.

(source: Human Rights Watch)


HRW cautions against Yateem death penalty

Human Rights Watch cautioned against handing the death penalty to Tarek Yateem, the suspected culprit facing trial for the brutal stabbing of George Reef, saying it would not deter such crimes from recurring.

Instead, the group said more effective measures should be taken by government officials to prevent political interference in the affairs of the judiciary.

"Executions are not the answer," the statement said, at a time when some among an enraged Lebanese public, roused by footage of the attack captured by bystanders, are calling for Yateem to face the maximum sentence allowable for premeditated murder as a means to prevent political meddling in the judiciary.

Yateem is the bodyguard of Antoun Sehnaoui, the powerful chairman of Societe Generale de Banque au Liban.

Reef died after being stabbed 15 times in the chest by Yateem in the Beirut neighborhood of Saifi last week after a road rage incident.

"The death penalty in all cases is an inherently cruel punishment that cannot be reversed even when miscarriages of justice are found to take place. Furthermore, study after study suggests that capital punishment does not deter crime more than other sanctions," the rights-monitoring group said.

"Human rights need to offer an effective moral guide in turbulent times. Government officials need to show they are addressing concerns by strengthening the rule of law and protecting the justice system from political interference, not through executions," it said.

Justice Minister Ashraf Rifi said Yateem could face the death penalty if found guilty, calling for a swift trial to deter other would-be killers. But he could face a lighter sentence if his testimony to police, that he was under the influence of drugs during the murder, is proven to be true.

Yateem was known to the authorities for his addiction to drugs and has a criminal record, including assault. He also has several arrest warrants issued against him and spent 2 months in prison in March 2010 on charges of attempted murder after a brawl in a Beirut nightclub. While in prison he was caught with drugs.

Citing a recent report by the International Crisis Group which found that law-breaking among the well-connected often goes unpunished, Human Rights Watch recommended Lebanon promote a culture of accountability and access to fair trials as a step toward abolishing widespread impunity.

(source: The Daily Star)

JULY 24, 2015:


Don't give the Charleston shooter the death penalty

Dylann Roof, already indicted by South Carolina on 9 counts of murder, 3 counts of attempted murder and a weapons charge, was charged with 33 more counts by the federal government, including hate crimes for which he could get the death penalty. Just who will get their hands on him first is not yet clear, nor is it clear that Uncle Sam will demand that he die. The only thing that's certain is that the law seems intent on getting down to Dylann Roof's level.

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley had already asked for the death penalty, and given the progressive nature of the state - 1st out of the Union and then Strom Thurmond for about 100 years after that - she will probably get what she wants. The federal government has yet to decide whether it, too, will seek death or even whether it will jump to the head of the line and insist on prosecuting Roof first.

This would be a propitious time for President Obama to declare opposition to the death penalty and say he will not seek it in the case of Dylann Roof. Obama already seems appropriately worried about capital punishment, what with its sordid history of racial bias, mistakes here and there and certain botched executions. He has said he supports it when "a crime is so terrible" that its application "may be appropriate."

No doubt, Roof's alleged crimes fit the bill. He is accused of murdering nine people on account of their race. He allegedly killed them in church. He spewed racist claptrap and seems to believe in all sorts of fetid racist dogma. In short, if anyone should get the death penalty, it should be Roof.

But nobody should. The death penalty is an anachronism. Common sense - never mind all those studies - tells you it's not a deterrent. Who would be deterred by the prospect of death and not life in prison without the chance of parole? Young Roof, a mere 21, is fairly typical. After his alleged massacre, he took it on the lam. He expected to escape - not only capture but also the death penalty. But to say what he was thinking gives him too much credit. I don't think he thinks at all.

In remarks to a mayors' conference right after the June 17 Charleston massacre, Obama observed that when it comes to guns, America itself is criminally insane: "You don't see murder on this kind of scale, with this kind of frequency, in any other advanced nation on Earth." Yes.

And you don't see capital punishment, either. It remains relegated to the back alleys of the Earth: Afghanistan, China, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Russia and some more. Missing from the list are our stout NATO allies, which is to say most of the advanced world. The last 3 nations on the capital punishment list, alphabetically, are the United States, Vietnam and Yemen. Our crowd!

A racist murder, a racist murder in a black church by a white man, a racist murder in a black church by a white man who spouted racism, would be the dramatically appropriate case for Obama to say that the government will kill no more. The families of some of the victims have already forgiven Dylann Roof. I do not - and never will. But I want him spared the noose - not for his sake, but for ours.

(source: Richard Cohen writes a weekly political column for The Washington Post)


Mississippi murderer's lawsuit stalling execution

The execution of Mississippi's longest-serving death row inmate is being held up over a challenge to the state's lethal injection protocol.

In the past, Attorney General Jim Hood would have asked the Mississippi Supreme Court for an execution date shortly after Richard Gerald Jordan's appeals were exhausted in June.

However, Hood's office said Thursday that Jordan is a plaintiff in a lawsuit to stop the state from using a drug that he argues is experimental and could cause him great pain before he dies.

Also, Hood's office said Jordan's litigation has held up the request to set an execution date because the Mississippi Department of Corrections "can no longer obtain (the anesthetic) pentobarbital and thus will have to obtain another drug in (its) place."

"That change has not been made as of yet and we have informed the federal court we will not request an execution date prior to that change," Hood's office told The Sun Herald ( ).

Pentobarbital, which is produced in European countries, is not available because those countries do not support lethal injection or the death penalty.

Corrections Department officials declined comment, citing the pending litigation.

The state adopted the latest lethal-injection protocol in 2011 after manufacturers of the previous execution drug ceased its distribution to prisons in the United States because it did not want them used in executions.

Jordan's lawsuit, filed by the Solange MacArthur Justice Center in New Orleans, requested an injunction to stop the use of the current execution protocol.

In the suit, lawyer Jim Craig said Mississippi is one of the last states in the nation to use a compounded form of pentobarbital before injecting a paralytic drug and potassium chloride to execute a condemned person.

Craig questioned whether the state could mix a safe and effective form of pentobarbital as an anesthetic.

Jordan was convicted of capital murder committed in the course of kidnapping Edwina Marta in Harrison County in 1976.

Now 68, Jordan is the oldest inmate on Mississippi's death row, having won three successful appeals only to be resentenced to death. He's also the longest serving, having spent 38 years in death row.

Jordan was sentenced to death on 4 separate occasions in the case. Following the first 3 convictions, Jordan challenged his death sentence successfully, was re-tried, and was again re-sentenced to death.

In 1991, after a 3rd successful challenge to his sentence, Jordan entered into an agreement with the prosecution to serve a sentence of life imprisonment without parole in exchange for not further contesting his sentence.

Jordan appealed to the Mississippi Supreme Court, saying he had agreed to the sentence but it was invalid under state law.

The Supreme Court in 1997 agreed, ruling life without parole as a sentencing option did not exist until July 1, 1994. The justices said the only sentences available to Jordan were death or life imprisonment with parole. The justices ordered a new sentencing hearing.

Thereafter, Jordan sought a life with parole sentence. The prosecutor refused. The prosecutor said that, because Jordan "violated" the 1st agreement by asking the court to change his earlier sentence, the prosecutor would not again enter into a plea agreement with Jordan for a life sentence. The prosecutor instead successfully sought the death penalty for the 4th time in a 1998 sentencing trial.

(source: Associated Press)


Prosecution pushes back in River Parishes serial killer appeal

Prosecutors pushed back Thursday against testimony that they did not give defense attorneys for River Parishes serial killer Daniel Blank all the investigative findings needed for him to challenge his 12-hour confession to a murderous 1-year period in the mid-1990s that left 6 people dead.

Glenn Cortello, Blank's lead defense counsel at trial, acknowledged Thursday on cross-examination that he had, in fact, received many of the documents his co-counsel Harold Van Dyke testified Monday that their defense team never received or that he could not remember receiving.

Attorneys with Capital Post-Conviction Project of Louisiana have argued Blank's defense team did not have all the information on other suspects, about crime scenes and other facts that could have undercut the reliability of his confession and kept it from being used in his 1st trial in 1999 for the murder of Lillian Philippe, 72, of Gonzales.

Gary Clements, director of the post-conviction project, has raised this alleged failure to turn over key information as 1 reason Blank had ineffective defense counsel.

Long-standing U.S. Supreme Court precedent requires prosecutors to turn over any information that might point to a defendant's innocence.

Clements also has charged that Blank's attorneys failed to object during one pretrial hearing over allowing the confession at the Philippe trial. But Cortello testified Thursday that their strategic decision came after he had lost attempts to suppress the confession on different grounds following several days of hearings.

At the Philippe trial, prosecutors were able to show jurors all of Blank's confessions to 6 slayings and other armed robberies in which residents were shot. At the time, Blank had not been convicted of any of those charges.

Courts mostly frown on using evidence of other crimes that defendants are not convicted of because it tends to prejudice jurors, though exceptions exist.

Philippe was beaten to death in her home on April 9, 1997, as part of a burglary that prosecutors claimed was done to support Blank's gambling.

Blank was convicted of first-degree murder in September 1999 and given the death penalty. Project attorneys are seeking to have this death penalty conviction overturned. The state Supreme Court already has upheld it.

Judge Jessie LeBlanc, of the 23rd Judicial District, agreed to hold a weeklong evidentiary hearing at the Terrebonne Parish Courthouse in Houma, where the original trial was held due to pretrial publicity.

Blank, 53, who is originally from St. James Parish and lived in Sorrento at the time of the slayings, became the focus of a multiagency task force investigating the string of robberies and homicides of mostly well-to-do, elderly residents of St. James, St. John the Baptist and Ascension parishes.

The task force relied, in part, on an FBI profile to track him in November 1997 to his auto shop in Onalaska, Texas, where he confessed to the slayings and robberies.

In addition to the Philippe murder, Blank also was convicted in 4 other slayings and has 4 life sentences. Blank was never tried in the 6th slaying. Victor Rossi, 41, of St. Amant, was beaten to death with a baseball bat on Oct. 27, 1996.

On Thursday, 23rd Judicial District prosecutor Chuck Long took Cortello through document after document in voluminous pretrial discovery files that prosecutors had turned over to Blank's defense team.

Time and again, Long had Cortello compare those files with defense exhibits previously introduced this week when Van Dyke testified.

But, unlike Van Dyke on Monday, Cortello agreed with Long that many of those defense exhibits that Van Dyke couldn't identify did match the pretrial discovery files, showing Blank's defense attorneys had received the questioned reports years ago.

Cortello also agreed that the content of FBI reports he did not receive restated what local agencies already had uncovered and already were contained in the pretrial discovery in another format.

Long, for instance, had Cortello look at an FBI report that Cortello did not receive that said a friend of Rossi talked to him on the telephone about 8:30 a.m. to 9 a.m. Oct. 27.

That fact potentially contradicted the time of death given for Rossi by the Ascension coroner and Blank’s own statement. Clements has argued Blank's attorneys could have used facts like this one to get his statement thrown out.

But Long then pointed Cortello to the pretrial discovery files. Cortello agreed they had substantially the same information in them. "So that's my point. This was not hidden to you?" Long asked.

"That’s correct," Cortello responded.

Under questioning by Clements, Cortello insisted he and his investigators followed up on lists of suspects law enforcement had ruled out but identified in pretrial discovery and turned over to defense attorneys.

Cortello told Clements that he kept meticulous notes about that work but burned those records several years ago after they were damaged by weather, animals and bugs.

The hearing is expected to resume at 8:30 a.m. Friday.

(source: The Advocate)


Prison Killer Who Severed Penis of Victim Sentenced to Death

An Arizona prison inmate who sliced off the penis of a seriously mentally ill inmate before killing him has been sentenced to death.

Jasper Rushing, 45, already was serving a 28-year prison sentence for the 2001 murder of his stepfather when he mutilated and beat to death his cellmate, 40-year-old Shannon Palmer, in 2010.

He was found guilty by a Maricopa County jury on June 1 after a 10-day trial. On Tuesday, a jury deliberated for 4 1/2 hours following the aggravation and penalty phases of the trial before sentencing him to die, according to County Attorney Bill Montgomery's office.

As covered in a September 1, 2011 feature article in New Times, Palmer, a convicted burglar, had a long history of mental illness when he re-offended in 2008, shooting a gun in his backyard to ward off imaginary attackers. Serving a 3-year sentence for criminal damage, he was placed in a cell in August 2010 with Rushing, whom he proceeded to accidentally aggravate because of his illness. As Rushing himself told former New Times scribe Paul Rubin in the comprehensive article, which tied the murder to the Grand Canyon-size holes in Arizona's mental healthcare system as well as poor prison policy:

"It makes no sense at all to put a murderer in a cell living assholes-to-elbows with a guy who is crazy and probably shouldn't be in prison at all. Bad things can happen in a house like that.

"I can deal with just about anything within reason in prison. All I basically need is light, running water, and a book, and I'm okay. I guess this wasn't within reason.

"Day after day and night after night of his paranoid bullshit, and his disrespect for women and children. It was almost pitchblack in there because they couldn't fix the lights. I couldn’t read or think straight. This is what can happen." What did happen is that Jasper Rushing decided Shannon Palmer needed to die. It was much the same as in 2001, when Rushing, at age 20, murdered his stepfather because he became convinced the man had raped a young family member (no evidence of an assault ever emerged). Rushing shot the sleeping man to death inside a Yavapai County trailer."

Evidence from the trial proved that Palmer was still alive when Rushing cut off his victim's penis before beating him to death with a paperback wrapped in a sheet.

"The death penalty is a just punishment for those particular murders that qualify for the most severe penalty permitted under Arizona law," Montgomery said in a written statement about the jury verdict. "This defendant's case is just such an instance and also proves that incapacitating a violent offender does not guarantee they will not offend again, including taking the life of another."

(source: Phoenix New Times)


Days from an execution, India faces questions over death penalty

India's Supreme Court said Friday that it would hear a last-ditch appeal by a death-row prisoner whose case has renewed questions about capital punishment in the world's 2nd-most populous nation.

The court said it would hear arguments for clemency Monday in the case of Yakub Memon, who is scheduled to be hanged Thursday in connection with a series of bombings that killed hundreds of people in Mumbai, India's financial capital, 2 decades ago.

Indian authorities say Memon, now 53, assisted the 2 masterminds of the blasts, who are believed to be hiding in neighboring Pakistan.

An accountant, Memon was convicted of handling finances for the 1993 attack, in which 13 bombs exploded across the city then known as Bombay, killing 257 people and wounding more than 700.

Critics say that Memon, the only person sentenced to death for the bombings, is being made a scapegoat because Indian authorities have been unable to nab the two suspected masterminds: Memon's older brother, Mushtaq "Tiger" Memon, and Dawood Ibrahim.

10 men convicted of planting the bombs in the Bombay Stock Exchange, luxury hotels, bazaars and other busy areas had their death sentences commuted to life in prison when the Supreme Court ruled 2 years ago that they were pawns of the main conspirators.

Hanging Memon "will only give the impression that the lone man available among the many brains behind the ghastly act of terrorism is being singled out," The Hindu newspaper wrote in an editorial.

Memon, who fled to Pakistan with his family before the attacks, was arrested in 1994. While Indian authorities said he was captured in New Delhi, Memon said he turned himself in to prove his innocence.

While in custody, Memon reportedly persuaded 6 family members to return to India from Pakistan to face charges. 3 were sentenced to prison for aiding the conspirators.

Memon also supplied investigators with what they said was evidence of Pakistan's involvement in the attack, including the names of Pakistani officials who furnished the Memons with travel documents and watched over them in the port city of Karachi. Pakistan denies involvement in the attacks.

"He has been in jail for 20 years and has given the courts some vital information," said Abha Singh, a senior lawyer and activist. "Now if we hang him ... the international community will never be in favor of extraditing any terrorist to India."

The bombings were said to be in retaliation for communal bloodletting that began months earlier after Hindu extremists destroyed a mosque in the northern town of Ayodhya. Hundreds of people, both Hindus and Muslims, died in riots in Mumbai and other cities.

Memon's case also has raised accusations that India is quicker to apply the death penalty in terrorism cases, particularly when Muslims are involved.

India did not carry out any executions for nearly a decade until November 2012, when Mohammed Ajmal Kasab, the lone surviving assailant in the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks, was hanged in secret. Months later, Mohammed Afzal Guru, convicted for an attack on the Indian parliament a decade earlier, was also executed.

4 members of the Sri Lankan Tamil Tiger rebels who were convicted in the 1991 assassination of Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi had their death sentences reduced to life in prison after pressure from political parties in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu.

Asaduddin Owaisi, a Muslim lawmaker, said Friday that Memon was being hanged because he was Muslim. A lawmaker from the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, which has close ties to Hindu nationalist groups, responded that those who don't respect the Indian judiciary can "go to Pakistan."

National Law University in New Delhi recently reported that of several hundred Indians on death row, about 3/4 belonged to religious minorities and underprivileged castes.

Manoj Joshi, a distinguished fellow at the Observer Research Foundation, said the death penalty was beginning to resemble "a whimsical lottery" biased against Muslims.

"Heinous criminals get away with barbaric crimes, terrorists who are politically convenient are given the benefit of doubt, but to make up for it, peripheral players in Islamist terrorist conspiracies feel the full might of the law," Joshi wrote on the Wire, an online news site.

(source: Los Angeles Times)


SC to hear Yakub Memon's plea challenging the death penalty on Monday

The Supreme Court will hear on Monday the plea by 1993 Mumbai serial bomb blasts convict Yakub Memon, challenging the death warrant issued against him and seeking the stay of his execution set for July 30.

"I have already assigned the bench. It will come by Monday," said Chief Justice H.L. Dattu as senior counsel T.R. Andhyarujina mentioned the matter before the bench, which also comprised Justice Arun Mishra and Justice Amitava Roy, on Friday.

Memon has moved the court contending that death warrant for his execution on July 30 was issued even before he could have exhausted the legal remedies that were available to him and when his curative petition was pending consideration by the apex court.

The apex court on July 21 had rejected Memon's curative petition saying that it was void of merit.

On the same day, Memon filed a mercy petition before the Maharashtra governor seeking commutation of his death sentence into life imprisonment.

Memon, in his petition before the apex court, has relied on the apex court's May 27, 2015, verdict where it had quashed the death warrant issued for the execution of Shabnam and her paramour Salim, both convicted for multiple murders of members of the girl's family members including a 10-month-old child, on the grounds of it being illegal as procedure was not followed.

Quashing the death warrant, the court had held that the "Right to live under Article 21 does not end with the confirmation of the of the death sentence by the Supreme Court".

Holding that "even when death sentence has to be executed, the human dignity is protected", the court had said: "That is the reason there are many judgments as to the manner in which the execution is carried should be as painless as possible."

It had held issuance of death warrants by the sessions judge within 6 days of the apex court upholding the death sentence of Shabnam and Salim was "unwarranted".

Memon and 11 others were slapped with the death penalty by the special TADA court in July 2007 for 1993 Mumbai serial bomb blasts in which 257 people were killed and 712 were injured.

The apex court by its March 21, 2013 verdict uphold his death sentence while commuting the death sentence of 10 others (one having died subsequently) to life imprisonment.

The apex court on April 9 had dismissed Memon's plea for the review of death sentence verdict for the 2nd time as it had earlier dismissed his similar plea seeking the recall of March 21, 2013 verdict.



Freed Texas Death Row Survivor Gets Crowdfunding Help----Alfred Dewayne Brown spent 12 years imprisoned for a crime he didn't commit.

The crowdfunding site Indiegogo Life is usually used to raise money for medical emergencies, to help families recover from fires, or even to pay for dogs' vet help. A campaign set to expire soon is helping a man wrongly sent to death row get his life back together.

Alfred Dewayne Brown spent 12 years imprisoned, including a decade in a solitary cell no bigger than the average bathroom, waiting for Texas to put him to death for the 2003 murder of store clerk Alfredia Jones and police officer Charles Clark.

The case garnered worldwide attention when Lisa Falkenberg, a columnist for The Houston Chronicle, told the story of the corrupt justice system that put Brown away. The Indiegogo Life campaign for Brown set a 30-day goal of $5,000, and hit it with 57 hours to go. The campaign ends early Sunday.

Falkenberg's Pulitzer Prize-winning series exposed weaknesses in the Harris County grand jury system, including the intimidation of key witnesses, a possible conflict of interest from the ex-cop jury foreman's connections to Officer Clark, and the lack of physical evidence in Brown's trial.

Brown, now 33, has always maintained his innocence, saying phone records would prove he was wasn't at the scene of the crime. But those phone records were lost. In 2013, a homicide investigator cleaning out his garage found the records, which weren't used in the trial. Subsequently, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals overturned Brown's conviction.

On June 8, 2014, Brown was set free when the Harris County district attorney said there wasn't enough evidence to convict him in a new trial.

Scott Cobb, of the Texas Moratorium Network, set up the Indiegogo account with the blessing of Brown's family and attorney. Cobb said the money will help Brown adjust to life in the free world, minus the small cut for credit card processing.

"My understanding is that it will be a long time before he gets any official compensation, and he may never get any," Cobb said. "Texas took years of his freedom and now it owes him some compensation, but until Texas acts, we have stepped in to ask people to help Dewayne now when he needs help the most readjusting to society."

"Texas operates totally on vengeance," said Pat Hartwell, an anti-death penalty advocate in Harris County. Hartwell was one of the first activists to see Brown after he was set free.

"He's a happy guy, he should be a happy guy, he got a 2nd chance at life," Hartwell said. "We want him to succeed."

(source: Huffington Post)


This year, Texans live without imposing new death sentences

A jury verdict in a death penalty case earlier this year in Fort Worth is a microcosm of what is happening all over the state.

In a trial moved from Young County to Tarrant County, a jury returned a shocking life-without-parole verdict in a case I had predicted was an "automatic" death penalty.

In April 2011, Gabriel Armandariz murdered his 2 young sons - 1 was 2 years old, the other 6 months old - by strangling them. He then hung the younger child's body from a closet clothes rack, snapped a picture and sent it to the children's mother.

The facts were as bad as any I've seen, but after just 8 hours or so of deliberation the jury rejected the death penalty and gave Armandariz life without parole.

The lawyers were crying. The jury was crying. Trial observers were crying. What happened?

10 years ago this would have been a swift death penalty decision. But no longer. Something is changing.

Since the Armandariz trial, 2 more cases in which prosecutors sought the death penalty have resulted instead in jury verdicts of life without the possibility of parole.

Both of these trials occurred in Nueces County (Corpus Christi). In one case, the jury deliberated for just 10 minutes before returning with a non-death-penalty verdict.

These cases raise all kinds of questions: How much taxpayer money was spent on these "failed" attempts to get death? Could these cases have been resolved years ago with a plea?

Have these outcomes set a new standard for the death penalty? And, is there such a thing as an "automatic" death penalty in Texas anymore? Perhaps not.

Media outlets are starting to take note of the fact that more than 7 months have passed since the Texas Department of Criminal Justice "received" a new inmate on death row.

Considering the fact that Texas juries sentenced 48 people to death in 1999, this is an astonishing shift. According to legal experts, this also is the longest Texas has gone in a calendar year without a new death sentence.

Why the change? I believe it is happening because the problems with how the death penalty is assessed have become evident to everyone, including jurors.

The ultimate punishment simply cannot be administered fairly, because it is run by human beings. And human beings make mistakes.

Even those who support the death penalty in theory surely would not argue that keeping it is worth the state taking even one innocent life.

We have to be perfect when it comes to the death penalty or we compound one great injustice with another - the execution of an innocent person. There is no acceptable margin of error when it comes to the death penalty.

The rising number of condemned men being shown to be not guilty and then released from death row around the country makes it painfully clear that we have not been perfect.

Since life in prison without the possibility of parole was adopted in Texas in 2005, prosecutors and jurors have increasingly begun to accept it as a viable way to punish those who are guilty of committing heinous crimes, protect public safety and provide justice to victims' families.

Texas should join the 19 U.S. states where the death penalty has been abolished.

Jurors across this state are sending the message that Texas can live without it.

(source: Opinion; Tim Cole was elected to four terms as the 97th district attorney (Archer, Clay and Montague counties; 1993 to 2006) and served as assistant district attorney in the 271st District (Wise and Jack counties; 2010-2014). He is a criminal defense attorney in Fort Worth----Fort Worth Star-Telegram)


Jamie Hood's mother takes stand in death penalty phase

Jamie Hood continued to make the case to save his life in the death penalty phase of his trial Thursday.

A jury found Hood guilty of 36 charges, including the shooting death of Athens-Clarke County Elmer "Buddy" Christian. He was also convicted of shooting and injured another officer, Tony Howard, and killing Kenneth Omari Wray.

Hood's mother was among the character witnesses he called to testify on his behalf Thursday.

"If he could help me, if you go to him and you need something, if he got it, he would help you," said Azalee Hood.

Hood also brought the mothers of his nieces and nephew and the parents of kids he's coached as character witnesses.

Hood has admitted to shooting the officers, but argued he did so in self-defense.

The prosecution has painted Howard as an impeccable cop. On Thursday, Hood called Howard's stepmother to the stand, who portrayed him in a different light.

"He beat me all in my face and I'd had just had dental surgery, and he beat me all in my head and in my back," she said.

District Attorney Ken Mauldin called that character assassination of a victim and aggressively objected.

"You get shot twice on March 22, 2011, and somehow survive, then all of a sudden the victim has to be attacked -- even by a pro se defendant," Mauldin said. "It's not right."

Hood told the judge that his mother would be his final witness. After closing arguments, the jury will then consider if Hood will receive the death penalty, life in prison without parole and life in prison with the possibility of parole.

(source: WXIA news)


Florida Supreme Court refuses to lift stay of execution

An Orlando man whose execution was postponed by the state Supreme Court earlier this year has another chance to delay his death.

In a 5-2 ruling Thursday, the Florida Supreme Court turned the case of Jerry Correll over to a lower court in Orlando. The court will have hearings to find evidence for a claim that a highly criticized drug used in the state's lethal injections will have particularly adverse effects on Correll.

Correll's case became part of a broader debate over the death penalty in February, when the Florida Supreme Court issued a stay of his execution pending a ruling on the state's use of a drug called midazolam was unconstitutional "cruel and unusual punishment." After the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in June that midazolam is legal, Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi requested that the state be allowed to execute Correll as planned.

But his lawyers have asserted that in this particular case, midazolam -- which is supposed to sedate the inmate -- would cause unconstitutional harm because of alleged brain damage and a history with drugs. By Aug. 27, the Ninth Circuit Court will issue a ruling on Correll's case.

Correll was convicted in the 1985 stabbing deaths of his ex-wife, their daughter and her mother and sister. He was scheduled to be put to death on Feb. 26, and after the Supreme Court delayed his execution, no other death warrants have been signed by Gov. Rick Scott, the longest hiatus since he became governor in 2011.

The Florida Supreme Court's Thursday ruling says nothing about the viability of future executions, now that the U.S. Court has ruled on midazolam. In fact, the justices were clear that the lower court was directed only to consider the drug's effectiveness on Correll given his alleged brain damage.

They left alone the question of whether executions should be halted in Florida pending another U.S. Supreme Court ruling on the death penalty next year. That case calls into question the processes involved in sentencing people to death in Florida.

This silence on the justices' part could allow Scott to start ordering executions again, something he's done at a faster rate than any other Florida governor since the death penalty was reinstated in the 1970s.

(source: Miami Heraqld)


Jury recommends death penalty in murder of Delores Futrell ---- 1st conviction, death sentence in murder of Delores Futrell overturned

A jury came back with an 8 to 4 vote Thursday night recommending the death penalty for the man convicted of 1st-degree murder in the death of Delores Futrell.

Randall Deviney, 25, was convicted last week, after less than three hours of jury deliberations, in the 2008 death of his 65-year-old neighbor.

The state said Deviney, who was convicted of slitting Futrell's throat after attempting to rob her, deserves to pay the ultimate price. The responding officer found her in a "sexual position," and Deviney later told a psychologist that he placed her that way to make it look like someone else killed her.

Deviney's defense team doesn't deny he is responsible for Futrell's death, but was hoping to have the death penalty taken off the table when deciding Deviney's fate.

The defense claimed Deviney was raped by family members, abused and neglected. His own father, Michael Deviney, admitted to the jury Thursday that he had sex in front of Randall and his brother when they were growing up.

The trial began its sentencing phase Thursday, and it was an emotional day for Futrell's relatives, who told the jury what kind of person she was and how much she is missed.

They said Futrell (pictured) cherished her loved ones and went above and beyond to help others.

"She was my mother, my sister, my friend and my support," Futrell's daughter, Jacquelyn Blades said. "To not only me but my military family and to the neighborhood. But that's not sufficient. I have to tell you about her smile."

"It's been almost 8 years since my sister's death, and I still can't bring myself to delete her name from my phone book," Debra Wright said. "I will hold on to the memory of our last warm hug and the last time we said, 'I love you.'"

Randall Deviney was described by his defense team as a troubled child. According to his attorneys, his parents were arrested before Randall was born for the death of their 1st child, Christopher.

"I haven't been the best father in the world, sir, I know that," Michael Deviney said. "It's hard to judge somebody if you don't know them. Don't judge me unless you walk in my shoes."

Attorneys said Randall was stabbed by his younger brother later in life and sexually abused by his mother. The state said the Department of Children and Families and the psychologist who treated Randall Deviney never found proof he was molested, but that same psychologist believes all of those things could have contributed to his state of mind in 2008.

His father and stepmother both said they think the jury should spare Randall Deviney's life. The state said Futrell's family doesn't have the option to have her life spared, and Deviney shouldn't either.

Deviney had been convicted and sentenced to die for killing Futrell, but that conviction was overturned last year when the Florida Supreme Court ruled that Deviney's confession was coerced by police.



Chambers Co. seeks death penalty for suspect in Eldridge murder case

Valley Police Chief says they have upgraded charges on Stacy Demar Gray to capital murder kidnapping and capital murder rape.

Gray,45, has been charged in the death of 25-year-old Renee Eldridge.

The Chambers County District Attorney's office tells News Leader 9 they will seek the death penalty in the capital murder case of Gray. Assistant District Attorney Damon Lewis will be releasing a statement with more information soon.

The upgraded charges mean that if Gray is convicted, he faces life in prison or lethal injection. Gray remains detained at the Chambers County Detention Center.

(source: WTVM news)


No drug, no death: State's lethal injection protocol stalls execution of South Mississippi murderer----State's lethal injection protocol stalls execution of Coast murderer

The execution of Richard Gerald Jordan, Mississippi's longest-serving death row inmate, is being held up over a lawsuit. Jordan filed suit to stop the state from using a lethal cocktail he says is experimental and could cause him great pain before he dies.

Jordan exhausted all of his appeals before the U.S. Supreme Court at the end of June, paving the way for Attorney General Jim Hood to request an execution date.

In other such cases from as far back as April 1989, the Attorney General's Office filed for an execution date within a day or two of the exhaustion of an inmate's final appeal.

Attorney General Jim Hood's office said Jordan's litigation has held up the request to set an execution date because the Mississippi Department of Corrections "can no longer obtain (the anesthetic) pentobarbital and thus will have to obtain another drug in (its) place."

"That change has not been made as of yet and we have informed the federal court we will not request an execution date prior to that change," Hood's office said.

Pentobarbital, which is produced in European countries, is not available because those countries do not support lethal injection or the death penalty.

MDOC did not wish to comment, citing the pending litigation.

The state adopted the latest lethal-injection protocol in 2011 after manufacturers of the previous execution drug ceased its distribution to prisons in the United States because it did not want them used in executions.

Jordan's lawsuit, filed by the Solange MacArthur Justice Center in New Orleans, requested an injunction to stop the use of the current execution protocol.

In the suit, lawyer Jim Craig said Mississippi is one of the last states in the nation to use a compounded form of pentobarbital before injecting a paralytic drug and potassium chloride to execute a condemned person.

He questioned whether the state could mix a safe and effective form of pentobarbital as an anesthetic.

Even if it did, Craig said, it could act more slowly than the previous drugs used, resulting in a person remaining conscious and aware he is suffocating when the paralytic drug is administered prior to potassium chloride to stop the heart.

"... The untried and untested drugs ..." the suit says, result in a substantial risk for the condemned to face a "torturous death by live suffocation and cardiac arrest."

Jordan is suing based on his right to not suffer cruel and unusual punishment.

Family wants justice

That means little to the family members of Jordan's victim, Edwina Marter, who have waited more than 38 years for closure.

"This has been going on for us far too long," said Marter's sister Mary Degruy. "When is this going to happen? Nobody is calling us."

Edwina Marter was 37 years old when Jordan kidnapped and killed her in Harrison County on Jan. 11, 1976.

Degruy still visits her sister's grave in New Orleans often, leaving flowers and maintaining its surroundings in her memory.

Marter and her husband, Charles, had been together for years and had 2 sons.

"She was very good-hearted and she loved her kids," Degruy said. "She did charity and they were well known in Mississippi. She would always come and stay with us for a week or two when the kids weren't in school. We did everything together when we could."

Charles Marter over the years has often spoken out about his wife's killing and the delay in justice, but now in his 70s, he no longer wants to discuss it, his son Eric Marter said.

Eric Marter said he was 11 years old when his mother was murdered.

"She was a stay-at-home mom and she took care of us," he said. "She was always there for us. But ours wasn't a normal childhood with a mom and dad because of this."

As for Jordan, he said, "He should have been executed a long time ago."

The murder plot

Jordan killed Edwina Marter execution-style shortly after he arrived in South Mississippi on Jan. 11, 1976, and spotted Gulf National Bank at U.S. 90 and U.S. 49 in Gulfport. He called and asked for the name of the senior commercial loan officer and was told it was Charles Marter, who was also vice president of the bank.

Jordan went through a Gulfport city directory, which at that time listed occupations, to find Marter's home address.

Jordan went to the home, posing as an electrical repairman to check the breaker boxes, and Edwina Marter let him in.

He grabbed her as her 3-year-old son slept in a bedroom and forced her into a car. He drove to De Soto National Forest, where he let her out and killed her.

After the killing, Jordan called Charles Marter demanding a $25,000 ransom in exchange for his wife's safe return. He told Marter to wrap the ransom up in a brown paper bag and drop it off at a location on U.S. 49. Marter gathered up the money, but also alerted authorities.

Twice Marter tried to deliver the ransom to Jordan, but Jordan saw law enforcement officers as Marter was making his way to the drop-off point. He left both times. He contacted Marter a third time, telling him to leave the money under a jacket on Interstate 10 near the Canal Road exit.

Marter left the money, but neither he nor Jordan knew authorities were watching.

When Jordan picked up the money, authorities chased him, but he eluded them. He drove to a discount pharmacy to buy new clothes, then called a taxi. He was in a taxi when authorities arrested him in a roadblock.

Jordan confessed to killing Edwina Marter and told authorities where to find her body. Her family said she'd been shot and tied to a tree.

"He took my sister away and we're still dealing with it," Degruy said. "I think he's been living long enough. It's not fair to us. You know, you don't like people to die, but he deserves it."

(source: Biloxi Sun Herald)


Major Davis asks for murder charge to be dismissed in Officer Perry Renn case

The man charged in the 2014 shooting death of Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department officer Perry Renn says he has been denied his constitutional right to a fast and speedy trial.

Major Davis Jr., the man facing the death penalty for the 2014 shooting death of a police officer, is asking a Marion County judge to dismiss the murder charge against him.

Davis, who is charged in the July 2014 slaying of Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department officer Perry Renn, argued in court records that the charge against him should be dismissed because Marion Superior Court Judge Marc Rothenberg wrongfully denied him his constitutional right for a fast and speedy trial.

Rothenberg has struck down Davis' multiple requests for a fast and speedy trial. In response, Davis filed 2 motions to dismiss in the past 2 months.

The 26-year-old defendant had gone against the advice of his public defenders when he asked for a fast and speedy trial. That request, as well as the motions to dismiss, were made without the authorization or signatures of one or both of Davis' attorneys, Ray Casanova and Eric Koselke.

Neither Casanova nor Koselke has returned calls requesting comment.

Rothenberg cited violation of trial procedures, when he denied Davis' previous requests for a fast and speed trial. The judge struck down the requests because the motions were filed without any of Davis' public defenders' signature. The state's trial rules require pleadings and motions to be signed by an attorney. In Davis' case, "fast and speedy trial may be waived by counsel for purposes of trial strategy," Rothenberg said during a hearing in March.

In that hearing, Davis said he has grown frustrated with his public defenders for going against his desire for a speedy trial. He also admitted receiving legal advice from someone else other than his attorneys, but he refused to identify that person.

His court-appointed attorneys a few days later asked Rothenberg to move Davis to a state prison, after concerns that a "clergyman" had been visiting Davis at Marion County Jail and "may be engaging in the unauthorized practice of law and obstruction of justice," court records say.

Davis is being held at Indiana State Prison in Michigan City, about 170 miles north of Indianapolis.

Court records do not name the clergyman who attorneys say has been intervening in the case, but the Rev. Mmoja Ajabu had been speaking publicly on behalf of the Davis family.

Ajabu told The Indianapolis Star that he does not know who that "clergyman" is. He said Davis is the one who decided to seek the dismissal of the murder charge and "rightfully so," he added.

"It's time for his constitutional rights to be recognized and that the case be dismissed as the Constitution says it should," Ajabu said. "When you talk about the right to a fast and speedy trial, that’s one of the foundations of American jurisprudence. ... For him to be denied his rights, it scares me."

In a ruling on Davis' 1st motion to dismiss filed in April, Rothenberg cited the same reason he denied the requests for speedy trial: It's a violation of the Indiana Rules of Trial and Procedure because it wasn't signed by Davis' attorneys.

Davis filed the amended motion to dismiss last week. Rothenberg has not ruled on it yet.

The case is scheduled for an Aug. 21 pretrial conference in Marion Superior Court.

(source: Indianapolis Star)


White victim is key indicator for receiving death penalty in Missouri

Homicides involving white victims are seven times more likely to result in an execution than those involving black victims, according to a recent study on the racial disparities of executions in Missouri.

And homicides involving white female victims are nearly 14 times more likely to result in an execution than those involving black male victims.

"These disparities are so great that they call in to question the equity of the application of the harshest penalty, adding to growing concerns that the death penalty is applied in an unfair, capricious and arbitrary manner," stated Frank R. Baumgartner, a political science professor at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, who did the study.

Baumgartner's study, released on July 16, is titled "The impact of race, gender and geography on Missouri executions."

Between 1976 and 2014, the study found that the state of Missouri executed 80 men. 81 % of these men were executed for the murder of white victims.

"This is striking given that 60 % of all homicide victims in Missouri are black," Baumgartner wrote.

White women represent just 12 % of all homicide victims, but constitute 37 % of the victims in execution cases, according to the study. Black men, by contrast, represent 52 % of all homicide victims, but just 12 % of the individuals who were executed in Missouri were convicted of killing black men.

Adolphus Pruitt, president of the St. Louis City NAACP, said these statistics do not surprise him, "when you take into consideration that Missouri courts found that county prosecutors excluded black jurors because of race 5 times since 2002."

He said the courts' finding prompted elected officials, attorneys and others to send Governor Jay Nixon a letter in April asking for a Board of Inquiry to examine the exclusions of African Americans from juries in St. Louis County death penalty cases.

The group said when black men go up against an all-white jury, they are more likely to get a death sentence. Nixon has not yet acted on their letter.

The study gives their claim teeth. It shows that a person convicted of homicide in St. Louis County is 3 times more likely to be executed than if they were convicted of the same crime in the vast majority of other counties in the state, and 13 times more likely to be executed than if they are convicted of the same crime in the city of St. Louis.

Nixon also declined an interview with The St. Louis American regarding Baumgartner's study.

Nationally, the Bureau of Justice Statistics reports that from 1980 through 2008, white perpetrators killed 84 % of white victims of homicide, and 93 % of black victims were killed by black perpetrators.

Further, this tendency for crimes to be within racial group remains true even among "stranger homicides" - where the victim does not know the offender, Baumgartner found. Black-on-black crimes are extremely unlikely to be punished with the death penalty, however.

"The importance of the victims' race in the application of the death penalty has created a system where whites are likely to face the death penalty only for within-race crimes, and blacks for cross-race crimes," he wrote. "In other words, the race and gender of the victim is a key determining factor in deciding who faces execution in Missouri."

Here are a few other key findings of his research:

-- Homicides committed in Callaway, Schuyler and Moniteau counties are 30 to 70 times more likely to result in an execution than homicides committed in the vast majority of the state's counties.

-- A majority of the state’s 80 executions that occurred between 1976 and 2014 come from just 3, or 2.6 %, of the state's 114 counties and the independent city of St. Louis.

-- 81 % of the individuals executed in Missouri were convicted of killing white victims even though white victims are less than 40 % of all murder victims in the state.

-- Even though the vast majority of murders involve an offender and victim(s) of the same race, 54 % of the African-American men executed by Missouri were convicted of crimes involving white victims.

The Missouri analysis is based on a larger, nationwide study Baumgartner conducted with Amanda Grigg and Alisa Mastro titled "#BlackLivesDon'tMatter: Race-of-Victim Effects in US Executions, 1977-2013." See the larger study at:

See the Missouri study at:

(source: The St.Louis American)


Aurora shooting jury: James Holmes's crimes satisfy first death penalty criteria ---- Jurors find that James Holmes's actions at movie theater shooting included 'aggravating factors' - the 1st of 3 steps required to sentence him to death

Jurors in the Aurora shooting trial found on Thursday that the defendant's actions included "aggravating factors" - the 1st step of 3 required to sentence James Holmes to death.

12 people died and 70 were injured in the July 2012 shooting, which took place at a showing of The Dark Knight Rises. Earlier this month, Holmes was convicted on 165 counts, including 24 for 1st-degree murder.

In Colorado, jurors are required to consider death sentence in 3 phases. In the 1st, prosecutors attempt to prove the crimes being considered had at least 1 "aggravating factor".

In Holmes's case, prosecutors attempted to prove 5 aggravating factors for most of the counts of 1st-degree murder against him, and jurors found at least 1 aggravating factor in each of the 24 counts.

1 aggravating factor was the murder of a child younger than 12. Another proved by prosecutors was that Holmes ambushed his victims by "lying in wait"; he also created a grave risk to another person during the commission of a crime.

The jury's verdicts, which were read by Judge Carlos Samour Jr, brought the case to the next phase: consideration of capital punishment. Had the jury not found aggravating factors, Holmes would have been sentenced to life in prison.

In the 2nd phase, jurors will consider factors that could mitigate the aggravating factors. If a 3rd phase is needed, jurors will decide whether to sentence Holmes to life without parole, or death.

If Holmes is sentenced to death, he will be 1 of 4 people on Colorado’s death row. The state has executed 1 person since 1977. 19 states in the US do not use capital punishment.

(source: The Guardian)


Key Witness Refuses To Testify In Denver Death Penalty Case

A key witness in a death penalty case in Denver has refused to testify.

Dexter Lewis is on trial for stabbing 5 people to death in a Denver bar during a botched robbery attempt.

Lewis, 25, is charged with killing 5 people inside Fero's Bar & Grill on South Colorado Boulevard in October 2012 and then setting the building on fire.

2 co-defendants, brothers Lynell and Joseph Hill, pleaded guilty to the killings in July 2013 in an agreement to testify against Lewis. They said he had accompanied Lewis to rob the bar.

Joseph Hill was scheduled to testify on Thursday but refused to take the stand. He has already been sentenced to life in prison. His brother, Lynell, remains in prison on a 70-year sentence for the murders.

The victims included 53-year-old Young Suk Fero, an Aurora woman who owned the bar; Daria M. Pohl, 21, of Denver; Kellene Fallon, 44, of Denver; Ross Richter, 29, of Overland Park, Kansas; and Tereasa Beesley, 45, of Denver.

( Lewis also is charged with trying to hire a former prison cellmate to kill several witnesses who were expected to testify against him.

(source: CBS news)


Seattle cop killer avoids death sentence----Jury unanimous in decision - life without parole for Chris Monfort

Seattle cop killer Christopher Monfort will die in prison. Eventually.

Coming to a verdict within minutes of the close of trial, a King County jury asked by prosecutors to order Monfort's death spared him execution. Instead, Monfort will be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for the cold-blooded murder of Seattle Police Officer Timothy Brenton.

The death sentence sought against Monfort would've been, for the moment at least, a pro forma order as Washington's governor has paused executions in the state. The slow pace of the state's death row would likely have meant years if not decades of delay before the executioners would get to Monfort, a 46-year-old left medically fragile and unable to walk following a shootout with police.

Nearly 7 years have passed since Monfort killed a Seattle police officer during a weeks-long anti-cop rampage. Jailed since his arrest a week after the Halloween 2009 murder of Brenton, Monfort was convicted of aggravated 1st-degree murder and other crimes in June.

The same jury that convicted him began deliberations Thursday afternoon on whether he should be executed. Having been empaneled since January, the jurors reached their verdict in just an hour.

Filing out of the courtroom for a final time, 11 of the 12 jurors who rendered the unanimous verdict passed without comment. The 12th described an arduous process while declining to explain the jury's thinking.

"Now that the trial is over, I don't think there's really anything to say other than it really was a horrible incident full of sadness, just regrettable in every way," the juror said. "I'm very glad that the jury was unanimous in both verdicts that we gave."

Any juror hearing Monfort's case could have stood alone against execution and spared Monfort. That all 12 jurors weighing the case found a compelling reason not to kill Monfort may be unprecedented in Washington's recent history of capital punishment.



Death penalty considered in death of 5-year-old Kansas girl

Federal prosecutors are considering whether to seek the death sentence for a 31-year-old man accused of killing a 5-year-old Kansas girl.

Prosecutors allege Marcas McGowan kidnapped Cadence Harris from an Atchison home they shared with the girl's mother in July 2014. A police chase ended near Leavenworth when McGowan exchanged gunfire with officers. Cadence was found dead in the car.

The Kansas City Star reports McGowan initially faced state murder charges. In February, prosecutors dismissed the state charge after a federal grand jury indicted McGowan on charges including kidnapping and using a firearm during a violent crime.

A motion filed by McGowan's attorneys says federal prosecutors in Kansas have submitted the case to the Justice Department's death penalty review board in Washington.

They expect a decision within 90 days.


Man accused in church shooting indicted on dozens of federal charges, including hate crimes

5 weeks after 9 people were slain at a black Charleston church, federal authorities have indicted the suspected shooter on dozens of new charges, including hate crimes, firearms violations and obstructing the practice of religion.

The prosecution, particularly on hate crimes, has been expected since the June 17 shootings at Emanuel African Methodist Church in Charleston. The suspected shooter, 21-year-old Dylann Roof, is white and appeared in photos waving Confederate flags and burning or desecrating U.S. flags. He purportedly wrote online of fomenting racial violence, and federal authorities on Wednesday confirmed his use of a personal manuscript in which he decried integration and used racial slurs to refer to blacks.

Roof is scheduled to be arraigned Monday on the new charges, according to court records. On Thursday, the federal judge assigned to the case provisionally appointed David Bruck to represent Roof on the federal charges. Bruck was the lawyer for Boston Marathon Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who was sentenced to death, and Susan Smith, the South Carolina mother sentenced to life for drowning her 2 sons.

Hate crimes cases can be tricky to bring, with the onus on authorities to prove a suspect's motivations and intentions. But 1 expert who has followed this case says some of the extenuating circumstances of Roof's case could potentially make it easier for prosecutors - and more difficult for his defense team.

"All a jury is going to have to do is look at the crime that was committed and the victims that he selected and then read what he wrote in advance, and then look at the photos, as well as things that he might have said to people about why he was committing the crimes," Cornell Law School professor Jens Ohlin said. "This strikes me as an incredibly easy case for a federal prosecution. It's not clear to me at all what kind of defense strategy his lawyers could come up with."

Although what tack Roof's defense lawyers might take is unclear, Ohlin said their job may be made even more difficult if Roof were to be unapologetic for any of the photos or writings.

"Dylann Roof might object to his lawyers trying to defend him against the hate crimes charges," Ohlin said. "If the lawyers go in there and say, 'This wasn't a hate crime' - he might not let his lawyers say that. His view might be: 'This was a hate crime, and I'm proud of it.'"

The Justice Department has not decided whether it will seek the death penalty against Roof, nor whether its prosecution will come before a state case that includes murder charges and another potential death penalty prosecution.

Because South Carolina has no state hate-crimes law, federal charges were needed to adequately address a motive that prosecutors believe was unquestionably rooted in racial hate, U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch said during a Wednesday news conference.

Roof, Lynch said, had for several months prior to the shootings conceived a goal of "increasing racial tensions throughout the nation and seeking retribution for perceived wrongs he believed African-Americans had committed against white people."

To carry out those goals, he "decided to seek out and murder African-Americans because of their race," Lynch said, adding he had purposefully selected the historic church to "ensure the greatest notoriety and attention to his actions."

He took advantage of his victims' generosity when they welcomed Roof into their Bible-study group, she said.

"The parishioners had Bibles. Dylann Roof had his .45-caliber Glock pistol and eight magazines loaded with hollow-point bullets."

Hate crime cases are often challenging for the government because it must prove that a defendant was primarily motivated by a victim's race or religion as opposed to other factors frequently invoked by defense attorneys, such as drug addiction or mental illness.

Last year, a federal appeals court in Ohio overturned hate crime convictions against Amish men and women accused in beard- and hair-cutting attacks against fellow Amish who were thought to have defied the community leader.

The court held that the jury had received incorrect instructions about how to weigh the role of religion in the attacks and that prosecutors should have had to prove the assaults wouldn't have happened but for religious motives.

(source for both: Associated Press)


After 13 years, Godhra carnage accused held in Madhya Pradesh

An accused in the 2002 Sabarmati Express train burning incident has been arrested from Jhabua in Madhya Pradesh by the Godhra Local Crime Branch (LCB).

Hussain Suleman Mohan (35) was arrested by LCB from Jhabua on Wednesday based on a specific tip-off, Police Inspector of Godhra LCB D J Chavda said. "Suleman has been on the run after the 2002 Godhra train burning incident. Recently, we learnt that he is hiding in Jhabua, where he has settled and become an auto driver.

We nabbed him yesterday and handed him over to the Special Investigating Team (SIT) here today," Chavda said on Thursday. This is the 2nd wanted accused of train carnage case who has been nabbed by the Godhra LCB within a week.

On July 16, the LCB had nabbed Kadir Abdul Gani from Godhra town and handed him over to SIT, he said. 59 persons had lost their lives when the S-6 coach of Sabarmati Express was torched at Godhra Railway Station on February 27, 2002.

The incident had triggered large-scale riots in the state in which around 1,000 people, mostly of minority community, were killed.

In February 2011, a special court had convicted 31 persons for the train burning incident. Out of the 31, eleven were awarded death penalty, while 20 were given life term.

(source: Asian Age)


Yakub Memon does not deserve to be hanged, top intelligence office wrote

One of India's top intelligence officers, B Raman, who led the operation to bring 1993 Mumbai blasts convict Yakub Memon back to India from Pakistan in 1994, had written that he did not believe that Memon deserved to hang. The article sent to website in 2007, was however, not published at his request.

Yakub Memon was ordered to be sent to the gallows after the Supreme Court on March 21, 2013, upheld the death sentence awarded to him in the 1993 serial blasts that killed 257 people and left over 1,700 injured.

The Supreme Court will on Monday hear the petition of Memon against his hanging. Memon, the lone death-row convict in the 1993 Mumbai serial blasts case, had moved the Supreme Court on Thursday seeking a stay on the execution of his death sentence.

B Raman passed away on June 16, 2013. With Yakub Memon's execution scheduled for July 30, secured permission from Raman's brother to publish the article.

Rediff editor Sheela Bhatt in her background introduction to Raman's 2007 article writes, "When Yakub Memon was sentenced to death Mr Raman was in pain. He called me to share why it was very wrong on the part of the Indian establishment to allow Yakub Memon to die by decree of law."

Raman, who was heading the Pakistan desk at the Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW) in 1994. wrote in the article he sent to in 2007, "I have been going through a moral dilemma in my mind ever since I read in the media about the sentencing of Yakub Memon to death by the court, which tried the accused in the Mumbai blasts of March 1993, and his tantrums in the court after the death sentence was pronounced."

Yakub "cooperated with the investigating agencies and assisted them by persuading some other members of the Memon family to flee from the protection of the ISI in Karachi to Dubai and surrender to the Indian authorities," he added.

He went on to say, "The cooperation of Yakub with the investigating agencies after he was picked up informally in Kathmandu and his role in persuading some other members of the family to come out of Pakistan and surrender constitute, in my view, a strong mitigating circumstance to be taken into consideration while considering whether the death penalty should be implemented."

The top officer concludes his article with the following paragraphs. "There is not an iota of doubt about the involvement of Yakub and other members of the family in the conspiracy and their cooperation with the ISI till July 1994. In normal circumstances, Yakub would have deserved the death penalty if one only took into consideration his conduct and role before July 1994.

But if one also takes into consideration his conduct and role after he was informally picked up in Kathmandu, there is a strong case for having 2nd thoughts about the suitability of the death penalty in the subsequent stages of the case."

(source: The Times of India)


Death penalty to Yakub Memon: Terror threat hangs over independence day

The security agencies have got a whiff of a terror plot being hatched to avenge the death penalty given to 1993 Mumbai blast accused Yakub Memon.

Communication intercepts from various terror groups have revealed that a major strike may be carried out during the Independence Day celebrations.

Memon is slated to be hanged on July 30.

In a bid to stop any such strike, the security forces have put in place a counter offensive to thwart the attack by launching what is being termed as "Operation Lal Quila". The intercepts of major terror groups such as the Indian Mujahideen (IM), Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM), Tehrik-e-Furqan (TeF), Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and Pasban-e-Ahle Hadis (PAH) were received recently.

Some intelligence inputs have also been received on the possible involvement of ISIS (Islamic State).

During a meeting at the Prime Minster Security Unit of the Delhi Police, a very high threat perception was conveyed to the authorities.

Among many measures that are being put in place, the highly-trained sniffer dogs (K9) unit of the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) will be used to patrol the high-risk areas.

The ITBP sniffer dogs are among the best trained in India and have been earmarked for national security endeavours.

Recently, ITBP dog Sofia, a Malinois, detected an IED planted by Delhi Police on the Rajpath lawns within 60 seconds of deployment.

"ITBP Dogs are the only dogs in India to be trained following highly classified training module that certifies dogs only with 100 % accuracy with minimum target odour concentration," said sources.

Delhi Police and crack units of the ITBP will work in tandem for anti-sabotage sanitisation at Red Fort. They will look out for Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) and other explosives.


SAUDI ARABIA----execution

First Saudi execution after Ramadan pause

Saudi Arabia carried out its 1st execution in 5 weeks on Thursday after a pause for Ramadan, beheading one of its citizens convicted of a double murder. Sayir al-Rasheedi was found guilty of fatally shooting 2 Saudi brothers in a dispute, the official Saudi Press Agency reported, citing the interior ministry. Authorities carried out the sentence against him in the Qassim.

Sayir al-Rasheedi was found guilty of fatally shooting 2 Saudi brothers in a dispute, the official Saudi Press Agency reported, citing the interior ministry.

Authorities carried out the sentence against him in the Qassim region.

SPA had reported no executions during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan and the Eid al-Fitr holiday which followed.

The latest beheading brings to 103 the number of executions in the kingdom so far this year, a sharp increase on the 87 recorded during the whole of 2014, according to AFP tallies.

This year's figure is still below the record 192 which human rights group Amnesty International said were carried out in 1995.

Human Rights Watch has accused Saudi authorities of waging a "campaign of death" by executing more people in the first 6 months of this year than in all of last year.

Echoing the concerns of other activists, the New York-based group said it has documented "due process violations" in Saudi Arabia's judiciary that make it difficult for defendants to get fair trials even in capital cases.

Under the conservative kingdom's strict Islamic sharia legal code, drug trafficking, rape, murder, armed robbery and apostasy are all punishable by death.

The interior ministry has cited deterrence as a reason for carrying out the punishment.



Iran's 'staggering' execution spree: nearly 700 put to death in just over 6 months

The Iranian authorities are believed to have executed an astonishing 694 people between 1 January and 15 July 2015, said Amnesty International today, in an unprecedented spike in executions in the country.

This is equivalent to executing more than three people per day. At this shocking pace, Iran is set to surpass the total number of executions in the country recorded by Amnesty International for the whole of last year.

"Iran's staggering execution toll for the 1st half of this year paints a sinister picture of the machinery of the state carrying out premeditated, judicially-sanctioned killings on a mass scale," said Said Boumedouha, Deputy Director of Amnesty International's Middle East and North Africa Programme.

"If Iran's authorities maintain this horrifying execution rate we are likely to see more than 1,000 state-sanctioned deaths by the year's end."

The surge in executions reveals just how out of step Iran is with the rest of the world when it comes to the use of the death penalty - 140 countries worldwide have now rejected its use in law or practice. Already this year three more countries have repealed the death penalty completely.

Executions in Iran did not even stop during the holy month of Ramadan. In a departure from established practice, at least 4 people were executed over the past month.

While Amnesty International opposes the use of the death penalty unconditionally and in all cases, death sentences in Iran are particularly disturbing because they are invariably imposed by courts that are completely lacking in independence and impartiality. They are imposed either for vaguely worded or overly broad offences, or acts that should not be criminalized at all, let alone attract the death penalty. Trials in Iran are deeply flawed, detainees are often denied access to lawyers in the investigative stage, and there are inadequate procedures for appeal, pardon and commutation.

"The Iranian authorities should be ashamed of executing hundreds of people with complete disregard for the basic safeguards of due process," said Said Boumedouha.

"The use of the death penalty is always abhorrent, but it raises additional concerns in a country like Iran where trials are blatantly unfair."

The reasons behind this year's shocking surge in executions are unclear but the majority of those put to death in 2015 were convicted on drug charges.

Iran's Anti-Narcotics Law provides mandatory death sentences for a range of drug-related offences, including trafficking more than 5kg of narcotics derived from opium or more than 30g of heroin, morphine, cocaine or their chemical derivatives.

This is in direct breach of international law, which restricts the use of the death penalty to only the "most serious crimes" - those involving intentional killing. Drug-related offences do not meet this threshold.

There is also no evidence to prove that the death penalty is a deterrent to crime and drug trafficking or use. Earlier this year, the deputy of Iran's Centre for Strategic Research admitted that the death penalty has not been able to reduce drug trafficking levels.

"For years, Iranian authorities have used the death penalty to spread a climate of fear in a misguided effort to combat drug trafficking, yet there is not a shred of evidence to show that this is an effective method of tackling crime," said Said Boumedouha.

Many of those convicted of drug-related offences come from disadvantaged backgrounds. Their cases are rarely publicized. In a letter circulated online in June, 54 prisoners held on death row in Ghezel Hesar prison near Tehran described their plight:

"We are the victims of a state of hunger, poverty and misery, hurled down into the hollows of perdition by force and without our will ... If we had jobs, if we did not need help, if we could turn our lives around and stop our children from going hungry, why should we have gone down a path that guaranteed us our death?"

"We are the victims of a state of hunger, poverty and misery, hurled down into the hollows of perdition by force and without our will ... If we had jobs, if we did not need help, if we could turn our lives around and stop our children from going hungry, why should we have gone down a path that guaranteed us our death?"

54 prisoners held on death row in Ghezel Hesar prison near Tehran.

Among those executed in Iran are also members of ethnic and religious minorities convicted of "enmity against God" and "corruption on earth" including Kurdish political prisoners and Sunni Muslims.

Currently, based on monitoring work done by Amnesty International and other human rights organizations, several thousand people are believed to be on death row in Iran. The Iranian authorities have said that 80% of those awaiting execution are convicted of drug-related offences. They have not, however, provided an exact number.

"It is especially harrowing that there is no end in sight for this theatre of cruelty with Iran's gallows awaiting thousands more death row prisoners," said Said Boumedouha.

Prisoners in Iran are often left languishing on death row, wondering each day if it will be their last. In many cases they are notified of their execution only a few hours beforehand and in some cases, families learn about the fate of their loved ones days, if not weeks, later.


Each year the Iranian authorities acknowledge a certain number of judicial executions. However, many more judicial executions are carried out but not acknowledged.

As of 15 July 2015, the Iranian authorities had officially acknowledged 246 executions this year but Amnesty International has received credible reports of a further 448 executions carried out in this time period. In 2014, 289 people were executed according to official sources but credible reports suggested that the real figure was at least 743.

Each year Amnesty International reports both the number of officially acknowledged executions in Iran and the number of executions the organization has been able to confirm took place, but which were not officially acknowledged. When calculating the annual global total number of executions Amnesty International has, to date, only counted executions officially acknowledged by the Iranian authorities.

The organization has reviewed this approach and believes it fails to fully reflect the scale of executions in Iran, about which the authorities must be transparent. In its 2015 annual report on the death penalty, and all other reporting on the death penalty in Iran, Amnesty International will use the combined figure of officially acknowledged executions and those executions not officially admitted but which the organization has confirmed took place.

(source: Amnesty International)


Pak to resume executions after 'Ramzan hiatus'

Pakistan is set to resume execution of death row prisoners almost a month after suspending the practice during the Muslim holy month of Ramzan.

After the hiatus, a district and sessions judge in Lahore handed down the 1st death penalty to 2 convicts, who are scheduled to be hanged at Kot Lakhpat Jail on July 28 and 29 respectively, reported The Express Tribune.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had asked authorities to suspend executions during Ramzan to respect the 'sanctity of the holy month'.

(source: The Siasat Daily)


Don't Execute Man with Mental Disability ---- Looming Execution Would Violate International Legal Protections

The Pakistani government should grant an immediate reprieve to death row prisoner Khizar Hayat because of his psychosocial disability, Human Rights Watch said today. On July 23, 2015, a court in Lahore scheduled Hayat's execution for July 28. Putting to death an individual with psychosocial or other mental disabilities would violate Pakistan’s international legal obligations, Human Rights Watch said.

"Executing people with mental health conditions is a barbarous affront to decency and serves no criminal justice purpose," said Phelim Kine, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch. "It's a victory of vengeance over respect for the rights of all people."

Police arrested Hayat, a former policeman, in 2001 for allegedly killing a colleague. A court sentenced Hayat to death in 2003. Prison doctors later diagnosed Hayat with paranoid schizophrenia in 2008 and prison officials have dispensed him antipsychotic medication ever since. According to his lawyers, by 2012 Hayat had become so delusional that prison authorities isolated him from the general prison population by moving him to the prison hospital, where he has spent the last 3 years. The human rights law firm Justice Project Pakistan called for a reprieve for Hayat in a background brief because of his psychosocial disability.

The United Nations Human Rights Committee and UN special experts have determined that the execution of a person with a psychosocial disability would be in violation of the right to be free from cruel, inhuman, or degrading punishment. The UN Commission on Human Rights adopted resolutions in 1999 and 2000 urging countries that retain the death penalty not to impose it "on a person suffering from any form of mental disorder." Pakistan is also a party to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which affirms fundamental protections for people with psychosocial disabilities.

Hayat's scheduled execution would also mark the end of the 1-month pause in executions implemented by the Pakistani government during the holy month of Ramadan. Pakistan's government has executed 176 death row prisoners since December 2014. On April 21, 2015, the government executed its highest number of people in single day by executing at least 15 people that day. Those executions are part of a state response to the horrific December 16, 2014 attack by the Pakistani Taliban splinter group Tehreek-e-Taliban on a school in Peshawar in northwestern Pakistan that left at least 148 dead - almost all of them children.

"Pakistan's president should immediately commute Khizar Hayat's execution and prevent a ghastly infringement of basic rights," Kine said. "The Pakistani government should take this opportunity to reaffirm its human rights commitments and explicitly reject the odious practice of executing people with psychosocial disabilities."

(source: Human Rights Watch)

JULY 23, 2015:


Poll: Should mom charged with throwing baby off bridge face death penalty?

Lehigh County District Attorney Jim Martin announced this week he would seek the death penalty in a case that shocked the public - a young Allentown mother accused of throwing her 1-year-old son off a city bridge before jumping off herself.

Prosecutors have discretion in making this call, which would allow the prosecution to seek the death penalty if the defendant, 20-year-old Johnesha Perry, were convicted of 1st-degree murder. "Aggravating" factors must be cited to justify the argument for capital punishment, such use of torture, committing another felony at the time of the murder, putting others at grave risk, etc.

The aggravating factor in the Perry case, Martin said, is the killing of a child.

In the event of a 1st-degree murder conviction, the defense may present "mitigating" factors to oppose the death penalty, such as a defendant's mental history or impairment. Public defender Kim Makoul said the defense plans to focus on Perry's mental state at the time of the incident.

Witnesses say Perry put the boy on the railing of the Hamilton Street bridge, gave him a kiss and pushed him into the Lehigh River before jumping herself. She survived; the baby died days later.

Making this a capital case ensures, in the case of a death sentence, a review by the state Supreme Court and probably a long appeals process that - given the recent history of such cases - won't result in execution. Right now the state's death-penalty law is being blocked, if temporarily, by Gov. Tom Wolf's moratorium on executions.



Wolf, in new court filing, defends use of death row reprieve

Pennsylvania's governor argued in a court filing Tuesday that he has nearly unlimited power to grant reprieves to death row inmates, and he asked the state Supreme Court to deny a challenge to his use of that authority.

Gov. Tom Wolf's lawyers were responding to a request by state Attorney General Kathleen Kane, a fellow Democrat, that the justices nullify his moratorium on executions. They said the "broad and unfettered executive power" has been in practice since the 17th century.

"Because the governor's power of reprieve is not otherwise limited by the Pennsylvania Constitution, this court has no cause to intervene or restrict the governor's exercise of this purely executive power in this case or any other," his lawyers wrote.

Wolf said the legal issues raised by Kane's office in the case of convicted killer Hubert Lester Michael Jr. are similar to those already pending before the Supreme Court in a separate reprieve, issued for inmate Terrance Williams, that is being challenged by Philadelphia's district attorney.

Wolf wants the court to deny the attorney general's petition or put it on hold until the Philadelphia case is heard, partly to avoid duplication and avoid wasting judicial resources. Oral arguments in the Williams reprieve challenge are scheduled for September.

"The legal issue raised by and the arguments advanced in the attorney general's petition are fundamentally indistinguishable from those presented" in Williams' case, Wolf's lawyers said.

Kane spokesman Chuck Ardo said the attorney general's office was reviewing Wolf's response but feels strongly that "1 size does not fit all in this matter. And we will continue to seek justice."

Kane, in her petition filed 2 weeks ago, argued Wolf's action was blatantly unconstitutional and a threat to the justice system. Wolf announced the policy of reprieves shortly after taking office this year, calling the current death penalty system "error-prone, expensive and anything but infallible."

He said he would continue to issue them for imminent executions at least until he receives the results of an overdue report by a legislative commission on the death penalty in Pennsylvania.

Michael is on death row for shooting 16-year-old Trista Eng in York County in July 1993.

Pennsylvania has executed only three people since the death penalty was legalized in the 1970s, the most recent in 1999.

(source: Associated Press)


Activists argue for more transparency for NC death penalty

Human rights groups and the sponsor of a bill changing North Carolina’s death penalty law agree that the law limits transparency for the process, but they disagree on whether the public has a right to know more about the drugs used to kill people.

A Senate committee on Thursday endorsed to a bill clarifying that executions are exempt from the state's rulemaking requirements. That would allow officials to find new drugs for lethal injection faster, and with less public review. The bill also prohibits the disclosure of where those drugs are manufactured.

The bill's sponsor says if people knew where the drugs were made, protesters would begin showing up at the manufacturing plants.

The House-passed bill could get a vote in the Senate next week.

(source: Associated Press)


Roof gets legendary death penalty lawyer Bruck; Judge Gergel to preside; Bruck won life sentence for SC child killer Susan Smith

It is shaping up to be a court battle for the ages.

Legendary death penalty lawyer David Bruck has just been appointed lead defense lawyer for accused racist killer Dylann Roof, according to federal court records.

Records filed this morning also showed that U.S. Judge Richard Gergel of Columbia, who now presides over court in Charleston, will be the trial judge.

Bruck, who got his start in South Carolina defending death penalty cases in the early 1980s, won a life sentence in the nationally publicized case of child killer Susan Smith, now in state prison for drowning her children in a Union County lake.

Since then, Bruck has been involved in hundreds of death penalty cases across the country, including most recently the case of the Boston Marathon bomber.

Roof is accused of nine counts of murder in state court in the shooting deaths of nine African-Americans on June 17 at a Charleston church, Mother Emanuel AME. He was indicted Wednesday for federal hate crimes violations and killing people in a church.

All the crimes, state and federal, that Roof is accused of are death penalty eligile. However, a formal decision to seek the death penalty has not been made by either state or federal prosecutors.

(source: The State)


Jamie Hood makes bid to have jury spare his life

In an attempt to save his life, Jamie Hood is trying to convince a jury he was wronged by a corrupt legal system that falsely imprisoned him.

Acting as his own attorney, he sought this morning to basically re-try his 1997 armed robbery case in which he was found guilty and sentenced to 12 years in prison.

Hood wants to convince jurors his conviction was a significant factor when he gunned down 2 Athens-Clarke County police officers in 2011. After a 4-week trial, jurors on Monday convicted Hood of murdering one of the officers, attempting to murder the other officer, and also of murdering a civilian in 2010.

The trial is now in the penalty phase, in which the jury is hearing evidence that will guide it when deciding whether to impose the death sentence.

The prosecution on Wednesday presented victims' family members and others who described the devastation Hood's actions had on their lives.

Hood is presenting witnesses of his own. As he did during the guilt-innocence phase of the trial, Hood is blaming perceived police brutality and corruption for making him pull the trigger on the officers. His alleged wrongful armed robbery conviction - which was upheld by the Georgia Court of Appeals - was another example of how he believes he's been wronged by the legal system. He believes prosecutors and police conspired to cover up the shooting death of his brother by police officer in 2001.

Already harboring a distrust of authorities, Hood said in the trial he shot Senior Police Officer Tony Howard out of fear he was going to be killed, just as his brother was. At the time, Hood was a suspect in a kidnapping and Howard was attempting to arrest him. He also told jurors he shot and killed SPO Elmer "Buddy" Christian because the officer witnessed him shoot and wound Howard, and "it was kill or be killed."

Hood told jurors that prior to pulling the trigger on both officers, he heard his dead brother's voice telling him, "Don't let them do you like they done me."

A potential witness on Hood's list for the trial's penalty phase is Dr. Debra Gunnin, a forensic psychologist from East Central Georgia Regional Hospital who examined Hood following his arrest for shooting the 2 officers.

For now, Hood is focusing on his alleged "illegal" conviction for the armed robbery.

Nearly the entire morning session of the penalty phase today was consumed by testimony from Athens defense attorney Jim Smith, who represented Hood in the previous trial nearly 2 decades ago. Smith told jurors the prosecution's case was mostly based on what he called the victim's questionable identification of Hood as the robber.

On cross-examination District Attorney Ken Mauldin had Smith affirm there was other evidence, including Hood being found in a car with a gun following the armed robbery.

After a jury convicted him in 1997, Hood was granted a new trial due to Smith providing "ineffective assistance of counsel." A 2nd jury convicted Hood in 1999.

Hood this morning wanted to call as a witness the armed robbery victim. Earlier, he told jurors he wanted to look at George McKeehan in the face and confront him about having fingered him 18 years ago.

When McKeehan did not show up this morning, Hood told the judge he wanted to file a motion to have his witness arrested and brought to court. The judge told Hood to have his investigator make another attempt to get him to court.

(source: Athens Banner-Herald)


Families testify in life or execution recommendation for Jacksonville murderer Randall Deviney

A jury will decide Thursday whether to recommend the state kill Randall Deviney or sentence him to life in prison.

Prosecutors and Deviney's defense attorneys will present evidence arguing whether the crime warrants the death penalty. Deviney has been convicted twice now of murdering Delores Futrell, his 65-year-old Westside neighbor, by slitting her throat in 2008. He was 19 at the time, and he's 25 now.

The Florida Supreme Court threw out the first conviction because the court said Jacksonville police didn't honor his right to remain silent.

A 2nd jury again found him guilty last week.

His sentencing hearing began Thursday at 8:30 a.m.

The 12 jurors will present their vote on the death penalty. The vote doesn't have to be unanimous.

If the jurors' recommend execution, Circuit Judge Mallory Cooper will have another hearing where she will consider more evidence. She will make the ultimate decision about the fate of Deviney.

Jurors listened to the emotional words of 2 daughters and a sister of Futrell who tried to paint a picture of what her loss has meant to them.

Jackie Blades, Futrell's oldest daughter and a 12-year Navy veteran, said she suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder because of her mother's death.

"She was my mother, sister, friend and my support," she said. "But that's not sufficient. I have to tell you about her smile."

Futrell's other daughter wasn't in court, but someone else read a statement from her.

"She was always there when I needed her," wrote Helen Futrell-Stewart. "Now when something comes up I am reminded she is gone. We will never have a mother-daughter talk again."

Her sister, Debra Wright, spoke of how Futrell sacrificed for her children and of how her long-time boyfriend quickly deteriorated after her death.

The defense called on Deviney's father to speak of his troubled childhood.

His father and mother were convicted of murdering an infant son before Deviney's birth.

When he was 3, Deviney's younger brother, Wendell, stabbed him, though his father called it an accident.

Michael Deviney spoke of how his wife was arrested for battering him and of his later failed marriages to other women.

He said he believed Deviney's mother sexually abused him.

Prosecutor Bernie de la Rionda pointed out that the Department of Children and Families never found any proof of sexual abuse.

Deviney's father said he and his then-wife had sex in front of him, so he knows his son was exposed to sexual activity.

(source: Florida Times-Union)


Judge grants new trial for death row inmate Rogers Lacaze, accused in notorious 1995 triple murder

Rogers Lacaze, who was shipped to Louisiana's death row 20 years ago along with former New Orleans Police Department Officer Antoinette Frank for the most infamous New Orleans massacre in a generation, will get a new trial on 1st-degree murder charges, a judge ruled Thursday.

In a blockbuster, 128-page decision, retired Judge Michael Kirby found "a structural error" in Lacaze's trial on 3 counts of 1st-degree murder - namely, that one of the jurors, David Settle, was a commissioned law enforcement officer at a time when they were legally barred from jury service.

Kirby, a retired Plaquemines Parish and Fourth Circuit Court of Appeal judge, also found merit to some of the other claims by Lacaze's attorneys, who have argued for years that his case was botched by Orleans prosecutors, the judge at his trial and his own, now-deceased trial attorney.

His lawyers with the New Orleans-based Justice Center claimed his conviction was the result of an unconstitutionally slipshod defense, biased jurors and the suppression of key evidence by prosecutors with former District Attorney Harry Connick's office.

"For 20 years Rogers Lacaze has been asking for what every defendant is entitled to: A competent attorney and a fair trial in front of an impartial jury," said Blythe Taplin, Lacaze's attorney. "While we disagree with some of the findings in the court's order, this is the only just result. Mr. Lacaze looks forward to his day in court."

In his ruling, Kirby said he found the evidence of Lacaze's guilt "overwhelming" but that the juror question alone warranted a new trial.

Kirby found that Settle, who had a history as railroad police agent with arrest powers, remained silent when the question came up of whether jurors had backgrounds or family members in law enforcement.

"Even if there is a plausible explanation for his silence here, I cannot fathom a legitimate reason for him not speaking up when the trial court directly asked the first row of his panel if anyone was related to anybody in law enforcement," Kirby wrote. "I find that at the time Mr. Lacaze was tried for 3 counts of 1st-degree murder there was present on the jury 'a badge-wearing law-enforcement officer' whose presence thereon offended the impartial trial guarantee of Article I, Section 16 of the Louisiana Constitution under the controlling jurisprudence at the time of the trial."

Lacaze's attorneys also argued that the death sentence for Lacaze, 38, was unconstitutional because Lacaze is mentally disabled. Kirby said they could take that question up in the next trial.

Kirby remanded Lacaze without bond, meaning he'll remain behind bars while Orleans Parish District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro's office decides its next move.

Christopher Bowman, a spokesman for Cannizzaro's office, said, "We are reviewing it right now. We do intend to appeal it."

The decision comes almost exactly 20 years after a jury found Lacaze guilty of 3 counts of 1st-degree murder in the killing of Frank's partner, Officer Ronnie Williams II, 25, and siblings Cuong Vu, 17, and Ha Vu, 24, inside the Kim Anh restaurant in New Orleans East.

The March 4, 1995, slayings marked a low point in both image and morale for an NOPD that was beset by corruption charges and an explosion of deadly street violence, with the city's murder rate about double what it is today. It had peaking in 1994 at 421 murders.

Ron Williams, the father of Ronnie Williams II, scoffed at the ruling and the lengthy post-conviction appeal process that led to it.

"Rogers Lacaze and Antoinette Frank both deserve the death penalty for their part in Ronnie's murder," he said. "There has been no information during the proceedings that suggests they didn't do it. The only thing was some wild stories that their defense attorneys concocted to diffuse the situation."

He added, "Crime is going to keep getting worse unless the criminals are made to answer for the crimes, and we don't have that now."

(source: New Orleans Advocate)


DA agrees to overturn death penalty conviction to save tax payers money

A man convicted of 1st degree murder in the death of a Bakersfield woman, has had his death sentence changed to life without parole.

The Kern County District Attorney agreed to the change because she says fighting it would have wasted tax payer dollars.

Clarence Ray, 59, confessed to the 1984 Bakersfield murder of Kathy Lynn Hyde, 31, while he was already in prison in Michigan for a murder there.

After his confession to the Bakersfield murder, a jury here convicted him of 1st degree murder in 1989 and Ray was sentenced to death.

The D.A. says since Ray was already serving life without parole in Michigan, he would not be turned over to California until he died. Michigan officials even told the D.A. that they do not turn over inmates to states where the death penalty is used. Michigan does not have the death penalty.

Recently 2 attorneys working on Ray's behalf petitioned a Kern County judge to have Ray's death penalty sentence overturned.

The D.A. could have fought the petition, but since Michigan won't turn Ray over and fighting the petition could have cost the D.A.'s office more than $100,000, it was decided to agree to what is called a stipulation.

The stipulation was an agreement to allow the death sentence to be changed to life without parole.

The 2 sides took the stipulation to Kern County Superior Court Judge Michael Delostritto on Wednesday and he agreed to change the sentence.

The D.A. says the change in sentence is largely procedural because Ray will likely never serve a day of the sentence since he is already doing life without parole in Michigan.



Jury reaches decision in death penalty case of convicted cop killer Christopher Monfort

A jury reached a verdict in less than an hour Thursday in the death penalty phase of a man convicted of killing a Seattle police officer in 2009. The verdict was to be read at 3:30 p.m.

A jury convicted Monfort last month of killing Officer Timothy Brenton. They also found him guilty of attempted murder for shooting Brenton's partner, Brit Kelly.

Monfort's lawyer says his life should be spared because of his mental illness and tough childhood.

On Wednesday jurors thought they might hear directly from the convicted cop killer.

Though he never testified during his murder trial, Monfort's lawyers insinuated he might be willing to speak on his behalf before jurors decide whether he receives the death penalty or life in prison.

Ultimately, Monfort decided not to talk. Still, prosecutors used his own words in court when they began arguing for the death penalty.

Prosecutor John Castleton played a jail house interview between a psychiatrist and Monfort.

When the doctor asked Monfort if he had any remorse for killing Seattle police officer Timothy Brenton, Monfort said, "No. I'm sorry it had to happen. I wish we didn't have any police brutality. I wish I didn't have to do anything. I'd much rather be doing other stuff."

On Halloween night 6 years ago, Monfort opened fire on a patrol car, killing Brenton and wounding his partner, Britt Sweeney. Monfort had earlier firebombed vehicles at a city maintenance yard.

"His goal was to kill as many police officers as he could," said Castleton. "His goal was to reign terror down on the city of Seattle and the Seattle Police Department."

Monfort's defense team urged jurors to spare him from the death penalty and consider his mental health, along with his rough childhood, when deciding his fate. They encouraged the jury to have mercy.

"If you want to give mercy, you can do so," said Stacey MacDonald. "You can still sentence him to a life sentence, a harsh sentence, based on mercy alone."

(source: Fox news)


Death sentence is considered in kidnapping death of 5-year-old Kansas girl ---- Marcas McGowan is facing federal charges in the kidnapping and death last year of 5-year-old Cadence Harris.

Federal prosecutors are considering whether to seek the death sentence for the man accused of kidnapping and killing an Atchison, Kan., girl last summer.

Marcas McGowan, 31, allegedly took 5-year-old Cadence Harris, his girlfriend's daughter, from their home in Atchison on July 18, 2014, after a domestic disturbance.

An ensuing police chase crossed into Missouri and back into Kansas before ending in Leavenworth, when McGowan crashed in a road construction area and was wounded in an exchange of gunfire with police.

Police found Cadence dead inside the vehicle with a gunshot wound to the head. According to court documents, the bullet appeared to have been fired by McGowan.

He initially was charged with murder in Leavenworth County District Court. In February, prosecutors dismissed the state murder charge after a federal grand jury indicted McGowan.

McGowan now faces federal charges of kidnapping, using a firearm during a crime of violence, being a felon in possession of a firearm and possessing a firearm after being convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence.

A court hearing scheduled for Thursday was continued at the request of his attorneys.

The defense asked for the delay until a decision is made on whether prosecutors will be authorized to seek the death sentence.

Local federal prosecutors must get authorization from the U.S. Department of Justice to pursue a capital case. Prosecutors in Kansas have submitted the case to the Justice Department's death penalty review board in Washington, D.C., according to a motion filed by McGowan's attorneys.

They expect a decision to be made within 90 days. If the review board approves the request, the final decision rests with the U.S. attorney general.

The defense said that although the current charges do not qualify for the death penalty, they expect prosecutors to seek another indictment containing a charge eligible for the death penalty.

McGowan is being held without bond. The next hearing in the case is scheduled for Oct. 21

(source: Kansas City Star)


Yakub Memon being hanged because he's a Muslim: Asaduddin Owaisi----Owaisi said killers of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and Punjab Chief Minister Beant Singh are not being executed because of political pressure.

Raising questions over 1993 Mumbai serial blasts convict Yakub Memon's expected hanging, All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) chief Asaduddin Owaisi on Thursday said Memon is being punished because of his religion.

Addressing a public gathering in Hyderabad, Owaisi said Memon, who is likely to be hanged on July 30, accused the Centre of indulging in religious discrimination and said the government should execute all death row convicts.

Owaisi said killers of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and Punjab Chief Minister Beant Singh are not being executed because of political pressure.

"The killers of Rajiv Gandhi and Beant Singh have the backing of political parties in Tamil Nadu and Punjab. Which political party is backing Yakub Memon? Shiromani Akali Dal in Punjab has gone to the extent of pardoning Balwant Singh Rajoana," Owaisi said.

Raking up the Babri Masjid issue, the Hyderabab MP said thousands of people were killed in communal riots following the demolition of Babri Majid, many officers were booked under serious chanrges but none were convicted.

Later, talking to India Today TV, Owaisi said he is not against the court's verdict in Memon's case but the circumstances leading to his death penalty can not be ignored.

Earlier, in a last-ditch effort to avoid execution of his death sentence, Yakub Memon, the lone death row convict in the 1993 Bombay serial blasts that left 257 dead and over 700 injured, filed mercy petition to Maharashtra Governor Ch Vidyasagar Rao. The move came after the Supreme Court rejected his curative petition, the last legal remedy available to avoid execution of death sentence.

A 3 judge bench headed by Chief Justice HL Dattu rejected Memon's plea, saying that the grounds raised by him do not fall within the principles laid down by the apex court in 2002 for deciding curative petitions.

Memon, in his plea, had claimed he was suffering from schizophrenia since 1996 and remained behind the bars for nearly 20 years. He had sought commutation of death penalty contending that a convict cannot be awarded life term and the extreme penalty simultaneously for the same offence.

The apex court said, "The petitioner has raised certain grounds in the curative petition which would not fall within the principles laid down in the case of Rupa Ashok Hurra vs Ashok Hurra.

The apex court had on April 9 this year dismissed Memon's petition seeking review of his death sentence which was upheld on March 21, 2013. President Pranab Mukherjee had earlier rejected his mercy petition in May 2014.

The Supreme Court, while upholding the death sentence to Memon, a chartered accountant by profession, on March 21, 2013, described him as the "driving spirit" behind the carnage that followed the communal riots of 1992.

The Supreme Court had also upheld the life sentence awarded to 23 others, including Yakub brother Essa, who was found guilty of conspiracy and allowing the use of his flat at Al-Hussaini building at Mahim for meetings to plan the blasts and storing arms and ammunition, and sister-in-law Rubina, who arranged finances and allowed her car to be used by terrorists for carrying co-conspirators, arms, ammunition and explosives.

Yakub was arrested on August 6, 1994 when he arrived at Delhi Airport from Kathmandu. He had claimed he felt remorse and wanted to surrender.

(source: India Today)


Yakub Memon's family travels to Nagpur in secret for final meeting

They arrived in Nagpur by the Duronto Express from Mumbai on Thursday morning with 2 other relatives and approached the jail authorities to meet Memon, who had been shifted to Nagpur jail from Mumbai's Arthur Road jail in 2007. They met him around 9.30 am amid tight security; the meeting lasted over an hour. According to a source, Memon was in tears while talking to his wife and daughter.

The Memons said they preferred to travel to Nagpur by train rather than by air and their overnight journey was kept secret. After their meeting, they refused to speak to journalists outside the jail and left in a private vehicle around 11am. The family had planned to meet Memon earlier this month and had booked train tickets for July 4. However, they later postponed the visit.

2 days ago, the Supreme Court had rejected Memon's curative petition against capital punishment, following which he filed a mercy petition addressed to the governor of Maharashtra.

In a last-ditch effort to help him escape the death penalty, another appeal was filed on Memon's behalf in the Supreme Court on Thursday. While filing the petition, Memon's lawyer Anil Gedam said his death warrant had been issued before he had exhausted all available legal options - specifically, the Supreme Court's ruling on his curative petition - in violation of the rules. A curative petition is one in which a death-row prisoner asks the Supreme Court to review its own judgement.

According to jail officials, Memon, who is believed to suffer from schizophrenia, has been restless for the past couple of days and has been taking sleeping pills every night. He was treated at JJ Hospital for a mental illness, but officials said his symptoms reduced after he was shifted to Nagpur jail.

According to a source, Memon suffered bouts of depression brought on by loneliness when he was at Arthur Road jail as he had been kept in solitary confinement in an 'anda cell'.

Memon, who was otherwise quiet, would open up to psychiatrists at Nagpur jail, according to an official who did not wish to be named. Gedam, however, said he saw no signs of mental illness during his meetings with Memon. "Whenever I've met him, I've found him to be very sober, healthy and humane," he said.

(source: Hindustan Times)


Tunisia parliament okays death penalty for 'terror crimes'

Tunisia's parliament approved Thursday imposition of the death penalty for "terrorist" crimes, despite opposition from rights groups and a de facto quarter-century moratorium on executions.

Lawmakers were voting during the 2nd of 3 days of debate on a bill aimed at beefing up powers to confront a jihadi threat following deadly attacks claimed by ISIS.

President Beji Caid Essebsi imposed a state of emergency after a student went on a shooting rampage at a beach resort last month, killing 38 foreign tourists, most of them Britons.

That incident came on the heels of one in March in which two gunmen attacked Tunisia's national museum, killing 21 foreigners and a policeman.

Lawmakers voted heavily in favor of 3 articles imposing the death penalty.

Article 26 applies to anyone who "knowingly murders someone enjoying international protection," a reference to such people as diplomats and international civil servants.

The following article applies to cases in which people die in hostage-taking or kidnapping situations, while Article 28 refers to people who commit rape during the course of a terrorism-related crime.

Sana Mersni, an MP with the Islamist Ennahda party, noted ironically that the death penalty would not deter "terrorists seeking death in order to go to paradise".

The bill would replace the 2003 terrorism law, passed under the dictatorship of president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, ousted 4 years ago, which was widely criticized as being a tool to crush dissent.

The death penalty already exists under Tunisian law, for such crimes as murder and rape, but no one has been hanged since 1991.

Rights groups had hoped parliament would leave it out of the current bill.

Among other things, the bill would make it easier for investigators to use phone-tapping against suspects and make public expressions of support for terrorism a jailable offense.

Advocacy groups, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, have condemned the bill.

Describing it as draconian, they say its definition of terrorist crimes is too vague and that it fails to adequately safeguard the rights of defendants and could undermine freedoms.

"Tunisian authorities have legitimate concerns about the growing influence of extremist groups and individuals and the threat they pose to Tunisians and foreigners," Eric Goldstein, HRW's deputy Middle East and North Africa director, has said.

"But laws to counter terrorism should meet - not flout - international human rights standards," he said in a statement.

Critics say the bill would allow the authorities to detain suspects for 15 days without access to a lawyer or being brought before a judge, as well as put harsh restrictions on journalists.

Ammar Amroussia, of the leftist Popular Front, said "we fear the fight against terrorism could be turned into a fight against social and popular movements."

Labiadh Salem, an independent, was even more scathing.

"This law will not limit the phenomenon of terrorism; this law will fuel terrorism" as it "does not distinguish between social movements and protesters and terrorist act."

(source: Agence France-Presse)


Jamie Hood expresses no remorse as death penalty phase of his trial begins, victims' families testify

When addressing jurors who will decide if he gets the death penalty, Jamie Hood on Wednesday expressed no regrets for gunning down 2 Athens-Clarke County police officers in 2011.

Though convicted of another murder, he also continued to deny he was responsible for the 2010 shooting death of Athens resident Kenneth Omari Wray.

As he did throughout his four-week trial, Hood blamed perceived police brutality and corruption for making him pull the trigger on Senior Police Officer Elmer "Buddy" Christian III and SPO Tony Howard.

"I didn't kill Buddy Christian the person, I killed Buddy Christian the police officer," Hood told the panel of 9 men and 3 women.

As part of the sentencing phase, jurors heard victim impact statements. They listened to victims' loved ones, friends and coworkers tell of the loss they've experienced as a result of Hood's actions.

Some jurors were moved to tears when listening to Christian's family members.

Melissa Christian-Griffeth spoke of marrying her high school sweetheart and planning to grow old with her family, which included children Wyatt, 2, and Callie, 5.

"How can I summarize a story that wasn't meant to end so soon," she said.

The slain officer's father, Elmer "Buddy" Christian Jr., told jurors the basic goal of a father is to guard and protect their children. "I failed to do that," he said, recalling how he had told his wife nothing bad would happen to their son as a police officer.

He said he was most proud of his son for the decent man he became, following his footsteps to be come active in their church as a deacon and Sunday school teacher.

Caroline Christian was unable to speak of her son without crying, and her voice quavered throughout her victim impact statement.

After jurors were shown photographs chronicling her son's journey from childhood to manhood, she said, "I can't put my arms around a memory."

Ruby Jordan wanted to know why she had to suffer the loss of her only son.

"How could this man murder my son outside of my home," she said. "What was the purpose of this cold-blooded action?"

Jordan spoke of Wray's 3 young children who will grow up without a father. Jurors were shown photographs of Wray and his children, including one at a "princess ball" at Chase Street Elementary School.

Hood, who is allowed to cross-examine witnesses in the penalty phase of his trial, said to Jordan, "I just want to look you in the face and tell you I'm not the man who shot your son."

Hood had no questions and made no statements to Christian's survivors.

Howard told jurors being shot in the face and shoulder by Hood left him gripped by fear and self-doubt.

"At one point I was afraid to face the men and women who wear the badge," wondering if he could have done things differently so that he and Christian wouldn't have been shot, he said.

In addition to lasting emotional scars, Howard spoke of having permanent hearing loss. In the trial, jurors learned Hood shot Howard at point-blank range.

Shirlisa Howard told jurors she at first hadn't known if it was her husband to whom people referred when talking about an officer that was killed. She remembered watching his blood drip onto the floor of the emergency room when the wounded officer was unable to breathe through his nose because a bullet had shattered his sinuses.

The former Clarke County sheriff's deputy said she had to leave a job she loved at the local jail and experienced her own health issues in the aftermath of her husband getting shot. Her husband told jurors it was due to "smart comments" by inmates that she was subjected to.

Representing himself, Hood will call on witnesses of his own in an attempt to convince jurors to spare his life.

To get the death penalty, Western Judicial Circuit District Attorney will have to prove at least one aggravating factor in the murders of which Hood was convicted, as well as a kidnapping with bodily injury charge. When deliberating, jurors must decide if any mitigating factors presented by Hood outweighed the aggravating factors.

1 aggravating factor would be Hood shot the officers while they were trying to lawfully arrest him, Mauldin explained to the jury.

Hood shot the officers after Howard tried to arrest him because he was the suspect in a kidnapping earlier in the day.

He told jurors during the trial he shot Howard because he felt he would be killed, like his brother who was killed by a police officer a decade earlier. He said he shot Christian because the officer witnessed him shoot Howard, and "it was kill or be killed."

In opening statements to the jury Wednesday morning, Mauldin asked for the punishment Hood himself asked for after he surrendered to authorities for the police shootings.

Quoting Hood from his videotaped confession, Mauldin said, "I get what I deserve. I can't blame nobody if y'all want to send me to the death chair."

Also testifying for the prosecution Wednesday were relatives and coworkers of Howard. SPO Jerry Johnson was in the vicinity of where Hood shot Howard, who is Johnson's brother-in-law. He spoke about having survivor's guilt and 2nd-guessing himself on what he might have done differently.

Joseph "Jack" Lumpkin, who was police chief at the time of the shootings, spoke of anguish and grief experienced by himself and members of the police department, many of whom required counseling.

Christian-Griffeth was the final prosecution witness. Hood told the judge he would not begin presenting his case until Thursday morning.

"It's been rough on me," he said. "I need to lick my wounds."

He also asked for a mistrial in the penalty phase, complaining that too many photographs of the slain police officer were shown to the jury to elicit an emotional response.

Among those on Hood's list of witnesses is George McKeehan, who authorities say was robbed by Hood at gunpoint in 1997 when McKeehan was working as a pizza delivery man while attending the University of Georgia. Hood was convicted of armed robbery and served 12 years in prison. He maintained in the guilt-innocence phase of his trial he was wrongly convicted, and the victim was coerced into identifying him.

"I called (McKeehan) back because I want to look at him in the face when I talk to him about it," Hood told jurors.

Another potential witness on the list is Dr. Debra Gunnin, a forensic psychologist from East Central Georgia Regional Hospital who examined Hood following his arrest for shooting the 2 officers.

During the trial, Hood told jurors he chose to represent himself because his former attorneys from the Georgia Capital Defender Office wanted him to be declared mentally incompetent and accept a plea deal for the murders.

(source: Athens Banner-Herald)

OHIO----Vienna Convention issues//foreign national

Mexico opposes request for execution date for man accused of killing Ohio girlfriend's family

The government of Mexico is opposing an Ohio prosecutor's request to set an execution date for a man convicted of killing 4 members of his girlfriend's family and sentenced to death in 3 of the 1991 slayings.

Mexico says Jose Trinidad Loza was never allowed to consult with a Mexican consulate and was the subject of bias early on, including a crime scene detective who used an ethnic slur to describe him.

The Mexican government's court filing Monday also says seeking to put Loza to death will aggravate already tense relations between the 2 countries over the issue of executing Mexican nationals.

The prosecutor of Butler County in southwest Ohio says the 43-year-old Loza has run out of state and federal appeals and should be executed.

(source: Associated Press)


Missouri should abandon death penalty

Americans are unfortunately accustomed to seeing some degree of racial disparity in the criminal justice system. But when we look at the death penalty, as I did in my study "The Impact of Race, Gender and Geography on Missouri Executions," disparities are taken to a level that should shock the consciousness of any American.

Very few homicides eventually result in the killer being executed. In Missouri, in the "modern" period (since the Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty, with safeguards against its arbitrary and capricious use, in 1976), more than 11,000 Missourians have been victims of homicide, but the number of executions from 1977 through 2014 is 80. The rate of executions per 100 homicides state-wide is therefore 0.7 %.

In St. Louis city, however, where almost 4,500 homicides have occurred, the rate of executions per homicide is just 0.18. In St. Louis County, where there have been about 1,000 homicides, there have been 23 executions, giving a rate of 2.3 %: more than 10 times higher than within the city limits.

Most counties in the state have never seen an execution, but just 4 jurisdictions (out of 93) have accounted for a majority of the executions in the entire state.

Geographic disparities are huge, but the truly astounding numbers relate to the race and gender of the victim.

Whereas crimes with black male victims constitute 52 % of all Missouri homicides, just 12 % of the victims in execution cases were black males. White females represent just 12 % of all homicide victims, but they are 37 % of those where the killer was later executed. Whites in general represent just 36 % of the homicide victims, but 81 % of the victims in cases associated with executions.

To put it in its starkest terms, the odds of execution for a killer of a black male are 0.22 %, but they are 1.74 for killers of white males and 3.01 for killers of White females (they are 0.67 where the victim is a black female). In other words, the odds of execution for killers of white females are 14 times greater than those whose victims are black males.

With black males constituting the majority of all homicide victims, it is clear that the Missouri death penalty is certainly not designed to protect those lives. Apparently, those particular lives just don't matter as much as other ones do.

We can quibble about racial disparities that are measured by a few percentage points. But the results of my study are not like that. These are stark results with effects measured by orders of magnitude. They clearly show that Missouri's death penalty system is plagued by vast racial and geographic disparities.

They demonstrate that, in the application of the ultimate punishment, the state cannot, or in any case does not, treat all of its citizens fairly and impartially. This is particularly troubling given that Missouri tied Texas last year in carrying out the most executions of any state in the country.

The scope of geographic bias, and particularly the racial inequities that are reflected in this comprehensive assessment of all Missouri executions in the modern period, should give all Missourians pause. A system that is so arbitrary, so capricious, and tainted by astounding levels of racial disparities should be abandoned.

Missouri had 10 executions in 2014, and 5 so far in 2015, marking a sharp increase in its use of capital punishment. Other states, by contrast, have been moving away from the death penalty or abolishing it altogether.

Missouri should recognize that its death penalty system is capricious with respect to geography and biased with respect to race. These troubling facts about the death penalty in Missouri suggest that it has sorely failed the people and should be abandoned.

(source: Frank R. Baumgartner is the Richard J. Richardson Distinguished Professor of Political Science at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the author of "The Impact of Race, Gender and Geography on Missouri Executions," released July 16----The St. Louis American)


Local Amnesty group hosts death penalty workshop featuring human rights activist Rick Halperin

The Oklahoma chapter of Amnesty International will host a comprehensive workshop on the death penalty on Saturday, July 25, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. The free training event will be held at Oklahoma City University, in the Walker Center for Arts & Sciences, Room 151. Parking is available at NW 26th and Florida Avenue. Amnesty International (AI) is a global movement of over 7 million people who fight injustice and advocate for human rights.

The daylong training session will be led by Dr. Rick Halperin, director of the Embrey Human Rights Program at Southern Methodist University. Halperin also serves as the Regional Death Penalty Abolition Coordinator of Amnesty International and is former chair of Amnesty USA's board of directors.

The Embrey Program educates students and concerned people around the world to understand, promote, and defend human rights.

Halperin is a recognized international authority on the death penalty, genocide, slavery, human trafficking, and torture.

He has served on the Board of Directors for several organizations, including the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, Human Rights Initiative, Capital Punishment Investigation and Education Services, Jefferson-Titus Refugee Foundation, Center for Survivors of Torture and the International Rescue Committee.'

The workshop agenda will include a brief history of the death penalty in the United States. It will cover issues such as race, innocence, deterrence, the politics of the death penalty and death row conditions. Oklahoma's role in lethal injection as a method of state-sponsored executions will also be reviewed.

Participants will be provided with resources from Amnesty International and other groups for advocacy work to abolish the death penalty. Opportunities to join with others to end executions in Oklahoma will be discussed.

"The need for this workshop is especially keen in Oklahoma with our state's death penalty record, and Oklahoma's central role in the historical development and continuation of lethal injection as a method of state-sponsored execution," said AI Oklahoma Death Penalty coordinator Rena Guay.

"The death penalty has been used as a tool in elections, as it will be with the 2016 state question 776. Politicians refuse to responsibly address the many issues in the criminal justice system that regularly cause people to be convicted and sent to death row who are later proven to be innocent," Guay continued. "Evidence seems to show that Richard Glossip is one such case, yet Oklahoma is so enamored of its execution spectacle, I fear that no facts will be considered to prevent murdering a possibly innocent man."

AI opposes the death penalty in all cases without exception regardless of the nature of the crime, the characteristics of the offender, or the method used by the state to kill the prisoner.

According to the website, the death penalty is the "ultimate, irreversible denial of human rights. It violates the right to life as proclaimed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the right to be free from cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment."

Halperin once said, "Many people were raised to believe that the death penalty is correct and just and fair. We have little reason to doubt the teachings of our schools, our civic and faith leaders or even our parents. As we grow older and form our own opinions on many issues, including this one, we can learn that, in fact, they were wrong - which is not easy to admit."

(source: The City Sentinel)


The One Person Who Can Save James Holmes From Death

The sentencing phase of the trial of James Holmes, the young man who stormed a screening of The Dark Knight in July 2012 and opened fire, begins Wednesday, and all eyes are on the death penalty. Holmes was convicted last week on 24 counts of 1st-degree murder - 2 counts for each victim - and prosecutors are set on going after the harsh sentence. Yet there's 1 very important person in Colorado who may block the death penalty for James Holmes, even if the 27-year-old is sentenced to death.

Despite repeated, strong calls for Holmes' execution from survivors of the deadly July 2012 shooting, the Los Angeles Times pointed out that there's 1 person in Colorado who may end up saving Holmes from the lethal-injection chamber: Gov. John Hickenlooper. The Democratic governor, who's currently serving his 2nd term, has made it clear that no one will be executed in Colorado while he's in office.

But why would Hickenlooper's personal (and political) opinion on the death penalty matter in this case, even if a jury recommends the sentence? Colorado is essentially a de facto non-capital punishment state, which means that even though capital punishment is technically on the books, it's hardly ever used and has strict, conditional guidelines. Hickenlooper must sign a so-called "death warrant" before any execution can take place.

And the governor, who is anti-capital punishment, has made it clear in the past that he would never sign a "death warrant." In fact, Hickenlooper has even granted an "indefinite reprieve" to 1 mass shooter, Nathan Dunlap, according to the Los Angeles Times. It's still unclear if Hickenlooper would grant Holmes the same type of reprieve, but a "death warrant" would never make it past the governor's desk.

Although Colorado has only executed 1 person since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1978, several mass shootings have renewed the death-penalty debate in the Centennial State. Currently, just 3 people, including Dunlap, who killed 4 people at a Chuck E. Cheese's in Aurora, sit on the figurative death row. (Colorado doesn't have a physical death row.)

Capital punishment became a major talking point of the 2014 gubernatorial election, where Hickenlooper was attacked by Republican challenger Bob Beauprez for indefinitely staying Dunlap's execution. But Hickenlooper, who scraped by during this last election, has refused to give up his conviction that the death penalty is arbitrary and flawed.

"If the state of Colorado is going to undertake the responsibility of executing a human being, the system must operate flawlessly," Hickenlooper wrote in his 2013 executive order staying Dunlap's execution. "Colorado'sa system for capital punishment is not flawless. ... It is a legitimate question whether we as a state should be taking lives."



Jury in death penalty case expected to continue deliberations today after juror falls ill

In a trial already plagued by delays, another setback occurred Wednesday when a juror in the death penalty case against a Fairfield man accused of a Vallejo officer's death went home sick.

The news came to attorneys shortly after jurors in the trial for Henry Albert Smith Jr., 41, arrived at 9 a.m. Wednesday for read back of testimony. Smith is accused of a Nov. 17, 2011, bank robbery and police pursuit that resulted in the shooting death of veteran Vallejo police Officer Jim Capoot.

Wednesday's delay comes after jurors went home early last Thursday after a juror reported a severe headache. The jury has opted not to deliberate on Friday's, however, when they returned Monday, their deliberations were halted by the judge.

That was due to a hearing in which prosecutors successfully argued to remove a juror from the panel. Based on information provided by his fellow jurors, Judge Peter B. Foor found the juror had expressed a bias against law enforcement.

That partially set deliberations back as the panel's last alternate juror was called in to join the deliberations.

Last week, a juror in the case underwent emergency heart surgery and was replaced by an alternate. Each time an alternate juror comes in to deliberate, the deliberations are started from the beginning.

The first day of deliberations was also scratched after a juror was stranded out of state with car trouble following the Independence Day weekend.

Additional delays have also occurred throughout the trial.

A sick juror delayed a 2nd day of closing argument 3 weeks ago.

Illness even extended to the bench as the judge presiding over the case found himself ill at one point.

2 weeks into the prosecution's case, Foor came down with a sudden illness that required him to be hospitalized. That illness turned out to be pneumonia, and the trial was delayed a week while Foor recovered.

Jurors are expected to return today to continue their deliberations.

Trial testimony indicated Capoot engaged in a high speed pursuit of a suspected bank robber the afternoon of Nov. 17, 2011.

That pursuit ended on Janice Street in North Vallejo, where Capoot chased the suspect on foot.

The pursuit and foot chase were captured on a video camera mounted to the windshield of Capoot's patrol car.

One of Capoot's fellow officer's testified it was Smith driving the vehicle Capoot pursued that day and subsequently chased on foot down the street.

However, moments after Capoot went out of view, gunshots rang out. Capoot's fellow officers quickly located him in a backyard, having been shot 3 times, according to testimony.

Smith was apprehended several homes away from the shooting scene after an officer noticed a man hop a fence onto Janice Street.

Inside his left front pocket, according to law enforcement testimony, was a loaded .40 caliber Glock semi-automatic pistol.

Smith is charged with murder of a peace officer with an enhancement for the use of a gun, robbery and being a felon in possession of a firearm. Prosecutors have alleged special circumstances to include: murder during the commission of a robbery; murder to avoid lawful arrest; and murder perpetrated against a peace officer lawfully performing their duty.

(source: The Reporter)


Dylann Roof indicted on hate crime charges in Charleston shooting

A federal grand jury in South Carolina has indicted Dylann Roof, the suspect in last month's shooting at a historic black church in Charleston, S.C., on federal hate crime charges.

Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced the 33-count federal indictment Wednesday during a press conference in Washington.

"To carry out these twin goals of fanning racial flames and exacting revenge [for perceived wrongs against white people], Roof further decided to seek out and murder African Americans because of their race," Lynch said in a statement.

"An essential element of his plan, however, was to find his victims inside of a church, specifically an African-American church, to ensure the greatest notoriety and attention to his actions," she said.

Roof, 21, already faces state charges including nine counts of murder, three counts of attempted murder and a weapons charge in the shooting at Emanuel AME Church in mid-June.

He could face the death penalty in South Carolina, and the federal charges include some that carry the federal death penalty, according to The New York Times.

However, Lynch said Wednesday that "no decision has been made" yet on whether federal prosecutors would pursue the death penalty.

Officials have linked Roof to a racist manifesto found on the Internet days after the June 17 shooting that left nine people dead and that sparked fresh debate on the symbolism of the Confederate flag.

Roof was seen in photos on the website holding a Confederate flag and a gun, and reportedly confessed to the shooting and told police he wanted to start a race war, according to CNN.

Earlier this month, a judge in Charleston set his trial for the state charges to begin in July 2016.



Prosecutors say Holmes deserves to die for theater shootings

James Holmes should be put to death for the Colorado theater shooting because he deliberately and cruelly killed 12 people, including a 6-year-old girl, prosecutors told jurors Wednesday.

The same jurors who convicted Holmes of murder and attempted murder last week - swiftly dismissing his claim that he was legally insane during the attack - must now decide whether to sentence him to death or life in prison without parole.

Prosecutor Rich Orman made the case for death, showing jurors photos of each person killed and reading each person's name.

"The defendant killed, and you have convicted him of killing, Jonathan Blunt," he began.

When he came to the youngest, 6-year-old Veronica Moser-Sullivan, he reminded jurors that she "had 4 gunshot wounds to her little body."

The defense offered no counter-argument, effectively conceding that prosecutors had met the first of several requirements for the death penalty: That at least 1 aggravating factor was present in the massacre.

The jurors have the final say on Holmes' sentence, but they also have a major influence how the proceedings unfold. After each phase of the process, they meet to decide whether they've heard enough to make a decision. And with no counterpoint from the defense on aggravating factors, jurors immediately began deliberating whether prosecutors had made that part of the case beyond a reasonable doubt.

Sentencing is expected to last a month, and could be even more heart-wrenching and polarizing than the 11-week trial that resulted in convictions on murder, attempted murder and other crimes for his July 20, 2012, attack.

The attempted murder convictions were for the 58 people he wounded and another 12 who were injured in the mayhem he caused. But jurors will decide sentences for only the 12 people he murdered; sentencing for the lesser convictions is set by law.

Assuming jurors agree, the defense will lead the next phase, trying to show that mitigating factors make it wrong to execute him. This is where the personal values of each juror becomes paramount. They must consider whether the extent of his mental problems should outweigh the lifelong suffering Holmes caused by opening fire on the audience in a crowded Batman movie premiere.

His lawyers will cite defense experts who diagnosed Holmes with schizophrenia and other disorders, and could call his parents, neighbors, a college roommate and officials from charities where Holmes volunteered to testify.

Already, a 5th-grade teacher who gave videotaped testimony early because he was unavailable during sentencing repeatedly referred to Holmes as "Jimmy" and described him as a bright student with a big smile.

Jurors would then deliberate for a 2nd time, to decide whether, beyond a reasonable doubt, the mitigating factors so outweigh the aggravating factors that Holmes deserves life without parole rather than execution. If so, the trial ends there, without the death penalty.

If jurors decide the mitigating factors don't outweigh the aggravating ones, the sentencing will move into a 3rd and final phase, as many people expect it to.

Victims and their relatives would then describe the impacts of Holmes' crimes. Prosecutors could then offer more heartbreaking accounts, ranging from people Holmes maimed to the father of the 6-year-old victim.

Holmes also will have opportunities to testify during each phase, but he said Tuesday that he did not want to, at least during the 1st phase.

The panel of 9 women and 3 men will have fewer instructions to guide them and will instead use their own personal and moral values in sentencing.

"It is going to be intense," said Denver defense attorney Iris Eytan, who represented Holmes initially but is no longer involved in the case. Holmes' lawyers "will call anybody who James Holmes has had interaction with that can say he has a serious mental illness."M

Their work will be challenging because, by most accounts so far, Holmes has not had a difficult life, Eytan said. He was raised by loving, middle class parents in California, graduated with honors from the University of California, Riverside, and was accepted into a prestigious doctoral neuroscience program at the University of Colorado.

"But what he does have is, his lawyers can show how he has been fine his whole life, how he has contributed to society his whole life and how mental illness broke him in such a severe way," Eytan said.

(source: Associated Press)


Amnesty International urges Zim to follow trend and abolish the death penalty

Zimbabwe on Wednesday marked a decade without executions of prisoners on death row, something Amnesty International (AI) described as a "milestone" towards protection of the right to life and the eventual abolition of the death penalty in the country.

Although the country carried out its last execution on 22 July 2005, there are still 95 prisoners on death row.

In a statement, AI said it was high time Zimbabwe declared an official moratorium on executions and totally abolished capital punishment.

Deprose Muchena, the organisation's director for Southern Africa, said the death penalty was a violation of the right to life, adding that Zimbabwean authorities must take urgent steps to abolish it.

"10 years without an execution is a notable milestone on the road to the abolition of the death penalty, but the shadow of the gallows still looms for 95 prisoners currently on death row," he said.

Speaking at an even to mark the Anti-Death Penalty Day last October then Justice Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa said no executions would be carried out under his watch.

"I want to pronounce myself clearly that the death penalty is the ultimate denial of human rights and a cold blooded and abhorrent killing of a human being by the state in the name of justice." he said.

Mnangagwa has since been promoted to vice president but still retains charge of the justice ministry.

His strong position against the death penalty probably stems from the fact that he came within a whisker of being hanged by Ian Smith's regime during the liberation war, only to be saved by his age.

The new Constitution, enacted in 2013, abolished mandatory death sentences and limited capital panishment to cases of murder "committed in aggravating circumstances".

The Constitution bars death sentences for women and men aged under 21 or over 70 at the time of committing a crime.

Muchena said there is no evidence that the death penalty is more of a deterrent to crime than other forms of punishment.

"The world is moving away from the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment," he said.

"Zimbabwe should permanently dismantle its machinery for execution and join the majority of the world's countries by abolishing capital punishment.

"More than 100 countries around the world have abolished this cruel form of punishment and many more countries are abolitionists in practice.

Seventeen countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, including Angola, Burundi, Cape Verde, Cote d'Ivoire, Djibouti, Gabon, Guinea-Bissau, Mauritius, Madagascar, Mozambique, Namibia, Rwanda, Sao Tome and Principe, Senegal, Seychelles, South Africa and Togo have abolished the death penalty for all crimes.

In addition several other African countries have also taken legislative steps towards abolishing death penalty for all crimes.



Experts praise death penalty amnesties

2 UN human rights experts have welcomed a decision by Zambian President Edgar Lungu to commute the death sentences of 332 prisoners to life terms.

The UN Special Rapporteurs on summary executions, Pretoria University professor Christof Heyns, and on torture, Argentine lawyer Juan Mendez, urged the Zambian authorities "to take a step further by removing all reference to the death penalty in the country's laws".

Lungu commuted the sentences after his visit to Mukobeko Maximum Security Prison, which has a capacity of 51 inmates, but houses hundreds.

"This decision is in line with the trend in Africa - as in the rest of the world - to move away from the death penalty. As the secretary-general of the UN has said, there is no room for this form of punishment in the 21st century," Heyns said. Mendez said:

"By commuting these death sentences, Zambia puts a stop to mental and physical pain and suffering."

However, the experts warned of continuing areas of concern regarding the death penalty in Africa.

In Egypt, they noted, hundreds of defendants at a time are sentenced to death in unfair mass trials.

"Even though the execution rate is lower, these trials clearly do not meet international standards," they said.

Gambia also has a worrying situation, they observed, after abruptly ending a longstanding moratorium and hanging 9 people in 2012, it has now been proposed that the number of offences punishable by death be expanded.

"This proposal, if adopted, would be in stark contrast to the trend away from capital punishment elsewhere on the continent," the 2 experts stressed.

A ruling of the Constitutional Court led to the abolition of the death penalty in South Africa on June 6, 1995, following a 5-year and 4 month moratorium from February 1990.

South Africa carried out its last execution with the hanging in November 1989 of Solomon Ngobeni who was convicted of robbing and stabbing a taxi driver.

The last woman executed was Sandra Smith, on June 2 that same year, along with her boyfriend Yassiem Harris, after a murder conviction.

The UN independent experts noted that Lungu's decision supports previous steps towards the abolition of capital punishment in Zambia. A presidential moratorium on the death penalty has been in place since 1997.

However, they called on Zambian authorities to vote in favour of the UN General Assembly's resolution calling for a global moratorium, rather than abstaining, as they have in the previous 4 votes.

The special rapporteurs said 3/4 of world states have abolished the death penalty in law or in practice.

The same applies to Africa. Last year, only 4 states are known to have conducted executions.

Earlier this month, Togo became Africa's 12th state party to the 2nd Optional Protocol of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, aimed at the abolition of the death penalty. The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights has consistently called for the abolition of the death penalty for the past 2 decades and has drawn up a protocol to this effect.

"If it is adopted soon by the African Union and opened for ratification, it will give new emphasis to putting the death penalty era behind us," the UN experts said.

(source: IOL news)


Koh Tao murder trail: Lawyer claims police failed to check CCTV----The defence lawyer in the Koh Tao murder trial said police had not examined CCTV footage near where 2 Brits were killed in September.

Thai police failed to check CCTV footage from the only pier on the island where a pair of British tourists were murdered last year, a lawyer for the 2 Myanmar nationals accused of the killings said Thursday (Jul 23).

Migrant workers Zaw Lin and Win Zaw Tun are on trial for the murder of 24-year-old David Miller and the rape and murder of Hannah Witheridge, 23, on southern Koh Tao island in September.

Both men have pleaded not guilty and face the death penalty if convicted over a case which has tarnished Thailand's reputation as a tourist paradise and seen the police accused of bungling the investigation.

Under cross-examination Thursday a senior investigating police officer, Colonel Cherdpong Chiewpreecha, told a Koh Samui court that CCTV footage from the pier had not been examined after the double murders.

The pier is close to the beach were the battered bodies of the British holidaymakers were found and is the main route to and from the resort island.

"I asked whether police checked CCTV footage. He (the witness) replied no and that police had collected the footage but investigators thought it wasn't relevant," defence lawyer Nakhon Chomphuchat told AFP after the morning session.

The defence also alleged that a small boat was seen leaving the island shortly after the killings but the officer was unable to confirm this information.

Prosecutors have argued that DNA evidence implicates the two Myanmar migrants but the defence says an under-pressure police force have coerced confessions, later retracted, from the pair.

Attempts by the defence to independently test some of the key forensic evidence against their clients were thwarted after police told an earlier hearing that the samples had been used up.

The battered bodies of Miller and Witheridge were found on the sleepy diving island of Koh Tao on September 15.

Police say Miller had been struck by a single blow and left to drown in shallow surf while Witheridge had been raped and then beaten to death with a garden hoe.

Among a litany of apparent mistakes in the hours after the grisly discovery, Thai police were criticised for failing to secure the crime scene or close the pier.

The Myanmar pair are being tried on Koh Samui, near to Koh Tao. Reporters are not allowed to take notes during the trial which is expected to reach a verdict in October.



Iran regime hangs 10 prisoners collectively

The clerical regime in Iran on Wednesday hanged 10 prisoners collectively in Gohardasht Prison in Karaj, west of the Iranian capital Tehran.

This shocking group execution in Gohardasht, also known as Rajai Shahr Prison, comes a week after the henchmen of the religious dictatorship raided and harassed inmates in the notorious prison.

The Iranian regime's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei is trying in vain to make up for the retreats he was forced to make last week in the nuclear projects, by severely violating human rights in order to to salvage his hegemony and grip on power.

Since mullah Hasssan Rouhani took office as President, more than 1,800 prisoners have been executed in Iran.

Turning a blind eye by the international community, especially the European Union and the United States, regarding the catastrophic human rights situation in Iran emboldens the mullahs' regime to step up suppression and slaughter the Iranian people. Any relations with the Iranian regime have to be contingent upon improvement of the situation of human rights in Iran, including the release of all political prisoners.

(source: NCR-Iran)


Post Iran Deal and Ramadan: Nine Prisoners Charged with Murder Executed in Rajai Shahr Prison

According to close sources, on Wednesday morning 9 prisoners charged with murder were hanged to death in Rajai Shahr Prison.

On the same day in Rajai Shahr 14 prisoners from various wards were transferred to solitary confinement. It is believed the Iranian authorities intend to execute them next. According to IHR's sources, some of the prisoners transferred to solitary confinement were pardoned by the plaintiffs on their respective cases while 2 more had their death sentences called off pending a retrial. Iran Human Rights is aware of the names of 3 of the prisoners sent to solitary confinement: Hossein Yazdani (from Ward 1), Albolalhassan Mousavi (from Ward 2) and Amir Salehi (from Ward 6).

Iran Human Rights and other human rights NGOs had feared the Iranian authorities would resume with the execution of prisoners after the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Wednesday's group executions demonstrate no signs of change in improvement for the human rights situation in Iran post Iran Deal. The Iranian authorities are continuing with their policies of executing prisoners and spreading fear and terror among Iranians.

"We call on the international community to put human rights, particularly executions in Iran, at the top of their agenda in talks with Iran," says Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam, executive director of Iran Human Rights.

(source: Iran Human Rights)


Executions in Iran could top 1,000 this year, says Amnesty International ---- Human rights charity says 694 people have been put to death in the last six months, nearly matching the toll for the whole of 2014

Iran is thought to have executed nearly 700 people in the 1st half of 2015, according to reports compiled by Amnesty International that far exceed the 246 deaths officially declared by authorities in Tehran.

The human rights charity says "credible reports" put the true toll for the period up to 15 July at 694 people, the equivalent of 3 executions a day, and nearly as many as were put to death in Iran in the whole of 2014.

Said Boumedouha, deputy director of Amnesty International's Middle East and North Africa programme, said: "Iran's staggering execution toll for the 1st half of this year paints a sinister picture of the machinery of the state carrying out premeditated, judicially-sanctioned killings on a mass scale.

"If Iran's authorities maintain this horrifying execution rate we are likely to see more than 1,000 state-sanctioned deaths by the year's end.

"The use of the death penalty is always abhorrent, but it raises additional concerns in a country like Iran, where trials are blatantly unfair."

Even during the month of Ramadan, when executions are usually suspended, Amnesty reports at least four people were put to death.

According to a report published in March by Ahmed Shaheed, the UN special rapporteur on Iran, at least 753 people were executed in 2014, a 12-year high.

Shaheed called for "a moratorium on executions", noting that most executions were for drug-related crimes, as well as adultery, sodomy and "vaguely worded national security offences".

Amnesty said such charges did not meet international legal standards, which permit the death penalty only for the "most serious crimes". Most of those executed so far in 2015 had faced drugs charges, the charity said.

China carries out the most executions each year, but Iran puts to death more people per capita than any other country.

Several thousand people are believed to be on death row in Iran, although authorities there do not release exact figures.

In June, Atena Daemi, an anti-death-penalty activist who had engaged in peaceful protests, was sentenced to 14 years in prison.

(source: The Guardian)


The death penalty is a Commonwealth problem ---- The Commonwealth lags behind global trends on abolition, but taking an official stance against the death penalty would put it back on the international stage.

Last year, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon declared: "The death penalty has no place in the 21st century."

But it appears that many leaders of the 53 Commonwealth countries - who will gather in Malta for their biennial meeting in November - didn't get that memo.

9 of these leaders head governments that regularly execute their own citizens. 26 more hail from states that are abolitionist "in practice" but retain capital punishment in their legal code. The organization's most-populous countries - India, Pakistan, Nigeria and Bangladesh - have all hanged prisoners in the past 3 years.

The Commonwealth consists largely of former colonies of the United Kingdom - a nation that, while expanding its empire across the globe, sanctioned hundreds of executions under the infamous "Bloody Code". Yet, while the UK itself abolished capital punishment in the 1960s, the brutal legacy of imperial justice lives on in the legal systems of dozens of now-independent countries.

This group of states has lagged markedly behind global trends towards abolition of the death penalty. While 19 countries have barred capital punishment in the past decade, bringing the total number of abolitionist states to 103, only 2 were members of the Commonwealth. The share of fully abolitionist countries is nearly 45% lower within the Commonwealth than outside it.

The Commonwealth Caribbean is particularly at odds with regional norms. Nearly 2/3 of the countries with death penalty laws in the Western Hemisphere are members of the Commonwealth.

The picture is not exactly encouraging elsewhere in the world. In Asia, not a single member state has abolished the death penalty. In Africa, the region with the highest number of Commonwealth countries, only 1/3 have abolished it.

This year may prove to be the deadliest in recent memory. Last December, in the wake of the Peshawar school massacre, Pakistan partially lifted its moratorium on executions for terrorism charges; in March, the ban was ended entirely. The country has executed more than 100 individuals since December, making it one of the world's most-frequent executioners.

In addition, the Maldives and Papua New Guinea, neither of which has executed a prisoner since the 1950s, have both taken legislative steps to resume hangings this year. The government of Trinidad and Tobago has also announced its desire to reintroduce executions.

But could there be a Commonwealth remedy to this disproportionately Commonwealth problem?

Anti-death penalty activists should look to the continent hosting the Heads of Government Meeting this autumn for inspiration. Europe leads the world in abolitionism: of its 49 independent states, all but one has ended the use of capital punishment.

This remarkable accomplishment is due in part to a decades-long effort to make opposition to the death penalty a pan-European value - and to enshrine that commitment at the intergovernmental level. In 1983, the European Convention on Human Rights was amended with a protocol barring the death penalty except in wartime. In 1998 this prohibition was made total. Abolition of the death penalty is a prerequisite for membership in the Council of Europe, which led directly to the moratorium on its use in Russia in 1996. Additionally, EU members are now legally bound by the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union to refrain from capital punishment.

While Europe has led the way, intergovernmental efforts in other regions of the world have confirmed this growing global consensus. In the Americas, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has been a prominent pro-abolition voice, and was responsible for the removal of capital punishment from Argentina's military code. In Africa, where the use of capital punishment has declined markedly in recent years, the African Commission on Human and People's Rights is slated to propose a protocol to the African Union’s primary human rights document, which would call for full abolition on the continent. Few abuses strike at the core of 'the dignity of all human beings' and the 'universal, indivisible, interdependent and interrelated' human rights outlined in the Commonwealth Charter like capital punishment. Few abuses strike at the core of "the dignity of all human beings" and the "universal, indivisible, interdependent and interrelated" human rights outlined in the Commonwealth Charter like capital punishment. Moving towards an official Commonwealth stance against the death penalty would put it back in the vanguard of intergovernmental organizations and make it - for the 1st time in years - a bold, principled presence on the international stage.

This need not entail a demand for immediate abolition. Building on the approach of the UN General Assembly, the Commonwealth Secretary-General could instead encourage retentionist member states to take the intermediate steps of implementing a moratorium, reducing the number of offences eligible for death sentences and ensuring minimum due process in capital trials.

The Commonwealth could also leverage its global platform and technical expertise in legal affairs and governance to help make abolition a norm for member states, much as it has done in recent decades for elections. In many countries, the death penalty debate suffers from a lack of information; in India, for instance, the 1st major national study of capital punishment (which found extreme bias in the application of sentences) was only completed last year. The Commonwealth, in partnership with member states like the United Kingdom and New Zealand, that include abolition as a foreign policy goal, could provide both a forum and assistance for policymakers seeking justice system reform.

Finally, the organization needs to support and coordinate efforts among its most underutilized resource: civil society and professional organizations. The Commonwealth's list of accredited organizations alone includes 3 broad-based human rights organizations, multiple NGO networks and associations of lawyers, magistrates, law reform agencies and legislative drafters.

These groups (some of which are already engaged in anti-death penalty work) would be natural partners in a pan-Commonwealth drive to end capital punishment. While the Commonwealth Secretariat often talks of a "Commonwealth Family", it limits its own reach, capacity and relevance by - as CHRI finds in a forthcoming report for the Malta summit - failing to sufficiently engage the vibrant web of civil society actors in member states. This campaign would be an excellent opportunity to put its relationship with the "Commonwealth of the People" on a more productive footing.

Ultimately, the Commonwealth will not be the primary vehicle for anti-death penalty activism. This is a fight that will be fought and won at the domestic level. But as we've witnessed in Europe and in other regions, making capital punishment anathema at the intergovernmental level can have a profound effect. If the Commonwealth wants to be the values-driven organization it claims to be, one that earns the respect of citizens by standing for their human rights, it must work for a 21st century in which the death penalty truly has no place.



Executing the mentally ill

Since Pakistan abandoned its moratorium on the death penalty in December, the state has embarked upon a relentless spree to execute hordes of prisoners who have been languishing for decades in death row cells all across the country. According to civil society groups, there are currently over 8,500 people on death row in Pakistan. It is no secret that the criminal justice system is flawed on every level. In order to secure convictions, the police relies upon torturing the most vulnerable to extract confessions and damning testimonials. The trial that follows is a script of a lack of diligence by trial courts, procedural oversight, records that suddenly go missing and incompetent legal representation. Whilst the wealthy and influential escape through the loopholes, the poor, mentally ill, powerless and members of religious minorities are rushed to the gallows - celebrated numbers in the horrific body count of executions that the state celebrates as an indicator of its success in eradicating terrorism. As the state reaches a milestone of over 176 executions this month, it is important to acquaint ourselves with the stories of those who are awaiting their deaths after Eid.

Kanizan Bibi, a woman diagnosed with severe schizophrenia, has spent the last 26 years in prison. In 1989 she was framed as an accomplice in the murder of a woman and her 5 minor children. Her family maintains that the real culprits managed to procure their release by bribing the police into framing Kanizan Bibi and her co-accused for murdering the family of the latter as a result of an extra-marital affair. Kanizan Bibi was subjected to such brutal torture under police custody that she ended up incapacitated in the hospital after just 4 days of interrogation. The police procured a forced confession from Kanizan which, despite her repeated recanting, was used as a basis of her conviction and later in the awarding of her death sentence. Kanizan Bibi's mental health has deteriorated rapidly throughout the course of her imprisonment. At present she maintains no control over her mental faculties, recognises no one and has been mute for over 8 years. In 2008 Kanizan Bibi was transferred from Kot Lakhpat Jail to the Punjab Institute of Mental Health (PIMH) for treatment on account of her dire psycho-social health. During her stay at PIMH, two medical boards have declared her as suffering from paranoid schizophrenia and as a result, mentally unfit to face execution. However, despite her mental condition, President Mamnoon Hussain has rejected her mercy petition. Kanizan's only relative, her elderly father, died in an accident as he was on his way to visit her at PIMH from their home town of Toba Tek Singh. As a result, she spends her days in solitude and isolation as the Home Department deliberates upon when to schedule her execution date.

Yet another prisoner facing the death penalty post-Eid is Khizr Hayat, a former police officer, who was diagnosed by jail authorities as suffering from paranoid schizophrenia in 2008. Throughout his time in prison he has experienced severe hallucinations and fits that have made him a target for violent attacks from his fellow inmates on several occasions. Instead of transferring Khizr to an independent medical facility, as requested repeatedly by his mother, prison authorities keep him under solitary confinement in the prison's hospital room, letting him out only when he gets visitors. According to Khizr's lawyers, he has no idea why or how long he has been in prison, that he is on death row, and thinks that the medication he is taking are anti-malaria pills.

On April 28, Munir Hussain became the 100th person to be executed by the state after the lifting of the moratorium on death penalty. According to his family, Munir was a long-term sufferer of mental illness and had no recollection of his life before arrest or of any of his family members at the time of his hanging.

The mentally ill comprise a big chunk of Pakistan's prison population, particularly those on death row. Many people enter the prison population with predispositions of mental illness. Such illness is exacerbated over the course of their incarceration as a result of a lack of access to health care, police misconduct, torture and harassment from other prisoners. Mentally ill prisoners are stuffed in Pakistan death row cells alongside other inmates. These death row cells, measuring 8ft x 12ft and designed to house not more than 2 prisoners at a time, currently hold on average 6 or more prisoners for over 23 hours a day. Whilst the Medical Health Ordinance was enacted in 2001 to provide protection and treatment to mentally ill prisoners the law receives little or no implementation nation-wide.

Executions of the mentally ill violate the right to human dignity under the Constitution and is an affront to Pakistan's obligations under international law. Additionally, Section 84 of the Pakistan Penal Code does not allow the state to punish any person suffering from a "disorder of his mental capabilities". There is no evidentiary basis or rational link between eradicating the root causes of terrorism and the government’s conveyer belt of en masse executions carried out regardless of the mental stability of the prisoners. Daily executions, particularly of the mentally insane, serves as no deterrent to crime and order. It is only a campaign of cruelty and vengeance against the most vulnerable already persecuted by a biased criminal justice system. The current PML-N government needs to reinstate the moratorium against the death penalty immediately in order to stop its repeated violations of the fundamental rights of its vulnerable citizens.

(source: The Nation)


When Justice Hangs by a Thread

More than 22 years after the nation's commercial capital, then known as Bombay, was rocked by a dozen coordinated blasts that left 257 dead and over 700 injured, the Supreme Court has finally cleared the decks for the execution of "the driving spirit" behind the blasts, Yakub Abdul Razak Memon. A 3-judge bench headed by Chief Justice H L Dattu has rejected Memon's curative petition, the last legal remedy available to avoid execution of death sentence. The apex court had on April 9 this year dismissed Memon's petition seeking review of the death sentence upheld on March 21, 2013. President Pranab Mukherjee had earlier rejected his mercy petition in May last. Memon has once again sought to delay his hanging by filing a fresh mercy petition before the President, on the plea that the earlier one rejected by the President was filed on his behalf by his brother Suleiman.

Though he was not among the persons who carried arms and ammunition used for the blasts, it was Memon who stood behind the perpetrators from the start of the conspiracy till the end, providing finance and logistics for the dastardly crime. Given the enormity of his crime and the fact that there has already been an inordinate delay in his trial and post-trial proceedings and the masterminds of the blasts, his brother Tiger Memon and Dawood Ibrahim, are eluding the arms of law with the help of the Pakistan government, his execution will send a strong signal. The government should ensure that it is carried out without further delay.

While the debate over the efficacy of capital punishment continues, most countries have decided to retain it in view of the changing nature of crimes against the state and the society due to increasing menace of terrorism. To be effective, death penalty must act as a deterrent and this can be made sure only by ensuring a fair but speedy trial of the accused and speedy execution of the sentence once the accused is found guilty. The government must ensure that this is done without interference due to political and other extraneous factors. The likes of those involved in the assassination of late Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and former Punjab Chief Minister Beant Singh must be shown no mercy. A mechanism must be put in place firmly to safeguard that the law is allowed to take its course unfettered.

(source: Editorial, New Indian Express)


Why didn't Centre protest when governor commuted Nalini's death penalty: SC

The Supreme Court on Wednesday asked the Centre, which is anxious to stop Tamil Nadu from remitting the sentences of seven lifers in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case, why it did not challenge similar exercise of the state's executive power through the governor to commute Nalini's death sentence to life term.

The Centre had rushed to the SC immediately after the Jayalalithaa government in February last year proposed to remit the sentences of seven Rajiv assassination case life convicts, including three - Santhan, Perarivalan and Murugan - whose death sentences were commuted by the SC for delay in deciding their mercy pleas.

The other 4 to be released as per Tamil Nadu's decision were Nalini, Robert Pais, Jaikumar and Ravi Chandran. The SC had stayed the Tamil Nadu government's decision on the Centre's plea.

The Centre had argued that the state was barred from exercising executive power under Section 432 of Criminal Procedure Code to remit the sentences since the suicide bomb attack by foreign nationals in conspiracy with some Indians was investigated by the central agency CBI.

Additionally, solicitor general Ranjit Kumar argued that once the Tamil Nadu government had exercised its executive power through the governor by commuting Nalini's death sentence, it could not have re-exercised the same power under Section 432 to propose remission of life sentences on the ground that the convicts had spent more than 22 years in prison as of February 2014.

A bench of Chief Justice H L Dattu and Justices F M I Kalifulla, P C Ghose, A M Sapre and U U Lalit said, "The governor according to you (the Centre) exercised the executive power to commute the sentence. If the commutation and remission powers to be exercised in this case were the sole discretion of the Centre as your petitions argue, why did the Centre not protest or challenge the TN governor's decision to commute Nalini's death penalty?"

Kumar conceded, "It is true the governor had commuted the death sentence of Nalini to life imprisonment and the Centre had not questioned it." However, he attempted to wriggle out by arguing that these accused were convicted under many central laws - Arms Act, Passport Act, Explosives Act and Telegraph Act - thus giving the Centre sole authority to consider remission of sentences of the 7 lifers.

The bench was quick to point out that death penalty was given under Section 302 read with Section 120B of Indian Penal Code and that all accused were acquitted of charges under the central legislation TADA. "The only way the Centre could have had a say on remission was if the SC had upheld award of death penalty under TADA," the bench said.

Finding himself in a spot, the SG said he was answering the seven questions posed by the 3-judge bench while referring the matter to the present 5-judge bench. "I am only arguing which could be the appropriate government and not on the facts of this case," Kumar said.

(source: The Times of India)


Grotesque idea of execution: Why we are curious about Yakub Memon's walk to the gallows

After Ajmal Kasab in 2012 and Afzal Guru in 2013, India is getting ready for its 3rd execution in a decade with Yakub Memon. Along with last minute debates on whether he is really guilty or not, and how the Indian State picks and chooses its execution targets, what will slowly grip the country in the next couple of weeks are the creepy details of his execution.

With Memon's death by hanging confirmed for 30 July, or a few days later because of another shot at clemency, there will be both a sense of cold fear as well as curiosity about his last moments: the way he is woken up - if at all he manages some sleep before his involuntary death - in the early hours of the day, asked to take a bath, fed the meal of his choice and led to the gallows. We would also like to know if he was terrified or took it easy.

This Indian Express report has vivid details of how the final moments of Memon's life will roll out. "He would be woken at 3 am and, 10 minutes later, will be asked to take a bath. If he wants a hot shower, it would be provided," the report said.

"At 3.20 am, Memon will be served breakfast, the menu for which would be finalised in consultation with him. If the jail canteen cannot provide the food he wants, it will be ordered from outside ... He will be then asked to read any religious book of his choice and, by 3.35 am, taken to the gallows. His hands will be tied behind his back, and his face covered with a cotton cap. After a medical officer confirms death, the news will be communicated to the state home department, which will inform the family."

While the rest of India is in deep sleep, Memon will have the luxury of a hot-bath, a sumptuous meal of his choice, and a calibrated drop to his death. The jail authorities would have already done a rehearsal of his execution using a sand-bag that weighs slightly more than him, and a rope that has undergone a certain production rigour.

There are also specifications as to how the noose should be prepared, how it should be lubricated, where exactly it should be placed around his neck, and how far he has to fall beneath the trap-door when the hangman pulls the lever. If the fall is too long, the head may be severed as had happened in the case of one of Saddam Hussain’s aides, and if it's too short, he will die due to painful strangulation. Executioners believe that if done properly, hanging kills instantly by breaking the neck although literature shows that it's rarely that easy.

After the death, "sources" at the Nagpur jail, who would have witnessed the hanging, will share the gripping details of Memon's last moments with their media friends - if he was quiet and cooperative, if he had his bath and his meal, and if he had done anything particularly remarkable before or during his slow march to the gallows.

In Kasab's case, apparently he spent about half an hour bathing and praying, then wore new clothes and underwent a medical check up. He didn't have any last minute wish and only said "I swear by Allah, I will never commit such a mistake again" before he was hanged. But in the case of Afzal Guru, the only detail that trickled out was that he was calm and wrote a letter to his wife before his death.

Every execution in the democratic world is a media event because of the plethora of emotions it evokes - mortal fear, helplessness, pain and outrage. For some, such as the relatives and friends of the victims of the convict, it's mandatory retribution and closure, while for a lot of others, it's yet another instance of cold-blooded murder by the State.

What's so cruel and painful about any execution is that life is literally snuffed out of a healthy individual by the State. That's precisely what a wailing mother of Australian citizen Mayuran Sukumaran, one of the Bali Nine convicts, told the Indonesian government before his execution in April: "He is so healthy and beautiful, please don't kill him." Sukumaran and 8 others, convicted for smuggling heroin in Indonesia, were shot dead in an island despite Australia's incessant diplomatic efforts. In a poignant letter to the Indonesian president, his mother said: "My son died knowing all his loved ones were close by waiting in a hotel room to hear the news that he had been executed." She added that with the execution, she would be punished for the rest of her life. International media had carried graphic details of the preparation for the execution.

Every execution is barbaric and the details of the last moments of the convict are benumbing, leading one to a state of emotional vacuum. Take a look at the pictures of these women on death row in China, which kills the largest number of people in the world, but keeps the count a state secret. The cold, existential emptiness that they convey will never leave you. The final walk towards the gallows cannot be anything, but helpless and scary.

It's this intense human interest and people's affinity to life than death that compelled the great American author Normal Mailer to write a 1000 page Pulitzer winning best-seller, The Executioner's Song, on the life of Gary Gilmore whose execution in 1976 generated unprecedented global attention., Gilmore's uncanny last words - "Let's Do it" as he faced the firing squad, was a rude awakening to the grotesque idea of execution. Mailer, who narrated the final moments with dramatic details, also went on to describe his autopsy. He wrote: "Then, he took out what was left of Gilmore's heart. Jerry Scott couldn't believe what he saw. The thing was pulverised. Not even half left. Jerry didn't recognise it as the heart. Had to ask the doctor. "Excuse me," he said, "is that it?" The doctor said, "Yup."

Much before Mailer, George Orwell also had found creative purpose in artfully describing an execution he witnessed in his 1931 essay, A Hanging. It was heart-rending, but we couldn't stop reading it because we are terrified of death and love life.

Memon's execution will be another setback to the campaign against death penalty. The only saving grace for India is that despite its free-wheeling death sentences, it rarely hangs people. In the last 10 years, Indian courts have sentenced a few hundred people to death, but only 2 have been sent to the gallows. But, the country then picks up cases with a political significance, which is defective both in law and its fairness.



How the President decides matters of life and death

If Yakub Memon is hanged on July 30, he will be the 3rd death row convict to be executed following the rejection of their clemency pleas by President Pranab Mukherjee. Since he became President in 2012, Mukherjee has turned down mercy pleas in at least 24 cases.

Under Article 72 of the Constitution, the President can grant pardon, and suspend, remit or commute a sentence of death. However, the President does not exercise this power on this own - he has to act on the advice of the Council of Ministers. This too has been made clear by the Constitution.

Under the existing rules of procedure governing mercy petitions, the view of the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), conveyed to the President in writing, is taken as the view of the Cabinet, and the President decides a mercy petition accordingly.

Once a convict has been finally awarded the death sentence by the Supreme Court, anybody, including a foreign national, can send a mercy petition with regard to that person to the President's Office or the MHA. A mercy plea can also be sent to the Governor of the state concerned, who then forwards it to the MHA for further action.

The convict can file a mercy plea from prison through officials, his lawyer or family. These days, mercy petitions can also be emailed to the MHA or President's Secretariat.

A few years ago, the Union Ministry of Law told the MHA that the President's power to grant pardons, reprieves, respites or remissions of punishment under Article 72 was "absolute and cannot be fettered by any statutory provisions" under the Code of Criminal Procedure or prison rules.

The then Law Secretary, T K Vishwanathan, also said that while commuting the death sentence, the President could direct that the convict would remain in prison for the whole of his natural life, and not be released after remission of the term. Vishwanathan clarified that life imprisonment meant "imprisonment for the whole of the remaining period of the convicted person’s natural life, and not 14 years in prison".

Different Presidents have dealt with mercy petitions differently. Since there is no fixed timeframe for disposing of a mercy petition, both the MHA and President have sometimes sat on cases for years.

Thus, at the end of his 5-year term, APJ Abdul Kalam left behind over 2 dozen mercy pleas, having decided only 2 - rejecting the plea of rape-cum-murder convict Dhananjoy Chatterjee (2004), and commuting the death sentence of Kheraj Ram into life imprisonment (2006).

Kalam's predecessor, K R Narayanan, was tardier, and failed to decide a single mercy petition during his 1997-2002 term.

MHA data show that Presidents, with the exceptions of Narayanan and Pratibha Patil, have dealt with mercy petitions largely without mercy. According to information released by the government under the RTI Act, of the 77 mercy pleas decided by Presidents between 1991 and 2010, 69 were rejected. Only 8 - about 10% - of those who sought mercy were spared the gallows. R Venkataraman (1987-1992) rejected 44 mercy pleas, the most by any President.

During her 2007-2012 term, Patil, the country's 1st woman President, accepted the mercy pleas of 30 death row convicts - pardoning, among others, Piara Singh, Sarabjit Singh, Gurdev Singh and Satnam Singh, who killed 17 members of a family at a wedding; Govindasamy, who murdered 5 relatives in their sleep; and Dharmender Singh and Narendra Yadav, who killed an entire family of 5, including a 15-year-old girl, whom Yadav had tried to rape, and her 10-year-old brother, whom they burnt alive.

Several Presidents have allowed their personal convictions - views against the death penalty or religious beliefs - to come in the way of their taking swift action on pending mercy petitions. Central governments have been accused of being guided by political considerations in making recommendations on mercy pleas to the President.

The MHA has sometimes jumped the queue in sending mercy petitions to the President - the most recent case being that of 26/11 terrorist Ajmal Kasab, who was hanged in November 2012. The Ministry has on occasion also changed its recommendation - from rejecting a mercy petition to favouring its acceptance.

On the issue of delay in deciding mercy pleas, the Supreme Court in a landmark judgment last year held that the death sentence of a condemned prisoner can be commuted to life imprisonment on the ground of delay on the part of the government in deciding the mercy plea.



A case for mercy

The rejection by the Supreme Court of a curative petition by Yakub Abdul Razak Memon, the only one sentenced to death for involvement in the 1993 Mumbai serial blasts, marks the exhaustion of his last judicial remedy. However, hanging him will be cruel and inhuman, for more than one reason. With the masterminds Dawood Ibrahim and 'Tiger' Memon, Yakub's brother, remaining out of the reach of the Indian authorities, it will only give the impression that the lone man available among the many brains behind the ghastly act of terrorism is being singled out. The other 10 men who had planted the explosives were also handed down the death sentence by the Designated Court, but the Supreme Court commuted those to life. It said Yakub held a "commanding position", as he made financial and travel arrangements for the other accused who later planted the explosives. He cannot escape the consequences of his role, but whether hanging him will be the appropriate punishment is something to be pondered over. The Memon family came under suspicion mainly because 'Tiger' Memon was the principal conspirator. They fuelled further suspicion by fleeing, and were later found to have travelled abroad on Pakistan passports. However, most of them, including Yakub, ultimately returned to India to face the legal consequences. In the overall circumstances of the case, it is certainly debatable whether Yakub Memon's case would fall in the category of the "rarest of the rare" cases the Supreme Court itself laid down would merit the death penalty.

Yakub Memon's impending execution on July 30 may not take place as scheduled, as he has shot off another mercy petition to the President. Under a landmark ruling in January 2014, the Supreme Court has humanised the way the state deals with death row convicts. In terms of that judgment, a convict cannot be executed for 14 days after the rejection of a clemency plea. An earlier mercy petition filed on his behalf by his brother was rejected by the President, but his own plea may have to be considered afresh. Taking into account the fact that in the last 22 years Yakub is the only one whose death sentence has been confirmed by the judiciary in the case, the executive itself can reduce his sentence to one of life instead of fuelling another round of litigation by rejecting his mercy petition. There will be an inevitable debate on how a man who played a significant role in the serial blasts, which left 257 dead and 713 people wounded, could be shown any mercy. Some will see the situation on merits, and others will voice their principled opposition to the death penalty. The only way to avoid this endless debate is to abolish the cruel and irreversible punishment of death itself.

(source: Editorial, The Hindu)


Debate over hanging Yakub Memon: Why death penalty can't be done away with

Every time the hangman's noose is readied, the case for and against capital punishment springs up for animated debate in the media. The arguments are by now familiar. The abolitionist school says there could be a miscarriage of justice if subsequent events prove the innocence of the individual. They also argue some evidence may show the extenuating circumstances may establish that it wasn't cold-blooded murder. Cynics wonder how only people from the backward segments of the society and minorities figure in the rarest of rare list. They blame it on the inability of such accused to defend themselves by hiring the services of legal eagles. The votaries of capital punishment see merit in the eye-for-eye equation, the bedrock of a retributive justice system.

While Europe, barring Belarus and Kazakhstan, swears by abolition and has stopped awarding and executing death penalty, the US has been divided on the issue for long, and 18 of the 50 states have abolished the death sentence. The Indian law and jurisprudence on the issue is clear--- the death sentence to be awarded in the rarest of rare cases.

The 18 states in the US that have abolished death penalty must ponder if the right to possess a gun conferred by the second amendment to the US Constitution should prevail in their states because a gun in the wrong hands can result in deaths. While the right to possess a gun is often questioned in the United States, it ought to be abolished in states that have foresworn the death penalty. Arming people who can become trigger-happy and then condoning their crimes with a softer punishment is nothing but running with the hare and hunting with the hound.

Likewise, it is for the European nations like the Netherlands, Denmark and Switzerland that countenance euthanasia to ponder if this sits well with their abolitionist stance. If state taking away of life of a convict is reprehensible, then the act of mercy killing and doctor assisted suicide must be deemed equally reprehensible.

It may be contended that they are not comparable because while death penalty is meted out compulsorily at the instance of the judiciary, mercy killing is voluntary. But then this is a specious argument. If states cannot end life, it cannot encourage voluntary termination of one's life, which is sanctified as law in the Netherlands. If a convict must be allowed to live fully i.e. till God has ordained him to live, it is equally the duty of the state to take care of people suffering from pain or mental trauma rather than taking their lives, given the fact that a cure may emerge later.

Coming back to the basic issue, the abolitionist school for the death penalty misses the wood for trees. Doing away of death penalty must be presaged by a guarantee that the society would be free of wanton murders and killings. Can any government worth its salt give such a guarantee? The question is not merely rhetorical.

If a government cannot prevent wanton killings, it should not take up cudgels for those indulging in such killings. Many of the Scandinavian countries are pacifists but that does not mean murders and killings don't take place in the region. While it is debatable if death penalty is sufficiently deterrent, the truth is that the ends of justice would be met only if wanton murder is met with execution of such murderer. It is all fine to say that a lifetime imprisonment is more painful than death, but the reality is boredom is not an affliction that affects every prisoner uniformly.

The sentimental amongst the abolitionists contend that a death penalty penalises the family more the convict. That is maybe, but the poignant truth is all premature deaths are God's punishment against the family rather than against the deceased. The one who dies prematurely leaves behind a distraught family often unable to fend for itself economically and emotionally.


Yakub Memon moves SC again seeking stay on death penalty

Yakub Abdul Razak Memon, the sole death row convict in the 1993 Mumbai serial blasts case, on Thursday moved the Supreme Court seeking stay of execution of his death sentence scheduled for July 30.

Memon, in his petition said that all legal remedies have not been exhausted and he has also approached the Maharastra Governor with a plea for mercy.

He had filed the mercy plea before the Governor immediately after his curative petition was dismissed by the apex court on Tuesday.

A 3-judge bench headed by Chief Justice H.L. Dattu had on July 21 rejected Memon's plea saying that the grounds raised by him does not fall within the principles laid down by the apex court in 2002 in deciding the curative petition, the last judicial remedy available to an aggrieved person.

Memon, in his plea, had claimed he was suffering from schizophrenia since 1996 and remained behind the bars for nearly 20 years. He had sought commutation of death penalty contending that a convict cannot be awarded life term and the extreme penalty simultaneously for the same offence.

The apex court on April 9 this year had dismissed Memon's petition seeking review of his death sentence which was upheld on March 21, 2013.

Memon's review petition was heard by a three-judge bench in an open court in pursuance of a Constitution bench verdict that the practice of deciding review pleas in chambers be done away with, in cases where death penalty has been awarded.

The apex court, on June 2, 2014, had stayed the execution of Memon and referred his plea to a Constitution bench as to whether review petitions in death penalty cases be heard in an open court or in chambers.

Memon had sought review of the March 21, 2013 verdict of the apex court upholding his death penalty in the case relating to 13 coordinated bomb blasts in Mumbai, killing 257 persons and injuring over 700 on March 12, 1993.

Yakub Memon is the younger brother of Tiger Memon, the prime absconding accused in the case.

Chronology of 1993 bomb blasts case

March 12, 1993: Serial blasts shattered the city at 12 locations including Air-India Building, Bombay Stock Exchange and Centeur and Sea Rock Hotels in which 257 people were killed and another 713 injured

June 1995: Trial begins in TADA court in Mumbai housed in high-security Central Prison

August 6, 1994: Yakub arrested when he arrived at Delhi Airport from Khatmandu

September 2006: 100 accused, including Yakub, were convicted. 20 were given life sentences. Among them was film star Sanjay Dutt who was given 5 years jail term for possessing weapon in notified area under TADA.

July 27, 2007: Death sentence awarded to Yakub by TADA Judge P D Kode. 11 others also got capital punishment. Yakub was found guilty of Conspiracy (IPC section 120-B) for causing terror acts under TADA, arranged tickets for accused to go to Pakistan for arms training and brought vehicles used for planting bombs used in the serial explosions

March 21, 2013: Supreme Court upheld death sentence awarded to Yakub by TADA Court but commutes death sentence of 10 others to life term. One convict dies in jail

2014: President Pranab Mukherjee rejects Yakub's mercy petition

April 10, 2015: Supreme Court rejects review petition filed by Memon

April 29: Special TADA Judge G Sanap fixes July 30 as the date of execution

May 2015: Yakub lodged in Nagpur central prison files a curative petition in Supreme Court

July 21: Supreme Court dismisses curative petition of Yakub, confirms death sentence

July 21: Yakub Memon files mercy plea before Maharashtra Governor

July 23: Memon moves Supreme Court again seeking stay on death penalty


JULY 22, 2015:


Friends, relatives tearfully speak of Hood's victims

A steady stream of friends, co-workers and loved ones took a seat and leaned into the microphone to tell jurors how Jamie Hood had altered their lives when he murdered an Athens-Clarke County police officer and wounded another in 2011.

Several cried as they read from written statements and each walked past Hood without glancing at him when they were done testifying Wednesday in the penalty phase of his trial.

"My life was changed forever," said police officer Tony Howard, whom Hood shot and wounded moments before he killed officer Elmer "Buddy" Christian on March 22, 2011.

He still has pain. He can no longer work extra jobs that boosted his family's income. Howard said he avoids people to avoid being asked about Hood.

Howard's wife, Shirlisa, said she had to quit her job at the Clarke County Jail because of taunts from inmates and never leaves home without a gun. She told the jurors of the scene when she got to the hospital where her husband was taken.

Still, Hood blamed others for putting him in the situation where he shot and killed Christian.

Hood told the jurors who Monday convicted him of 2 murders and several other charges he was going to use the sentencing phase of his death penalty trial to tell them things that he was not allowed to bring up before he was convicted. He spoke of the circumstances of the armed robbery that cost him 12 years in prison and his younger brother's fatal shooting by a police officer.

--If he had not been "illegally" convicted of a 1997 armed robbery he would not have gone to prison, which meant selling drugs was the only way he could earn a living once he was released.

--If Judon Brooks had not called police to report Hood had kidnapped him, law enforcement would not have been looking for him on March 22, 2011.

--If his brother, who picked him up after he abandoned his car because Brook escaped from the trunk, had not missed the turn he would never have crossed paths with Officer Tony Howard and Officer Elmer "Buddy" Christian and shot them.

--If Howard had "followed protocol" and not reached out the car window to grab him as he ran past, he would never have pulled a gun and started shooting, wounding Howard and killing Christian.

"I'm here about why," Hood told jurors who had convicted him of murder on Monday and now will decide if he should die for murdering Christian and for murdering his friend, Omar Wray, Dec. 28, 2010.

District Attorney Ken Mauldin told jurors to ignore his excuses.

"There's no way those circumstances justify what this defendant did," Mauldin said.

Hood was also convicted Monday of kidnapping a friend, Brooks, on March 22, 2011, setting of a series of events that left Howard wounded and Christian dead. It was the police shooting that led police to suspect Hood in Wray's death 3 months earlier. They matched a bullet casing in Hoods car to the gun used to kill Wray.

Wray's mother, Ruby Jordan, tearfully told the jurors of how her son's death has affected her and the lives of his 2 daughters and son.

"How could this man murder my son outside my house on my carport with me inside?" Jordan said. "What was the purpose of this senseless, cold-blooded action? There is no answer. There is no way to tell the harsh impact on my life. A part of me is gone and never to return."

(source: Atlanta Journal-Constitution)


UN rights experts hail Zambia's move away from death penalty, but warn of "areas of concern" in Africa

2 United Nations human rights experts welcomed a recent decision by the President of Zambia, Edgar Lungui, to commute the death sentences of 332 individuals to life imprisonment. The UN Special Rapporteurs on summary executions, Christof Heyns, and on torture, Juan E. Mendez, also encouraged the Zambian authorities "to take a step further by removing all reference to the death penalty in the country's laws."

President Lungui commuted the sentences after his visit to Mukobeko Maximum Security Prison, which despite a capacity of 51 inmates, houses hundreds.

"By commuting these death sentences, the Zambia puts a stop to mental and physical pain and suffering, and takes an important step towards ensuring respect for the inherent dignity of the human person," Mr. Mendez said. "This decision is in line with the trend in Africa - as in the rest of the world - to move away from the death penalty. As the Secretary General of the UN has said, there is no room for this form of punishment in the 21st Century," Mr Heyns said.

However, the experts warned of continuing areas of concern regarding the death penalty in Africa.

In Egypt, they noted, hundreds of defendants at a time are sentenced to death in unfair mass trials.

"Even though the execution rate is lower, these trials clearly do not meet international standards," they said.

The situation in the Gambia is also worrying: after abruptly ending a longstanding moratorium and hanging nine people in 2012, it has now been proposed that the number of offenses punishable by death be expanded.

"This proposal, if adopted, would be in stark contrast to the trend away from capital punishment elsewhere on the continent," they underlined. The independent experts noted that President Lungui's decision supports previous steps towards the abolition of capital punishment in the Zambia, where a presidential moratorium on the death penalty has been maintained since 1997. However, they called on the Zambian authorities to vote in favour of the UN General Assembly's resolution calling for a global moratorium, rather than abstaining, as they have in the previous 4 votes.

According to the Special Rapporteurs, 3/4 of the world States have abolished the death penalty in law or in practice and the same applies to Africa.

In 2014 only 4 States in the region are known to have conducted executions.

Earlier this month, the Togolese Republic became Africa's 12th state party to the 2nd Optional Protocol of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, aimed at the abolition of the death penalty. Moreover, the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights has consistently called for the abolition of the death penalty over the last 2 decades.

The Commission has drafted a Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights on the Abolition of the Death Penalty. "These are very significant steps by the Commission, and if the Protocol is adopted soon by the African Union and opened for ratification by African States, that will give a renewed emphasis to the process of putting the era of the death penalty behind us," the UN experts stressed.

The Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Christof Heyns (South Africa), is a director of the Institute for International and Comparative Law in Africa and Professor of Human Rights Law at the University of Pretoria, where he has also directed the Centre for Human Rights, and has engaged in wide-reaching initiatives on human rights in Africa. He has advised a number of international, regional and national entities on human rights issues.

Learn more, log on to:

Juan E. Mendez (Argentina) was appointed by the UN Human Rights Council as the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment in November 2010. He is independent from any government and serves in his individual capacity. Mr. Mendez has dedicated his legal career to the defense of human rights. Learn more, log on to:

The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council.

Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures' experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

UN Human Rights, country page - Zambia:

Check the Universal Human Rights Index:

(source: Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OCHR), United


Forced to chew a sandal and facing a death sentence: ISIS fighter accused of murdering 60 unarmed Iraqi army cadets in notorious mass slaughter is humiliated on TV

An ISIS fighter accused of slaughtering 60 soldiers in one of the terror group's most gruesome mass executions was forced to chew a sandal as he appeared in front of news cameras in Iraq.

In Arab culture, even showing the soles of your shoes is considered a great insult.

The man - named on social media as Adnan Abdul Ridha - was reportedly arrested for his role in the bloody Speicher Camp massacre where an estimated 770 unarmed Iraqi air force cadets were captured, gunned down and buried by Islamic State thugs.

An Iraqi court used satellite images of the site where they were killed, as well as ISIS's own propaganda video of the killings, to sentence 24 ISIS members to death for their role in the massacre.

Ridha is accused of gunning down 60 of them himself and could also be sentenced to death although the Iraqi Security Forces have not confirmed this.

The man was forced to give an interview to several Iraqi media outlets. One of them, Al-Mirbad, claims the man confessed to killing 60 students at Speicher Air Base and being a member of ISIS.

He supposedly said that he and another terrorist called Abu Ayman took 60 of the captured students, put them on the ground and then shot them in the head. He was arrested in the southern-Iraqi city of Basra.

During the interview, Al-Mirbad claims he confessed to working for terror group Al-Qaeda in 1996 and that his newest employers ISIS are funded by money from Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey.

Days after conquering Tikrit in June 2014, ISIS claimed it executed 1,700 Shi'ite 'members of the army' who were trying to escape the coming onslaught.

The terror group began to release gruesome videos and images which showed the men shackled together and shot in the head - before their bloodied corpses were thrown into shallow trenches.

Showing the sole of your shoe is a 'grievous insult' and incredibly bad manners in Arab culture - and hitting someone with one is even worse, according to the Higgins counter-terrorism research centre.

Footwear is considered dirty because it touches the ground and is associated with the foot - the lowest part of the body.

The shoe is also seen as unclean in Islam and Muslims take off their footwear before prayers.

When Saddam Hussein was deposed as Iraq's leader in April 2003, protesters swarmed around his toppled statue and struck it with their shoes.

And in 2008, an Iraqi journalist threw both his shoes at then-U.S. President George Bush during a press conference at the prime minister's palace in Baghdad - as a protest against American troops in the country.

As an insult to his father George Bush Sr, the first Gulf war, a mosaic of his face was laid on the floor of the Al-Rashid Hotel in Baghdad. Anyone who entered the lobby would have to walk over his face to get into the hotel.

The mosaic was subsequently destroyed by American soldiers in 2003 and replaced with an image of Saddam Hussein.

The latest one was released earlier this month and showed handcuffed cadets being led single-file to a dusty outpost near the camp, which used to be a U.S. army base, before they were made to lie down and peppered with bullets.

An unidentified ISIS leader in military uniform is seen in the video, saying: 'This is a message I address to the whole world and especially to the Rafidha dogs [those who reject Islam], I tell them we are coming.

One of its most harrowing scenes features a young boy shooting 2 men in the head on the banks of the Tigris river - after they begged for mercy.

It was originally thought that 190 troops were slaughtered when the terror group overran and conquered Saddam Hussein's hometown. But crucial satellite imagery uncovered 3 new execution sites and tripled the death toll.

These photographs, footage of the gruesome massacre and harrowing eyewitness accounts have now helped convict 24 of the ISIS fanatics - all of whom were Iraqi nationals - of the atrocity.

Every one of them pleaded not guilty to the charges of murder and being part of a terrorist group. They claimed the Iraqi forces tortured them into confessing.

At one point during the trial, relatives of the men they slaughtered stormed the courtroom - where the defendants were locked in cages - and threw shoes and bottles at them.

The sentences were not carried out immediately because they need to be approved by a higher court and the Iraqi government is reportedly seeking as many as 604 other suspects in connection to the incident.

Around 600 bodies have been exhumed from the site of the mass execution since government and allied fighters retook Tikrit in April but many of the victims were dumped into the Tigris river.

Forensic teams began the gruesome task of uncovering the bodies of the young army recruits on the banks of the Tigris River in April.

For almost 10 months, their devastated families had been left wondering what became of the bodies of their sons and brothers. The only clues they had were videos posted by the jihadis on social media sites, showing them being machine-gunned down in their hundreds.

(source: Daily Mail)


Killing for Any Reason by Any Means Is a Crime against Humanity

Although there have been calls for the abolishment of capital punishment in human societies from time immemorial, several societies are still practicing the execution of human beings as a punishment and a deterrent for all sorts of wrongs. Loud and wise voices calling for an end of this legal and religious murder are alive today struggling to get world public opinion pay attention to this destructive act of life and abandon it forever.

Capital punishment, no matter what kind justification is given to approve of it, is sheer murder and goes against what life is all about. No human being anywhere in the world can deny the value of life and his or her survival and the preservation of life at all costs. Deranged individuals and those who commit suicide are an exception and a shame on human societies.

Religions with a claim of heavenly inspiration have condoned the death penalty and many countries in the world have instituted this practice, whereas some others have abolished it completely in their system of justice although they still engage in savage killings of humans in other societies with more sophisticated and lethal means. The United Nations adopted a non binding resolution calling for a moratorium on capital punishment and several civic organizations and influential people all around the world are endeavoring for the abolishment of this evil behavior still rooted in the legal systems and mentalities of several human societies.

I am considering in this writing some of the absurd reasons advanced by those who advocate and justify killings in the name of justice by maintaining in their legal system the execution of human beings in public and in front of official witnesses and registration in official records.

Past history of human societies left a tradition in human records of celebrating the execution of culprits for all kinds of what was considered serious transgressions. In addition, it was the practice of the day and still is today, to declare wars to conquer and dominate other human groups and territories through waging a frenzy of killings till complete submission or complete annihilation. Ethnic cleansing and genocidal practices were the order of the day and the practice is continuing in many parts of the world today as well.

Revealed religions advocating the divine mercy, justice and love urged humans to do good deeds and refrain from evil acts among which killing was on the top of the list. "Thou shall not kill," was the 1st of the Ten Commandments. However, the adherents of them have perpetuated the practice of killing in the name of Yahweh, the Father, God and Allah. Their rationalization for engaging in wars resulting in destruction and the slaughter of humans and their justification of the death penalty as an act of the divine will and divine justice go beyond the spirit of the divine message embodied in the First Commandment. The transgression of this Commandment and the savage slaughtering of human beings are still continuing today in the name of religion, just like in the past, though with more sophistication and savagery (the crusades, the religious wars, colonialism, world wars and lately war on terrorism and Islam). Legal procedures and complex laws have also been instituted to manage murders and loss of life depending on the nature and circumstances of the crimes and the status of the culprits and the victims. However, killing and taking a human life by any means, either accidentally or intentionally, outside the so called "legality" is condemned by all human beings all over the world although many people are clinging to the justification and rationalization of waging wars in defense of alleged national vital interests and combating terrorism.

Among the reasons then for the legal death penalty carried out by the so called authorities in human societies are deterrence, equal punishment for the murderous act and a vindication for the victim/s. Underlining these is dispensing divine justice and fulfilling a religious duty from the perspective of some believers.

The modern nation-states with their monopoly of the means of violence and control of the justice systems continue to legally execute individuals inside their own societies, as well as outside, by waging destructive wars resulting in the killing of human beings and the devastation of nature and artifacts of human civilizations. Needless to say that some states have abolished the legal murder of convicted criminals in their societies, but, some of them find no deterrent in participating in a frenzy of killing others outside their borders most of them innocent civilians (present day wars on terrorism). The issue of capital punishment is not settled forever, though, and a final solution to this barbaric and criminal behavior in human societies is still awaiting a global consensus for its implementation. Official religions and some hard headed individuals and organizations are still clinging to a narrow interpretation of the scriptures and continue to justify killing and taking human life on the grounds that the almighty willed and prescribed it.

The Hebrew scholars, it is reported, have used their interpretation of the Torah and the scriptures to make it almost impossible to carry out the death penalty legally, although when it comes to non Hebrews, the matter becomes different, especially when Palestinians and Muslims are concerned. They, however, have not yet demonstrated enough courage and acumen to ban killing all together and stick to the letter of the 1st commandment: "thou shall not kill."

Some Christians, on the other hand, have a commendable attitude towards preserving God given life reflected in the beliefs of some who are standing against abortion. However, some of them do not follow this to its logical conclusion, namely, standing against killing human being under any circumstance even if the death sentence is carried by the authorities of any nation or state or organization. Texas, Oklahoma and all other states and countries that execute human beings are just few examples of the murders legally approved and condoned by some Christians in contradiction of the teachings of the Bible calling for the preservation of life given by the creator at all costs. Even Cain, the killer of his brother, is spared though with a heavenly punishment to toll for his living. Here are some verses from Genesis:

[4:12] When you till the ground, it will no longer yield to you its strength; you will be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth."

[4:13] Cain said to the LORD, "My punishment is greater than I can bear!

[4:14] Today you have driven me away from the soil, and I shall be hidden from your face; I shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth, and anyone who meets me may kill me."

[4:15] Then the LORD said to him, "Not so! Whoever kills Cain will suffer a sevenfold vengeance." And the LORD put a mark on Cain, so that no one who came upon him would kill him.

Again, even Lamech, would be spared, though with a punishment:

[4:24] If Cain is avenged sevenfold, truly Lamech seventy-sevenfold."

And again, the preservation of life and peaceful resolution of problems resulting in interaction with other human being is recorded in the New Testament. In Mathiew:

38 'You have heard that the law says, "Take an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth."

39 But I tell you, do not fight with anyone who does wrong to you. But if someone hits you on one side of your face, turn the other side to him also.

Are then Jews and Christians courageous enough and true to their faith to realize that life is the most valuable gift and its preservation is God's covenant with humans? There is no reason to hold on to the contradiction of wanting to preserve life in its initial formation in the womb, as anti-abortionists advocate and taking it away when it is being at its full fledged stage. The consequences of taking away and eliminating a mature human being have far more negative ramifications on human society as a whole than, say, abortion, not that abortion itself should be encouraged or condoned. Medical expertise and the circumstances and conditions of pregnancy should be taken into account.

Standing against capital punishment and wars is a noble attitude endorsed by peace oriented people from different religions and political orientations.

Muslims, on the other hand, are a different case even though Islam as a revealed religion recognizes the previous books and all the prophets and their divine messages. Killings and executions characterized a great deal of the actions of rulers in the name of Islam. Since the very beginning of the establishment of Islam as an organized religion until present day, Islamic countries were involved in wars amongst themselves and against non Muslim countries, Christians and non Christians, for various reasons. Capital punishment and taking away human life, was the order of the day justified allegedly by Allah's command in the Quran and practiced by the prophet and the subsequent legitimate and illegitimate rulers. The Islamic scholars provided official edicts based on their interpretation and understanding of the scriptures always though taking into account the desires of the rulers and their mutual interests.

A great debate about methods of killing has been raging in Islamic societies lately after the outrageous and barbarous burning of the Jordanian pilot by ISIS. The majority of Muslim writers focused mainly on criticizing the method i.e. the burning, rare were those who had courage enough to condemn the killing itself. Yet, when one considers few verses of the Quran dealing with killing and even murder, he would be struck by the same revelations and commandments of God mentioned in the old and New testaments; namely the preservation of human life because the soul is a gift of Allah, his own breath.

The Quran chapters and verses leave no doubt for the preference of saving human life at all cost even in the verses used to justify capital punishment quoted by some interpreters of the scriptures. The following verses are an example of this:

Sahih International

Because of that, We decreed upon the Children of Israel that whoever kills a soul unless for a soul or for corruption [done] in the land - it is as if he had slain mankind entirely. And whoever saves one - it is as if he had saved mankind entirely. And our messengers had certainly come to them with clear proofs. Then indeed many of them, [even] after that, throughout the land, were transgressors.(5:32)

Yusuf Ali

If a man kills a believer intentionally, his recompense is Hell, to abide therein (For ever): And the wrath and the curse of Allah are upon him, and a dreadful penalty is prepared for him.(4:93 )

O you who have believed, do not consume one another’s wealth unjustly but only [in lawful] business by mutual consent. And do not kill yourselves [or one another]. Indeed, Allah is to you ever Merciful. (4:29)

Sahih International

O you who have believed, prescribed for you is legal retribution for those murdered - the free for the free, the slave for the slave, and the female for the female. But whoever overlooks from his brother anything, then there should be a suitable follow-up and payment to him with good conduct. This is an alleviation from your Lord and a mercy. But whoever transgresses after that will have a painful punishment. (Cow: 178)

Sahih International

Indeed, the penalty for those who wage war against Allah and His Messenger and strive upon earth [to cause] corruption is none but that they be killed or crucified or that their hands and feet be cut off from opposite sides or that they be exiled from the land. That is for them a disgrace in this world; and for them in the Hereafter is a great punishment, (5:33).

Clearly then, it is only lack of courage that prevents Islamic societies to ban capital punishment and the killing of human beings. Allah's commandments to preserve life and other human rights are in total agreement with The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) in spite of the resistance of some narrow minded Moslem religious zealots. Cain's life was spared though with Allah's curse and anger on him on earth and a hell fire in the hereafter. God's message is one in spite of its erroneous interpretation by humans.

In conclusion, capital punishment and killing for any reason by any means is a crime against humanity and no religious scripture can justify it. As stated in article 3 of the Universal Declaration: "Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person."

(source: The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Morocco World News' editorial policy----Abdelghani Bouchouar, Morocco World News)


Official Human Rights Body Calls for Stay in Juvenile Death Penalty Case

A statutory human rights watchdog in Sindh, Pakistan has called for a halt to the impending execution of Shafqat Hussain, in order for allegations of torture and his young age at the time of sentencing to be examined.

In an opinion published today, the Sindh Human Rights Commission, headed by a retired judge, notes that "there are no eye witnesses [to the alleged offence] but only [the] confession of the accused with [an] allegation of torture."

The Commission criticises the lack of attention paid to the torture allegations during Shafqat's trial, stating that "we fail to understand why [there was] such a careless handling of a serious case where [the] life of a human being is at stake," and asks whether Shafqat can "be executed when there is so much confusion and the evidence is lacking."

The Commission also argues that the trial court "should have taken up" the issue of Shafqat's juvenility at the time of sentencing, and criticises the inquiry into his age carried out by the Government's Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) as "not admissible."

Shafqat was under 18 when he was sentenced to death - something which goes against both Pakistan and international law - yet the Pakistan Government has refused to back a judicial inquiry into his age, instead withholding a number of documents, notably his school record, which could provide proof.

In its conclusion, the Commission recommends that the Government of Sindh province pushes for the Pakistan Supreme Court to reopen Shafqat's case in order "to consider the evidence which could not be produced at the that due justice may be done." It adds that a stay of execution may be necessary until the court can consider the matter.

With the end of Ramadan, Pakistan's Government is expected to restart executions which have so far taken an estimated 180 lives since the lifting of a moratorium on the death penalty last December.

Commenting, Kate Higham, an investigator at international human rights organisation Reprieve said: "This comprehensive opinion highlights the many injustices which Shafqat has faced. Not only was he sentenced to death when underage, but he was subjected to torture in order to extract a false 'confession.' The Commission is right to call for a reopening of the case to ensure that justice is done - Pakistan's Government must listen."


Reprieve is a UK-based human rights organization that uses the law to enforce the human rights of prisoners, from death row to Guantanamo Bay.



Governor Wolf responds to challenges against death penalty moratorium

Governor Wolf is arguing that he has unlimited power to grant stays of execution.

The governor issued a temporary ban in February, saying he wants a study done to see if it actually deters crime.

Attorney General Kathleen Kane has requested the Supreme Court step in, calling the death penalty moratorium "unconstitutional."

Governor Wolf's lawyers responded to that request Tuesday saying the issues raised by Kane are similar to a case being challenged by Philadelphia's D.A.

Because of that, Wolf wants to deny Kane's request or put it on hold until the Philadelphia case is heard.

Kane asked the court to allow the execution of Hubert Michael Jr., who admits to kidnapping and killing 16-year-old Trista Eng in York County more than 20 years ago.

Oral arguments in the Philadelphia case are scheduled for September.

(source: ABC news)


Death penalty phase of Jamie Hood trial begins today

The death penalty phase of the Jamie Hood capital murder trial begins today at the Athens-Clarke County Courthouse.

Hood, who is representing himself, plans to call on witnesses who he hopes will convince jurors to spare his life.

Among those on his witness list is George McKeehan, who authorities say was robbed by Hood at gunpoint in 1997 when McKeehan was working as a pizza delivery man while attending the University of Georgia.

Hood was convicted of armed robbery and served 12 years in prison. He maintained in the guilt-innocence phase of his trial that wrongly convicted.

Another potential witness on the list is Dr. Debra Gunnin, a forensic psychologist from East Central Georgia Regional Hospital who examined Hood following his arrest for the 2011 slaying of Athens-Clarke County Senior Police Officer Elmer "Buddy" Christian and attempted murder of Senior Police Officer Tony Howard.

Hood was convicted Monday of both offenses. He was also convicted of murder for the 2010 fatal shooting of Athens resident Kenneth Omari Wray

During the trial, Hood said he chose to represent himself because his former attorneys from the Georgia Capital Defender Office because they wanted him to be declared mentally incompetent and accept a plea deal for the murders.

Western Judicial Circuit District Attorney will call on witnesses in an attempt to convince jurors Hood deserves the ultimate penalty for his crimes. Among those expected to testify are Hood's surviving victims and family members of deceased victims.

(source: Athens Banner-Herald)


Judge rules accused killer can face death penalty----James Rhodes accused of killing Shelby Farah while robbing cellphone store

The man accused in the execution-style killing of a 20-year-old clerk during a robbery 2 years ago is intellectually sufficient to face the death penalty if convicted, a Duval County judge ruled Tuesday morning.

James Rhodes, 23, is accused of shooting Shelby Farah after she handed over money during the robbery of the MetroPCS store on North Main Street in July 2013.

In recent hearings, a defense psychologist testified that 23-year-old James Rhodes is mentally competent for prosecution but is intellectually disabled, but a psychologist for the prosecution testified that he reviewed Rhodes' IQ scores going back to when he was 6 years old and found Rhodes is not intellectually disabled.

If he were found intellectually disabled, he could not legally be executed under Florida law.

Judge Tatiana Salvador denied Tuesday the defense motion that would have prevented the state from seeking the death penalty.

The victim's family had actually hoped the death penalty would be taken off the table.

It has nothing to do with us wanting him to get less time. I would love to see him sit in prison for the rest of his life," said Caleb Farah, Shelby's brother. "Since he is facing the death penalty, he will probably get the death penalty. He's going to get automatic appeals. You've got the guy that just came back after his death penalty (Randall Deviney), and it's a retrial. I can't even imagine doing this all over again for a 2nd time."

Shelby's mother, Darlene Farah, said it was the ruling that she expected, but dreaded because it makes the case much more complex.

"Everybody knows a death penalty case is different," Darlene Farah said. "It's been 2 years, I'm tired. I'm drained. I'm exhausted emotionally, so I just want it over with so I can try to put structure and stability back into my children's lives and into my life."

Rhodes will be back in court Aug. 12. Prosecutors hope a trial date is set during that hearing.



Death penalty on table for Shelby Farah's alleged killer

The case against a man accused of murdering 20-year-old Shelby Farah is moving forward.

At a hearing Tuesday morning, the judge ruled James Xavier Rhodes, 23, is not intellectually disabled and will be eligible for the death penalty if he's convicted.

It's an issue that's tied up the case for several months. Darlene Farah, the victim's mom, says she's frustrated.

"I'm tired. I'm drained. I'm exhausted," she says.

Police say her daughter, Shelby, was shot and killed 2 years ago during a robbery at the Metro PSC store on North Main Street where she worked. Police say Rhodes shot the victim execution style after she handed him the cash he asked for.

Farah says after this latest decision, she's hopeful there won't be any more bumps in the road to justice.

"I just want it over with so I can try and put structure and stability back in my children's life," she says.

The next pre-trial hearing has been set for August 12. Prosecutors say they hope to set an actual trial date for Rhodes at this time.



The case for the death penalty

There is a growing national campaign to get rid of the death penalty. Conservative Nebraska banned capital punishment in May, joining 18 other states.

Without question, there are strong arguments against the penalty: More than 150 death row inmates have been exonerated since 1973, including 25 in Florida, the most of any state. Other factors, including racial disparities, inadequate legal defense, lengthy delays, high costs and the possible pain involved with execution drugs, are cited in the case against execution.

But although we agree the states should reform the practice and be exceedingly cautious about its application, the death penalty remains the only appropriate punishment for particularly heinous crimes.

Life without parole is no substitute.

Consider the case of David Sweat, 1 of the 2 murderers who escaped from a New York maximum security prison last month. He was serving a life sentence for killing a Broome County sheriff's deputy, who came upon Sweat and 2 cohorts in a park shortly after they had burglarized a fireworks store, stealing guns and knives.

Sweat, who had a lengthy record, shot the deputy, then ran over him with his car. As the 15-year law enforcement veteran lay dying, Sweat and his cousin ransacked the deputy's car and took his handgun. The cousin used it to shoot him twice in the face.

The 2 men pleaded guilty to 1st-degree murder to avoid the death penalty, which New York has since dropped, and were sentenced to life without parole.

But this hardly resulted in harsh punishment. Sweat was able to work in a tailor's shop, where he developed a cozy relationship with the instructor, who has been charged with aiding the prisoners.

Sweat's fellow escapee, Richard Matt, a murderer who had dismembered his former boss, was able to develop his artistic skills while in prison and traded his paintings for favors from guards.

Through such sly manipulations they were able to gather the tools needed to escape through tunnels beneath the prison, eluding capture for 3 weeks.

Matt would be shot to death by officers. A few days later, Sweat was shot and recaptured.

Clearly, these remorseless killers made the best of their time in prison, which hardly eliminated their threat to society.

Those who would eliminate the death penalty also might reflect on notorious mass murderer Richard Speck, who viciously raped and murdered 8 student nurses in Chicago in 1966.

His death sentence was overturned, and he ended up with a life sentence.

Years later he admitted to a journalist that he enjoyed getting high in prison, and later a videotape would turn up that showed Speck using drugs, having sex with another inmate and displaying $100 bills. He said, "If they only knew how much fun I was having, they'd turn me loose."

He also described strangling the nurses and joked, "It just wasn't their night."

He would die of a heart attack after 25 years in prison, a stint he seemed to have enjoyed.

The death penalty may seem barbaric. But society must sometimes deal with barbaric monsters - think of Oba Chandler, Ted Bundy and others who killed for pleasure. Or think of those career criminals who coolly kill law enforcement officers to elude punishment.

Also think of how many times the threat of death causes offenders to admit their crimes, testify against other culprits or provide details about where they hid their victims' bodies, bringing some measure of closure to devastated families.

The death penalty should be used sparingly and with the utmost care. But although we respect those who find a state-sanctioned execution morally reprehensible, there are ruthless monsters whose offenses are so grave and brazen that anything less than the death penalty falls short of achieving justice.

(source: The Tampa Tribune)


Barring death penalty in capital murder denied

The capital murder trial of Mark Montgomery is scheduled to begin in December, and if he is found guilty he will face the death penalty.

Lauderdale County Circuit Judge Mike Jones denied motions filed by Montgomery's defense team during a hearing Tuesday that would bar the death penalty as a sentencing option.

Montgomery, 38, 5306 Lauderdale 10, Florence, is charged in connection with the March 17 shooting deaths of two women near Cloverdale.

During the motion hearing, Vicki Willard and Jean Darby discussed 13 motions with Jones. Several of those were procedural motions, but at least four dealt with the death penalty.

Willard asked Jones to bar the death penalty because Alabama's capital statute does not reflect constitutional limits on the enforcement of the death penalty, and it does not ensure that a jury makes sentencing phase factual determinations.

She also pointed out the unconstitutionality of the state's capital statute "creates the possibility that an innocent person will be executed."

"Several people on death row have been exonerated," Willard said.

She said the death penalty is a violation of her client's 4th, 5th, 6th, 8th and 14th amendments rights.

"We're just asking that (Montgomery) receive his constitutional right of a fair and impartial trial," Willard said.

"We will give this case all of the standards it is due," Jones said in response.

Jones also denied a motion in regards to the sentencing phase of the trial.

If Montgomery is found guilty of capital murder, the jury then decides if he should get death or life in prison without parole. And that can be done by a majority 10-2 vote, not a unanimous vote as a jury's verdict must in the trial phase.

"We believe it must be unanimous," Willard argued as she discussed her motion.

"I will follow the law that has always been followed, so that motion is denied," Jones said.

He said the trial is scheduled for December, and "that is a date I would like to keep."

Montgomery was indicted in the December 2014 session of the Lauderdale County grand jury. He is accused of killing Clo Ann Taylor Stoner and Joanna Strickland Butler. The 2 women and a dog were killed inside the house of Montgomery's brother at 5398 Lauderdale 10, about a half mile east of Alabama 157.

Stoner, 57, of Casey Lane, Florence, and Butler, 40, who investigators said previously lived in Thompson’s Station, Tennessee, were found inside the residence's living room.

Montgomery also is accused of shooting a dog that was in a kennel in the house.

Authorities said a preliminary autopsy indicated the women were shot multiple times in the head.

During an arraignment hearing in January, Montgomery pleaded not guilty and not guilty by mental defect to 2 counts of capital murder, and 1 count of aggravated animal cruelty.

Montgomery's pleas came after Lauderdale County Assistant District Attorney Angie Hamilton read the indictments during a formal arraignment hearing.

"I want to set this case for trial this year," Lauderdale County Circuit Judge Gil Self said. "The state is ready to go. I have criminal dockets in October and December."

After discussing the issue with Willard, Darby and Hamilton, Self placed the case on the Dec. 7 circuit court docket, with a pretrial hearing Nov. 24.

Montgomery is being held in the Lauderdale County Detention Center without bail.



Questions professor's study on death penalty

I read Jeremy Kohler's article "Study of executions in Missouri shows disparity in race, gender" (July 19). The study was by Frank Baumgartner, a professor at the University of North Carolina. He compared, among other things, rates of executions for homicides in Calloway County, Missouri and St. Louis.

The death penalty was handed down at a higher percentage in Calloway County (23 %) than in St. Louis (8 %). He stated that, as the majority of homicide victims in St. Louis were black, this proves that black lives don't matter as much as white lives because few killers of black victims were executed. Hogwash!

I'm no statistician, but even I can see that there are a few missing pertinent facts to his study as written:

-- There is no mention of the race of the homicide victims in Calloway County. Are we to assume they are white?

-- There is no mention of the unsolved homicide cases being taken into account in his statistics.

-- As St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Bob McCulloch said in the article, most homicides in St. Louis and St. Louis County are prosecuted as 2nd-degree murder, which do not qualify for the death penalty.

Would the professor be satisfied if there was no disparity? If so, St. Louis would have executed 1,014 people to match the percentage in Calloway County. As most homicides are black on black in St. Louis, the majority of those 1,014 executed would be black. And then what an outcry there would be.

I think the taxpayers of North Carolina are wasting their money on this man's salary if this is the best he can do.

Tom McCrackin - Wildwood

(source: Letter to the Editor,


This Oklahoma Case Should Make You Rethink Capital Punishment

Time is running out for Richard Glossip.

In June, the United States Supreme Court rejected his appeal challenging the constitutionality of lethal injection in a heartbreaking 5-4 decision. Now, he's scheduled to die in Oklahoma's death chamber Sept. 16.

In any other year, the court's ruling in Glossip's case might have garnered a profusion of media attention. But coming on the heels of the court's landmark decisions on same-sex marriage and Obamacare, it has been all but forgotten in the 24-hour news cycle, save for an excellent article in The Intercept this month.

That's a pity--not just for Glossip, but for all of us. His case is the kind that should keep people of good conscience awake at night. Both morally and legally, it illustrates many of the most troubling flaws in our system of state-sanctioned killing: the risk of executing the innocent, the inadequate legal representation often provided to poor criminal defendants charged with the most serious offenses, the inconsistencies of the appeal process, and the cruelty of all forms of capital punishment.

Glossip, 51, was arrested in January 1997 and charged with first-degree murder for the death of Barry Van Treese, the owner of the Best Budget Inn, a down-market motel frequented by drunks, prostitutes, drug dealers and others on the west side of Oklahoma City. Van Treese's body was discovered on the evening of Jan. 7 in Room 102. He had been bludgeoned.

Glossip had worked for Van Treese as an on-site manager. In that job, he had earned $1,500 per month, and he had needed every penny of his earnings. According to local prosecutors, Glossip feared being fired, or worse, for skimming money from the inn's receipts. He needed an out, and quickly, because Van Treese had begun to audit the inn's financial records.

But there was a problem for the prosecution in its quest to hold Glossip responsible for Van Treese's demise: Glossip did not personally kill Van Treese, and there was no physical evidence connecting him to the incident in Room 102. Unable to show that Glossip had committed the homicide himself, the prosecution constructed an alternative scenario in which Glossip convinced Justin Sneed--a meth-addicted 19-year-old roofer who lived at the motel in exchange for maintenance work--to commit the crime for him by promising Sneed money and additional jobs.

Sneed was apprehended a week after Van Treese was slain. After he was taken to police headquarters, he was interrogated and was offered a deal that would spare him the death penalty if he confessed. He admitted to beating Van Treese with a baseball bat, but he fingered Glossip as the architect of a jointly made plan. Subsequent searches revealed that Sneed had possessed $1,700 in cash at the time of his arrest and that Glossip had had $1,200.

Although Glossip claimed his money had come from paychecks and the sale of personal items and that he had intended to use it to buy breast implants as a birthday present for his girlfriend, the police demurred. Certain that they had confirmed their theory--murder for hire--the authorities formally charged Glossip.

Since the death penalty's reinstatement by the Supreme Court in 1976, it has been limited to murder prosecutions. But a defendant need not be a hands-on killer in order to be eligible for capital punishment in many jurisdictions, including in Oklahoma. According to the Death Penalty Information Center, at least 10 people have been put to death for contract slayings since the modern era of capital punishment began.

At Glossip's first trial, in June 1998, Sneed was the state's star witness, and based largely on Sneed's testimony Glossip's jury determined not only that he was behind the murder but that the state had proved two aggravating circumstances warranting a death sentence--that the murder was especially heinous and cruel and that Glossip posed a "continuing threat to society," even though the only alternative sentence for him was life in prison without the possibility of parole. Prior to his conviction, Glossip had had no criminal record.

The weakness of the prosecution's case, built on the self-serving statements of an admitted killer, became apparent in due course to the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals. In 2001, that court unanimously reversed Glossip's conviction without even holding oral argument, ruling that the performance of Glossip's trial counsel was so deficient that "we have no confidence that a reliable adversarial proceeding took place."

In that court's view, Glossip's attorney had also failed to introduce an available videotape of Sneed's confession, which could have made a crucial difference in Glossip's defense team's ability to cross-examine Sneed. The court emphasized that the evidence against Glossip "was circumstantial except for the testimony of Justin Sneed."

Undeterred by such blunt commentary, the state re-tried Glossip, who by then was represented by a new team of lawyers, and it secured a second conviction and death sentence, in August 2004. Three years later, in a closely divided 3-2 decision, the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed both the conviction and the sentence.

Glossip's lawyers then spent the next seven years filing additional writs and appeals without success and without attracting much national attention, until April 29, 2014, when the Oklahoma Department of Corrections horrendously botched the lethal injection of Clayton Lockett, a 38-year-old African-American. After receiving a 3-drug cocktail that--for the 1st time in the state's history--began with an injection of the sedative midazolam, Lockett agonized for a reported 43 minutes before he succumbed. The state had shifted from pentobarbital to midazolam because the former had become increasingly harder to obtain.

Glossip's attorneys--together with lawyers for three other condemned Oklahoma prisoners, including one Charles Warner--responded promptly to Lockett's gruesome death by filing a federal lawsuit seeking to enjoin the state's use of the new 3-drug mixture and arguing that it violated the Eighth Amendment's prohibition of "cruel and unusual punishment." A brief stay was issued, putting the state's executions on hold, but the moratorium was lifted by the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals on Jan. 12.

3 days later, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to consider further stay requests from any of the inmates. Within a matter of hours, Warner was on a gurney with a midazolam-laced chemical combination coursing through his veins. As he lay dying, Warner complained that the drugs in his body felt "like acid."

Then in an extraordinary turn of events that laid bare the arbitrary and capricious nature of the death penalty even at the highest level of the judiciary, the Supreme Court reversed course Jan. 28 and ordered stays of execution for Glossip and his two remaining co-plaintiffs. The litigation was re-titled, with Glossip replacing the deceased Warner as the lead party, and oral argument was scheduled for April 29.

Although the technical issue before the justices was narrowly framed--whether Oklahoma's use of midazolam in its lethal injection protocol violated the Eighth Amendment--the court's June 29 decision approving the protocol has broad ramifications for the future of capital punishment.

Justice Samuel Alito's majority opinion, endorsed by the court's other Republican appointees, is an exercise in circular reasoning that has established a new set of "Wonderland rules for method-of-execution claims," according to Steven Schwinn, a professor at the John Marshall School of Law in Chicago.

"Because capital punishment is legal," Alito wrote, "there must be a constitutional means of carrying it out." Surveying the history of the death penalty, he continued: While methods of execution (from hanging to electrocution, firing squads, lethal gas and injections) have changed over the years, the Supreme Court "has never invalidated a State's chosen procedure."

Nor were Alito and his conservative colleagues about to do so in this term, even though record clearly shows that midazolam is ineffective and leads to extreme pain during executions. Worse still, Alito assigned the burden of proof in such death penalty cases to the inmates seeking to stay alive rather than to the states seeking to kill them. That burden, he elaborated, is two-fold, requiring prisoners to show both that any challenged means of execution "presents a risk that is sure or very likely to cause needless suffering" and that there are "feasible, readily implemented" and less painful alternatives available to the states for putting them to death. Glossip and his fellow petitioners, Alito held, failed both prongs.

Not content with Alito's grim majority decision, Justice Antonin Scalia crafted a particularly venomous and unhinged concurrence that began with the salutation: "Welcome to Groundhog Day." From Scalia's twisted perspective, condemned prisoners like Glossip have no business taking up the court's precious time and time again with doomed objections to being executed. In addition, he charged that the opinions of the dissenting justices were exemplars of inferior scholarship, especially the one authored by Justice Steven Breyer, which he called "gobbledy-gook."

What offended Scalia most deeply about Breyer's dissenting opinion--which was joined by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg--was that Breyer had the temerity to suggest that the nation's experiment with creating a rational, reliable and fair system of capital punishment had failed and that the time had come to re-evaluate the entire system's constitutionality. Breyer's opinion marked the first time since the late Justice Harry Blackman's 1994 dissent in a case from Texas that a sitting member of the court had formally taken an abolitionist position on the issue.

Unfortunately, Breyer's fine sentiments offer little comfort to the condemned.

Glossip and his supporters, whose ranks include the renowned death penalty opponent Sister Helen Prejean, insist that he had nothing to do with Van Treese's murder.

His defense attorneys are frantically working to present new evidence of his innocence. Late last year, they obtained a letter from Sneed's adult daughter, who wrote that her father has told her he wants to recant his testimony against Glossip. However, Sneed, who is serving a life sentence, has yet to issue a statement of his own.

But even if Sneed finds the courage to come forward, there is no assurance that the courts will accept his recantation. In the modern era of capital punishment, 10 men have been executed despite strong evidence of their innocence. Their case histories are chronicled on the Death Penalty Information Center's website. Come September, Richard Glossip could raise the number to 11.

(source: Bill Blum; *This post was originally published by Post)


If theater shooter gets death, execution could take decades

The time has come for jurors to hear whether James Holmes should be executed for killing 12 people in a Colorado movie theater. But even if they decide on death, Holmes could spend the rest of his life in prison awaiting capital punishment that never happens.

Colorado has executed only one person in nearly half a century, and just three people sit on the state's death row. The man closest to seeing his death sentence carried out was granted an indefinite reprieve in 2013 by the state's Democratic governor, who said he had doubts about the fairness of the state's death penalty system.

"Capital punishment is on life support in Colorado," said Denver defense attorney Craig Silverman.

As a prosecutor, Silverman secured a death penalty verdict against a man for kidnapping and killing a woman in 1984. 19 years later, Frank Rodriguez died on death row from Hepatitis C complications.

"If you want a case that never dies, seek capital punishment and get a death verdict, and you'll be working on it for the next 20 years," he said.

The same jurors who convicted Holmes of 165 counts of murder, attempted murder and other charges in his July 20, 2012 theater attack must soon decide whether he should pay with his life. The sentencing phase of his trial begins Wednesday.

The district attorney who prosecuted Holmes, George Brauchler, said that if any crime should be punished by death, it is this one: He opened fire on an audience of more than 400 defenseless strangers in a darkened theater during a Batman movie premiere, killing 12, wounding 58 and leaving 12 others injured in the mayhem he caused.

But many obstacles stand between Holmes and execution.

Death row inmates in almost every state spend decades in prison as mandatory appeals play out in court. But Colorado has adopted a unique system for death penalty appeals, requiring those sentenced to death to file post-conviction claims before a higher court reviews their case. It was supposed to speed up the process, but "it actually slowed it down exponentially," said Hollis Whitson, a Denver defense attorney who specializes in appellate law.

Nationally, death row inmates spend an average of 15.5 years in prison before they're executed, Radelet said. It's impossible to say how Colorado compares, since the state has executed just one man since 1967 - Gary Lee Davis, who was put to death in 1997 after a 10-year wait following his convictions for kidnapping, raping and shooting a woman 14 times with a .22-caliber rifle.

The other 2 - Sir Mario Owens and Robert Ray - were sentenced to death more than 5 years ago for the same double murder, but their appeals still haven't been heard.

Whitson's study of capital punishment in Colorado from 1999-2010 found the vast majority of death penalty prosecutions result in life sentences, pleas to lesser offenses or acquittals. Another study, in 2013, found that only 0.6 % of 1st-degree murder cases resulted in death sentences.

"The cost of death prosecutions in Colorado is high, and the execution yield is extraordinarily low," he determined.

Holmes' appeals could be even more complex because of his mental illness.

Doctors testified he suffers from schizophrenia. If his mental state deteriorates while he is on death row he may never be executed, said Michael Radelet, a sociology professor at the University of Colorado, Boulder, who has long studied the death penalty and opposes it.

"If he is sent to death row, we're going to need dump trucks full of money to pay the mental health experts who will continue to argue this for the next 20 years," Radelet said. "Even if Holmes is sane today, there will be inevitable questions about his sanity at the time of execution."

Part of the issue is Colorado's uneasy relationship with the death penalty.

The state abolished it in 1897, only to restore it in 1901, embarrassed by an outbreak of lynchings. The state's lower house voted to repeal the death penalty in 1999, but the effort stalled in the Senate. Lawmakers' attempts to eliminate it again failed in 2009 and 2013.

"You have this odd combination here for ambivalence on the part of prosecutors and juries and a statute that permits the imposition of death in most murders," said Sam Kamin, a professor at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law who worked on the study. "In some cases it was lack of resources, in some cases it was the belief that a jury wouldn't impose it," or the victims' families didn't want it.

Colorado's lonely death row is not necessarily for lack of support. Nonpartisan Denver pollster Floyd Ciruli says support for the death penalty in Colorado polls has generally tracked those in national ones for decades. In 2013, a Quinnipiac University Poll found 69 % of Colorado voters backed capital punishment.

(source: Associated Press)


Colorado death penalty in focus as massacre trial enters new phase

The lead prosecutor in the Colorado movie massacre trial tore into the state's governor at a news conference, calling him arrogant and weak for giving the mass murderer a reprieve from execution.

This was 2 years ago, and Arapahoe County District Attorney George Brauchler was not talking about James Holmes, who last week was found guilty on all counts by a jury for fatally shooting 12 people and wounding 70 at a midnight premiere of a Batman film in July 2012.

At the time, Brauchler was responding to Governor John Hickenlooper's decision to grant a temporary reprieve in an earlier Denver-area mass killing. That case sheds light on the political sensitivities surrounding the ultimate punishment in Colorado.

On Wednesday, the jury which convicted Holmes on 165 counts of 1st-degree murder, attempted murder, and explosives charges begin the penalty phase of the trial. After hearing more weeks of testimony, they will decide if the California native is to be executed by lethal injection, or serve life in prison with no possibility of parole.

Colorado has executed just 1 inmate in nearly 50 years. Still, a Denver Post poll last year showed 63 % of state residents surveyed support the death penalty. In the case of Holmes, a separate poll by the newspaper this week showed an overwhelming 70 % favored execution for the former neuroscience graduate student. That poll had received more than 5,800 votes by Tuesday afternoon.

2 years ago, Brauchler called his news conference at the state Capitol to denounce Hickenlooper's granting of a so-called "temporary reprieve" to the state's longest-serving death row inmate. Nathan Dunlap was convicted in 1996 of killing 4 workers at a pizza restaurant where he had recently been fired.

The temporary reprieve meant the governor's successor could reinstate Dunlap's death sentence, and the prosecutor decried the decision as indecisive, and "clemency light."

"You hear frustration and anger in my voice because those victims that have waited patiently for justice for 20 years will now wait for years more," Brauchler told reporters at the time.

In addition to Dunlap there are 2 other convicted murderers on Colorado's death row. All 2 African-American men were prosecuted by the same Arapahoe County District Attorney's office, and all attended the same suburban Denver high school.

But that is only part of the state's story with the death penalty. At least 4 Colorado death sentences were overturned after the U.S Supreme Court ruled only juries could condemn an inmate to death. The ruling said laws in Colorado and other states were unconstitutional because they let judges impose the death sentence.

Another inmate's death sentence was commuted to life after it was learned jurors consulted a Bible during deliberations.

In another high-profile recent case, prosecutors sought the death penalty for Edward Montour, an inmate who was already serving a life sentence for killing his 11-week-old daughter. Montour beat corrections officer Eric Autobee to death with a ladle in a prison kitchen in 2002.

Acting as his own lawyer, Montour pleaded guilty to 1st-degree murder and was sentenced to death by a judge. The sentence was one of those overturned by the Supreme Court ruling against judge-imposed death sentences.

The case landed back in the district attorney's office, and Brauchler vowed to try Montour again and seek the death penalty.

But the saga took an unexpected twist when the victim's father, Robert Autobee, a former corrections officer, went public with his opposition to the execution of his son's killer.

Autobee, 60, launched a campaign against the death penalty and was soon embroiled in a war of words with Brauchler, who filed a motion seeking to have Autobee barred from testifying at Montour's trial.

And the case then took a further turn last year when Montour's new lawyers uncovered evidence that he may have been unjustly convicted in his daughter's death. The infant may have suffered from a medical condition, the lawyers said, and her father may not have inflicted her injuries.

Brauchler relented, and allowed Montour to plead guilty to killing the prison guard in exchange for a life sentence.

Autobee has since attended parts of the movie massacre trial, and one day sat with Holmes' parents, Arlene and Bob. Autobee said the gunman's mother contacted him after she read about his campaign to end the death penalty.

"I could feel their pain, and decided that if I'm going to be against the death penalty, I need to be visible," Autobee told Reuters by telephone.

(source: Reuters)


Monfort may address the jury weighing his life or death

Closing arguments are expected to begin Wednesday in the penalty phase of Christopher Monfort's aggravated-murder trial. Jurors convicted him last month of killing a Seattle police officer in 2009 - and will next decide if he is sentenced to life in prison or to execution.

Before they begin their deliberations on whether he should be sentenced to life in prison or sent to death row, Christopher Monfort raised the possibility Tuesday that he may address jurors who convicted him last month of killing Seattle police Officer Timothy Brenton.

He expressed interest in exercising his right to allocution - to make an unsworn statement to the jury - after learning he wouldn’t be subject to cross-examination by the prosecution.

King County Superior Court Judge Ronald Kessler clarified, telling Monfort that he wouldn't be cross-examined unless he veered into discussing facts of the case.

"I make the call as to whether you cross that line," the judge told him.

Monfort, who was consulting with his defense team Tuesday afternoon, is to notify Kessler of his decision Wednesday morning.

The jury of 6 men and 6 women convicted Monfort June 5 of aggravated 1st-degree murder and 3 other felonies, rejecting his insanity defense, after hearing nearly 4 months of testimony since the trial began in late January.

The penalty phase of the trial started June 16, with the defense calling 32 witnesses over 13 trial days in a bid to persuade jurors not to impose the death penalty.

The defense rested its case Tuesday morning, with closing arguments to begin Wednesday and likely continuing into Thursday.

Brenton's position as a police officer is the aggravating factor that made Monfort eligible for the death penalty. Aggravated murder is the only crime for which execution is a possible penalty.

But just as a criminal defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty, life in prison without the possibility of release is the presumed sentence for capital murder - and death may be imposed only if the jury unanimously determines there are not sufficient mitigating circumstances to merit a life sentence.

A unanimous "no" verdict or a split decision will result in an automatic sentence of life in prison.

From the outset of trial, the defense did not dispute that Monfort was guilty of killing Brenton or trying to kill his then-rookie partner, Britt Kelly (nee Sweeney), as the 2 sat in their patrol car on a residential street in Leschi on Halloween night 2009.

Nor did they dispute that Monfort set off pipe bombs that destroyed a handful of police vehicles at the city's Charles Street maintenance facility days before Brenton was killed, or that Monfort later tried to shoot Sgt. Gary Nelson, who was investigating a tip about the car used in Brenton's killing that led him and 2 other cops to Monfort's Tukwila apartment building.

Monfort was shot twice by police outside his apartment and paralyzed below the waist.

Instead, the defense focused on Monfort's mental state and argued that he suffered from a delusional disorder when he waged what prosecutors called a 1-man war against the Seattle Police Department.

The jury rejected Monfort's insanity defense. Kessler also denied a defense motion to dismiss the charges based on insanity, ruling that while the defense proved by a preponderance of the evidence that Monfort suffers from a mental disease or defect - and that he believed that killing random police officers would halt instances of police brutality - Monfort knew the difference between right and wrong and knew his actions violated criminal law.

During the penalty phase, the defense called relatives, friends and experts to testify about Monfort's troubled childhood, dysfunctional family, mental-health issues and delayed psychological development.

On Tuesday, the defense tried once again to stop the case from going to the jury.

Defense attorney Todd Gruenhagen argued the state hadn't met its burden of proving there were not sufficient mitigating circumstances to warrant leniency - and therefore, Monfort's due-process rights would be violated if the death penalty wasn't dismissed.

"There wasn't torture, there wasn't pain and suffering ... Mercifully, there was an instant or near-instant death," he said of Brenton's killing.

"A verdict of death is going to be based on anger or vengeance or passion or prejudice," Gruenhagen said.

After asking a series of probing questions about the defense theory, Kessler denied the motion, saying he does not believe he has the discretion to dismiss the death penalty.

"If that's error and the matter is remanded, I will exercise the discretion ordered by the (state) Supreme Court," Kessler said.

(source: Seattle Times)


Holmes won't testify during penalty phase ---- Holmes says he wasn't pressured by lawyers in decision

James Holmes, who could be sentenced to death for killing 12 people in an Aurora, Colorado, movie theater, told the judge Tuesday he will not testify for himself during the penalty phase of the trial.

Holmes told Judge Carlos Samour he voluntarily made his decision and was not pressured by his lawyers.

The monthlong penalty phase of Holmes' trial is set to begin Wednesday.

The same jury that convicted him will deliberate during that phase. In 2013, the prosecution signaled it would seek the death penalty.

Holmes pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity but the jury rejected that defense July 16 when it found Holmes guilty on 24 counts of murder and 140 counts of attempted murder.

Additionally, he was found guilty of 1 count of possession or control of an explosive or incendiary device. He didn't testify for himself during the 1st phase of the trial.

Authorities said he killed 12 people and wounded 70 on July 20, 2012, when he opened fire in a crowded movie theater showing "The Dark Knight Rises."

Just after midnight, he started shooting with an AR-15 rifle, a 12-gauge shotgun and at least 1 .40 caliber handgun, authorities said. The shooting stopped with Holmes' arrest outside the theater about 7 minutes after the first 911 calls were made to police.

(source: CNN)


End the death penalty after 10-year execution hiatus

A 10-year hiatus in executions is a milestone for the protection of the right to life and the eventual abolition of the death penalty in Zimbabwe, said Amnesty International as the country marked a decade without executions.

Although the country carried out its last execution on 22 July 2005, there are still 95 prisoners on death row. Amnesty International is now calling on Zimbabwe to declare an official moratorium on executions and totally abolish the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment.

Zimbabwe's new Constitution, enacted in 2013, abolished mandatory death sentences and limited the death penalty to cases of murder "committed in aggravating circumstances". It bars death sentences for women and men aged under 21 or over 70 at the time of committing the crime.

"The world is moving away from the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment. Zimbabwe should permanently dismantle its machinery for execution and join the majority of the world's countries by abolishing capital punishment."


More than 100 countries around the world have abolished this cruel form of punishment and many more countries are abolitionists in practice.

17 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, including Angola, Burundi, Cape Verde, Cote d'Ivoire, Djibouti, Gabon, Guinea-Bissau, Mauritius, Madagascar, Mozambique, Namibia, Rwanda, Sao Tome and Principe, Senegal, Seychelles, South Africa and Togo have abolished the death penalty for all crimes.

In addition several other African countries have also taken legislative steps towards abolishing death penalty for all crimes.

Since June 2015 Burkina Faso has been considering a bill to abolish the death penalty. In 2014, Chad's government adopted a draft penal code aimed at abolishing the death penalty, and the law is now awaiting a parliamentary process.

In the same year, Sierra Leone announced its intention to abolish the death penalty.

On 16 July 2015, Zambian President Edgar Lungu commuted the sentences of the country's 332 death row prisoners to life imprisonment.

(source: Amnety International)


Pakistan top court stops execution of Christian woman

Pakistan's top court on Wednesday stopped execution of a Christian woman who had been on death row since 2010 over blasphemy charges, lawyers said.

Asia Bibi, a 50-year-old, was arrested in Nankana district in central Punjab province in 2009 over alleged "insult to Prophet Muhammad." She had, however, denied the charges and had told the court that neighbors had leveled charges against her over " personal differences."

A local court in Nankana had awarded Asia Bibi's death sentence. She became the first non-Muslim lady to get death penalty. A high court had upheld the sentence.

Asia, mother of 5 children, had challenged death penalty in the Supreme Court.

A 3-member bench of the apex court stayed the execution and admitted her petition for formal hearing, her defence lawyer Saiful Malook said. The court sought all record of the case and ruled that she would not be executed until it delivers verdict on her appeal.

Malook told the court that the Lahore High Court had "not fulfilled legal requirements" while upholding the death penalty of his client.

Asia Bibi was accused of "offering insulting remarks" about the Prophet Muhammad during discussions with Muslim women in June 2009.

Denying the charges, she had informed the court that she was" forced to convert to Islam"and that she was charged after her refusal.

(source: Xinhua news)


Commute Yakub Memon's death sentence: CPI-M

The CPI-M on Wednesday urged the government to commute the death sentence of Mumbai blasts accused Yakub Menon, saying he had chosen to surrender and cooperate with Indian authorities.

While describing the 1993 blasts as "a heinous terrorist attack" that killed 257 innocents, the CPI-M said that Memon's death sentence would not serve the interests of justice.

"Yakub Memon was part of the conspiracy. But unlike the main actors, he chose to surrender before the Indian authorities and stand trial," the Communist Party of India-Marxist said in a statement.

"He also brought his family back to India to stand trial.

"He has provided information to the authorities about the involvement of Pakistani personnel in the attack and the shelter given to the terrorists and is therefore also the only witness available to the government.

"Yet, he was singled out for the death sentence while the main perpetrators are at large," the statement said.

It said it would serve the ends of justice if Yakub Memon's death penalty was commuted to life sentence.

"Even those convicted in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case with the death sentence have had their sentences commuted to life.

"The CPI-M has been in principle advocating the abolition of the death penalty. Hence Yakub Memon's mercy petition, which has been filed, should be accepted," it said.

The CPI-M said it was imperative that the criminals responsible for the deadly Mumbai attack should be brought to book and punished.

"There is ample evidence that the main culprits have escaped the law with the help of agencies across the border.

"Every effort has to be made from all fora available to bring them back to India to stand trial and consequent punishment under law."

(source: Zee News)


One more reason to scrap death penalty

The National Law University has produced, with help from the Law Commission, a seminal report that profiles people who went to the gallows or are on death row over the last 15 years. Over 93% of these people are Dalits and Muslims. Around 75% of prisoners on death row - slated for execution - belong to backward classes or minorities. The reason? Most cannot comprehend the charges against them and have no money to hire competent defence lawyers. This is a slap on the face of Indian democracy.


Every place in the world that has capital punishment has to come back to one basic question: did we string up the right guy? If people have been killed by the state because they could not defend themselves adequately, it is a large blot on our democratic copybook.

The founding fathers of our Constitution did not foresee this: for them, rights and liberties were guaranteed to all Indians. Yet, pernicious forces of caste, class and religious domination rule India to this day. It is easy to shrug off this fact as accepted reality, but not after being faced with hard facts about people sent to the gallows, simply because they were too poor or ignorant to defend themselves adequately. In 1978, the great American political sociologist, Barrington Moore, wrote a book called Injustice. There he argued eloquently, taking examples from India and the rest of the world, that people in general, accept hierarchical rule and do not revolt unless there is a great disruption of the system. He underlined he was no Marxist, and our policymakers must understand his message. As India has to grow, it has to deal with every issue with great sensitivity. The incompetence of policing, investigating and judicial authorities cannot be covered up with political rhetoric and death sentences.

(source: Economic Times)


Trial judge who sentenced Yakub Memon to death hails SC ruling

The former TADA court judge P D Kode, who sentenced Yakub Memon to death in 2007 in the Mumbai serial blasts case, today said he was certain that the Supreme Court had dismissed his curative petition on merits.

"I have full faith in the Supreme Court and feel sure that it has decided Yakub's case on merits, though I am not not aware of the grounds cited by him in the petition," Kode told PTI.

For the apex court, the issue of human rights and liberty is of paramount significance and it always ensures that there is no miscarriage of justice, said Kode, who retired as a High Court judge sometime ago.

Recalling the marathon trial before the TADA court over which he presided, Kode said the investigating agencies - Mumbai police and CBI - had done an excellent job in arresting more than 100 accused and filing chargesheet in a record time.

He also appreciated the evidence adduced by the prosecution and said it was an excellent job.

"I have vivid memories of the trial which lasted for more than a decade," said Kode, who convicted 100 accused in this case.

"During the trial, several political parties came to power in the state. Every political party has its own ideology but all of them were unanimous in holding that they were opposed to terrorism and would act with a firm hand against people doing such acts," the judge said.

Kode had awarded death sentence to 12 accused, including Yakub. All of them appealed in the Supreme court, one of them died when the hearing was pending. The SC commuted death sentence to life sentence in the case of 10 convicts leaving only Yakub to face the death penalty.

(source: Financial Express)


Single war tribunal by next month ---- Merging decision comes as number of pending cases drops

The government is likely to merge the 2 war crimes tribunals within August, as the number of pending cases has dropped after disposal of 20 major cases.

"The 2 international crimes tribunals will be merged into 1 after their judges return to the country from a conference in Argentina," Law Minister Anisul Huq told The Daily Star on July 16.

Merging the 2 tribunals is a matter of time, he said without elaborating.

Earlier in March this year, the law minister told this correspondent that there was no necessity to keep all 6 High Court judges engaged in the tribunals for the remaining cases.

Anisul Huq had also said there was a huge backlog of cases pending with the HC and those would be heard and disposed of quickly if some of the tribunal judges return to the HC.

A tribunal source said the 6 judges of the 2 tribunals are supposed to attend a 2-week international conference in Argentina to share their experience of holding war crimes trial and come back before the end of August.

The issues regarding their going to Argentina would be finalised within this month, the source added.

The Awami League-led government formed the 1st tribunal on March 25, 2010 in line with the party's electoral pledge to try people who committed crimes against humanity during the Liberation War in 1971.

The government formed a 2nd tribunal on March 22, 2012 to expedite the trial.

The tribunal-1 has so far settled 9 cases filed against nine war criminals, while the tribunal-2 adjudicated 11 cases of war crimes committed by 13 people.

The convicts are Abdul Quader Mollah, assistant secretary of Jamaat-e-Islami, (death sentence), Ghulam Azam, former chief of Jamaat, (90 years in jail), Abdul Alim, former BNP minister, (jail until death), Delawar Hossain Sayedee, nayeb-e-ameer of Jamaat, (death sentence), Muhammad Kamaruzzaman, assistant secretary of Jamaat, (death sentence), Abdul Kalam Azad, expelled Jamaat member, (death sentence), Chowdhury Mueen Uddin, Islami Chhatra Sangha leader in 1971, (death sentence), Ashrafuzzaman Khan, Islami Chhatra Sangha leader in 1971, (death sentence), MA Zahid Hossain Khokon, a BNP leader from Faridpur, (death sentence), Abdul Jabbar, former Jatiya Party lawmaker, (jail until death), Motiur Rahman Nizami, ameer of Jamaat, (death sentence), Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mojaheed, secretary general of Jamaat, (death sentence), Salauddin Quader Chowdhury, BNP standing committee member, (death sentence), Abdus Subhan, nayeb-e-ameer of Jamaat, (death sentence), ATM Azharul Islam, assistant secretary of Jamaat, (death sentence), Mir Quasem Ali, member of Jamaat's central executive committee, (death sentence), Syed Mohammad Qaisar, former Jatiya Party minister, (death sentence), and Mobarak Hossain, expelled Awami League leader, (death sentence), Mahidur Rahman and Ashraf Hossain Chutu, 2 BNP supporters from Chapainawabganj (imprisonment till death), Syed Hasan Ali from Kishoreganj (death sentence) and Forkan Mallik, BNP supporter from Patuakhali, (death sentence).

Ghulam Azam and Abdul Alim died inside jail, while Azad, Mueen, Ashrafuzzaman, Khokon and Hasan Ali are still on the run.

Quader Mollah was executed on December 12, 2013, and Kamaruzzaman was executed on April 11 this year following the Supreme Court verdicts.

The SC has upheld the death penalty of Mojaheed and jailed Sayedee until his death.

The appeals of other convicts, now in custody, are pending with the apex court.

(source: The Daily Star)



Mon, 20 July 2015 | House of Lords - Oral Question

The following Oral Question was answered in the House of Lords on 20 July 2015.


3 pm

Asked by

Lord Faulkner of Worcester

To ask Her Majesty's Government what progress they have made in securing the worldwide abolition of the death penalty.

The Earl of Courtown (Con):

My Lords, during the last Parliament, the Government worked with partners, notably the Swiss Government and experts such as the Death Penalty Project and the all-party parliamentary group, to promote global abolition. This policy was successful. In 2014, only 22 countries executed, while 140 were abolitionists. We will continue to raise death penalty cases abroad. The Diplomatic Service will make the practical and moral cases against the death penalty to retentionist countries.

Lord Faulkner of Worcester (Lab):

My Lords, the Government's continued commitment to the abolition of the death penalty is very welcome, but the Minister will be aware that some countries pose particular problems. Perhaps I may ask particularly about Iran, much in the news lately because of the welcome news about the signing of the deal on its nuclear programme. Is he aware that, according to Amnesty International, around 743 people were executed in Iran last year, most in secret, including juvenile offenders, drug offenders and political activists? That is probably more per head of the population than in any other country in the world. Can he give an assurance that, as UK-Iranian relations develop, Foreign Office officials will take every opportunity to demand improvements in Iran’s human rights record and that the barbarous use of the death penalty on such a grotesque scale comes to an end?

The Earl of Courtown:

The noble Lord, Lord Faulkner, mentions quite horrific figures from Iran. He is right about pressure. I hope that the agreement reached only last week will open the door to more work that we can carry out. The recent diplomatic breakthrough may enable more dialogue, and our diplomatic staff will take advantage of any opening possible.

Baroness Stern (CB):

My Lords, I declare an interest as co-chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for the Abolition of the Death Penalty and express appreciation for the principled stance that the Government have taken on this matter. The Minister will be aware of Lindsay Sandiford, the British grandmother, who is on death row in Indonesia for drug trafficking. What are the Government doing to ensure that vulnerable British nationals under sentence of death like Lindsay Sandiford have effective legal representation?

The Earl of Courtown:

My Lords, the noble Baroness mentions a particular case in Indonesia and legal representation. It has been the policy of all Governments in the past not to fund legal costs for those in this position, but we will work as hard as we can both bilaterally and multilaterally to protect individuals who end up in this situation.

Lord Avebury (LD):

My Lords, the coalition Government produced the Strategy for Abolition of the Death Penalty 2010-2015, but that does not appear to have been succeeded by another strategy covering the years 2015 to 2020. Will that happen? Perhaps I may also ask the Minister about the case of Saudi Arabia. The Foreign Office website points out that 100 executions have taken place there so far this year and that we raise the matter on every possible occasion, bilaterally and through the European Union. When we do that, can we concentrate on the safeguards developed by the United Nations that are recommended for use in death penalty cases, in particular those regarding the ingredients of a fair trial?

The Earl of Courtown:

My Lords, the noble Lord mentioned Saudi Arabia. We frequently raise the issue of the death penalty with the Saudi authorities both bilaterally at the highest levels and through the European Union. The noble Lord also mentioned the 2010 to 2015 plan. I can tell him that we are still funding projects through the Human Rights and Democracy fund in the US, China and south-east Asia, the Middle East and north Africa. We provide training for defence lawyers in the United States and we have supported a regional organisation in the greater Caribbean area, as well as providing support for defence lawyers in the Caribbean. We also fund important work to support abolitionists. These works are ongoing.

Lord Dubs (Lab):

My Lords, is the Minister aware that we in the All-Party Parliamentary Group for the Abolition of the Death Penalty are grateful for the support we get for visits we pay to overseas countries? The United States has always been a particular difficulty. Is the Minister aware that as recently as 29 June, 2 judges in the Supreme Court said in a dissenting judgment that they were asking for a full briefing on a basic question of whether the death penalty violates the constitution? Although it was not a majority view, it was pretty well a landmark conclusion. Does the Minister agree that the time has come to push the United States a bit further?

The Earl of Courtown:

I think that the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, is correct. The situation in America is difficult to believe, but there has been progress. Nebraska has abolished the death penalty, while Oregon and Washington State have entered a moratorium. Since 2010 we have banned drugs being exported to the United States, which was followed by the whole of the EU in 2012.

Baroness Smith of Basildon (Lab):

Further to what has been said about the USA, perhaps I may raise with the noble Earl a specific issue which I would ask him to raise with the US authorities and perhaps also with our EU partners. Thomas Knight was executed in Florida on 7 January 2014 for a murder he committed at the age of 23. However, he had been on death row for 39 years. There are numerous incidents of young men being held on death row for years and years when presumably they are quite different people by the time they are executed. I ask the noble Earl to raise this very serious issue to ensure that we do not have people on death row for such inordinate lengths of time, waiting for their execution.

The Earl of Courtown:

I thank the noble Baroness for bringing that to my attention. Spending that length of time on death row is quite inhuman. I will of course raise it with officials in the department.

(source: DeHavilland Information Services)

JULY 21, 2015:


Wolf asks court to uphold death-penalty ban

Gov. Wolf Tuesday asked the state Supreme Court to ignore Attorney General Kathleen Kane's challenge to his death-penalty moratorium, arguing that the justices already have decided to consider a similar petition brought by the Philadelphia District Attorney.

In a court filing that responds to Kane's petition, Wolf also repeated the claim he's made since February: That he has the right under the state Constitution to stay executions as he awaits a Senate report on capital punishment.

The death-penalty issue has presented yet another challenge to Wolf, this time from members of his own party, as he tries to carry out a sweeping agenda that sharply contrast with that of his Republican predecessor.

The 1st-year governor is in a protracted fight with Republicans over his budget, now 3 weeks overdue. He's also tangling with the GOP in the state's courts over the director of Pennsylvania's Office of Open Records, Erik Arneson, whom Wolf fired in January.

The state's Commonwealth Court reinstated Arneson last month, saying the governor had overstepped his authority. Wolf is appealing the case to the Supreme Court.

Kane filed her petition before the state high court on July 6, asking the justices to allow the execution of Hubert L. Michael Jr., a York County man who confessed to murdering a teenager two decades ago. Kane, a Democrat, said Wolf abused his powers, ignoring state law and a jury's verdict when he issued temporary reprieve to the killer.

Philadelphia DA Seth Williams, also a Democrat, made an almost identical argument in February regarding Terry Williams, who was sentenced to die in 1984 for the killing of Amos Norwood, a Germantown church volunteer. The state Supreme Court decided in March to review the DA's petition, scheduling a Sept. 10 hearing.

Responding to Kane on Tuesday, Wolf's attorneys argued that "judicial economy would be frustrated by requiring the parties to submit redundant briefing each time a prosecutor challenges a gubernatorial reprieve."

Currently 186 people are on death row in Pennsylvania. But only 3 have been executed since Pennsylvania reinstated capital punishment in 1978 - 2 in 1995, the the 3rd in 1999. All 3 had ended their appeals and asked to be executed.

A month after taking office, Wolf issued his moratorium, which he said would continue until after he gets the report of a task force studying the future of capital punishment.

"This decision is based on a flawed system that has been proven to be an endless cycle of court proceedings as well as ineffective, unjust, and expensive," Wolf said in February.



South Carolina death row inmates won't be executed anytime soon----SCDOC director 'unsuccessful in acquiring lethal injection drugs'

As South Carolina's top prison boss, Bryan Stirling must be able to carry out an execution when given the order.

But Stirling told WYFF News 4 Investigates if an order to execute a death row inmate came tomorrow, his agency would not be able to comply.

"The anti-death penalty people have been very effective in stopping drug companies from selling lethal injection drugs to states," Stirling said. "Once we tell these companies who we're with, the conversation stops."

South Carolina is one of many states whose death penalties are on hold because of drug companies' refusal to supply pentobarbital, a sedative used in lethal injection cocktails.

Stirling said he is deciding whether another sedative, midazolam, could be a suitable substitute for pentobarbital.

Last year, midazolam was blamed for a botched execution in Oklahoma. But this summer, the drug was deemed constitutional by U.S. Supreme Court.

Stirling said he wants to make sure midazolam is right for South Carolina.

"The Supreme Court talked about some of the folks in other states suffering for almost an hour. We would have to be comfortable that that would not happen," Stirling said.

When Dylann Roof, 21, was charged with the shooting deaths of nine people at Emmanuel AME Church in Charleston, Gov. Nikki Haley told NBC's "Today Show" that Roof should receive the ultimate punishment.

"We absolutely will want him to have the death penalty. This is the worst hate that I have seen and that the country has seen in a long time," Haley said.

Stirling said his agency has not been pressured to speed up its search for lethal injection drugs in the wake of the Charleston church shootings.

He said until the state creates a shield law to protect the names of companies that supply these cocktails, manufacturers will be reluctant to sell them.

(source: WYFF news)


Judge rules James Rhodes not disabled, could face death penalty

A Duval County judge ruled James Rhodes is intellectually sufficient to face the death penalty if convicted. He's accused of killing 20-year-old Shelby Farah 2-years ago during a robbery at the MetroPCS store she was working at.



Ohio AG appeals new trial order for death row inmate

The Ohio attorney general has told the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that his office will appeal a judge's order granting a new trial to a man on death row for the slaying of a Cleveland police officer in 2000.

Attorney General Mike DeWine said in a statement Monday that he strongly disagrees with last week's ruling. A federal judge in Toledo said 44-year-old Quisi Bryan should get a new aggravated murder trial in the killing of Wayne Leon at a Cleveland gas station because a prosecutor improperly excluded a black woman from the jury because of her race.

Bryan didn't dispute killing Leon during his trial and the jury recommended the death penalty. He's also serving lengthy prison sentences for multiple rape convictions.

(source: Associated Press)


A Look at Colorado's Record on the Death Penalty

Colorado theater shooter James Holmes will be sentenced to either death or life in prison without parole after the penalty phase of his trial, which starts Wednesday. Either way, Holmes can expect to spend decades in prison. Here's a look at Colorado's record on the death penalty:


Colorado has executed only one person since 1967, Gary Lee Davis, who was put to death in 1997 for kidnapping and raping Virginia May, 33, near her Byers home, then shooting her 14 times with a .22-caliber rifle.



Colorado law calls for lethal injections to be applied at the Colorado State Penitentiary in Canon City.



Colorado has no physical "death row." Inmates awaiting execution are held with others serving lesser sentences in "management control units" at the Sterling Correctional Facility in southern Colorado. These units are more closely monitored than other parts of the maximum security prison, but inmates awaiting capital punishment live in similar conditions.



NATHAN DUNLAP: Dunlap, now 41, was sentenced to die in 1996 for the shooting deaths of 4 workers - including 3 teens - who were cleaning a Chuck E. Cheese restaurant in Aurora. The U.S. Supreme Court rejected his last guaranteed appeal in February 2013, but Gov. John Hickenlooper granted him an indefinite reprieve in May 2013, nearly 20 years after his conviction and just three months before he was set to die. A future governor could lift the reprieve.

SIR MARIO OWENS: Owens, now 30, was sentenced to die 2008 for the shooting deaths of Javad Marshall-Fields and his fiancee, Vivian Wolfe. Marshall-Fields, 21, was scheduled to testify against Owens and another man in a separate slaying. He and Wolfe, 22, were killed in 2005 while sitting in a car in Aurora. Appeals are pending.

ROBERT RAY: Ray, now 29, also was sentenced to die in 2009 for the shooting deaths of Javad Marshall-Fields and Vivian Wolfe. Marshall-Fields was set to testify against Ray and Sir Mario Owens in a separate slaying. Appeals are pending.

(source: Associated Press)


Hongli Sun Could Face Death Penalty in Fatal Stabbing of Wife's Former Boss and Lover

An Irvine engineer faces, at best, life in prison without the possibility of parole and, at worst, the death penalty if he is convicted of murdering an Irvine dentist who'd had an affair with the defendant's wife, who'd worked at the same dental office.

In charging 38-year-old Hongli Sun with felony assault with a deadly weapon and sentencing enhancements for great bodily injury and the personal use of a deadly weapon, the Orange County District Attorney's office (OCDA) added a felony count of special circumstances murder by lying in wait. That means the district attorney or a special panel of prosecutors could decide at a later date to pursue the death penalty.

Sun, who was being held without bail, was expected to be arraigned some time today at the Central Jail in Santa Ana.

The allegation of lying in wait with the intent to murder stems from Sun being accused of sitting in his Mercedes SUV Saturday afternoon, seeing 54-year-old Xuan Liu walking in the parking lot and intentionally driving toward the older man, who was hit by the vehicle.

"As Liu attempted to stand up, Sun is accused of getting out of his SUV and approaching the victim with a knife. Sun is accused of stabbing Liu," reads an OCDA arraignment statement that notes Liu was pronounced dead at the scene as a result of his injuries.

Liu had a dental practice in Irvine, where Sun's wife, Huaying Chen, worked last summer. Sun and Chen married in Singapore in 2003 and separated in Orange County on Sept. 16.

In divorce papers reviewed by City News Service, Chen listed Liu as her "boyfriend." But she and Sun, who have an 8-year-old son together, later reconciled and stopped divorce proceedings in November.

"At the time our Judgment of Dissolution was entered, we each believed irreconcilable differences caused the irremediable breakdown of our marriage, However, we were both mistaken ...," reads a court filing. "For a host of personal, cultural, and religious reasons, we do not want any public record to reflect that we are divorced. Even if such record is later changed, a harmful stigma could result. Therefore, it is imperative to us that this stipulation and order by entered today."

The divorce was vacated by the court on April 24.

(source: Orange County Weekly)


'We must recommit ourselves to end' death penalty, USCCB chairmen say

The Catholic faith tradition "offers a unique perspective on crime and punishment, one grounded in mercy and healing, not punishment for its own sake," two bishops said in a statement renewing the U.S. Catholic church's push to end the death penalty.

"No matter how heinous the crime, if society can protect itself without ending a human life, it should do so. Today, we have this capability," wrote Cardinal Sean O'Malley of Boston and Archbishop Thomas Wenski of Miami.

The 2 prelates are the chairmen of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on Pro-Life Activities and the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, respectively.

The message, dated July 16, commemorated the 10th anniversary of the bishops' Catholic Campaign to End the Use of the Death Penalty and their message "A Culture of Life and the Penalty of Death," which accompanied the campaign.

The U.S. bishops, who have long advocated against capital punishment, began the ongoing campaign in 2005.

It asks people to pray for victims of crime and their families and to reach out to support them. It also calls for educating people about church teaching on the death penalty and criminal justice; working for legislation to end capital punishment; and changing the debate in favor of defending life.

In November 2005, the bishops approved the statement on the death penalty calling on society to "reject the tragic illusion that we can demonstrate respect for life by taking life." It built on the 1980 statement by the bishops that called for the abolition of capital punishment.

"We urged a prudential examination of the use of the death penalty, with the aim of helping to build 'a culture of life in which our nation will no longer try to teach that killing is wrong by killing those who kill. This cycle of violence diminishes all of us,'" O'Malley and Wenski said in their joint statement.

The 2 prelates cited "significant gains" made on the issue over the past decade.

Several states, including New York, New Jersey, New Mexico, Illinois, Connecticut, Maryland and most recently Nebraska, have ended the use of the death penalty, and other states have enacted a moratorium. Death sentences are at their lowest level since the reinstatement of the death penalty in 1976.

In Kansas in February, a measure to abolish the death penalty there ultimately failed, but the state Catholic conference praised senators for their "impassioned and thoughtful" debate on the issue.

Even with such progress, "there is still a great deal of work to be done, and we must recommit ourselves to end this practice in our country," O'Malley and Wenski said.

They also noted Pope Francis' call to end use of the death penalty and said that in light of the upcoming Year of Mercy that he declared, which is to begin Dec. 8, "[we] renew our efforts in calling for the end of the use of the death penalty."

"Pope Francis, like his predecessors, provides a clear and prophetic voice for life and mercy in calling for all people of good will to work to end the use of the death penalty," Wenski added.

"In anticipation of Pope Francis' visit to the United States in September, we join our voices with his and continue our call for a culture of life," he said. "As a people of life, we say it is time for the U.S. to abandon use of the death penalty."

(source: National Catholic Reporter)


Death penalty debate rekindled by SCOTUS ruling

A Supreme Court ruling that Oklahoma's method of lethal injection does not constitute "cruel and unusual punishment" has rekindled discussion of capital punishment among evangelicals and the high court's 9 justices.

"I do not believe that the death penalty is inherently cruel or unusual punishment if the governing authorities hand it down as the most extreme form of dispensing justice and every effort has been made to ensure the guilt of the individual," said Shane Hall, pastor of First Southern Baptist Church in Oklahoma City. "The key for the Christian in the midst of this discussion centers upon the power of the Gospel.

"Our desire should not be to see a continual expansion of the use of the death penalty," Hall told Baptist Press in written comments. "Instead, we should desire that the transformative power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ would take such a hold upon this nation that the necessary use of the death penalty would become less and less. We can support our governing authorities meting out justice for the good of society, while loving our neighbors by proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ, which will transform not only the individual but also society as a whole."

In a 5-4 decision, the court ruled June 29 that Oklahoma may use the sedative midazolam to render inmates unconscious during the lethal injection process. Oklahoma was unable to obtain barbiturates traditionally employed during executions because pharmaceutical companies have become unwilling to sell them for use in capital punishment, the New York Times reported.

Writing for the majority, Justice Samuel Alito said 3 death row inmates failed to demonstrate that using midazolam results in a substantial risk of severe pain. Alito also said the inmates, all of whom have been convicted of murder, failed to identify an alternate method of execution that would be preferable.

Yet overshadowing the actual ruling, according to some media accounts, was a debate between the court's conservative and liberal justices over whether the death penalty is constitutional. In a 46-page dissent, Justice Stephen Breyer said he believes capital punishment likely violates the Eighth Amendment's ban of "cruel and unusual punishments." Justice Antonin Scalia responded that the death penalty cannot be unconstitutional because the Constitution mentions it explicitly.

In an opinion joined by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Breyer wrote, "Today's administration of the death penalty involves three fundamental constitutional defects: (1) serious unreliability, (2) arbitrariness in application, and (3) unconscionably long delays that undermine the death penalty's penological purpose. Perhaps as a result, (4) most places within the United States have abandoned its use."

Changes in capital punishment over the past 40 years, Breyer wrote, "taken together with my own 20 years of experience on this Court ... lead me to believe that the death penalty, in and of itself, now likely constitutes a legally prohibited 'cruel and unusual punishmen[t].'"

Scalia, joined in a concurring opinion by Justice Clarence Thomas, responded, "Not once in the history of the American Republic has this Court ever suggested the death penalty is categorically impermissible. The reason is obvious: It is impossible to hold unconstitutional that which the Constitution explicitly contemplates. The Fifth Amendment provides that '[n]o person shall be held to answer for a capital ... crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury,' and that no person shall be 'deprived of life ... without due process of law.' Nevertheless, today Justice Breyer takes on the role of the abolitionists in this long-running drama, arguing that the text of the Constitution and two centuries of history must yield to his '20 years of experience on this Court.'"

Scalia also argued it is "very likely" that the death penalty deters crime and appealed to philosophers who believed "that death is the only just punishment for taking a life."

R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, noted the debate among the justices and said the death penalty's background is "deeply rooted in a biblical worldview," citing Genesis 9.

"Once again, as so many times this term and in recent years, you have on the court two different ways of reading the Constitution," Mohler said June 30 on his podcast "The Briefing," "one reading it as a text and one instead reading [it] as a so-called living document that evolves along with the society. We can count on the fact that in fairly short order, it is likely that the Supreme Court will deal more comprehensively with the question of the death penalty."

The Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified in 1791 against a backdrop of torturous capital punishment inflicted in the western world, as when Elizabeth I's physician was convicted of plotting to kill her, then hanged, cut down alive, mutilated and chopped into four pieces. That episode and other incidents of horrific capital punishment are detailed in Leonard Parry's "The History of Torture in England."

While Christians, with some notable exceptions, historically have supported capital punishment, Rick Durst, professor of historical theology at Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary, told BP that believers also have "spoken against cruel and unusual incidences" of it "since the publication of the Gospels and crucifixion of the Lord on the cross, and the centuries of malevolent persecution and execution of Christians of both genders and all ages."

"In the fourth century, Eusebius of Caesarea carefully recorded the infliction of cruel and unusual punishment on Christians throughout the Roman empire under various emperors," Durst said in written comments. "In 390, the order of the Christian emperor Theodosius I to suppress and revenge a rebellion in Thessaloniki, Greece, resulted in the deaths of as many as 7,000 persons. The Bishop of Milan, Ambrose, refused to serve communion to the emperor because of those executions. Ambrose received the emperor back into communion only after Theodosius promised to introduce legislation requiring a 30-day lag before execution in the case of death sentences."

Englishman John Fox's book of martyrs in the 16th century and Dutch Anabaptist Thieleman van Braght's "The Martyrs Mirror" in the 17th century likewise protested the unjust use of capital punishment, Durst said.

Among Baptists, Roger Williams, founder of First Baptist Church in Providence, R.I., published two works "detailing the cruel punishments of the colonial governments, regularly inflicted against non-conforming Baptists and others in the new colonies," Durst said.

A 2000 Southern Baptist Convention resolution supported "the fair and equitable use of capital punishment by civil magistrates as a legitimate form of punishment for those guilty of murder or treasonous acts that result in death."

In Oklahoma, Hall of First Southern Baptist stands in the Christian tradition of supporting capital punishment as long as it is applied justly.

Regarding Oklahoma's lethal injection procedure, Hall said, "Assuming the new drug now in use is able to bring about the same effect as the drug previously used, it is not 'cruel and unusual.'"

(source: Baptist Press)


No relief for death row-turned-life convicts: Centre

The Centre today contended in the Supreme Court that state governments had no power to reduce the jail terms of convicts whose death penalty had been commuted to life sentence.

Solicitor General Ranjit Kumar made the submissions before a 5-member Constitution Bench headed by Chief Justice HL Dattu. The other members are Justices FMI Kalifulla, PC Ghose, AM Sapre and UU Lalit.

The Bench is hearing several writ petitions, including that of the Centre against the Tamil Nadu Government's move to release the 7 life convicts in the 1991 Rajiv Gandhi assassination case by giving remissions in their sentence period. 3 of the convicts (Murugan, Santhan and Perarivalan) in the case had been given death penalty which was subsequently commuted to life imprisonment.

The Bench is also going into the power of SC and high courts to specify that life term meant remaining in the jail till death in some cases and not less than 14-30 years in others.

The Bench would also hear Punjab's plea for letting the states grant remissions in jail terms awarded to convicts.

The Solicitor General was specifically against the premature release of the convicts in the Rajiv Gandhi case as they had a role in the brutal killing of the former Prime Minister. The other 4 convicts in the case are Nalini, Robert Pius, Jayakumar and Ravichandran.

Further, the state had no power to reduce the sentence as the convicts had been prosecuted by the CBI. Also, the executive had no role after the rejection of the mercy pleas of 3 death-row convicts by the President, he pleaded.

Appearing for the convicts, senior advocate Ram Jethmalani, however, pleaded that the Centre had no right to file a writ petition as none of its fundamental right had been violated by the Tamil Nadu Government.

(source: The Tribune)


Death penalty on table for Shelby Farah's alleged killer

The case against a man accused of murdering 20-year-old Shelby Farah is moving forward.

At a hearing Tuesday morning, the judge ruled James Xavier Rhodes, 23, is not intellectually disabled and will be eligible for the death penalty if he's convicted.

20-year-old Shelby Farah, shot and killed at Metro PCS

It's an issue that's tied up the case for several months. Darlene Farah, the victim's mom, says she's frustrated.

"I'm tired. I'm drained. I'm exhausted," she says.

Police say her daughter, Shelby, was shot and killed 2 years ago during a robbery at the Metro PSC store on North Main Street where she worked. Police say Rhodes shot the victim execution style after she handed him the cash he asked for.

Farah says after this latest decision, she's hopeful there won't be any more bumps in the road to justice.

"I just want it over with so I can try and put structure and stability back in my children's life," she says.

The next pre-trial hearing has been set for August 12. Prosecutors say they hope to set an actual trial date for Rhodes at this time.



It's time for Tennessee to reconsider the death penalty

In light of issues across the nation concerning police brutality, overcriminalization, mass incarceration and more, it is time to directly face the issue of the death penalty.

The death penalty system in the United States as a whole, and Tennessee in particular, is broken. In examining the way that this system functions, 4 major issues arise.

First, the death penalty is unfairly applied.

A defendant who is convicted of murdering a white person is 3 times more likely to receive the death penalty than if the victim is black - and African-Americans make up 1/2 of all homicide victims.

Additionally, 40 % of Tennessee's death row comes from Shelby County, while 1/2 of the counties in Tennessee have never sent anyone to death row. Where you live should not be relevant in matters of justice.

A 2010 report by the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) titled "Illegal Racial Discrimination in Jury Selection: A Continuing Legacy" also uncovered shocking evidence of discrimination in every state regarding jury selection.

EJI discovered counties where nearly 80 % of black residents who qualified for jury service were excluded and majority-black counties where defendants were tried by all-white juries.

2nd, there are practical concerns about state resources.

We need money in our community for infrastructure, education, police and emergency services, public transportation and many other things.

According to The Death Penalty Information Center, the average cost of a death penalty case is $1.26 million, compared to $740,000 for a life-without-parole case.

Additionally, it costs $1 million more per year to keep people on death row in Tennessee than it would to put them with the general prison population for life sentences.

Put simply, the death penalty is not the best use of the public's money.

3rd, the death penalty risks the execution of the innocent.

Since 1973, 154 people have been released from death rows when evidence of their innocence emerged, including 3 in Tennessee.

In April, Anthony Ray Hinton was released from Alabama's death row after serving 30 years for a crime the evidence shows he didn't commit. Executing an innocent person is an unacceptable risk.

Further, when death is the alternative, sometimes innocent people will accept a plea bargain and falsely admit to taking a life in order to save their own. In fact, according to the Innocence Project, more than 1 out of 4 people exonerated by DNA evidence made a false confession or incriminating statement at some point.

And finally, we could be doing more for victims' families.

Increasingly, victims’ family members are speaking out in favor of life without parole because it provides more legal finality and doesn't drag them through a decades-long process that may not even result in an execution.

The defendant begins serving the sentence immediately, while valuable resources are freed up to provide more services and support for these hurting families.

In the end, the death penalty system takes up too much of our valuable time and resources while we're trying to work through all the other problems our criminal justice system is facing.

We want to see real criminal justice reform for our nation and for Tennessee.

Let's begin by having a real conversation about the death penalty.

(source; Opinion; The Rev. Dr. Judy Cummings is the senior pastor at New Covenant Christian Church in Nashville and the president of the Interdenominational Ministers Fellowship (IMF). Rep. Harold M. Love Jr., D-Nashville, represents the people of District 58 and is the president-elect of the IMF----The Tennessean)


Human Rights Groups Label Imminent Execution Of Yakub Memon 'Regressive'

The rejection of 1993 Mumbai Bomb Blast accused Yakub Abdul Razak Memon's curative petition in the Supreme Court has paving the way for his imminent execution on July 30th this month and international human rights group Amnesty International has termed it "a disappointing and regressive step towards the continued use of the death penalty in India."

Yakub Memon was convicted for his involvement in a series of bomb blasts in Mumbai in March, 1993 which killed 257 people and injured over 700 others. He was arrested in 1994. In 2007, he was convicted and sentenced to death under the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (TADA) Act. The conviction was upheld by the Supreme Court in March 2013.

Yakub Memon's mercy petition to the President of India was rejected in April 2014.

Memon's older brother, Tiger Memon, is alleged to have been the mastermind behind the bombings and remains at large.

"More than a dozen death sentences were commuted in progressive judgments by the Supreme Court last year. Tuesday's judgement, in contrast, regrettably puts India in opposition to the global trend towards moving away from the death penalty," said Divya Iyer, Research Manager at Amnesty International India. The London-based Human Rights Watch demanded that the Narendra Modi's National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government should impose an official moratorium on capital punishment. An unofficial moratorium ended in 2012.

"The Indian government has hanged 2 people over the past 3 years while other countries are increasingly rejecting this inhumane practice," said Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director. "The government should commute Yakub Memon’s sentence and put a moratorium on executions until the practice is fully abolished."

"Those who claim that hanging Yakub Memon will bring justice for the 1993 Mumbai blasts are mistaken. The suspected masterminds of the blasts have still not been located, arrested and brought to book," Iyer added.

"Serious questions have also been raised regarding Yakub Memon's execution and whether it is guided by political motivations. Lawmakers in India often find it convenient to hold up capital punishment as a symbol of their resolve to tackle crime, and choose to ignore more difficult and effective solutions like improving investigations, prosecutions and care for victims' families," the Amnesty spokesperson added.

Human rights groups across the world has been arguing that no reliable evidence exists that the threat of execution is more of a deterrent to crime than a prison sentence. This has been confirmed in multiple studies in many regions around the world, including by the United Nations.

Amnesty says that the Justice Verma Committee, set up in 2012 to review laws against sexual assault, came to the same conclusion, noting that "there is considerable evidence that the deterrent effect of death penalty on serious crimes is actually a myth".

"Authorities need to ensure certainty in detection, arrest and conviction for crimes, rather than focus on the severity of punishment, which by itself has little deterrent effect," said Divya Iyer.

The death penalty in India is arbitrary, discriminatory and is often used disproportionately against the poor. A recent study conducted by students from the National Law University, Delhi, with the help of India's Law Commission, found that over 3/4 of prisoners on death row were from economically weak backgrounds.

140 countries around the world have abolished the death penalty in law or practice.

Amnesty International's latest annual report on the death penalty worldwide found that an alarming number of countries used the death penalty to tackle real or perceived threats to state security posed by terrorism, crime or internal instability in 2014.

India ended its 8-year unofficial moratorium on executions with the hangings on November 21, 2012, of Mohammad Ajmal Kasab, a Pakistani terrorist convicted of killing several in the November 2008 attacks in Mumbai, and on February 9, 2013, of Mohammad Afzar Guru, convicted for the December 2001 attack on the Indian parliament. President Mukherjee has rejected 24 clemency pleas since he took office in July 2012, confirming the death penalty for over 30 people.

In December 2014, India was 1 of only 38 countries to vote against the United Nations General Assembly resolution for a global moratorium on the use of the death penalty. The resolution passed with 117 votes, reflecting a growing trend globally toward the abolition of capital punishment.



Judge recommends overturning death sentence in capital murder case

A former soldier sentenced to death in 2010 for killing his ex-girlfriend and her brother could have his death penalty overturned after a district judge recommended a redo of the trial's punishment phase.

Judge Travis Bryan of the 272nd District Court wrote in a 111-page report that John Thuesen's attorneys did not do enough in the punishment phase to present evidence related to post-traumatic stress disorder that could have helped Thuesen's case. Bryan wrote, had the proper evidence been presented, the jury would have heard "substantially more and different information to argue in favor of a life sentence."

Bryan also argued that a thorough description of PTSD would have explained Thuesen's behaviors before and at the time of the crime, and shown the jury that Thuesen's "war trauma" continued to impact his life once he returned home.

Other findings made by Bryan state that Thuesen was never properly diagnosed with or treated for PTSD, and the defense counsel's failure to present this evidence "fell below the norms of professional standards" for attorneys in death penalty cases. He also wrote that defense attorneys Michele Esparza and Billy Carter were ineffective in providing evidence to show a low likelihood that Thuesen would commit future acts of criminal violence.

In June 2014, Esparza testified at an appeals hearing that she did everything she could to save Thuesen's life.

At the time, Esparza acknowledged she and Carter probably should have called on a PTSD expert at the end of their punishment case.

Bryan's findings were sent to the Court of Criminal Appeals for consideration. He declined to comment on his findings Monday because the case is ongoing.

Because Thuesen was convicted of capital murder, if the punishment phase is retried, the only possible outcomes are life in prison or another death penalty.

Assistant District Attorney Jessica Escue said the court can choose to adopt all, some or none of Bryan's findings, then decide what to do with the case.

"We obviously disagree with Judge Bryan's findings," she said. "We will file our objections with his findings with the Court of Criminal Appeals, and the Court of Criminal Appeals will make the final determination."

Sian Schilhab, general counsel to the Court of Criminal Appeals, said it is not common for a trial judge to recommend relief in death penalty cases. She said in the majority of cases, relief is denied.

A jury sentenced Thuesen to death after a trial that lasted more than 2 weeks. According to evidence from the trial, Thuesen had been dating Rachel Joiner for about six months, but she asked for space in the relationship about a week before the murder. After that request, Thuesen showed up uninvited multiple times at her home and the home of another ex-boyfriend whom Rachel Joiner had begun spending time with, witnesses said.

The night of the March 2009 shooting, Thuesen was waiting at the Joiners' house for Rachel to return home. When Rachel Joiner arrived, she and Thuesen had a fight and Thuesen shot her. Rachel's brother Travis came out of his bedroom after hearing the noise and was also shot. Both Aggie siblings were pronounced dead later that night.

Thuesen called the police and confessed.

(source: The Eagle)

PENNSYLVANIA----female to face death penalty

Death penalty to be sought for woman who allegedly threw baby off bridge

Prosecutors in Lehigh County will seek the death penalty against the 20-year-old woman accused of throwing her baby off of the Hamilton Street Bridge.

The young age of the child is the reason prosecutors will seek the death penalty according to Lehigh County District Attorney Jim Martin.

Johnesha Perry was before a judge Monday for her formal arraignment and answered questions about what her life was like leading up to the alleged events on May 3.

Perry is charged with criminal homicide for the death of her 2-year- old son, Zymeir, in May.

"It's going to be an emotional case for the defense and for the defendant," said her defense attorney Kimberly Makoul.

In court Perry seemed dazed and sounded almost childlike as she slowly answered several background questions from a judge. The now 20-year-old meekly told the judge she graduated from William Allen High School in 2013, that she worked in fast-food and as a housekeeper before attending a business school full time. She said she lived alone with her 2-year-old son Zymeir on Hall Street in Allentown.

But back on May 3 police say Perry turned her world upside down when she threw Zymeir off of the Hamilton Street Bridge.

"When Miss Perry got to the middle of the bridge she took the child out of the stroller, held him on the railing of the bridge, she kissed her son and then pushed him over the edge." D.A. Jim Martin said in a previous news conference, shortly after the incident.

The then 19-year-old jumped in herself. The boy initially survived but died a few days later.

Makoul said pre-trial evaluations conducted will be key evidence to the impending trial.

"It's going to shed a lot of light as to her mental state the time it happened and quite frankly lead the direction of the case."

Perry's trial is expected to begin in 2016.

(source: WFMZ news)


Death penalty delay to be argued Tuesday for 4-time killer

A Northampton County judge is due to hear arguments Tuesday morning on whether to continue to postpone the execution of quadruple murderer Michael Ballard.

Ballard is part of a class-action lawsuit seeking to throw out the death penalty against 184 Pennsylvania death row inmates.

Philadelphia attorney David Rudovsky argues in the suit that the death penalty can't be carried out in Pennsylvania because the drugs to be administered under state Department of Corrections policy fail to meet specifications outlined in the state's death penalty law.

Northampton County District Attorney John Morganelli, however, filed court papers noting a similar argument made in Oklahoma was dismissed by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Morganelli noted in a supplemental brief on Monday that being named in the class-action suit does not automatically guarantee a stay of your execution.

Morganelli said he will make further arguments at the hearing before County Judge Emil Giordano at 10 a.m. Tuesday. He'll be opposed by Ballard attorneys James Connell and Michael Corriere.

Connell and Corriere filed papers Friday arguing in part that the death penalty should be thrown out in Pennsylvania because the procedures for administering lethal injections weren't open to public debate. They were formulated by a closed group of corrections officials, they argue.

The registered nurses who administer the lethal drugs do so without the direction of a doctor and without a prescription for the person to be executed, both in violation of state law, the class action suit says.

Ballard, 42, had recently been released from state prison for an Allentown murder when he killed his ex-girlfriend, her father, her grandfather and a neighbor in Northampton in 2010. He was sentenced to death in 2011.



Judge to rule Tuesday on whether man accused of killing phone store manager can face death penalty

A Jacksonville man accused of the execution like killing of 20-year-old phone store manager Shelby Farah will find out whether he will face the death penalty for the killing Tuesday morning.

James Xavier Rhodes, 23, is charged with 1st-degree murder, armed robbery and possession of a weapon by a felon in the July 2013 shooting at the Metro PCS store on North Main Street. A gunman shot Farah in the head after she gave him several hundred dollars.

The killing was captured on surveillance video.

Prosecutors are attempting to put Rhodes on death row, countered by defense attorneys who say he is intellectually disabled, which was at one point referred to as retarded. Circuit Judge Tatiana Salvador is expected to rule on whether Rhodes can face the death penalty today.

If Salvador finds that Rhodes is intellectually disabled, he cannot be put on death row but can still go to prison. A trial date for Rhodes has not yet been set.

Lawyers for both sides have put experts on the stand.

Tallahassee-area clinical psychologist Greg Prichard, testifying for the prosecution, said Rhodes has below-average intelligence, it does not fall to the point of being intellectually disabled.

Forensic psychologist Louis Legum, called by the defense, said Rhodes is intellectually disabled, and would have always struggled to function in the adult world.

Prosecutors have argued that Rhodes deliberately tanked IQ tests after he was arrested to avoid the death penalty, a point backed up by Prichard. But Legum argues that signs of Rhodes' intellectual disability go beyond his IQ tests because he also suffers from attention deficit disorder and low reading and cognitive abilities.

(source: Florida Times-Union)


River Parishes serial killer's appeal of death penalty still before courts 18 years after Gonzales slaying

Defense attorneys for River Parishes serial killer Daniel Blank mounted an attack Monday on his death penalty conviction in the 1997 murder of a Gonzales woman with a mountain of law enforcement reports that his original defense team never saw.

Gary Clements, director of the Capital Post-Conviction Project of Louisiana, also tried to show that Blank's trial attorneys failed to raise the possibility his schizophrenia and paranoia may have affected his memory and the accuracy of what he told investigators nearly 18 years ago.

In November 1997, Blank, 53, formerly of St. James Parish, admitted during a 12-hour videotaped interview with investigators that he killed 6 people in Gonzales, St. Amant, LaPlace and Paulina between Oct. 27, 1996, and his arrest on Nov. 14, 1997. During that period, he had also tried to kill Gonzales couple Leonce and Joyce Millet, he admitted.

Blank was running an automotive shop in Onalaska, Texas, in late 1997 when detectives tracked him down and questioned him.

Clements told 23rd Judicial District Judge Jessie LeBlanc on Monday that the reliability of that statement is the core of what his team of lawyers plans to probe through a weeklong evidentiary hearing this week in Houma.

Clements and the attorneys with the post-conviction project are challenging Blank's September 1999 conviction in the brutal beating death of Lillian Philippe, 72, in her Gonzales home on April 9, 1997, as part of a botched burglary attempt. The Louisiana Supreme Court already has affirmed the conviction, but the defense attorney is now claiming Blank had ineffective defense counsel at trial and did not receive all the evidence pointing to innocence that he should have received.

The post-conviction appeal of the Ascension Parish homicide is being heard at the Terrebonne Parish Courthouse by Ascension’s Judge LeBlanc because that is where the trial was held. The trial was moved from Ascension because of pretrial publicity in the shocking murders of mostly older people that, for a time, gripped the River Parishes in fear.

At trial, prosecutors were allowed to present evidence of the other slayings, though Blank had not yet been convicted of any of them.

Clements has argued in court papers and on Monday that factual discrepancies and other details those undisclosed reports raise, along with his client's mental condition, could have undercut Blank's admission.

Clements drove home through questioning of Blank's public defender Harold Van Dyke that the reports and Blank's mental condition should have been raised during a pretrial hearing over whether to allow testimony about the other slayings in the Philippe trial.

The Philippe conviction was the 1st by prosecutors in the string of slayings and the only case for which Blank faces the death penalty. Blank is on death row at Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola.

Following the Philippe conviction, a jury convicted Blank in October 2000 for the slaying of Joan Brock, 55, of LaPlace, and sentenced him to death. But after an appeal, the case was sent back to the lower court. Blank pleaded guilty in July 2009 and received a life sentence.

Blank had years earlier received 2 other life sentences following guilty pleas for the murder of Barbara Bourgeois, 58, of Paulina, and Sam Arcuri Sr., 76, and his wife, Louella, 60, in their LaPlace home.

For several hours Monday, as Blank, dressed in an orange jumpsuit and shackles, watched, Clements presented Van Dyke with report after report detailing how law enforcement had other possible suspects, how key witnesses who shaped a composite description of the killer could not identify Blank, and other facts Clements suggested called into question what Blank told investigators.

Clements argued these facts, if raised, could have aided his attorneys in getting Blank's confession thrown out.

In each instance, Van Dyke, who handled the Philippe case with lead counsel Glenn Cortello and 3 other slayings for which Blank was convicted, said he had no recollection of the reports or never received them.

Van Dyke repeatedly agreed with Clements that the reports could have helped the defense attorneys raise questions in a pretrial court hearing on whether the confession met the "clear and convincing evidence" standard necessary to allow testimony about the other slayings at the Philippe trial.

The standard is one notch below the standard of "beyond a reasonable doubt" used for felony convictions.

Van Dyke said throwing out Blank's statement was critical to the defense strategy because prosecutors had no physical evidence connecting Blank to Philippe's home.

But on cross examination of Van Dyke, Assistant District Attorney Chuck Long, who prosecuted the Philippe case, brushed off what he called the "woulda, coulda, shoulda" questions Clements raised. Long noted Blank's testimony matched more significant details from the crime scenes that only the killer could have known.

For instance, Long read from a transcript of Blank's confession, pointing out Blank testified he threw the bat with which he had beaten his 1st murder victim, Victor Rossi, on Oct. 27, 1996, in the bathroom.

Then Long presented Van Dyke with a crime scene photo of Rossi's body in the bathtub with the bat. Blank was never convicted in the Rossi slaying.

Van Dyke acknowledged repeatedly that such elements of corroboration, as in the Rossi case, would not have helped Blank's defense.

Long also showed Van Dyke a letter he sent to Blank's defense team that said they were entitled to open-file discovery and could obtain other reports that might be held by the Ascension Parish Sheriff's Office, Gonzales Police Department and other agencies.

In an interview after the hearing Monday, Van Dyke said a task force involving multiple local agencies and the FBI were working on the slayings. They should have had someone coordinating the investigations and the evidence discovery for Blank's defense lawyers.

"I thought it was astounding that we didn't get it," Van Dyke said.

The brother and nephew of Lillian Philippe were on hand for the hearing Monday. L.J. Heath, 82, of St. Amant, Philippe's brother, said during one recess Monday that he has a hard time understanding how a long-standing murder conviction could be undone years later.

"It's a sad thing. It's a sad thing," Heath said.

Testimony is expected to resume at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday from three witnesses and possibly Blank's other defense attorney, Cortello.

(source: The Advocate)

ARKANSAS----mother to face death penalty

Torres evidence sent to state crime lab----Results to take up to 2 months in capital murder case against boy's parents

It is expected to take 45 to 60 days before prosecutors can begin to receive information from evidence that was sent to the state Crime Laboratory in the investigation into the death of a 6-year-old boy.

The boy's parents, Mauricio Alejandro Torres, 45, and Cathy Torres, 44, of Bella Vista, are charged with capital murder and 1st-degree battery. They previously pleaded innocent to the charges and are being held without bail in the Benton County jail.

Prosecutors will seek the death penalty against the 2.

Maurice Isaiah Torres was taken to an area hospital, where he was pronounced dead March 29. A medical examiner later determined the boy suffered from chronic child abuse, and his death was from internal injuries caused by being raped, according to court documents.

Cathy Torres appeared in court Monday morning for a hearing that was reset to 1:30 p.m. Oct. 5.

Nathan Smith, Benton County prosecuting attorney, said evidence had been collected and sent to the crime laboratory in Little Rock.

"We basically sent the entire house to the crime lab," Smith said.

It could take up to 60 days before prosecutors get information back from the crime laboratory, Smith said.

Smith does not believe that there will be any issues from that evidence to file any motions.

Tony Pirani, one of the attorneys for Cathy Torres, said one issue will be possible evidence that prosecutors may attempt to use against her. Pirani said a separate hearing will be needed to hear any of those issues, which would include any evidence of prior or similar bad acts.

One pending motion concerned a gag order to prevent the Benton County prosecuting attorney's office and the Arkansas Department of Human Services from releasing any information on the case.

Prosecutors and a DHS attorney filed responses objecting to a judge issuing the gag order.

Attorneys for Mauricio Torres also have filed a motion seeking the gag order. A hearing is set for 2 p.m. July 31.

The Torreses also were arrested on rape charges, but prosecutors didn't include that offense in their charging documents. The rape occurred in Missouri, not in Benton County, Smith said previously.

The couple will be tried separately.

Mauricio Torres' jury trial is set to begin Jan. 12. Cathy Torres' jury trial is scheduled to begin Jan. 26.



Lethal injection drugs still not here

The expected arrival date of 2 drugs to be used in executions has come and gone - a month ago.

But Nebraska Department of Correctional Services Director Scott Frakes said Monday he is still confident the state will get the sodium thiopental and pancuronium bromide that are 2 of 3 drugs in Nebraska's lethal injection protocol. It is taking time to make sure the order is done right, he said.

Frakes ordered the drugs - sodium thiopental makes an inmate unconscious and pancuronium bromide causes paralysis - in May from Harris Pharma, a company in India that has sold sodium thiopental to Nebraska in the past.

The state already has the 3rd drug, potassium chloride, which stops the heart.

In May, the department ordered 1,000 1-gram vials of sodium thiopental at a cost of $25 per vial and 1,000 ampules of 2 mg/2 ml of pancuronium bromide at $26 per ampule. Total cost was $54,000.

The drugs are paid for and the supplier has the money, Frakes said Monday.

"We're still working with the supplier," he said. "There are a number of different issues that needed to be addressed through various different agencies both in India and ... here in America."

That includes the right information and code numbers for the order, and making sure the correct importation forms are filled out.

The drug would be exported by Harris Pharma, coming from Kolkata, West Bengal, India. The Corrections Department is the importer.

A 2013 federal circuit court ruling determined lethal injection drugs are subject to U.S. Food and Drug Administration oversight and importation rules and that states must obtain such drugs legally through licensed, inspected dealers.

Sodium thiopental is not an approved drug in the United States, according to the Food and Drug Administration.

"With very limited exceptions (such as for research use), which do not apply here, it is unlawful to import this drug and FDA would refuse its admission into the United States," FDA spokesman Jeff Ventura has said.

Federal Drug Enforcement Administration spokeswoman Barbara Carreno has said the DEA is in sync with the FDA on importing barbiturate anesthetics such as sodium thiopental from foreign companies.

"We allow their importation if they come from an FDA-approved source. Conversely, if the source is not FDA-approved, we will not allow their importation," she said.

Rather than move quickly and end up with a problem, Frakes said, he has chosen to take the time to ensure all the questions have been answered and he has correctly filled out all the required forms and addressed all concerns.

When he is confident the department has met all those needs, he'll ask that the drugs be shipped, he said.

"I remain confident that I will receive the products," Frakes said.

The Nebraska Legislature repealed the death penalty in May with an effective date at the end of August.

Meanwhile, Nebraskans for the Death Penalty is seeking signatures for an initiative petition to allow Nebraska voters to decide at the ballot box whether the state should retain the death penalty.

If the group gathers about 115,000 signatures from registered voters by Aug. 27, the law repealing the death penalty won't take effect. If its group gathers about half that, the law would take effect, but in either case, the issue would go to voters in November 2016.

10 people sentenced to death for first-degree murder remain on Nebraska's death row.

(source: Journal Star)


Death penalty trial begins in Denver bar killings

Opening statements began Monday in the murder trial of Dexter Lewis, who is charged with stabbing 5 people to death in a Denver bar, marking the start of a rare death penalty case in Denver.

It's the 1st time Denver prosecutors have tried a death penalty case since 2001, and the 1st time District Attorney Mitch Morrissey has sought to execute a defendant since he was sworn in in 2005.

A jury was chosen last week out of a pool of nearly 600 people, the Denver Post reported ( ).

Lewis, 25, is charged with killing 5 people inside Fero's Bar & Grill on South Colorado Boulevard in October 2012. 2 co-defendants, brothers Lynell and Joseph Hill, pleaded guilty to the killings in July 2013.

Joseph Hill pleaded guilty to 5 counts of 1st-degree felony murder, and his brother pleaded guilty to 2 counts of 2nd-degree murder and arson.

The victims included 53-year-old Young Suk Fero, an Aurora woman who owned the bar; Daria M. Pohl, 21, of Denver; Kellene Fallon, 44, of Denver; Ross Richter, 29, of Overland Park, Kansas; and Tereasa Beesley, 45, of Denver.

Lewis also is charged with trying to hire a former prison cellmate to kill several witnesses who were expected to testify against him.

The last time a Denver jury chose to execute someone was in 1986, when Frank Rodriguez was convicted in the rape and murder of Lorraine Martelli.

Colorado has 3 men on death row, but the state has not executed anyone since 1997.

In 2013, Gov. John Hickenlooper granted an indefinite reprieve to death row inmate Nathan Dunlap, essentially putting a hold on executions while he is governor.

(source: Associated Press)


Case against man accused in girl's death to go forward

The Utah Supreme Court has cleared the way for the trial of a Utah man accused of raping and killing a 6-year-old girl.

The high court decided Friday that it isn't necessary to remove Judge Mark Kouris in the case of Terry Lee Black over allegations of bias because he's already been transferred

An attorney for 43-year-old defendant says the judge ridiculed and mocked Black's lawyers during a 9-minute diatribe after they asked for a delay to determine whether Black is mentally competent to stand trial.

Prosecutors denied the allegations of bias against Black, who is accused of abducting Sierra Newbold from her home in June 2012. Police say he beat, raped and strangled her before throwing her in the canal, where she drowned.

Black could face the death penalty if convicted.

(source: Associated Press)


Jury to decide if man who killed Phoenix police officer deserves death penalty

A man who was convicted of killing a Phoenix police officer may be sentenced to death.

But first, a jury must decide if the crime was heinous enough.

An aggravation hearing will begin on Tuesday morning to determine if Danny Martinez should be eligible for the death penalty for shooting and killing a Phoenix police officer 5 years ago.

Last week, Martinez was convicted of 1st-degree murder for killing Officer Travis Murphy.

The officer confronted Martinez in 2010 after receiving a call of shots fired near 19th Avenue and Indian School.

Martinez shot Officer Murphy 10 times with an AR-15 rifle, killing him.

Officer Murphy was 29-years-old and had been on the force for 4 years.

He left behind a wife, a 2-year-old daughter and a 2-week-old son.

The prosecution is seeking the death penalty.

The jury will take another look at the case on Tuesday to see if the crime has aggravating factors that would warrant the death penalty.

(source: KSAZ news)


Commute Kevin Cooper's Death Sentence

(source: Amnesty International USA)


Yes, some will escape prison, but that's no reason to push the death penalty

Re "Prison escapes prove we can't just 'lock 'em up and throw away the key'" by Jeff Jacoby (Opinion, July 16): Probably no prison will ever be escape-proof, because prisons are run and staffed by humans. However, the answer to that is not to make greater use of the death penalty. Surely we can conceive other alternatives.

Let's put aside facts about the ridiculous costs of imposing the death penalty and the botched executions, and the fact that as many as 4.1 % of those who are sentenced to die are innocent, according to a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The overwhelming argument against the death penalty is ethical.

With that penalty, 1 person must instruct others to kill someone, a human, who at the time of the killing is confined and subdued. Such a demand is morally reprehensible.

That such a barbarous ritual is state-sanctioned, in your name and mine, magnifies our society's rejection of its humanity and assures our children that extreme violence is allowable.

Maureen Doyle, Weymouth

(source: Letter to the Editor, Boston Globe)


The U.S. court system is criminally unjust----How your weight and the time of day can decide the outcome of your court case

We like to believe that decisions made in U.S. courts are determined by the wisdom of the Constitution, and guided by fair-minded judges and juries of our peers.

Unfortunately, this is often wishful thinking. Unsettling research into the psychology of courtroom decisions has shown that our personal backgrounds, unconscious biases about race, gender and appearance, and even the time of day play a more important role in outcomes than the actual law.

Adam Benforado, a professor of law at Drexel University, describes these unsettling problems with the justice system in the recently published book "Unfair: The New Science of Criminal Injustice." The book uses psychology and neuroscience to examine and expose the illogical and unfair ways that judges, jurors, attorneys and others in the legal system make decisions about who is sent to prison, and who walks free.

Benforado's research shows that mistakes in the criminal justice system are more common than we like to think, and that our personal biases play a disturbingly strong role. He also argues that there are clear and easy steps that we could follow to limit these injustices, if we care to take them. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Your research looks at applying cognitive psychology to law. Why is that important?

Our criminal justice system has been built up over centuries and really millennia. Unfortunately when we look at the scientific evidence, we find that a lot of the underlying assumptions are not backed up by science. A lot of our legal system is based on incorrect assumptions about human behavior.

Can you give us an example of a case where assumptions made in the courtroom led to a verdict that was clearly wrong?

The one that stopped me in my tracks was a case involving John Jerome White. This was a brutal rape case from 1979 in Meriwether County, Georgia. We have the image from the line-up that was conducted in this case. The victim was brought in. She looked at these 5 men and she picked out the 1 in the middle. John Jerome White said he didn't rape the woman, but he was sentenced and ended up spending a couple decades in prison.

Finally, the DNA from the rape case was tested - we didn't have the capability back in 1979, but a couple decades later we did. And John Jerome White was not the attacker.

What really startled me about this particular image was the actual perpetrator was in that line-up. He was actually locked up for another offense, and they pulled him in at the last minute. What this shows is that this victim looked eye to eye with the man who attacked her and picked out the man standing next to him.

That shows that good people who have every incentive to get things right can make terrible, terrible errors which are extremely costly. They are costly not just to the person who is wrongly convicted, but to the victim -- not only have you suffered this horrible crime, but you are now responsible for putting an innocent person in prison. And, in this particular case, that actual perpetrator ended up going off and raping another woman in the intervening decades.

For me, that really summed up what this entire book was all about - the fact that the dangers to our community are not evil, greedy, malicious people, they're our friends and neighbors. Those are the people who are ultimately responsible for some of the terrible injustice that is happening.

In 1979, we didn't have DNA testing. Wasn't this line-up the best option? Was there a better solution?

In that case, there were a number of things that were problematic. The woman had already looked at a set of images of potential suspects a few weeks earlier. One question is, was she remembering the person who raped her, or was she just remembering this image that she had seen? We know from laboratory research that just seeing someone's image on Facebook can cause a person to be more likely to pick that suspect out of a line-up.

It's also quite possible that some of the things the police were doing were highly suggestive. The woman's initial description was of a man who was round faced with a stocky build. John Jerome White is rail thin. The only man who fits the description of the perpetrator is the actual perpetrator.

The lesson is clearly that we should rely on eye witness identification a lot less than we do. We know that tens of thousands of people are charged with crimes after being identified by eye witnesses. And we also know that a third of the time, eye witnesses in real identification pick out one of those innocent fillers. That's a terribly high error rate, and that suggests we have to find other ways to identify perpetrators.

Research suggests that both the race of the victim and of the defendant influence sentencing. One study by researchers at Cornell found that defendants with more stereotypically "black features" were more likely to be sentenced to death. What do you think of that research?

That was a really powerful study. We've known that race was a problem with the death penalty for a long time. Far more people on death row are African American than would be predicted. And studies suggest that the factors that are meant to predict whether someone receives the death penalty don't predict that - people who commit the worst crimes are not the ones who receive the death penalty.

What was so fascinating about this study is it showed that it's not just if you’re black or white, it's how black you are. So people with thicker lips, wider noses and darker skin were more likely than other African-Americans with less stereotypically African-American features to receive the death penalty. In my mind, even if you would otherwise support the death penalty, this is just proof that we are not able to administer it in a way that is fair and just under the rules of the constitution.

And it's not just race, right -- thinness and attractiveness affect our judgments, too?

All interpersonal differences, which are not meant to have any impact on any aspect of trial, end up shaping how things go for defendants. With respect to witnesses, we know that attractive witnesses are more likely to be believed. We also know that weight has an impact. In one study, women who were overweight or obese were treated much more harshly by mock jurors than people who were thin.

A very important point is that a lot of these biases are operating beyond people's awareness or control. So when it comes to implicit racial bias, for example, it's not that judges who end up giving African Americans higher bail hate black people or are secret bigots. It appears that they are just susceptible and have been exposed to the same negative stereotypes linking blackness and violence or crime that we all have been exposed to.

Those damaging stereotypes end up having an impact on real-world behavior. There's interesting research that doctors offer different medical interventions based on the color of people's skin. We know that recruiters look at a resume differently if it has an African-American name or a white name. In all these cases, the people that are engaging in this discriminatory behavior, it appears, are not doing so out of racial animus. They are doing it because they are engaging in automatic behavior which has been engrained over a lifetime of being exposed to a culture in which African American lives are devalued and blackness is coded with a lot of negative imagery.

What are other measures that we could take to improve decisions? I know that you mention "virtual trials" - what are those?

One of the things that I suggest in the book is that we need to control biasing factors. In essence, if we know that jurors and justices can be swayed by the attractiveness of witnesses, or we know that jurors place a lot of weight on whether the defendant is making eye contact, or his hands are shaking on the witness stand - if we know from research that that is not a good way to tell whether someone is lying, it makes sense to begin to control for those factors.

The defendant's skin color shouldn't make a difference in the outcome. The prosecutor's mannerisms or bombastic style shouldn't make a difference. And yet from research we know that all these things are biasing factors. So why not control for these things by eliminating judge's and jurors abilities to see the color of the defendant's skin, or the mannerisms of the prosecutor?

The technology to do this actually already exists. We conduct business transactions in virtual space. We can do heart surgery without being in the same room as the patient. So why not think about the potential of virtual adjudication for the future?

In terms of benefits, it's not just that this would prevent judges and jurors from biased determinations. It would also change the behavior of attorneys. One of the big problems we have in the way we conduct trials is we allow attorneys to strike jurors. In some parts of the country, black jurors are commonly kept off death penalty juries. A virtual space where attorneys didn't know the race of the jurors would prevent that from happening.

I also think it would significantly reduce the psychological strain entailed in providing in-court testimony. One of the reasons that rape prosecution are so difficult is that victims refuse to testify in court because they don't want to be in the same room as their attacker. And with virtual space, that would lead them to feel less intimidated and nervous.

You also argue that virtual trials could include a time delay in presenting information to the jury. What's the purpose of that?

Frequently, evidence or testimony is presented in court and then subsequently objected to. So under cross-examination, a prosecutor asks a defendant on the stand, "Were you convicted of assault earlier this year?" The defendant answers, the defense objects to that, and the trial judge instructs the jurors, I'm sustaining that objection, disregard what you just heard.

But we know from experimental evidence that jurors can't do that. Inevitably, evidence that they've been told to disregard then influences their later determination. So in a controlled setting, we could institute a time delay that would prevent that evidence from ever coming before the decision makers.

In the shorter run, are there other things we could do to improve our courtrooms? Let's start by looking at judges.

In the U.S., we think there are 2 kinds of judges: activist judges and umpire judges. Essentially, a person decides whether they want to be an objective, neutral judge who just calls balls and strikes, or an activist judge who follows their own agenda. But what the research from psychology says is that actually all judges are biased, and they are often biased in ways that are beyond their conscious awareness or control.

One of my favorite experiments in the book looks at whether a judge grants a person parole or not. You would think that the things that determine parole are the crime the person committed, and whether the person reformed themselves in prison.

But in fact, researchers found that the major factor was the time of day that the person came before the parole board. If you appeared 1st thing in the morning, you were more likely to get parole. Right before the 1st break in the day was the worst time. There is a clear disjunction between what the law says and what is actually determining outcomes.

I think most judges are extremely well-intentioned people who believe that they act objectively, to the best of their abilities. I think one of the best ways to change the system -- a system that we know does include quite a lot of judicial bias -- is simply to bring to judge’s attention the wealth of data that exists on what is going on. We know that African-American men receive higher bails. We know that certain people end up being sentenced to longer sentences based on demographic factors. Judges aren't aware of those things until they look at the data.

And what about with juries?

Jurors are supposed to decide cases based on the facts and the law, and often times that's not the case. Research shows that the jurors' different background and experiences - what they bring to the jury panel - matter far more than differences in the legal code. It's not supposed to matter what particular juror you happen to draw. But that is what we believe is driving a lot of outcomes in the criminal justice system.

There are actually de-biasing techniques that are being studied by psychologists as we speak. The challenge is to figure out ways to disrupt these stereotypes, by, for example, exposing people to counter-stereotypes - positive images of African-Americans, like Martin Luther King, Jr., and negative images of white Americans, like Jeffrey Dahmer. That has been shown to be effective at undermining these implicit biases.

More broadly, I think we need to think about as a society how we get rid of damaging racial associations. That has to do with depictions of African-Americans on prime-time television. It has to do with the stories that are reported on the 5 o'clock news. That's where these biases come from.

Secondly, we need to think about ways to establish more diverse juries and more diverse judicial benches. The worst thing that we can possibly have is a jury or a court where all the people share the same set of biases. It's much better if everyone is biased in different ways. Our benches and our juries are disproportionately white, male and older. That's a problem, particularly because our legal rules themselves have been developed by white, older men over the centuries. To the extent that we cannot de-bias the population, diversity is a good 2nd-best approach.

(source: Ana Swanson is a reporter for Wonkblog specializing in business, economics, data visualization and China; Washington Post)


Lungu Congratulated for Death Penalty Amnesties

The following statement was circulated today by Zambians Against Tribalism,Violence and Apathy (ZATVA):

We have learnt with excitement over the decision by President Edgar Lungu to commute death sentences of 332 to life of death row prisoners.

This action by President Lungu brings the debate of the death penalty in sharp focus.

Zambia is a Christian Nation and we hold that no one has a right to take a life of another whether criminals or the State.

The action by President Edgar Lungu goes to show his respect for the sanctity and sacredness of human life.

With this action, President Lungu has saved 332 lives.

We also wish to applaud the decision by President Lungu to pardon absolutely, Clifford Dimba popularly known as Gen. Kanene, who was imprisoned for 18 years over a case of defilement.

In our view, Dimba has demonstrated remorse, contrition,and regret over his actions.

He has done this through various songs he has done while he was incarcerated.

We also applaud President Lungu for his decision to appoint Dimba as an Ambassador Against Gender Based Violence, Rape and Defilement.

We recognise that the biblical Saul, who persecuted and killed Christians was the one that converted to be be Paul who has helped evangelise the world.

We urge Dimba to show exemplary behaviour by performing his duties as an ambassador with distinction and diligence.

Nakiwe Simpungwe

Executive Director

Zambians Against Tribalism,Violence and Apathy (ZATVA)



Kabul appellate court finalizes decision on Farkhunda murder case

The appellate of court has finalized decision regarding the lynching of Farkhunda who was brutally murdered over false Quran burning.

Officials in Kabul appellate court have said the case will be referred to the Supreme Court of Afghanistan for final hearing in the next couple of days.

Head of Appellate Courts of Crimes against Internal and External Security Ali Abdul Nasir Murid said justice has been availed in Farkhunda murder trial however he said a final decision will be taken regarding the case by Supreme Court.

"Specific conditions have been set for death penalty since the crime has not been verified but the higher authorities are authorized to decide regarding verdict," Murid quoted in a report by Radio Free Europe (RFE) said.

The primary court of Kabul awarded death sentence to Zain-ul-Abideen, Mohammad Yaqoob, Mohammad Sharif and Abdul Bashir who were found guilty of murdering the 27-year-old Farkhunda.

However, the appellate court of Kabul revised the decision and sentenced each convict for 20 years in jail, a decision which sparked furor among the civil society activists and family members of the victim.

The appellate court argues that there is no evidence to prove the murder of Farkhunda by the convicts despite numerous video tapes went viral on social media.

Farkhunda was brutally beaten, murdered and her body was set on fire by angry mob after she was accused of burning Quran.

At least 48 people including the custodian and the servant of the shrine were arrested by police after investigations revealed the accusations were false and no proof was found to prove the holy Quran was torched.

She was reportedly murdered after she spoke out against the superstitious practices she had witnessed with mullahs selling good-luck charms.

Her brutal murder also sparked several unprecedented protests in Kabul and other major cities of Afghanistan.

(source: Khaama Press)


Labourer charged with murder of despatch worker

A scrap metal collector has been charged with the murder of a 25-year-old man in Brickfields earlier this month.

R. Prabakaran, 23, is accused of causing the death of despatch worker F. Logeswaran between 5.30am and 6am on July 2.

He was charged at a magistrate's court here yesterday.

No plea was recorded but he faces the death penalty if found guilty.

Magistrate Jesseca Daimis set Sept 21 for next mention.

It was reported that an unemployed man was slashed to death shortly after he was involved in a motorcycle accident in Sri Kota, Brickfields here on July 2.

(source: The Star)


Executions resuming after the month of Ramadan----At least 10 prisoners from the Rajaishahr prison of Karaj have been transferred out of their wards for execution.

According to sources Iran Human Rights (IHR) has been in contact with, at least death row 10 prisoners have been transferred out of their wards yesterday. 4 of the prisoners were from the ward 1 of the Rajaishahr prison. All of the prisoners are charged with murder and sentenced to retribution death penalty. If the families of the murder victims do not agree to either forgive or demand blood money the prisoners will be executed on Wednesday morning July 22.iran execution

After a 1 month break in the executions due to the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, the Iranian authorities have resumed the executions. In the first half of 2015 the Iranian authorities executed more than 570 prisoners, the highest number in more than 25 years.


Iran Authorities Hang Prisoner to Death in Public During Ramadan

Official sources in Iran have reported on the public execution of a prisoner in Mahvelat County. The prisoner was charged with the rape of an 11-year-old girl who died in the hospital, according to the website of the Judiciary for the province of Razavi Khorasan. Iranian authorities reportedly executed the prisoner during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

The website for broadcasting in Mahvelat County reports the prisoner was sentenced to death by hanging for rape and also sentenced to death by stoning for adultery. Iranian authorities used the Islamic Penal Code to justify the charges and sentencing.

(source for both: Iran Human Rights)


Death penalty sought on Army sgt over bloody shooting rampage

Military prosecutors sought capital punishment for an Army sergeant on Tuesday for killing and wounding a dozen unarmed fellow soldiers in a shooting rampage at a military outpost near the tensely-guarded eastern border with North Korea last year.

The 23-year-old conscript, surnamed Lim, detonated a grenade and sprayed a hail of bullets in June last year in the military outpost of the 22nd Infantry Division stationed near the east-coastal front line, killing 5 comrades and wounding 7 others.

Lim was sentenced to death by a local military court in February before appealing to the military appellate court.

The killing of 5 fellow soldiers and the military vacuum at the front line that the shooting rampage caused were cited as major reasons when prosecutors again sought the death penalty for Lim.

"Sergeant Lim only blamed his comrades without proper self-examination," a military prosecutor said, dismissing Lim's defense that the shooting was a result of extreme distress stemming from bullying he faced inside the barracks.

"I am still feeling deeply guilty and responsible ... I am sincerely sorry," Lim said as he tearfully read out his final testimony.

Following the shooting rampage, Kim ran away with a rifle and attempted to shoot himself to death before being captured alive 2 days later.

(source: Yonhap News)


How India hanged a poor watchman whose guilt was far from established----Timed to coincide with the law commission's public hearing on the death penalty on July 11, 2 scholars released an analysis highlighting several serious problems with the decade-old case.

Although bearing a Brahmin name, Dhananjoy Chatterjee was far from being a member of the Kolkata bhadralok, or intellectual elite. He was an impoverished guard in a building where an 18-year-old named Hetal Parekh was found dead in March 1990. He was convicted of having raped and killed her and was hanged on his 39th birthday, August 14, 2004, protesting his innocence until the end.

His execution followed a shrill campaign waged by the wife of the then West Bengal chief minister, Buddhadeb Bhattacharya. Chatterjee's appeals were rejected by the then president APJ Abdul Kalam on the advice of arguably India's worst home minister, Shivraj Patil, going by historian Ramachandra Guha's estimation.

Recently, Abdul Kalam has been in the news saying he favours abolition of the death penalty. Had he applied his mind to the file put before him 11 years ago, it would have helped save the life of a man who was in all likelihood innocent.

In a similar situation, his predecessor in Rashtrapati Bhavan, KR Narayanan, had applied his mind wonderfully, as emerges from an anecdote narrated by his secretary, Gopalkrishna Gandhi. Delivering the People's Union of Civil Liberties' 35th JP Memorial Lecture in Bangalore on March 23 earlier this year, Gandhi described how he had received a call late at night from Chennai regarding the case of a man on death row in Tamil Nadu and how the president had unhesitatingly decided on commuting his sentence. Gandhi went on to speak of the independent and cerebral outlook that India's sole Dalit president brought to his job.

For its part, India's higher judiciary has not done enough to ensure that someone convicted of a capital crime receives a fair trial. An exception was in the case of a Dalit named Surinder Koli. He might have been executed by now in connection with the Nithari killings, which were serial murders in 2005 that took place just outside New Delhi, had the Allahabad High Court chief justice DY Chandrachud not entertained an appeal on a technicality, leading to commutation. The Supreme Court had thrown out Koli's appeals, including the very last one, at which Ram Jethmalani appeared pro bono to argue that the convict had received a shoddy trial.

In the eyes of some, the current Supreme Court Chief Justice, HL Dattu, is what in American parlance would be called a "hanging judge".

Chatterjee framed?

As for Dhananjoy Chatterjee's execution, the People's Union for Democratic Rights, a 4-decades-old New Delhi-based volunteer outfit, put out a statement earlier this month based on an analysis by 2 scholars from the Indian Statistical Institute in Kolkata, arguing that the guard was framed.

The analysis by Debashish Sengupta and Prabal Chaudhury, timed to coincide with the Law Commission's Public Hearing on the death penalty in New Delhi on Saturday, July 11, described what they believe was a botched investigation. They also highlighted inconsistencies in the evidence and pointed to fictitious claims, all aimed, they say, to frame Chatterjee.

The 2 scholars noted that a police witness in court denied having seen Chatterjee at the victim's flat. The police seizure list was signed by someone who supplied tea to the police and did not turn up in court. The antecedents of some items presented as incriminating evidence, such as a necklace and a watch, were never checked. The trial court failed to question why no murder weapon was recovered and why there was no blood on Chatterjee's clothes even though there were 21 stab wounds on the victim's body.

While the crime was said to have been committed in a short window between 5:20 pm and 5:50 pm, when Hetal Parekh's mother was out of the flat, there was a 3-hour delay before the police were called - ample time for tampering with the evidence. The Parekh family members' statements were inconsistent, and the family soon wrapped up its thriving jewellery business and left Kolkata, raising the possibility of an honour killing, the scholars contend. A letter written by the victim's father alleging that Chatterjee used to harass his daughter, which was used by the police to establish a motive, seems to have been written after the crime, the scholars say.

Guilt must be established

Criminal convictions and sentencing ought to follow only when guilt has been established "beyond reasonable doubt". But Indian courts routinely convict and pass harsh sentences, including the death penalty, on poor defendants who are badly represented in court. Gaping holes and inconsistencies in evidence are ignored. At the appeals stage, new evidence is not entertained, leading to numerous innocent people languishing in jail, including on death row.

Chatterjee had spent 14 years in jail before he was hanged. He was thus punished twice for a crime he likely did not commit, going by the Kolkata scholars' analysis, for the mere fault of being too poor to engage a competent lawyer.

While the Parekh family members were media-shy following the gruesome crime, the media never attempted to track them down to question them about their inconsistent statements even when Chatterjee was about to be hanged in 2004. It is not as if the Indian media lack the resources or the ingenuity to do so. 2 months ago, after the death of Aruna Shanbaug, the nurse who was in a vegetative state for 42 years, journalists traced the man who was convicted of having sexually assaulted her in 1973 to a village in Uttar Pradesh.

Will the Indian media take steps at least now to re-examine the evidence in the Dhananjoy Chatterjee case and demand that the judiciary reconsider its verdict? In Britain, the US and elsewhere, there have been numerous instances of cases being reopened long after - sometimes decades after - conviction and execution and of posthumous acquittals being pronounced. The Hetal Parekh case deserves such a demarche, in order to establish who was really guilty and if Chatterjee is found to have been innocent, an apology and compensation to his family.



SC Dismisses Yakub Memon's Mercy Plea, To Be Hanged On July 30

An apex court bench headed by Chief Justice H.L. Dattu rejected Memon's petition challenging an earlier decision to uphold the death sentence.

The hearing was crucial for Memon as a Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act (TADA) court in Mumbai has already issued a death warrant against Memon (53). As per the sentence, he will be hanged till death at 7 am on July 30 in the Nagpur central jail.

By filing a curative petition, Memon was seeking a on his execution. He was also pleading for a hearing of his plea in the open court.

Curative petition is the last legal remedy for a convict to seek relief from the final verdict of the Supreme Court, after the dismissal of a review petition.

Generally, such a plea is heard by 5 judges in the chamber, and the decision is later communicated to the convict's counsel.

A bench of Chief Justice H L Dattu, 2nd seniormost judge T S Thakur and Justice Anil R Dave will hear Memon's plea at 1:40pm on Tuesday.

Yakub was sentenced to death on charges of criminal conspiracy under Section 120-B of the Indian Penal Code by the TADA court in 2007. Subsequently, his appeals were rejected by the Bombay High Court, the Supreme Court and the President.

In April, the apex court dismissed his review plea, making the way clear for his execution. Memon's counsel said his client still had an opportunity to file a curative petition before the top court and also a mercy plea before the President.

Memon's review plea was heard in an open court, following a Constitution bench's verdict last year that the practice of deciding review pleas in chambers be done away with, in cases where death penalty has been awarded.

On June 2, 2014, the court stayed the execution of Memon and referred his plea to a Constitution bench as to whether review petitions in death penalty cases be heard in an open court or in chambers.

Memon, in his plea, had claimed he was suffering from schizophrenia since 1996 and remained behind bars for nearly 20 years. He had sought commutation of death penalty, contending that a convict cannot be awarded life term and the extreme penalty simultaneously for the same offence.

Memon had sought a review of the March 21, 2013 verdict of the apex court, upholding his death penalty in the case relating to 13 co-ordinated bomb blasts in Bombay, killing 350 persons and injuring 1,200 others on March 12, 1993.

A TADA court in Mumbai had convicted 100 out of the 123 accused. While 12, including Memon, were awarded death penalty, 20 others got life term and the remaining 68 got varying jail terms.

Bollywood actor Sanjay Dutt was also directed to serve the 5-year jail term for possessing illegal arms.



Halt Pending Execution ---- Commute Sentence of Yakub Memon, Renew Death Penalty Moratorium

The Indian government should halt the execution of Yakub Memon, set for July 30, 2015, Human Rights Watch said today.

On July 21, India's Supreme Court rejected Memon's final appeal, clearing the path for his execution. Memon was sentenced to death in July 2007 for his involvement in a series of bombings in Mumbai in 1993 that killed 257 people and injured over 700 others. Memon's older brother, Tiger Memon, is alleged to have been the mastermind behind the bombings and remains at large.

The government should impose an official moratorium on capital punishment. An unofficial moratorium ended in 2012.

"The Indian government has hanged 2 people over the past 3 years while other countries are increasingly rejecting this inhumane practice," said Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director. "The government should commute Yakub Memon's sentence and put a moratorium on executions until the practice is fully abolished."

A specially designated court convicted Memon under the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act (TADA), which was not renewed because it violated basic human rights. Higher courts subsequently rejected Memon's appeals, even as the Supreme Court in March 2013 commuted the death sentence of 10 others accused in this case to life. President Pranab Mukherjee rejected Memon’s mercy petition in May 2014.

India ended its eight-year unofficial moratorium on executions with the hangings on November 21, 2012, of Mohammad Ajmal Kasab, a Pakistani convicted of multiple murders in the November 2008 attacks in Mumbai, and on February 9, 2013, of Mohammad Afzal Guru, convicted for the December 2001 attack on the Indian parliament. President Mukherjee has rejected 24 clemency pleas since he took office in July 2012, confirming the death penalty for over 30 people.

In December 2014, India was 1 of only 38 countries to vote against the United Nations General Assembly resolution for a global moratorium on the use of the death penalty. The resolution passed with 117 votes, reflecting a growing trend globally toward the abolition of capital punishment.

The Supreme Court in Bachan Singh v. State of Punjab in 1980 held that the death penalty should be imposed only in the "rarest of rare" cases after weighing both the aggravating and mitigating circumstances of a particular case. In July 2012, 14 retired Supreme Court and High Court judges asked Mukherjee to commute the death sentences of 13 inmates that were erroneously upheld by the Supreme Court over the previous nine years. This followed the court’s admission that some of these death sentences were rendered per incuriam - ignoring a contradictory statute or binding judgment. In November 2012, the Supreme Court ruled that the "rarest of rare" standard for capital punishment had not been applied uniformly over the years and the norms on the death penalty needed "a fresh look."

In a landmark judgment in January 2014, the Supreme Court commuted the death sentences of 15 people on the grounds that there was a delay in the disposal of their mercy petitions by the president. The court also ruled that those suffering from mental illness cannot be executed. The ruling noted that "undue, inordinate and unreasonable delay in execution of death sentence does certainly attribute to torture," and was a ground for commutation of sentence.

The courts have recognized that the death penalty has been imposed disproportionately and in a discriminatory manner against disadvantaged groups in India. A. P. Shah, chairman of India's Law Commission and a former chief justice of the Delhi High Court, has said: "It is usually the poor and downtrodden who are subject to death penalty." The Law Commission, which is currently examining the issue, stated that it appeared that "the judiciary and the executive are treating the life of convicts convicted of an offence punishable with death with different standards," and the executive's standards for granting commutation were not known. As part of the Law Commission consultations, several prominent politicians have called for the abolition of capital punishment.

Human Rights Watch opposes the death penalty in all circumstances as an inherently irreversible, inhumane punishment. "In India and elsewhere the death penalty fails to act as a deterrent, and is riddled with inconsistency and discrimination," Ganguly said. "It's time India removes capital punishment from its statute books."

(source: Human Rights Watch)


Lahore: 2 Christians arrested for blasphemy could get the death penalty----The 2 brothers have been accused of posting disrespectful content on their website. After 4 years on the run abroad and at home, Qaisa and Amoon are now in the same Lahore prison. The Centre for Legal Aid, Assistance and Settlement (CLAAS) is dealing with their case.

2 Christian brothers have been arrested on blasphemy charges after one of them was accused of posting disrespectful material on his website.

A case has been registered against Qaisar and Amoon Ayub of Lahore in relations to accusations dating back to 2011.

According to Qaisar, he closed his account in 2009 but one of his Muslim friends, Shahryar Gill, somehow managed to restore the website, while ownership remained in Qaisar's name.

The story goes back to 2010 when Qaisar worked at the Raja Centre, Lahore, at the international office.

Qaisar is married to Amina and they have 3 children, while Amoon is married to Huma who is a teacher at the Cathedral School, Lahore.

One day an argument broke out at Qaisar's office between his friends, when one of them made a comment about another's sister.

The aggrieved friend blamed Qaisar and warned him that it is a serious matter in Pakistan. Qaisar started to receive death threats from his friends and then went into hiding.

When the situation deteriorated both brothers fled to Singapore without telling their wives, but after a month they returned to Pakistan and then Amoon told his wife the whole story.

The situation was still tense, so they left again in November 2009 for Thailand, in search of security, but could not stay there for too long time and in 2012 went back to Pakistan.

Qaisar was informed by one of his friend that the authorities were looking for him and that he could be arrested at any time because a blasphemy case had been registered against him.

On 10 November 2014, while on his way to work at the Kids Campus DHA, Amoon was arrested and told that a case had also been registered against his brother. The police asked him about his brother Qaisar and he told Amoon to stay hidden because he was accused under section 109-A PPC.

Qaisar was later arrested and sent to District jail Jhelum.

Fed up with life in Pakistan, Amoon finally decided to leave the country. On 17 November 2014, he was arrested by Immigrant Police at Lahore Airport. Later police sent him to Jhelum District Jail charged with the same offence as his brother.

Huma has done all she could to get her husband released, but has failed. However, she has not lost hope and finally approached the Centre for Legal Aid, Assistance and Settlement (CLAAS) in June of this year for legal aid and support.

CLAAS is an interdenominational organisation working for Christians persecuted for their faith in Pakistan. It works for religious freedom, and against persecution of Christians in Pakistan under blasphemy and other discriminatory laws.

Qaisar's 14-year-old son became mentally unwell because of his father's imprisonment, and CLAAS has arranged treatment for him and is trying its best to support both families, but prayers are equally important.

CLAAS is providing both brothers with free legal advice and have visited them in Jhelum, jail. It is also going to apply for their bail once the Eid holidays are over.

(source: Asia News)


Pakistan's Highest Court Set to Hear Christian Mom Asia Bibi's Appeal of Her Death Sentence This Week

The Supreme Court of Pakistan has scheduled a hearing to hear an appeal of Asia Bibi's conviction and execution sentence because of her Christian faith.

The ECLJ's affiliate, Organization for Legal Aid (OLA), in Pakistan spoke with Ashiq Masih, Asia Bibi's husband. He has informed us that the appeal is set to be heard on Wednesday, July 22, 2015. Staff from OLA will be attending the hearing and will report back the details of the hearing.

Christian mom Asia Bibi was arrested in June 2009 after her co-workers accused her of uttering derogatory remarks about the Prophet Muhammad (blasphemy) - a crime with mandatory death penalty under Pakistani law - when she offered a Muslim co-worker a drink of water. A trial court sentenced Asia Bibi to death in November 2010 and the Lahore High Court (the appellate level court) upheld her conviction in October 2014.

We have been aggressively fighting across the world for her freedom, demanding Pakistan overturn her death sentence and release her, launching a massive global advocacy campaign. Now, after much international outcry, the Supreme Court of Pakistan has scheduled the date to hear her appeal.

Although the Supreme Court has never upheld the death penalty in blasphemy cases, the high profile nature of Asia Bibi's case makes her very vulnerable to an attack by Muslims. In the past, numerous individuals accused of blasphemy have been murdered. In April 1994, three Christians were shot as they left the Lahore High Court; one of the Christians, Manznoor Masih, was killed, while the other 2 (Rehmat Masih and Salamat Masih) were injured. The High Court Justice who reversed their convictions was later shot and killed in his office. In July 2010, Rashid and Sajid Emanuel, 2 Christian brothers accused of blasphemy, were shot and killed outside a courtroom of Faisalabad. In September 2014, Pastor Zafar Bhatti was shot and killed in a Rawalpindi prison, after being convicted of blasphemy. In November 2014, a Muslim mob burned to death a young Christian couple, including a pregnant mother of four children. Numerous others have been killed but most perpetrators have never been apprehended or brought to justice.

A Muslim cleric in Pakistan has put a price on Asia Bibi head, even as she sits on death row. He announced a prize of Rs. 10,000 to Rs. 500,000 (approximately $100 to $5000) for anyone who kills Asia. Salman Taseer, Governor of the Punjab province, was murdered by his own security guard for advocating on behalf of Asia Bibi and calling for the repeal of blasphemy laws.

We are urging the Supreme Court to see the injustice done to Asia and her family. We are calling on the Court to take into consideration Asia's testimony that she did not, and had no intention to, violate the law; that the 2 eye-witnesses who testified against her were never cross-examined; and that the trial court gave more weight to the testimony of her accusers than Asia's testimony. We hope that the Court will see these and other serious errors made at the trial and will reverse her conviction.

We also urge the Pakistani government to provide adequate security to Asia and her family. Finally, we pray that Asia Bibi's ordeal comes to an end this Wednesday.


JULY 20, 2015:


Judge in Thuesen Capital Murder Trial Calls for Punishment Reversal

In 2010, John Thuesen was sentenced to die for the 2009 murders of a pair of siblings in College Station. Now, the judge who presided over the trial is recommending that the punishment be reversed.

In a filing to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals in Austin on Friday, 272nd District Court Judge Travis Bryan III writes of what he believes were numerous failings by the attorneys who represented Thuesen at trial, Billy Carter and Michele Esparza, and recommends a new punishment phase for Thuesen.

In June 2014, Judge Bryan heard arguments from writ lawyers representing Thuesen, which Bryan largely agreed with in Friday's filing. Some arguments by the writ lawyers were rejected.

Thuesen shot and killed Rachel Joiner, who he had dated, and Rachel's brother Travis in the siblings' house. The Joiners were from West Texas and attending Texas A&M. Thuesen had broken into the Joiner's house and waited for Rachel to return. The two eventually got into an argument. Evidence showed Rachel was shot in the back. It was presented that she was trying to leave the argument and the house when she was shot, and that when the shots rang out, Travis Joiner came out from his room and was also shot by Thuesen.

Prosecutors argued that Thuesen, who called 911 and confessed to the shooting immediately after, was jealous and angry that Joiner had separated from him.

Thuesen served in the Marines and had spent time in combat in Iraq. While the defense made arguments that mental health problems were at the root of Thuesen's acts and could be cause for the jury to choose a life sentence instead of death, Judge Bryan does not believe near enough was done by Carter and Esparza.

In a stinging indictment of the attorneys' work, Bryan gave the following opinions:

--The defense didn't start an investigation into Thuesen's Post Traumatic Stress (PTS) until a few months leading up to the trial, a year after the lawyers were retained as counsel.

--Thuesen's counsel did not get the assistance of an expert witness or witnesses qualified to explain mitigating impacts of PTS.

--The defense's ultimate presentation of information on PTS, including specific info on Thuesen's, was "significantly incomplete."

--The investigation and presentation of evidence that the Department of Veterans Affairs failed to properly diagnose and treat Thuesen's PTS "fell below the norms of professional standards for capital counsel."

--Defense counsel did not present sufficient evidence that Thuesen would not pose a future danger to others, one of the three questions the jury is asked to answer in choosing life in prison or death as a penalty.

--The defense did not speak to witnesses of an incident Thuesen was involved in during his high school years that would have disputed a prosecution witness' account, nor did they cross examine the witness. The incident was used by the prosecution to convince the jury that Thuesen had violent tendencies before his war service.

--Thuesen's attorneys were ineffective during the jury selection process in fighting for and against potential jurors who could have helped or hurt the defense in the deliberations.

--The defense didn't present enough evidence concerning the Thuesen family's history of mental illness.

--Defense counsel didn't raise the issue of mental illness in its opening argument in the punishment phase.

--Carter and Esparza didn't object to a prosecutor's comment about his stepfather's World War II service and PTS during closing arguments in the punishment phase.

In an automatic appeal granted by law to any defendant sentenced to death, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals upheld the conviction in February 2014.

The only possible punishments the State of Texas allows for people convicted of capital murder are life in prison without possibility of parole or the death penalty. The prosecution has the option not to pursue death.

Thuesen's case was considered capital murder because two people were killed in the same incident.

Because of the case's status, Bryan could not comment on his recommendation.

(source: KBTX news)


Prosecutors seek death penalty for mom accused of throwing baby from bridge

Lehigh County prosecutors say they will seek the death penalty against a woman accused of throwing her baby to his death.

19-year-old Johnesha Perry was in court for her arraignment in Lehigh County Monday.

She remains in custody without bail on a homicide charge.

Authorities say she pushed her 1-year-old son Zymeir off a bridge into a river in May.

He died a few days later.

Attorneys say Perry will undergo mental health evaluations before her trial.


Jamie Hood found guilty in murder of police officer

A jury found Jamie Hood guilty of malice murder in the death of an Athens police officer.

Hood was found guilty in 36 of 70 counts, including charges in the March 22, 2011 fatal shooting of Athens-Clarke County Senior Police Elmer "Buddy" Christian and the wounding of Officer Tony Howard.

Hood, who represented himself in the trial, has admitted to shooting the officers, but claimed he did so in self-defense.

Closing arguments were made on Saturday, and the jury began deliberations on Monday. Just after 4:30 p.m., the jury announced they'd reached a verdict.

In addition to charges related to the death of Christian, including malice murder and felony murder, Hood was found guilty of killing suspected drug dealer Kenneth Omari Wray in December 2010. He was found guilty of attempted murder of Howard. He was also found guilty of carjacking and kidnapping Deborah Lumpkin, a bystander after the shootings.

Hood was found not guilty in several charges involving alleged hostages. He was also found not guilty of carjacking Judon Brooks. Hood had been accused of taking a number people hostage at gunpoint for several days as police searched for him. Hood argued that those people were his friends.

As the jury's decision was read, Hood swiveled in his chair and showed little reaction.

Hood could face the death penalty. Both sides will be able to call witnesses to the stand. Hood reportedly has a list of 100 witnesses he's planning to call.

(source: WXIA news)


Jamie Hood found guilty in shooting death of Athens police officer

A jury has found Jamie Hood guilty in the shooting death of Athens Clarke County Police Officer Elmer "Buddy" Christian and injuring Officer Tony Howard in 2011.

After shooting the two officers, Hood ran from police for 4 days before he finally surrendered live on Channel 2 Action News.

Hood has admitted to the shooting. He tried to convince the jury Monday morning that the shootings were justified. He claimed there was bad blood between himself and Howard from a prior interaction.

Hood acted as his own attorney in the death penalty case and often appeared frustrated during testimony.

During closing arguments, Hood addressed Christian's family.

"How can the family be happy with me? You killed my son, you killed my son. How can they be happy with me?" Hood said.

In his closing argument, Clarke County District Attorney Ken Mauldin dismissed Hood's claim that he acted in self-defense in shooting the 2 officers.

"In that instance, Tony Howard would have been justified in using deadly force, but that's not what he did," Mauldin said. "You cannot claim justified if committing, attempting to commit or fleeing from a felony."

Hood wrapped up his arguments to the jury, by thanking them.

"I appreciate you listening. I worked hard. I wish you all the best in your lives and hope you're loved ones won't go through what I've gone through," Hood said.

The jury was comprised of 9 men and 3 women.

(sources: WSB TV news & Athens Banner-Herald)


Penalty phase begins for man convicted of murder in Brooksville

Prosecutors spared the jury few details while describing a gruesome sexual assault Byron Burch committed on his young cousin when Burch was 16 years old.

"When doctors examined her, they discovered she had a large laceration, a tear, in her vaginal area," Assistant State Attorney Rich Buxman said of Burch's 9-year-old cousin. "The next day, she went into surgery to repair the damage he had done to her."

Burch, now 44, was convicted last month of first-degree murder in the 2010 death of Sarah Davis, 80, a former schoolteacher and matriarch within the south Brooksville community.

Attorneys met Monday in a Brooksville courtroom to give opening statements in the penalty phase of the trial. The jury will recommend to Hernando County Circuit Judge Daniel B. Merritt Jr. that Burch receive either life in prison without the possibility of parole or the death penalty. Merritt, then, will make the final decision.

The sexual assault, Buxman argued, was an aggravating factor for the jury to consider, the first of several crimes, including assault of a law enforcement officer, for which Burch had been convicted prior to the murder of Davis.

Another aggravating factor, Buxman said, was the "heinous, atrocious and cruel manner" in which Burch killed Davis. Authorities found Davis' body in her bathroom, stabbed and cut more than 25 times.

However, Terry Lenamon, Burch's attorney, argued in his opening statement that Burch's actions were mitigated by a nasty mix of mental illness, drug addiction and the lingering effects of childhood abuse.

Burch's mother was conceived from rape, Lenamon said. Burch's father is serving prison time on multiple convictions for sexual battery involving children, the attorney said.

"That's my client's father," he said. "And that's the man my client's mother ended up with, who was abusive both physically and emotionally."

"And as we know," Lenamon said, "victimization is a circular pattern."

Lenamon told the jury to expect testimony from doctors who determined that Burch is a crack cocaine addict with bipolar tendencies who is suffering from chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a degenerative brain disease most commonly found in athletes who suffer repeated concussions.

The attorney also contrasted Burch's life with the one Davis provided for her children. Burch and Davis were distant relatives.

"You're going to hear a lot of great things about this woman," Lenamon said to the jury, referring to Davis. "And one of the things you're going to hear consistently about this woman is how she was loving, caring and forgiving."

"And what's important to know is that the world she provided her (children) was nothing like the world that was provided for Byron Burch."

The sentencing hearing is expected to last several days.

(source: Tampa Bay Times)


Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine to appeal new trial in death penalty case

An order from a federal judge to grant a convicted cop killer a new trial will be appealed by Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, his office announced on Monday.

Quisi Bryan, who was sentenced to death in the 2000 murder of Cleveland Police Officer Wayne Leon, had a new trial granted by U.S. District Judge James Carr on Thursday.

"I strongly disagree with the federal court's order for a new trial," said DeWine in a written statement. "This defendant viciously took the life of an innocent law enforcement officer, leaving the officer's children without a father and his wife without a husband. My office will fight to keep this murderer on death row for this senseless crime."

In August of 2000, a Cuyahoga County grand jury indicted Bryan on 3 counts of aggravated murder, 2 counts of attempted murder and multiple counts of firearms-related offenses.

Police said Bryan was pulled over by Leon on June 25, 2000, and that Bryan pulled a gun and shot the officer in the face.

Investigators located Bryan and his girlfriend in Columbus the following day.

In February of 2001, Bryan was found guilty of aggravated murder, attempted murder, attempted robbery, possessing weapons under disability, carrying a concealed weapon, tampering with evidence, theft.

Citing case Batson v. Kentucky, 476 U.S. 79 (1986), it was claimed the prosecution removed potential black jurors from the jury pool, "by using a peremptory strike to remove an African-American from the venire."

Bryan, 44, has been incarcerated at the Chillicothe Correctional Institution since Feb. 27, 2001.

In 2007, Bryan was later found guilty of impersonating a police officer and two counts each of sexual battery and abduction.

In March of 2014, Bryan was found guilty of rape and kidnapping.

(source: ABC news)


Praying and working for "a miracle" - Sister Prejean and Death Penalty foes assert Glossip's innocence

Sister Helen Prejean recalled a phone call she received last January from Richard E. Glossip, who had "put me down as someone he wanted to be present when he was executed."

She accepted because, "I don't believe in working quietly or going quietly into that night" even she believes a person scheduled to receive the ultimate sanction of death is guilty. However, "In this case, I believe he is innocent."

Prejean, author of a book that became the motion picture "Dead Man Walking," said Glossip had ineffective counsel at both of his trials.

Discussing a U.S. Supreme Court decision upholding Oklahoma's execution protocols - and thus, clearing the way for Glossip's scheduled September 16 date with death - the nun jabbed at Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia for his defense of Oklahoma's legal system in the case of Glossip v. Gross.

At a July 13 press conference hosted by the Oklahoma Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty (OK-CADP), Prejean said, "I've met Richard Glossip. He should not die."

She sought to persuade Oklahomans that even advocates of capital punishment should not support its imposition in this particular case: "The death penalty that you say you want in Oklahoma is not the death penalty you actually have in Oklahoma."

She continued, "I've come to know the people of Oklahoma. They are decent and good people. I'm out here asking for monetary support, among other things. Sometimes I hear people say 'the lawyers are in it for the money.' That is, that we are hustling."

She reflected that might seem the case, but added, "I am here to tell you that the death penalty in Oklahoma is broken. All over the country wardens and others who once participated in the death penalty have moved against it."

Prejean and others made the case for Glossip's exoneration or a permanent stay of execution, despite the High Court's 5-4 ruling against him and other death row inmates. She encouraged reporters to study an investigative news report posted by "The Intercept" which raises a plethora of questions about the police investigation that led to Glossip's conviction. She said, "This investigative article documents the brokenness of the system."

Continuing, Prejean said, "I feel sorry for juries. All they know is what they hear in the courtrooms."

After the High Court's decision to sustain Oklahoma's protocols, including the use of the drug - as part of the mix of drugs to induce death, Prejean said, "There are only 2 or 3 avenues to stopping this execution. We need a state or federal court to say they will let what is called a 'successor petition' come in."

Prejean encouraged those seeing videos of the press conference or reading news stories about it to visit the website, to contribute for the costs of researchers, investigators and attorneys to bolster the work of Colorado attorney Don Knight, who also addressed the gathering of reporters.

In a lengthy presentation and in response to questions from the crowd of journalists, Knight pointed to a variety of factors, elements going beyond "reasonable doubt" in the case, that he says have never been explored.

These include the comings and goings of other possible suspects at the hotel where Barry Van Treese was killed. The admitted killer, Justin Sneed, beat Van Treese to death with a baseball bat.

Sneed testified that Glossip paid him to carry out the killing for hire of Van Treese, owner of the Inn where both he and Glossip worked. In exchange for Sneed's testimony, prosecutors did not seek his execution, but supported a life sentence without possibility of parole.

Sneed's testimony and the contrasting treatment of him and Glossip are at the heart of the last-minute push to prevent Glossip's execution, an effort Knight, an attorney from Littleton, Colorado, is now leading.

With Prejean and Knight were 2 Oklahoma political leaders.

In brief remarks before and after the session with the press, state Rep. George Young said he was less concerned about the Ten Commandments monument on state property than about living the Ten Commandments in the laws passed under the Capitol Dome.

Former state Sen. Connie Johnson, D-Oklahoma City, declared "the innocence of Richard Glossip" ... She characterized the state government's response to the U.S. Supreme Court decision was "disgusting and ironically predictable." She restated opposition to an upcoming state question she described as a means to "constitutionalize the death penalty in Oklahoma."

Johnson asserted Glossip is "an innocent man, like Jesus. "If the state proceeds to murder Richard Glossip the story of Jesus will be repeated."

She passionately encouraged state officials to take a fresh look: "By not executing Richard Glossip we not make an irreversible mistake."

Countering contentions for Glossip's innocence, Donna Van Treese, the widow of Barry Van Treese, told Rick Green of The Oklahoman, "After 2 murder trials, 2 sets of jurors, and 18 long years, we know who murdered Barry, and there is no doubt. They have not been able to find Glossip innocent or any evidence of his innocence. We stand firm as a family to see this until the end."

Progressive/liberal commentator Arnold Hamilton of The Oklahoma Observer, sat near this reporter during the press conference, which drew four television cameras and at least dozen print, online or broadcast journalists.

It was one of the largest non-gubernatorial press events at the seat of Oklahoma government in recent years.

In a column soon after, Hamilton reflected that no one wants "an innocent executed. After all, there are no do-overs if you later determine an individual was wrongly convicted."

Responding to questions, Sister Prejean said Richard Glossip "feels God is close to him."

She believes, "God has sent these various lawyers, and they are working like you-know-what to prevent Richard's death. He is an interesting man. He never asks for a lot."

Prejean admitted, "We are going to need a miracle. The real miracle that is needed is in the heart of the people of our country.

"The way God works, the God that Jesus revealed, the God I believe in, is a personal and loving God.

"It's up to us to bring the love of God into the world."

(source: the City Sentinel)


Can trustworthiness of inmate's face sway sentencing?----A new study claims that the trustworthiness of an inmate’s face can have an impact on whether said inmate receives the death penalty or life in prison

PsychCentral reports that a new study published in the Psychological Science journal states that inmates whose faces were rated low for trustworthiness were more likely to receive the death sentence than inmates who were perceived as more trustworthy, even when inmates were later cleared of the crime.

The researchers used photos of 371 males on death row in Florida; 226 of the inmates were white, 145 were black, and all were convicted of 1st-degree murder. All photos were converted to gray scale to minimize variations. Then an online panel of 208 American adults were asked to review the photos and rate them on trustworthiness using a scale from one (not trustworthy) to 8 (very trusthworthy). The reviewers also considered photos of inmates who had been convicted on murder charges but received a life sentence.

The raters did not know what sentence an inmate had received, or even if the photos were of inmates at all. Findings showed that inmates who had received the death penalty were often perceived as less trustworthy than those sentenced to live in prison.

Inmates in both groups had committed crimes that were equally severe; neither sentence would have allowed for the inmates to return to society, and as such, the motivation to protect society could not explain the harsher punishments consistently given to less trustworthy-looking inmates.

"Any effect of facial trustworthiness, then, seems like it would have to come from a premium in wanting to punish people who simply look less trustworthy," the study concluded.

A follow-up study showed the connection between perceived trustworthiness and sentencing emerged even when participants studied photos of inmates who had been sentenced but were actually innocent and later exonerated.



Mercy, Justice, and the Gospel of Life: US bishops on ending the death penalty

2 leading U.S. bishops have renewed the call to choose life over the death penalty because, they say, heinous criminals deserve both justice and mercy - their lives too are from God.

"As Christians, we are called to oppose the culture of death by witnessing to something greater and more perfect: a gospel of life, hope, and mercy. To help build a culture of life, capital punishment should be abolished," Cardinal Sean O'Malley of Boston and Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski of Miami said in a message on behalf of 2 major U.S. bishops' committees.

They cited one of Christ's Beatitudes: "Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy."

Cardinal O'Malley signed the July 16 message in his role as chair of the U.S. bishops' Committee on Pro-Life Activities, while Archbishop Wenski signed as chair of the bishops' Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development.

"We are all sinners, but through the Father's loving mercy and Jesus' redeeming sacrifice upon the Cross, we have been offered the gift of life everlasting," the bishops said. "The Lord never ceases his loving pursuit of us in our sin and brokenness, offering us the choice of life over death."

"The use of the death penalty cuts short any prospect for transforming the condemned person's soul in this life. Catholic opposition to the death penalty, then, is rooted in mercy. It is also eminently pro-life, as it affords every opportunity for conversion, even of the hardened sinner," they continued.

The 2 bishops' message comes 10 years after the U.S. bishops began a campaign against the death penalty. In 2005, the U.S. bishops issued the anti-death penalty statement, "A Culture of Life and the Penalty of Death."

Since 2005, at least 7 states have ended the use of the death penalty, Archbishop Wenski and Cardinal O'Malley noted. Other states have placed moratoria on executions. The number of death sentences is at an all-time low since 1976.

The 2 bishops invoked Pope Francis' March 20 words to a delegation from the International Commission against the Death Penalty, which declared capital punishment "inadmissible, no matter how serious the crime committed."

"It is an offense against the inviolability of life and the dignity of the human person, one which contradicts God's plan for man and society and his merciful justice, and impedes the penalty from fulfilling any just objective," the Pope said. "It does not render justice to the victims, but rather fosters vengeance."

Cardinal O'Malley and Archbishop Wenski called on everyone of goodwill to "advocate for better public policies to protect society and end the use of the death penalty."

The bishops urged prayers for crime victims, for those facing execution and for those working in the criminal justice system. They encouraged outreach and "bringing Christ's love and compassion" to the families of those affected by violent crime.

In addition, they encouraged people to learn about the Catholic Church's teaching on the death penalty and to educate others.

They said that Church teaching on the death penalty is not indifference to "the sinfulness of crime and attacks on human life." Rather, it is "an affirmation of the sacredness of all life even for those who have committed the most heinous of crimes."

They noted that violent crime has affected bishops like Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City, Kansas. The archbishop's own father was murdered. However, Archbishop Naumann has said that the refusal of the death penalty is not because we reject "the horror of the crime," but because "we refuse to imitate violent criminals."

Cardinal O'Malley and Archbishop Wenski urged solidarity and support for crime victims and their families and to help them in their deep pain and loss. They also asked everyone to remember criminals.

"We also acknowledge the inherent human dignity of those who have committed grave harm, affirming that, even as they repay a debt to society, they too should receive compassion and mercy," the bishops added. "As we seek to tend to the eternal needs of those who commit serious crimes we must build up a culture of life in matters of justice and punishment."

(source: Catholic World Report)


Did justices rule correctly on lethal injections?

A 5-4 ruling handed down by the U.S. Supreme Court in Junes could put Tennessee and other death penalty states back on track to carry out executions by lethal injection. Justices ruled in a case from Oklahoma that the sedative midazolam can be used in executions without violating the Eighth Amendment prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment.

Meanwhile, 2 dissenting justices said they think it's "highly likely" the death penalty itself is unconstitutional.

Earlier this year, the Tennessee Supreme Court halted all executions in this state while the federal court decided if the current protocols for carrying out the death penalty are constitutional. Tennessee last executed a prisoner in 2009. Since then, legal challenges and problems obtaining lethal injection drugs have postponed new executions.

The state General Assembly voted last year to reinstate electrocution as a form of capital punishment in Tennessee. The action results from a dispute over the drugs that have been used to execute prisoners on death row. In the event the lethal drugs cannot be obtained, officials will use the electric chair to carry out a death sentence. Tennessee's last execution by electrocution was in 2007.

In recent years, Tennessee has relied on a sedative most often used to euthanize animals. Those drugs, however, are getting harder to obtain. That s because the pharmaceutical firms that make them, which are located in Europe, object to their use in executions.

Some states have decided that capital punishment is just too much of a legal and moral headache to carry out. In May, Nebraska legislators voted to make that state the 19th in the nation to ban the death penalty

Last month, the U.S. Supreme Court heard a challenge to lethal injections lodged by death row inmates in Oklahoma, who objected to the use of the sedative midazolam in lethal-injection executions. Attorneys for the plaintiffs argued the drug was connected to several botched executions.

Speaking for the conservative majority, Justice Samuel Alito said arguments that the drug could not be used effectively as a sedative in executions were speculative and he dismissed problems in Oklahoma as "having little probative value for present purposes."

In speaking for the dissent, Justice Sonia Sotomayor said, "Under the court's new rule, it would not matter whether the state intended to use midazolam, or instead to have petitioners drawn and quartered, slowly tortured to death, or actually burned at the stake."

(source: Opinion, Johnson City (Tenn.) Press)


Death penalty cannot be arbitrarily imposed: Expert

Of the over 1600 convicts awarded the death penalty in the last 15 years, the Supreme Court confirmed the sentence in only 5% of cases while rest were either commuted to life or acquitted.

A recent study by the National Law University that has researched death row convicts since 2000 has found that of the 1,617 prisoners sentenced to death by trial courts, the capital punishment was confirmed in only 71 cases. While 22 convicts were acquitted, in the case of 115, it was commuted to life.

No wonder voices against the death penalty are growing. Roger Hood, professor of criminology at Oxford University and a renowned advocate of abolition of death penalty, has told the Law Commission in a consultation that "capital punishment is not an option for India as there were very few convictions, and most were wrong".

Hood has said India is violating Article 6(1) of International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the UN human rights charter, according to which 'no death penalty can be arbitrarily imposed'. An opportunity of reformation after long retention must be given to the accused which is their one of the rights according to ICCPR, he said.

"Failure to provide judicial support may lead to crimes but there is no proof that death penalty helped in deterring crimes," Hood said. He was invited by the Law Commission last week for a consultation on capital punishment. Legal luminaries, social thinkers and politicians were part of the day-long deliberations in the capital on July 11.

Making a strong case for abolition of death penalty, Law Commission chairman Justice A P Shah, while initiating the discussion, said about 2/3 of the world has abolished death penalty and "it is time we revisited our stand". "Mahatama Gandhi and his principles have always been against death penalty," Justice Shah observed.

There were 6 politicians who were part of the consultation process, including Varun Gandhi of BJP, Kanimozhi of DMK, Shashi Tharoor and Manish Tewari of Congress, who advocated abolition of death penalty.

Wajahat Habibullah, former chairperson of the National Commission for Minorities and the first Chief Information Commissioner, said he had personal confrontation with terrorism, and still felt that death penalty was not the way to deal with terrorism. "We won the Independence struggle through the principles of 'ahimsa', so we must follow it also," he said.

Prashant Bhushan, senior advocate, blamed the trial courts for arbitrary and irresponsible judgments on death sentences. "Death penalty is a form of retribution and violence by the state. It promotes a lynch mob mentality and is not a significant deterrent for people. There is always a chance that the judicial system might go wrong," he said and cited instances how in many cases people got acquitted after being awarded the death penalty.

Suhas Chakma of the Asian Centre for Human Rights blamed executions by the state as 'politically motivated'. "The fact that very few number of sentences have been confirmed by the high courts and even fewer by the SC in comparison to the number of cases reported in the NCRB, shows that death penalty has no impact and it has no use," he said.


Here's proof that poor get gallows, rich mostly escape

The fact that our legal system is skewed against the poor and marginalized is well-known. And to that extent, it's only expected that they get harsher punishment than the rich. But here are figures that tell the full story.

A first of its kind study, which has analyzed data from interviews with 373 death row convicts over a 15-year period, has found 3/4 of those given the death penalty belonged to backward classes, religious minorities and 75% were from economically weaker sections.

The reason why the poor, Dalits and those from the backward castes get a rougher treatment from our courts is more often than not their inability to find a competent lawyer to contest their conviction. As many as 93.5% of those sentenced to death for terror offences are Dalits or religious minorities.

The findings are part of a study conducted by the National Law University students with the help of the Law Commission that is currently engaged in a wider consultation with different stakeholders on the issue of death penalty and whether it should be abolished.

Law panel chairman Justice A P Shah, himself a strong proponent of abolition of death penalty, is to submit a final report to the Supreme Court by next month.

Senior advocate Prashant Bhushan said: "It is true that there is a class bias, otherwise why would we have so many people languishing in jail because they cannot afford a lawyer to get bail?" He said only 1% of the people can afford a competent lawyer. Afzal Guru hardly had any legal representation at the trial court stage, he added.

Founder of Human Rights Law Network and senior advocate Colin Gonsalves holds similar views. "I think the finding that 75% of the death row convicts are poor is the absolute minimum. The rich mostly get away while the very poor, especially Dalits and tribals, get the short shrift."

The NLU students have interviewed all the death sentence convicts and have documented their socio-economic background. The psychological torture these prisoners face before they are hanged are some of the observations in the study. Prisoners on death row are not allowed to attend court proceedings most of the time. In many cases, those interviewed revealed they were unable to understand proceedings even when they got an opportunity to be in the court as there was not much interaction with their lawyers.

"Gallows are only for the marginalized. The first thing when a person is arrested is his access to a lawyer. The poor don't get that access while the well-off do and that completely changes their case," said Suhas Chakma of Asian Centre for Human Rights. For the economically weak, legal aid or advice comes at the trial stage by which time it is too late, he added.

Within the prison, death row convicts are put in separate barracks and kept in solitary confinement. They are not allowed to work unlike other prisoners or mingle with anyone else, leading to many psychological disorders. The result is startling. Many prisoners interviewed said they wanted to die and should be hanged without delay. A few mentally strong ones said if represented well they could escape the gallows.

Between 2000 and 2015, 1,617 were sentenced to death by the trial courts - 42% of them from UP and Bihar. The conviction rate, however, at the stage of high courts and the SC was much lower at 17.5% and 4.9% respectively. Most death sentences were commuted to life imprisonment or acquitted.

(source for both: Times of India)


UAE imposes harsh penalties for religious crimes

The United Arab Emirates on Monday announced new legislation imposing harsh sentences including the death penalty for crimes related to religious hatred and Sunni extremism.

A presidential decree criminalises any act that stirs religious hatred and also prohibits discrimination "on the basis of religion, caste, creed, doctrine, race, colour or ethnic origin".

Offenders risk up to 10 years in prison or the death penalty if convicted of "takfirism" or Sunni Muslim extremism, according to the text of the decree distributed by the official WAM news agency.

Proponents of such ideology adopted by Al-Qaeda and other radical Islamist groups describe as infidels non-Muslims as well as Muslims who do not share their beliefs.

The oil-rich Gulf state last year brought in strict new legislation and listed 83 groups classified as "terrorist", including the Muslim Brotherhood.

(source: Agence France-Presse)


Lebanon justice minister urges death penalty for road rage killer

The death sentence could be issued against a motorist who stabbed another driver to death in Beirut last week to deter other would-be killers, Justice Minister Ashraf Rifi said Monday.

Wednesday's attack was both "ferocious and torturous," Rifi said, asserting that the crime met the legal qualifications for a death sentence.

"The trial should be quick so that the perpetrator will serve as an example for others," he said after meeting with the wife of George al-Reef, who died after being stabbed 15 times in the chest in the Ashrafieh neighborhood of Saifi.

Reef succumbed to his wounds at Haddad Hospital in Ashrafieh late Thursday, one day after being attacked by Tarek Yateem. Yateem, who is in custody, already had several arrest warrants issued against him for previous assaults.

State Prosecutor Samir Hammoud will preside over investigations of the crime, Rifi said, adding that he will instruct the judiciary to speed up investigations ahead of a "hopefully swift" verdict.

The justice minister said that even though the judiciary is overwhelmed with a large number of cases, "special crimes" such as the one committed against Reef should be given priority over others.

Rola al-Reef, the victim's wife, urged the death penalty against Yateem and called for the punishment to "take place on the same street where George was killed."

(source: The Daily Star)


McGilberry sentencing could be weeks away

Attorneys for a Jackson County man facing re-sentencing on capital murder charges want a jury to decide his punishment.

Prosecutors said during a hearing Friday that a judge should do it.

Circuit Judge Robert Krebs said he will study various Supreme Court rulings in other cases before making the decision.

Stephen Virgil McGilberry, now 37, was 16 when he was initially sentenced to death in 1996 in Jackson County.

The Sun Herald reports McGilberry is asking for his release or at least a chance at being released after 20 years in prison, 10 of those years on death row.

McGilberry was convicted of using a baseball bat to kill 4 relatives on Oct. 23, 1994, in the St. Martin community.

McGilberry's stepfather, Kenneth Purifoy; mother, Patricia Purifoy; stepsister, Kimberly Self and her 3-year-old son Kristopher Self, were murdered. McGilberry took a money order from his mother's purse and drove away in the family's vehicle.

The jury sentenced him to death, but a U.S. Supreme Court ruling took the death penalty off the table for juveniles convicted of homicides.

In 2005, McGilberry was re-sentenced to four life terms without parole.

In 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court found it is unconstitutional to impose a mandatory life-without-parole sentence on someone who was under the age of 18 at the time of the crime.

In 2014, the Mississippi Supreme Court gave McGilberry permission to seek a new sentencing hearing in Jackson County.

(source: Associated Press)


Wilmette Theatre Examines Miscarriage of Justice

Murder, confession, capital punishment and unethical investigations are some of the complex issues that will be examined at the Wilmette Theatre's showing of the documentary "A Murder in the Park" on July 19. The movie will be followed by a talkback with Chicago investigative reporter John Drummond and moderated by former TV news anchor Linda MacLennan.

The documentary is about a 1982 double homicide of two teenagers that occurred on Chicago's South Side, a crime that played a pivotal role in the abolition of Illinois' death penalty. The movie sheds light on the resulting convictions of 2 different men for those murders, both of whom were ultimately exonerated.

In 1983, Anthony Porter was convicted for the murders and sentenced to death. But in 1998, Northwestern University's Innocence Project re-investigated the case and uncovered the supposed real killer, Alstory Simon, whose confession led to the release of Porter from death row. Porter's release lead then-Governor George Ryan to halt all executions in Illinois.


While some may argue that the case prompted the death penalty's end in Illinois in 2011, since then questions have been raised as to the investigative tactics employed by the Innocent Project. In 2013, Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alverez directed her office to review Simon's case. After serious concerns were raised about the tactics employed to secure Simon's confession, his conviction was dismissed in October 2014. According to the Chicago News Tribune, in February 2015 Simon filed a $40 million lawsuit in federal court against Northwestern, alleging unethical tactics such as giving witnesses money for drugs, lying about identities and flirting with witnesses.

Investigative reporter John Drummond reported extensively on this case at the point when questions were raised about the Innocence Project's investigative tactics. Drummond interviewed Simon's attorneys Terry Ekl and James Sotos.

Drummond said attendees can expect to catch a glimpse of some people's willingness to bend the rules a bit in their eagerness to free someone. "They will see a miscarriage of justice," Drummond said. "A man was railroaded into a confession of a murder he didn't commit."

After the movie, Drummond plans to answer questions and share his 1st-hand experience reporting on this landmark case. Drummond was a reporter for WBBM-TV for nearly 4 decades and has written 2 books.

The documentary will play on July 19 at 2pm at the Wilmette Theatre, 1122 Central Avenue, Wilmette. Tickets and more information are available at

(source: Daily North Shore)


Death Penalty Desperation in Nebraska

Liberals used to argue that life imprisonment was better than execution when it came to dealing with those convicted of raping and murdering little girls, cutting off heads of husbands while wives watched, committing mass murders, etc. The problem is that they didn't persuade many people of their righteousness.

So they settled on a new tactic, challenging every step of the death penalty mechanism to make it as hard as possible to carry out. Then, holding up a sock puppet and speaking through it as if they weren't the ones causing the problems, they could argue that the death penalty is too hard to carry out.

That's what they are doing now in Nebraska. The legislature, over the governor's veto, eliminated the death penalty and now citizens are pushing a referendum to restore it. Liberals are arguing that it is now impossible to execute criminals:

For the legislators who voted to repeal the death penalty, the petition drive is an unwelcome development.

I'm sure the leftist legislators find citizen participation a very unwelcome development.

For months, a coalition of Democrats, moderate Republicans and independents worked to persuade their constituents that the death penalty was not working in Nebraska: The state has not executed a prisoner since 1997 and has not been able to procure lethal injection drugs. European manufacturers of some of the drugs, citing ethical objections, have refused to sell them to prisons in the United States, and the Food and Drug Administration has said one of the drugs cannot be legally imported.

Nebraska doesn't have to use lethal injection. They can use bullets, death by firing squad, like Utah does. If they switched to that system they wouldn't have to worry about some squishy Frenchman selling them the bullets. If they ran short, victim's families would probably donate them.

Some lawmakers made a conservative argument against capital punishment, saying it was just another failed government program, expensive and inefficient.

I wonder who argued that it was "just another failed government program"? Do you think it's something a Democrat would say? Or a "moderate" Republican? Both are very worried about getting good results and keeping costs down ... when it comes to being tough on crime. But not for very much else. opponents of the death penalty have hastily formed a group, Nebraskans for Public Safety, to campaign against a repeal.

I have a better name for them. How about "Nebraskans for murderers living the rest of their lives on the taxpayer's money"? It's less catchy, and more of a mouthful, but on the other hand, much more accurate and descriptive.

Liberals only worry about cost and efficiency when it comes to crime, border security, and national defense. Funny how it works out that way, doesn't it?

(source: This article was produced by, the conservative news site----American Thinker)


Take high road

As a nearly lifelong resident of Nebraska, I don't want the state killing people on my behalf. It's twisted logic to think that murdering a murderer somehow makes things right. Plus, there have been documented cases of innocent people being put to death for crimes they were later discovered to have not committed.

I have no sympathy for criminals and agree they should be incarcerated for their crimes, but capital punishment is a senseless, unconscionable, expensive waste of time and taxpayer dollars. Let's take the high road, Nebraska. Keep the repeal of the death penalty. Don't sign the petition ("Death penalty financial reports filed," July 2).

Molly Nance, Lincoln

(source: Letter to the Editor, Journal Star)


Death penalty trial begins for Dexter Lewis - man accused in Fero's Bar and Grill massacre

Opening statements begin Monday for a man accused of stabbing 5 people to death in a Denver bar.

If Dexter Lewis is convicted, he could face the death penalty.

It will be the 1st time Denver prosecutors have tried a death penalty case since 2001, according to our partners at The Denver Post.

"I've been in the Denver DA's Office for 30 years and I've never seen a case where there were 5 people were killed at the hand of 1 individual," Denver District Attorney Mitch Morrissey said in July 2013 when he announced his office would seek the death penalty against Lewis. "We have a man and 4 women that were allegedly laid down on the floor of a bar and butchered. Based on that, I think it's appropriate for us to seek the death penalty."

The massacre happened on October 17, 2012 at Fero's Bar and Grill on South Colorado Boulevard, across the street from Target and a Wells Fargo Bank.

Firefighters responding to a fire at the bar found 5 bodies. Police said they believed the fire was set to cover up the killings and that robbery was the motive for the slayings.

The suspects got away with just $170, according to court records.

Those killed were bar owner Young Fero, 63; Daria M. Pohl, 21; Kellene Fallon, 44; Ross Richter, 29; and Tereasa Beesley, 45. The Denver Medical Examiner said all 5 victims died of multiple stab wounds.

Just hours after the killings, Lewis was arrested at Shepherds Motel.

2 brothers, Joseph Hill and Lynell Hill, were also arrested. They have pleaded guilty for their roles in the crime. Joseph Hill was given 5 life sentences. Lynell Hill was sentenced to 70 years in prison.

Both are expected to testify against Lewis.

-- Informant helped police solve case --

During a March 2013 hearing, Detective Mark Crider said Demarea Harris, an informant for the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, helped police unravel the case.

According to a search warrant obtained in 2013 by the Denver Post, Lewis had asked his jail cellmate to find and kill Harris, members of his family and others he believed cooperated with police.

He also provided the cellmate with a hand-drawn map of the crime scene, which detectives described as accurate, and a 2nd map with addresses and phone numbers, according to the search warrant affidavit.

The cellmate told detectives that Lewis pricked both their fingers with a pin until they bled and then pressed their fingers onto a verse in Lewis' Bible, according to the search warrant. As they pushed their fingers against the verse, Lewis told his cellmate, "blood in, blood out."

That's the same phrase Lewis recite to Harris after Harris witnessed the killings and then ran off to a nearby grocery store, police said. Harris told police Lewis kissed him and said he loved him and said, 'Blood in, blood out.'"

-- Informant detailed horrific killing of 5 innocent people --

Detective Crider testified that Harris told police he was with the three defendants smoking marijuana and listening to music at Joseph Hills' apartment on East Kentucky Avenue on the night of the killings.

Harris said he had known Joseph Hill a couple weeks and he had known Lewis a couple months.

After partying at the apartment, Harris said he and the 3 men got in a car and drove to Fero's Bar, Crider testified.

Harris sensed something was up when he spotted an Ironman mask and an Incredible Hulk mask on the floor of the car, Crider testified.

Crider said, "(Harris) made a comment about it being Halloween. There was no response" from the other men.

Then, as Lewis and Harris walked up to the front door of Fero's, Harris told police that "Lewis pulled down his shirt sleeve over his hand and used that hand to open the door," Crider testified.

Harris and Lewis began playing pool in the bar. Harris said Lewis was angry with 2 women at the bar.

Lewis pointed to a white woman drinking at the bar and said, "She had kicked him and his girlfriend out of their apartment," Harris told police.

Crider also said the informant told him that Lewis said the Asian woman -- bar owner Young Fero -- had once booted him out of the bar.

Harris told police that Lewis was "mean-mugging" and "mad-dogging talking" about the women, Crider recalled.

"I'm going to get them bitches," Lewis vowed, the informant told police.

Harris went out the back door to smoke with some of the bar patrons.

"They were nice people," the informant told Crider.

As Harris went to use the bathroom, he heard the rear door of the bar close, Crider said. He could hear people talking in the bar.

Harris came back into the bar to find Joseph Hill wearing the Hulk mask and his brother, Lynell, wearing the Iron Man mask, Crider testified.

The brothers were armed with handguns, the informant told Crider. The brothers and Lewis were all wearing gloves.

Harris said Lynell Hill was holding the Asian woman down on the floor, while Joseph Hill was running around looking for the cash register.

Lewis was beating a woman on the dance floor, the informant told police. Later, Harris told investigators that Lewis was armed with a knife.

"They put everyone on the ground," Crider said the informant told police. "They were trying to control everybody, yelling about wallets, ID's and credit

cards." "They pointed a gun and yelled. 'Get the tape, get the tape,'" Harris told Crider, referring to masking tape in the car.

Harris told police he dropped to the floor, too, because they were pointing guns at him.

Crider said the informant told them he saw the men stab several people in the bar.

When asked how many times they were stabbed, Crider said, "Numerous. (Harris) used a stabbing motion over and over and over." Harris said Lewis also stabbed the juke box.

According to Crider, the informant said that Joseph Hill stabbed the man at the bar and then he passed the knife to Lewis, who stabbed the women over and over. Then Lewis passed the knife back to Joseph Hill.

Lewis told Joseph Hill to kill the bar owner, saying "They couldn't have any witnesses," Harris told Crider. "(Joseph Hill) went down, slit her throat and stabbed her twice in the head," Crider quoted the informant's account.

Harris told police he jumped up and ran out the back door to nearby King Soopers. As Harris was leaving, he said he saw the 3 men breaking bottles and pouring alcohol on the victims, Crider testified.

Harris told police he got a call on his cellphone from Lewis' cellphone. It was Joseph Hill calling. The 3 men drove to King Soopers to pick Harris up.

Harris told Crider he noticed the strong smell of gasoline in the car. Harris told police Joseph Hill was concerned about his fingerprints being on the gas can. The men told Harris they had torched the bar, Crider testified.

All 4 men returned to Joseph Hill's apartment.

Lewis and the Hill brothers "started destroying evidence ... And split up the money," Crider said the informant told police.

"They started cutting up gloves, putting bleach on items and burning items in a small pot," the informant said.

Lewis' girlfriend picked him up and they gave Harris a ride back to his hotel.

Crider said the informant told them, "Mr. Lewis kissed him and said he loved him and said, 'Blood in, blood out.'"

The informant told police he was stunned.

"These were innocent people," Harris said. "If they were gangsters killing gangsters, I wouldn't be here talking to you, but these were good people."

Police asked Harris why the men pulled the robbery.

Harris told police that Joseph Hill wanted to get money to help pay for a court case his brother was facing. They decided to rob Fero's because Joseph Hill was familiar with the bar and knew there was not a lot of people inside.

1 of the handguns used in the robbery was a .357-caliber purchased 2 days prior at a Bass Pro Shops, Crider said.

Under questioning, Joseph Hill told police what happened, Crider testified.

Joseph Hill told police he went behind the bar and used the butt of his gun to break the security camera.

"The cash register was on the floor broken apart. It was consistent with what Joseph Hill told me," Crider said.

Police later recovered a knife, gun, 2 masks and a red plastic gas can, Crider said.



There's no reasonable justification for the death penalty

It is interesting that after any major heinous crime in the United States, the mobs clamour for the death penalty.

It is as if by murdering the culprit, a cleansing of the conscience can take place or retribution will make us all feel better. It is as if society can feel vindicated by murdering the murderer. Take that you filthy swine!!!!

So often the quick solution is not the best solution.

As Winston Churchill famously said, "The Americans will always do the right thing after they have exhausted all other options."

Europe is virtually capital punishment free. Canada eliminated the death penalty in 1976, yet our neighbours to the south still languish in the should-be-long-gone era of the gallows, firing squads and electric chairs - and now lethal injection. No other developed country has the death penalty except Belarus and Kazakhstan, which have had a most violent recent history.

The United Nations is against capital punishment. Amnesty International is against it, as are most modern churches. The whole idea of forgiveness, reconciliation and the possibility of repentance are at the basis of Jesus' philosophy.

The biggest proponents of the death penalty are China, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Iran and the United States. That's not a group I would want to be associated with. I think I will stick with England, Finland, Italy and Canada.

After the jury reached a verdict in the Boston Marathon bombing case, it seemed like America breathed a sigh of relief with the unanimous decision that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev should die. It seemed as though the common thought was that if this guy gets off, what about all those others who have done something less evil.

Amnesty International is the major global human rights organization. "The death penalty is a symptom of a culture of violence, not a solution to it," it proclaims.

Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all cases, regardless of the characteristics of the offender, the crime or the method of execution. It opposes the death penalty on the grounds that it is a violation of the right to life and the right not to be subject to cruel or inhumane treatment or punishment. These rights are fundamental ones enshrined in the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

However, in practice the death penalty regularly violates many other human rights:

--The death penalty disproportionately affects the poor;

--The death penalty disproportionately affects visible minorities and other marginalized groups;

--Death sentences in many parts of the world routinely result from evidence extracted through torture;

--Innocent people have been executed and nothing short of abolition can guarantee that no innocent person will be wrongly executed;

--Capital punishment is often imposed for crimes or circumstances that international law or standards say should not have a death penalty, such as being imposed against those who were under the age of 18 at the time of the offence, following an unfair trial and for non-lethal crimes such as drug trafficking or political offences.

On June 17, Dylann Roof killed 9 individuals at a South Carolina church. It didn't take long for the mob to start talking about a death sentence.

It should be pointed out that executions say far more about society than it does about the guilty individuals. It speaks to our civilization, our evolution as a moral species, and for those so inclined, our Christianity.

As British journalist Auberon Waugh noted, "The main objection to killing people as punishment is that killing people is wrong."

Consequences for misdeeds should have 3 purposes: punishment for wrongdoing, a deterrent for the individual, and a deterrent for the rest of society. Ultimately, society should be better off because of the action taken.

Life imprisonment would accomplish in a humane way the same function as the death penalty. Capital punishment has never been proven to be a deterrent for criminal acts and society has never been better of by its enactment.

U.S. Democratic party Senator Russ Feingold puts it best: "It is just really tragic that after all the horrors of the last 1,000 years, we can't leave behind something as primitive as government-sponsored execution."

(source: Mike Noonan is a member of the Guelph Mercury's community editorial board)


Evidence of police dishonesty leads to overturned convictions nationwide

Maybe Debra Jean Milke masterminded the murder of her tow-haired son Christopher in Phoenix just before Christmas 1989 to collect the 4-year-old's $5,000 life insurance policy.

Or maybe - as Milke has insisted all along - she was just the innocent victim of a corrupt cop with a proven pattern of lying who was out to win a conviction.

Whichever is true, Milke, 51, is a free woman now after spending 23 years on death row, convicted of conspiring with 2 men to kill Christopher.

She was released from prison because prosecutors withheld evidence of misconduct by then-Phoenix Police Detective Armando Saldate Jr., who testified Milke confessed to him.

"That was pretty outrageous," said Judge Alex Kozinski of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit of the Milke case in general.

Kozinski wrote the panel's 2013 decision overturning Milke's conviction because of Saldate's undisclosed history of dishonesty. The Arizona Court of Appeals threw out the murder charges last year and in March, the Arizona Supreme Court declined further review.

"If a cop lies and convicts an innocent person and they get executed, they're just as dead as if a cop shot him," Kozinski said during a recent telephone interview.

It's another way in which police can violate someone's civil rights, Kozinski said.

Milke's case is one of a growing number of convictions overturned across the country - another just last month in Massachusetts - because prosecutors failed to disclose evidence of police misconduct that could have helped prove the defendant's innocence.

A convicted murderer in New Hampshire is seeking a new trial on similar grounds.

Called Brady material because of the 1963 U.S. Supreme Court case Brady v. Maryland, prosecutors are constitutionally required to turn over all favorable, material evidence to the defense.

That includes evidence of police dishonesty such as lying in an official proceeding, falsifying evidence or stealing when an officer is going to testify, but can also include excessive use of force. The defense could then use the information to impeach an officer's testimony.

The Ninth Circuit was so disturbed by Milke's case that the panel referred its opinion to the U.S. Attorney for the District of Arizona and the Assistant U.S. Attorney General of the Civil Rights Division "for possible investigation into whether Saldate's conduct, and that of his supervisors and other state and local officials, amounts to a pattern of violating the federally protected rights of Arizona residents."

Kozinski learned through the media that nothing came of the referral.

"They do not consider lying cops to be quite the same priority as shooting cops," Kozinski said during an interview. "Maybe because they don't get riots and they don't get the same kind of public reaction as when police shoot somebody, but in essence it's the same thing.

"They are helping commit violence against the suspect by words, but words can have the same effect," Kozinski said.

Impeachment evidence

When a Brady violation is discovered later that would have likely changed the outcome or the penalty, it usually results in the verdict being overturned and in egregious cases like Milke's, the charges being dismissed altogether.

Had they known about Saldate's history of dishonesty, Milke's lawyers could have impeached his testimony, Kozinski wrote.

There's no physical evidence linking Milke to the murder of Christopher, Kozinski wrote.

"The only evidence linking Milke to the murder of her son is the word of Detective Armando Saldate, Jr. - a police officer with a long history of misconduct that includes lying under oath as well as accepting sexual favors in exchange for leniency and lying about it," Kozinski wrote in the opinion.

"On the last evening of his short life, Christopher Milke saw Santa Claus at the mall," Kozinski wrote.

Christopher woke up the next morning pleading with his mother to visit Santa again. She sent Christopher to the mall with her roommate, James Styers, who picked up a friend, Roger Scott.

"But instead of heading to the mall, the 2 men drove the boy out of town to a secluded ravine, where Styers shot Christopher 3 times in the head," Kozinski wrote.

The men then drove to the mall and reported Christopher missing.

"Could the people of Arizona feel confident in taking Milke's life when the only thread of evidence on which her conviction hangs is the word of a policeman with a record of dishonesty and disrespect for the law?" Kozinski wrote.

"Bad cops and those who tolerate them put us all in an untenable position."

Styers and Scott were also convicted of murdering Christopher. They both remain on death row and have never testified against Milke.

Milke has sued the city of Phoenix, Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery, and several police officers and officials claiming her civil rights have been violated.

Buddy Rake, one of the lawyers representing Milke in the civil suit, said she would have no further comment, but she did hold a news conference in March.

"I had absolutely nothing to do with the brutal murder of my son Christopher," Milke told reporters. "I did not give a confession to Mr. Saldate."

Tearfully, Milke said how much she misses her son and how Christopher loved to spin out on his Big Wheel bike. She also explained how it feels having been wrongly accused and convicted of killing him.

"Try to imagine that as some of you sit in judgment of me," Milke said. "My innocence did not matter in their pursuit of a conviction. ...

"This could happen to any one of you," Milke said.

Confidential barriers

Research for this article, sponsored by the Fund for Investigative Journalism, revealed a lack of consistency when it comes to finding out about police misconduct, the kind of evidence the defense could use to challenge an officer's testimony.

States vary widely on what constitutes police Brady material, whether prosecutors or the public can review police personnel files and when such misconduct must be disclosed.

Jonathan Abel wrote about the disparities for the Stanford Law Review in "Brady's Blindspot: Impeachment Evidence in Police Personnel Files and the Battle Splitting the Prosecution Team."

"(The disparities) deprives some defendants of their constitutional due process rights simply by virtue of where they happen to be tried," Abel wrote.

Defendants on trial in Minnesota and some other states are more likely to benefit from their rights under Brady because police discipline is a matter of public record.

The accused is less likely to learn about a testifying police officer's propensity to lie in states where police personnel files are confidential, or where there are complex barriers to obtaining the information.

"These protections benefit dirty cops by allowing them to testify and, thereby, hold on to their jobs," Abel wrote. They also harm defendants who are denied evidence to which they are constitutionally entitled.

"And they harm society by undermining due process and allowing dishonest officers to stay on the job," Abel wrote.

Even well-intentioned prosecutors are hamstrung in some states by local regulations that keep them from reviewing the files themselves, forcing prosecutors to rely instead on police agencies to alert them to problem officers, Abel said.

The stakes are high all around.

"Suppression of this misconduct evidence can cost defendants their lives, but disclosure can also be costly," Abel wrote. "It can cost officers their livelihoods."

Tuftonboro, New Hampshire, Police Chief Andrew Shagoury has seen the Brady issue from the perspective of a patrol officer and as chief.

"It definitely could ruin a career, but not always," Shagoury said of the Brady designation, which in New Hampshire means an officer has been placed on a "Laurie list."

There was enough concern by police in New Hampshire about the fairness of the Laurie system that they pushed for legislative reform, but what ended up passing was a study commission.

In small departments, there may be no work for an officer who will be problematic when testifying, he said.

"The issue has become one of, is there consistency in putting people on the list and if they are on the list, how do they get off," Shagoury said.

"As a chief in leadership, you have to worry about being able to run the department. You want to treat people fairly, and have to be concerned about due process rights."

Shagoury remembers a case in a different department in which an officer was placed on the Laurie list for pranking a fellow officer and lying about it at first.

"I don't think people want dishonest officers to testify. But what if it truly was a mistake that was blown out of proportion?" Shagoury said.

The public expects police do their work with integrity, he said.

"Nobody wants that more than police officers," Shagoury said.

No statewide system tracking dishonest police in Vermont

There's no statewide protocol in Vermont to make sure all favorable, material evidence of a testifying police officer’s misconduct is disclosed to the defense, but Defender General Matthew F. Valerio said it doesn't appear to be a big problem.

Vermont is a small state, so people will probably find out if an officer has a problem telling the truth, Valerio said, adding some cases could be missed.

"Some cases fall through the cracks," Valerio said. "The question is, does it make a difference? I think in some cases it makes a difference, in some cases it doesn't."

Because of the 1963 U.S. Supreme Court case Brady v. Maryland, prosecutors are required to alert the defense to all favorable, material evidence that could help prove the defendant’s innocence.

That includes testifying police officers who have been disciplined for dishonesty, and sometimes for excessive use of force.

Prosecutors don't always know there's been an internal affairs investigation, Valerio said.

"Unless it comes to light, I think that's probably one of the areas where you have a vacuum as far as turning over the material," Valerio said.

Defense investigators sometimes come across such evidence about an officer, he said.

"It always comes down to the question of you don't know what you don't know," Valerio said. "In the vast majority of cases, we get what we need."

Assistant Vermont Attorney General John Treadwell, head of the homicide unit, said he is not aware of any disclosure problems.

"We rely on police agencies," Treadwell said. "I have no reason to believe they are misleading us."

Scott Waterman, public information officer for Vermont State Police, said in an email that the department keeps track of disciplinary matters through the Office of Internal Affairs.

"Both the Commissioner of Public Safety and the Director of the Vermont State Police take their responsibility to the criminal justice system seriously and when the department becomes aware of a personnel matter that could impact a prosecution, we obtain permission from the State Police Advisory Commission to share the information with prosecutors," Waterman wrote.

Exoneration list grows

Samuel L. Gross, a law professor at the University of Michigan Law School and the editor of the National Registry of Exonerations, said it is impossible to know how often wrongful convictions result from prosecutors failing to disclose Brady police information.

It is just one type of the "official misconduct" category included in the registry's research. To get more detail, the registry is recoding the fir