News and Updates (as of 12/22/96)

DECEMBER 2, 2016:


Texas Defends Mental Standards in SCOTUS Death Penalty Case

Another Texas death penalty case was argued at the United States Supreme Court this week. The 2 questions presented was whether executing someone 35 years after the imposition of a death sentence, and allegedly using outdated medical standards to determine intellectual disability, is cruel and unusual punishment prohibited by the U.S. Constitution. The Eighth Amendment prohibits executing those who are intellectually disabled.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and Texas Solicitor General Scott A. Keller were in Washington, D.C. with Keller arguing the case on behalf of the State of Texas. The transcript of the oral argument is attached below.

Marc Rylander, spokesman for the Office of the Texas Attorney General told Breitbart Texas after the oral argument, "Texas' standard for intellectual disability is constitutional and fits well within the national consensus among states about how to define intellectual disability."

The petition for writ of certiorari asking the Supreme Court to hear the case of Bobby James Moore v. Texas (#15-797) was filed on December 15, 2015.

Moore was convicted of capital murder and sentenced to death in 1980 for shooting a 70-year-old grocery store clerk in Houston while he was committing or attempting to commit robbery.

The majority of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals noted in its opinion that the Supreme Court has determined that the execution of the intellectually disabled violates the Eighth Amendment "but left it to the States to develop appropriate ways to enforce the constitutional restriction."

Judge Elsa Alcala filed a dissenting opinion at the time stating, "it is time for Texas to reevaluate the decade old, judicially created standard in Ex parte Briseno in light of a shift in the consensus of the medical community regarding what constitutes intellectual disability, and in light of the Supreme Court's recent holding in Hall v. Florida indicating that courts are required to consider that consensus in assessing intellectual-disability claims."

As stated in the majority's opinion of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, Briseno adopted the definition of intellectual disability stated in the 9th edition of the AAMR manual published in 1992, and the "similar definition" of intellectual disability contained in the Texas Health and Safety Code.

Washington D.C. lawyer Clifford M. Sloan, arguing on behalf of the Petitioner, told the Court during oral argument that "Texas has adopted a unique approach to intellectual disability in capital cases in which it prohibits the use of current medical standards. It relies on harmful and inappropriate lay stereotypes." He urged "that the entire category of the intellectually disabled, every person who is intellectually disabled, is exempt from execution under the Eighth Amendment."

Sloan argued that the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, the highest criminal appellate court in Texas, used a standard established in 1992 and prohibited the use of current medical standards. He told the Court that the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals "said that the State habeas trial court erred by employing the current standards."

Saying she wanted to "cut to the chase," Justice Sotomayor asked Mr. Sloan: "Was the criminal court of appeals using any clinical standard, any medical clinical standard?" He told her no.

Justice Sotomayor said later during Petitioner's presentation that the CCA had found that Mr. Moore did not meet 2 prongs - he could not prove that he was clinically intellectually disabled, and that his IQ was higher than what was generally recognized clinically. Sloan maintained that both prongs were in "very sharp conflict" with clinical guidance generally, and "especially with current clinical standards."

Justice Ginsberg fired off and her statement is a strong indication about what she might be thinking about the issue. She said, "There is no doubt about what the Texas court said. It's marching orders for Texas courts. It said the habeas judge erred by employing current clinical definition of intellectually disabled, there in that respect, rather than the test we established in Briseno. The test we established in Briseno is - is stated sharply and clearly as the test that must be applied by Texas courts."

Mr. Keller urged that Petitioner argued in their reply brief that there is no material difference between the language in Texas' standard and the current clinical frameworks, and the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals applied the factors in the Briseno case which are in the Texas Court's precedents.

Part of the discourse between the Texas Solicitor General and individual justices on the Court was whether Texans would agree that the Petitioner should be exempt from the death chamber, and whether you try to get standards to reflect that, or rather, you look at the consensus of psychiatrists and psychologists. There was also a concern on whether looking at citizen standards "would produce nonuniformity among 50 states or among the many states that have the death penalty."

The case has garnered the attention of mental health and other organizations. Amici curiae briefs have been filed by the: Constitutional Accountability Center; The Constitution Project; National Religious Campaign Against Torture; American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU); American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law; American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities; International Organizations Interested in Medical Expertise, Psychiatry, and Criminal Justice; International Law and Human Rights Institutes, Societies, Practitioners and Scholars; the American Psychological Association and the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation; and the American Bar Association.

(source: Lana Shadwick is a contributing writer and legal analyst for Breitbart Texas. She has served as a prosecutor and associate judge in


Oroho co-sponsors measure to bring back death penalty

Senator Steve Oroho and Senator Jeff Van Drew introduced legislation that would reinstate the death penalty in New Jersey for the most heinous acts of murder.

The bill specifically references 5 acts that law enforcement and juries can consider the death penalty as an appropriate punishment: (1) the death of a law enforcement or corrections officer while on official duty; (2) the murder of a juvenile under the age of 18 during the commission of a sex crime; (3) death by an act of terrorism; (4) the perpetrator had been convicted of a murder previously; and (5) serial killers.

"These murderous acts are some of the most heinous crimes against humanity that society confronts," said Senator Oroho. "Victims' families and the general public should know that such malicious, depraved behavior can be punishable to the same severity with which the criminals perpetrated their vile acts."

The death penalty statute was repealed in the state in 2007 under Governor Jon Corzine and replaced with life without parole.

"More recently, we witnessed a maniacal serial bomber with direct New Jersey ties attempt to inflict great harm on the public," Oroho said. "Such contempt for human life as exhibited by these radical terrorists should be met with the most severe punishment that could be allowable under the law - that is to pay for it with their own life."

The individual in question, Ahmad Khan Rahami, is an Elizabeth resident who is a naturalized U.S. citizen born in Afghanistan. Rahami attempted to inflict mass casualties when he placed a pipe bomb in a trash can which was set to go off during a running race in Seaside Park to benefit a Marine Corps charity. Thankfully the race was delayed and the bomb detonated with no individuals in the immediate vicinity at the time. However, Rahami did place another bomb in Manhattan that injured 30 people and attempted another bomb detonation in Elizabeth.

"Only the grace of God prevented a Boston-style tragedy from happening in New Jersey," said Oroho. "A militant jihadist who says he gains inspiration from Osama bin Laden and radical terrorists very nearly caused mass murder."

(source: The Advertiser News)


Carrboro joins list of cities against the death penalty

Carrboro Mayor Lydia Lavelle issued a proclamation on Nov. 30 declaring that the Town of Carrboro is part of "Cities for Life - Cities against the Death Penalty" to raise awareness about the movement to abolish the death penalty in the United States.

The 1st "Cities for Life - Cities against the Death Penalty" day was launched in 2002 by the community of Sant'Egidio in Rome, Italy. This community reached out to Lavelle last year, and she said she wanted to become a part of it as soon as possible.

"They asked me if our town would participate in recognizing the date and bringing awareness to it," she said. "I did a little research and realized that it was something I thought our board would not mind me putting a proclamation out about."

The day of awareness has grown from 80 cities in 2002 to more than 2,000 in 2015 in more than 90 countries. Some of these cities that recognize "Cities for Life - Cities against the Death Penalty" day include Buenos Aires, Hong Kong, London and Boston.

The date coincides with the anniversary of the 1st death penalty abolition in history in Tuscany in 1786.

"They decide to purposefully recognize this date to bring awareness to the way the death penalty is still implemented in many countries and just try to bring about awareness that not just as a nation, but as a world ... we ought to be looking toward a civilization that abolishes the death penalty," Lavelle said.

The Rev. Jimmie Hawkins of Covenant Presbyterian Church is on the Board of Directors for Durham-based advocacy group People of Faith Against the Death Penalty. He said capital punishment does not statistically reduce crime and he views it as immoral.

"It just doesn't make sense that we teach society that killing people is wrong by killing people," Hawkins said.

Hawkins said he took a stand before the Durham City Council a few years ago during their vote to advocate for the abolition of the death penalty.

"I think that we need to, 1, get in line with public opinion," Hawkins said. "The support for the death penalty is decreasing year by year - I think it's at an all time low right now."

Maciej Krzysztoforski, a Chapel Hill resident, said he doesn't believe the state has the right to kill people, and he stands with Carrboro in opposing the death penalty.

"This comes about in tragic situations, and I feel for the families," he said. "But it's better for everyone if the cycle of killing ends."

Kate Thompson, a Carrboro resident, also supports the statement made by Lavelle against the death penalty.

"I think it's important to show support, even if the death penalty is not necessarily relevant in Carrboro," Thompson said.

Even if it is something that the community isn't constantly aware of or interacting with, Lavelle said making the community's voice heard is crucial. She said ultimately she hopes North Carolina abolishes the death penalty.

"It helps us, as a community, to reflect at least once a year on the injustice of the death penalty," Lavelle said. "It might cause other communities or advocacy groups or even governing agencies to speak out similarly."



County death penalty cases in limbo with a number of murder cases still pending

Of the 2 death penalty cases currently on the books in St. Johns County, one is ready for trial and another should be close to ready by the end of January, lawyers said in court Thursday.

With the state's death penalty in limbo though, it remains unclear just when those cases will see a jury.

The most recent is the state's case against James Terry Colley Jr., who was indicted in September 2015 on 2 counts of 1st-degree murder in the August 2015 shooting deaths of his estranged wife, 36-year-old Amanda Cloaninger Colley, and her friend, Lindy Mosler Dobbins, 39, in a MuraBella home. He is also facing 2 counts of attempted 1st-degree murder with a firearm, burglary with assault or battery, armed burglary and aggravated stalking after injunction.

2 of Colley's attorneys, Terry Shoemaker and Garry Wood, appeared before Judge Michael Traynor on Thursday morning for a pretrial hearing to discuss their preparations and possible scheduling for a trial. Shoemaker requested one additional hearing for Jan. 31 and said he thought his side would be ready for trial after that.

Traynor, who is expected to move to civil court when Judge Howard Maltz begins handling felony cases after Jan. 1, agreed, but pointed out that a number of murder cases are headed for trial soon. That means a good deal of coordination between judges and attorneys will have to take place.

"Probably given the nature of this case, plus some of the other cases we have, I am going to have to rearrange some of my civil docket as well so we can handle these cases," Traynor said.

In order to get all of the cases properly scheduled, Traynor told Shoemaker that he would need to be very specific at the January hearing as to what else needed to be done to be ready for trial.

There are at least 4 other 1st-degree murder cases that could be headed for trial in coming months. One of those, the state's case against Sergio Morgan-Wideman in the shooting death of 29-year-old Malav Desai at a Masters Drive convenience store, could start before the end of December depending on the outcome of a pretrial hearing scheduled for today.

Another is the 5-year-old death penalty case against Sean Alonzo Bush, who is accused of killing his estranged wife, 35-year-old Nicole Bush. She was found suffering from multiple gunshot and stab wounds in May 2011 in her Fruit Cove home and later died at the hospital.

"Bush is basically ready?" Traynor asked Assistant State Attorney Jennifer Dunton on Thursday while discussing Colley's case.

Dunton said that it is, but Traynor acknowledged it is still hung up because the state Legislature has not acted in the wake of recent court decisions regarding the death penalty in the state.

A January decision from the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Florida's death penalty sentencing system. The court ruled then that the system was flawed because the ultimate decision between death or life in prison was made by a judge and not a jury.

Under that system, juries deliberated during the sentencing portion of the trial and submitted a recommendation to the judge. That recommendation only required a majority of jurors to support a death sentence and the judge was not bound by the recommendation.

The Legislature responded in March by passing a bill that, among other things, changed the requirement from a simple majority to a 10-juror vote.

Then, in October, the Florida Supreme Court, in 2 rulings, said that sentencing from jurors had to be unanimous, but the Legislature has not yet passed a new law in response.

Bush's case is currently scheduled for a hearing on Jan. 9 and another on Jan 31.



Florida Cop Killer's Death Sentence Overturned for 3rd Time

A man who has been sentenced to death three times for drug-addled rampage that left a Polk County deputy and 2 others dead will once again get a chance to be spared execution after a Florida Supreme Court ruling Thursday.

2 governors have signed death warrants for Paul Beasley Johnson - Bob Graham in 1986 and Charlie Crist in 2009 - for the January 1981 murders. The 1st time the Supreme Court ordered a new trial, the 2nd time it ordered a new sentencing hearing. A judge in 2014 gave Johnson 3 deaths sentences after 11-1 jury recommendations.

But the Supreme Court ordered another sentencing hearing, citing 2 U.S. Supreme Court rulings requiring juries, not judges, to impose sentences. That includes a decision that led the state high court to rule in October that jury decisions have to be unanimous.

Thursday's ruling was frustrating to Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd, who convinced Crist to sign Johnson's death warrant.

"When he was convicted originally, then he should have been put to death after his appeals. And as time has gone on, the rules have changed," said Judd. "They are making us comply with 2016 rules in a murder that happened in 1981. It is just one more frustration in our effort to see that justice prevails."

Johnson was using crystal meth when he told friends he was going to find more drugs, even if he had to shoot someone, according to court records. The 1st victim was cab driver William Evans, who Johnson robbed and shot twice in the face. The next was Darrell Ray Beasley. Johnson told Beasley his car broke down and asked for a ride. Johnson shot Beasley in the head and took his wallet.

As police were searching for Johnson, Deputy Theron Burnham radioed that he believed he spotted the suspect in the shootings. By the time other deputies arrived, they found Burnham's body in a ditch. He had been shot 3 times and his gun was missing. The responding deputies then found Johnson and exchanged gunfire before arresting him.

The Supreme Court did uphold Johnson's convictions in the now nearly 36-year-old murders and chose to order a new sentencing hearing rather than impose the only other possible sentence: life without parole.

Judd said that by the time a new hearing is conducted, there's a good chance Johnson, 67, will end up dying in prison even if a jury unanimously votes for the death penalty.

"He will more than likely die of old age on death row before he is executed. Even with a 12-0 jury recommendation, then all the processes start all over again," Judd said. "We have a judicial system that doesn't think there should be death penalties, so they make it just absolutely difficult, almost impossible."

(source: Associated Press)


Death penalty sought in double homicide

The state will seek the death penalty in a 26-year-old double homicide that included a child victim.

On Monday, the State Attorney's Office for the 20th Judicial Circuit filed a notice of intent to seek the death penalty in the case against Joseph Adam Zieler, 54, of 314 Byron Ave., North Fort Myers.

"If a case is deemed to be something that should be looked at for the death penalty, we have a death penalty review committee," Samantha Syoen, spokeswoman for the State Attorney's Office, said.

She noted that the committee is made up of experienced and qualified attorneys.

"They meet and discuss the facts of the case," Syoen said.

The committee's findings are passed along to State Attorney Stephen B. Russell.

"He makes the final decision on if we are going to file a notice," she said.

Assistant State Attorney Robert E. Lee is handling the case.

Chief Assistant Public Defender Kathleen Fitzgeorge will represent Zieler.

Fitzgeorge did not immediately return a message on Thursday seeking comment.

According to the notice, the state intends to prove the following aggravating factors - which it believes it can do beyond a reasonable doubt - as grounds for the imposition of the death penalty:

-- Zieler was previously convicted of a felony involving the use or threat of violence to the person.

-- The capital felony was committed while Zieler was engaged in the commission of sexual battery and burglary.

-- The capital felony was especially heinous, atrocious or cruel.

-- The capital felony was a homicide and was committed in a cold, calculated and premeditated manner, without any pretense of moral or legal justification.

-- The victim of the capital felony was a person less than 12 years of age.

On Nov. 3, a Lee County grand jury indicted Zieler on 2 counts of 1st-degree murder in the 1990 murder and rape of Robin Cornell, 11, and Lisa Story, 32, at their apartment, at 631 S.E. 12th Ave.

In addition, the state filed charges for 1 count of sexual battery on a child less than 12 years of age, sexual battery with a deadly weapon or great force and 1st-degree burglary with assault or battery.

Zieler is currently being held at the Lee County Jail on no bond.

He has court appearances set for Dec. 12 and Dec. 20.

On May 10, 1990, the bodies of Robin and Story were found in their Courtyards apartment by Robin's mother, Jan Cornell. Both of the victims had been suffocated and sexually assaulted, police reported.

The night before, Cornell's new roommate, Story, had agreed to watch Robin while she visited her boyfriend. When Cornell returned home the next morning, she heard footsteps inside the apartment.

Upon entering, Cornell found an ironing board open with pictures of her daughter laid out.

According to police, Cornell ran upstairs and discovered Story's lifeless body in her bed. Cornell then ran to Robin's room, where she found her daughter's naked body lying on the floor of the bedroom.

Detectives were able to collect and save a sample of DNA from the crime scene.

According to records, Zieler was arrested in Lee County 2 months after the murders for battery and battery on a law enforcement officer firefighter, but the charges were dropped. He was found guilty of carrying a concealed firearm, dealing trafficking in stolen property and resisting officer with violence.

Zieler's only arrest after that was for possession of marijuana; no charges were filed.

On Aug. 27, however, the Lee County Sheriff's Office responded to Lee Memorial Hospital for a shooting victim, identified as Zachary Zieler, 25. He had sustained a gunshot or a pellet gun wound.

An investigation revealed that Zachary Zieler and his father, Zieler, became engaged in a physical altercation and Zieler armed himself with a pellet gun. At one point, he aimed it at his son and and fired the weapon. Zachary's girlfriend drove him to the hospital when he said he was not able to breathe.

Zieler was arrested and charged with aggravated battery person uses a deadly weapon.

Per Florida law, anyone arrested for a felony has their DNA taken and compared to CODIS. Cape police officials reported that Zieler's DNA matched up to the 1990 sample still in the database.

On Sept. 28, the Cape police arrested and charged Zieler in the double homicide.

In a separate case, the State Attorney's Office filed 1 count of aggravated battery with a deadly weapon or causing harm against Zieler for allegedly shooting his son. His next court date is Dec. 20.

(source: Cape Coral Daily Breeze)


Court orders disability hearing for death row inmate

A divided Florida Supreme Court on Thursday ordered a lower court to hold a hearing about whether a death row inmate has an intellectual disability that would prevent him from being executed.

Justices, in a 5-2 decision, ordered the hearing for Roger Lee Cherry, 65, who was convicted in the 1986 murders of an elderly couple, Leonard and Esther Wayne, in their DeLand home.

The decision was an outgrowth of a 2014 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that rejected Florida's use of a strict IQ score of 70 in determining whether Death Row inmates were intellectually disabled.

In 2002, the U.S. Supreme Court found that executing people who are intellectually disabled, or in the common terminology at the time, mentally retarded, violates the Eighth Amendment ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

Thursday's ruling by the Florida Supreme Court pointed to 2005 expert testimony that indicated Cherry had an IQ of 72 and also met other criteria for being considered intellectually disabled.

The court's majority, made up of Chief Justice Jorge Labarga and justices Barbara Pariente, R. Fred Lewis, Peggy Quince and James E.C. Perry, wrote that a circuit judge should hold an evidentiary hearing in Cherry's case and take into account the 2014 U.S. Supreme Court decision.

"Justice demands that Roger Lee Cherry have an opportunity to establish that he is intellectually disabled under the standards established by the United States Supreme Court under the Eighth Amendment, which prohibits the execution of those who are, in fact, intellectually disabled," Pariente wrote in a concurring opinion. "More than fundamental fairness, the risk of executing a person who is not constitutionally eligible for the death penalty surpasses any other considerations that this (Supreme) Court looks to in attempting to ensure the even-handed administration of the death penalty."

Justices Charles Canady and Ricky Polston dissented, with Canady writing that he did not think the 2014 U.S. Supreme Court decision should be given "retroactive effect" to such older cases.


ALABAMA----impending execution

Alabama death row inmate asks governor for clemency

An Alabama inmate scheduled to be executed next week is asking the governor to stop his execution because a judge imposed a death sentence over the jury's recommendation of life imprisonment.

Attorneys for Ronald Bert Smith wrote in a letter to Gov. Robert Bentley that the judge overrode the jury's will to impose the death penalty, and Alabama is unique in allowing that to happen. The letter was released Thursday.

Smith is scheduled to be executed by lethal injection Dec. 8 for the 1994 slaying of Huntsville convenience store clerk Casey Wilson during a robbery. A jury recommended life imprisonment by a 7-5 vote, but a judge sentenced Smith to the death penalty.

"31 states and the federal government allow the death penalty, but today, Alabama is the only one that empowers judges to override jury verdicts for life," Smith's attorneys said in a statement released Thursday.

The governor's press office declined to comment on the clemency request.

Smith's attorneys are pointing to a U.S. Supreme Court decision from January that struck down Florida's death penalty sentencing structure because it gave too much power to judges to impose death sentences. The Alabama attorney general's office has argued that there are enough differences with Alabama's law to make it constitutional.

The Alabama Supreme Court last week ruled the execution should proceed. Smith plans to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

(source: Associated Press)


Saraya Atkins scheduled to learn her sentence Thursday

In Sept., the jury recommended Saraya Atkins receive the death penalty for killing 66-year-old Richard Perry in 2014 during the course of a robbery.

Atkins and another woman robbed Perry by following him after he left a Walmart with more than $1,000.

During that robbery there was a struggle and Atkins fired at Perry. 3 shots were fired and he died.

The defense argues the prosecution did not prove that Atkins intended to kill Perry, a necessary component of capital murder.

The judge was supposed to sentence her about a month ago but he took additional time to review literature and decide if the case warranted capital punishment.

He told the courtroom that he was surprised the jury found enough evidence to believe there was intent.

District Attorney Ashley Rich was shocked at that turn of events, saying it was not fair to the victim's family to prolong the sentencing.

(source: WKRG news)


Nebraska Gov. Ricketts defends death penalty proposal

Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts defended a proposal Tuesday that would allow the state to obtain lethal injection drugs without disclosing its supplier, saying it would provide greater flexibility to move forward with executions after voters reinstated the death penalty earlier this month.

The administrative proposal announced Monday would let the Nebraska Department of Correctional Services' director choose which drugs are used in an execution and withhold the name of the supplier. Ricketts said the current administrative rules and 3-drug lethal injection protocol were "more restrictive" than what state law allows.

"We're really not changing anything with regard to confidentiality," Ricketts said at a news conference on an unrelated subject. "Claims of secrecy really just aren't founded."

Ricketts argued that the changes are already allowed under a 2009 state law which changed the protocol from electrocution to lethal injection. That law allows the identities of "all members of the execution team" to remain confidential. Ricketts said the proposal would count a pharmacist or a pharmaceutical chemist as a part of the execution team, and thus exempt from public disclosure.

The corrections department would also have to notify condemned inmates which drugs were chosen, the quantities to be used and the order in which they'd be administered at least 60 days before the Nebraska attorney general's office requests an execution warrant. Ricketts said the 60-day window gives inmates "plenty of time" to appeal.

Nebraska's last execution took place in 1997, using the electric chair. The state switched to lethal injection after the Nebraska Supreme Court declared the electric chair unconstitutional, but officials have never used the current 3-drug protocol in an execution.

Certain lethal injection drugs have become virtually impossible to obtain in the United States or Europe because companies, fearing a public backlash, have refused to sell them.

Ricketts spokesman Taylor Gage said the cost of the drugs would remain a public record under the new proposed protocol.

Nebraska spent more than $54,000 last year on lethal injection drugs from a company based in India, but never received them because federal officials blocked the shipment. Chris Harris, the company's CEO, declined the state's request for a refund.

Nebraska's death penalty spent more than a year in limbo after lawmakers abolished the punishment in 2015, overriding Ricketts' veto. Voters reinstated capital punishment earlier this month through a ballot measure partially financed by Ricketts.

Death penalty opponents have promised to fight any attempt to shroud the process in secrecy.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Nebraska said the corrections department should be taking extra steps to maintain transparency and accountability given its history of high-profile missteps. 2 inmates escaped from a Lincoln prison earlier this year because staff members failed to follow security procedures. In 2014, under a previous administration, prison officials acknowledged that they had miscalculated hundreds of inmate sentences and failed to follow a Nebraska Supreme Court ruling.

University of Nebraska-Lincoln law professor Eric Berger said the proposed protocol raises new legal questions that will likely end up in the courts.

"It violates the Nebraska norm of open and transparent government," said Berger, who worked with death penalty opponents during the recent ballot campaign. "It also creates the risk of a botched execution. When they have that secrecy, (state officials) may feel they don't need to be as careful."

Berger said the decision not to stick with one specific protocol suggests that state officials could try to use different drugs on different inmates, depending on what's available. Doing so would force them to "reinvent the wheel" for every execution and relearn the properties of a particular drug, he said.

Berger said other parts of the proposal are vague. For instance, the drugs would have to be tested at least 60 days before an execution, but Berger said it's not clear who would test them. Additionally, Berger said the proposal could make it impossible to know whether the corrections director is getting advice from qualified medical experts when selecting the drugs.

(source: Associated Press)


Give state public input on death penalty protocol ---- It's up to the Legislature to decide whether to accept the governor's proposal through legislation that would codify it or reject it. For now, the public is left to weigh the Corrections Department proposal.

Nebraska voters have spoken definitively in favor of the death penalty. Now the state needs a way to carry it out.

The last Nebraska execution was in 1997, when Robert Williams was electrocuted. The state hasn't attempted an execution in the 7 years since the method was switched to lethal injection.

Public opposition to capital punishment has been increasing, both nationwide and in Nebraska, and lawsuits filed against manufacturers of the drugs used to carry out the death penalty have made it harder for states to procure them.

Many American and European manufacturers no longer sell the drugs to states for use in carrying out the death penalty by lethal injection. Nebraska has spent thousands of dollars to buy the drugs internationally, yet failed to import them.

Some death penalty states have been able to obtain the needed drugs by passing laws or adopting procedures shielding the manufacturers' names. The names are public under the 2009 Nebraska law that changed the state's method of execution to lethal injection.

Gov. Pete Ricketts, saying he respects the will of the voters, backs an administrative change in the death-penalty protocol.

Ricketts and the Nebraska Department of Correctional Services propose adding a pharmacist or pharmaceutical chemist to the state's execution team. Prison officials say doing so would help the state obtain the drugs to carry out a death sentence, since the identities of execution team members are kept confidential under the 2009 state law.

Prison officials say death-row inmates would be notified about the specific drugs to be used 60 days before a scheduled execution and say that should provide time for appeals.

Advocates for open government and critics of Nebraska's death penalty question the need to shield the manufacturer's identity. Some state senators have discussed clarifying the intent of the 2009 law.

It's up to the Legislature to decide whether to accept the governor's proposal through legislation that would codify it or reject it.

For now, the public is left to weigh the Corrections Department proposal. The administration has scheduled a public hearing for Dec. 30 on its policy change.

Nebraskans should take the opportunity to offer comments on the new protocol. State leaders should receive as much feedback as possible on the protocol for an issue as difficult and divisive as the death penalty.

Death penalty politics in Nebraska are complex. The Legislature repealed the death penalty. Then the governor led and helped finance a successful effort to restore it. He also campaigned against senators running for re-election who voted to repeal the death penalty or allowed the repeal to advance.

Given the state's difficulties in procuring execution drugs, officials may need to pursue some sort of protection for the drug manufacturers, whether in policy or law.

This discussion pits 2 important principles against one another: complying with the public's expressed will versus government transparency. Let the debate begin.

(source: Editorial, Omaha World-Herald)


Scot facing death penalty has murder trial delayed for a year----A Scot who may face the death penalty after being accused of shooting dead his mother and stepfather at their home in the United States has had his murder trial delayed by a year.

The couple, both 48, were found dead at their home in Bakersfield, California, on April 30 by police.

Connell, 30, originally from Shawlands, Glasgow, said he believed he committed the killings during a preliminary court hearing in July.

However, his lawyer Paul Cadman said there was no evidence of premeditation or malice on his part and argued he should be tried for 2nd-degree murder or voluntary manslaughter.

He was ordered to face 1st degree murder charges and his trial was due to begin early next year.

However, court officials in the US said it has now been postponed until January 2018.

Judge Thomas C. Clark turned down the request for Connell to face lesser charges and said his statements showed “a fair amount” of thought and planning after the killings.

Connell has said he used bleach in an effort to clean up blood pooled around the bodies.

Mr Cadman said after the preliminary hearing that the killings were a result of post-traumatic stress disorder and drug addiction problems which Connell suffered after serving with the US army in Iraq and Afghanistan.

He said: "Derek is disappointed by the decision of the magistrate to continue this case as a death penalty case since the preliminary hearing showed clearly that he has no recollection of the events and certainly had no premeditation, deliberation, or malice aforethought regarding the incident.

"He believes he did it but he doesn't know how.

"His heroic yet frightening experiences serving in Iraq and Afghanistan and the subsequent substance abuse problems due to his horrific experiences remain directly responsible for the tragedy that has unfolded in this case."

During an interview played to the court, Connell told investigators he believed he had killed his mother and stepfather.

"I had to have done it," he said. "There was no one else in the house."

Connell said he spent the evening drinking heavily, then returned to his parents' home. He began living with them after serving a 9-month jail sentence for drink driving in Colorado.

He told investigators he spoke with his stepfather briefly before going to bed. They did not argue, and he said he got along well with both his mother and stepfather.

Connell said the next thing he recalled was finding their bodies. He cried as he described lying next to his mother's body and telling her he was sorry.

2 shotguns, 5 handguns and 7 rifles were seized from the home. Mr Connell said the weapons belonged to his stepfather.

Connell served in the US Army from 2005 to 2008, and was discharged due to an incident involving alcohol, he said in court filings. He went on to work in oil fields in Colorado and Texas.

Connell was born in Rutherglen Maternity and lived with his mother in Shawlands on Glasgow's south side as a child.

She met her future husband while he was stationed with the US navy in Scotland and moved with her son to America more than 20 years ago. Before her death, she had worked for 16 years as a teacher at an elementary school.



Legal experts discuss next steps for California's death penalty system under Prop 66

Despite showing its true blue color on issues like marijuana and gun control, California surprised many when voters chose to shoot down a proposition to abolish the state's long defunct death penalty and passed one that aims to reform and expedite the appeals process.

Now, groups like the ACLU and others have filed suit to prevent the state from resuming executions. But proponents of the new appeals system say they believe the challenges will be dismissed and executions could resume within the next year.

What are the next steps on both sides of the death penalty fight in California? What are the factors at play on each side of the legal challenges to the new system?


Laurel Rosenhall, California politics reporter for CALmatters, a nonpartisan media venture committed to explaining how California's state capital works and why it matters

Kent Scheidegger, legal director and general counsel for the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation, an organization advocating reduced rights for accused and convicted criminals

Nancy Haydt, criminal defense attorney based in Santa Barbara and a member of the Board of Governors of California Attorneys for Criminal Justice; she authored an extensive analysis of Prop 66



Death Penalty Stands for West Hills Woman Who Had Her Husband Murdered ---- The conviction of a woman who had her husband killed at his West Los Angeles auto repair shop will stand, the state Supreme Court ruled.

The California Supreme Court Thursday upheld a woman's conviction and death sentence for arranging her husband's murder inside a West Los Angeles-area auto repair shop he owned.

The state's highest court unanimously rejected the defense's contention that there were errors in the Los Angeles Superior Court trial of former West Hills resident Catherine Thompson, who is on death row for the June 14, 1990 killing of Melvin "Tom" Thompson in the restroom of his business.

The 49-year-old man, who had been shot, died later at a hospital.

Shortly after the murder, Thompson submitted a claim on 2 life insurance policies -- 1 issued for $100,000 and a 2nd one issued the year of the murder for $150,000 that had a clause that made it potentially worth $300,000, the Supreme Court wrote in a 111-page ruling.

She instructed a friend to collect all of the jewelry from her husband's body after the funeral and to return the items to her, which she pawned a day later and used the money to go on a gambling vacation to Laughlin, according to the ruling.

Thompson was convicted in September 1992 of 1st-degree murder and conspiracy to murder, with jurors finding true the special circumstance of murder for financial gain and recommending that she be sentenced to death.

Co-defendant Phillip Sanders, who was tried along with Thompson, was also convicted of the murder. He was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

The justices rejected the defense's contention that Thompson should have been tried separately from Sanders.

In the ruling written by Justice Kathryn M. Werdegar, the panel found there was a "web of evidence demonstrating that defendant participated in a conspiracy" with Sanders and 2 others to kill the victim for financial gain, including "defendant's many refinancing and insurance frauds," the evidence of many telephone calls between her and Sanders in the days leading up to the murder and her "blurted-out statement upon her arrest that she `'idn't know Phil at all"' though police had not yet revealed any evidence of Sanders' involvement in the crime.

The justices also noted that Thompson had a "strong financial incentive to kill the victim" and quickly used the insurance money after he was killed.

The panel found that the trial court "did not abuse its discretion in concluding that evidence of defendant's prior financial misdeeds was relevant to showing her motive for killing, and conspiring to kill, her husband in order to collect on his life insurance policies."

The justices wrote that jurors could infer from the evidence that "defendant's financial house of cards was about to collapse, leading her to believe she had one last option to make a large financial score: killing her husband."

Thompson -- who was sentenced to death in 1993 -- is among 21 women awaiting execution in California.



Senator urges attorney general to pursue death penalty against Scott Dekraai

State Sen. Janet Nguyen Thursday called on the state attorney general's office to continue pursuing the death penalty against Scott Evans Dekraai, the worst mass killer in Orange County history.

The appeal by Nguyen, D-Garden Grove, comes more than a week after a panel of Fourth District Court of Appeal justices affirmed a lower court's ruling recusing the Orange County district attorney's office from the case against Dekraai, who has pleaded guilty to 8 murders and 1 attempted murder in and around a Seal Beach beauty salon 5 years ago, but is awaiting the punishment phase of his trial as prosecutors were seeking to have him put to death.

If the attorney general declines to appeal the Nov. 22 ruling, it would have to decide whether to pursue the death penalty or just let Dekraai default to a state-mandated life without the possibility of parole sentence.

"We will never be able to replace the loved ones lost, but we do owe it to the families and friends of Mr. Dekraai's victims to ensure that he is held accountable, to the fullest extent, for the lives he took," Nguyen said. "For the anguish he caused and the disregard he displayed for human life, Mr. Dekraai deserves to receive the death penalty."

Kristin Ford, a spokeswoman for the Attorney General's Office, said, "We are still reviewing the (justices') ruling."

The Attorney General's Office has until Jan. 3 to decide whether to appeal to the state Supreme Court.

The appellate justices upheld the recusal of the district attorney's office by citing "institutional" problems with the handling of jailhouse informants, particularly in the investigation against Dekraai.

The justices ruled Dekraai could not get a fair trial because prosecutors have shown a penchant for siding with their law enforcement partners, the Orange County Sheriff's Department, which the justices faulted for much of the problems with the handling of "snitches," who have been accused in multiple cases of violating the constitutional rights of cell mates as they surreptitiously try to glean helpful information for investigators.



Lawyers: Mass shooting suspect too immature for death penalty

Attorneys for the man charged with the July 30 mass shooting in Mukilteo say evidence suggests he has been living with untreated neurological problems and potential mental illness, and that justice demands more study before prosecutors decide whether to seek his execution.

Preliminary testing also suggests Allen Ivanov, 20, has the brain development of somebody years younger, defense attorney Walter Peale wrote in court papers.

"Age is not the determiner of immaturity; brain development is," Peale wrote. "Allen Ivanov's brain development will show he is a 'juvenile' to whom the death penalty cannot apply."

Peale filed the pleadings Thursday in preparation for a Dec. 14 hearing. He wants Snohomish County Superior Court Judge Janice Ellis to extend into January the time prosecutors can be presented information that may help them decide whether to seek the death penalty for Ivanov.

The Mukilteo man is charged with aggravated murder in the killings of Anna Bui, Jacob Long and Jordan Ebner, all 19. He's also accused of trying to murder Will Kramer, who was shot in the back, and allegedly shooting at 2 other young men as they ran for cover.

Prosecuting Attorney Mark Roe had given the defense team until Friday to provide him with "mitigation" information to consider before he decides whether to pursue death for Ivanov. Roe had expected to announce his decision by the middle of the month.

In Washington, the only punishment for somebody convicted of aggravated murder is a death sentence or life in prison without the possibility of release.

Although Gov. Jay Inslee has ordered a moratorium on executions, county prosecutors aren't barred from pursuing the death penalty in aggravated murder cases.

Snohomish County deputy prosecutor Adam Cornell said Thursday that prosecutors plan to file a response to the defense's motion ahead of the hearing, but he declined to say anything more about the request.

Ivanov was 19 when he allegedly opened fire with a military-style rifle at a house party. Like him, most of the young people there had graduated from Kamiak High School.

Bui was Ivanov's former girlfriend. He reportedly told detectives that he killed her and her friends because he was upset over the end of their relationship. Prior to the gunfire he also wrote a lengthy letter explaining his motivation and insisting there is nothing wrong with him or the way he thinks.

"I'm selfish. That's why I did this," Ivanov wrote.

Attorneys Peale and Karen Halverson both were appointed to represent Ivanov because of their experience representing people in cases where capital punishment is possible.

In keeping with the state's death penalty law, 1 of the first steps for defense attorneys is to present prosecutors with information that may merit leniency.

In court papers, Peale recounted meeting with Roe to seek additional time to present evidence. The prosecutor stood firm on his deadline.

The defense team "has set about to learn as much as possible about who Allen Ivanov is now, who he was on July 30, who he was before the incident and how he got to be who he was on that day," the attorney wrote.

They've traveled to the East Coast to meet with Ivanov's business partners in a computer game business. They've spoken to his family and his friends. Many others who knew Ivanov and the victims do not want to talk with investigators, Peale wrote. The defense also learned that the school district will not allow Ivanov's former teachers to be interviewed. The defense doesn't have time to issue subpoenas by Roe's deadline, Peale wrote.

Peale and Halverson broached the possibility of speaking with the victims’ families but Roe "rejected all suggestions." He agreed, Peale said, to pass along their findings and expressions of sorrow.

The defense also has arranged for Ivanov to undergo a battery of tests focusing on his neurological development and mental health.

"We are still mining information. Allen's life story is complex. It is filled with subtle clues," Peale wrote.

Among other things, they've learned that both of Ivanov's parents are immigrants from the former Soviet Union. His father was from Moscow. His mother lived there, too, as well as in Azerbaijan, before moving to the U.S.

Ivanov had learning problems and displayed "peculiar behaviors" as a child, the lawyer wrote. He described him as an "underachiever" in school, except for math. People have described Ivanov as "consumed with image," compulsive and controlling.

As a teen he reportedly would "shut down" and make suicidal threats, his family reported. At his mother's urging he underwent a mental health evaluation in November 2014, but didn't follow through with suggested therapy. His mental instability was pronounced enough that those around him, including Bui, discussed on social media how best to help, Peale wrote.

Preliminary testing also shows that Ivanov's brain has not developed "beyond an equivalent age of 18," the attorney wrote. That's an issue because the death penalty can't be sought for juveniles.

The attorney said he knows Roe will give weight to the recommendation of those who lost loved ones in the gunfire.

"The defense does not lose sight of the loss to the families of the victims and survivors. The defense job is more specific and isolated. The defense must focus on Allen," Peale wrote.

(source: The Herald)


A plea for mercy: Meeropol brothers call on Obama to exonerate their mother, Ethel Rosenberg, who was executed in 1953 for being a spy

On June 14, 1953, Robert and Michael Meeropol, 6 and 10 at the time, delivered a letter to a guard at the White House gates asking then-President Dwight D. Eisenhower to spare their parents, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, who were convicted for conspiracy to commit espionage and awaiting execution.

"Please let my mommy and daddy go and not let anything happen to them," Michael wrote to Eisenhower. "If they come home Robby and I will be very happy, we will thank you very much."

Michael said he remembers the day clearly, the guard knew he was coming and smiled when Michael handed him the letter. His grandparents and brother Robert stood by his side.

That day, approximately 6,800 people marched through Washington to pressure the president into granting clemency for the convicted spies, according the FBI website.

Signs read "Show the world America is merciful," "New evidence shows perjury," and "Mr. President: 'Please send my mommy and daddy home' Michael Rosenberg."

The pleas did not save their parents. The Rosenbergs were electrocuted 5 days later.

The Rosenbergs were convicted of passing secrets about the atomic bomb to the Soviet Union. However, the Meeropol brothers say their mother was not a spy. The charges against Ethel and the threat of the death penalty, according to Robert, were meant to intimidate Julius into cooperating.

After their parents' death, Robert and Michael took the adoptive parents' surname of Meeropol. Robert, 69, now lives in Easthampton and Michael, 73, lives in New York.

On Thursday, the Meeropol brothers visited the White House gates again, this time to publicly and symbolically deliver a letter and package of supporting documents to President Barack Obama, calling on him to issue a proclamation exonerating their mother.

"What we're asking for is a presidential statement that in effect nullifies the guilty verdict and states that her execution was wrong," Robert said during a live Facebook feed from outside the White House.

Together, the brothers re-enacted the visit they made 63 years ago. But this time, the gates around the White House were more secure and the brothers were told they could not hand deliver a letter. The Meeropols said the packet has been sent through mail as well.

"The important thing is we symbolically did this to replicate what was done in 1953," Michael said.

A lifelong mission

The Meeropol brothers spent about 40 years researching their parents' case. In 2008, grand jury documents from the Rosenberg trial were released - excluding the testimony of a chief prosecution witness, Ethel Rosenberg's brother, David Greenglass.

Greenglass's testimony was made public in 2015, about a year after his death. It was key evidence. At the trial, Greenglass contradicted his sworn grand jury testimony. At the trial, he described Ethel at secret meetings and that he saw his sister typing up handwritten notes. Greenglass's grand jury testimony, however, makes no mention of Ethel's presence at secret meetings, according to the Meeropols.

Decades later, Greenglass admitted that his testimony that led to his sister's conviction and execution was a lie, according to the Meeropols.

"The evidence about our mother is so clear that there is virtually no argument about it," Michael said.

But the Meeropol's said, "There is no question that the U.S. government - fueled by the hysteria of McCarthyism - encouraged false testimony and wrongly killed our parents."

On Wednesday, Congressman Jim McGovern sent a letter urging Obama to re-examine the case and determine if the conviction and execution of Ethel was fundamentally flawed.

"A significant body of evidence - including U.S. government files, grand jury testimony and other 3rd-party sources - now suggests that Ethel was not a spy, and that the government knew this at the time of her prosecution," McGovern wrote. "Moreover, this evidence indicates that Ethel was prosecuted not because of her own culpability but as a 'lever' to put pressure on her husband, Julius, to cooperate with the government."

Within the past year, more than 40,000 people signed the petition to exonerate Ethel Rosenberg. Among the notable political activists who have signed the petition are Noam Chomsky, Michael Moore, Angela Davis and Ed Asner.

Michael Moore posted a letter to Obama on his Facebook page. "Mr. President, it is now time to right this wrong. It is time to exonerate Ethel Rosenberg," he wrote.

A petition through the White House government website requires 100,000 signatures to be collected within 30 days for a response. Considering the Rosenberg case was over 6 decades ago, the Meeropol brothers decided to take a different route and launched a petition on the Rosenberg Fund for Children website, an Easthampton organization founded by Robert in 1990 to help children of targeted activists.

Throughout the month of December, the Meeropol brothers plan to continue to raise questions about their mother's case and gather more signatures.

"Since we can't being her back to life, there could be nothing more satisfying for us than to have the government acknowledge that this shouldn't have happened," Robert said in front of the White House during the live Facebook feed.

(source: Daily Hampshire Gazette)


Why the death penalty is not dead yet

Battered with bad publicity in recent years, the death penalty's public support has declined. But earlier this month when voters in Nebraska, Oklahoma and California had their say, they voted to retain and even expand it, making clear that the controversial punishment is far from finished.

But even while public support for the death penalty remains in place, the political ground underneath that support has shifted in important ways. In years past, the issue split clearly along left/right political cleavages, with conservatives favoring and liberals opposed.

Today, those fault lines are much less clear, and a bit less coherent. California, for example, a consistently blue state, embraced the death penalty in 2 November ballot propositions.

The shifting ground is also apparent in deep red Utah, which in 2015 approved a law bringing back the firing squad. Then a year later, in 2016, a bill that would have abolished the death penalty altogether passed the Senate and came within a floor vote in the House of going to the governor's desk.

Had that bill been passed and signed, Utah might have found itself in a position similar to Nebraska, where heavily Republican voters earlier this month rebuked a heavily Republican state Legislature by reinstating the death penalty.

In 2015, the Nebraska Legislature voted to abolish the death penalty and then overrode the veto of Republican Gov. Pete Ricketts. In Nebraska's single legislative house, 35 of its 49 members are currently Republican.

In what became an inter-party squabble, Republican Gov. Ricketts became a driving force in the ballot initiative to overturn the death penalty abolition in November of this year, donating $300,000 of his own to the cause.

In short, death penalty opponents, though discouraged by election results this year, may have more growth potential at the political right and center than is apparent at first glance. Only time will tell if those seeds bear fruit.

Strange alignments

Conservative intramural squabbles on the death penalty reflect growing skepticism about trust in government power among some conservative thought leaders, particularly the tea party wing of the party.

No matter how much time passes, certain things about parenting remain the same. Others, however, don't. Let's explore ways parenting is different today than half a century ago.

In 2015, conservative columnist George Will, though not a tea partier, announced his opposition to the death penalty. At the same time, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Indiana) has been an outspoken opponent of open-ended domestic surveillance programs, and Utah's Sen. Mike Lee has been been a leading advocate of reducing mandatory minimum sentences, even partnering with liberal Democrats on this issue. Both Lee and Paul are considered children of the tea party movement.

Meanwhile, in deep blue California, the voters are not ready to let go. Golden State voters went 62 % for Hillary Clinton while also voting to legalize marijuana and regulate gun magazines. But on the same ballot they easily rejected a measure to eliminate the death penalty, while narrowly endorsing one that would speed up executions by limiting appeals.

Oklahoma voters also weighed in on Nov. 8, using a constitutional amendment to remove the death penalty from the judiciary's reach. Oklahoma had been a flashpoint of controversy in 2014 after a gruesome botched lethal injection.

An unusual spike

Since 2014, anti death-penalty advocates had felt it was only a matter of time before the opinion and policy shifted in their favor, as they rode a wave of publicity over exonerations on death row and controversies about humane lethal injection drugs.

In 2015, the Deseret News noted that "public support for the death penalty has been on a steady downward curve since it reached a high of nearly 80 % of Americans supporting it in 1994, according to Pew Research Center data. Today, 55 % support capital punishment, Pew found, with large variations in ethnic groups. Blacks and Latinos are much more likely to oppose it."

But looking at the larger picture over time, it seems that choosing 1994 as a starting point might muddle the picture.

According to Gallup, 60 % of Americans today support the death penalty, the exact same percentage that supported it in 1937. In between, there have been ups and downs, ranging from a low of 42 in 1966 to a high of 80 % in 1994.

The year 1994 was also very near the peak of violent crime in America. Violent crime rates began climbing sharply in the late 1960s and continued to push upwards, cresting in the mid-1990s before beginning a sharp downward descent that brought them down today to levels not seen since 1960.

Public opinion polls seem to clearly follow crime over that time period, with support for the death penalty spiking just after crime rises, then falling gradually as crime falls.

If this link between violent crime and public opinion on the death penalty is accurate, then the 60 % level of death penalty support today may not be the result of a downward slide that is destined to continue. The drop may be, rather, the ebbing of an unusual dual spike upward and back down to more normal levels. Confidence that this slide will continue may be misplaced.

Possible openings

Digging a little deeper, the Gallup data yields some interesting insights into how death penalty opponents might unpack the issue to their advantage.

Since 1985, in addition to asking about support for capital punishment, Gallup has asked poll takers if they would endorse life in prison with "absolutely no possibility of parole" as an alternative to the death penalty.

Given that option, respondents in 1997 - near the peak of the crime wave - chose the death penalty by 61 to 29, compared with 80 % who chose the death penalty in the question that did not mention other options.

By 2014, a much more narrow 50-45 were in favor of the death penalty when offered the alternative, compared with 60 % who supported the death penalty when not offered the alternative. This indicates slippage across the board, but it also suggests openings to reframe the issue by offering alternatives.

One key question is whether people see the death penalty as a deterrent to violent crime. The shifts over time on this are quite striking. In 1985, 62 % said yes, it was a deterrent, but supportive responses dropped steadily and by 2011, the most recent year Gallup asked the question, just 32 % saw the threat of punishment by death as a deterrent.

In an open-ended question about why voters supported the death penalty, 50 % in 1991 chose some variation of "the punishment fits the crime," but that number had dropped to 35 % by 2014.

Explanations for supporting the death penalty, which had long focused on deterrence and retribution, are now much more scattered, with no dominant answers. These changes suggest the public may have become a little unclear on its reasoning, and thus more open to persuasion.

Another opening may lie in attitudes toward false convictions. Gallup only records answers on this in 2003 and 2005. In 2005, 57 % of respondents estimated false conviction rates at between 1 and 5 %.

No one knows the true number of false murder convictions, as the Deseret News has noted previously, with estimates varying from a low of .33 % to a high of between 3 and 5 %, estimates very much in line with public perception.

It is worth noting that the Gallup survey showed few if any respondents believing that false convictions never happen. That means nearly all death penalty supporters apparently accept at least some small risk that some people will be falsely convicted and executed.

The challenge for death penalty opponents is to replace that vague statistical awareness of possible innocence with real human faces.

In Utah, such an effort is underway. Last week, Utah Conservatives Concerned about the Death Penalty hosted a forum on the death penalty featuring Ray Krone, a wrongly convicted Arizona man who sat on death row for 10 years before being exonerated through DNA evidence.

For now, polls show the traditional American consensus in support of the death penalty appears to be holding near its historic norms. But openings may exist to disrupt it from both ends of the political spectrum, and with different avenues of persuasion.

(source: Deseret News)


Jeff Sessions Didn't Like How The Supreme Court Spared 'Retarded' People From Execution----Donald Trump's pick for attorney general said in 2002 that federal judges shouldn't read too much into the Constitution.

This week, the Supreme Court weighed the proper standard states must use to determine whether a capital defendant has an intellectual disability that would prevent a death sentence.

In a landmark 2002 case, the court ruled that the Constitution bars the execution of "mentally retarded offenders," but left open the question of how a state might assess the disability. The new case, Moore v. Texas, aims to fill some of that void in the law.

In the days that followed that 2002 ruling, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) - whom President-elect Donald Trump has picked for attorney general - said the Supreme Court's death penalty decision left him "very troubled."

"The court seemed to say that they had divined, somehow, that the American people had evolved in their thinking and, therefore, the laws their legislatures had passed were not valid anymore," Sessions said during an unrelated debate on the Senate floor decrying a Pledge of Allegiance ruling. "That they could not execute people who were retarded."

What the Alabama senator appeared to critique here is an old constitutional precedent, first announced by Chief Justice Earl Warren in 1958, that the Constitution's prohibition against "cruel and unusual" punishment should reflect society's progress. The court's 2002 ruling relied on this precedent.

"The basic concept underlying the Eighth Amendment is nothing less than the dignity of man," Warren wrote in Trop v. Dulles. "The Amendment must draw its meaning from the evolving standards of decency that mark the progress of a maturing society."

To Sessions, this was not a theory that should guide the Supreme Court's decision-making.

"However you feel about that," he continued in that same Senate session, "that is a dangerous philosophy, but it is a philosophy afoot in America today. It is a philosophy, I think, that is dangerous to liberty. If you care about the Constitution ... you will enforce it, the good and bad parts."

To be sure, the Eighth Amendment says nothing about the death penalty, and Sessions isn't alone in his view that the amendment shouldn't be interpreted through the lens of society's evolution. Just last year, in a lethal injection case, the late Justice Antonin Scalia faulted the 1958 decision and suggested it should be overruled.

The death penalty itself remains constitutional, and Sessions, if confirmed as attorney general, won't have much say in what happens to capital punishment in the courts. His input, like that of Attorney General Loretta Lynch in the case of accused South Carolina church gunman Dylann Roof, would be limited to recommending the ultimate punishment in individual federal prosecutions.

Be that as it may, Sessions' remarks in 2002 offer a window into the subject - if not into how he feels the courts should interpret America's founding document.

"The way to erode the power of the Constitution to protect our liberties is to start playing around with the meaning of words, just redefining those words," Sessions said. "And they come to mean whatever a judge says they do. That is a particularly pernicious thing because, you see, judges are not accountable. Federal judges are not accountable to the public. They are given a lifetime appointment."

Sessions himself was denied appointment to the federal bench in 1986.

(source: Cristian Farias; Legal Affairs Reporter, The Huffington Post)


Most Favor Death Penalty for Charleston Church Shooter

Jury selection is underway in the federal trial of Dylann Roof who stands accused of the shooting deaths of a pastor and 8 parishioners in a black Charleston, South Carolina church last year. Most Americans believe Roof deserves the death penalty if found guilty.

A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone and online survey finds that 57% of American Adults think the Charleston shooting suspect should be sentenced to death if convicted. Twenty-one percent (21%) disagree, but another 23% are not sure.

The national survey of 1,000 American Adults was conducted on November 28-29, 2016 by Rasmussen Reports. The margin of sampling error is +/- 3 % points with a 95% level of confidence. Field work for all Rasmussen Reports surveys is conducted by Pulse Opinion Research, LLC. See methodology.

(source: Rasmussen Reports)


Accused Charleston church shooter files objection to federal trial proceedings----Judge calls it 'a tactic for delay'

The man facing 33 charges and a possible death penalty in the shooting deaths of nine people at a downtown Charleston church filed a legal objection to the federal case Thursday.

Dylann Storm Roof, 22, is charged in the June 17, 2015 Emanuel AME Church shooting that claimed the lived of 9 parishioners after a Bible study.

In a filing dated Thursday, Roof, through court-appointed standby counsel, objected the proceedings as violating his Eighth Amendment right to "a reliable determination of his culpability and sentence in a capital case," because of the court's refusal to authorize "reasonable, limited assistance he has requested from standby counsel."

The filing stated Roof's request to represent himself, granted by U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel, is not a "tactic" designed to gain any kind of advantage in the trial and cited Gergel's own judicial opinion filed on Wednesday that states "no facts suggest Defendant's motion is 'a tactic for delay; for disruption for distortion of the system; or for manipulation of the trial process.'"

Roof also argued that in death penalty trials, self-representation is compounded by both the complexity and the stakes a defendant faces. The vast majority of lawyers are not qualified to handle death penalty cases, the filing stated.

For this reason, Roof argued, the Constitution provides "special protections" in capital cases because of the life-or-death stakes, such as special accommodations that would include allowing standby counsel to explain voir dire objections for Roof. Voir dire is a legal term that refers to a preliminary examination of a witness or juror.

The objection stated that the court must balance Roof's Sixth Amendment right to represent himself in the trial with his other Constitutional rights.

"The Court's refusal to permit the defendant to call on standby counsel for assistance works against even that modest aim," the motion stated. "Both the Constitution and the public interest require reconsideration of the Court's approach."

Roof filed an objection to the court proceedings Thursday, arguing the court is not allowing his standby counsel to offer him the level of guidance the Constitution guarantees. It is not clear when the judge will take up that objection.

(source: WYFF news)


'My son is innocent': Chinese man exonerated 21 years after execution

More than 2 decades after her son was executed for rape and murder, Zhang Huanzhi has finally proven his innocence.

China's top court overturned Nie Shubin's conviction Friday, in a landmark case that exposed deep flaws in China's criminal justice system.

"I wanted to tell my son: you're a good person, you're innocent," Zhang told CNN.

Amid emotional scenes in the courtroom, judges ruled that Nie's original trial didn't "obtain enough objective evidence," saying there were serious doubts about the time of death, murder weapon and cause of death.

"The moment the justice announced the verdict, Zhang burst into tears," lawyer Li Shuting said. "Not only her, other people in the courtroom felt emotional too. I almost stood up and applauded but I didn't, I had to comfort Zhang as she was crying so hard."


Another man, Wang Shujin, confessed to the crime that Nie was executed for in 2005 -- 10 years after Nie was executed.

"In this case, the Supreme People's Court changed the original sentence and ruled Nie Shubin is innocent," according to state-run news agency Xinhua.

"As the evidence is not accurate or adequate and nor can it exclude the possibilities of other suspects, it is recommended that the Supreme People's Court retry the case."

The Supreme People's Court had told Nie's mother in June that the case would be reviewed.

"After his death, his mother repeatedly dreamed of him knocking at the window and muttering 'Mom, I'm back'," Li said.

Nie would have been 42 this year. Following his execution his father Nie Xuesheng tried to commit suicide, but survived.

"My son can finally rest in peace," the older Nie told the Beijing Times Friday.

Mother fights for her son

Zhang hopes the government would do whatever it takes to protect other families from the kind of anguish she has suffered.

In July, Zhang told CNN she was very excited about the review.

"I'll visit his grave soon to tell him that mom's efforts all these years weren't in vain -- and justice will prevail in your case," she said.

The court said that Nie's family could ask for compensation from the government.

CNN first met Zhang in her small village in 2011, when the farmer from Hebei Province was still fighting in earnest to clear her son's name, making countless journeys to the provincial capital of Shijiazhuang -- some 320 kilometers (200 miles) southwest of Beijing.

Her refusal to stay quiet appears to have made a difference in this case.

Authorities tried Nie behind closed doors and barred the parents from the courtroom, but Nie told a lawyer hired by his family that he was beaten into a confession on his s6th day in jail.

7 months after he was first detained, the government executed Nie -- without notifying his parents.

After the initial shock, Zhang had to endure more agony to locate her son's remains and deal with a failed suicide attempt and subsequent half-paralysis of her husband, who was devastated by Nie's execution.

Flawed system

For years, it seemed no one would listen, but Zhang later found an unlikely ally in the People's Daily -- the official newspaper of the ruling Communist Party. It ran a scathing commentary in September 2011 that asked: "In a case where someone was clearly wronged, why has it been so difficult to make it right?"

"Rehabilitation means little to the dead, but it means a lot to his surviving family and all other citizens," the paper said. "We can no longer afford to let Nie's case drag on."

Many have viewed Zhang's plight -- and the case involving her only son -- as an egregious example of widespread police torture, deficient due process and lax review of death sentences.

China is the world's most prolific executioner, killing thousands of people last year, according to rights group Amnesty International.

In 2013, China's top court banned the use of torture to extract confession amid widespread concern that it was being used to wrap up cases quickly.

(source: CNN)


EU Confirms Execution Of 3rd Inmate In Belarus In November

The European Union says it has confirmed that Belarus carried out a total of 3 executions during the month of November -- raising the total number of executions in the former Soviet republic during 2016 to 4.

European foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said on December 1 that the EU had confirmed reports by the rights group Amnesty International that death-row inmate Hyanadz Yakavitski had been executed by authorities in Belarus.

Mogherini did not specify when Yakavitski's execution took place. But Amnesty International said on November 30 that Yakavitski was put to death sometime after November 5.

The EU on November 30 said it had confirmed the execution in November of 2 other death row inmates who had been convicted on murder charges -- 28-year-old Ivan Kulesh and 31-year-old Syarhey Khymyaleuski.

A 4th prisoner, Syarhey Ivanou, was executed in Belarus on April 18.

The EU condemned all of the executions, saying the death penalty runs counter to Belarus's stated willingness to engage with the international community.

Amnesty International's campaigner on Belarus, Aisha Jung, says the "sudden and shameful purge" of death-row prisoners in Belarus is "additionally shameful" because executions there "are typically shrouded in secrecy and carried out at a moment's notice."

Amnesty International says the 3 executions in November were carried out with gunshots to the back of the head.

The nongovernmental human rights organization says it also is concerned about the fate of another man on death row in Belarus -- Syarhey Vostrykau.

The EU, Amnesty International, and other human rights organizations have been calling on Minsk to join a moratorium on the death penalty for years.

Before April, an execution had not been carried out under the Belarusian legal system since November 2014.

According to rights groups, more than 400 people have been sentenced to death in Belarus since the early 1990s.

(source: Radio Free Europe//Radio Liberty)


Statement by the High Representative/Vice-President Federica Mogherini on the recent executions in Belarus

Today, we have learnt of yet another execution that has taken place in Belarus, that of Henadz Yakavitski. Earlier this week, the executions of 2 others, Ivan Kulesh and Sergei Khmelevsky, were confirmed, adding to that of Syarhey Iwanov in April.

The upsurge in executions in 2016 is against the commitment, made by Belarusian authorities within the framework of the United Nations, to consider the introduction of a moratorium on the use of the death penalty.

The European Union opposes capital punishment, which fails to act as a deterrent to crime and represents an unacceptable denial of human dignity and integrity.

Steps taken by Belarus to respect universal fundamental freedoms, rule of law and human rights, including on the death penalty, will remain key for the shaping of the EU's future policy towards Belarus.



ODIHR Urged Belarusian Authorities To Impose Moratorium On Death Penalty

The ODIHR OSCE condemned the execution of death sentences in Belarus and called on the authorities to impose an immediate moratorium on their executions. This is stated in the statement of the Director of the Bureau for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) Michael Georg Link, reports.

"Carrying into execution Siarhei Khmialeuski's death sentences, as well as other reports on the execution of death sentences, are a cause for serious concern, as the ongoing death penalty executions in Belarus run counter to the growing international trend towards abolition of this inherently cruel, inhuman and degrading penalty," Link stressed.

"The majority of the OSCE participant-states have already abolished the death penalty, and I urge the Belarusian authorities to introduce a moratorium as a first step towards the complete abolition of the death penalty," the OSCE ODIHR Director said.

The Bureau also recalled that the OSCE participant-states have committed themselves to keep the capital punishment abolition under consideration.

"The secrecy of most of the death penalty executions is cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment of prisoners and their families. And no matter how it is carried out, the death penalty is an unacceptable denial of human dignity," Link stated.

Each year, the ODIHR publishes a report "The Death Penalty in the OSCE Area", containing information on the status of the death penalty in 57 countries - members of the Organization. Belarus and the United States are the only states OSCE members, which support the death penalty in practice.

It is to be recalled that since the beginning of this year 4 convicted have already been executed in Belarus - Ivan Kulesh, Siarhei Khmialeuski, Siarhei Ivanou and Henadz Yakavitski. 3 of them were executed in November this year. Presumably, that all the 3 of "November" condemned men were executed in the same day.

At the moment there is only 1 person in the "death row cell" - Homel resident Siarhei Ostrykau (for the rape and murder of two women).

Belarus is the only country in Europe and the former Soviet Union, which still applies the death penalty. Since the beginning of 1990, more than 400 condemned men have been sentenced to death, for all that time only 1 person's death penalty was commuted to a prison term.

The European Union once again condemned the death penalty in Belarus. The head of EU diplomacy Federica Mogherini also stressed that the issue of the death penalty will shape the EU's policy towards Belarus.

(source: Charter 97)


UK Christians appeal to US Christians: stand against capital punishment

During the just concluded Year of Mercy, Pope Francis called for a moratorium on the death penalty throughout the world, declaring that rendering justice "does not mean seeking punishment for its own sake, but ensuring that the basic purpose of all punishment is the rehabilitation of the offender." He declared that the system of penal justice must allow the guilty party's reinsertion in society, because: "Punishment for its own sake, without room for hope, is a form of torture, not of punishment."

In December the U.N. General Assembly is to vote on the Resolution on a Moratorium on the Use of the Death Penalty. Similar resolutions proposed in previous years have not passed, and it is unlikely that this year's attempt will succeed. Most certainly the moratorium will not be supported by the United States, which is one of only 11 countries in the world to have carried out executions in the last 5 years, according to Amnesty International.

Despite the fact that that the death penalty is irreversible, that it clearly kills innocent people and also that there is no empirical evidence to show that it is an effective deterrent, 31 U.S. states and the federal government still use capital punishment. In Europe only 1 state retains it - Belarus. Three states had referenda on the ballot this November: California voted not only to keep the death penalty but to expedite the court process for it; Nebraska voted to overturn a previous ban on the use of the death penalty; and in Oklahoma voters approved the use of any method of execution that is not banned by the U.S. Constitution.

Especially for Christians, whose faith is centered on Christ's unjust execution, there is surely an obligation to campaign for the abolition of the death penalty which denies the condemned the right to life and the opportunity to reform. It is to be hoped that just as Francis has spoken out against its use, Christians, especially those with public platforms in the United States, will do likewise.

(source: Audrey Wells a member of the management committee of Action by Christians Against Torture in the United Kingdom and coordinates the group's campaigns against the death penalty----National Catholic Reporter)


Seoul Light Performance Calls for Abolishment of Death Penalty

A public performance was held on Wednesday night outside Seoul City Hall, with lighted words such as "abolish death penalty", "life", and "peace" reflecting off the building and the adjacent green space, Seoul City Hall Plaza.

The event was arranged by the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Korea, marking the World Day Against the Death Penalty.

Capital punishment is currently legal in South Korea, and the latest death sentence was handed down to an army sergeant in 2015 (confirmed in 2016 by the supreme court) only disclosed as Lim, for a mass killing spree in 2014 that left 5 people dead.

The punishment, however, has not been enforced in more than 10 years, with the last execution taking place on December 30, 1997.

(source: Korea Bizwire)


8 arrested on treason charges ahead of rally

The Jakarta Police announced on Friday that they had arrested eight people for alleged treason, several hours before the start of a large-scale rally to demand the arrest of Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama in a blasphemy case.

"8 people have been arrested and are undergoing interrogation by the Jakarta Police. We will wait for the interrogation results," National Police spokesman Insp. Gen. Boy Rafli Amar said at National Monument (Monas) Square on Friday morning.

A message circulating among journalists suggests that a number of activists, including musician-cum-politician Ahmad Dhani, retired 2-star Army general Kivlan Zein, former lawmaker Sri Bintang Pamungkas and Rachmawati Soekarnoputri, sister of former president and ruling Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) chairwoman Megawati Soekarnoputri, have been arrested on treason charges.

Boy, however, refused to confirm the information, saying the investigation was currently under way.

Last month, the Jakarta Police issued a circular to remind people that an act of treason could face the death penalty amid a plan by some Islamic conservative organizations to carry out a large-scale rally on Friday to push for the arrest of Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama in a blasphemy case.

"In expressing one's thought in public, it is illegal to carry out [an act that will jeopardize] the nation's security such as treason against the president or the vice president," the circular stated, which was signed by Jakarta Police chief Insp. Gen. Mochammad Iriawan.

"[The person responsible for] the act could be sentenced to death or with a life sentence," the circular added.

(source: The Jakarta Post)


Capital punishment: A thin line between life and death

For 28 years, Anthony Ray Hinton woke up every day in a 5ft by 7 ft death cell. From that cramped space, he saw 54 men being led to the execution chamber, where electrocution put an end to their lives. The next day the air would be thick with the smell of burnt human flesh. Awaiting your death in prison is a horrible fate for anyone, but having to survive in those circumstances while you're innocent, like Hinton, is unimaginably harsh and cruel. According to the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI), who assisted Hinton in proving his innocence and securing his release, 152 people have thus far been wrongfully convicted to death.

Polls in this country consistently reveal a majority of South Africans who are in favour of the reinstatement of capital punishment. Last week, the report Capital Punishment in South Africa, by the Institute of Race Relations (IRR), dealt with that question. It looked into the pros and cons of reinstating capital punishment. South Africa executed approximately 4,000 people from the introduction of the sentence in 1910 to 1995, when the Constitutional Court abolished capital punishment in its Makhanyane ruling. Judges in that case referenced the African principle of Ubuntu and pointed out that the law should not sanction vengeance.

Despite that ruling, many still believe the death penalty has a place on our criminal law books. One of the authors of the report, Graham Macintosh, explained: "Tony Leon and Mmusi Maimane from DA have said that capital punishment is an option for certain categories of crimes. They believe that a death sentence should be open to the courts both because of our very high levels of violent crime, including the killing of policemen, but also because communities are 'privatising' the death penalty and killing (lynching and necklacing) criminals. A death sentence would give South Africans more confidence in our justice system and make 'private' executions less prevalent."

However, the deadly margin of error in death penalty cases, which the miscarriage of justice in Hinton's case points to, should come as a salutary warning to those wanting to reinstate capital punishment in SA.

Escaping reality on death row

"I married 3 beautiful women. Halle Berry was my first love, we had an amazing relationship. But our union ended and we divorced. And then I remarried, to another beautiful woman: Sandra Bullock. What a lady. My third and last marriage was to the fabulous Kim Kardashian. Do you know what she said to me when she came home every day? 'Baby, what would you like for dinner tonight?'"

Anthony Ray Hinton, a tall man with a disarming smile and a Southern drawl, married the celebrities from the confines of his single cell on death row in Holman Prison, Alabama (US). He also travelled the world and he drank tea with the queen of England who told Hinton she preferred her tea with a "spot of lemon".

"You can't survive on death row without escaping reality. The reason I didn't kill myself was because of my imagination," says the 59-year-old Hinton who in 1985 was arrested and convicted for a double murder he never committed.

Hinton lives in the same house where one sunny day, 31 years ago, he was mowing the lawn. 2 white police officers appeared in the driveway. "They asked me if I was Anthony Ray Hinton. When I confirmed they said they were there to arrest me. For what? I said, before they handcuffed me," Hinton remembers.

It's a sunny day when I visit him, birds twitter in the garden, which borders on woody undulating fields. Quinton, the small village close to Birmingham where Hinton lives, is remote and rural. The only traffic is a pick-up truck and a tractor that pass by on the dirt road.

The 2 white cops took the then 29- year-old Hinton, the last-born son in a family of 10 kids, to the police station. "In the car on the way there they asked me if my mother owned a gun. I told them that my mom did indeed keep an old pistol under her mattress."

What Hinton didn't know at the time was that the police were desperate to solve 3 armed robberies on fast-food restaurants in Birmingham. 2 white men had been killed but the third had survived the attack. He told the police that a light-skinned black man with a beard had committed the robbery. "I'm a light-skinned black man with a beard and someone must have mentioned my name," Hinton says. "There was no further evidence: no fingerprints, no eyewitnesses. Nothing."

Guns and bullets

During the trial, his mother's pistol was presented as evidence. The prosecutor in the case, Bob McGregor, who died in 2010, wrote in his self-published memoir, Whiskey Bent and Hell Bound, that Hinton was "evil personified", a "rat bastard" and "a sociopath with a glare as steady and cold as the polar ice".

McGregor had a ballistics expert testify before court that the bullets found at the crime scene matched the Hinton's mother's gun. "I knew he was lying," Hinton recalls.

It took 3 decades before that lie - the only tangible proof in the case - was debunked, which set in motion Hinton's release.

His Legal Aid lawyer did not contest the evidence and casually disregarded Hinton's claim to innocence by saying, "Y'all always say you're innocent." When an entirely white jury found him guilty of double homicide and attempted murder, everyone knew what the sentence would be.

"The 1st thing that crossed my mind when the judge sentenced me to death was: what about my mother, how can anyone explain to her that the state of Alabama will kill her baby?"

Hinton couldn't eat anything during his first few days on the 'row'. "I had entered hell. My cell was 5 by 7 feet. I didn't breathe any fresh air or get any exercise for weeks. There was concrete everywhere I looked."

As he showed me around his house, Hinton mentioned that he sleeps on his huge king-sized bed with his knees drawn up to his chest. "I'm a tall guy and I couldn't stretch out on my prison bed. So I got used to sleeping in a foetal position. I still can't stretch out."

After a while, death row became his home and his fellow inmates were like family. "I always tried to make others laugh. Having a sense of humour on death row is incredibly important."

During his 28-year stay on death row, Hinton witnessed 54 executions.

"The execution chamber was 30 feet from my cell. Death row inmates used to be killed through electrocution. What was sad is that after they executed this person, I would smell burned flesh. The electric currents literally set the body on fire and we would smell it the next morning and complain."


Hinton hit rock bottom when his mother died in 2002. "She was the love of my life. When she passed, I also wanted to die. I didn't see why I should continue to live." The reason he pulled through that difficult phase is Lester Bailey, a middle-aged man with a pot belly who visits his best friend during the interview. Every month, for 30 years, Bailey would drive about 300 kilometres to visit his childhood friend in jail. After his mother passed on, Bailey was his only visitor. His best friend now lives down the road and the men see each nearly every day.

Hinton experienced a profound spiritual turning point in his life during his lengthy stay on death row. "Right after my conviction I was filled with hate, against McGregor, the police and the system. But slowly I arrived at the realisation that that hate would destroy me and no one else. It was a process that took years, but in the end I found forgiveness in my heart. I made a choice to enjoy the life God had given me."

In 1995, Hinton was struggling to find a lawyer who believed in his innocence. Until he saw Bryan Stevenson on TV. "I knew immediately: I need this guy. I wrote him a letter. Stevenson and his organisation, the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI), literally saved my life."

Stevenson was convinced of Hinton's innocence and the first thing he did was arrange for an independent ballistics expert who analysed the bullets and the gun. Eventually, the case came before the Supreme Court of Appeal and that institution decided, based on the lack of any ballistic evidence, that Hinton was entitled to a retrial.

Attempts to thwart and delay his release were overcome and on April 1, 2015 Hinton was finally a free man. "'The sun is shining,' that's the 1st thing I said as I left the prison."

Police investigators desperate to solve a crime, an overzealous prosecutor with tunnel vision and a criminal justice system with an obvious racial bias contributed to Hinton's wrongful conviction. In South Africa, it is not much different. The IRR concluded that the most important reason not to introduce the death penalty is the many errors that are made in the criminal justice system. It is a well-known fact, documented by, among others, the Wits Justice Project that the South African police use torture to extract confessions from suspects. The IRR pointed out that in 2014/2015 the Independent Police Investigating Directorate (IPID) recorded 3,856 complaints of assault or torture against the police. But only 19 criminal officers were convicted in that same year.

In the US, the increasing number of wrongful death penalty convictions has led to waning support for capital punishment. A Pew research poll revealed that only 49 % of Americans are in favour of the death penalty for murders, while 42 % oppose it, an all-time low.

(source: Ruth Hopkins of the Wits Justice Project was awarded the Sylvester Stein Fellowship and used it to conduct research in the United States and to compare criminal justice issues in South Africa and the US, analysing how race, demographics and the unequal distribution of wealth affects the systems in both nations----Daily Maverick)

DECEMBER 1, 2016:


Cities for Life event gives voice to those opposed to the death penalty

More than 60 people shrugged off the threat of rain showers Wednesday night when they gathered outside at the Shrine at the Mission Nombre de Dios to say they wanted to see an end to the death penalty.

Those who came heard from a number of speakers, including Deacon Jason Roy who ministers daily to some of the 386 men and women currently sitting on Florida's death row.

Others included Darlene Farah, who has been fighting with the 4th Judicial Circuit State Attorney's Office, urging prosecutors there not to seek the death penalty in the case against the man accused of her daughter's 2013 murder.

Herman Lindsey, who was sentenced to death in 2006 and exonerated in 2009, told his story, as did Deborah Jackson, whose husband, Kim Jackson, is currently sitting on death row.

Through the differing perspectives offered, a number of messages emerged including the assertion that the death penalty hurts far more people than it helps.

"The death penalty creates more victims," Farah told those gathered in front of the podium.

She told a tale of the hurt and pain that her family has gone through after her daughter's death and the realization that, if the death penalty is secured in the case against the man accused of her murder, they will be forced to relive it for decades to come as the case goes through the appeals process.

It was that appeals process that saved Lindsey, who called himself the Florida's "23rd death row survivor."

His case, he said, was the 1st in the state's history to be thrown out with a unanimous decision from the Florida Supreme Court, who ruled that the evidence presented at his trial did not support a conviction.

After his conviction, Lindsey told those gathered that he "lost all faith," but eventually came to the conclusion that, after his exoneration, he had to fight to end the death penalty.

"God takes us through things so he can use us in a certain way," he said.

The 1-hour event, co-hosted by the the Catholic Diocese of St. Augustine and Equal Justice USA, was called Cities for Life. It also featured music from the St. Augustine Chamber Singers, who sang during a candle lighting ceremony where those in attendance lit 386 candles representing each death row inmate.

Cities for Life is an effort that was started 15 years ago by the Rome-based Sant'Egidio Community as a movement to end the death penalty. Since it began, more than 2,000 cities throughout the world have declared themselves against executions, according to diocese spokeswoman Kathleen Bagg.

While local cities haven't signed on, Bagg said parishioners started organizing the event locally last year. That 1st event was smaller than Wednesday evening's, but, Bagg said, the anti-death penalty cause has grown in significance here since the Rev. Rene Robert, a local priest known for his opposition to the death penalty, was found shot to death in Georgia earlier this year.

Robert's body was found in April in a remote area of Burke County, Georgia, days after he was reported missing by friends and family. Authorities say he was killed there by 28-year-old Steven James Murray, a man with an extensive criminal record, who, it is believed, met Robert through the priest's active ministry devoted to serving the less fortunate, including those who had spent time in prison and jail.

Shortly after Murray was arrested and charged, Georgia district attorney Ashley Wright filed her intent to seek the death penalty in the case against him.

That troubled some who knew of Robert's beliefs.

The issue was further compounded, at least for some, when a signed and notarized document was found in Robert's file at the diocese that left virtually no doubt as to his wishes should he be killed. The Declaration of Life, as it is titled, said that if he were ever to fall victim to a violent crime, he would not want the death penalty sought against the person convicted of the crime.

That discovery prompted letters from the Most Rev. Felipe J. Estevez, bishop of St. Augustine, to the editor of The Record and to Wright herself, calling for an end to the "cycle of violence" perpetuated by the use of the death penalty.

Wright told The Record in a subsequent interview that such letters or even the decalration itself held no sway over her.

"My oath actually prohibits me from making decisions based on what the community demands or rejects," she said.

The Rev. John Gillespie, pastor at San Sebastian Church, read a portion of his friend's declaration Wednesday night.

As the ceremony drew to a close and the wind began extinguishing the candles behind him, Gillespie asked those who came to consider adding their signature to a petition asking Wright to revisit her decision to seek the death penalty in the case against Murray.

"I don't think he wants it," Gillespie said of Robert. "I do not want it. And I hope you agree."

(source: St. Augustine Record)


Take Action! - Man Faces Execution After Grossly Unfair Trial (Saudi Arabia: UA 270/16)

A Shi'a man is at risk of execution in Saudi Arabia after he exhausted all his appeals. He was sentenced to death after a grossly unfair trial. He claims he was tortured into "confessing", but his allegation has not been properly investigated.

Yussuf Ali al-Mushaikass, 42, was sentenced to death on 6 January by the Specialized Criminal Court (SCC) in Riyadh, the capital, for offences that included "armed rebellion against the ruler", "destabilizing security and stirring sedition by joining a terrorist group" and "participating in riots". Following his appeal on 1 February his legal representative learned that the sentence had been upheld by both the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court. The case was later sent to the Ministry of Interior on 20 April raising fears that the sentence will be ratified by the King and Yussuf al-Mushaikhass might be executed at any time.

According to the verdict the SCC seems to have based its decision on signed "confessions" which Yussuf al-Mushaikhass claims were extracted under torture and other ill-treatment. However, the court did not fully investigate such claims. During the first three months of his incommunicado detention he was held in solitary confinement and interrogated repeatedly. He told the court that he was: subjected to sleep deprivation; hung from the ceiling and beaten with a bamboo cane and electrical cable on different parts of his body; and, handcuffed and forced to lay on the ground while he was severely beaten by 4 officers from the General Directorate of Investigation (GDI). Under international law, statements elicited as a result of torture, ill-treatment or other forms of coercion must be excluded from evidence in trial proceedings.

Yussuf al-Mushaikhass was arrested on 26 February 2014 in Ras Tanura City and taken to the GDI prison in Dammam, both in the Eastern Province. He was placed in solitary confinement and denied access to his legal representation throughout his interrogations. He is still detained in the same prison.


Write a letter, send an email, call, fax or tweet:

-- Urging the Saudi Arabian authorities to quash the conviction and death sentence against Yussuf Ali al-Mushaikass, given grave concerns about the fairness of the trial, and, if there is sufficient admissible evidence against him, to retry him in line with international fair trial standards without recourse to the death penalty;

-- Calling on them to order a prompt, impartial, independent and effective investigation into his allegation of torture and other ill-treatment;

-- Urging them to immediately establish an official moratorium on executions with a view to abolishing the death penalty in Saudi Arabia.

Contact these 2 officials by 11 January, 2017: King and Prime Minister

His Majesty Salman bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud

The Custodian of the two Holy Mosques

Office of His Majesty the King

Royal Court, Riyadh

Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

Fax: (via Ministry of the Interior)

+966 11 403 3125 (please keep trying)

Twitter: @KingSalman

Salutation: Your Majesty


Ambassador Abdullah bin Fisal

Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia

601 New Hampshire Ave. NW

Washington DC 20037

Fax: 1 202 944 5983 -- Phone: 1 202 342 3800


Salutation: Dear Ambassador

(source: Amnesty International USA)


World is moving towards abolition of death penalty: Gopalkrishna Gandhi

140 of 195 countries have abolished the death penalty but it still looms large over the world as the nations that have retained it -- including India -- account for the bulk of the global population, former diplomat and Governor Gopalkrishna Gandhi says, urging that the punishment be removed from the statute.

"The world is moving towards the abolition of death penalty... but the countries that have retained this penalty are those which have the largest populations. So, the majority of the world is still under the death penalty," Mahatma Gandhi's grandson, a former Bengal Governor, told IANS in an interview ahead of the formal release of his book, "Abolishing the Death Penalty: Why India Should Say No to Capital Punishment" (Aleph).

"It is curious that the countries that have retained death penalty are those which have a certain punishment mentality like USA, China, Saudi Arabia, Iran, North Korea and Pakistan. So we are in the company of China, Saudi Arabia, Iran, North Korea and Pakistan. What are our compulsions? Why are we retaining it?"

"Some argue that terrorism is the reason. Death penalty does not deter murder. Does death penalty deter terror? We cannot say. But terror has continued. The bizarre thing about terrorism is that the terrorists are prepared to die in the act of terror itself. They are in a fitoor (craze), in which maut (death) is regarded as a shahadat (martyrdom). So will it deter them?" asked Gandhi, who has served as Secretary to President K.R. Narayanan and as High Commissioner to South Africa and Sri Lanka.

Gandhi's book asks fundamental questions about the ultimate legal punishment awarded to those accused of major crimes and is set to release on December 7.

"My emphasis is not just on the death penalty but on the entire mentality of punishment, which includes the criminal investigation system where violence is a known fact. Many of those under trial may or may not be innocent, but most of them are subjected to violence. So my book is about the Indian attitude to punishment.

"Human evolution is towards the abolition of death penalty. But the states which have given up on death penalty are also the states which are somewhat reforming their criminal investigation system. In India there has been a lot of reforms -- our jails today are not what they were 50 years ago, certainly not what they were in medieval times, when anybody who was taken in prison was bound to be beaten to pulp if not to death -- we are not in medieval times, we live in a modern and civilised world," he added.

In December 2007, India voted against a United Nations General Assembly resolution calling for a moratorium on the death penalty. It reitereated its stance in 2012 and 2014, and again as recently as November 21, 2016.

"Our jails are now called correctional homes and there have been a lot of improvement in our criminal investigation system. But we are still keeping the death penalty because the state does not want to lose its power over life. The state thinks of itself as a kind of demigod, which it is not," he said.

"Now death penalty in India is awarded in the rarest of rare case and it is almost exclusively for terror activities. The last Law Commission, headed by Justice A.P. Shah, said that death penalty should be awarded only for acts against the state. The death penalty is the ultimate form of torture.

"Even if the society is in favour of severe punishment and is shutting its eyes to torture, does it mean that the state should also do that? Or, should the state be one step ahead of the society? Should the state only reflect what the society wants or should it lead? I think the state should lead. Our constitution is not a mirror; it is a benchmark that inspires all kinds of development, particularly moral development," Gandhi contended.

Through in-depth analysis, persuasive argument and the marshalling of the considered opinion of jurists, human rights activists, scholars and criminologists, among others, his book argues that the death penalty should be abolished with immediate effect in India.

"Today a majority of Indians, in my opinion, are not against death penalty. It does not mean that we are a blood-thirsty society, no we are not. We are a very peace-loving society.

"There has not been much of a discourse on death penalty at the public level, which is why I think people should talk about and deliberate on the issue. This is not going to happen very fast but we are moving towards abolition," Gandhi hoped.



APHR Condemns Philippine Plans to Reintroduce Death Penalty

Plans to reintroduce the death penalty in the Philippines have been met with condemnation by pro-human rights lawmakers across the region over concerns the archipelago will take another step back in human rights and legal reforms.

Asean Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR) issued a statement on Thursday (01/12) calling on Philippine legislators and President Rodrigo Duterte to ditch controversial plans to bring back the death penalty 10 years after it was abolished in 2006, amid a deadly war on drugs which has seen up to 5,000 killed.

"As citizens of Asean, we have looked to the Philippines as a regional leader in the global movement to abolish the death penalty since its decision to do so in 2006," APHR chairman and Malaysian lawmaker Charles Santiago said in the statement.

"Thus, it would be an incredible setback to our collective struggle if the Philippines were to take the dramatic step backward of reinstating the death penalty. The move would not only indicate a rejection of hard-fought progress, but would cause other Asean nations to question the Philippines' commitment to the full gamut of international treaties it has signed."

The bill, tabled earlier this week, enjoys widespread support among Philippine lawmakers, with House Speaker Pantaleon "Bebot" Alvarez "confident" the bill will pass before Christmas, according to CNN Philippines.

The bill targets criminals convicted of "heinous crimes" including rape, terrorism, murder and drug trafficking, although some advocates are pushing for the legislation to include crimes as diverse as piracy, treason and arson.

"We remind Philippine officials that human rights were never a Western concept and that they are rooted in the anti-colonial struggles of developing countries," APHR vice chairwoman Mu Sochua, a member of the Cambodian National Assembly, said in the statement.

(source: Jakarta Globe)


Lagos state legalises death sentence for kidnappers

On November 30, 2016, the Lagos State House of Assembly proposed a bill legalising the death sentence for kidnappers if their victims die in captivity. The bill awaits approval from Mr Akinwunmi Ambode, the Governor of Lagos state. Above all, the essence of this bill is to ensure zero tolerance for kidnapping.

Disturbed by the escalating cases of kidnapping in Lagos, Chairman of the House Committee on Judiciary, Petitions, Human Rights and Lagos State Independent Electoral Commission (LASIEC), Mrs Adefunmilayo Tejuosho, presented the bill for a law to prohibit of the act of kidnapping.

The bill is the aftermath of the various report of kidnapping in the state. It states that any person who kidnaps, abducts, detains, captures or takes another person by any means or tricks with the intent to demand ransom or do anything against his/her will, commits an offense, and is liable on conviction to death penalty.

The bill proposes life sentence for kidnappers if their victims do not die in captivity. Also, it proposes a life sentence for attempted kidnap. Furthermore, the bill proposes a 7 year jail term for abductors who refuse to release their victims in person, instead using false representation, should they be eventually apprehended.

The legislators also affirmed 25 years imprisonment for whoever threatens to kidnap another person through a phone call, e-mail, text message or any other means of communication.

The bill provides that any person, who knowingly or willfully allows his premises, building or a place or belonging under his control to be used for the keeping of a kidnapped person is guilty of an offense under the law and is liable to 14 years imprisonment without an option of fine.



Will the Supreme Court Stop Texas from Executing the Intellectually Disabled?

Since the Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in the United States, in 1976, Texas has been responsible for more than 1/3 of the country's executions - 538 out of 1440. The most egregious reason is the state's unique and grudging approach in cases where the defendant claims intellectual disability.

In 2002, in Atkins v. Virginia, the Supreme Court reached the decision that, no matter how heinous the crime, an intellectually disabled person cannot be sentenced to death. Disabilities of reasoning, judgment, and control of impulses, the Court said, do not allow a person to "act with the level of moral culpability that characterizes the most serious adult criminal conduct." Because offenders with intellectual disabilities are less blameworthy, the Court said, imposing the death penalty contributes neither to deterrence of capital crimes nor to retribution for them, and so it causes "purposeless and needless" pain and is cruel and unusual punishment.

The Court recognized that there was "serious disagreement" about which offenders were intellectually disabled. "Not all people who claim to be mentally retarded will be so impaired as to fall within the range of mentally retarded offenders about whom there is a national consensus," the majority opinion said. ("Intellectual disability" has replaced "mental retardation" as the favored term.) The Court anticipated a variety of approaches to enforcing its prohibition, and left to the states "the task of developing appropriate ways to enforce the constitutional restriction upon its execution of sentences."

Most states with the death penalty rely on a combination of intelligence testing and clinical assessment to confirm that a defendant has severe intellectual disabilities. In 2004, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, the state's highest criminal court, created its own definition of intellectual disability, in a case called Ex Parte Jose Garcia Briseno. In the Briseno opinion, the C.C.A. said that reliance on clinical testing is "exceedingly subjective." The court's responsibility, it said, was "to define that level and degree of mental retardation at which a consensus of Texas citizens would agree that a person should be exempted from the death penalty." The court decided it was possible to be intellectually disabled according to medical and scientific standards, which apply to no more than three per cent of Americans, yet not disabled enough to be exempt from execution in Texas.

The Texas approach to intellectual disability is so different from national standards that, according to the American Bar Association, the state has regularly sentenced to death "defendants with intellectual disabilities whom other jurisdictions almost certainly would have recognized as exempt." Jordan Steiker, a professor at the University of Texas Law School, and Richard Burr, the lawyer who represented Jose Briseno before the C.C.A., estimate that Texas has executed 30 to 40 people with strong claims of intellectual disability, and that between 30 and 40 of the 242 people on the state's death row have similarly strong claims to exemption. This week in the Washington Post, Steiker and his sister, Carol Steiker, a professor at Harvard Law School, wrote that Texas "focuses on questions that no medical professional would deem appropriate in diagnosing intellectual disability, such as whether an offender's family and friends thought he had intellectual disability." They continued, "Instead of relying on the same approach to intellectual disability that Texas uses in every other context (such as placement in special education or eligibility for disability benefits), the court sought to redefine the condition in the capital context so that only offenders who meet crude stereotypes about intellectual disability are shielded from execution."

On Tuesday, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Moore v. Texas, about whether the state is violating the Constitution by prohibiting judges from using current medical standards in deciding whether a defendant, Bobby James Moore, is exempt from capital punishment. Moore, now 57, has been on death row for 37 years for his part in a failed supermarket robbery in Houston, in which he shot and killed a sales associate. (Moore has said the shooting was accidental.)

In 1995, a federal district court granted Moore a new sentencing hearing after the court found that his lawyers had "grossly mishandled the representation of Moore and violated their oath as members of the bar with astonishing frequency" by, among other ways, failing to present any mitigating evidence, including of the defendant's impaired mental development and functioning. In 2001, he was sentenced to death again, after a jury determined that there was not sufficient mitigating evidence to warrant a sentence of life imprisonment.

While Moore was waiting for the C.C.A. to review that sentence, the Supreme Court issued its ruling in Atkins, and Moore's lawyer petitioned the state trial court for another hearing. In that hearing, in 2014, the judge found that Moore was intellectually disabled, and recommended that the C.C.A. grant his claim. The C.C.A. rejected that recommendation, because that court "erred by disregarding our case law" in defining intellectual disability. The appeals court said, "We conclude that, at this juncture, the legal test we established in Briseno remains adequately 'informed by the medical community's diagnostic framework.' " Last June, the Supreme Court granted Moore's request to hear his case, which will likely determine whether Moore lives or dies, and whether many others in Texas will live or die as well.

Moore is, by any reasonable account, intellectually disabled. He failed 1st grade twice, and was promoted to 2nd grade only because his school thought he should be with children close to his age. In 5th grade, as one of a group of African-American students assigned to a largely Hispanic school, he was hit in the head with a chain and a brick, which left his whole head swollen and very possibly caused a traumatic brain injury. He has that problem, according to Shawanda Williams-Anderson, a neuropsychologist, and Robert P. Borda, a clinical neuropsychologist, each of whom examined him in 2013. Borda gave Moore a Tinkertoy test in which he was instructed to "make something." A score below 7 generally equates with the inability to live independently. Borda testified about Moore, "He had a score of 1, which is the lowest score I've ever recorded, and I've done a lot of testing of brain-injury people."

Throughout elementary and middle school, Moore failed to grasp academic skills; he continued to get social promotions until he failed all his subjects in 9th grade and dropped out. His father, who was generally abusive, beat him for being "stupid." When Moore was 13, he could not tell time, the days of the week, the months of the year, the seasons, or the standards of measure. He also met each of the basic requirements for intellectual disability. On 7 I.Q. tests taken between 1971 and 1989, his average score was 70.66, which reflects significant cognitive impairment. (In Atkins, the Supreme Court noted that between 1 and 3 % of the population has an I.Q. lower than 75.) Borda concluded that Moore has "a significant Intellectual and Developmental Deficiency, and by any current standards should be considered to have functioned within the Mentally Deficient (or Mentally Retarded) range for all of his teen and adult life."

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals is infamous for rejecting the vast majority of death-sentence appeals in the state. The best-known example is its denial, in 1995, of an appeal by Calvin Jerold Burdine on the ground of ineffective counsel, because Burdine's lawyer had slept through long stretches of the defendant's trial. It wasn't clear to the C.C.A. that the lawyer was asleep during the important parts of the trial, so the court upheld Burdine's death sentence. A few years later, when a federal district judge ordered Texas to release the defendant or give him a new trial, the judge stated the obvious: "Sleeping counsel is equivalent to no counsel at all." The state missed the deadline for the trial, so the judge ordered Texas to release Burdine. He wrote, "Throughout its brief, the state seeks to minimize its failure to comply with established procedural rules as 'excusable neglect.' However, a similar procedural error by defense counsel in a capital case could result in a defendant's execution."

Last June, Judge Elsa Alcala, of the C.C.A., called for her court "to reconsider whether the death penalty remains a constitutionally acceptable form of punishment under the current Texas scheme." One of the reasons she gave was that the C.C.A. "misapplies Supreme Court law on intellectual disability." One obvious example is the case of Elroy Chester, who pleaded guilty to murder, in 1998. The Texas court denied Chester's claim of intellectual disability, in 2007. In 2012, the Supreme Court denied to review his case. The following year, Texas executed him.

Chester showed significant intellectual limitations from childhood. His younger sister had to help him identify colors and sort laundry. He did not seem to understand what people meant when they spoke to him. He was given his 1st I.Q. test when he was 7 1/2, and scored 69. He was given his second I.Q. test when he was 12, and scored 59. He had the vocabulary of a 6-year-old. When he was 29 and in prison after pleading guilty, he scored 66.

But the Texas court, relying on the Briseno factors, found that Chester did not show "significant deficits in adaptive behavior," overlooking behavior that indicated the many limitations on his adaptive functioning. He lived with his parents or one of his sisters until he was imprisoned, and was not capable of living on his own. He could not read well enough to fill out a job application without help from one of his sisters. He could not write well enough to communicate. He did not shop by himself for food or clothes. The only food he knew how to cook was an egg. He never had a bank account. He could not read a map. He was clearly intellectually disabled and should not have been put to death.

In their brief for Bobby James Moore, his lawyers told the Supreme Court that "Texas's approach defies both the Constitution and common sense." They said that it "squarely presents the deeply troubling prospect that intellectually disabled individuals - like Moore - will be executed in violation of their Eighth Amendment rights." But as the execution of Elroy Chester underscored, it is not only a prospect; it is a reality, and has been for almost a decade and a half.

(source: Lincoln Caplan, a former New Yorker staff writer, is a senior research scholar at Yale Law School----The New Yorker)


Lawyer Who Helped Save Death Row Inmate Didn't Make Partner

Brian Stolarz was picking up signs everywhere that his time as a lawyer at K&L Gates was limited.

A chance encounter in the Baltimore airport with a partner who had recently departed the firm left Stolarz convinced about the nature of the problem: He was spending too much time working on pro bono, when he could be billing hours, Stolarz recalled. Associates in his class had told him the same thing - when they received bonuses that he didn't, and when he was passed over for partner, he said.

As Stolarz tells it, in 2007, the firm assigned him to work on its pro bono representation of Alfred Dewayne Brown, who already was on death row in Houston for a 2005 conviction of shooting and killing a police officer. Stolarz was only a mid- to senior-level associate but had previously worked as a public defender in Brooklyn. During the next several years, he devoted thousands of hours to working on Brown's writ of habeas corpus, convinced of the client's innocence, he said.

"This was something that nobody expected to be this involved," Stolarz said. "It wasn't just writing a few briefs and appearances in court, it was a full-on innocence investigation."

Ultimately, in a rare storybook ending, a judge found prosecutors had withheld potentially exculpatory evidence, prosecutors dropped the charges and released Brown in 2015 - by which point Stolarz already had left the firm and passed responsibility for the case to other lawyers.

Grace and Justice on Death Row

The quest to clear Brown's name and his critique of the death penalty is the main subject of Stolarz' book, "Grace and Justice on Death Row," released Oct. 25 by Skyhorse Publishing.

But the book also probes a different question: As global firms pick up pro bono work, to what do they owe the associates who do most of the labor? Stolarz claims he felt immense stress in trying to balance his pro bono work for Brown with his other work for paying clients. The latter counted much more for his career track, he claims, arguing his pro bono hours largely were unrecognized under the one metric that counted most - a billable hour requirement.

"Looking back, I sort of should have said, 'I'm not going to take on this case unless the firm protects me,'" he told Big Law Business. "I should have gotten a guarantee that the firm wouldn't marginalize me for doing the work."

Instead of joining the partnership, he was made of counsel, and Stolarz said in an interview that outgoing chairman Peter Kalis had said in a town hall style meeting that of counsel was a disfavored title at the firm - an incident that is also mentioned in the book.

"People would walk around and call me Mr. Disfavored, and those were my friends so I didn't mind, but the joke was on me," he said. "There's absolutely no doubt that the perception of me at that firm was that I was spending too much time on the case."

Through a spokesman, K&L Gates, Kalis, and the partner David Case, who brought the Brown matter into the firm, declined repeated requests for comment.

The firm has, however, changed some of the policies that Stolarz criticized: For instance, while Stolarz was at K&L Gates, only 50 hours of pro bono work counted toward his billable hour requirement of around 1950 hours, which meant hundreds of hours of work per year were not recognized, he said. K&L Gates subsequently changed its policy, Stolarz said. Today, it "treats all hours reasonably recorded on approved pro bono matters as the equivalent of billable hours in determining associate bonus eligibility," according to its website.

"Of course they have to give you the same amount of credit [for pro bono cases]," said Eric Freedman, a law professor at Hofstra University, who worked on a capital case pro bono as a Paul Weiss associate earlier in his career.

Freedman said that part of managing a pro bono program includes taking steps to ensure the work is being performed at an optimal level, that commercial work isn't taking priority and that individual attorneys' careers aren't being hurt by working on pro bono cases.

According to the National Association for Law Placement report on pro bono at law firms, the most recent of which was from 2010, 83 % of law firms with at least 700 lawyers said pro bono hours were equivalent to billable hours for bonus purposes. But another statistic in the report showed that nearly every firm has a maximum number of pro bono hours, between 25 and 100, that count for bonus purposes.

Other attorneys interviewed for this article also said that whatever official policies were at their firms, their careers were often judged based on the hours billed.

Stolarz is not the first associate from a large firm to write a book about his pro bono experience. In 2014, Ian Graham, published "Unbillable Hours," a reflection on his time as an associate at Latham & Watkins in Los Angeles where he represented pro bono, Mario Rocha, a man serving a 35-year sentence for murder. Rocha's conviction was overturned and ignited a passion in Graham for such work.

In an interview, he had largely positive things to say about Latham but also said that the time he devoted to Rocha's case did not always help him advance his career at the firm. The committee that reviewed his progress as an associate wasn't always as grateful for the hours he put in on the case as the supervising partner was, he said. But making partner wasn't his goal at the firm.

"I realized pretty quickly that I didn't want to spend the next 40 years working there," said Graham, who now has his own law firm.

In a statement, the firm said it is proud of its pro bono program, which it called a "hallmark of our culture" and also noted that it treats pro bono hours the same as billable hours.

Most attorneys interviewed for this article who were associates that worked on major pro bono programs said they were not bitter toward their former firms and were proud of the pro bono matters they worked on.

Despite his criticisms, Stolarz said that he is grateful to K&L for giving him the Brown case, which will mark a high point of his career. He said doing pro bono work is an important part of his career, and he has won a number of awards for his continued efforts in this area.

Much of his book serves as his critique of the death penalty, told through what happened to his client Alfred Dewayne Brown, who spent more than 12 years behind bars, including a decade on death row, before his conviction was vacated and prosecutors dropped charges. His story was also the subject of a Pulitzer Prize-winning series by the Houston Chronicle and Stolarz and Brown remain close friends.

But he also pointed at ways in which he believes law firms fall down or mismanage their pro bono programs. In an interview, Stolarz credited Dave Case, the partner who brought the case into the firm, with trying to protect him from negative repercussions from working on the case, but said it became difficult.

"Instead of billing 2,000 hours billable, I was probably billing 1,400, and [around] 500 pro bono," he said. "I was still every day focused on billing hours, it was just the other case was taking a lot of time."

From the book:

It was a difficult experience, personally and professionally. I was working on other cases, but I kept thinking about Dewayne and how we needed more and more. I was stricken with self-doubt and wondered whether I would be sitting at his execution, kicking myself for not finding something new we hadn't found before, and being mocked by some of the attorneys in my office who didn't want to take the case in the first place and who thought it was a waste of precious resources and time.

He also wrote about how, following a trend in the legal industry of the last decade, the firm vastly expanded. His time at K&L Gates, between 2004 and 2011, roughly coincided with the firm's transformation through a series of mergers from a Pittsburgh-based regional heavyweight to its present iteration as a 2,000-plus lawyer firm with offices on 5 continents.

About the global growth, and the cost-saving measures and pressure to bill that followed, he wrote in his book: "It breeds a corporate mindset, a cold business, a place where the 5 minutes by the water cooler talking about your kids with a colleague cost the firm 5 minutes of billable time. Towards the end of my time there, a lot of people spent their whole day working with their doors closed."

He also said in an interview that the paradox of such large global law firms is that they have more resources, which has opened new opportunities for associates to work on pro bono cases.

Such programs serve many purposes at law firms, including as a recruiting tool to law school graduates, he writes in his book. Pro bono also provides associates with opportunities to take the lead on a client-relationship, set strategy, make court appearances and operate with greater autonomy, according to Stolarz and a number of lawyers interviewed for this article.

Kathryn Kase, executive director of the Texas Defender Service, who referred Brown's case to K&L Gates, praised large firms and the associates who work there for playing a key role in the legal system. Few defendants on death row can afford a lawyer, let alone a legal team that can match prosecutors' resources, she said.

"It's critically important that these big firms take on capital cases," said Kase. "These cases tend to be sprawling and have many issues, and [big] firms are uniquely suited to handling them. They have a lot more resources."

There are countless examples of large firms using their resources to help indigent clients. Earlier this year, Debevoise & Plimpton announced that it helped secure clemency for a man serving a life sentence in prison for distributing around 50 grams of crack cocaine. Jones Day, meanwhile, recently announced that it is investing money and attorney-time to help set up a network to help military veterans obtain legal services.

Freedman, the Hofstra professor, said many smaller firms may be more likely to make donations to a legal non-profit than to take on pro bono capital or extremely complex cases because, unlike larger firms, they often lack the resources, including lawyers with expertise, to take on such matters.

In practice, policies at law firms can vary considerably, with some firms giving only partial credit for pro bono hours when reviewing the billable hour requirement, which is often a key factor in whether a bonus is awarded and whether someone's career advances. But some firms give 1:1 credit for hours worked on approved pro bono matters, according to lawyers interviewed for this story. Indeed, some law firms make a certain amount of pro bono work mandatory.

Kase credited the lawyers at K&L Gates with "a real dedication" to the Brown case.

In promotional materials for its pro bono work, the firm says its partner Dave Case led the charge on the case with assistance from an unspecified group of attorneys, paralegals and staff. And Stolarz notes in his book that other associates took a laboring oar on the case after he left the firm. The litigation to vacate Brown's conviction continued for years after Stolarz departed.

Leaving aside the question of who deserves the most credit for Brown's liberty, Stolarz takes us inside a pro bono capital case and offers a critique of the U.S. death penalty and its reliance on giant law firms to represent the defendants in these cases.

In his book, he wrote:

The profitmaking law firm will almost inevitably treat pro bono death penalty cases as a form of charity, high-minded and worthy perhaps, but not central to the institutional mission. In a pinch, providing justice for someone like Dewayne was not a priority, and anyone who acted like it was would pay a price for his convictions. Such a conflicted profession cannot be counted on to fix the dysfunctional death penalty system.

Stolarz, who departed K&L Gates and is now a partner at LeClairRyan, said he feels conflicted criticizing K&L Gates because it gave him "the case of my life" and allowed him to help save a man's life. Even as a public defender in Brooklyn - he was a staff attorney in the criminal division of the Legal Aid Society - he never handled cases with such importance, he said.

But his emphasis is on firms paying better attention to how they manage pro bono programs. "I wish we would have done it better, and firms need to do it better because guys like this, his life was on the line," said Stolarz.



Death Watch: Matters of Incompetence----How smart must one be to stand for execution? In Texas, not that smart.

As of press time, Dallas County District Judge Robert Burns was still considering the merits of an appeal argued Monday, Nov. 14, by attorneys for death row inmate John Battaglia, who believe their client is mentally incompetent for execution. Battaglia is currently scheduled for the state's death gurney on Wednesday, Dec. 7. State law prohibits the execution of inmates who either do not understand why they're being executed or cannot comprehend that their execution is imminent.

The 61-year-old was originally sentenced to death in 2002 after he was found guilty of murdering his 2 daughters, 9-year-old Faith and 6-year-old Liberty, in a particularly grizzly manner - shooting them both in his downtown Dallas loft while on the phone with their mother, his ex-wife, Mary Jean Pearle. (After the murders, Battaglia went to a tattoo parlor to get 2 roses tattooed onto his arm, one for each daughter. He was arrested that day outside the parlor.) Prosecutors were able to establish a pattern of violence from Battaglia, mostly directed toward his ex-wives, Pearle and first wife Michelle Ghetti. A jury rejected defense attorney arguments that their client was mentally unstable.

Battaglia was originally slated for execution in late March, but had his execution stayed just hours before he hit the gurney when the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals issued a stay and ordered the state court to reconsider Battaglia's claims of mental incompetence. "Battaglia effectively lacked counsel to prepare his claim of incompetency," the appeals court stated in its ruling. "In our view, it would be improper to approve his execution before his newly appointed counsel has time to develop his Ford claim" - a reference to the 1974 case out of Florida that spared Alvin Ford's life. The Dallas Morning News reports that 3 psychologists testified on Battaglia's behalf on Nov. 14 that the inmate suffers from delusional disorder.

Bobby Moore Goes to Washington

The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday heard arguments in the case of Bobby James Moore, a 57-year-old from Houston who was sentenced to death in 1981 for the capital murder of 72-year-old supermarket clerk James McCarble. Moore's attorneys have argued that he, too, is too incompetent for execution - something that Moore's attorneys weren't able to challenge during his trial 35 years ago. (Intellectual incompetence did not become an issue that could bar someone from execution until Atkins v. Virginia in 2002.) Lawyers for Moore, according to press outlets who attended the hearing, argued that Texas' standard for assessing adaptive behaviors are "non-clinical" and "anti-scientific." Attorney Clifford Sloan suggested that the state's application of the Supreme Court's intellectual disability standard is "very extreme and stands alone." No ruling is expected to come down until mid-2017.

(source: Austin Chronicle)


Delaware Supreme Court to weigh fate of death row inmates----Court to hear arguments over whether a ruling to end the death penalty should be applied to those still on death row

Even though the Delaware Supreme Court found the state's death penalty law unconstitutional in August, the debate over whether 12 men on death row should still be executed will heat up next week when the arguments make it to a courtroom.

The court will have to decide whether its landmark ruling, which barred death sentences unless Delaware law is re-written to comply with the U.S. Constitution, should be applied retroactively to those already on death row.

The top court is now poised to hear arguments Dec. 7 in Dover from state prosecutors and attorneys representing Derrick Powell, a 29 year old sentenced to death for the fatal shooting of Georgetown police officer Chad Spicer.

"The issue becomes will the court apply the constitution to everybody or invoke a procedural technicality to arbitrarily apply the decision to some but not others?" said Robert Dunham, executive director of the nonprofit Death Penalty Information Center.

Prosecutors will urge the 5 justices to not apply the court decision to the men on death row because of a long-standing rule against doing so after a criminal case is completed. Powell's attorneys, however, will argue it would be draconian to execute him after the court already deemed the sentencing scheme unconstitutional.

The issue first arose when the U.S. Supreme Court in January struck down Florida's death penalty law saying it violated the U.S. Constitution by giving judges, and not juries, the final say to impose a death sentence.

Alabama and Delaware were the only other states that, like Florida, allowed judges to override a jury's recommendation of life.

In light of the U.S. Supreme Court decision, the state Supreme Court found that Delaware's capital punishment law was also unconstitutional.

The court, however, did not say in August whether its decision would apply to those on death row, leaving open the possibility of further litigation. Powell's case will now be the test to determine the court's stance.

Powell is Delaware's youngest inmate on death row.

In September 2009, he and 2 men arranged to rob another man during a marijuana deal. The robbery attempt went awry, and Powell fired at the fleeing man in the parking lot of a Georgetown McDonald's, according to court documents.

The incident led to a police chase that ended when Powell fired a shot at a police car, fatally wounding the 29-year-old officer and father, court documents said.

Powell was found guilty of 1st-degree murder and other charges in February 2011. He was sentenced to death in May of that year.

When his case is heard by the Delaware Supreme Court next week, his attorneys, Patrick Collins and Natalie Woloshin, will argue that it would be "unjust" to execute Powell just because he had the misfortune of being sentenced to death before the Florida decision.

"This court should recognize that truth, and give meaning to the venerates phrase, 'death is different,' and vacate his sentence," his attorneys wrote in an argument filed with the court.

Chief of Appeals Elizabeth McFarlan and Deputy Attorney General John Williams argued in their own written brief that the court should use a U.S. Supreme Court case known as Teague v. Lane to determine that it is not appropriate to apply a new decision to closed cases.

Delaware has not wavered from the Teague rule against retroactivity for 26 years and should not start to now, they wrote.

"When criminal convictions are subject to later review because of subsequent legal changes, additional burdens are placed upon the state criminal justice system," they wrote. "This court recognized the burden of repeated review not just of convictions but also of sentences, in determining the retroactivity of a recent legislative change to permit concurrent sentencing under certain circumstances."

Powell's attorneys, however, said executing their client would be unfair and unjust. They pointed to other states, such as New York, Maryland and Connecticut, that had retroactively applied the decision to eliminate the death penalty to those already sentenced to death


GEORGIA----impending execution

Lawyers: Executing Georgia Inmate Would Be Unconstitutional

The act of executing a Georgia death row inmate scheduled to die next week would violate his constitutional rights, his lawyers argued in a court filing Wednesday.

William Sallie, 50, is scheduled for execution Tuesday. He was convicted in the March 1990 slaying of his father-in-law.

While his lawyers assert that the imposition of a death sentence by a jury is, itself, unconstitutional, that's not the issue they're raising in the petition filed the Superior Court of Butts County, which is the county where Georgia's death row is located. Instead they argue that the act of carrying out the execution next week in Georgia would be unconstitutional.

The state attorney general's office did not immediately have a comment Wednesday, spokeswoman Katelyn McCreary said in an email.

Executing Sallie would be arbitrary, and thus would amount to unconstitutional cruel and unusual punishment, and would also violate his rights to due process, the petition says.

"The dramatic difference between prisoners under sentence of death in Georgia and those in almost every other jurisdiction that has the death penalty is that the vast majority of death sentences elsewhere will never be carried out," his lawyers argue.

While a Georgia death row inmate is generally set for execution soon after his post-conviction appeals are exhausted, those in other states often linger in prison long beyond the completion of those appeals, in effect a life prison sentence, Sallie's lawyers argue. They note that there are at least 18 California death row inmates who have completed their appeals but who remain on death row with no execution date set, while Sallie is the only one in Georgia and his execution date was set within days of his appeals ending.

They also cite studies that have found that the death penalty is disproportionately imposed based on the race of the defendant and the victim, as well as where in the state the crime happened. When the victim is white and the crime happened in a rural area, both of which are true in Sallie's case, there is a much higher chance of getting death.

"Thus by ordering the infliction of (Sallie's) execution on December 6, 2016, Georgia has selected Mr. Sallie to be executed from a pool of individuals assembled by a flawed scheme," his lawyers argue.

That Georgia obtains an execution order from a judge simply by requesting one and then sets and carries out an execution in a very short timeframe denies a death row inmate due process, the petition says. Under state law, a Georgia execution order sets a 7-day period for the execution to be carried out that "shall commence not less than 10 nor more than 20 days from the date of the order."

By contrast, Texas law says an execution date may not be earlier than the 91st day after a judge enters the order. Even Texas, which has executed far more inmates than any other state since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976, gives inmates a longer window of time to file challenges in the courts, Sallie's lawyers argue.

Sallie's wife was living with her parents in rural south Georgia after having filed for divorce, and the 2 had been embroiled in a bitter custody battle over their young son.

After cutting his in-laws' phone lines and breaking into their house about 12:45 a.m. March 29, 1990, Sallie went to the master bedroom and shot John and Linda Moore, according to a Georgia Supreme Court summary of the case. John Moore died from his injuries, and his wife was injured.

Sallie then took his wife and her sister to his mobile home, leaving his son behind, the summary says. Sallie released his wife and her sister that night and was arrested a short time later.

(source: Associated Press)


Lehigh Acres couple facing death penalty in Clewiston murder

The state attorney's office will seek the death penalty against a Lehigh Acres couple charged with 1st-degree murder

Bubba Wayne O'Connor, 42, and Wendy Michelle Soucier, 49, were indicted Oct. 11 in connection to the death of 72-year-old Clewiston resident Cherry Ermine. They're also charged with attempted 1st-degree murder, robbery with a deadly weapon and 1st degree burglary.

Ermine was found dead inside her Clewiston home after authorities said O'Connor and Soucier attempted to rob her. Frank Jansson, 69, was critically injured during the incident.

O'Connor and Soucier were armed when they went to the home where Ermine and Jansson lived, investigators said. A fight broke out when O'Connor and Soucier attempted to rob them, according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

(source: WINK news)


Oklahoma inmate exhausts appeals; executions still on hold

13 Oklahoma inmates are now eligible for execution dates after the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal of a man convicted in 1999 double slaying.

But executions remain on hold in the state as officials rework Oklahoma's death penalty protocol, and there's no indication on when they may resume. According to The Oklahoman, inmate James Chandler Ryder became the 13th inmate eligible for execution after the nation's highest court declined Monday to review his appeal.

Ryder was sentenced to death for the killings of Daisy Hallum and her adult son, Sam Hallum, in Pittsburg County.

Oklahoma last executed an inmate in January 2015, and an autopsy showed that officials used a drug in that lethal injection that wasn't part of the state's execution protocol.

(source: Associated Press)


Nebraska Finds New Route to Death Drugs

State voters having approved a ballot measure restoring capital punishment, Nebraska on Monday announced the process it will use to change its policies and procure the drugs it will use to execute its 10 inmates on death row.

"Nebraskans were decisive in their choice to maintain the death penalty and it is now our duty as elected officials to carry it out," Gov. Pete Ricketts said in a statement.

"These proposed changes in protocol balance appropriate inmate notification with the flexibility to utilize various constitutionally approved drugs, so political maneuvers at the federal level can’t circumvent the will of the people," said Ricketts, a 1st-term Republican.

Previous procedures required 3 drugs - sodium thiopental, pancuronium bromide and potassium chloride - to be administered in precise order and dosage.

The new protocol will remove any restrictions on what drugs can be used for lethal injection, provided that "the substance or substances can be intravenously injected in a quantity sufficient to cause death without the unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain," Department of Correctional Services Director Scott Frakes said in a statement.

Prison officials must notify the condemned inmate of the drugs to be used at least 60 days before an execution warrant is issued by the Nebraska Supreme Court.

Officials will not be required to publicize who manufactured the lethal drugs, an important factor, domestic pharmaceutical firms have refused to produce some lethal injection drugs, and the Food and Drug Administration has banned the importation of some lethal drugs.

Under the revised protocol, "substances may be directly purchased or obtained through the department pharmacy or obtained through any other appropriate source." The director of Correctional Services will have the discretion to keep records confidential if they identify the source of lethal injection drugs.

This lack of transparency promises to be a sticking point for opponents of the death penalty, and the subject of future litigation.

"The ACLU of Nebraska stands ready to fight against any effort to cloak Nebraska's broken death penalty in secrecy," ACLU of Nebraska executive director Danielle Conrad said in a statement.

"Regardless of how people feel about the death penalty we should all agree that Nebraskans value government transparency and accountability in all matters. In fact, inscribed right on our state Capitol is 'the salvation of the state is the watchfulness of the citizens.' As citizens, we can't complete that duty if the government only offers us selective information, editing out all the ugly parts."

The state has had a tumultuous recent history with the death penalty. Nebraska last executed a man in 1997, when Robert Williams went to the electric chair. That method of execution was declared unconstitutional by the Nebraska Supreme Court in 2008. The state changed to lethal injection by legislative action a year later, only to see 2 of the 3 necessary drugs expire before they could be used.

In 2015, the issue was a persistent thorn in the side of Gov. Ricketts, who watched as the Legislature voted to abolish capital punishment, then overrode his veto a week later. Ricketts has repeatedly sought to obtain the 3-drug cocktail, but one of the drugs is no longer produced in the United States. Ricketts and corrections officials contracted with a small pharmaceutical broker in India to import the drug, despite objections from the ACLU and warnings from the FDA that it is illegal to import sodium thiopental.

The FDA subsequently blocked shipment of the $54,400 order from India, as it said it would.

Undeterred, Ricketts was the main financier of the pro death penalty group Nebraskans for the Death Penalty, donating more than $300,000 of his own money, to put an initiative on the Nov. 8 ballot that restored capital punishment in the state.

Referendum 426 was approved with 60 % of the votes, setting the stage for the latest step: procuring the deadly drugs.

A hearing and forum for public comment on the revised execution protocol is set for Dec. 30 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the state office building in Lincoln.

For written submissions to be part of the record, they must be received by the Nebraska Department of Correctional Services on or before Dec. 27.

They can be mailed to NDCS, PO Box 94661, Lincoln, NE 68509 or emailed to

(source: Courthouse News)

CALIFORNIA----new death sentence

Jury sentences Cheary to death

The sentence:

A Tulare County jury decided Wednesday that convicted killer Christopher Cheary should die in prison.

The sentence came as the clock struck noon and after 1 day of deliberations.

Some audience members gasped. The defense sat nearly motionless.

The judge applauded the lawyers in the case.

"There is no more stressful case that a human being can do," Judge Joseph Kalashian said to the attorneys. "I commend you."

He also thanked the jury, who condemned the Exeter man.

It's the 1st death sentence in nearly 8 years for Tulare County, which ranks among the top of the list of counties that sends prisoners to death row. There are currently 15 living inmates on death row from Tulare County.

A death penalty prosecution costs up to 20 times as much as a life-without-parole case, according to a Loyola Law Review.

The state also spends at least $300,000 for attorneys to represent each capital inmate on appeal. Cheary's case will be automatically sent to appeal within the next few years, however it could be a decade before he ever steps inside a courtroom.

Over the next few months, he will be questioned by California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation officials, processed and transferred to San Quentin State Prison to spend out the rest of his days.

The verdict:

Before the verdict was read, the families waited outside the courtroom.

Cheary's mother, Laura Champahur, sat with her hands covering her face.

Her youngest son was rubbing small circles on her back.

A few feet over was Sam Coronado, Sophia's great-grandfather. He attended every day of the trial.

He discouraged other family members from attending, shielding them from the details of the brutal death.

"I could barely stand it," his voice was quiet. He was trying not to cry.

Sophia Acosta would have turned 8 this year. She would be reading, learning how to multiply and ride a bike.

Her life was cut short on May 7, 2011, when Cheary raped and killed her.

Sophia's last day

Officers arrived at the Exeter apartment in the 800 block of West Visalia Road. They found Sophia lying on the living room floor, motionless and soaking wet.

Detectives discovered that while Sophia's mother, Erica Smith, was buying heroin, Cheary, her live-in boyfriend, beat and raped Sophia.

When Smith returned home, the 2 smoked the drugs but were interrupted when Cheary said he heard a "thump" upstairs.

Sophia was on the ground covered in vomit, Cheary said.

She wasn't breathing. Cheary stripped her down and placed her body under running water. Sophia didn't wake up.

After reaching out to Cheary's mother for help, they called 911. Paramedics arrived within minutes.

Tulare County firefighter and part-time EMT, David Cornett, testified that he remembered seeing the girl's small body lying on the ground while firefighters attempted to find the child's pulse. It was faint.

He was with the child in the ambulance and was the 1st to notice a small puddle of blood under Sophia.

Medical experts found lacerations and bleeding around Sophia's rectum.

The firefighter said he never forgot the scene.

"To be honest, my daughter was the same age at the time," he said. "Out of the 16 years [as a first responder], I took it home. I typically don't and it's stayed with me since."

Justice for Baby Sophia

Sophia later died at Valley Children's Hospital in Madera. The cause of death was determined to be blunt force trauma to her head.

Cheary was arrested on June 7, 2011. He sat behind bars for 5 years and 5 months waiting for Monday's decision. He dressed in a suit, rarely made eye contact with jurors and talked freely to his lawyers.

He showed little reaction as the clerk read the verdict Monday afternoon. He was quickly escorted by deputies back to his cell.

Throughout the trial, Cheary and his defense attorneys maintained his innocence.

During an interrogation, Cheary told detectives he found Sophia covered in feces and vomit. The defense argued that Sophia's injuries were caused by an undiagnosed clotting disorder.

Neuropathologist Hannes Vogel was one of the first to classify the child's injuries as consistent with 'inflicted' and 'non-accidental' trauma.

"There is no way on God's green Earth this pattern of injury could be explained by a clotting disorder," the doctor said.

More than 10 medical experts testified that Sophia's death was caused by extreme force. One likened it to falling off a 3-story building.

Although doctors couldn't definitively say whether the girl had been sexually assaulted. Jurors believed she had been tortured and raped.

Inside the courtroom, Sophia's family gasped and cried when the verdict was read.

Cheary's family sat silent. Champahur quietly wept into her tissue.

One person spoke out, "The system is broke".

Campahur walked away in the arms of family. Outside, defense attorney Angela Krueger hugged her client's mother.

They cried together. Kreuger declined to comment on the verdict.

The wait continues

After a 5-week trial, attorneys finished closing arguments late last week.

For the family of Sophia, the verdict comes as a relief.

Coronado said after 5 years of waiting, there is finally justice for Sophia.

"It's terrible what he did," he said. "Terrible."

(source: Visalia Times Delta)


After oversights, a potential death penalty case restarts.

Sammuel Ejaz is accused of trying to kill his estranged wife, and killing her aunt and uncle and shooting her cousin.

When Sammuel Ejaz was arrested last August in Salinas on suspicion of using a handgun to shoot 4 family members, 2 of them fatally, he told TV reporters he "never wanted to do this." Prosecutors took that as a confession. Ejaz then pleaded not guilty to all counts.

From the outset of the criminal case, prosecutors kept the possibility of seeking the death penalty against him, and enhancement charges were filed with the death penalty in mind. This would be 1 of 2 death penalty cases in Monterey County in more than a decade.

While prosecutors have not officially announced their intent to seek the death penalty yet, their choice to backtrack and redo key hearings suggests they plan on it. On Sept. 16, prosecutors dismissed then refiled the case - meaning they have to redo the preliminary hearing, laying out their evidence against Ejaz - to correct for the fact that 5 court hearings were held without a court reporter present. That's scheduled to begin Dec. 1.

"There were no secret meetings, it was just an oversight," Monterey County Deputy District Attorney Doug Matheson says. "We discussed things in chambers and then we came out and put it on the record."

In death penalty cases, all court hearings must be held on record, and not in a judge's chambers without a court reporter. This creates a complete written record of the case, important in case there's an appeal.

"That did not happen at the beginning," Matheson says. "We don't always do things exactly right in court, sometimes we make mistakes. Once we see that we tend to correct them."

Ejaz's attorney, Joy McMurtry, did not respond to requests for comment by the Weekly's deadline.



Connell woman could face death penalty for Kennewick kidnapping, murder

The husband of a Kennewick woman kidnapped and shot to death earlier this month believes the woman accused of murdering her acted alone.

"I feel that Theresa Wiltse acted independently in this hideous crime against my lovely wife of 30 years, who I loved very dearly, and is the most horrible loss anyone could imagine," Randy Harris told reporters after a court hearing Wednesday.

The Kennewick pawn shop owner said it was chilling to sit with family and friends just feet from the Connell woman in court, still believing her to be a stranger with no connection to his wife, Sandra.

"I've got to be strong," he said. "My wife would want me to be strong, and I've got to go on."

Wiltse, 49, pleaded innocent to aggravated 1st-degree murder and first-degree kidnapping and her trial for the potential death penalty case was tentatively set for Jan. 30.

In the meantime, the Connell Police Department has reopened an investigation into an assault six months ago in which Wiltse was questioned as a possible suspect.

After Wednesday's brief hearing in Benton County Superior Court, Randy Harris said he is going to leave everything in the hands of Prosecutor Andy Miller and his deputy prosecutors to get justice.

The couple celebrated their wedding anniversary on Nov. 16, 2 days before Sandra called to say she'd been kidnapped and the suspects wanted $250,000.

The 69-year-old grandmother's body was found Nov. 20 along a rural Benton County road. She'd been shot several times.

"I have to rebuild my life," said Randy Harris, who owns Ace Jewelry & Loan. "This has been horrible. I've lost lots of sleep ... but I've got to move forward."

The murder includes the aggravating circumstance that it happened "in furtherance of, or in immediate flight from" the kidnapping. Both charges also include allegations that a gun was used.

A conviction for aggravated murder carries only 2 possible sentences: life in prison or death.

Prosecutors now have 30 days to decide whether to file notice of a special sentencing proceeding if she's convicted as charged.

The court can grant an extension or the defendant can waive the time requirement for the decision.

Miller did not raise the issue of capital punishment Wednesday, but a death-penalty qualified attorney, Michael Iaria of Seattle, was appointed to assist defense attorney Sam Swanberg.

The defense attorneys will work on a mitigation package in which they attempt to sway prosecutors to show leniency for their client.

Also Wednesday, in an unusual move, Judge Vic VanderSchoor agreed with Swanberg's request to ban the media from photographing Wiltse's face. The judge said he'll schedule a hearing for arguments on allowing photos in a public courtroom of the murder suspect.

Wiltse - who formerly worked as a corrections officer in Walla Walla's Washington State Penitentiary for 2 years - is being held in the Benton County jail without bail.

She was arrested late Nov. 18 after allegedly trying to collect the ransom. A gun, ammunition and blood were discovered in her rental car, court documents show. The ammunition reportedly was consistent with the bullets that killed Harris.

Court documents do not give a motive or show how Harris and Wiltse may have known each other. Randy Harris said his wife "would not have recognized this lady, no way, no how."

Sandra Harris was a caring, loving, private person who worked for 40 years as head accountant with Boise Cascade, said her husband. She retired 8 years ago, and enjoyed spending her free time with her "little animals" and grandchildren and messing with her garden.

Wiltse has claimed she had accomplices in the kidnapping and slaying of Harris, but has not identified anyone.

Under state law, the death penalty can't be applied to an aggravated murder suspect if there is another person who is more culpable in the crime.

There has been a moratorium on the death penalty in Washington since February 2014. The order by Gov. Jay Inslee was for as long as he's in office, which is through 2020.

Miller has told the Herald that he won’t take the death penalty off the table from consideration if the circumstances warrant it, because another governor may assume office while the case is still working through the judicial system.

Miller is the only active prosecutor in the state who has seen a death penalty case all the way through to execution. Jeremy Sagastegui died by lethal injection for the 1995 killing of a child and 2 women in Finley.

Wiltse's alleged involvement in the Kennewick death has Connell police reopening the assault case.

In May, a grocery store clerk said a masked woman pointed a gun and threatened to kill her when she arrived at work at 5:50 a.m. Connell Police Chief Chris Turner said the 34-year-old victim was able to get away and the suspect ran off.

"We had the victim think about the different people that frequent the store and she specifically mentioned Theresa," he told the Tri-City Herald. "She could only see (the suspect's) eyes. It could be her, the victim wasn't for sure."

Wiltse was the only person questioned by police, and she denied any involvement.

Turner said it has been an inactive case because they didn't have enough evidence. Now, he said, the department is looking at it again to see if they missed anything and may try to re-interview her in jail



A manifesto for life: Abolish the death penalty

What makes Indians bloodthirsty in this 21st century? While most of Latin America and Europe have abolished the death penalty, India, along with the United States, Pakistan and China, find it necessary to eliminate undesirable elements in society by the death penalty and feel reassured.

Gopalkrishna Gandhi, former diplomat and governor of West Bengal, makes a convincing case for life in Abolishing The Death Penalty (Published by Aleph, Pages 124, Price Rs 399). Abolishing The Death Penalty is a must-read for all those who value life as well as for every incensed Indian who wants retributive justice for terror attacks and for crimes such as murder and rape.

A few weeks ago, when the Supreme Court scrapped the Kerala high court's decision awarding the death penalty for the convict in Soumya murder case, there was bedlam in Kerala. The 'civil society' was shocked at the 'apparent' miscarriage of justice. The Supreme Court's decision even provoked a former SC judge, that gadfly Markandeya Katju, to castigate the judgment in a Facebook post, and resulted in the Supreme Court, uncharacteristically, hauling him over the coals of contempt of court proceedings.

The public sentiment, in this case, was for hanging the convict. Gandhi, however, points out the need for administrators and the ruling class to rise above public sentiment and adhere to certain values.

He urges politicians to learn from the example of Nelson Mandela, the South African legend, and Francois Mitterrand, the former French president, who led rather than allowed themselves to be led by an inconstant public opinion in abolishing the death penalty in their own countries.

Gandhi raises the question that: Would our progressive enactments on untouchability, dowry and domestic violence have stood a chance against the orchestrations of opinion by khap panchayats and their kind. He concedes that a democracy is about what people want, no doubt, but reminds us that a state that believes in a moral code is also about what its enlightened New Agers from Asoka to Ambedkar have wanted it to be.

Gandhi writes that the death penalty is a symbol of a state's political strength, even as a nuclear weapon is a sign of its military strength. "We need the death penalty to strike the fear of a secular God in those who want to challenge the writ of the Indian state, and want to undermine its sovereignty, its essential being," writes Gandhi.

The greatest dilemma faced by abolitionists is when they come face-to-face with those bereaved or affected by murders. Gandhi says that to try to explain the reason for abolishing the death penalty to the bereaved would not just be futile, it would be callous. What, however, makes Gandhi's argument special is the realization that the answer to revenge cannot be ecumenical or evangelical but has to be emotional. The central argument in Gandhi's passionate plea is that victims' anguish and the penalty's cruelty are independent truths - one is not less than the other. And he lists three reasons. First, murder cuts short the victim's span of life - an inherently audacious act. Second, committed by a fellow human who is part of the same chain of life, it is aberrant. And the third, it is irreversible.

Gandhi is a realist and rues the fact that the death penalty (which he describes as a conglomeration of multiple murders - judicial, administrative, political and social) is not likely to be abolished in India in the foreseeable future despite it being a global trend.

He, however, reminds us that the ending of the death penalty has to be accompanied by the ending of a great many ills in our criminal justice system, of which the use of the '3rd degree', the use of torture to extort what passes for confessions, prolonged imprisonment of undertrials, and a coarsening investigation system, are part. There need to be greater and vigorous efforts by the ruling class and human rights activists to bring about changes, at least, in those aspects.

(source: John Cheernan, The Times of India)


For killing family: Court awards death penalty to man

A court in Gilgit on Wednesday handed down the death penalty to a man who had killed his wife and 2 kids by pushing them into the river.

The sentence was pronounced by Justice Haq Nawaz and Justice Wazir Shakil of Gilgit-Baltistan's Chief Court where the killer, Ibrahim, had appealed against the decision of a lower court.

"When the act of murder is established, its penalty is death," observed the judges.

On July 29, 2010, Ibrahim pushed his 30-year-old wife Parveen, his 6-year-old son and 8-month old daughter into the river. He then lodged an FIR with the Gilgit police, claiming that his family had gone missing.

Police discovered that it was Ibrahim who had pushed them into the river, something which he confessed to later. Subsequently, a sessions court sentenced Ibrahim to life in prison. He then challenged the verdict in the chief court which converted the verdict into a death sentence.

(source: The Express Tribune)


Mali's ex-junta chief Sanogo goes on trial over killings

A Malian court began a trial of former coup leader General Amadou Sanogo on Wednesday on charges of "complicity in kidnapping and assassination," 3 1/2 years after his junta was accused of killing 21 soldiers.

Sanogo led a coup in March 2012 that deposed former President Amadou Toumani Toure and plunged Mali into chaos, enabling Tuareg rebels and Islamist militants to take over the north. He was arrested in December 2013.

Authorities in the same month found a mass grave believed to contain the bodies of missing soldiers. He is accused alongside 17 others of involvement in their deaths and faces a possible death penalty.

Sanogo entered the court in the southern city of Sikasso wearing a suit and tie. A crowd of supporters cheered him on while family members sat solemnly wearing white. The trial was adjourned until Friday before he had the opportunity to plead.

Rights groups have applauded the trial as a rare case of justice involving a high profile figure in a region where abuses by military strongmen often go unpunished.

"The trial of General Sanogo and his co-defendants represents clear progress in tackling the culture of impunity in Mali," Corinne Dufka, associate Africa director at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement.

"For far too long, men like Sanogo were considered untouchable and above the rule of law."

Sanogo's coup allowed Tuareg separatists and al Qaeda-linked fighters to occupy Mali's vast north until they were scattered during a French-led intervention in January.

A peace deal signed with the separatists in mid-2015 has failed to end violence and factional infighting that continues to threaten the stability of Mali and the wider West Africa region.

(source: Reuters)


Death Sentence for Tetouan Man Charged with Murder

A Tetouan man who was charged with the murder after killing a mosque-goer last August has just been sentenced to the death penalty.

The court sentenced the man, who admitted his guilt, on Tuesday, November 29 to the death penalty after the murder of a man inside the Al Andalous mosque in the Mellah neighborhood of Tetouan, an act which authorities concluded was premeditated.

Since the verdict was publicized, a new conversation on the death penalty in Morocco was started.

Earlier today, it was reported that Morocco had abstained from voting on a United Nations resolution asking for the international abolition of the death penalty.

The resolution was presented to the UN's 3rd committee, specializing in human rights.

On November 17, a UN press release stated that a "representative of Morocco said his country had had a de facto moratorium on the death penalty since 1993." With the recent death sentence handed in Tetouan, this statement is no longer true, which begs the question as to what the nation will tell the UN the next time it asks about the death penalty.

The UN would have also criticized the country's position on the death penalty, arguing that it was incompatible with Articles 20 and 21 of the constitution.

(source: Morocco World News)


Court Martial charges 3 over info leakage

3 soldiers including Lt. Col Deziderio Balidda have been charged with offences related to security at the army General Court Martial.

Court presided over by Lt. Gen Andrew Gutti on Tuesday charged the accused and remanded them to Makindye Military Police barracks.

Balidda, 57, was charged alongside WOII Robert Wanyama, 39, and Pte. Ivan Asiimwe, 28. The soldiers are attached to field Artillery division in Masindi district. Wanyama is a senior non-commissioned officer while Asiimwe is a gun repairer.

They were charged contrary to section 130 (1) of the Uganda Peoples Defence Forces (UPDF) Act No 07/2005. Offences related to security carry a maximum penalty of death on conviction.

The accused pleaded not guilty to the charges, prompting court to remand them until December 20, when they will re-appear in court for mention of their case.

It is alleged that the accused on August 16, this year at Naguru and Ntinda in Kampala and other various places in Masindi district recruited soldiers and disclosed vital information to an authorized persons with intent to prejudice the security of the defence forces.

Prosecution led by Raphael Mugisha informed court that investigations into the matter were still on-going.

Meanwhile the legal advisor to the chairman, Gideon Kattinda informed the accused of their right to legal representation, saying they have a right to representation by an advocate of their choice.

But the suspects instead allowed Maj. Patra Aisha, a lawyer provided by the state to represent them.



EU, Rights Groups Condemn Executions Of At Least 2 In Belarus ---- According to rights groups, more than 400 people have been sentenced to death in Belarus since the early 1990s.

The European Union has condemned the executions of 2 convicts in Belarus.

Relatives of Ivan Kulesh, 28, and Syarhey Khmyaleuski, 31, say they have been informed that the 2 men were executed in November.

In a November 30 statement, a spokesperson for the EU's diplomatic service, said that Minsk's "continued application of the death penalty runs counter to Belarus's stated willingness to engage with the international community, including the EU."

Kulesh was sentenced to death in November 2015 after a court found him guilty of 3 murders, theft, robbery, and attempted murder.

Khmyaleuski was convicted of 3 murders and sentenced to death in January.

Amnesty International's campaigner on Belarus, Aisha Jung, said on November 30 that the "sudden and shameful purge" of death-row prisoners in Belarus was "additionally shameful" because executions there "are typically shrouded in secrecy and carried out at a moment's notice."

Amnesty International said it fears that a third death-row inmate, Hyanadz Yakavitski, may also have been executed since November 5.

It also quoted rights activists in Minsk who said the executions were carried out with gunshots to the back of the prisoners' heads.

Jung said the "sudden spike in executions is especially surprising in Belarus, the death penalty's final frontier in Europe, since many believed the country was on track to eliminate capital punishment for good."

Jung noted that the sudden string of executions in Belarus came after a hiatus.

Before this month, only one person had been executed in the former Soviet republic since November 2014 -- Syarhey Ivanou, who was executed on April 18, 2016.

The EU, Amnesty International, and other human rights organizations have been calling on Minsk to join a moratorium on the death penalty for years.

According to rights groups, more than 400 people have been sentenced to death in Belarus since the early 1990s.



Poor evidences fail to ensure death penalty of accused

The state has failed to identify the direct culprits of this killing and provide justice.

A death-sentence was anticipated by many for the much-publicised killing of Ekushey-award winning journalist Manik Saha, but in an unexpected turn of events lifetime imprisonment was announced.

The judge specifically mentioned insufficient evidences and lack of information presented by the witnesses as the main reason for this verdict during his announcement at the empty court room yesterday.

One of prime reasons was identified as lack of cooperation from late Manik Saha's family, most of who were absent despite being summoned to the court many times during the trial to present information as witnesses.

Also in some instances, they appeared as disinterested in providing information to the court.

Consequently summing up these events together, the court gave the verdict of lifetime imprisonment to nine accused of this case largely based on police investigations.

Wishing anonymity, one of the advocates of this case said: "The trial for this case had been going on for nearly 12 years. During this time, no statements from Manik Saha's daughter Moumita Saha and former journalist Sahabuddin Ahmed could be taken as none of them were in Khulna. Manik Saha's younger brother was summoned to the court many times, which he initially declined. Eventually, although he did appear at the court, he however refused to present information despite the lawyers probing him with questions to find answers."

Khulna Divisional Fast Track Tribunal Public Prosecutor (PP) Advocate Enamul Haque said although he had anticipated the highest penalty or death sentence for this case, the judge had to give lifetime imprisonment penalty under the given circumstances. He said if the witnesses presented their information boldly, the outcome could have been as expected. The PP said he is, however, not disappointed with the verdict. PP Advocate Enamul believes that justice has been obtained through this verdict and it will serve as an example of the firmness of the country's law enforcement and justice system.

During the announcement of the verdict, the Khulna Divisional Fast Track Tribunal Judge M A Rob Hawladar in his brief statement said: "The witnesses of this case have not provided sufficient evidence and information. Information provided by Manik Saha's family, relatives and colleagues were not as useful or cooperative as expected. The verdict is being given mostly based on the case documents."

Khulna court's Additional PP M M Sajjad Hossain said: "Despite being a very strong case, only because of insufficient information from the witnesses, such is the outcome of the trial. Had the evidences been presented in a better manner and the family and colleagues been more cooperative, the highest penalty could have been ensured to the convicts."

Khulna Press Club President S M Nazrul Islam and General Secretary Mamun Reza along with the other members however pointed out poor investigation done by the police as the reason why all the culprits behind this killing could not be identified and brought to justice.

Khulna Journalists' Union President S M Jahid Hossain said they would comment when an analysis was made after they received a copy of the verdict.

He said: "Only the analysis will clearly explain why death penalty was not given to the convicts, and we will take the next steps accordingly."

Manik Saha's brother Pradip Saha said: "The state has failed to identify the direct culprits of this killing and provide justice. The state is the plaintiff for this case and the state must consider this in taking the next steps."

Incidentally, journalist Manik Saha was killed on January 15, 2004 near Khulna Press Club in a planned bomb attack and the case was filed on January 17 with the Khulna police station.

(source: Dhaka Tribune)


Sheng Siong kidnapping: Accused asked to be given death penalty in letter to court

Sales executive Lee Sze Yong was sentenced to life imprisonment on Thursday (Dec 1) after he was found guilty of kidnapping the elderly mother of Sheng Siong supermarket boss Lim Hock Chee in January 2014.

Lee, 44, was also given 3 strokes of the cane.

In a handwritten 3-page letter to the court, Lee had asked to be given the death penalty instead of "deprivation of liberty for the rest of my life".

"I had ruined my life. By dying, I hope that I have repaid my debt and to be at peace," he wrote.


NOVEMBER 30, 2016:


Supreme Court Justice Makes Powerful Plea For The Disabled On Death Row

A narrow majority of justices at the U.S. Supreme Court appeared ready to side with a Texas death row inmate and further refine the constitutional prohibition on executing the mentally deficient.

The justices are charged with deciding whether the courts may use non-clinical or outdated medical information in assessing whether a person is intellectually disabled, and therefore protected from capital punishment.

The justices found that executing a mentally disabled person is an unconstitutionally cruel and unusual punishment in 2002. They further developed that ruling in Hall v. Florida in 2014, finding that courts may not use a rigid threshold IQ test, but must rely on a range of clinical factors.

In this case, a death row convict named Bobby James Moore challenged the state of Texas' use of components called the Briseno factors, which assist courts in making findings concerning intellectual disability. These 7 factors are derivative of Lennie Smalls, from Steinbeck's "Of Mice and Men." Moore was sentenced to die for his role in the robbery of a grocery store which resulted in the death of a clerk. He attempted to vacate his execution by proving he is intellectually disabled, but failed in a state appeals court. The parties would not contest that Moore is developmentally challenged (he could not add or subtract until his teenage years, for example), but disagree as to his status as intellectually disabled.

Though the Briseno factors are not the primary test the Texas courts use to make findings of mental deficiency, they do help inform and shape such findings. In this case, the lower court also relied on a 1992 edition of the American Association on Mental Retardation, which is no longer current.

Clifford Sloan, Moore's attorney, characterized Texas' non-clinical factors as "harmful and inappropriate lay stereotypes." Sloan said reliance on medical frameworks is a "life and death question that goes to the human dignity of the intellectually disabled."

Chief Justice John Roberts, sounding perturbed, repeatedly wondered if Moore's lawyers were raising arguments and issues unrelated to the question the Court granted review on. Roberts' concern seemed to draw sympathy from Justices Anthony Kennedy and Samuel Alito. Elsewhere in the argument, Kennedy suggested a conflict existed between Texas' practice and up to date medical standards. He also was troubled by the possibility that a mentally deficint individual could fail Briseno factors scrutiny and still be executed, as has happened on at least 3 occasions, according to an American Bar Association amicus brief.

Justice Stephen Breyer, the Court's clarion death penalty opponent, made a powerful intervention during Sloan's argument, asserting that national standards could not possibly be set for assessing mental deficiency, given the extreme subjectivity involved in such diagnoses. To his thinking, it follows that disparate outcomes will result.

"There will be a bunch of easy cases. And then there are going to be cases like your client who has been on death row for 36 years. And there will be borderline cases ... what is the Court supposed to do? Are we supposed to have all those hearings here? I mean, you've made very good arguments for your client. There are probably several others in the country in different states which may have different standards. And if you have some view that the law in this area should be law, i.e., that it should be uniform across the country, point me to something that will tell me how a district judge should go about making this determination in borderline cases."

"And if you 23 want my true motive, I don't think there is a way to apply this kind of standard uniformly across the country, and therefore, there will be disparities, and uncertainties, and different people treated alike, and people who are alike treated differently," he added.

Texas Solicitor General Scott Keller argued that the states were not bound to strictly adhere to a particular organization's clinical definition of intellectual disability. He also argued that the Briseno factors are merely a secondary test the Texas courts use in addition to a constitutionally-valid 3 part test. He also aggressively rebuted the notion that the Briseno factors were derived from Lennie Smalls.

"Lennie, and the character from "Of Mice and Men," was never part of the test," he said. "It's not part of the test. It was an aside in the opinion, and the Court said it was not going to address that separate question and instead adopted the clinical standards."

A decision is expected in the coming months.



Manuel Sepulveda is off death row

Convicted killer Manuel Sepulveda is off death row and now serving life in prison without parole, following a new sentence imposed Tuesday as the result of a Monroe County Court ruling on Sepulveda's challenge to his trial's penalty phase.

A jury in 2002 convicted Sepulveda, 37, of Kunkletown, of 1st-degree murder and conspiracy to murder in the 2001 deaths of John Mendez, 19, and Ricardo Lopez Jr., 20, at the Polk Township home of Daniel Heleva, 55, who was convicted as an accomplice and is serving life without parole. Ongoing arguments over stolen drugs, money and guns led to Mendez and Lopez being shot and Mendez being beaten with an axe and garroted with a bungee cord, according to trial testimony.

After convicting Sepulveda in the trial phase of 1st-degree murder, the jury had to decide in the penalty phase whether to sentence him to death or life without parole, the only 2 penalties for 1st-degree murder convictions. The jury chose death.

In 2006, several years after his conviction, Sepulveda filed a Post-Conviction Relief Act motion, seeking ultimately a new trial, on grounds that mitigating factors weren't available to or raised by his defense at trial. Mitigating factors are circumstances that can be cited in a convicted defendant's argument for a less severe sentence.

The mitigating factors Sepulveda cited in his PCRA motion include a traumatic childhood leading to drug addiction, cognitive disabilities as an adult and having no criminal record prior to the murders. His PCRA motion was denied in Monroe County Court, appealed up to state Supreme Court and remanded back to Monroe County for a hearing on grounds that Sepulveda was raising valid issues.

After the case was remanded back to this county, Sepulveda's defense attorney at the time, who was different from the attorney who had represented him at trial, became aware of an additional mitigating factor in testimony not elicited from Heleva's wife, Robyn Otto, at trial. The defense then requested a hearing to have Otto testify to what she hadn't been called to testify about at trial.

Otto testified at the April 2015 hearing that Sepulveda was like an uncle to her and Heleva's children, who were ages 7 and 5 at the time of the murders. Her testimony indicated Sepulveda was protecting the children when killing Lopez and Mendez, who had threatened to burn the house down with Otto and the children inside.

After hearing this testimony, Mendez's angry relatives told news media Otto was lying and that Mendez, not Sepulveda, was the one who looked out for the children.

Sepulveda's defense argued the jury had been prejudiced in the trial's penalty phase.

Had the jury been allowed to hear Otto's testimony at trial, there's a fair chance at least 1 juror would have voted to sentence Sepulveda to life without parole, as opposed to death, the defense said. And that 1 juror's dissenting vote was all it would've taken to affect the jury's decision, which must be unanimous.

Monroe County President Judge Margherita Patti-Worthington later issued a ruling in favor of Sepulveda's PCRA motion, saying the jury had indeed been prejudiced in the trial's penalty phase. In light of the judge's ruling, Sepulveda's sentence was changed Tuesday from death to life without parole.

Sepulveda, who indicated he views this sentence as equally unjust, has the right to appeal.

Mendez's family said the injustice is Sepulveda still getting to draw breath while Mendez is dead.

"They've taken the death penalty away," Mendez's upset mother, Deborah Murphy, told news media afterward. "(Sepulveda) should suffer for the pain he's caused me and my family."

When led from the courtroom, Mendez told news media he's very sorry for what Mendez's family has been through.


VIRGINIA----imending execution

For January execution of Ricky Gray, Virginia plans to use drug involved in 3 botched executions elsewhere

On Jan. 18, if all goes according to plan, Virginia will execute Ricky Gray for killing a former Virginia Beach homecoming queen and her family in Richmond more than a decade ago.

Gray, whose only other option is the electric chair, will likely die by lethal injection. But the method the state uses to administer the deadly drugs is raising concerns and prompting Gray's lawyers to consider their response, including a potential court challenge.

The 3-drug combination that Virginia has chosen for the execution includes Midazolam, a drug that the state has never used before and that has been involved in botched executions elsewhere.

Furthermore, Virginia would become the 1st state in the country to use a version of Midazolam manufactured by a "compounding pharmacy" - one whose identity is not released to the public and which does not operate under the same federal regulations as the large drug makers.

"It hasn't been done before anywhere, and the drug is new to Virginia executions," said Rob Lee, one of Gray's lawyers and the executive director of the Virginia Capital Representation Resource Center.

Midazolam would be the 1st of the 3 drugs administered in the execution. State officials say other drugs previously used as the 1st in the process have become very difficult to get.

"Florida has used this 3-drug protocol many times, starting with a lethal injection on Oct. 15, 2013," said state Department of Corrections spokeswoman Lisa Kinney.

But the Midazolam used there wasn\'t made in secret by a compound pharmacy, said Megan McCracken, a lethal injection expert who works with the Death Penalty Clinic at the UC Berkeley School of Law. The drug's use in executions was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in June 2015.

"It brings 2 sets of concerns together," McCraken said. "It's 2 significant changes that introduce risks of pain and suffering."

Gray was convicted of killing 49-year-old Bryan Harvey, 39-year-old Kathryn Harvey and their daughters, 9-year-old Stella and 4-year-old Ruby, on New Year's Day 2006. The family was bound and beaten and their throats cut in the basement of their suburban Richmond home, which was then set on fire.

Bryan was a well-known musician, and Kathryn was a former Cox High School homecoming queen who owned a toy store. In all, Gray and his nephew Ray Joseph Dandridge are linked to the killings of 9 people.

Gray was arrested 7 days after the murders and confessed to them. He told police he and Dandridge were looking for a house to rob and noticed the front door was open. After the killings, they stole a computer, wedding ring and basket of cookies.

Gray pleaded not guilty to the charges, arguing he should receive leniency because of evidence of physical and sexual abuse during his childhood and because he used PCP during the killings. He was found guilty in August 2006 and sentenced to death that October.

Virginia has executed 111 people since 1982, but only 6 since 2010. Currently there are 7 men, including Gray, on death row.

An execution date of March 16, 2016, was set in January but Gray was issued a stay in federal court to allow the U.S. Supreme Court to consider 2 petitions. The time for the Supreme Court to review those has now expired, and a circuit court judge earlier this month set Jan. 18, 2017, as Gray's execution date.

It was questionable whether the state could have executed Gray in March anyway.

For years the drugs used in executions nationwide have been harder and harder for states to obtain. Drug-makers do not want their names or their products associated with executions and have refused to sell them to states for that purpose.

That has led many states to turn to the compounding pharmacies, which make the drugs and then provide them to states in secret. Until this year, Virginia did not have a law allowing for the use of such drugs.

In February, during the legislative session, Corrections Department officials claimed that they did not have enough pentobarbital - then used as the 1st drug in the state's 3-drug cocktail - to execute Gray.

DOC officials had obtained 3 vials of pentobarbital from Texas last year, 1 of which was used to execute convicted murderer Alfredo Prieto. Though they had 2 unexpired vials left, state officials claimed they didn't have enough.

The Virginia Death Penalty Coalition, which opposes the death penalty, released a statement claiming that the state had the drugs it needed to kill Gray by using lethal injection and that the department's claim otherwise was designed to put pressure on state legislators to bring back the electric chair.

Inmates condemned to die in Virginia can choose between lethal injection and the electric chair, but the state must use lethal injection if an inmate refuses to make the choice. That meant that if the drugs weren't available, Gray could have refused to choose a method of execution and the execution could not move forward.

The General Assembly passed a bill allowing the state to choose the electric chair as its method of execution. Rather than sign the bill, McAuliffe amended it to allow state officials to obtain execution drugs made by compound pharmacies in secret.

McAuliffe, a Democrat who supports capital punishment, said at the time that his plan was essential to ensure that the death penalty continues without resorting to the electric chair.

"These manufacturers will not do business in Virginia if their identities are to be revealed," McAuliffe said at a news conference.

In addition to being the first using Midazolam obtained in secret, Gray's execution would also be the 1st under the new law.

"The ongoing issue," said Robert Dunham, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, "is how do you assure that the drug is as advertised when you don't know the producer or what its safety record is? How can a prisoner be offered an alternative way of being executed if he doesn't know what the source of the drugs is and the state is the only one with that information?"

Gray requested additional information about the execution process from the state, which refused to provide it.

At a hearing Nov. 21, a judge declined to force the state to release more information about its process.

Lee said he is considering appealing the ruling.

In a 3-drug protocol execution, the 1st drug is supposed to render the condemned person unconscious, the 2nd to paralyze him and the 3rd to stop his heart.

1 of the problems with using Midazolam is that it is not an anesthetic, but an anti-anxiety drug, McCracken said.

In 2 of the botched executions using the drug - that of Joseph Wood in Arizona in July 2014 and Dennis McGuire in Ohio in January 2015 - Midazolam was part of a 2-drug cocktail. The botched execution of Clayton Lockett in April 2014, in which there were problems inserting an IV to get the drugs into his bloodstream, used 3 drugs.

In all 3 cases, the condemned man at first appeared to be unconscious, then gasped for air or struggled in pain.

"It's not used to maintain anesthesia," McCracken said. "So with the 3 botched executions using Midazolam, 1 of the similarities ... is the person initially loses consciousness or appears to and then regains consciousness."

In all of those, the potency of the drug being used was known because it was made by drug makers, not at a compound pharmacy, McCracken said. If Gray is executed using a compound version of Midazolam in January, no one will know the potency of the drug, she said.

"There is a lot of science out there that this is an inappropriate drug to use," she said. "And in Virginia you have the related issue of the new statute that makes so much information confidential. ... This is a unique situation."

(source: The Virginian-Pilot)


Death penalty sought for 3rd suspect in double homicide

Prosecutors will seek the death penalty against a 3rd suspect in the in the death of 2 men whose bodies were found in a burned-out car in September.

District Attorney David Learner's office made the announcement on Tuesday in Burke County Superior Court in the double homicide cases against Scott Devon Hemphill.

Hemphill, 33, of 2320 Farmer St., Apt. B, Charlotte, is charged with 2 counts of murder for the Sept. 17 deaths of Spencer Murray and Albert Austin, both from Forest City, whose bodies were found in the trunk of the burned vehicle.

Nearly 2 weeks ago, prosecutors announced they also will seek the death penalty against Icey Chennell Gooden, 26, of 4217 Sundown Road, Morganton, and Brian Jerome Robinson, 33, of Connelly Springs, in the case.

Brandy Nicole Davis, 32, of 906 Jamestown Road, Apt. D3, Morganton, has been charged with accessory after the fact to homicide in the case.

The bodies of Murray and Austin were discovered around 8 a.m. on Sept. 18 when Burke County Sheriff's Office deputies were called to Canoe Creek Way in Morganton. When they arrived, deputies found a burned Cadillac Deville with human remains inside, according to previous reports.

With the assistance of an investigator with the North Carolina License and Theft Bureau, investigators learned the Cadillac belonged to Austin, of 555 Poors Ford Road, Lot 5, in Forest City, and was registered to Murray, of 165 Astrid Lane, in Forest City, according to previous reports.

(source: Morganton News Herald))


SC is paying for Todd Kohlhepp's defense

Though he purchased hundreds of thousands of dollars' worth of property and has saved enough money to transfer some to a friend as part of investigators' efforts to secure his cooperation, accused serial killer Todd Kohlhepp is being represented at least temporarily by an attorney paid by the state of South Carolina.

Shane Goranson, who notified the Spartanburg County magistrate Monday night that Kohlhepp waived his right to appear at the arraignment for his most recent charges, is a capital defender for the South Carolina Commission on Indigent Defense, a group that provides legal representation to state residents who cannot afford to hire attorneys.

Kohlhepp, 45, a registered sex offender and real-estate broker from Moore, is facing 12 charges, including 7 counts of murder, according to warrants.

He's also under investigation in Arizona, where he "admitted to shooting somebody," an investigator told the former wife of 1 of Kohlhepp's alleged victims.

Kohlhepp could be put to death if found guilty.

Goranson has declined to discuss specifics of the case, but he said he's spoken with Kohlhepp and Kohlhepp has welcomed his representation.

A judge will ultimately rule on whether Kohlhepp qualifies for state-provided indigent defense throughout his trial, Goranson said.

"The reality is that the cost of a capital defense can be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, and most middle to low-income persons, even those who are not indigent, cannot afford to retain a competent lawyer and pay for the investigative and expert services that are critical to presenting an adequate defense," said John Blume, a Cornell Law School professor and former executive director of the South Carolina Death Penalty Resource Center, a nonprofit organization since renamed Justice 360 that provides resources to lawyers in death-penalty cases.

"If counsel is not appointed, then in many cases the person will run out of money, the defense will be inadequate and there is a substantial risk that counsel will be found ineffective - thus requiring a new trial all on the taxpayers' dime," said Blume, who is not involved in the Kohlhepp case and isn't privy to its particulars.

Money to pay for indigent defense comes from the state through the collection of criminal fines, tickets and such, Blume said.

Kohlhepp, who's not married and isn't believed to have children, bought his house on Windsong Way in Moore for $137,500 in January of 2007, records show.

He bought the 95-acre property near Woodruff - where the bodies of 3 people were discovered after a woman was found chained inside a metal container on Nov. 3 - for $305,632 in May of 2014, according to property records. He later paid about $80,000 to erect a chain-link fence around the property.

After his arrest, in order to secure his cooperation in an investigation where he'd already confessed to killing four people in an infamous cold case from 2003, Kohlhepp was allowed to transfer an undisclosed amount of money to a friend to pay for a child's education, according to Spartanburg County Sheriff Chuck Wright.



Prosecutor seeks death penalty against Delphos man in child's killing

Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty against a Delphos man who is charged with aggravated murder in the death of a 15-month-old boy.

Christopher M. Peters, 26, also was indicted this week on murder, felonious assault and endangering children. He is scheduled to appear at his arraignment Wednesday where he will be asked to enter a plea.

The court did not make the indictment known to the public until Peters was served a notice of the charges.

The aggravated murder charge includes a death penalty specification.

Few details of the crime that is blamed for the death of a 15-month-old boy have been released. Police and others have not released the name of the child yet. The child's mother found him unresponsive Nov. 15 inside an apartment at 24249 Lincoln Highway. She called 911 to make the report.

Another woman got on the phone and asked for police officers at the scene saying it was clear the child was dead. The mother said she last checked on her son the day before when he was sick and not eating.

Peters was not at the apartment when the child was found dead. He was arrested in the days that followed in another county.



13 Oklahoma death row inmates now eligible for execution

James Chandler Ryder, convicted of killing a woman and her son over some personal belongings in 1999, is now the 13th Oklahoma death row inmate who has exhausted appeals and is eligible for an execution date.

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday declined, without comment, to review Ryder's appeal. It was the fifth time since the high court's new term began in October that justices have rejected the final appeal in an Oklahoma capital case.

In such instances, the Oklahoma attorney general typically moves quickly to request an execution date from the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals.

But problems with lethal injections in Oklahoma have led to a pause in executions while the state Department of Corrections reviews the process.

The last execution in Oklahoma was in January 2015. And executions won't resume immediately after the Corrections Department decides it is ready. Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt has said he would wait at least 150 days after the review is complete before requesting execution dates.

Earlier this month, Oklahoma voters overwhelmingly approved a ballot question that gives state constitutional protection to the death penalty - and death sentences already handed down - even if a particular execution method is ruled to be in violation of the U.S. Constitution.

The U.S. Supreme Court has never ruled against a method and has twice upheld lethal injection protocols, including Oklahoma's in 2015.

Ryder, who is now 54, was convicted of killing Daisy Hallum and her adult son, Sam Hallum, in Pittsburg County in a dispute over possessions Ryder had been storing with them. Ryder received the death penalty for killing Daisy Hallum and life without parole for killing Sam Hallum.

The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the death sentence in January.

(source: The Oklahoman)


AG: 3 inmates likely first in line for death penalty ---- Jose Sandoval, Carey Dean Moore and John Lotter could be the 1st Nebraska death row inmates to have execution dates set, according to Attorney General Doug Peterson.

Gov. Pete Ricketts on Tuesday dismissed concerns about a lack of transparency in proposed changes to Nebraska's lethal injection protocol.

The proposal announced Monday by the Nebraska Department of Correctional Services would allow the state prisons director to choose the drug or drugs to be used in an execution and would keep the identity of the supplier of drugs confidential.

It also would keep the drugs and method of administration secret until 60 days before a death warrant is requested. At that point, the information would be shared with the condemned inmate.

"Claims of secrecy really just aren't founded," Ricketts said during a news conference Tuesday at the Capitol.

He said the proposed rules are intended to protect the drug provider and that the 60-day window of notification provides flexibility for the state to change the drug it uses while still giving inmates "plenty of time" to appeal.

"We're really not changing anything about confidentiality," Ricketts said, but the protocol would "give the state flexibility to carry out the execution."

The state has not been able to buy 2 of the 3 drugs in its current protocol, sodium thiopental and pancuronium bromide, in several years.

Of the states that executed people so far this year:

* Florida used a 3-drug protocol of midazolam to render the inmate unconsciousness, vecuronium bromide to induce paralysis and potassium chloride to stop the heart.

* Alabama used midazolam, rocuronium bromide to stop breathing and then potassium chloride. The state plans to use midazolam for a scheduled Dec. 8 execution.

3 Nebraska death row inmates, Carey Dean Moore, Jose Sandoval and John Lotter, have exhausted their state and federal appeals, according to Attorney General Doug Peterson, and could be 1st in line to have execution dates set.

* Moore, 59, killed 2 Omaha cab drivers in the course of 2 separate robberies and has been on death row for 36 years.

* Sandoval, 37, was convicted of 7 murders and sentenced to death 13 years ago for killing 5 people at a Norfolk bank.

* Lotter, 45, was convicted on 3 counts of 1st-degree murder in Richardson County, 1 targeted because she was transgender. He has been on death row 20 years.

Peterson would not speculate on when an execution might take place. Some other attorneys have said it could take years to schedule one.

A public hearing on the new death penalty protocol proposal, which was unveiled three weeks after voters overwhelmingly reversed the Legislature's repeal of the death penalty, is set for Dec. 30.

"This is just a process," Peterson said. "Whenever regulations are adopted, they have to go through the administrative process of having a hearing."

Once the steps are complied with, it becomes the protocol of the Corrections Department, he said.

(source: Lincoln Journal Star)


Surveys show most Nebraskans disapprove of death penalty, despite voting to retain it

On Election Day, voters chose overwhelming to retain the death penalty in Nebraska. But why? Researchers are trying to determine what makes individuals "for" or "against" capital punishment, particularly since public surveys show a decline in support among Nebraskans in recent decades. NET News talked with Lisa Kort-Butler, a Nebraska sociologist who has studied over 40 years of state social attitudes survey data about Nebraska respondents' views of the death penalty.


NET NEWS: Why are we seeing public support for the death penalty drop?

LISA KORT-BUTLER: I think a few reasons. One thing that's happened, certainly over the course of time, is that crime rates have gone down in the U.S. So there's probably less excitement or anxiousness about crime. I think other issues have gained our attention over time. I would think also as new information has come to light about exonerations, about disparities in who is sentenced to be executed, as well as maybe some information about how much it costs us relative to other punishments, people have been less interested in pursuing the death penalty as an option.

"For" or "Against"

--Nationally, support for the death penalty has fallen from a high of 75 % in 1987 to 45 % in 2016.

--49 % of U.S. citizens support the death penalty

--In the US in 2014, 17 % of respondents said that the death penalty is "not fair at all." In 2015, that number grew to 22 %, and in 2016, 31 %.

--9 % of US respondents said they were undecided in their view about capital punishment.

[source: University of Nebraska-Lincoln]

NET NEWS: I don't have to tell you this information flies in the face of what we saw earlier this month with Nebraskans voting to retain the death penalty. Why the contrast?

LISA KORT-BUTLER: Yes. Absolutely. With what's happened nationally and what's happened in Nebraska, with our own data we've seen this decline in support over time. In Nebraska, going into the election and actually in the past few years, we've been about evenly split when it comes to support for the death penalty. But what our data show and what's been shown in other studies is when people start thinking about the death penalty, they're thinking about a variety of issues. They're thinking about what they think is happening with crime, which may not meet what reality suggests with other data. They're thinking about their personal feelings when it comes to crime. One thing we see consistently in Nebraska is that people who feel angry about crime are more likely to support the death penalty. We also see in our data that when people aren't feeling very trusting about the government when it comes to crime, they may lean toward solutions that seem more permanent, if you will, when it comes to the death penalty. So what we often say about the death penalty, as a form of punishment, is it serves as kind of emotional function for people that when they think about dealing with crime and how to solve the problem it seems like a solution that is permanent, that is tangible, and that fits some of those emotional feelings people have.

NET NEWS What about the means of execution? There's the discussion now about whether to continue following a 3 drug protocol with lethal injection. Did that come up at all?

LISA KORT-BUTLER: We didn't ask that specific question. I think reaching back to some of the earlier data that we've collected in Nebraska, so in '87 and '97, when we were transitioning to lethal injection, support was much higher when we were still using things like the electric chair. I'm not sure how much people think about the means when it comes to execution. But again, we didn't ask specifically. We are asking that in the future but we didn't ask it in these past few surveys.

NET NEWS: You brought up exonerations. We've been hearing about that more in the media with several high profile cases. Do you think those have had an influence on public opinion?

LISA KORT-BUTLER: I think it's something that's definitely been given more attention. People in my field have been paying more attention to that issue. There are organizations who are actively working with folks to try to get information to exonerate people. I think one thing we know from our own data is when people think the death penalty is applied unfairly, they're less likely to support it. So things like exonerations potentially speak to this sense of unfairness when it comes to the death penalty.

NET NEWS: What do we do with this information moving forward?

LISA KORT-BUTLER: We're really interested in what kind of factors influence peoples' decision making. One thing we've been focusing on over the past few years is how things like media and people's consumption of the media influence what they think and how they feel about crime. Is it the case that when we see serious sorts of crimes - and some of them were being revisited and just kept before the selection - do those things influence people when they walk into the voting booth? Some of our past data suggests that's the case. In 2011, we saw these effects of media potentially influencing how people think about the death penalty. We're still interested in looking at those emotional states, people's mistrust of the government, as well as factors of fairness. How are people processing those issues? It's not clear when people say they're "unsure" on our surveys. We do ask, "Do you want the death penalty or would you prefer life in prison? Are you unsure?" When those folks walk into the voting booth, they have to make a choice. They don't get to be unsure in the voting booth. We're really interested in exploring how people who are unsure about the death penalty make decisions when it comes to something like voting.



Nevada's new death chamber will sit unused for some time

There are 81 inmates on Nevada's death row, all of them housed at the Ely State Prison.

Their number includes several convicted of our area's most notorious murders.

Joseph Beila, who raped and murdered Brianna Dennison in 2008, Tamir Hamilton who killed 16 year old Holly Quick in 2006, Siosi Vanisi who set a fatal trap for UNR police officer George Sullivan in 1998 and David Middleton convicted of the torture murders of 2 women in Reno in 1995.

For each a jury and judge imposed the ultimate penalty, but as their appeals work their way through the courts that final measure of justice still awaits.

In fact, Nevada has not had an execution since 2006 when Daryl Mack, identified by DNA as the killer of a woman at a Reno boarding house 18 years earlier met his end. At the time he was charged he was serving a life sentence for the murder of another woman.

The setting for that execution was the the old state prison in Carson City.

The old prison closed in 2012, but it's death chamber remained the state's only execution site.

The legislature authorized a new chamber where those facing the death penalty are housed--the maximum security prison in Ely.

A $600 thousand dollar remodel changed what had been the prison's courtroom into it's new death house, the execution chamber itself and 3 viewing rooms.

But it's unlikely to see use anytime soon.

For one thing, no one on death row is scheduled for execution within a year and a half.

And in any case the state now has the facility, but not the means to complete an execution by the only method available under Nevada law--lethal injection.

In September, the state invited bids from 245 vendors for the necessary drugs.

"We got zero response," says Department of Corrections spokeswoman Brooke Keast. "So, no drug companies are willing to provide drugs for executions. We can't make the drugs. We can't make an execution happen at this time."

So, the future use of the new chamber is in doubt. The legislature could change the manner of execution or it could do away with capital punishment altogether. A bill proposing that is expected in the coming session.

The new chamber, however, could find other uses.

"Sometimes you'll have a visitor that comes in for attorney visit for instance--and they need privacy. This is a perfect example of what we can use that room for."

(source: KOLO news)


Jurors now deliberating penalty in Christopher Cheary murder trial

Jurors in the South Valley are now deliberating the fate of a man they already convicted of murdering and raping a toddler 5 years ago.

Defense attorney Tim Rote told jurors on Tuesday that the only real question they now face is if it's necessary to kill his client, Christopher Cheary. He said death is never a mandatory punishment. He also told jurors they must make an independent and moral decision about how Cheary will eventually die.

"He's a lost and flawed person but he's not beyond redemption and I think that's the message that we're trying to portray," Rote said.

It's been 2 weeks since the same jurors found Cheary guilty of murdering, raping, and torturing three-year-old Sophia Acosta, his girlfriend's daughter. Since then, both sides have laid out their arguments as part of the penalty phase of the trial.

Cheary, 25, faces life in prison without the possibility of parole, or the death penalty. Rote said deciding on a death sentence should be hard, and encouraged jurors to choose life instead.

He said life in prison will be a severe punishment for Cheary, who will have to think about what he did for the rest of his life.

"He won't walk on the beach again, he won't order from a restaurant, he won't get to choose what meal he gets," Rote said.

Rote reviewed the harsher circumstances of Cheary's life, including his parent's divorce, an unstable upbringing, and eventually, his drug use, including heroin-which he said changed the trajectory of Cheary's life.

"And that's not an excuse, it's not a justification for what happened," Rote said. "But you wanted to know about his life to make the right choice because you're punishing the person and it's not necessary to kill him."

Jurors will have to be unanimous in their decision. But for now, they deliberate between the choices of life or death.



Lawyers to fight death penalty in house party shooting case

Attorneys representing at 20-year-old man accused of fatally shooting 3 former classmates at a house party in suburban Seattle plan to ask a judge for more time to compile information to convince prosecutors not to seek the death penalty.

The Daily Herald reports that Snohomish County Prosecuting Attorney Mark Roe has given the defense team until Friday to provide him with information to take under considering as he weighs whether to pursue Allen Ivanov's execution.

Roe says he will announce his decision by mid-December.

Ivanov has been charged with 3 counts of aggravated murder and 2 counts of attempted 1st-degree murder in connection to the July 30 shooting deaths of Anna Bui, of Everett, Jordan Ebner, of Lake Stevens, and Jacob Long, of Everett.

(source: Associated Press)


Judge to call more potential jurors Wednesday in death penalty trial of Dylann Roof

A judge in the federal death penalty trial of accused Emanuel AME shooter says he plans on bringing in more potential jurors Wednesday.

Dylann Roof is the 22-year-old Eastover man is charged with opening fire on a group of black parishioners at Mother Emanuel AME Church in June 2015, killing 9. Authorities say the shooting was racially motivated.

Judge Richard Gergel said he is pleased with how fast jury selection is going and said he will bring in a total of 28 potential jurors during Wednesday's sessions. That means there will be 13 in the 1st session and 15 in the 2nd.

A total of 20 people from both jury panels Tuesday were qualified for the jury pool. Of those, 13 are women and 7 are men. 3 of the women are non-white.

Roof was forced to be slightly more vocal than on Monday after Gergel told him he cannot rely on his former lead attorney.

During a motion hearing Tuesday morning, Gergel told attorney David Bruck he cannot co-council Roof since Roof made the decision, against the advice of Gergel, to represent himself.

After the hearing, Roof took extra time to ask questions and make decisions about whether to raise objections against prospective jurors.

The goal is to create a jury pool of 70 potential jurors from which a jury of 12 plus 6 alternates will be chosen. At the current rate, that could happen by the end of the week.

Roof appeared again in his jail jumpsuit Tuesday morning.

Panels of potential jurors will be brought in daily as the court tries to whittle 512 down to 70, and then to a jury of 12 with 6 alternates.

There were more than a dozen family members, including 2 survivors, in the courtroom just feet away from Roof Monday. They were quiet and intent on the proceedings, with 1 of them holding a bible.

(source: WCSC news)


Lower House eyes approval of death penalty by Christmas

House Speaker Pantaleon "Bebot" Alvarez said he's confident the death penalty will be approved by the Lower House by Christmas.

"Hopefully puwede nang dalhin sa plenary iyon, as soon as i-recommend na ng committee mismo," Alvarez told The Source on Wednesday.

[Translation: Hopefully it can be brought to plenary as soon as the committee recommends it.]

When asked about support for the measure in Congress, Alvarez said, "Wala namang problema [it's no problem], we have the majority."

Alvarez is the co-author of House Bill 01, which seeks to reimpose the death penalty for heinous crimes. His is just one of seven bills on the issue.

The bill defines heinous crimes to include treason, piracy, qualified bribery, murder, robbery with violence, plunder, and drug-related crimes.

However, some members of the House are opting to restrict the crimes that merit death penalty to drug-related ones.

The revival of capital punishment was initiated by President Rodrigo Duterte after he endorsed it as a measure fight the war on drugs.

House Bill 01 endorses any of the following methods of execution: by hanging, through a firing squad or lethal injection.

"I would rather let the executive branch decide kung paano yung [how to go about] execution," said Alvarez. "Sa akin, parehong patay yan e... Kahit ano [For me, it's all death anyway.. anything will do]."

After the bills will be deliberated on at the Committee on Justice, the consolidated version will be brought to the plenary for debates.

The bill must pass the House and the Senate before it can be signed into law by the President.

Similar measures have been filed by Senators Tito Sotto, Panfilo Lacson, and Manny Pacquiao at the Upper House.

(source: CNN Philippines)


UN: Morocco Abstains from Voting on Resolution for International Abolition of Death Penalty

Morocco abstained from voting for the international abolition of the death penalty earlier this month, when a resolution on the matter was presented to the United Nations' Third Committee, which specializes in human rights issues.

Morocco's representative clarified that the country has maintained a de facto moratorium on the death penalty since 1993, when the last government sanctioned execution occurred.

The final vote count on the amended draft resolution against the lethal punishment stood at 115 votes in favor to 38 against, with 30 countries other than Morocco abstaining, according to the committee's press release.criticized the country's position in a statement, expressing regret regarding the kingdom's persistent abstentions from votes in the international arena relating to the human rights implications of the practice since 2007.

The organization argues that the North African country's position is incompatible with Articles 20 and 21 of the constitution, which guarantee the right to life to all human beings and the right to "the security of their person and of their kin."

CMCPM is composed of eleven national human rights organizations - including Amnesty Morocco, the Moroccan Human Rights Association and others - that formed a union in 2003 at the conclusion of the International Death Penalty Seminar in Casablanca.

"Convinced that capital punishment is not a deterrent, CMCPM believes that this punishment is simply murdering in the name of the law, referring to the culture of revenge and retribution, particularly since the International Criminal Court - which tries criminals of war and genocide - does not implement the death penalty," the union's official website states.

(source: Morocco World News)


3 executions feared in as many weeks amid 'sudden and shameful purge' of death row

As many as 3 of the 4 men on death row in the Belarusian capital Minsk have been executed in a shameful purge since 5 November, Amnesty International revealed today after confirming with local activists.

Hard on the heels of this news the organization is launching a new online petition and video aimed at stamping out the use of the death penalty in Belarus - the last country in Europe and the former Soviet Union to still carry out executions.

"Purging death row of its prisoners is an appalling measure for any country to take. But it is additionally shameful in Belarus, where executions are typically shrouded in secrecy and carried out at a moment's notice," said Aisha Jung, Campaigner on Belarus at Amnesty International, who recently returned from Minsk.

"This sudden spike in executions is especially surprising in Belarus, the death penalty’s final frontier in Europe, since many believed the country was on track to eliminate capital punishment for good."

According to the Belarusian NGO Viasna, since 5 November, Siarhei Khmialeuski, Ivan Kulesh and possibly Hyanadz Yakavitski have all been executed with a gunshot to the back of the head. The fate of the 4th man on death row, Siarhei Vostrykau, hangs in the balance following his death sentence on 19 May.

On 29 November, relatives of 31-year-old Siarhei Khmialeuski arrived at the SIZO No.1 prison in Minsk to visit him on death row, only to be informed he had been executed on an unknown date in recent weeks. They had not received letters from him for more than a month, but the prison administration accepted a payment in his name last week. His death sentence had been upheld by the Supreme Court on 6 May, for the murder of at least 2 people in the capital Minsk.

Siarhei Khmialeuski's execution came swiftly after 2 others in recent weeks.

Ivan Kulesh, who had his death sentence upheld on 29 March for murder and robbery, was executed on 5 November. Hyanadz Yakavitski, sentenced to death on 5 January for the murder of his partner, is also believed to have been executed this month - his fate will be revealed in the coming days when his daughter attempts to visit him on death row.

The sudden string of executions comes after a long hiatus in Belarus. Before this month, only 1 person had been executed since November 2014 - Siarhei Ivanou on 18 April 2016.

In Belarus, the relatives of death row prisoners are typically not given advance warning or granted a final meeting before an execution takes place. In keeping with Belarusian law, the bodies of the executed are not returned to relatives for burial and their place of burial is not disclosed.

In many cases, families first learn of their relative's death when they receive a parcel with the loved one's prison boots and death row uniform. They are required to collect death certificates from the Belarusian authorities.

Data on the use of the death penalty in Belarus is classified as a state secret. Secrecy around the use of the death penalty constitutes cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment of the condemned person and their family members.

"Belarusian authorities take the inherent injustice of the death penalty to appalling extremes. The justice system puts immense psychological strain on the families of those it puts to death," said Aisha Jung.

"Our campaign is calling on Belarusian authorities to join the rest of Europe and a majority of countries around the world by introducing an immediate moratorium on executions, with a view to abolishing the death penalty."


The exact number of executions in Belarus is unknown, but local human rights defenders and journalists have worked tirelessly to uncover some information about death sentences and executions.

According to the Ministry of Justice of Belarus, 245 people were sentenced to death from 1994 to 2014. Human rights NGOs believe that around 400 people have been executed since the country gained its independence in 1991.

In 2012, the UN Human Rights Committee found that the secrecy surrounding the death penalty in Belarus amounts to inhuman treatment of the families and is a violation of Article 7 (the prohibition of torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Belarus is a state party.

Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all cases and under any circumstances. The death penalty violates the right to life as recognized in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and is the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment.

(source: Amnesty Internatnional)


Turkey's death penalty plans are blueprint for future

Turkey's government is pressing on with its plans to bring back the death penalty despite the risk of dashing EU accession hopes. Tom Stevenson reports from Istanbul.

When Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) abolished capital punishment in 2004, the move was widely praised as evidence of the pragmatism and political maturity of the country's religious conservatives.

Turkey had not carried out a death penalty since 1984 but its legal abolition was hailed as a symbol of a break from the days of military rule under which figures such as former Prime Minister Adnan Menderes was hanged in 1960, and prominent left-wing activist Deniz Gezmis in 1971.

Just 12 years later, the same ruling party is in the final stages of preparing to reinstate capital punishment as part of a radical set of changes to Turkey's constitution that supporters and critics alike say will be a blueprint for the country's future.

The government's volte face on reinstating capital punishment has come directly out of the shifting grounds of Turkish politics that followed the attempted military coup against the state in July. Immediately after the coup attempt was thwarted, Prime Minister Binali Yildirim publicly raised the idea of reinstating the death penalty in law.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has since raised the issue on several occasions and used others as an example. "The US has it, Japan has it, China has it, most of the world has it. So they are allowed to have it... Sovereignty belongs to the people, so if the people make this decision I am sure the political parties will comply," he said at a post-coup rally this summer.

Yet despite the timing of the move, Prime Minister Yildirim has repeatedly made clear that if the bill is passed, it would not be possible to mete out a death sentence retroactively and therefore that it could not be applied to the suspected coup plotters.

'Part of Islam'

Getting people on the street to comment is far from easy these days, but those that are willing to talk don't mince their words. "Capital punishment is part of Islam, it is religion. If someone kills another man then he deserves to be killed too - for me it is that simple," 59-year-old Huseyin Akturan told DW, outside a traditional cafe in Istanbul's generally conservative Tophane neighborhood.

The government's main purpose in reintroducing the death penalty debate may be to whip up popular support among the country's most conservative elements, according to one academic expert on justice and democracy at a leading Turkish university who asked to remain anonymous for safety reasons.

Many fear that the possible reinstatement of the death penalty is just 1 item on Erdogan's to-do-list

"It looks like the consolidation of one-man rule is the immediate goal of the new regime that is being established and the ultra-nationalists have always wanted this; it's playing to their interests as a kind of political mobilization," the academic told DW.

A national referendum on a new constitution that would expand president Erdogan's constitutional power is expected to be held as early as this coming spring and the argument posits that recent, highly conservative government policies on the reinstatement of capital punishment and the liberalization of child marriage are fodder for the far-right in advance of the referendum.

"Ahead of that time they would like to foment and politically mobilize all sectors of society that are happy to see blood: nationalists, racists, lumpen elements within the society because their votes are going to be needed again," the academic said.

Should the plans to reintroduce the death penalty make it into law, there will be wide-ranging effects on Turkey's economy and its relations with Europe, particularly on the stymied EU accession process.

Anti EU-sentiment

However European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker's pledge that "if Turkey should bring back the death penalty, we will immediately stop the negotiation process" currently carries little weight in Ankara, where anti-EU sentiment has been growing rapidly since the failed coup attempt.

More pressing for Turkish officials is the concern that reintroducing the death penalty now would damage the extradition request that the government has filed in the United States for Pennsylvania-based Turkish preacher Fetullah Gulen, whom the Turkish government believes was the prime suspect behind the July coup attempt.

"The government would like to get rid of the political constraints implied in the EU accession process and international law, it cares less and less about these things and I think the death penalty will be reintroduced, because the AKP also has an ideological commitment to it," said the academic expert on justice and democracy.

Emel Kurma, the general coordinator of the Helsinki Citizens' Assembly human rights group in Turkey, says all the talk about the death penalty is a useful distraction for Erdogan and his party.

"Stirring up a debate to re-install capital punishment serves Erdogan and the government in diverting public attention from the actual political/economic challenges as concretely experienced in practical daily life," she told DW.

Kurma also argues that the AKP is using capital punishment in order to further cement its alliance with the MHP nationalist party and thereby increase its influence in parliament.

"On a much more practical basis, the capital punishment card provides good leverage to attain the support of MHP, the nationalist conservatives. Thus, it is aimed to weld their support to that of the traditional AKP electorate: the religious conservatives," she said. "The stirring up of capital punishment is a symptom of increasing adoption of authoritarian policies and practices, as the world at large is shifting into populist or authoritarian regimes and illiberal democracies."

(source: Deutsche Welle)


230 Years Since The Death Penalty Was Abolished for the 1st Time

In 2016 90 countries and 2 territories retain the death penalty for certain crimes, with retentionist countries spread across the globe in Europe, Africa, North and South America, and Asia. Amnesty International claims that roughly 2/3 of the world's countries have abolished capital punishment, stating that in the course of the last decade an average of 3 countries a year "abolished the death penalty in law or, having done so for ordinary offences, have gone on to abolish it for all offences."

Undoubtedly the trend seems to be that capital punishment is in decline. Exactly when and where this trend started however, is perhaps a surprise.

Since ancient times the death penalty has been a punishment for certain crimes. In the 18th century BCE the Code of Babylonian king Hammurabi listed the death penalty as punishment for 25 different offences, although not for murder. Capital punishment was used in Ancient Egypt, Rome and Greece, and by the medieval period it was well established in European, African and Asian societies. The execution methods themselves took on a variety of ghastly forms, from drowning to being hanged, drawn and quartered.

30th November 1786 marked the 1st time in European history that a country permanently abolished the death penalty. At a time just a few years before Europe was changed irrevocably by the explosion of the French Revolution and other popular uprisings in the name of progress, it is perhaps surprising that this groundbreaking reform actually came from a member of the Habsburg Dynasty.

Leopold II served as Grand Duke of Tuscany from 1765 to 1790, before inheriting the title of Holy Roman Emperor following the death of his brother: Joseph II. His time as ruler of Tuscany saw him implement a host of changes, removing restrictions on personal freedoms that had been put in place by his predecessors: the Medici, and lowering the rates of taxation to a fairer, rational system. Most shocking of his reforms however, was the abolition of capital punishment.

Aristotle at Forgotten Books

Prior to 1786, Leopold had blocked any executions in Tuscany, meaning the death penalty hadn’t been exercised there since 1769, the year before he took power. In 1786 he moved to make the change permanent, reforming the penal code to see capital punishment abolished and having all equipment that could be used for execution destroyed. Torture was also outlawed in one of the most striking examples of enlightened absolutism - a period in European history when rulers from Charles III of Spain to Catherine the Great of Russia attempted to govern with the inspiration of the Enlightenment.

Tuscany proved to be the exception rather than the rule. The French Revolution and its aftermath saw a massive upsurge in executions as the Guillotine went to work. In Britain meanwhile, some 220 crimes were punishable by death by the late 1700s, although the severity of the punishment meant juries would often acquit if they felt it excessive for the crime. In 1823, 5 laws were passed to exempt roughly a hundred crimes from the death penalty. Between 1832 and 1837 further reforms saw capital punishment removed as the punishment from more crimes, though in 1840 an attempt to completely abolish the death penalty was blocked.

Throughout Europe campaigns continued for the abolition of capital punishment, yet change was slow to come about. Britain, France and Germany all retained the death sentence until long after the 2nd World War. In the case of Britain, although 1965 legislation saw capital punishment no longer applied in murder trials, one could officially be executed for treason as late as 1998. West Germany officially abolished capital punishment in 1987 (although the last execution had taken place in 1949). In France, the last execution took place in 1977, the death penalty itself abolished in 1981.

Capital punishment is now exceedingly rare in Europe. In Russia the death penalty has been indefinitely suspended, meaning the country is abolitionist in practice. As such, Belarus is the only country on the continent that still practices it.



Death Penalty Sought For Double Murder In Andros

A judge was asked yesterday to impose the death penalty on two men convicted of the murder and kidnapping of a Department of Immigration officer and his girlfriend in Andros.

Zintworn Duncombe, 28, and James Johnson, 22, appeared before Justice Indra Charles for the continuation of the penalty phase of their trial for their respective roles in the murder and kidnapping of Shane Gardiner and his girlfriend, Tishka Braynen, in 2013.

Gardiner and Braynen were allegedly killed after a failed plot to take $8,000 in gambling winnings from the immigration officer. Braynen, of Cargill Creek, and Gardiner, who lived in Love Hill, both in Central Andros, were reported missing around 1.45pm on November 24, 2013. Gardiner had recently been assigned to the island. On December 21, 2013, police in Andros discovered the remains of a man with "items related to a female."

Duncombe, Johnson, Daniel Coakley, 28, and Cordero Saunders, 26, were unanimously convicted of double kidnapping, conspiracy to commit armed robbery and attempted armed robbery.

The Crown is seeking the death penalty for Duncombe and Johnson.

Darnell Dorsett, Crown prosecutor, made submissions on behalf of the Crown's request that the case met the "worst of the worst" threshold set out in law for the discretionary death penalty to be imposed.

The 2011 amendment to the Penal Code notes that only certain types of aggravated murder are currently punishable by death: murder of a law enforcement officer such as a police officer or a prison guard; murder of a judicial officer, including judges, registrars and prosecutors; murder of a witness or juror; murder of more than 1 person; murder committed by a defendant who has a prior murder conviction; and murder in exchange for value.

The only 2 possible sentences are either death or life without parole. Any other type of murder carries a term of imprisonment of 30 to 60 years.

The amendment further provides that any murder committed in the course of/or in furtherance of a robbery, rape, kidnapping, terrorist act, or any other felony is punishable by death, with no explicit requirement of intent to cause death.

A felony is defined as any offence that is punishable by at least 3 years' imprisonment.

"This is a fitting case for the imposing of the death penalty," Ms Dorsett said yesterday.

The prosecutor noted that Duncombe and Johnson were convicted of all of the offences brought against them.

She said the victims, based on the testimony of Terrel Mackey, were taken to Newbold Farms where Duncombe and Johnson, armed with handguns, demanded money from Gardiner.

"Duncombe shot Shane Gardiner in the head when Gardiner maintained that he had no money. Braynen started screaming and Duncombe shot her to the head execution style," the prosecutor added.

Ms Dorsett reminded the judge that the pathologist said that based on Gardiner's wound, his death was not immediate and so there was evidence of suffering.

Relying on the case authorities of Forrester Bowe vs the Crown and Ernest Lockhart vs the Queen, the prosecutor said the court has the discretion to impose the death penalty in the most extreme and exceptional cases.

"We say that the heinous murder of the senior immigration officer and his girlfriend falls within the 'worst of the worst' threshold when we compare other murders like the case of Simeon Bain," Ms Dorsett argued.

In the case of Bain, the 44-year-old had his life sentence reduced to 55 years by the Court of Appeal for the throat-slashing murder of former Burger King restaurant manager Rashad Morris after a failed plot to obtain money from the victim.

"In this case, in the middle of the night, a young neighbour heard a gunshot from Shane Gardiner's house. We ask the court to infer that Shane Gardiner (was) home in a relaxed state. They were taken in the dead of night to a very eerie place of Newbold Farms. There's no lighting at all in that area. We urge the court to take into consideration these 2 contributing members of society were taken hostage and 1 month later, hog hunters happened upon their remains. But for the grace of God, their remains may have not been found, leaving the affected families without closure," the prosecutor said.

She said the court also had to consider whether there was a prospect of reform for the convicts.

She stressed that there has been no expression of remorse from either Duncombe or Johnson which, according to psychiatrist Dr John Dillard, is the 1st step to rehabilitation.

"We say that because they've expressed no remorse, they still pose a significant danger to society," Ms Dorsett added.

Jerone Roberts, Duncombe's 2nd lawyer, countered that this case did not warrant the imposition of the death penalty as it did not fall within the "worst of the worst" threshold set out in prior rulings by the Privy Council.

Mr Roberts stressed that the psychiatrist could not definitively say that the 2 convicts were beyond reform, which is a hurdle the Crown must get over in order for their application to succeed.

"This is a case which unfortunately occurs often not only in the Bahamas but around the world," Mr Roberts said, adding that even terrorist bombings have become daily occurrences.

Duncombe, Saunders, Johnson and Coakley, who all maintain their innocence, were each represented by lawyers Ian Cargill, Moses Bain, Donna Major and Terrel Butler.

Mrs Dorsett and Patrick Sweeting prosecuted the case.

A decision is expected to be handed down on December 12.



Momentum Growing to End Iran's Death Sentences for Drug Offenses

On November 23, 2016, Iran's Parliament agreed to speed up deliberation on an amendment which, if passed, would drastically decrease the number of executions for drug-related crimes.

The proposal will first be debated with top priority in the Legal and Social Affairs Committee and then in a full session of Parliament.

The proposal calls for an amendment to Article 46 of the Law Against Drug Trafficking which would limit the death penalty to "organized drug lords," "armed trafficking," "repeat offenders" and "bulk drug distributors" and reduce punishment for minor drug crimes to life imprisonment or less.

Iran has the highest per capita execution rate in the world, and 1 of the highest absolute numbers of executions carried out annually. Last year more than 1,000 prisoners were executed, the vast majority of them for drug-related crimes.

The United Nations has repeatedly criticized Iran's use of the death penalty for drug offenses that do not meet the criteria for the "most serious crimes."

According to Hassan Norouzi, a Member of Parliament who supports the amendment, there are about 5,000 prisoners currently on death row and "90 % of them are between 20 and 30-years old who are 1st-time offenders," the parliamentary news agency ICANA reported on November 23.

The decision to expedite deliberation on the amendment was approved with 147 yes votes. Only 21 opposed and 4 abstained, raising optimism that the number of executions could be sharply reduced, if the amendment is approved by the full Parliament and then the Council of Guardians, the clerical body which must approve all legislation.

"The situation we're currently facing is that the majority of executions are for drug-trafficking crimes and the Western countries and international organizations are taking political advantage of it. This is extremely costly for our country. Those who are being condemned to death are not traffickers in the true sense. The real traffickers are those who are managing the drug trade from hotels rooms in Ankara and Istanbul," said MP Ezatollah Yousefian in a debate on the open session of Parliament on November 23.

In recent months, proponents and opponents of Iran's policy against drug offenders have debated the issue at the highest levels. Judiciary Chief Ayatollah Sadegh Larijani has not only opposed amending laws to reduce executions but also urged executions to be carried out at a faster pace.

"We don't think that the laws concerning drug trafficking are revelations from God. They are man-made laws that have not had perfect results. But it's wrong to say that executions have had no effect," Larijani said on September 29, 2016. "If the Judiciary had not been strict, we would have been in a far worse situation."

However, the Judiciary Chief's own brother, Mohammad Javad Larijani, who heads the Judiciary's Human Rights Council, said on October 8, "I am in favor of changing the law, but that does not mean we should stop the fight against drug-trafficking."

The Judiciary Chief's position has been further weakened by the hardline Justice Minister Mostafa Pourmohammadi, who said on October 29, "We are looking to see what punishments can replace executions with greater effectiveness for certain criminals. Of course, the death penalty will still be enforced, but not to the extent we have today."

(source: Iran Human Rights)

NOVEMBER 29, 2016:


U.S. justices sympathetic to death row inmate on intellectual disability

A majority of U.S. Supreme Court justices on Tuesday appeared ready to side with a man sentenced to death for a 1980 Houston murder who is challenging how Texas gauges whether a defendant has intellectual disabilities that would preclude execution.

The Supreme Court ruled in 2002 that the execution of people who are intellectually disabled violates the U.S. Constitution's ban on cruel and unusual punishment. At issue in the arguments the 8 justices heard on Tuesday was whether Texas is using an obsolete standard to assess whether a defendant is intellectually disabled.

Bobby Moore, convicted at age 20 of fatally shooting a 70-year-old grocery clerk during a 1980 Houston robbery, is challenging his sentence in Texas, which carries out more executions than any other U.S. state.

Moore's lawyers contend their client is intellectually disabled and should be spared execution. They argued that a lower court that upheld his sentence wrongly used an "outdated" 24-year-old definition used in Texas when it determined he was not intellectually disabled.

Moore's appeal focused on how judges should weigh medical evidence of intellectual disability. His lawyers said that a lower court found that Moore's IQ of 70 was "within the range of mild mental retardation."

Based on questions asked during the argument, the justices, equally divided between liberals and conservatives, appeared likely to rule for Moore, 57.

Justice Anthony Kennedy, a conservative who sometimes sides with the liberals, looked likely to be the key vote. Kennedy and two other current justices were in the majority in the 2002 ruling precluding executing people with an intellectual disability.

At one point during the argument, Kennedy said that the state appeals court precedent on which Texas relies was intended to "really limit" the definition of intellectual disability.

Texas Solicitor General Scott Keller responded that the state court has "never said that the purpose ... is to screen out individuals and deny them relief."

"But isn't that the effect?" Kennedy asked.

Justice Elena Kagan, a liberal, said the Texas standards appeared to reflect a decision by the state court to reject expert clinical findings because "they don't reflect what Texas citizens think."

The Supreme Court's justices have differed among themselves over capital punishment but the court has shown no indication it will take up the broader question of the whether the death penalty itself violates the Constitution. Liberal justices Stephen Breyer and Ruth Bader Ginsburg have said the way the death penalty is implemented may be unconstitutional, in part because of differences from state to state.

Breyer hinted at those concerns during Tuesday's argument. He said it may not be possible to set an intellectual disability standard that is applied uniformly nationwide, meaning there will be "disparities and uncertainties" and "people who are alike treated differently."

The high court on Oct. 5 heard arguments in another Texas death penalty case. In that one, the justices appeared poised to rule in favor of black convicted murderer Duane Buck, who is seeking to avoid execution after his own trial lawyer called an expert witness who testified Buck was more likely to be dangerous in the future because of his race.

Rulings in both cases are due by the end of June.

(source: Reuters)


On death row for 1980 killing, Texas inmate asks Supreme Court to spare him

A Texas death-row inmate who once struggled to spell the word "cat" exposed on Tuesday sharp differences among Supreme Court justices over capital punishment and the judging of intellectual disability.

In an hour-long oral argument set against the backdrop of an upcoming confirmation battle, the short-handed court seemed split along conventional conservative and liberal lines. The fate of inmate Bobby James Moore and others like him who are on the borderline of intellectual disability now appears to hang on one swing vote, that of Justice Anthony Kennedy.

"This is a vitally important, life or death issue," Moore's attorney, Clifford M. Sloan, told the justices.

In 2002, the court held that the Eighth Amendment prohibits the execution of people with intellectual disabilities. It’s been up to individual states to determine how this standard is met.

In Moore's case, Texas applied a standard subsequently spelled out in a 1992 manual by the American Association of Mental Retardation. Critics, including Moore's attorneys, consider this standard outdated, and some justices Tuesday clearly agreed.

"Your view ... of state discretion is that a person that every clinician would find is intellectually disabled, the state would not find is intellectually disabled, because a consensus of Texas citizens would not find that person to be intellectually disabled," a skeptical Justice Elena Kagan told Texas Solicitor General Scott A. Keller.

Texas officials, Kagan said, believe they "can execute people that clinicians would say are disabled."

"There is no question that Texas is very extreme and stands alone."--Defense attorney Clifford M. Sloan

The son of an abusive alcoholic father, Moore began skipping school in 4th grade and dropped out altogether after 9th grade. His father, who had allegedly beat Moore when he did poorly in school and when he couldn't spell easy words, kicked him out of the house when he was 14. "He couldn't tell the days of the week. He couldn't tell the months of the year; couldn't tell time," Justice Sonia Sotomayor said, adding that Moore "was eating out of garbage cans repeatedly and getting sick after each time he did it, but not learning from his mistakes."

By the time he was 17, Moore was a felon who financed his drug use by stealing cars, burglarizing houses and hustling pool.

In April 1980, Moore and two accomplices agreed to commit a robbery. Moore supplied a .32 caliber pistol and a shotgun, and the 3 men drove around Houston until they came upon Birdsall Super Market. Donning a wig and sunglasses, Moore entered the store with the other 2 robbers and then, prosecutors say, Moore shot and killed 70-year-old James McCarble.

Moore said the firearm discharge was accidental.

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals later confined the assessment of Moore's intellectual capacity to the 1992 manual. This assessment included a finding that Moore has scored in the mid-70s on IQ tests. The manual has since been updated, and more current medical standards de-emphasize rigid IQ scores and place greater weight on the individual's real-world abilities to adapt and function.

Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer both joined Kagan and Sotomayor on Tuesday in sounding sympathetic to Moore's case.

"You've made very good arguments for your client," Breyer told Sloan.

Texas, in turn, had apparent allies in Chief Justice John Roberts Jr., and, in particular, Justice Samuel Alito, a former federal prosecutor. At one point, Alito pulled out a particular academic journal to support his point.

"Texas is not prohibiting the use of current standards," Keller said.

The argument Tuesday was the 2nd involving a Texas death-row inmate to be heard this term. In October, justices sounded sympathetic to a separate, and relatively narrow, challenge brought by Duane Edward Buck.

A jury in 1996 convicted Buck of killing 2 people and wounding his step-sister, and he was sentenced to death after a psychologist summoned by his own defense attorney concluded that being "'Black' was a 'statistical factor'" that increased the probability that Buck would commit future acts of violence.

In keeping with his standard practice, Justice Clarence Thomas did not speak or ask questions during oral argument for either of the Texas cases. He is, however, a reliable vote to uphold death sentences as a general matter.

Decisions in both cases are expected by the end of next June.

If the 8 current justices deadlock in Moore's case, no precedent would be set but the lower Texas appellate court decision would be upheld, thus affirming Moore's death sentence.

By June, the Republican-controlled Senate is also likely to have confirmed a replacement for the late Justice Antonin Scalia, who passed away last February. President-elect Donald Trump, who will make the selection after GOP lawmakers refused to consider President Barack Obama's nominee, supports the death penalty.



Mother of Glenara Bates no longer faces death penalty

A woman charged with murder in the death of her 2-year-old daughter who prosecutors say was starved and beaten no longer faces the death penalty.

At a court hearing Tuesday, Hamilton County prosecutors did not dispute the report of a psychologist who found that 30-year-old Andrea Bradley is intellectually disabled. That finding means Bradley, if convicted, cannot be sentenced to death. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that executing people with intellectual disabilities violates the Constitution's ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

A trial was set for April 2017 in Hamilton County Common Pleas Court before Judge Robert Ruehlman.

Experts have determined that Bradley's IQ is in the mid-60s, below the threshold of 75 that determines intellectual disability.

Prosecutors said both Bradley and her onetime boyfriend, Glen Bates, were responsible for the death of 2-year-old Glenara Bates. She had been starved, burned, beaten and ultimately slammed against a door frame by Glen Bates before she died in March 2015. Bates was found guilty of aggravated murder and sentenced to death in October.

Bates lived on and off with Bradley, Glenara and 5 other children in a rented house in East Walnut Hills. Bates is the father of 3 of Bradley's children, including Glenara and a child Bradley gave birth to last year while she was in jail, awaiting trial.

Bradley's attorneys have called Bates controlling and abusive toward her.



Ricketts: 'Claims of secrecy really just aren't founded' surrounding death penalty proposal

Gov. Pete Ricketts on Tuesday dismissed concerns about lack of transparency with proposed changes to Nebraska's lethal injection protocol.

The proposal, announced Monday by the Nebraska Department of Correctional Services, would allow the state prisons director to choose the drug or drugs used in executions, and would keep the identity of the state's supplier confidential.

It would also keep the drugs and method of administration secret until 60 days before a death warrant is requested. At that point, the information would be shared with the condemned inmate.

"Claims of secrecy really just aren't founded," Ricketts told reporters during a news conference Tuesday at the Capitol.

He said the proposed rules are intended to protect the drug provider, and that the 60-day window of notification provides flexibility for the state to change the drug it uses while still giving inmates "plenty of time" to appeal.

"We're really not changing anything about confidentiality," Ricketts said, but the protocol would "give the state flexibility to carry out the execution."

The proposal came three weeks after voters overwhelmingly reversed the Legislature's repeal of the death penalty.

The proposed new protocol will be submitted to a public hearing on Dec. 30.

(source: Lincoln Journal Star)


Despite Execution Moratorium, Oregon Gives Another Inmate The Death Penalty

Oregon has a new death row inmate, bringing the total to 35.

David Ray Bartol, 45, was found guilty of aggravated murder after killing fellow inmate Gavin Siscel. Barton made a shank and stabbed Siscel to death as he watched TV.

To pass a death sentence, the jury had to answer "yes" to a series of questions including:

-Was the murder deliberate?

-Is Bartol a continuing threat to society?

-Was the attack unreasonable in response to any provocation by Siscel?

-And finally: Should the defendant receive a death sentence?

The jury of nine women and three men answered "yes" to all the questions.

Gov. Kate Brown has said she plans to continue Oregon's moratorium on capital punishment.

The last person to be put to death here was Douglas Wright, 20 years ago.

The last person to be sentenced to death in Oregon was David Taylor in 2014.

(source: OPB news)


Different voices from inside Turkey's ruling party

Deputy Prime Minister Tugrul Turkes is known to be against the death penalty. In the cabinet meeting presided by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Oct. 31, he expressed his views outright.

"Even if the capital punishment is reintroduced, you cannot hang Ocalan and Gulen," Turkes said, referring to the Abdullah Ocalan, the head of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), and Fethullah Gulen, who is blamed for the July 15 coup. When Erdogan looked at him with questioning eyes, Turkes went on, "This is because, since Magna Carta, penalties are not retroactive." While the entire cabinet and the president were listening with heightened interest, he said, "In this case, we would bring back the death penalty but we would not be able to practice it. Reinstalling death penalty would disrupt our image. They would immediately expel us from the Council of Europe and NATO.?

Upon these words of Turkes, Erdogan said, "How can they remove us from NATO? There is capital punishment in the U.S." Turkes elaborated, "This has been like this from the beginning in the U.S. There was capital punishment before NATO was formed; they did not change it afterward. They have a separate law. But we have been subject to the continental Europe law from the beginning."

On the other hand, a cabinet minister known for his notable proclamations on the EU, in his meeting with the deputy chair of the AK Party, bluntly said, "If capital punishment is brought in, I will vote negatively."

We have seen during the sexual abuse criminalization debates that the public in Turkey, since opposition remains inadequate, expects the members of the ruling AK Party to warn the government.

In this process, there are certain people the president and the prime minister have consulted in the struggle against FETO, capital punishment and the presidential system. For this reason, I would like to reflect the shared thoughts of President Erdogan and PM Binali Yildirim. These names which are only a handful but have huge respectability, I think, and represent certain sensitivity within the AK Party.

At the top of the matters is the capital punishment. "Death sentence cannot be retroactive. For this reason, it is not possible to execute Fethullah Gulen and Ocalan. It can only be practiced as of the date it is processed. It is also questionable what deterrence this would have for future acts."

There are wrongs and rights in the fight against the Fethullahist Terrorist Organization (FETO). Here is a broader analysis:

"Our president categorized the FETO structuring to 3 levels as the top being betrayal, the middle commerce and the bottom worship. The betrayal attempted a coup in July 15. This has military and civilian connections. They have connections in military, police, the national intelligence organization. They have brothers, sisters and imams in civilian life. We should fight these.

"The commercial middle class, though, is a structure financially supporting them. In fighting these, we should determine a commercial capacity. We should target those that have a certain commercial capacity; however, we should not spread it to the street grocery store level.

"There is also the believer, the worshipper dimension. We should make them see the truth.

"Out of those who have been caught in July 15, 90 % are in the betrayal group. The judgement should start from there. Each institute should not have its own measures. There should be penalty criteria of 4 or 5 clauses. The process should function accordingly. But this is not being done. The fight is conducted irregularly. Social wounds are opened. The civilian leg has reached hundreds of thousands but the military leg has not yet reached 10,000. The fight against FETO business should not be considered as a score."

On the subject of conducting the presidential system together with the opposition Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), there is a "be careful" warning. "As a result of the presidential system, there will be a bi-party system. The MHP will erode. Why should MHP leader Devlet Bahçeli want a system where the MHP will lose? Where does this appetite for the presidential system come from for Bahceli? Will the MHP crash us to the wall?"

We are walking step by step to the "President of the Republic" system. It looks as if the constitutional amendment will pass in the parliament and it will be acknowledged with a significant vote rate in the referendum. Nevertheless, I still wanted to reflect different evaluations within the AK Party.

(source: Hurriyet Daily News)


Death Penalty Sought For Double Murder In Andros

A judge was asked yesterday to impose the death penalty on 2 men convicted of the murder and kidnapping of a Department of Immigration officer and his girlfriend in Andros.

Zintworn Duncombe, 28, and James Johnson, 22, appeared before Justice Indra Charles for the continuation of the penalty phase of their trial for their respective roles in the murder and kidnapping of Shane Gardiner and his girlfriend, Tishka Braynen, in 2013.

Gardiner and Braynen were allegedly killed after a failed plot to take $8,000 in gambling winnings from the immigration officer. Braynen, of Cargill Creek, and Gardiner, who lived in Love Hill, both in Central Andros, were reported missing around 1.45pm on November 24, 2013. Gardiner had recently been assigned to the island. On December 21, 2013, police in Andros discovered the remains of a man with "items related to a female."

Duncombe, Johnson, Daniel Coakley, 28, and Cordero Saunders, 26, were unanimously convicted of double kidnapping, conspiracy to commit armed robbery and attempted armed robbery.

The Crown is seeking the death penalty for Duncombe and Johnson.

Darnell Dorsett, Crown prosecutor, made submissions on behalf of the Crown's request that the case met the "worst of the worst" threshold set out in law for the discretionary death penalty to be imposed.

The 2011 amendment to the Penal Code notes that only certain types of aggravated murder are currently punishable by death: murder of a law enforcement officer such as a police officer or a prison guard; murder of a judicial officer, including judges, registrars and prosecutors; murder of a witness or juror; murder of more than one person; murder committed by a defendant who has a prior murder conviction; and murder in exchange for value.

The only 2 possible sentences are either death or life without parole. Any other type of murder carries a term of imprisonment of 30 to 60 years.

The amendment further provides that any murder committed in the course of/or in furtherance of a robbery, rape, kidnapping, terrorist act, or any other felony is punishable by death, with no explicit requirement of intent to cause death.

A felony is defined as any offence that is punishable by at least 3 years' imprisonment.

"This is a fitting case for the imposing of the death penalty," Ms Dorsett said yesterday.

The prosecutor noted that Duncombe and Johnson were convicted of all of the offences brought against them.

She said the victims, based on the testimony of Terrel Mackey, were taken to Newbold Farms where Duncombe and Johnson, armed with handguns, demanded money from Gardiner.

"Duncombe shot Shane Gardiner in the head when Gardiner maintained that he had no money. Braynen started screaming and Duncombe shot her to the head execution style," the prosecutor added.

Ms Dorsett reminded the judge that the pathologist said that based on Gardiner's wound, his death was not immediate and so there was evidence of suffering.

Relying on the case authorities of Forrester Bowe vs the Crown and Ernest Lockhart vs the Queen, the prosecutor said the court has the discretion to impose the death penalty in the most extreme and exceptional cases.

"We say that the heinous murder of the senior immigration officer and his girlfriend falls within the 'worst of the worst' threshold when we compare other murders like the case of Simeon Bain," Ms Dorsett argued.

In the case of Bain, the 44-year-old had his life sentence reduced to 55 years by the Court of Appeal for the throat-slashing murder of former Burger King restaurant manager Rashad Morris after a failed plot to obtain money from the victim.

"In this case, in the middle of the night, a young neighbour heard a gunshot from Shane Gardiner's house. We ask the court to infer that Shane Gardiner (was) home in a relaxed state. They were taken in the dead of night to a very eerie place of Newbold Farms. There's no lighting at all in that area. We urge the court to take into consideration these 2 contributing members of society were taken hostage and 1 month later, hog hunters happened upon their remains. But for the grace of God, their remains may have not been found, leaving the affected families without closure," the prosecutor said.

She said the court also had to consider whether there was a prospect of reform for the convicts.

She stressed that there has been no expression of remorse from either Duncombe or Johnson which, according to psychiatrist Dr John Dillard, is the first step to rehabilitation.

"We say that because they've expressed no remorse, they still pose a significant danger to society," Ms Dorsett added.

Jerone Roberts, Duncombe's 2nd lawyer, countered that this case did not warrant the imposition of the death penalty as it did not fall within the "worst of the worst" threshold set out in prior rulings by the Privy Council.

Mr Roberts stressed that the psychiatrist could not definitively say that the 2 convicts were beyond reform, which is a hurdle the Crown must get over in order for their application to succeed.

"This is a case which unfortunately occurs often not only in the Bahamas but around the world," Mr Roberts said, adding that even terrorist bombings have become daily occurrences.

Duncombe, Saunders, Johnson and Coakley, who all maintain their innocence, were each represented by lawyers Ian Cargill, Moses Bain, Donna Major and Terrel Butler.

Mrs Dorsett and Patrick Sweeting prosecuted the case.

A decision is expected to be handed down on December 12.



House panel OKs bill reviving death penalty

The House of Representatives sub-committee on judicial reforms endorsed yesterday a bill seeking to reimpose the death penalty for all heinous crimes, including violations of the anti-drug trafficking law, under House Bill 1.

6 lawmakers voted for HB 1 while 5 wanted a substitute bill limiting capital punishment to drug-related crimes, arson and carjacking.

2 other members abstained out of their pro-life advocacies during the deliberations.

But opposition congressmen led by Rep. Edcel Lagman of Albay immediately denounced the panel's "railroading" of the House leaders' bill.

"There was no report produced before the vote was taken. Members were not given sufficient notice of the scheduled voting," Lagman told a news conference.

HB 1 was authored principally by Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, Majority Leader Rodolfo Farinas and Minority Leader Danilo Suarez.

Leyte Rep. Vicente Veloso heads the subcommittee. He is among officials of the province who have been linked to illegal drugs, but confessed drug lord Kerwin Espinosa of Albuera town, Leyte cleared him.

The justice committee led by Oriental Mindoro Rep. Reynaldo Umali will tackle HB 1 and the substitute bill, and fierce debates among the pro- and anti-death penalty camps are expected.

The imposition of the death penalty has been suspended since 2006 with the enactment of Republic Act 9346, or "An Act Prohibiting the Imposition of Death Penalty in the Philippines."

According to Alvarez, they intend to approve HB 1 before Congress takes its Christmas break on Dec. 16.

President Duterte has been pushing for the revival of the death penalty and Alvarez said this was among the issues that the Chief Executive discussed with them when he met senators and congressmen during a recent Legislative Executive Development Advisory Council meeting in Malacanang.

(source: Philippine Star)


Death penalty bill done by Christmas

Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez on Tuesday said the House of Representatives was hopeful of passing the proposal seeking to reimpose death penalty on heinous crimes before Congress would have its Yuletide break on December 16.

Alvarez made the statement as the House subcommittee on judicial reforms, chaired by Leyte Rep. Vicente Veloso, approved the measure contained in a consolidated version, including House Bill 1 authored by Alvarez himself.

But Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, one of the oppositors to the death penalty bill, denounced its approval.

The approved version of the measure will then be submitted to the House committee on justice, chaired by Oriental Mindoro Rep. Reynaldo Umali, for consideration.

"The railroading has started," Lagman said, questioning the absence of a committee report prior to the approval of the measure.

Alvarez filed HB 1 which seeks to reimpose death penalty on heinous crimes, like human trafficking, illegal recruitment, plunder, treason, parricide, infanticide, rape, qualified piracy and bribery, kidnapping and illegal detention, robbery with violence against or intimidation of persons, car theft, destructive arson, terrorism and drug-related cases.

"There is evidently a need to reinvigorate the war against criminality by reviving a proven deterrent coupled by its consistent, persistent and determined implementation, and this need is as compelling and critical as any," Alvarez said in his HB No. 1.

"The imposition of the death penalty for heinous crimes and the mode of its implementation, both subjects of repealed laws, are crucial components of an effective dispensation of both reformative and retributive justice," the bill stated.

Republic Act 7659 or the Death Penalty Law was abolished in 1986 during the term of then President Corazon Aquino.

It was restored by president Fidel V. Ramos in 1993, and was suspended again in 2006 by then President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

President Rodrigo Duterte said he would want the capital punishment by hanging reimposed, vowing to carry out at least 50 executions a month to serve as a strong deterrent against criminality.

Alvarez lamented that the rise of criminality in the country had reached an "alarming proportion" and the government must do an "all-out offensive against all forms of felonious acts."

(source: Manila Standard)


U.S. Supreme Court To Hear Texas Death Penalty Case On Intellectual Disability

It's unconstitutional to execute people with intellectual disabilities, that much the U.S. Supreme Court has made clear. But things get fuzzy when individual states try to legally determine "intellectual disability," and that ambiguity is leading Texas to its latest hearing before the high court.

On Tuesday morning, the 8 justices will hear arguments surrounding Texas' method of determining the condition, ultimately deciding if the state's approach fits within past rulings specifying who can be put to death. The case is brought forth by Bobby Moore, a death row inmate of more than 36 years.

In April 1980, Moore, then 20, walked into a Houston supermarket with 2 other men, wearing a wig and holding a shotgun, according to Texas' brief to the high court. He approached the clerks' counter and shot 73-year-old James McCarble once in the head, killing him. Decades after receiving the death sentence, the 57-year-old man still sits in prison.

Moore's appeals have been exhaustive; he was even granted a second sentencing hearing in 2001 and again handed the death penalty. In his latest appeal, Moore's attorneys claim he is intellectually disabled, which would make him ineligible for execution. But courts have disagreed on how to legally determine the disability.

2 previous Supreme Court rulings have addressed executing intellectually disabled people. In 2002, Atkins v. Virginia ruled that executing those with the disability violates the Eighth Amendment's ban on cruel and unusual punishment, but left it up to the states to legally define the condition. In 2014, Hall v. Florida specified that an IQ higher than 70 did not alone eliminate the condition, and that legal determination "is distinct from a medical diagnosis but is informed by the medical community's diagnostic framework."

"I'm very concerned of this propensity to push the envelope and define more and more people as intellectually disabled, including people that regular folks would not for a moment consider to have that condition." - Kent Scheidegger, legal director of the Criminal Justice Legal Fund

After Atkins, Texas' highest criminal court set the state's definition of intellectual disability in Ex parte Briseno as those with a low IQ and poor adaptive functioning since childhood. In setting the standard, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals controversially referred to Lennie, a character from John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men, in describing how to define the condition.

"Most Texas citizens might agree that Steinbeck's Lennie should, by virtue of his lack of reasoning ability and adaptive skills, be exempt," the ruling stated. "But, does a consensus of Texas citizens agree that all persons who might legitimately qualify for assistance under the social services definition of mental retardation be exempt from an otherwise constitutional penalty?"

The same year Hall was decided, a state district court determined that Moore was indeed intellectually disabled, but the ruling was overturned by the Court of Criminal Appeals. Judge Cheryl Johnson wrote that the lower court erred by using current medical standards to determine the condition, instead of the framework set up by the criminal appeals court, which adheres to the 1992 definition set by the American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (AAIDD).

"Although the mental-health fields and opinions of mental-health experts inform the factual decision, they do not determine whether an individual is exempt from execution under Atkins," Johnson wrote in the opinion. "The decision to modify the legal standard for intellectual disability in the capital-sentencing context rests with this Court unless and until the Legislature acts, which we have repeatedly asked it to do."

On Tuesday, attorney Cliff Sloan, representing Moore, will argue that the CCA violated the constitution by requiring courts to use medically outdated standards to determine if a death row inmate is intellectually disabled and ineligible for execution.

Moore's brief claims that courts should be using current medical standards to determine intellectual disability, and that the Briseno definition is unjust and only qualifies certain people with intellectual disability as exempt from execution, instead of all of them.

"In Briseno, the CCA - while ostensibly adopting a 1992 clinical definition of intellectual disability - criticized the medical community's diagnostic framework as 'exceedingly subjective,' and fashioned its own additional 'factors' for intellectual disability derived from lay stereotypes and lacking any clinical foundation," Moore's brief to the high court said.

"There really isn't any confusion in the medical and the scholarly environments about what is intellectual disability. This is a condition that's been around since as long as there's been people." - Margaret Nygren, executive director and CEO of AAIDD

Solicitor General Scott Keller will argue for Texas, claiming that the state's way of defining intellectual disability is in line with the Atkins and Hall decisions, and that the CCA ruled correctly, since Hall distinguishes that the legal definition of intellectual disability is different than a medical diagnosis.

"The CCA actually considered the clinical definitions that petitioner labels 'current medical standards' ... and relied on them to apply certain concepts," the brief states. "What the CCA did not do is adopt those definitions wholesale as Texas's legal standard for Atkins claims."

In regards to the "Lennie" discussions, the brief said it is a "strained effort" by Moore and the ACLU to taint the Briseno test.

"The 'Lennie' comment should be understood for what it actually was: an aside," the brief states.

Kent Scheidegger, legal director of the pro-death penalty Criminal Justice Legal Foundation, filed a brief in support of Texas. He said in a phone interview that he doesn't have a problem with the Atkins ruling, but is concerned about the "creep" in defining intellectual disability.

"I'm very concerned of this propensity to push the envelope and define more and more people as intellectually disabled, including people that regular folks would not for a moment consider to have that condition," Scheidegger said.

A push that doesn't exist, according to Margaret Nygren, the executive director and CEO for AAIDD.

"There really isn't any confusion in the medical and the scholarly environments about what is intellectual disability," she said. "This is a condition that's been around since as long as there's been people."

In the petition, Moore is asking the court to reverse the CCA's ruling and toss out his sentence. If the court rules in his favor, it could set even further restrictions on how states can legally determine intellectual disability, as it did in Hall.

Nygren hopes the court will further intertwine the medical definition with the legal one.

"What I'd like to see happen is a recognition that statutory definition should really mirror the diagnostic criteria supported by research," she said.

Texas is asking that the court affirm the state court's ruling, or, at the very least remand the case back to the CCA to further review current medical standards, instead of setting national precedents.

"If the Court concludes that the CCA did not sufficiently consult these sources, then the appropriate remedy would not be to install part or all of those definitions as a national Atkins standard," the state's brief wrote. "The redress for that claimed injury would be a remand with instructions to give due 'consideration' to [the current diagnostic framework]."

Other death penalty news:

Moore will be the 2nd Texas death row inmate to have his case heard by the U.S. Supreme Court this fall. In October, Duane Buck argued for a new sentencing trial since a psychologist at his original trial testified that black men are more dangerous than whites.

This year, Texas and the nation will see the fewest number of executions in 20 years.



Judge to consider fate of death-row inmates' Racial Justice Act claims

A years-long effort by 4 Fayetteville-area death row inmates to use racial discrimination claims to stave off the death penalty will again go before a judge today. The inmates are fighting to again use the state's Racial Justice Act - a controversial law that was passed in 2009 and repealed in 2013 - in a renewed attempt to get their death sentences commuted to life in prison without parole.

A hearing in their cases is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. today in Charlotte. 2 special deputy attorneys general are expected to say the 4 cases should be dismissed because of the 2013 repeal.

A team of lawyers for the defendants counter that the inmates can still use the Racial Justice Act because their cases were initiated when the law was still on the books.

The 4 defendants in 2012 used the Racial Justice Act to get off death row. They persuaded Cumberland County Superior Court Judge Greg Weeks that the prosecutors in their trials illegally prevented black people from serving on their juries.

But in December 2015, the North Carolina Supreme Court overturned Weeks' rulings. It said he made errors that made his Racial Justice Act hearings unfair to the state's lawyers.

The Supreme Court said the 4 Racial Justice Act hearings should be done over; the 4 defendants were put back on death row in the meantime.

The 4 defendants are Marcus Reymond Robinson, who killed a teen in a robbery; Tilmon Golphin, who with his brother killed a deputy and a state trooper in a traffic stop; Christina S. "Queen" Walters, who led a gang that kidnapped and killed 2 women; and Quintel Augustine, convicted of murdering a Fayetteville police officer.

Lawyers Danielle Marquis Elder and Jonathan P. Babb of the state Attorney General's Office say in court fillings that the 4 inmates can no longer use the Racial Justice Act because it was repealed in 2013. They argue that the appeal of their 4 cases never reached a final conclusion - the state Supreme Court's decision did not consider the merits of the claims, only whether Weeks conducted fair hearings - so the cases can't resume now that the law is repealed.

The defense lawyers contend that the state's lawyers are wrong.

According to Ken Rose of the Center for Death Penalty Litigation, Cassandra Stubbs of the American Civil Liberties Union and other defense lawyers in the case, the defendants have several key arguments, including:

The state Supreme Court specifically said the cases should be done over.

The lawmakers were angry that these 4 defendants successfully used the Racial Justice Act and were trying to punish them by repealing it. It's unconstitutional to make a law to target specific individuals for punishment, a concept called bill of attainder.

The lawyers say it's unconstitutional for the repeal to be applied retroactively. This falls under a legal concept known as ex post facto.

The passage of the Racial Justice Act vested a right with the defendants and gave them life, liberty and property interests that, according to the constitution, can't be taken with due process of law.

They say the state isn't allowed under the constitution and by law to increase a person's sentence after it's set - they say that once a death sentence is taken off, it can't be put back on.

(source: Fayetteville Observer)


Georgia's death row in 2016: The killers and those they killed----State leads nation in executions this year

Georgia executes 8 people in 2016

Georgia's stepped-up pace has thrust the state into the lead, surpassing even Texas - which on the whole has carried out almost 8 times as many executions as Georgia since the death penalty was reinstated 4 decades ago: Georgia has killed 68 prisoners; Texas has killed 538.

For the most part, the reason Georgia is using its death chamber more frequently is because a large number of inmates have simply exhausted their appeals. Also, the legal issues that had been a barrier in recent years - the use of lethal injection drugs, which ones the state uses, and Georgia's secrecy law - have been resolved.

There are 59 men on Georgia's death row.

Following are the 8 men executed in 2016, plus the prisoner slated to be this year's 9th execution.

Brandon Astor Jones (Feb. 3)

Brandon Astor Jones was the oldest man on Georgia's death row when he was executed for murdering Roger Tackett, a convenience store manager.

Jones and Roosevelt Solomon were already in the store when a police officer pulled up at the Cobb County Tenneco station just after midnight on June 17, 1979. The lights were on past the closing time, which raised the officer's suspicions. Just as the policeman looked through a store window, Jones peeked out of the storeroom. There were 4 shots. The officer found Jones and Solomon still inside, and Tackett dead on the storeroom floor. Solomon was electrocuted in 1985. Jones was executed more than 30 years later, at age 72.

Final words: None.

Roger Tackett

Victim: Roger Tackett was 37 when he was gunned down. Before working at the Tenneco convenience store, Tackett had taught Russian, French and Latin at Georgia Southern College, and taught languages at a metro Atlanta private school. When the program at the private school was eliminated, Tackett took a job pumping gas, making more money than he had as a teacher. On the night he was killed, Tackett had stayed late to finish paperwork so he could spend Father's Day with his 7-year-old daughter.

Travis Hittson (Feb. 17)

Travis Hittson was a 21-year-old Navy seaman on an aircraft carrier based in Pensacola when he and two buddies traveled to Middle Georgia for a weekend. Chief Petty Officer Edward Vollmer, Hittson and shipmate Conway Utterbeck planned to stay at Vollmer's parents' home while they were away.

They spent that Saturday afternoon in April 1992 drinking at the Vollmer house, then Hittson and Vollmer decided to hit a local bar. Utterbeck stayed behind. It was on the drive back that Hittson and Vollmer decided to murder Utterbeck. Hittson beat Utterbeck with a bat and shot him. Then they dismembered him, burying Utterbeck's torso in Houston County and taking the rest of his body parts to Pensacola. Vollmer pleaded guilty in exchange for a life sentence with the possibility of parole. Hittson went to trial and was sentenced to die. He was 45 when executed.

Final words: "No, sir, I'm alright."

Victim: Conway Utterbeck was stationed aboard the USS Forrestal in Pensacola when he met Hittson and Vollmer on his job assignment. According to court records he was murdered only because Vollmer convinced Hittson that Utterbeck had a hit list and they were on it. Utterbeck was asleep in a recliner when the 2 men came home and attacked him. Utterbeck asked "why?" as he pleaded for his life.

Initially, Navy officials just made note of Utterbeck's unauthorized absence. They opened an investigation only after Utterbeck's mother called because she had not heard from her son in a month. 6 weeks after the murder, a logger in Houston County found Utterbeck's torso.

Joshua Bishop (March 31)

Joshua Bishop was 19 when he used a curtain rod to beat to death Leverette Morrison during a struggle for keys to Morrison's jeep. Once Bishop was in custody, Baldwin County investigators learned he had also killed another man 2 weeks earlier, Ricky Lee Wills, because Wills bragged about a sexual encounter with Bishop's mother. His advocates said Bishop had a hard life as a child: he was physically and sexually abused, was his mother's drinking buddy, and was always searching for his father. Bishop was 41 when executed.

Final words: "I apologize to the people of Baldwin County and to the Morrison family. I'd also like to thank all the people who stood by me."

Victim: Leverette Morrison might have been Bishop's uncle. No one knows for sure. In answer to her son's repeated questions about his father, Bishop's mother named Morrison's brother, Albert Ray Morrison, as 1 of 3 possibilities. "I don't really know for sure," Albert Morrison wrote in Bishop's clemency petition. "His mama, Carolyn, went with a lot of men, including me and Leverette."

Kenneth Fults (April 12)

Kenneth Fults was jealous and had been on a weeklong crime spree in January 1996. His goal was to steal a gun so he could kill his ex-girlfriend's new boyfriend. He broke into the trailer of his next-door neighbor in the hope of finding one. Cathy Bounds' was home alone, her live-in boyfriend having just left for work moments earlier. Fults wrapped 6 feet of electrical tape around Bounds' eyes, put her face-down on a bed, placed a pillow over the back of her head and fired 5 times. Fults pleaded guilty to murder, but still claimed he was in a trance-like state when he did it. Fults was 47 when he was executed.

Final words: "Amen."

Victim: Cathy Bounds, 19, was about to begin her day when Fults entered her home, wearing gloves and a hat pulled over his eyes. Bounds begged for her life, offering him the rings on her fingers. He responded by shooting her with a stolen .22-caliber handgun.

Daniel Anthony Lucas (April 27)

Daniel Lucas was 19 when he and another teenager murdered a father and his 2 children. Until that day, his lawyers said, Lucas was controlled by his drug addiction, his parents' drinking, and frequent abuse and neglect. Lucas teamed up with Brandon Rhode to burglarize the Jones County house one April afternoon. When 11-year-old Bryan Moss came home from school and spied the 2 men, he armed himself with a baseball bat to defend his home. He was soon shot. When his 15-year-old sister came home, she was bound to a chair and eventually shot too. Moments later, their father, a truck driver, came home and was shot. Once Lucas and Rhode were caught, Lucas confessed. His advocates said he was sorry for his crime. By the time he was executed at age 37, he practiced Buddhism, his advocates said.

Final words - "To the Moss family, I'm sorry for Mrs. Moss. And to family and friends, I love them. All beings are basically good, all beings are basically kind, all beings are basically strong, all beings are basically wise."

Moss family

Victims: Bryan, Kristin and Steven Moss were killed in their own home on April 23, 1998. The day he was murdered, Bryan was supposed to play with a neighborhood friend after putting away his things. At 15, Kristin was in high school and a normal teenage girl. Their father, 37-year-old Steven Moss, had the day off. So he had lunch in Macon with his wife - who found her family dead when she got home from work.

John Conner (July 15)

John Conner had been on death row for 34 years by the time he was executed for murdering a drinking buddy. His lawyers said Conner learned to be violent from his father. Even before the murder that landed him on death row, he had killed another friend. On Jan. 9, 1982, Conner and his buddy J.T. White spent the evening at a party but wanted to continue drinking at Conner's house in Telfair County. On the walk to Conner's place, Conner attacked White with a quart bottle and an oak tree branch. Before skipping town, Conner went back to make sure White was dead. Conner's girlfriend told investigators he walked into the woods and moments later she heard a thud. Conner then told her he was sure White was dead. Conner took up painting while on death row. He was 60 when executed.

Final statement: None.

J.T. White

Victim: J.T. White was 29 when murdered. White, Conner and Conner's girlfriend, Beverly Bates, had been to a party in Eastman, where they drank and smoked marijuana. Witnesses said there was no tension between the men. But that changed later when White told Conner he wanted to have sex with Bates.

Gregory Lawler (Oct. 19)

Gregory Lawler had a master's degree in business from Emory University but was earning a living assembling furniture when he murdered Atlanta policeman John "Rick" Sowa and critically wounded policewoman Pat Cocciolone in October 1997. Neighbors told investigators they gave Lawler a wide berth. He drank heavily and yelled often at his girlfriend, neighborhood children, and even his battered gray Ford Escort when he worked on it. Lawler lived with his girlfriend near the intersections of Piedmont Avenue and Lindbergh Road. After killing Sowa, Lawler engaged in a standoff with police for about 6 hours. He surrendered after he cut his hair, shaved and changed clothes. He was 63 when executed.

Final words: None.

John Sowa

Victim: Atlanta police officer John "Rick" Sowa was 28 when he and his partner, Pat Cocciolone, walked an intoxicated woman to her front door and were shot. Cocciolone was critically wounded but was able to call for help as Sowa lay dead. The nightmare began when Sowa and Cocciolone were dispatched to investigate a report of a man hitting a woman. They found Lawler and his drunk girlfriend, Donna Rogers, behind a Midtown Atlanta store. Since Lawler had left the scene to walk home, Sowa and Cocciolone decided to drive Rogers to the apartment she shared with Lawler rather than arrest her. Within moments of speaking to Lawler at the apartment door, the officers were running for their lives as Lawler fired at them with a high-powered rifle loaded with armor-piercing bullets. Cocciolone survived but is disabled.

Steven Spears (Nov. 16)

Steven Spears never denied he murdered his ex-girlfriend. He told investigators everything after he was picked up walking to town to turn himself in for Sherri Holland's murder, having hid in the woods for 10 days. Spears said he had warned Holland when they started dating in 1999 that he would kill her if she ever left him for someone else. Other than an automatic appeal in early 2015, Spears flatly rejected any legal attempt to spare his life. He was 54 when executed.

Final words: None

Victim: Sherri Holland was a 34-year-old single mother and a U.S. Department of Agriculture inspector who worked at a ConAgra Food plant, which is where she met Spears. She and Spears dated about 3 years, even though he threatened her and her family. Relatives said she stayed in the relationship because she was trying to protect them from Spears. On the weekend she was murdered, Holland was scheduled to go on her 1st date in almost a year since she and Spears broke up.

William Sallie (scheduled for Dec. 6)

William Sallie, at age 40, could be the 9th man Georgia executes this year. When he and his wife separated in December 1989, she moved out and took their 2-year-old son to live with her parents in rural Bacon County. Soon after, under the pretense of visiting his son, Sallie took the boy to Illinois, where he stayed until a judge ordered him to return Ryan to his mother. Before returning to Georgia, Sallie had a friend in Illinois buy him a gun. And in Liberty County, Ga., Sallie rented a mobile home under an assumed name. Around 10 p.m. on March, 28, 1990, Sallie went to the house of John and Linda Moore, ripped out the telephone wire, and waited. Almost 3 hours later, as the Moore family, Sallie's estranged wife, Robin, and their son slept, Sallie pried open the back door. He shot John Moore 6 times, killing him, and wounded Linda Moore before handcuffing her and her 9-year-old son, Justin. Sallie left the house with his estranged wife and her 17-year-old sister, April Moore, taking them to his secluded mobile home, where he sexually assaulted them. Sallie freed the sisters the next evening when they told him they would not press charges.

Victim: John Moore was asleep when his son-in-law burst into his bedroom, flicking on the lights and firing a 9-mm handgun. Moore got out of bed, collapsed onto the floor and died. When Sallie dragged his estranged wife and her sister from the house, he left his 2-year-old son in the bedroom with his dead grandfather. Moore's wounded wife Linda and their 9-year-old son Justin, who had been handcuffed, freed themselves after a few hours and ran to a neighbor's house to call police.



Court ruling could get Lords of Chaos leader off death row

Recent Florida Supreme Court rulings throw into question the death sentences imposed on three of Lee County's most notorious killers.

In January, the U.S. Supreme Court, ruling on Hurst v. Florida, struck down the Florida law that allows juries to recommend the death penalty by a majority vote and allow the judge to decide if it should be imposed.

Since that time, the Florida Supreme Court has been hearing appeals from prisoners sentenced to death without a unanimous jury recommendation. They have ruled penalty phase hearings in these cases unconstitutional, giving convicted murderers the opportunity to have their death penalty sentences overturned.

"The question that still remains is will (the court) apply this to all (similar) cases or will it say that this is a constitutional standard we will only apply after a particular date," said Robert Dunham, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center.

If the court says the standard doesn't apply to cases prior to a certain date, then the court is allowing people "to be executed that it knows received unfair sentencing trials and the unfairness was prejudicial," Dunham said.

The killers

If every case without a unanimous jury recommending death is unconstitutional there could be nearly 400 convicted murderers in the state who could be resentenced. This would include three in Lee County: Joel Diaz, Harold Gene Lucas and Kevin Donald Foster, the man who killed a popular high school teacher.

Although some attorneys have said the court has signaled that all non-unanimous death penalty cases will have to undergo resentencing, Stephen Harper, co-director of the Florida Center for Capital Representation at Florida International University's College of Law, is more conservative in his opinion.

It does seem however, that the court will grant rehearings for any death row petitioner who is in the appellate process and did not have a unanimous jury decision, Harper said. But for those who have exhausted their appeals, they might be out of luck and out of time.

One of those is Harold Gene Lucas. Lucas has been on death row since 1977 for the 1976 murder of 16-year-old Anthia Jill Piper. Piper was killed in her home, shot 7 times by Lucas, who claimed to be intoxicated at the time of the crime. Lucas was convicted of the murder of Piper and attempted murder of her 2 friends whom he wounded.

The 1st jury to sentence Lucas was unanimous in recommending death. But in a subsequent resentencing the jury voted 11-1 for the death penalty.

Joel Diaz was sentenced to death in 2001 after shooting his former girlfriend and killing her father, Charles Shaw, at the Shaw family home in Cross Creek. The jury in Diaz's case recommended the death penalty, 9-3.

More than 20 years ago, Foster, then 19, killed 32-year-old Mark Schwebes, a popular Riverdale High School teacher. During April 1996 a loosely organized gang, calling themselves The Lords of Chaos, committed various crimes around Lee County including theft, vandalism and arson. Schwebes, who was Riverdale's band director, foiled the gang's plans to vandalize the school and they targeted him for death.

4 teens participated in the murder and Foster, the triggerman, was convicted of 1st degree murder and sentenced to death. The jury recommended 9-3 in favor of the death penalty and Judge Isaac Anderson imposed the sentence. Foster has been on death row ever since.

Overtaxed courts

If the court system is suddenly flooded with penalty phase trials, there will be a problem with resources. Dunham, whose organization is neither pro nor anti-death penalty, but provides information and analysis, said that the convictions will stand, it's not the guilt or innocence that will be retried. Yet much of the evidence related to the crime will need to be presented to the jury, meaning more work for an already overburdened judicial system.

If the court says that all cases with non-unanimous recommendations of death require sentencing rehearings, Dunham fired off a bevy of questions: "Who will pick up the costs? How much money is being spent on this? And how much will the counties and taxpayers tolerate?"

One way to cut the costs would be to reduce all non-unanimous death sentences to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. Dunham said surveys show that people, when presented with that option, favor it over the death penalty.

Mesac Damas murder case in limbo due to death penalty challenges

But how do prosecutors feel about it? Randall McGruther who prosecuted Foster, said he's been retired for 2 years and didn't feel comfortable commenting on the case.

Samantha Syoen, the communications director for the State Attorney Attorney Stephen Russell's office, wrote that because the death penalty law is in "a state of flux" the office is "waiting for guidance from the Florida Supreme Court as to which if any cases may be impacted by their recent or upcoming decisions."

(source: News-Press)


Florida Supreme Court Chief Justice Jorge Labarga orders investigation of death penalty attorney; may be first of its kind

In a highly unusual move, Florida Supreme Court Chief Justice Jorge Labarga has ordered an investigation of a death penalty lawyer who has repeatedly missed critical deadlines, was involved in a capital case in which roach-infested boxes of documents were destroyed by rain and who is representing two inmates trying to fire her.

Labarga ordered the probe this month of Fort Lauderdale lawyer Mary Catherine Bonner "pursuant to the Court's authority to monitor the representation of capital defendants to ensure that the defendants receive quality representation."

The decision comes seven months after prominent death penalty lawyer Martin McClain wrote to the court outlining concerns about Bonner.

Bonner was rebuked by U.S. District Judge Timothy Corrigan in Jacksonville several years ago for failing on two separate occasions to meet a 1-year deadline to file habeas corpus petitions.

Such federal appeals provide inmates a last chance to have their convictions reviewed on a variety of grounds.

In this month's administrative order, Labarga appointed 3rd District Court of Appeal Judge Kevin Emas as the referee in the Bonner investigation and named Belvin Perry - a former 9th Judicial Circuit chief judge who presided over the Casey Anthony murder trial - to serve as special counsel to the referee.

Labarga gave Emas 90 days to complete the inquiry and file a report on Bonner.

"The referee shall make findings of fact and recommend any necessary remedial action, including the removal of Mary Catherine Bonner from the registry for post-conviction capital attorneys, if appropriate," the 2-page order said.

Bonner did not respond to phone calls and emails seeking comment.

Numerous death penalty legal experts said Labarga's order appeared to be the 1st of its kind.

Florida's death penalty has been under scrutiny since the U.S. Supreme Court, in Hurst v. Florida, ruled the state's capital sentencing system as unconstitutional.

The chief justice ordered the Bonner investigation after McClain sent a letter April 4 to the clerk of the Supreme Court raising alarms about 2 death row inmates, Alphonso Cave and Paul William Scott, whom Bonner represents in state court.

Cave and Scott have independently asked the court to dismiss Bonner from their cases.

Both men said she went years without contacting them.

McClain represented Scott for a period over a decade ago, as well as Cave's co-defendant, who has since been executed.

McClain also wrote about Bonner's court-appointed representation of 2 death row inmates - including Mark James Asay, whose pending execution was put on hold by the Florida Supreme Court this year. McClain now represents the 2 death row inmates.

In 2009, Corrigan harshly criticized Bonner for filing federal appeals in the cases of Asay and William Greg Thomas more than 200 days after a 1-year deadline had passed.

Bonner blamed the delays in part on health problems both she and her husband had undergone, but Corrigan was not appeased.

"The terms 'bad faith' or 'dishonesty' capture Ms. Bonner's conduct and are the type of egregious conduct that rises well above professional negligence or even gross negligence," Corrigan wrote of Bonner's handling of Asay's petitions in 2009.

Bonner's delays in filing the federal appeals prompted Corrigan to grant "equitable tolling" in both cases, allowing the missed deadlines to be ignored.

The Florida Attorney General's Office, which represents the state in capital cases, opposed giving the inmates more time to file the federal appeals but maintained Bonner's conduct warranted sanctions.

Even so, the state opposes allowing inmates whom Bonner currently represents to fire her.

In March, Cave sent a hand-written letter to the Supreme Court requesting that Bonner be terminated as his attorney, saying he had not seen her in 4 years and she had not responded to his letters and calls.

Cave - whom Bonner has represented for nearly half of the more than 3 decades he has spent on death row - was concerned about the impact of the Hurst ruling on his case.

That decision prompted the state court to put the scheduled executions of Asay and Cary Michael Lambrix on hold indefinitely.

In April, Bonner asked the state court to keep her on as Cave's lawyer, saying she "took a very bad fall" and broke her shoulder.

Bonner went on to describe in detail problems she encountered during her recovery, including "a terrible adverse reaction to pain medication" and lengthy waits at the hospital where she was being treated.

Bonner - who has a clean record with The Florida Bar - also wrote to Cave, asking him to keep her on as his attorney.

"I care about your fate and will vigorously litigate on your behalf," she wrote to the inmate April 3.

In a hand-written response to the court dated April 11, Cave wrote he simply wanted a lawyer who would file the appropriate documents on his behalf.

"It is unfortunate and just not right that I had to write this Honorable Court to get my lawyer to correspond with me," Cave, 57, wrote.

Cave's letter is the latest document posted in his case on the Florida Supreme Court website.

Scott also asked the court to remove Bonner as his lawyer in state court. After the court refused that request, Scott appealed. That appeal is pending, according to the state court website.

Asay's case became the focus of attention earlier this year.

McClain took over Asay's case in January, shortly after Gov. Rick Scott set a March execution date for the convicted double murderer.

After being sentenced to die, Asay went for a decade without legal representation, and almost all of the paper records involving his case went missing or were destroyed.

McClain said he encountered difficulties trying to retrieve documents from Bonner, who had served as Asay's lawyer in the federal appeals. That included having 4 mold- and insect-infested boxes delivered to his office, which McClain said made them a health hazard.

Bonner later delivered more boxes to McClain "after they had been left outside in a driving rain storm," he continued.

The boxes were "completely waterlogged" and "were literally disintegrating as they were carried to my office," he wrote.

Much of the material in the boxes was unrelated to Asay's case, according to McClain's letter.



Judge to decide if mother can face death penalty for daughter's slaying----Father sentenced to death last month

A mother may learn today if she could face the death penalty for her daughter's death.

Andrea Bradley is accused of killing Glenara Bates in 2015.

Her family and attorney have said she has struggled with her mental health since she was a teenager.

Bradley has a tested IQ of 67, below the usual standard of 70 indirectly set by the U.S. Supreme Court in Atkins vs. Virginia in 2002.

But the U.S. Supreme Court also struck down a Florida law that set 70 as the standard, stating that there had to be a margin of error in IQ tests.

Even if she is found to not be elibile for the death penalty, Bradley could face 25 to life in prison if convicted.

Glenara's father, Glen Bates, was sentenced to death for the girl's slaying earlier this year.

(source: WLWT news)


Changes to death penalty protocol proposed

In an effort to overcome logistical issues that have prevented the state from obtaining the necessary drugs to follow the current death penalty protocol, officials have proposed a revised protocol.

The proposal announced Monday did not include a set method or list of substances to be used. Instead, it would allow the state corrections director to choose which drugs are used in an execution.

Condemned inmates would have to be told which drugs were chosen at least 60 days before the Nebraska attorney general's office requests an execution warrant from the Nebraska Supreme Court.

A public hearing on the proposal will take place on Dec. 30 at the State Office Building.

Nebraska hasn't executed an inmate since 1997, when it used the electric chair. The state has never used its current three-drug protocol consisting of sodium thiopental, pancuronium bromide and potassium chloride.

Voters reinstated the death penalty earlier this month, overturning the Legislature's decision to get rid of it.

Danielle Conrad, Executive Director of the ACLU of Nebraska, has this reaction:

"The ACLU of Nebraska stands ready to fight against any effort to cloak Nebraska's broken death penalty in secrecy. Regardless of how people feel about the death penalty we should all agree that Nebraskans value government transparency and accountability in all matters. In fact, inscribed right on our state Capitol is 'the salvation of the state is the watchfulness of the citizens.' As citizens, we can't complete that duty if the government only offers us selective information, editing out all the ugly parts.

"Both death penalty supporters and opponents should be able to agree that the most extreme use of state power should absolutely not occur in the shadows. As the Supreme Court has said, 'the protection given speech and press was fashioned to assure unfettered interchange of ideas for the bringing about of political and social changes desired by the people.'

"Given the recent history of scandals within the Department of Corrections, this Department should be making extra efforts to be transparent and accountable to the people of Nebraska.

"Any ill-advised effort to limit the rights of citizens, journalists, and criminal defendants to know and understand this process would implicate grave constitutional, legal and policy questions that will come at the expense of the Nebraska taxpayer."



Nebraska officials propose changes to death penalty protocol

Nebraska officials say they will try to change the state's death penalty protocol in an effort to get around the logistical problems that have prevented them from obtaining the necessary lethal injection drugs.

The proposal announced Monday would allow the state corrections director to choose which drugs are used in an execution. Condemned inmates would have to be told which drugs were chosen at least 60 days before the Nebraska attorney general's office requests an execution warrant from the Nebraska Supreme Court.

Nebraska hasn't executed an inmate since 1997, when it used the electric chair.

The state has never used its current 3-drug protocol consisting of sodium thiopental, pancuronium bromide and potassium chloride. Nebraska voters reinstated the death penalty earlier this month, overturning the Legislature's decision to abolish the punishment.

(source: Associated Press)


New death penalty protocol proposed

The Nebraska Department of Correctional Services has proposed revisions to the state's execution protocol.

It plans a public hearing on Dec. 30 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the State Office Building, 301 Centennial Mall, Lower Level Conference Room.

Nebraskans voted to keep the death penalty on Nov. 8.

The current protocol provides for a 3-drug combination. The proposed protocol does not identify the substances to be used or the detailed method in which they will be administered.

(source: Lincoln Journal Star)


Court rejects man's appeal in death penalty case

The Nevada Supreme Court has rejected the appeal of Thomas Collman, sentenced to death for killing his girlfriend's 1-year-old son in January 1996 in Ely.

Collman, who was training to become a correctional officer at the state prison in Ely, argued in his petition that there were more than 30 instances of ineffective counsel and prosecutorial misconduct.

The Supreme Court, in a 5-1 opinion issued Wednesday and written by Chief Justice Ron Parraguirre, ruled that Collman's claims were without merit.

Justice Michael Cherry dissented, saying defense lawyers failed to strenuously object to evidence presented at trial. Cherry said the conviction was based in part on "junk" scientific evidence.

Collman said the boy died when he fell down a set of basement stairs, according to court documents.

The prosecution said there were bruises and bite marks on the child's body that were inflicted over a period of time, according to the documents.

(sourc: Las Vegas Sun)


Death penalty: Ron Briggs' odyssey

Ron Briggs was always an ardent supporter of the death penalty. His father John Briggs, former state assemblyman and senator, was a driving force behind a 1978 initiative that expanded the list of special circumstances required for a death sentence.

But today, Ron Briggs is one the biggest opponents of capital punishment. He campaigned for Proposition 62, which would have ended the state's death penalty and was rejected by voters this month. The former El Dorado County supervisor is one of the petitioners in a lawsuit seeking to overturn Proposition 66, approved by voters instead, which would speed up the state's executions.

He eventually learned that the death penalty costs taxpayers 18 times more than a sentence of life in prison. He said that death row inmates are kept in private cells and don't have to work.

He now believes that the death penalty is not a deterrent to crime. He believes few murderers consider the potential punishment before they commit their horrible crimes. "It's more a social, mental health issue more than anything else," he said.

John Van de Kamp, the former state attorney general and a co-petitioner in the lawsuit to overturn Proposition 66, said Briggs' involvement in the issue makes a strong statement.

"There's a sense of irony in the fact that (Briggs and his dad) were so involved in the issue in the outset and they've seen it fail," he said. "It shows minds can change over time."

The reason for that dramatic shift had to do with religion, economics and victims' experiences with the court procedure, Briggs said.

Briggs, who is now a political consultant, said his Catholic faith was a major factor in the turnaround. After years of staying away from the pews, he returned to attending services around 2006-07 and was influenced by the church's teachings against capital punishment.

He said that in the 1970s, the church didn't provide much guidance about the death penalty. It wasn't until 1980 that the National Conference of Catholic Bishops published a negative statement about it. Now Pope Francis is very vocal about his desire to end capital punishment worldwide.

The economic impact of the death penalty was highlighted to him when he was serving on the El Dorado County Board of Supervisors during the financial crisis of 2007-08. He recalls sitting through meetings when the board had to discuss laying off employees, cutting library hours and trimming back veterans' services. At the same time, huge amounts of the budget were going to the district attorney's office. It was then that he decided to get more educated about where all the expenses went.

"I became a hard-core abolitionist in 2008," he said.

He eventually learned that the death penalty costs taxpayers 18 times more than a sentence of life in prison. He said that death row inmates are kept in private cells and don't have to work. They are guaranteed rights to appeal that other prisoners don't get.

According to, there are 741 prisoners on California's death row. Since the death penalty was reinstated in 1977, only 13 people have been executed in the state.

The final factor that pushed him into opposing the death penalty was the plight of victims with the endless court appeals. Each time the defendants go to trial again, the victims of the crime and their families have to relive the anguish and torture of what happened. He realized that the death penalty doesn't in fact give closure to victims.

Briggs and Van de Kamp can refile once that happens, which will be by Dec. 16.

Briggs understands that some victims and their families do want the death penalty, but he doesn't think it serves justice. "To me, justice and vengeance are 2 different things," he said. "I think society's justice is to get these people out of our hair and let them rot in prison."

But some of Briggs' family members disagree with his stance. His father remains publicly supportive of the death penalty though he understands the arguments and his mother is angry with him for opposing it.

Briggs and Van de Kamp filed their lawsuit against Proposition 66 in the state supreme court the day after the election and expect to eventually prevail. The suit said Proposition 66 violates defendants' rights by imposing an unjust 2-year time limit on the amount of time a judge has to hear the appeal. The suit also says the initiative violates state law because it doesn't address a single subject and includes several topics.

"It's wrong," he said. "In layman's terms, 66 aims to cut corners, tremendous corners."

The court threw the lawsuit out because the election has not been certified yet but said Briggs and Van de Kamp can refile once that happens, which will be by Dec. 16.

Kent Scheidegger, one of the authors of Proposition 66 and legal director of Criminal Justice Legal Foundation, called the lawsuit "a desperation shot." He said decades of court precedent show that the initiative is sound. "It's a big waste of the court's time."

He is unmoved by Briggs' change of heart on the death penalty. "That is father sponsored an initiative on the death penalty doesn't give him any special standing," he said. "I suspect that he sees this as a way to get attention."

Briggs said his involvement to abolish the death penalty has nothing to do with any future political goals, though he doesn't rule them out. He said he might run for a political office again.

"I'd like to take [Republican Congressman] Tom McClintock on but I don't know if I have enough money to do that," he said.

He said he was surprised that Californians didn't vote to abolish the death penalty because the polls showed a sizable number wanted that. He thinks Proposition 66 confused voters. "People were ready to chuck the death penalty but Proposition 66 gave them a way out," he said.

(source: Capitol Weekly)


Abolish the death penalty in Oregon

As a former prosecutor and public defender, I recognize that mistakes are made in the criminal courts, and national studies confirm the point. Since 1976, 1,440 individuals nationwide have been executed since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstituted the death penalty, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

Much has been said in recent weeks about the high financial cost of prosecuting death penalty cases in Oregon, and the cost of the imposition of such sentences. While these are valid considerations, the cost of death penalty cases has minor import compared to what the institution of death penalty cases says about Oregon and the rest of the states that allow for it.

The fact is the taking of a life by any government is cruel, and with the growing number of nations that have abolished the death penalty, the practice is becoming unusual. Many nations (such as Iran and North Korea) and a caliphate (ISIS) still impose the death penalty. We should not look to them for justification for the practice. Rather, we should look to our own criminal system, and what we aspire to be as a state and nation.

As a former prosecutor and public defender, I recognize that mistakes are made in the criminal courts, and national studies confirm the point. Since 1976, 1,440 individuals nationwide have been executed since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstituted the death penalty, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

Since 1973, 156 individuals on death row have been exonerated and released, according to the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty. How many of the more than 1,400 inmates who have been executed since 1976 were innocent probably will never be known.

One study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in 2014 suggests that 4.1 % (or about 57 people) of the 1,440 who have been executed (up to 2014) were innocent. Their families likely will never know justice should it be deserved, even posthumously. The courts do not usually spend time with post-conviction relief for the dead. The undeniable fact is the criminal system is not perfect; no human system can ever hope to be.

It has been advocated by Oregon prosecutors that Oregon's death row contains only guilty individuals, that Oregon does a better job. Oregon has been lucky, not better. According to The National Registry of Exonerations, seven people convicted of murder and serving life terms in Oregon have been exonerated. How lucky those 7 are that they were not sentenced to death and executed before their innocence was determined.

The fact is that Oregon's criminal court system, as well as the system in every other state, is fallible. Sooner or later an Oregon prosecutor, and jury, is going to make a big mistake that cannot be corrected. Not even one mistaken death is worth the policy of imposing the death penalty. Given the system's fallibility, the last thing we should allow the state of Oregon to do is take the life of anyone.

Justice Anthony Kennedy once wrote: "When the law punishes by death, it risks its own sudden descent into brutality, transgressing the constitutional commitment to decency and restraint." It is time for Oregon to split ranks with ISIS, Iran and North Korea on this issue, adopt the decent and restrained approach, and abolish the death penalty.

(source: Opinion; David L. Jorling of Lake Oswego is a retired attorney who spent his last 23 years of practice in the city attorney office of Portland. He also was a deputy district attorney in Multnomah County for about 3 years----Portland Tribune)


House panel approves revival of death penalty----Capital punishment recommended for illegal drugs, murder, rape, arson, kidnapping

The House of Representatives' justice committee will soon start deliberating on a bill to reinstate the death penalty, after a sub-panel approved the proposal on Tuesday.

During a hearing by the judicial reforms subcommittee, 6 congressmen voted to submit a substitute bill re-imposing capital punishment for heinous crimes, such as illegal drugs, murder, rape, arson, and kidnapping.

Another 5 voted for a version of the proposal that would have limited the death penalty to illegal drug-related crimes.

After the hearing, the measure will be forwarded to the mother committee. Once approved, it will be brought to the plenary for debates.

The reimposition of capital punishment is 1 of the House's priority measures (the other being the proposal to revert the minimum age of criminal responsibility to 9) which Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez said would be passed before the Christmas break of Congress.

The imposition of death penalty was prohibited in 2006 after then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo signed Republic Act No. 9346 into law. The penalty for offenses previously punishable by death was downgraded to reclusion perpetua or life imprisonment.

Albay 1st District Rep. Edcel Lagman, who was one of the lawmakers who passed the bill that abolished death penalty, reiterated on Tuesday that the House has been "railroading" its revival.

"In other words, the message of the House leadership is: 'have a deadly Christmas,'" Lagman said in a briefing.



The case for and against return of the death penalty

South Africa's high crime rates have resulted in increasing calls for the re-instatement of the death penalty as a deterrent.

Despite various polls indicating a significant portion of the country being in favour of its re-instatement, it remains a divisive and contentious issue that would require an amendment to the Constitution which protects citizens' right to life.

The death penalty was abolished more than 20 years ago with the advent of a post-apartheid society.

"If we are going to bring back the death penalty, we would have to amend the Bill of Rights which is almost never a good idea." - Pierre de Vos, Constitutional Law expert

De Vos made it clear that any changes to the Bill of Rights requires a 2/3 majority vote in Parliament and says that will never happen.

702/Cape Talk's Eusebius McKaiser (standing-in for Redi Tlhabi) engaged constitutional law expert, Pierre de Vos, and director of Christian View Network, Philip Rosenthal, to present both sides of the argument regarding the issue.

De Vos said that the pro-death penalty deterrence argument conflicts with the heart of democratic South Africa's founding principles in upholding equality and justice.

"People talk about the death penalty as if it's going to stop crime or be a deterrent, while all the evidence suggests is that it is not a deterrent." - Pierre de Vos, Constitutional Law expert

The SA Institute of Race Relations (SAIRR) recently said the following in stating a case against the re-instatement of the death penalty:

"human beings who are not infallible ought not to choose a form of punishment which is irreparable".

However, Rosenthal emphasised that part of the process of justice is taking a life for a life in the form of capital punishment.



MHP leader urges death penalty bill amid EU tensions----Opposition leader Devlet Bahceli calls on ruling AK Party to send parliament bill to reinstate capital punishment

Turkey's Nationalist Movement Party's leader (MHP) Devlet Bahceli gives a speech during his party's group meeting at the The Grand National Assembly of

The opposition Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) on Tuesday urged the ruling Justice and Development (AK) Party to submit a bill to reinstate capital punishment amid tensions with the European Union, which does not allow the death penalty among member states.

"The AK Party should submit a bill on capital punishment to the Turkish parliament as soon as possible now that the European Parliament does not want it and uses it as an excuse to end relations [with Turkey]," Devlet Bahceli told MHP parliamentary deputies, referring to last week's non-binding EP vote calling for a freeze on Turkey’s EU accession talks.

Turkey is an EU membership candidate, and it abolished the death penalty in 2004.

Since the July 15 defeated coup, which martyred 248 people and wounded nearly 2,000 others, many officials have called for the death penalty to be reinstated for the putschists.

Days after the coup, on July 19, Bahceli voiced support for bringing back the death penalty, and on Nov. 1, he said his party would support the AK Party government if it chooses to go forward.

The European Union has warned Ankara that reinstating capital punishment would automatically end Turkey's membership process.

Bahceli also said that far from wanting to join the EU or the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, Turkey has a different goal.

"Neither the European Union nor the Shanghai Cooperation; we say the 'Turkish Union' until the end," he told the MHP parliamentary group meeting.

Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said Friday that Turkey wants to improve relations with the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, adding that Turkey's relations with it are neither a threat nor a challenge to the European Union.



2 Prisoners Executed on Murder Charges

A prisoner was reportedly hanged in Khomeyn Prison (Markazi province, central Iran) on Wednesday November 23, and another prisoner was reportedly hanged in Lakan, Rasht's central prison (Gilan province, northern Iran) on Saturday November 26. Both of the prisoners were executed on murder charges.

According to close sources, the prisoner in Rasht is Shabaan Ranjbar, who was detained in prison for 20 years before his execution. The human rights news agency, HRANA has identified the prisoner in Khomeyn Prison as Gholamhossein Beigi, who was detained in prison for 18 years before his execution.

Iranian official sources, including the media and Judiciary, have been silent about these 2 executions.

(sources: Iran Human Rights)


Take Action! - Risk Of Execution For Youth Arrested In His Teens (Iran: UA 72/16)

Urgent Action

November 28, 2016

Himan Uraminejad has been warned by prison officials that he is at risk of execution as Iran’s Head of Judiciary has approved the implementation of his death sentence. He has been on death row since 2012 for a crime committed when he was 17 years old.

Amnesty International has learnt on 21 November that Himan Uraminejad, aged 22, was informed by prison officials on 6 October that the Head of Judiciary had approved the implementation of his death sentence and his family should intensify their efforts to seek a pardon from the family of the deceased because his execution could be carried out at any moment. He was sentenced to death in August 2012 after a criminal court in Kurdistan Province convicted him of murder over the fatal stabbing of a boy during a group fight. He was 17 years old at the time of the crime. In September 2014, the Supreme Court quashed his death sentence and granted him a retrial, based on new juvenile sentencing provisions in Iran's 2013 Islamic Penal Code. In June 2015, however, he was sentenced to death again. The criminal court presiding over his retrial referred to an official medical opinion that found "no evidence of a disorder at the time of the crime that would remove criminal liability". The court also referred to Himan Uraminejad's statements that he had no "mental illness or history of hospitalization" and understood killing someone was "religiously forbidden" (haram). The Supreme Court upheld the death sentence in November 2015 and rejected a subsequent request for retrial.

Himan Uraminejad was sentenced after a grossly unfair trial that relied on evidence obtained through torture. He was arrested on 22 April 2012 when he was 17 years old. He was subsequently transferred to an undisclosed detention centre where he was held for 20 days, without access to his family and lawyer. He has said that during this period, he was tortured, including by repeated beatings that left scars and bruises all over his face and body, and suspension from the ceiling by a rope tied to his feet. He has said that police also raped him with an object shaped like an egg, threatened to cut off his testicles and walked over his body with boots. Himan Uraminejad's trial was held before an adult court, without special juvenile justice protections. The court ordered no investigation into his allegations of torture.


Write a letter, send an email, call, fax or tweet:

- Urging the Iranian authorities to halt any plans to execute Himan Uraminejad, and commute his death sentence without delay;

- Urging them to ensure that his conviction is quashed and that he is granted a fair retrial in accordance with the principles of juvenile justice, in particular ensuring that no statements obtained through torture and other ill-treatment are admitted as evidence;

- Urging them to ensure his allegations of torture are investigated and those responsible are brought to justice;

- Immediately establish an official moratorium on executions with a view to abolishing the death penalty.

Contact below official by 6 January, 2017:

Office of the Supreme Leader

Permanent Mission of the Islamic Republic of Iran to the United Nations

622 Third Avenue, 34th Floor

New York, NY 10017

Fax: (212) 867-7086 // Phone: (212) 687-2020


Ayatollah Sayed 'Ali Khamenei

Salutation: Your Excellency

(source: Amnesty International USA)


Capital Punishment in India: Life, Death, and Rebirth?

On November 21, 2012, Mohammad Ajmal Kasab, a Pakistani national and the only surviving gunman involved in the 2008 Mumbai attacks, was executed after Indian President Pranab Mukherjee denied his mercy plea. The decision marked the end of an informal 8-year moratorium on capital punishment in the country. In the 3 years since Kasab's execution, 2 more convicts, Mohammad Afzal Guru and Yakub Abdul Razak Memon, were also hanged for their involvement in terrorist attacks in the 1990s and 2000s. Moreover, even though these are the only executions the Indian state has carried out since 2004, roughly 5,000 convicts have been sentenced to death over the same period and are currently on death row. One might ask, why this disparity between the number of convicts and actual executions? The answer is likely to be that international and domestic pressures have made the government more hesitant to implement capital punishment. Nevertheless, a new trend worth noting within this pattern of disproportionality seems to be emerging, wherein the Indian state is only executing those explicitly involved in acts of terror.

Capital punishment was first incorporated into India's legal system during British colonial rule when, in 1860, the Governor-General of India Council instituted the Indian Penal Code (IPC). The IPC's approach to capital punishment has remained more or less unchanged since and still recognizes the death penalty for various crimes including criminal conspiracy, waging war against the government, and murder. Furthermore, amendments were made to Section 376 of the IPC in 2013 to extend the application of the death penalty to rape "if the act causes the victim's death or leaves her in a permanent vegetative state," a reaction to the brutal 2012 rape and death of a young woman in New Delhi, which made international headlines and ignited mass protests against sexual violence in the country.

However, even though India's Penal Code has seen relatively few changes, the discourse and practice surrounding the death penalty has slowly but steadily changed since the country's independence in 1947, with these changes in attitude gradually being reflected in the law. For instance, while capital punishment was historically considered the standard punishment for murder - with courts having to explicitly justify a decision to pursue a life sentence in jail instead - the tide has steadily turned. Beginning in 1973, courts had to give concrete reasons as to why they were imposing the death penalty rather than other means of punishment. In 1980, the constitutional validity of the death penalty was questioned in the state of Punjab during the Bachan Singh vs. The State of Punjab case. The Constitutional Bench rejected the challenge but mentioned that the death penalty was henceforth only to be applied to the "rarest of rare" cases. The change in the dominant national narrative regarding the death penalty was reflected in the practical application of the death penalty in the next few decades. Whereas the number of executions averaged three per year between 1985-1995, executions were almost completely halted from 1995 to 2012. The hanging of one person convicted of raping and murdering a minor in 2004 was the sole execution in over 15 years. Even though India continued to sentence many people to the death penalty throughout this period (roughly 5,000 between 2004 and 2013 alone), the country demonstrated little resolve in actually implementing these sentences. Instead, through long delays in the sending of mercy pleas to the President and by allowing lengthy appeals processes, India upheld its unofficial moratorium.

2012 seemed to mark a reversal in the Indian government's gradual progression toward the eradication of the death penalty. The President swiftly rejected the mercy pleas of Ajmal Kasab, Yakub Memon, and Mohammad Afzal Guru, so all 3 men were executed for terrorism-related charges. While Kasab had been convicted of 80 charges, the 3 that qualified the use of death penalty were condoned under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act of 1967, the Explosive Substance Act of 1908, and the Arms Act of 1959 even though the Arms Act had been repealed. The UNGA explicitly recognized Kasab as being involved in acts of terrorism. Similarly, Afzal Guru was convicted under The Prevention of Terrorists Activities Act of 2002 and the Explosive Substances Act of 1908, the former of which explicitly recognized him as being involved in acts of terrorism. Finally, Memon was convicted under the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities Act of 1987, The Arms Act of 1959 and the Explosive Act of 1908, the first of which also explicitly acknowledged him as a terrorist.

While the government tries to appease the domestic masses by extending the application of the death penalty to crimes such as brutal rape, it also seems concerned with increasing international and domestic pressures regarding the perceived brutality and inhumanity of capital punishment.

While the government tries to appease the domestic masses by extending the application of the death penalty to crimes such as brutal rape, it also seems concerned with increasing international and domestic pressures regarding the perceived brutality and inhumanity of capital punishment. In the past, former judges have spoken strongly against the death penalty alongside domestic human rights groups such as the PUCL and international human rights organizations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, which have released reports regarding death penalty practices in India in an attempt to expose flaws and to participate in the naming and shaming of the practice within the country. There is steadily increasing pressure through recommendations made at the Universal Periodic Review, and more importantly, by India's own Law Commission for the abolishment of the death penalty in India. The latest Law Commission Report released in August 2015 called on India's government to abolish the death penalty with regards to all offenses, except acts of terrorism and waging war against the state, viewing terrorism as different from other crimes and accordingly viewing the death penalty as an exception in this case to act as an effective deterrent for 'maintaining the security of citizens and the integrity of the nation.'

Keeping in mind the domestic and international support for India to abolish the death penalty, what can we make of its application to the crime of brutal rape? First and foremost, we can question the efficacy of the amendment made to Section 376 of the IPC to include brutal rape in the list of crimes punishable by the death penalty. It seems unlikely that the amendment will serve as an adequate deterrent for a crime on the rise as the practical execution of the death penalty always experiences significant delays due to the inefficacy of the court and appeal system. Additionally, those for whom the law had been amended in the first place - those convicted in the Nirbhaya rape case - have still not been executed. In fact, the Supreme Court has delayed its hearing on the convicts’ mercy pleas multiple times, and, 4 years later, the masses are still waiting on their calls for justice to be heard. Accordingly, even with theoretical strides taken in the fight against rape culture in India, its practical efficacy still seems questionable.

Given these limitations on the practical application of the death penalty to the case of brutal rape, India may have to reevaluate how to deal with this crime more generally. Primarily, it may have to find an alternative but equally stringent deterrent for this offense due to the lack of efficiency in practically executing the death penalty in such cases. Furthermore, with continued international and domestic pressure to abolish the death penalty in India, it has become more important than ever to find an alternative deterrent to terrorism within the legal system as well. While the death penalty for terrorism has been a valid, dominant narrative nationally thus far in India's attempt to counterbalance aggressive terrorist threats from its estranged neighbor Pakistan, India's growing status as a rising power in the international playing field beckons it to rethink a strategy that adheres to the dominantly accepted norms of human rights. As India continues to increase its global presence, it will eventually have to let go of its older, ineffective practices to appease the international community and the domestic population by demonstrating its commitment to upholding human rights.

(source: Brown Political Review)


Delhi HC has no jurisdiction to stay execution: C'garh govt

The Chhattisgarh government today said that the Delhi High Court has no jurisdiction to hear and grant a stay on the execution of a man held guilty for murder of 5 persons, including 2 children, in 2004.

The submission was made before a bench of justices G S Sistani and Vinod Goel, which has reserved its decision on the application of the Chhattisgarh government challenging the maintainability of a petition filed by the convict.

The state government's counsel Atul Jha said that the Delhi High Court had "no jurisdiction" to stay execution of convict Sonu Sardar as the offence had taken place in Chhattisgarh.

The Delhi High Court had on March 2, 2015 stayed the execution of Sardar, convicted for the murder of 5 persons. Sardar, in his plea, has contended that his death warrant was scheduled to be signed on March 4, 2015.

After the execution was stayed, the state government had approached the Supreme Court challenging the Delhi High Court's jurisdiction to hear the matter. The apex court had asked the high court to decide the state's application in 4 weeks.

The apex court, however, had stayed proceedings before the high court with regard to the hearing on Sardar's plea seeking quashing of the President of India and the Chhattisgarh government's decision, by which his mercy petition was turned down.

During the arguments today, the state government said that "all proceedings till date including the present one relates to a criminal offence which took place in Chhattisgarh. The CrPC governs the territorial jurisdiction. All materials in the case are based in Chhattisgarh. Even petitioner is in Central Jail, Raipur, Chhattisgarh".

Sardar, along with his brother and accomplices, had killed 5 persons of a family, including a woman and two children, during a dacoity bid in Chhattisgarh's Cher village on November 26, 2004. The trial court had slapped death penalty on him and the Chhattisgarh High Court had upheld it.

The Supreme Court in February 2012 had concurred with the findings of 2 courts below and affirmed the punishment. His mercy petiton was also dismissed by both the state government and the President of India. In February 2015, the apex court had also rejected his review plea.

Later, the convict in March 2015 has moved the Delhi High Court against the President and the Chhattisgarh government's decision.

Sardar, in his petition, has sought that his death penalty be commuted to life imprisonment on account of delay in deciding his mercy plea as well as for allegedly keeping him in "solitary confinement illegally".

(source: Press Trust of India)


Former death row inmates to serve more time

Convicted murderer and ex-death row inmate Atley Alexander was sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of early release after 45 years.

At the same time, 2 other former death row prisoners - Fitzroy Jarvis and Steadroy McDougal - were sentenced to life in prison but could be released after 35 years.

The 3 men have been in prison since the late 1990s and the court said the time served will be counted as part of the sentences imposed.

The trio had been convicted for separate killings and were sentenced to death, but a stay of execution had been ordered after the Privy Council deemed the sentences unconstitutional. According to the London based court, the death penalty should not be mandatory for murder since each case must be judged based on its own circumstances.

In each case, Justice Darshan Ramdhani said if the men fail to meet the requirement for early release after serving the minimum time, they are to undergo a review every 2 years thereafter to assess their progress of rehabilitation.

He said they should receive counselling and in Alexander's case, he advised "an aggressive" programme should be put in place for his rehabilitation and counselling.

Alexander was described as having antisocial personality disorder and his risk for recidivism (re-offending) is, according to a psychiatric report, considered high.

The court heard that he has been in solitary confinement by request to avoid interaction with other inmates and "to avoid problems".

In 1997, Alexander murdered his ex-partner Jacqueline Simon, who was 9 months pregnant, and 2 of her daughters - Amber James, 13, and 10-year-old Sophia Jones by burning them alive in their home.

Another of Simon's daughters who was in the house managed to escape without serious injury after she was awakened by the smell of fuel and smoke.

The judge described the killing as "savage" and noted that the convict had a long list of convictions between1980 and 1996 to include rape, wounding with intent, wounding, being armed with an offensive weapon, and assault.

The court noted that he was "already a hardened criminal" at the time of the offence and he boasted about the many women he has had, including 17 who bore him a total of 20 children.



Lagos Assembly approves death penalty for kidnappers

The Lagos State House of Assembly on Monday approved death sentence for kidnappers, whose victims died in their custody.

The approval followed the adoption of a report presented by Mrs Adefunmilayo Tejuosho, the Chairman of the House Committee on Judiciary, Petitions, Human Rights and Lagos State Independent Electoral Commission (LASIEC).

Tejuosho had presented the report of a Stakeholders meeting on a bill entitled; "A Bill for a Law to Provide for the Prohibition of the Act of Kidnapping and for Other Connected Purposes".

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the bill was sponsored by the Speaker of the House, Mr Mudashiru Obasa.

The bill prescribed life sentence to kidnappers, whose victims did not die in their custody.

The bill states that any person, who kidnaps, abducts, detains, captures or takes another person by any means or tricks with intent to demand ransom or do anything against his/her will, commits an offence, and liable on conviction to death sentence.

The bill, which criminalised attempt to kidnap, stipulated also life imprisonment for anyone who make attempt to kidnap another person.

Also, the bill is against false representation to release a kidnapped or abducted person. This attracts 7 years imprisonment.

The lawmakers also approved 25 years imprisonment to whoever threatens to kidnap another person through phone call, e-mail, text message or any other means of communication.

The bill provides that any person, who knowingly or wilfully allows or permits his premises, building or a place or belonging to which he has control of, to be used for the purposes of keeping a person kidnapped is guilty of an offence under the law and liable to 14 years imprisonment without an option of fine.

NAN reports that the lawmakers amended some sections of the bill during the debate on the committee report before adoption.

The bill, aimed at ensuring zero tolerance for kidnapping, however, awaits third reading before it will be sent to Gov. Akinwunmi Ambode for assent.


NOVEMBER 28, 2016:


Lawyer: Death penalty 'not right choice' in Mukilteo shootings

Allen Ivanov's attorneys plan to ask a judge to give them more time to compile information about the young man and his background in an effort to convince prosecutors not to seek the death penalty.

Snohomish County Prosecuting Attorney Mark Roe has given the defense team until Friday to provide him with materials to take under consideration before he decides whether to pursue Ivanov's execution. Roe has said he'd announce his decision by mid-December.

Ivanov's "life continues to have value," defense attorney Walter Peale wrote in an email to The Daily Herald.

"With more time I'm confident I can show why the death penalty is not the right choice for the victims' families. If convicted or if he were to enter a guilty plea, a life sentence will avoid endless delay, provide closure and avoid extreme cost," he wrote.

Peale said if Roe is going to present the mitigation materials to the survivors for their consideration, he wants them to have a full picture of Ivanov, 20.

The crime he is accused of committing is a "terrible and senseless act," Peale wrote. His client, however, if he's convicted, is "not the worst of the worst." Peale referenced several recent aggravated murder cases in which prosecutors didn't seek the death penalty or jurors spared the defendants their lives.

"Allen is less deserving of death than they and certainly less deserving of death than the Green River Killer who is now serving a life sentence in prison," Peale wrote.

His client is immature and naive. "His history and young life show a pattern of mental illness, untreated but suspected. His behavior before and now is a cry for help as it is a confession to a terrible crime," the longtime defense attorney wrote.

Ivanov is charged with aggravated murder in the killings of Anna Bui, Jacob Long and Jordan Ebner, all 19. He's also accused of trying to kill Will Kramer, who was shot in the back, and 2 other young men, whom the defendant allegedly shot at as they ran for cover.

In Washington, the only punishment for an aggravated murder conviction is death or life in prison without the possibility of release. Gov. Jay Inslee enacted a moratorium on executions shortly after taking office. That doesn't prevent county prosecutors from pursuing the death penalty.

Ivanov allegedly told detectives that he ambushed Bui, his former girlfriend, and her friends at the Mukilteo house party because he was upset over the end of their relationship. He had broken up with her a few months before the shootings. She reportedly rejected his efforts at reconciliation.

About 20 people were at the house party when Ivanov opened fire. Most of the young people had graduated from Kamiak High School.

The Daily Herald recently obtained a letter Ivanov wrote prior to the killings, along with hundreds of text messages. The materials show that Ivanov was considering shooting Bui days before he tracked her down to the party. In the letter, he tried to control the narrative even before he began pulling the trigger.

"You know what's funny? The media is going to portray me as some unstable, overly emotional, crazy lunatic," he allegedly wrote. "There's nothing wrong (with) me or the way I think. There's really nothing wrong with me: I have a roof over my head, access to food and resources, a loving family, an amazing job, etc. I'm selfish. That's why I did this."

The Daily Herald also was provided a jailhouse letter Ivanov allegedly wrote in October to a former cellmate, a man convicted of murdering a Lynnwood piano teacher. The letter included rap lyrics that glorify violence and reference the mass shooting in Mukilteo.

Peale said his client is remorseful but overwhelmed.

"He is not prepared for the conditions he faces now in jail," Peale wrote. "His musings are a way to come to grips with a possible sentence that will keep him in prison for the rest of his life or kill him."

His client doesn't have any prior legal problems or a history of violence. "He finds himself in a completely foreign situation," Peale wrote.

Ivanov's writings likely will be scrutinized by both sides as they explore the young man's state of mind before the shooting and afterward. That could be at the heart of the case if his lawyers decide to present information about his mental health as a possible explanation for his actions.

Roe has denied the request for more time, Peale said. The defense attorneys plan to ask Superior Court Judge Janice Ellis to weigh in.

(source: The Herald)


Accused Emanuel AME Church shooter to represent himself in death penalty trial

A federal judge granted a motion to allow accused Emanuel AME Church shooter to represent himself in trial.

Wearing a gray-and-blue striped prison outfit Monday morning, 22-year-old Dylann Roof told Judge Richard Gergel he understood his attorneys have skills and experience he may not have, but he wanted to self-represent as his attorneys serve as stand-by counsel.

Roof took the lead chair at the defense table as jury selection for the federal death penalty trial began. The suspect currently pleads not guilty on charges including hate crimes, the shooting deaths of 9 and the attempted murder of 3.

Jury selection was scheduled to begin on Nov. 7, but was suspended after Roof's lawyers moved to have the suspect analyzed by a doctor who could determine whether or not he was suffering a "mental disease or defect" that may make him unable to understand what was going on in court.

Court-appointed psychiatrist Dr. James Ballenger reported on Roof's competency in a 2-day hearing last week. Proceedings happened away from the public and the media, but documents filed on Friday declared that the court found Roof competent to stand trial.

According to a court order, Judge Richard Gergel believes Roof understands the nature of the court proceedings and is able to consult with his attorneys and assist in preparing his defense.

"I must admit I'm not terribly surprised," said Charleston School of Law Professor Miller Shealy. "To be declared incompetent to stand trial is difficult. One has to be quite mentally ill, one has to have some serious problem."

With the competency evaluation complete, the process of whittling down 512 people to a jury of 12 and 6 alternates resumed Monday at 9 a.m.

The process may continue into the new year.

(WCSC news)


Paul Nuttall elected leader of UKIP leader in landslide victory----The MEP for North West England and former deputy party leader saw off the competition to win 62.6 % of the vote

Paul Nuttall has been elected as the new leader of UKIP, taking over from interim leader Nigel Farage after a period of turbulence for the party.

The MEP for North West England and former deputy leader comfortably saw off the competition to win 62.6 % of the more than 15,000 members who voted.

2nd placed was former co-chair Suzanne Evans, who got 2,973 votes (19.3 %), with Welsh activist John Rees-Evans in 3rd place with 2,775 votes (18.1 %).

In his victory speech Nuttall said: "Only unity breeds success. People do not vote, join or donate to divided parties.

"So those within the party who want to come together and unite I say 'we have a great and successful future'.

"To those who do not want to unify and want to continue fighting the battles of the past, then I'm afraid your time in UKIP is coming to an end."

The contest was triggered after Diane James resigned as leader earlier this month, just 18 days into the job following her victory at the last race in September.

Nuttall was the clear favourite in the contest from the moment he declared his bid and positioned himself as the "unity" candidate hoping to smooth over fractious rows in the party.

He launched his campaign after MEP Steven Woolfe quit UKIP and dropped out of the race following an altercation with colleague Mike Hookem landed him in hospital.

The race also saw fellow MEP Bill Etheridge, London Assembly member Peter Whittle and Raheem Kassam, a former aide to Nigel Farage, put themselves forward only to withdraw later.

Nuttall now faces a fight to keep UKIP relevant in the aftermath of the EU referendum and amid dire financial circumstances after the party received less in donations than the BNP in the last reported period.

The central tenet of his plan is to win further votes from former Labour supporters after UKIP made major inroads in Labour heartlands at the last election.

Elsewhere, Mr Nuttall has said he would back the return of the death penalty for child killers if it were put to the country in a referendum.

"I would vote in favour of the return of the death penalty for people who kill children, people like Ian Brady, people like Ian Huntley, which is what the majority of British people want," he said earlier this month.



'Death row saved my life' ---- The incredible story of Nick Yarris, the wrongly convicted British resident who spent 23 years on death row ... and is now having a Netflix series made about him; After spending 8,057 days behind bars, Yarris was cleared by DNA evidence and released in 2004

A new Netflix drama will revolve around the incredible true story of a British resident who spent decades on death row for a crime he didn't commit.

Nick Yarris, 55, faced death by electric chair after being framed for the rape and murder of a woman in Pennsylvania, where he is from.

But the cleared inmate was innocent all along, and knew he had been falsely sentenced as he spent an agonising 23 years counting down the days until his execution.

After spending 8,057 days behind bars, Yarris was cleared by DNA evidence and released in 2004, but his chilling prison experience will stay with him to the grave.

Now the father-of-4 is going to be the subject of a new Netflix drama, and has spoken out in great depth about his dark and terrifying experiences.

The American, who now lives Yeovil, Somerset, has written a harrowing book about his experiences, and recently appeared on the BBC's Victoria Derbyshire programme to talk about a life spent waiting to die.

And his book, The Fear OF 13: Countdown to Execution: My Fight for Survival on Death Row, is going to be made into a Netflix drama as well as a movie, both based on his experiences on death row.

Yarris' nightmare ordeal started in 1981, when the then 19-year-old was arrested in a stolen car for jumping a red light.

The alcoholic and drug addict ended up in a scuffle with a policeman, whose gun was discharged during the brawl - leading to Yarris being charged with attempted murder.

Whilst he was in custody, the American teen read about the rape and murder of a young mum, and came up with a dishonest plan to bargain his way out of prison.

Yarris made up information about the attack, and accused a man, who he believed to be dead, of carrying out the rape and murder of fellow Pennsylvanian Linda Craig.

But his lies were quickly rumbled, and Yarris ended up accused of the murder himself, before being sentenced to death on flimsy evidence - despite his protested innocence.

Whilst in prison, Yarris was beaten by fellow inmates, and spent decades surrounded by murderers, rapists and cannibals.

The ordeal nearly drove him to suicide, but Yarris found solace in education, claiming he wanted to "make [his] mind beautiful."

Now free from the daily torture he faced behind bars, and given $4million (3.2million pounds ) in compensation for his wrongful imprisonment, the falsely accused dad has had time to reflect on his experiences.

The Daily Mail reported that he has previously claimed to have a bond with his fellow death row inmates.

Yarris said: "For more than 20 years my identity was bonded with those people.

"I cared about them. I believe life imprisonment is far worse than the death penalty."

And despite the trauma, the British resident has also previously said: "Prison was the best thing that happened to me.

"I have a photograph of the street gang I was in when I was a teenager. There were 27 of us, 26 are dead now.

"Death row saved my life.

"It taught me everything is a luxury to be treasured."



Jury selection to begin Monday in federal death penalty trial of admitted Charleston church shooter

Monday morning jury selection begins in the federal death penalty trial for admitted Charleston church shooter, Dylann Roof.

He admitted to killing 9 people at Emanuel AME church in June of 2015.

His trial was supposed to start earlier this month but the judge postponed it in order to evaluate his mental state.

On Friday, the judge declared Roof *competent* to stand trial.

Jury selection is set to begin at 9 a.m.

(source: WJBF news)


6 arrested in drug smuggling busts over the weekend

About 100 kilograms of heroin and 60 kilograms of marijuana were seized on Saturday.

6 Vietnamese and Laotian people were arrested for smuggling heroin and marijuana on Saturday as Vietnamese authorities increased their crackdown on criminals.

Police in the northern province of Phu Tho arrested 4 men at 11 p.m. on Saturday who were carrying about 100kg of heroin in 2 cars in Viet Tri.

Vang A Cang (42), Mua A La (43), Mua A Sau (30) and Vang A Du (28) all come from the Moc Chau District in the mountainous province of Son La, which borders Laos.

Cang, the gang leader, had promised to pay La and Sau VND100 million ($4,327) each, and Du VND200 million ($8,654).

Also on Saturday, border guards and police in Vietnam's central province of Ha Tinh detained 2 Laotian men for smuggling about 60kg of marijuana across the border.

The men, 31 and 17, were arrested near Vietnam's Can Treo International Border Gate in Ha Tinh Province at 8 p.m. on Saturday.

The Laotians said they intended to carry the drugs from Laos to sell in Vietnam.

On October 24, 2 other Laotian men were also arrested in Vietnam's central province of Thanh Hoa for smuggling nearly 23kg of heroin across the border.

Vietnam has some of the world's toughest drug laws. Those convicted of possessing or smuggling more than 75 kilograms of marijuana, more than 600 grams of heroin, more than 5 kilograms of hashish, or more than 2.5 kilograms of methamphetamine face the death penalty.

The production or sale of 100 grams of heroin or 300 grams of other illegal narcotics is also punishable by death.

Although the laws are strictly enforced with capital punishment handed down regularly, drug running continues in border areas. Several drug raids are reported at the Vietnam-Laos border every month.



AKP deputy head Turkes says he is against reintroduction of death penalty

Ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) Deputy Chair Tugrul Turkes has said he is against the reintroduction of the death penalty, a hotly-debated issue since Turkey's failed July 15 military coup attempt.

"I think the reintroduction will bring more harm than benefits. It's also difficult to bring it back," Turkes told daily Hurryet, adding that he had voiced his opinion on many platforms.

"We've been talking about this with our lawmaker friends and they all know that I'm against it," he said.

Turkes also stated thatconstitutional changes were not possible under the state of emergency in Turkey, commenting on recent debates on a charter change.

"The charter cannot be changed under the state of emergency," Tugrul Turkes told daily Hurriyet, adding that charter changes were absolute agreement texts.

"Charter changes are absolute agreement texts. The Republican People's Party is the main opposition and carries responsibilities," he also said.

Saying the "CHP cannot solve the constitutional change issue on the street," Turkes said the decision to lengthen the state of emergency had not yet been given.

"We'll see if the state of emergency will be extended, but a country in a state of emergency cannot change its constitution," he added.

Turkey declared a 3-month long state of emergency after the July 15 failed coup attempt, widely believed to have been masterminded by the followers of the U.S.-based Islamic preacher Fethullah Gulen. It was later extended for another 3 months.

During his interview, Turkes also said his ideas on the timing of the constitutional change may cause debates inside the party.

"If it creates a debate it's fine because this needs to be discussed inside the party," he also said.

(source: Hurriyet Daily News)


HC acquits 3 death convicts in murder case

Citing severe discrepancies in the prosecution's case, the Hyderabad high court on Friday acquitted 3 convicts, who were sentenced to death in a murder for gain case.The bench, comprising Justice Sanjay Kumar and Justice M Seetharama Murti, acquitted Yekkaluri Siva Krishna alias Yogi, Akkinapalli Muralikrishna alias Murali, and Pappula Amar Nageswara Rao, who were accused of murdering Banawath Badya Naik, an engineer at Nagarjunasagar project in 2011.

Earlier, a special sessions judge-cum-IV additional district judge of Guntur had sentenced them, natives of Dachepalli of Guntur district, to death. On February 26, 2011, the 3 picked up Daravath Badya Naik, while he was returning from Vijayawada after meeting his son in a college hostel. They killed the engineer when he resisted them and dumped the body in a canal, before escaping with some gold and Rs 3,500 in cash.

. AP's public prosecutor Posani Venkateswarlu justified the death penalty for the accused on the ground that they were notorious decoits who would not hesitate to kill their victims even for smaller gains. He said the state would appeal against the HC's acquittal order.

(source: The Times of India)


Travesty of justice

It is better that 10 guilty men go free than one man be wrongly convicted - the words of the English jurist William Blackstone in the 18th century encapsulated a basic precept of criminal justice. That precept was found desperately wanting in the case of Mazhar Farooq, a death-row prisoner convicted for a murder that took place 24 years ago in a village in Punjab's Kasur district. On Friday, after hearing his appeal against his sentence that had been upheld by the Lahore High Court in 2009, a Supreme Court bench found him not guilty and ordered his immediate release. By this time, the prisoner had spent two decades of his life on death row for no fault of his own, but because an appallingly flawed criminal justice system let him down every step of the way.

It may be cold comfort, but Mr Farooq can at least take solace in the fact that he can finally breathe the air of freedom. In October, the apex court acquitted 2 brothers in a 2002 murder case, only to find that the men had already been hanged 1 year back. Miscarriage of justice is not exclusive to Pakistan, but in countries like ours, where the criminal justice system is riddled with shockingly fundamental problems, the chances are that much greater - which is one of the reasons why this paper has consistently opposed the death penalty. People without means or connections are disproportionately impacted. Convenient scapegoats for corrupt law-enforcement officials wanting to demonstrate 'results', once they are ensnared in the slow and torturous legal process, there is no telling what the outcome will be, even if the investigation is obviously shoddy and the evidence wholly unconvincing. Indigent accused who cannot afford to hire defence lawyers have to make do with state-appointed counsel who are already overburdened and unlikely to be the cream of the crop. Trials take inordinately long because of repeated adjournments; sometimes also on account of logistical issues such as shortage of transport to bring prisoners to court. Corruption at the trial court level is endemic, with witnesses, police and sometimes even judicial officials susceptible to financial blandishments to influence the outcome of a case. It bears thinking then, that in such a defective system where miscarriage of justice is inevitable, how much of it goes undetected? Or to put it another way: how many people have we executed for crimes they did not commit?

(source: Editorial,


The Psychological Impacts of the Widespread Executions on the Iranian Society

One of the members of the parliament in Iran admitted that the widespread mass executions under the sovereignty of the Mullahs' regime bring wrath and fright to people. He called for reconsideration to these executions.

On 23rd November 2016, MP Ezzatollah Yousefian who is the representative of Amol City in the parliament had a speech in the parliament and said: "we have carried out many executions, every day. The number of executions in drug sector is very high. Do we have to carry out execution every day? We need to reconsider it eventually, don't we?"

Ezzatollah Yousefian referred to the psychological impacts of the executions in the society and said: "when I was the attorney general of Mazandaran Province, a report came from the Ministry of education in 1990.It was stated that as 1 person is executed in a day, nearly 20 to 30 students do not attend school anymore. I asked them about the reason and they told me that those who are being executed have a kind of family relationship with the students.

A woman in the court said to the Judge:"Your honor, I said to my son not to marry this girl because his father is sentenced to death penalty."

At the end, the Iranian MP stressed the significance of the fact that it is not only the matter of death penalty when one person is executed. The psychological impacts will remain in his family for years. In other words, this condemnation is not only for the victim but also for his family. The families, relatives and generation also suffer about the execution in Iran."

Ezzatollah Yousefian also discussed the increasing number of executions in Iran. He addressed all members of the parliament and said:"are we going to continue this way in 20 years? What are the consequences? Take a look at the age of addiction among the students. Look closely at the age of addiction in our society. In our country, there are people who are waiting to sell their kidney due to poverty whereas on the other part of the world the kidney receivers are naturally waiting for a kidney transplant. Nevertheless, the kidney seller has to wait for his turn since there are many people out there who actually want to sell their kidney. Note that I have not yet mentioned about selling other body parts. The issues are not trivial, however. The words are only spoken but there is no action towards them."

(source: NCR-Iran)

NOVEMBER 27, 2016:


Death penalty, the mentally disabled at issue for justices

The U.S. Supreme Court is set to examine whether the nation's busiest state for capital punishment is trying to put to death a convicted killer who's intellectually disabled, which would make him ineligible for execution under the court's current guidance.

Lawyers for prisoner Bobby James Moore, 57, contend that the state's highest criminal court, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, ignored current medical standards and required use of outdated standards when it decided Moore isn't mentally disabled. That ruling removed a legal hurdle to Moore's execution for the shotgun slaying of a Houston grocery store clerk in 1980.

The Texas court is a "conspicuous outlier" among state courts and "defies both the Constitution and common sense," Clifford Sloan, Moore's lead lawyer, told the justices in written briefs submitted ahead of Tuesday's scheduled oral arguments. Such a "head-in-the-sand approach ... ignores advances in the medical community's understanding and assessment of intellectual disability over the past quarter century," he wrote.

Moore's lawyers want his death sentence set aside, contending his punishment would violate the Constitution's ban on cruel and unusual punishment and the Supreme Court's 2002 ruling in a North Carolina case that prohibited execution of the mentally disabled.

The Texas attorney general's office says the state "fully complies" with Supreme Court precedents. The state points to its use of 1992 clinical definitions for intellectual disability as cited by the high court in its 2002 decision. And the office says it has consulted and considered more recent standards.

The question before the high court "rests on a false premise," Texas Solicitor General Scott Keller said, arguing that Moore's claim of intellectual disability is refuted "under any relevant standard."

Two years ago, the Supreme Court ruled unconstitutional a Florida law that barred any other evidence of intellectual disability if an inmate's IQ was over 70. Texas uses a 3-pronged test to define intellectual disability: IQ scores, with 70 generally considered a threshold; an inmate's ability to interact with others and care for him or herself; and whether evidence of deficiencies in either of those areas occurred before age 18.

The state says Moore had a troubled childhood with little supervision and scored 57, 77 and 78 on IQ tests before dropping out of school in the 9th grade. He'd been convicted 4 times of felonies by age 17 but never was diagnosed with an intellectual disability as a youth, the state argues.

It describes him as living on the streets, playing pool for money and mowing lawns. During the fatal robbery of 72-year-old Houston supermarket clerk James McCarble, Moore wore a wig and fled to Louisiana afterward, and had represented himself in legal actions, showing the required intellectual capabilities, the state contends.

Moore's lawyers argue the state "cherry-picked" specific higher IQ scores, and that at age 13 Moore had no basic understanding of the days of the week or seasons of the year, couldn't tell time and couldn't read or write or keep up in school.

Since the Supreme Court allowed capital punishment to resume in 1976, Texas has carried out 537 executions, far more than any other state. Moore arrived on death row in July 1980, and only 5 of the state's some 250 condemned inmates have been there longer.

In 1999, an appeals court threw out his death sentence, ruling that the legal help at his trial was deficient. At a new punishment hearing 2 years later, a Harris County jury again sentenced him to die.

In an appeal of that verdict, the Court of Criminal Appeals returned the case to the trial court for a hearing, where the judge decided Moore was mentally disabled and ineligible for execution. But the appeals court rejected that recommendation, saying the trial judge had disregarded case law. 8 of the appeals court's 9 members participated in the case, and 2 of them disagreed with the majority.

(source: Associated Press)


Anti-death penalty event planned for Wednesday in St. Augustine

Less than a year after a St. Johns County priest was found shot to death in Georgia, parishioners and officials from the Catholic Diocese of St. Augustine, as well as other community members, will gather to say that no one convicted of a violent crime should ever be put to death.

The 1-hour, anti-death penalty event, billed as Cities for Life and co-hosted by Equal Justice USA, will be held at the Shrine at Mission Nombre de Dios at 101 San Marco Ave. on Wednesday at 6:30 p.m.

Father John Gillespie, pastor at San Sebastian Church, told The Record last week that the event wasn't necessarily planned in response to the death of his friend, Father Rene Robert.

But the topic, he said, has taken on a greater meaning since Georgia district attorney Ashley Wright announced earlier this year that she plans to seek the death penalty in the case against 28-year-old Steven James Murray, who stands accused of Robert's murder.

Robert's body was found in April in a remote area of Burke County, Georgia, days after friends and family members reported him missing. Authorities say he was killed there by Murray, a man with an extensive criminal record who led them to the body.

Robert, it is believed, met Murray through an active ministry devoted to serving the less fortunate, including those who had spent time in prison and jail.

Shortly after Murray was arrested and charged, Wright, citing aggravating circumstances of the crime including claims that it was "outrageously or wantonly vile" and carried out while in the commission of a kidnapping, filed her intent to seek the death penalty in the case.

That was troubling for some who knew of Robert's feelings about executions.

"He really stood out as someone concerned to help the helpless, the needy, the homeless, [and] the poor," Gillespie said. "Among the people that were of concern to him were people threatened with the death penalty."

Compounding the issue, at least for some, was the discovery of a signed and notarized document in Robert's file at the diocese that said, if he were ever to fall victim to a violent crime, he would not want the death penalty sought against the person convicted of that crime.

The discovery of the Declaration of Life, as it is titled, prompted letters from the Most Rev. Felipe J. Estevez, bishop of St. Augustine, to the editor of The Record and to Wright herself, calling for an end to the "cycle of violence" perpetuated by the use of the death penalty.

Wright told The Record in a subsequent interview that such letters or even the signed document itself held no sway over her.

"My oath actually prohibits me from making decisions based on what the community demands or rejects," she said.

But Gillespie, along with other priests in the diocese and parishioners, aren't giving up. Recently a petition has been circulating through the churches, stating opposition to Wright's decision.

"We would like that to be revisited," Gillespie said. "Even if it is not revisited we would like people to rethink the knee-jerk reaction of a death penalty even in the face of such a heinous crime that was committed."

And that's what Wednesday evening's event is about.

According to Kathleen Bagg, spokeswoman for the diocese, Cities for Life was started 15 years ago by the Rome-based Sant'Egidio Community, as an effort to end the death penalty. Since it began, more than 2,000 cities throughout the world have declared themselves against executions.

"We don't have that kind of luck here," Bagg said in a recent phone interview. But Wednesday's event, she said, will allow those who are opposed to gather in solidarity.

A smaller event was held last year, Bagg said.

This year's event will feature 5 speakers including the mother of a murder victim, an exonerated Florida death row inmate and the spouse of a current death row inmate. Gillespie will also speak.

Copies of the Declaration of Life (which must be notarized) and the petition against Murray's possible execution will be on hand.

Gillespie said he hopes that soliciting support from others to oppose the death penalty, at least in Robert's case, will "lead them to reflection" on the topic as a whole.

"We feel we have a responsibility to Father Rene and his memory," he said. "Memory seems like a weak word for it. It is his abiding presence, his abiding example."

Gillespie said it is important for people to understand that the Catholic Church's - and local bishops' - opposition to the death penalty is not a soft-on-crime stance. The position, he said, holds that incarceration is preferable to the unnatural ending of someone's life and stems from the same set of beliefs that moves many in the church to oppose abortion.

"What we are opposed to is the easy turn to the death penalty as a way of, supposedly, showing people that they should not kill," he said.

(source: The St. Augustine Record)


Trial to begin in triple homicide

It's been almost 2 years since Andres Avalos reportedly killed his wife, Amber Avalos, hanging her by a cord in the laundry room and shooting her once in the chest. Her face showed signs of trauma.

Denise Potter, a neighbor who had a cleaning service with Amber Avalos, was shot multiple times. Potter died in the hallway of the Avalos' home in northwest Bradenton.

Avalos dropped his 4-year-old son, who witnessed the pair of slayings, at day care that morning.

Avalos wasn't done. He drove across town, ditched his SUV in a Wal-Mart parking lot and caught a ride in a taxi.

He ended up at Bayshore Baptist Church on 14th Street West. Amber Avalos attended services there and taught children Bible stories. The couple had been counseled by the church's pastor, James "Tripp" Battle.

For 20 minutes, Avalos spoke to Joy Battle, the church's secretary and pastor's wife.

When Tripp Battle showed up that afternoon, Avalos walked outside and slammed the door behind him. Joy Battle heard gunshots, then watched her husband collapse in the courtyard. She called 911.

Around the same time, deputies got a tip. Avalos had called a relative and said 2 bodies were at his home.

The Manatee County Sheriff's Office had three homicides to investigate and a killer on the loose. Avalos was arrested after a 2-day manhunt at a mobile home park blocks from the church where Tripp Battle was killed. He had a gun by his side that matched casings founds at the crime scenes.

Avalos admitted to the 3 killings, according to Assistant State Attorney Art Brown.

He's been sitting in the Manatee County Jail ever since. Randy Warren, spokesman for the Manatee County Sheriff's Office, would not disclose specific details of Avalos' housing or supervision because of security reasons, but said "we put inmates where we know is going to be in their best interest and in ours."

Seeking death penalty

Avalos has been indicted on 3 charges of 1st-degree murder.

He picked up an unrelated attempted murder charge in January 2016 after allegedly stabbing another inmate. The next day, Avalos was found in possession of an ink pen - considered contraband at the jail. Those are the only disciplinary issues on Avalos' file, Warren said.

Brown is seeking the death penalty in the triple slaying. If Avalos is found guilty, the case would move into a penalty phase in which the jury would hear evidence to consider whether to recommend a death sentence. The ultimate sentence would be determined by the judge.

"We looked at the aggravating factors that we felt were present, and we felt that they warranted our seeking the death penalty," Brown previously told the Herald-Tribune. He could not be reached for this story.

Avalos' defense team intends to present an insanity defense, court records show.

J. Andrew Crawford, Avalos' attorney, declined to comment on the pending case.

Avalos' trial is scheduled to start on May 8. 3 weeks have been set aside for the proceedings.

(source: The Ledger)


ACLU challenges death penalty sentence of Jacksonville man in neighbor's killing

Attorneys with the American Civil Liberties Union are asking the Florida Supreme Court to throw out the Jacksonville conviction and death sentence of Dennis Thurnado Glover for the 2012 murder of his neighbor, 51-year-old Sandra Jean Allen.

In a 100-page filing, the ACLU argues that the evidence against Glover, who just turned 53, is weak.

"The prosecution of this intellectually disabled, mentally ill and innocent man was infected by a colony of reversible errors, and the conviction itself is based on patently insufficient circumstantial evidence," attorneys say in court filings.

Attorneys with the office of Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi counter that the evidence was strong and the death penalty justified.

Allen had been beaten, strangled and stabbed in the neck. Assistant State Attorney John Guy said a death sentence was justified because of the brutality of the crime and the pain and suffering Allen went through.

Glover said he found her dead in her Fourth Avenue home and went to get help from neighbors. He was arrested a month later when police found blood on his shoes and his DNA on her face, neck and left hand. No motive was ever established - Allen was not sexually assaulted and nothing was missing or stolen from her home.

Jurors convicted Glover in December 2013 and recommended death that same month by a 10-2 vote. But Glover's sentencing was repeatedly delayed due to questions over whether he was intellectually disabled.

Florida law says people facing death row can only argue that they are intellectually disabled if they have an IQ score of 70 or below, not taking into account a margin of error. But the U.S. Supreme Court said the state could not automatically declare that anyone with an IQ score higher than 70 was not intellectually disabled, and judges have to look at other factors as well.

After extensive hearings, Circuit Judge Mallory Cooper ruled that Glover was not intellecutally disabled. But the ACLU is now arguing that Cooper was wrong.

ACLU lawyers say death is not an appropriate punishment because prosecutors never presented a motive for why Glover would have killed Allen and also couldn't demonstrate that the 2 had a dispute or even knew each other.

Defense attorneys at trial said the 2 had a sexual relationship during opening statements, but Allen's daughter disputed that and said her mother had no kind of relationship with Glover.

The ACLU also says the attorneys who defended Glover, Assistant Public Defenders Michael Bateh and Al Perkins, erred because they stated in opening statements that Glover had a sexual relationship with Allen and that on the day of the murder she told him someone else was coming over.

But during the trial, defense attorneys never offered any evidence to back that up, "a blunder completely undermining their credibility," the ACLU attorneys state in appeal documents.

Glover repeatedly attempted to fire his public defenders, at times seeking to represent himself. According to appellate documents, Glover complained that his attorneys weren't communicating with him.

ACLU attorneys also argue that Cooper was wrong to suppress that Allen died with both methadone and cocaine in her system because it suggested that Allen and her killer might have both been intoxicated at the time of her death. The jury that convicted Glover did not know about Allen's drug use.

Glover also could end up getting off death row for a reason that has nothing to do with his case. The Florida Supreme Court recently ruled that no one can be put on death row unless the jury unanimously calls for it. The question of whether that applies to cases where someone is already on death row is unclear, but a recent ruling throwing out the sentence of another death penalty inmate, Richard Franklin, suggests that the Supreme Court might throw out Glover's death sentence purely on the 10-2 vote.

Oral arguments in Glover's case will likely occur before the Supreme Court justices sometime in 2017.

(source: The Florida Times-Union)


Nevada's new $860,000 execution chamber is finished but gathering dust

Nevada's new execution chamber at Ely State Prison is finished, but there is no expectation it will be used anytime soon.

The state can no longer obtain the drugs it needs to proceed with an execution.

Nearly $860,000 was approved for the new chamber by the 2015 Legislature to replace the death chamber at the now closed Nevada State Prison in Carson City.

Nevada has the death penalty and is required by law to use lethal injection for executions, but its supply of one of the drugs has expired and drug companies will no longer provide the chemicals to the state for such purposes.

The new execution chamber and related facilities take up 1,900 square feet of the administration wing at the Ely State Prison, the state's maximum security prison where Nevada's death row population of 81 men is housed.

There are no pending executions because of legal appeals in progress by the inmates. The execution space at the prison will be used for other purposes in the meantime.

State Senate Judiciary Chairman Tick Segerblom, D-Las Vegas, said he does not plan to propose legislation to do away with the death penalty given the de facto moratorium on the process. While there might be support to abolish the death penalty in the Legislature, any bill would likely be vetoed by Gov. Brian Sandoval, he said.

Sandoval supports the death penalty.

Segerblom said he has no interest in pursuing legislation to change the method of execution, either.


But Assemblyman James Ohrenschall, D-Las Vegas, named last week as chairman of the Corrections, Probation and Parole Committee, said he plans to ask voters to weigh in on whether to repeal capital punishment.

"Given the state audit that documented the high financial costs of having capital punishment as a penalty in Nevada along with the practical matter of the lack of availability of the lethal chemical cocktail used to carry out the executions, I think it's time that Nevadans are asked to weigh in on whether they still want capital punishment on the books," he said.

Ohrenschall said he will introduce legislation to amend the state Constitution to abolish capital punishment and make life without parole the maximum sentence. The measure would have to pass the Legislature in both 2017 and 2019 and then go to the voters in 2020.

He will also propose legislation for a moratorium on capital punishment until voters can have the final say on the issue.

The 105-page audit cited by Ohrenschall, presented to lawmakers in 2014, showed that the cost to prosecute and litigate death penalty cases is higher than if convicted murderers were given life in prison.

Death penalty cases cost the public on average $1.03 million to $1.31 million, according to the audit. In a murder case in which capital punishment is not sought, the average cost is $775,000. In those cases, prosecutors typically seek life in prison without parole.

The 2013 Legislature ordered auditors to review the costs of capital punishment. The audit, which took 18 months, looked at the price of trials, appeals and jail time for 28 Nevada cases.


Nevada prison officials said last month that the state will have to explore its options to carry out executions after it received no bids from pharmaceutical companies to supply drugs for lethal injections.

The state issued 247 requests for proposals on Sept. 2 after its stockpile of at least 1 drug used in executions expired. Not 1 response was received.

Nevada has used the drugs midazolam and hydromorphone to administer a lethal injection. Both are manufactured by Pfizer.

Nevada's last execution, by lethal injection, occurred at the Nevada State Prison on April 26, 2006, when Daryl Mack was put to death. Mack was executed for the rape and murder of a Reno woman, Betty Jane May, in 1988.

Nevada has executed 12 inmates since capital punishment was reinstated by the state Legislature in 1977. All but 1 have been "volunteers," or inmates who have voluntarily given up their appeals.

(source: Las Vegas Review-Journal)


South Carolina death penalty prosecution defies survivors' wishes

The U.S. District Court will begin the long process of questioning prospective jurors Monday for the capital trial of Dylann Roof, who is charged with 33 federal counts, including hate crimes, in the June 17, 2015, killings of 9 people at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church.

Roof, whom a judge on Friday declared competent to stand trial, has offered, in exchange for a sentence of life in prison, to plead guilty. The government has refused to make such a plea agreement.

The 17-month path to Roof's 1st death penalty trial - the state of South Carolina is also seeking his execution in a separate case - has been marked by public demonstrations of forgiveness and reconciliation. But the federal government's decision to pursue Roof's execution is widely questioned, and it is in defiance of the wishes and recommendations of survivors of the attack, many family members of the dead and some Justice Department officials.

In May, Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced her decision to seek the death penalty against Roof, and critics make different arguments.

Some are opposed to capital punishment because they doubt its efficacy or morality. Others argue that because a death sentence for Roof would prompt years of appeals, the decision can only protract the emotional agony of a massacre that rattled the nation. And still others contend that executing a young man like Roof, who is 22, could allow him to escape decades of punishment.

"I want that guy every morning when he wakes up, and every time he has an opportunity for quiet and solitude, to think of what Tywanza said to him: 'We mean you no harm. You don't have to do this,'" said Andrew Savage III, a Charleston lawyer, referring to Tywanza Sanders, a 26-year-old man who died in the attack. Savage represents 3 survivors and family members of the victims who became known as the Emanuel 9.

But Lynch chose to seek the death penalty after a contentious review process that included South Carolina's top federal prosecutor siding with Roof's defense lawyers in their offer of a guilty plea in exchange for a life sentence.

The case's prominence influenced Lynch's decision, according to people with knowledge of the Justice Department's review, and some federal officials worried that forgoing the death penalty would curb the government's options in future cases with lower fatality counts.

(source: New York Times)


Iranian Court Sentences Another Juvenile Offender to Death

Iran Human Rights has obtained information about an 18-year-old juvenile offender detained in Sanandaj Prison who was recently sentenced to death by an Iranian court. His case file was reportedly sent to Iran's Supreme Court for review.

According to close sources, Ayoub Shahbazi, who was born on August 30, 1998, was arrested by Iranian authorities in 2014 and charged with murder at the age of 16.

"When Ayoub was a young child, he lost his father. Due to financial poverty, Ayoub was unable to attend school and therefore is illiterate. From a young age, he was working with his mother cleaning people's homes. 4 years ago, because he had no one to guide him, Ayoub became a drug addict. He ended up killing 1 of his own family members for money," a confirmed source tells Iran Human Rights.

Under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, which Iran is a signatory to, the Iranian authorities have an obligation to not issue the death penalty sentence for offenses committed under the age of 18. According to Article 91 of Iran's revised Islamic Penal Code, it is up to the presiding judge's discretion to deem the juvenile mature enough to understand the nature of the offense: "In the cases of offenses punishable by hadd or qisas, if mature people under eighteen years do not realize the nature of the crime committed or its prohibition, or of there is uncertainty about their full mental development, according to their age, they shall be sentenced to the punishments prescribed in this chapter." The Islamic Penal Code puts the age of criminal responsibility for males at 15 and 9 for females.

Ayoub Shahbazi is the latest juvenile offender to receive a death sentence by an Iranian court. In August 2016, Iran Human Rights published a report identifying seven juvenile offenders on death row.

(source: Iran Human Rights)


Lawmakers urged to reject revival of death penalty----Amnesty International says bringing back the death penalty would be a 'major setback' for human rights and would also be a violation of the Philippines' obligations under international law

Global human rights group Amnesty International urged lawmakers in the country to reject the revival of the death penalty, one of the priority bills of President Rodrigo Duterte.

"The re-introduction of the death penalty would not only represent a major setback for the promotion and protection of human rights in the country but also violate the Philippines' obligations under international law," said Amnesty International in a statement on Friday, November 25.

"The Philippines, which fully abolished the death penalty for the second time in 2006, is party to an international treaty that categorically prohibits executions and commits the country to the abolition of this punishment. These obligations cannot be withdrawn at any time."

In his 1st month in office, Duterte had asked lawmakers to revive the death penalty, especially for drug traffickers. The war on drugs has been one of the key campaigns of the government since Duterte took office last June 30.

For the President, the death penalty is a way to exact payment from a perpetrator of a heinous crime.

Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez earlier led several lawmakers in filing measures seeking to restore capital punishment for heinous crimes. The Speaker wants the House of Representatives to pass the consolidated version of the bills on 3rd and final reading by December.

Last month, the House justice committee also recommended the reimposition of the death penalty for drug-related cases.

The House independent minority bloc has accused the justice committee of "railroading" the passage of the death penalty bills.

At the Senate, Senator Manny Pacquiao has also echoed Duterte's desire to bring back the death penalty. Pacquiao even went as far as saying that God supports the death penalty to "punish" and "discipline wrongdoers."

Amnesty International and other human rights groups have long said, however, that there is no evidence to prove that the imposition of capital punishment deters crime.

"There is no conclusive evidence that the death penalty has a deterrent effect. Statistics from countries that have abolished the death penalty show that the absence of the death penalty has not resulted in an increase in the crimes previously subject to capital punishment, while evidence shows that punitive policies have little influence on the prevalence of drug use," Amnesty International reiterated on Friday.

The Philippine government, the group also pointed out, has been issuing appeals on behalf of Filipinos on death row in other countries.

"[Reviving the death penalty would] undermine the country's strong track record of advocating for the commutation of the death sentences imposed on Filipino nationals abroad, such as overseas workers," said Amnesty International.

One of the most recent high-profile cases involving a Filipino on death row is that of Mary Jane Veloso, who is behind bars in Indonesia for alleged drug trafficking. Veloso had been given a last-minute reprieve in April 2015, following a plea from former president Benigno Aquino III and the surrender of her supposed recruiter Maria Cristina Sergio.

If the Philippines revives the death penalty, it would be going against the global trend, said Amnesty International.

"As of today, 141 countries - more than 2/3 of the world's countries - have abolished the death penalty in law or in practice," the group said.

"The number of countries that carry out executions has also been declining, with only 11 countries known to have carried out executions every year in the past 5 years. In 2015, 169 (88%) of the 193 UN Member States were execution-free."

The 1987 Philippine Constitution abolished the death penalty but allowed Congress to provide for it for compelling reasons involving heinous crimes. It was imposed in 1993, but was again abolished in 2006.

"The Philippines ratified the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, aiming at the abolition of the death penalty, on 20 November 2007," noted Amnesty International.



Families of executed prisoners ! ---- Local and International groups express solidarity for the families of executed prisoners in Singapore

"We, the undersigned organisations, condemn the shameful execution of a Nigerian national, Chijioke Stephen Obioha, and a Malaysian national, Devendran a/l Supramaniam in Singapore on 18 November 2016, which runs counter to global trends towards abolition of capital punishment", expresses the grave concern by a collective of the civic society organisations in a press communique.

The press release further reads as follows;

Around the same time, at the 50th and 51st meeting of the UN General Assembly's Third Committee's 71st session proceedings, the Singapore representative introduced amendments, undermining the spirit of the draft resolution calling for a moratorium on the death penalty, supported by states such as Syria, Egypt and Bangladesh.

We remain appalled that Singapore continues to execute people in contravention of international law and standards. The 2 men were sentenced to mandatory death penalty, after being convicted of drug trafficking, which does not meet the threshold of the "most serious crimes". In July 2011, during its 1st Universal Periodic Review (UPR), Singapore accepted a recommendation that called on the government to make available statistics and other factual information on the use of the death penalty (A/HRC/18/11, para. 95.15). The lack of transparency in relation to the scheduled executions therefore remains deeply concerning and prevents informed and meaningful debates in the country on the retention of this punishment.

We would like to express our regret and share in the disappointment of the families of the executed men. We oppose the use of capital punishment in all circumstances, as a violation of human rights which can never be justified under the flawed assumption that it has a unique deterrent effect.



Function 8

Humanitarian Organization for Migration Economics (HOME)

Project X

Singapore Anti-Death Penalty Campaign (SADPC)

Think Centre

We Believe in Second Chances


Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM)

Malaysians Against Death Penalty & Torture (MADPET)


Human Rights Working Group (HRWG)

International Groups and Networks

Amnesty International (AI)

Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA)

Anti-Death Penalty Asia Network (ADPAN)

Coalition for the Abolition of the Death Penalty in ASEAN (CADPA)

Ensemble contre la peine de mort (ECPM)

Franciscans International (FI)

Human Rights Watch (HRW)

International Commission of Jurists (ICJ)

International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)

World Coalition Against the Death Penalty (WCADP)



Ganduje's death warrants

Appalled by the refusal of governors to sign death warrants to facilitate the execution of condemned criminals, Governor Abdullahi Ganduje of Kano State has called for the amendment of the law to strip governors of that responsibility and to vest it in the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN). The governor is right to observe that his colleagues were no longer eager to sign death warrants. The governors have not indicated why, but many analysts hazard a guess. According to Gov Ganduje himself, he seems to think that the value African cultures place on life makes it difficult for any political leader to sign execution documents. He says nothing of the other factors that have made the death penalty incongruous in many democracies.

The Kano governor's suggestion is, however, anomalous. If governors lack the courage to sign death warrants, why does he think judges, especially of the apex court, will find it easy to do so? Are they less human or from a different culture? Perhaps, the governor assumes that sentencing an accused to death is an easy, detached task. What Gov Ganduje does not realise is that while the law makes it obligatory for judges to dispense justice in strict accordance with extant provisions, and seldom permits discretion in the case of capital offences, signing a death warrant is entirely left to the discretion of the governors. There is nothing obligatory on governors to sign death warrants, not even if prisons and death rows were filled to the brim with condemned men.

Furthermore, an accused, especially one facing the death penalty, often fights his case to the apex court, hoping that its impartiality and independence could avail him relief. It would be incongruous to expect that the CJN, who heads that apex court, should also sign the death warrant after sentencing. It is morally indefensible to combine the 2 responsibilities. But should that law be enacted, the apex court could also find excuses to delay their signatures or even refuse to impose the death penalty under some legal constructs and corollaries.

The reason death warrants are not being signed, it seems, is that the death penalty is being phased out in many democracies. There is enough scientific proof to show that it does not deter crime any more than life sentence does. For the many decades Nigeria implemented the death penalty for armed robbery, there was no statistical proof that it lowered the crime. None whatsoever. Contrary to Gov Ganduje's suggestion, it is actually time to abrogate the death penalty, not transfer the responsibility. Capital punishment, despite the anger of victims and their families and their craving for catharsis, serves no purpose. More, abrogating it helps to assuage a conscience that would have been troubled in cases where justice was eventually shown to have been miscarried, as indeed has happened not only here but in many parts of the world.



Debate about the death penalty is firmly back on the table

The SAIRR report questioning whether abolishing the death penalty was the right move for crime-riddled SA has reopened the debate, writes William Saunderson-Meyer.

"Bring back the death penalty!" It's a rare cry - "Get rid of Zuma!" is the other - that seemingly resonates with the same intensity among blacks as it does among whites, in township shebeens as it does in country club pubs.

Unfortunately, the issue of a nation's right to execute, in a humane manner and after a fair trial, those convicted of the most heinous murders, has in South Africa for more than 2 decades been a subterranean and essentially pointless conversation.

A 1995 Constitutional Court judgment formally abolished the death penalty, 5 years after it had been suspended during the negotiations to shape a democratic, constitutional state.

The decision, written by chief justice Arthur Chaskalson, a jurist of towering intellect, accorded precisely with the similarly lefty inclinations of the media gatekeepers whose clammy hands sometimes stifle public discourse in this country. It was also a decision which, at that moment, fortuitously chimed emotionally with the fact that hangings had been often been used as a political tool against the black majority.

Abolition was, too, part of a seemingly irreversible historical tide. At recent count, more than a 100 countries have legislated an end to capital punishment, while a further 140 have stopped implementing it.

Things change, however. Tides are never irreversible, nor do rational bulwarks hold sway indefinitely, as evidenced by the growing traction of populism in the US, Europe and South Africa.

It is also worth remembering that a number of nations with which the ANC identifies ideologically, such as Cuba, the Palestinian Authority and Iran, have capital punishment. Of our new best friends, the Brics nations, India and China execute with enthusiasm, Brazil in exceptional circumstances and in Russia the option remains codified but unused for the moment.

And the anti-death penalty movement in Africa, despite AU support, has never been as strong as elsewhere in the world. Of 54 AU states 38 retain the death penalty, albeit many don't use it. Commitment to abolition is conceivably a momentary aberration.

Our immediate neighbours Lesotho, Swaziland, Zimbabwe and Botswana all have the death penalty and at least 2 of them - Botswana and Zimbabwe - apply it vigorously.

That all these nations have exponentially lower rates of violent crime than we do, especially crimes accompanied by the gratuitous barbarism that distinguishes SA, should surely interest our social scientists. But even in academia the heavy hand of PC-engineered intellectual unanimity chokes curiosity and investigation.

In SA, too, abolitionist emotionalism has eased. We have a democratically elected government which abides by what we are assured is one of the best bits of legal parchment in the world. Sanctioned state execution could never again on these shores be used as a government tool.

It is against this backdrop that the Institute of Race Relations this week released a report questioning whether abolition was the right decision in the light of almost half a million murders since 1994.

The institute, while coyly not naming who commissioned its investigation, says: "We were asked to look into the death penalty as a way to deter the most cruel crimes... characterised by gratuitous violence."

This is a sober and, as one would expect from SA's premier think-tank, even-handed analysis. There are lacunae in the report. One of them is its ready acceptance of the abolitionist proposition that SA’s murder rate has been dropping steadily since 1994. The statistics are not as clear as they are made out to be. The assertion ignores the fact that political assassination was at its apogee during the closing years of the liberation struggle. Any regression analysis should interrogate statistics as far back as is possible, as well as try to separate criminal and political killings.

The institute tested 5 objections to the death penalty: that it is "cruel and unusual"; that it is retributory beyond the pale; that it is arbitrary; that it is not a deterrent; and that there is possibility of irreversible error. It was able to overcome the first 4 but "the most compelling argument" was the possibility of error in an ailing, incompetent SA criminal justice system.

The institute concludes that while a case could be made to reopen a death penalty debate - it would have to overcome that 5th objection.

So the genie is out, let the debate begin. But the pro-capital punishment lobby, a likely majority of South Africans, should reflect on the fact that changing a constitution in knee-jerk response to populist opinion is a slippery slope.

Think today's populist credos. Think nationalisation and seizure of land without compensation. Think of relinquishing the protection of minorities, of the media's freedom to investigate government abuses and the right to mock the rich and powerful.

(source: Opinion, William Saunderson-Meyer, The Independent)


Erdogan to reinstate death penalty following last month's failed coup

At an inauguration ceremony for a new center today, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan stated that he is amenable to reinstituting the death penalty

"If the people of Turkey want and the country's parliament decides to reinstate the death penalty, I am ready to approve this decision," he said.

Erdogan made the statement in Istanbul, at the inauguration of a center named after former prime minister Necmettin Erbakan, a Turkish politician, engineer and academic.

Though Turkey abolished the death penalty in 2001, its reinstitution has been discussed following the failed coup attempt of July 15, 2016.

Earlier, Omer Celik, the Turkish Minister for EU Affairs, had said that reinstating the death penalty hadn't been up for consideration by parliament.

(source: Tornos News)

NOVEMBER 26, 2016:

GEORGIA----impending execution

Lawyers hope new find saves inmate from execution

Lawyers for the next inmate on Georgia's death row says a juror was biased against William Sallie. They're trying to keep their client from execution.

The convicted murderer is scheduled to be put to death in less than 2 weeks. He's already been convicted and sentenced to death twice.

It was a particularly gruesome crime.

According to court documents, Sallie's ex-wife left him because he was abusive.

In 1990 she was living with her parents in Bacon County. One night, William Sallie cut the phone cords, pried open the back door and snuck into his in-law's bedroom, according to records.

It only gets worse from there.

Sallie was convicted of shooting John and Linda Moore, killing his father-in-law. When his wife and her 17-year-old sister begged to call 911, Sallie abducted and raped both of them.

He let them go the next day, only after asking that they don't press charges.

A jury sentenced him to death.

But that was overthrown because Sallie argued his 1st lawyer had a conflict of interest. The lawyer was also serving as a clerk of court.

Sallie was tried again and sentenced to death for a 2nd time in 2002.

All of his appeals ran out, but now his lawyers are arguing that a juror who sentenced him lied about a "messy divorce" and "ugly" custody fight.

They say that made her biased against Sallie.

But a federal court said these new arguments were too late.

Sallie is scheduled for execution on December 6th. He will be the 9th person put to death in Georgia in 2016. That would be the most in the country.

Georgia has no equal in 2016.

Aside from Texas, no other state has more than 1 execution in 2016.

"It seems like nationwide, jurors are more hesitant to apply the death penalty when they have something else to fall back on, say life without parole," said 11Alive legal analyst Phil Holloway.

That's been true in Georgia. While it's the leading state this year, that's likely to be the only time.

There are only about 60 men on Georgia death row. Texas has about 4 times that number.

And there were no death penalty convictions in 2015.

(source: WXIA news)

ALABAMA----impending execution

Alabama Probably Won't Be Trying A Never-Before-Used Single-Drug Lethal Injection----Alabama offered to execute inmate Ronald Bert Smith next month with a sedative that's never before been used as the sole drug in an execution. But the talks fell through this past week.

It appears unlikely that Alabama will try out a new single-drug lethal injection method next month, after the attorney general's office and death row inmate Ronald Bert Smith have been unable to reach an agreement.

Smith, along with other Alabama death row inmates, have challenged the state's lethal injection method, which uses a sedative similar to valium followed by a paralytic and then a painful drug that stops the heart. Instead, the inmates requested to be executed only using a single large dose of the sedative, midazolam.

The talks between the state and the inmate fell through over disagreements over how much of the drug to use and what the legal ramifications of doing so would be.

Alabama agreed that the inmates' request was feasible, and this month, U.S. District Court Judge Keith Watkins ordered the state to produce a 1-drug execution plan of how it would use only midazolam. Watkins also asked inmate Smith to show cause of why he shouldn't be executed with the single drug as he had requested.

Last week, Smith responded that he would consent to being executed with a large 2,500 milligram injection of midazolam. Smith had requested a 500 milligram dose in his original complaint, but his attorneys say it was a typo. His own expert had said that a 2,500 milligram dose would be preferable.

Although the state said the 500 milligram dose was feasible and agreed to try it out, Attorney General Luther Strange’s Office balked at the request for a higher dose.

"The ADOC does not have an unlimited supply of midazolam," Deputy Attorney General Thomas R. Govan, Jr. responded.

"Given the uncertainty in Smith's unspecified protocol, particularly where Smith cannot even state how much midazolam would be needed [if the original dose doesn't kill him], it is uncertain whether the ADOC could carry out Smith's execution based on his current stance."

The state did not disclose how much midazolam it has on hand, and states have closely guarded any information about their execution drugs.

The inmates also said they would only agree to the single-drug execution if their side was held to have won the case - meaning the 3-drug protocol would be ruled unconstitutional. Under current US Supreme Court precedent, death row inmates challenging a state's chosen method of execution must propose an alternative method.

On Friday, Judge Watkins dismissed Smith's lawsuit and criticized the conditions the inmate set.

"As Smith well knows, the law does not require, and has never required, these elements in lethal injection cases," Watkins wrote. "The unfortunate outcome of this ... process confirms the court's previous reluctance to sidetrack capital litigation through negotiations."

Smith has already appealed the decision to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals. He is currently scheduled to be executed Dec. 8.

Earlier this month, the U.S. Supreme Court halted the execution of another Alabama inmate at the last minute. The inmate had challenged the state's 3-drug protocol, as well as the state's sentencing law.

(source: Chris McDaniel is a death penalty reporter for BuzzFeed News)


Judge: Dylann Roof is competent to stand trial for hate crimes

Accused Emanuel AME Church shooter Dylann Roof is mentally competent to face his looming death penalty trial, a judge ruled Friday to the relief of the victims' distraught loved ones, who had expected the proceeding to begin 2 weeks ago.

U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel's ruling followed a closed-door competency hearing that stretched through Monday and Tuesday as attorneys discussed a new psychiatric evaluation of Roof. Gergel ordered that evaluation two weeks ago after defense attorneys raised new questions about the self-avowed white supremacist's mental state.

Jury selection will begin at 9 a.m. Monday.

The judge's competency order doesn't provide any details about the nature of questions regarding Roof's mental state. Gergel's specific findings also remain secret under seal.

Gergel banned the public from the competency hearing despite pleas last week from many of the 9 shooting victims' families and the survivors who wanted to observe the proceedings. Several media outlets, including The Post and Courier, also objected to the closure.

Instead, Gergel had pledged to review a transcript and release portions that didn't need to be kept confidential. On Friday, however, the judge ruled that he won't release any of the transcript because doing so "would prejudice the Defendant's right to a fair trial and a fair and impartial jury," according to court records.

At the competency hearing, attorneys discussed a new court-appointed psychiatric examiner's report, which relied heavily on interviews with Roof. Gergel has said that the report contains sensitive details that, if revealed, could threaten Roof's rights.

The psychiatric exam was performed on Nov. 15 by Dr. James Ballenger, who was the Medical University of South Carolina's longtime psychiatry chairman before going into private practice. Ballenger testified at the competency hearing along with 4 others witnesses. The hearing also included affidavits from 3 others, according to Gergel's order, which identifies Ballenger but not any of the other people involved.

The test for competency is whether the defendant "has a sufficient present ability to consult with his lawyer with a reasonable degree of rational understanding" and "has a rational as well as factual understanding of the proceedings against him," Gergel's order says.

Roof, 22, is accused of gunning down 9 worshipers during the Charleston church's Bible study in June 2015. Authorities say he targeted his victims because they were black. In all, the Eastover man faces 33 federal charges, including violations of hate crime laws and religious freedoms. He has offered to plead guilty and serve life in prison, but federal authorities are seeking the death penalty.

The delay in starting jury selection has frustrated loved ones of the nine victims and the shooting survivors who are anxious for the trial to begin. The Rev. Sharon Risher, whose mother died in the shooting, woke up Thanksgiving morning with deep sorrow about her mother's death, along with the weight of not knowing if or when the trial would begin. It all rested heavily against her desire to be thankful for her remaining family.

"I have been on edge ever since it was deemed necessary for another competency hearing," Risher said. "It was like waiting for a bomb to drop."

Risher, a Charlotte resident, described enormous relief after hearing news of Gergel's ruling: "I'm glad we can move forward and justice can prevail."

The ruling also eased worries for Emanuel AME's pastor and its congregation, also closely following the proceedings over the holiday week.

"We are thankful and look forward to jury selection beginning on Monday," said the Rev. Eric S.C. Manning, Emanuel's pastor. "We continue to solicit prayers for the families and members of Mother Emanuel."

However, the rulings might not settle forever questions about Roof's competency, said Charleston attorney Chris Adams, who specializes in federal court defenses, including death penalty cases, and is secretary of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.

Competency rulings look at a defendant's mental status at a point in time. If Roof has ongoing mental health issues, his attorneys could raise questions about his competency in the future as well.

"If mental health is an issue, (Roof) could decompensate and necessitate the need to be clear and re-raise the issue," said Adams, who is not working on the case.

Questions about Roof's mental state arose 2 weeks ago just minutes before jury selection in his death penalty trial was set to begin. After defense attorneys filed a sealed motion, Gergel found reason to believe Roof might suffer a "mental disease or defect" that rendered him unable to assist properly in his defense or to grasp the nature and consequences of the proceedings against him, as the law requires. Gergel then ordered the evaluation.

However, with the current competency question resolved, the lengthy process of choosing a jury resumes. It began in September when the court summoned 3,000 people from across the Lowcountry. Of those, 747 people filled out questionnaires in September.

On Monday, Gergel and attorneys in the case will begin to winnow the field of 512 people who made that latest cut. Every day, they will question two panels of perspective jurors, with 10 members in each, until 70 remain. The final jury will comprise 12 jurors and 6 alternates.

That process could take several weeks, potentially pushing the start of testimony into the new year.

Meanwhile, Roof also faces the death penalty in state court where authorities charged him with 9 counts of murder, 3 counts of attempted murder and a firearms charge. That trial is scheduled to begin in mid-January.

(source: Post and Courier)


South Korean bishops to campaign against capital punishment

The Catholic bishops' conference of South Korea, is renewing its opposition to the death penalty with an awareness-raising campaign utilizing media, education and cultural events.

The Subcommittee for the Abolition of Capital Punishment held its annual plenary and talked about how to further promote the church's stance on the death penalty to Korean society.

The subcommittee will campaign against capital punishment by publishing op-eds and articles by respected individuals from the church and other organizations including secular ones.

Along with this, they plan to produce education material targeting middle and high school students by the end of this year. They will also design a special performance on the occasion of the World Day Against the Death Penalty on Nov. 30.

The bishops' committee will aid the campaign by holding a discussion and concert on Dec. 18 in Chucheon, Gangwon province.

The Catholic Church in Korea has long been trying to get capital punishment abolished even though the country has not carried out an execution since 1997.



Sri Lanka sentences 18 to death in US tea firm case

A court in Sri Lanka has given death sentences to 18 men over murdering a US tea company executive in the capital Colombo 3 years ago, the largest group to be condemned in a single trial in the South Asian country.

The High Court of Sri Lanka on Friday found the men, who were members of a criminal gang, guilty of hacking and beating Nihal Perera to death, in Deraniyagala, a township on the outskirts of the capital, in July 2013.

The 71-year-old victim, a Sri Lankan national, was the superintendent of the Noori Estate tea plantation run by Texas-based firm Walters Bay, and his tragic death caused a massive public outcry against the police at the time. The protesters accused the police of incapability to deal with criminal gangs allegedly led by members of the country's former President Mahinda Rajapaksa's party.

21 men were arrested at the time on homicide charges and trial commenced in February 2015, with around 20 witnesses giving testimonies. On Friday, however, 3 of the suspects were acquitted.

"Among the men condemned today is a politician (from Rajapaksa's party) who headed a local government council in the area," AFP quoted an unnamed court official as saying, adding that the "victim had been hacked to death because he stood up to the criminal activities of the gang."

The accused were also found guilty of inflicting grievous hurt upon 3 employees of the tea firm at the time.

Sri Lankan courts usually give death sentences for rape, homicide and drug-related crimes, but the verdicts are regularly commuted to life sentences because of an unofficial moratorium on the death penalty.



Erdogan warns EU he will sign death penalty law if MPs approve

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday warned the European Union he would sign a law bringing back the death penalty if it was approved by parliament.

"Democracy, it's respecting the people's will," Erdogan said in a speech in Istanbul.

"If the people say 'we want the death penalty'... and this goes to parliament and parliament passes it and it comes to me, I declare I will approve this," he added.

Erdogan was speaking hours after he had rattled Europe by threatening to open Turkey's borders to allow migrants to reach the EU, in a move that would tear up a landmark deal signed in March that has reduced the refugee flow.

He made his remarks in response to the cheering crowds' chants of "we want the death penalty", an oft-repeated call during his rallies since the July 15 failed coup.

"When you want the death penalty, the gentlemen are uncomfortable," he said, apparently referring to EU officials.

Erdogan said that if he signed the death penalty back into law, it would likely be blocked by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), but this did not concern him.

"I say, it doesn't bother me. Because the European Court of Human Rights gives a lot of decisions, we know it very well... this people's will, yes this is a will that must be respected by everyone."

EU officials have repeatedly made clear that bringing back the death penalty would end Turkey's bid for membership, which sets abolishing capital punishment as a condition.

Turkey completely abolished the death penalty in 2004 as part of its accession process.

The move meant the 1999 death sentence for Kurdish separatist leader Abdullah Ocalan was commuted to life behind bars.

No judicial executions have taken place in the country since left-wing militant Hidir Aslan was hanged on October 25, 1984 in the wake of the 1980 military coup.



Irish student facing death penalty in Egypt after Ireland's appeal for immediate release rejected----Ibrahim Halawa is being tried as an adult alongside 493 other defendants on terrorism charges

An Irish student is facing the death penalty in Egypt after the country's president reportedly refused a request from Ireland's leader to release him.

The Irish Department of Foreign Affairs confirmed that Taoiseach Enda Kenny wrote to Abdel Fattah al-Sisi on 17 November and asked for the Dubliner's immediate release.

But President Sisi turned down the request, according to The Times.

Ibrahim Halawa was just 17 when he was arrested at a protest while on holiday in Egypt in 2013.

Mr Halawa reportedly attended the pro-democracy rally in Cairo with his 3 older sisters before it was broken up by the Egyptian army.

The now 20-year-old is being tried as an adult alongside 493 other defendants on terrorism charges, and faces death by hanging if found guilty. Proceedings are due to start on 13 December after repeated delays to the trial.

President Sisi's refusal comes amid fears an amnesty for young prisoners may exclude those detained over political protests.

Egypt announced the amnesty for detained juveniles last week, but it is thought authorities told Ireland the scheme is only available to those already convicted.

These claims are at odds with Egyptian media reports, which suggested the amnesty had already led to the release of juveniles still awaiting trial.

Other reports claim the amnesty actually excludes young people detained in relation to political protests.

The Irish Government confirmed on Thursday it has also requested a formal pardon for Mr Halawa. The same law saw the release of three Al Jazeera journalists last year.

The 3 reporters had once shared a cell with Mr Halawa, and have called publicly for his release.

Egypt jail routinely torturing prisoners, rights group warns

Harriet McCulloch, deputy director of the death penalty team at Reprieve, said: "Ibrahim Halawa has been through an appalling ordeal, all for the so-called 'crime' of attending a protest - including torture, a deeply unfair mass trial, and the ongoing threat of a death sentence.

"It's shocking that the Egyptian President appears unwilling to recognise that Ibrahim, and scores of other young people, should have been freed long ago. "It's now vital that Ireland, and other countries who are aware of Ibrahim's case such as the UK, call strongly for Ibrahim's release, so he can return to his family in Ireland."

Mr Halawa has previously described his horrific treatment at the hands of the Egyptian state in a letter given to The Independent by Reprieve.

In it, the Irishman detailed how he has been beaten, abused and mentally tortured during his 3 years in jail.

He writes how prisoners are punished by being made to watch fellow inmates being tortured, while others are "crucified" by guards.

The UK has told the human rights organisation it is "monitoring" Mr Halawa's case.

Full transcript of Ibrahim Halawa's letter:

I am sorry it has been 3 years.

Dad, I am sorry that for 3 years your son has been taken away from you without being able to see him. I am sorry that you raised me to be righteous and ambitious, I am sorry you wake up every morning knowing that you might never see me again. I am sorry it has been 3 years.

Mom, I'm sorry that for 3 years you have been chasing me from prison to prison. I am sorry that you saw me dragged just because you wanted an extra minute to make your your son is fine. I'm sorry you can't be happy with me like most mothers. I'm sorry it has been three years.

Nosaiba, Ahmed, Somaia, Khadija, Fatima and omaima. I am sorry I couldn't be there as a brother for you. I am sorry I couldn't be an uncle for your kids. Somaia and Omaima, I am sorry I couldn't be at your wedding to take by your hand and make it the best day of your life. I am sorry that standing up for rights had us split up. I am sorry it has been 3 years.

Anas my friend, I'm sorry that our plan we drew for ourselves in primary school has ended before it started. I am sorry i can't be you best friend. I am sorry it has been 3 years.

Ireland, I'm sorry I've been away from you for 3 years. I'm sorry I can't see your kind people. I'm sorry I can't see your bright green colour. I'm sorry I can't walk your beautiful mountains. I'm sorry I can't breathe your reviving air. I'm sorry I can't soak from you pure rain drops. I'm sorry I can't watch the city as it get early in the morning. I'm sorry I can't live the happiness of the villages around Ireland. I'm sorry I can't watch the blue sea from your high cliffs. I'm sorry it has been 3 years.

Irish people, I'm sorry that for 3 years you have been fighting for my release. I'm sorry for the years I have missed between you. I'm sorry for missing out on all the Irish gatherings. I'm sorry I was stolen away from the warmth of the Irish laughter. I'm sorry for a limitless language expressing limitless feelings, but I'm fighting for what you though me to die for. I'm fighting for other to gain democracy like back home. I'm sorry that I am willing to die for freedom. I am sorry it has been 3 years.

Ibrahim Halawa, 17/08/2016.

(source: The Independent)


Drug users don't deserve death, policy reform advocates say

The government's war against drugs does not justify the reimposition of the death penalty, saying there are less lethal ways to curb and discourage drug use.

"Drug use alone should not be seen as a social evil or moral failing, as a huge majority of people involved with drugs do not have any associated drug use problems," drug policy reform advocacy group NoBox Philippines said in a statement Friday.

The 17th Congress has pending legislation to reimpose the death penalty on heinous crimes, including drug trafficking and President Rodrigo Duterte has said in the past that the death penalty is needed as it "would have prevented the drug menace from reaching the current alarming levels."

In September, Duterte again urged Congress to pass the bill on the death penalty, saying that they dd not seem to understand the need for.

"No one died because there was no ... you removed actually, the essence of criminal law, (which) is the fear to violate the law. What prevailed was not the fear of the law but impunity and the absence of accountability," he said then.

NoBox Philippines however, said that some people use drugs as adapting and coping mechanisms, which, they say, does not amount to a social harm that should be punished with death.

The group said there is no supporting evidence that grave punishment, including the death penalty, has resulted in a meaningful reduction in drug-related criminal activities in Asia and other countries.

According to a Reuters report in October, officials of the Philippine National Police Directorate for Investigation and Detective Management could not cite a study showing 75 % of "heinous crimes" were drug related, a claim that the government made in a booklet distributed at the Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit in Laos earlier this year.

"On the other hand, the provision of evidence-based health and social services to drug users, as an alternative to incarceration, has been shown to substantially increase recovery and reduce recidivism," NoBox Philippines said.

It also said alcohol is associated with more cases of violent crimes, and questioned why there are no laws and prohibitions on alcohol consumption.

NoBox Philippines also said that the United Nations, through Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, has called on member nations to focus on health, prevention, treatment and care as an alternative to criminalizing drug use.

It added that the government should start harm reduction policies, programs and practices to inform the public of the negative consequences of the use of legal and illegal drugs on their health and on their social and economic stability.

"We call on our legislators to oppose the passage of the Death Penalty Law, and support a public health approach to drug use," the group said.

(source: Philippine Star)


Death is the most terrible of all things, for it is the end

The House of Representatives, through the subcommittee on judicial reforms of the committee on justice, continued last November 22 its hearings on the restoration of the death penalty for certain heinous crimes. The subcommittee is chaired by Rep. Vicente Veloso, a former Commissioner of the National Labor Relations Commission and a former justice of the Court of Appeals.

As expected, there were diametrically opposing views on the issue, coming from the legislators and the invited resource persons. Rep. EdcelLagman opposes the restoration of the death penalty. On the other hand, House Deputy Speaker Fredenil Castro supports its re-imposition.

What is the death penalty?

The term "death penalty" refers to the "execution of an offender sentenced to death after conviction by a court of law of a criminal offense. Capital punishment should be distinguished from extrajudicial executions carried out without due process of law. The term death penalty is sometimes used interchangeably with capital punishment, though imposition of the penalty is not always followed by execution (even when it is upheld on appeal), because of the possibility of commutation to life imprisonment. (Encyclopedia Britannica)"

Black's Law Dictionary defines it as the "supreme penalty exacted as a punishment for murder and other capital crimes. The death penalty has been held not to be, under all circumstances, cruel and unusual punishment within the prohibitions of the Constitution."

Article 70 of the Revised Penal Code (Act No. 3815, 1932) refers to death as the most severe penalty, among 12 penalties. Article 71 of the same Code indicated death as the highest penalty in its Scale No. 1.

Abolition of the death penalty

Republic Act 7659, approved on December 13, 1993, imposed the death penalty on certain heinous crimes and amended the revised penal laws and other related special laws. The crimes punishable with death under this Act are "heinous for being grievous, odious and hateful offenses and which, by reason of their inherent or manifest wickedness, viciousness, atrocity and perversity are repugnant and outrageous to the common standards and norms of decency and morality in a just, civilized and ordered society."

In fact, Congress itself admitted that, "Congress, in the justice, public order and the rule of law, and the need to rationalize and harmonize the penal sanctions for heinous crimes, finds compelling reasons to impose the death penalty for said crimes." Among the crimes that were considered heinous were murder, kidnapping, rape, plunder, and those involving illegal drugs.

However, RA 9346, An Act Prohibiting the Imposition Of Death Penalty in the Philippines, enacted on June 24, 2006, abolished the imposition of the death penalty in the Philippines.

"SECTION 1. The imposition of the penalty of death is hereby prohibited. Accordingly, Republic Act No. Eight Thousand One Hundred Seventy-Seven (R.A. No. 8177), otherwise known as the Act Designating Death by Lethal Injection, is hereby repealed. Republic Act No. Seven Thousand Six Hundred Fifty-Nine (R.A. No. 7659), otherwise known as the Death Penalty Law, and all other laws, executive orders and decrees, insofar as they impose the death penalty are hereby repealed or amended accordingly."

According to news reports, between 1946 and 1965, 35 people were executed, mainly convicted of particularly savage crimes marked by "senseless depravity" or "extreme criminal perversity." Between 1999 and 2000, 7 inmates were put to death.

In 2006, the sentences of 1,230 death row inmates were commuted to life imprisonment, in what Amnesty International believes to be the "largest ever commutation of death sentences."

Arguments for the reimposition of the death penalty

1. To save the Philippines from becoming a "narco-state"

The possibility that the Philippines could eventually become a "narco-state" is a major reason for the need to reimpose the death penalty.

In 2012, the United Nations said the Philippines had the highest rate of methamphetamine use in East Asia. Likewise, according to a US State Department report, 2.1 percent of Filipinos aged 16 to 64 used the drug, which is known locally as "shabu." 2 and 1/10 % of 110 million Filipinos is roughly 2.31 million. In a report made in 2009, Pacific Strategies & Assessments identified the Philippines as, "not only a transshipment point, but also a key producer of synthetic drugs for all of Asia." As of 2013, the illegal drug trade in the Philippines amounted to $8.4 billion.

Shall we allow such a drug menace to continue and engulf our beloved country? If we want to save the next generation, our children's children, from the drug menace, then the death penalty should be imposed. Indeed, drastic times require drastic measures - death for all drug offenders! Of course, this should be applied only after a proper observance of due process and rule of law.

2. Even the Bible supports the death penalty

The Bible supports the concept of equal retaliation. This concept is derived from the Law of Moses found in the Old Testament, which states in part, "an eye for an eye; a tooth for a tooth." The Law of Moses is likewise known as the Mosaic Law, the ancient law of the Hebrews, contained in the Pentateuch and traditionally believed to have been revealed by God to Moses.

Capital punishment finds justification in the biblical passage "Whosoever sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed(Genesis 9:6, ESV)." This is further bolstered by several verses from the book of Exodus.

Exodus 21:12 - "Whoever strikes a man so that he dies shall be put to death."

Exodus 21:16 - "Whoever steals a man and sells him, and anyone found in possession of him, shall be put to death.

Exodus 21:23-25 - "But if there is harm, then you shall pay life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe."

Thus, if one person kills another person (except in instances of self-defense and situations of imminent danger), then the former deserves to die.

Capital punishment is likewise condoned in Islamic Law, as expressed in the Quran. The Quran prescribes the death penalty for several hadd (fixed) crimes.

3. It is human nature to fear death

Every human, without exception, is subject to death, and this reality is frightening to many. Thus, criminals, no matter how fearless they are, would tend to fear death itself. People fear death because they are not ready to leave what they love most in life.

All the material possessions that they have accumulated and the fame (or even infamy) that they have established, they don't want all of that to be erased or destroyed. The fear of death is the fear that one day everything they have built up, everything they have worked hard for, will be taken away from them.

In the book of Ecclesiastes, Solomon wrote: "The living are conscious that death will come to them, but the dead are not conscious of anything, and they no longer have a reward, because there is no memory of them.

Their love and their hate and their envy are now ended." He added: "Whatever comes to your hand to do with all your power, do it because there is no work, or thought, or knowledge, or wisdom in the place of the dead to which you are going(Ecclesiastes 9:5,6,10)."

Pending House bills

Several House Bills pertinent to the reimposition of the death penalty on certain heinous crimes are now pending in Congress. The most prominent of these is House Bill 0001 filed by a group of legislators led by the Speaker of the House. The bill has more or less the same provisions as the repealed Republic Act 7659, or the Death Penalty Law.

Accordingly, the death penalty is proposed to be reimposedfor heinous crimes, which are grievous, odious and hateful offenses. I think the crimes as enumerated in the proposed bill should be revisited and reviewed to include only those crimes that fit the criteria for being heinous. Capital punishment should be meted only for heinous crimes such as murder, kidnapping, plunder, and illegal drugs-related.

Furthermore, the mode of execution should be limited to lethal injection and/or the gas chamber. The use of the firing squad, and particularly of hanging, are considered primitive modes of execution and may not cause instantaneous death. As such, these 2 modes are abhorred and considered "inhuman," even for convicted criminals.

Some contentious issues

Anti-death penalty advocates insist that reimposing the death penalty is a violation of Optional Protocol No. 2, of which the Philippines is a signatory. This refers to the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Aiming at the Abolition of the Death Penalty, which was adopted and proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly Resolution 44/128 on December 15, 1989.

Further, they allege that the proposed House bills are unconstitutional. They even claim that international treaties are supreme over our local laws.For lack of material space, I will be addressing these issues in my subsequent column.

"Death is the most terrible of all things; for it is the end," says the Greek philosopher Aristotle.

Whether you are in favor of or against the restoration of the death penalty, these are just my insights. Again, quoting Aristotle, "it is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it."

(source: Manila Times)

NOVEMBER 25, 2016:


Texas judge apologizes for lynching comment about suspect in shooting of San Antonio cop

A Texas judge has apologized for writing "time for a tree and a rope" on Facebook about the black man accused of killing a San Antonio police officer.

Burnet County Judge James Oakley has since deleted the comment and issued a public apology Wednesday, according to the Austin American-Statesman. His remark has been harshly criticized on social media, many suggesting the allusion to lynching was racially motivated.

The San Antonio Police Department posted online Monday about the arrest of 31-year-old Otis Tyrone McKane in the slaying of Detective Benjamin Marconi.

Marconi, a 20-year veteran of the department, was shot in the head during a traffic stop. Police say the shooter pulled up behind the Marconi's squad car, got out and walked over to the passenger side. The man then fired twice, killing 50-year-old Marconi.

Oakley shared the Police Department's Facebook post about McKane's arrest. In the comments, he wrote: "Time for a tree and a rope..."

The judge is the top elected official in Burnet County, which is near Austin. He was appointed by former Gov. Rick Perry to the board of the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement. His term expires next year. Oakley also serves on the board for the Pedernales Electric Cooperative and the Capital Area Council of Government's executive committee.

People have been posting reviews on the Burnet County Facebook page, calling Oakley's remark racist and inappropriate.

Oakley called his comment "indeed curt and harsh," the Statesman reported.

"What I should have posted, if anything, is a comment that more clearly reflects my opinion on the cowardly crime of the senseless murder of a law enforcement officer," he said in an email to the Statesman.

He said his view of McKane "is the same regardless of ethnicity." He also said he supports due process and the death penalty.

"I also support the death penalty in cases where the ultimate crime has been committed and there is clear and complete evidence and where all steps of the judicial process have been respected," Oakely wrote in the email. "I would also point out that I am an administrative judge and do not preside over criminal court."

(source: Dallas Morning News)


Court allows appeal in case of murdered Fort Worth mom, son----Stephen Dale Barbee is on death row after being condemned for the suffocations of 34-year-old Lisa Underwood and her son, Jayden.

A federal appeals court is allowing Texas death row inmate Stephen Barbee to move forward with an appeal contending his trial attorney improperly told jurors that Barbee was responsible for the February 2005 slayings of his pregnant ex-girlfriend and her 7-year-old son at their Fort Worth home.

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld an appeals claim that Barbee's trial lawyer was deficient for making the comment to jurors and not having Barbee's permission to say it to jurors during closing arguments of the trial's punishment phase. The court rejected several other appeals claims but said Wednesday it took the action to resolve any doubts in a death penalty case.

The 49-year-old Barbee was condemned for the suffocations of 34-year-old Lisa Underwood and her son, Jayden.

(source: Associated Press)


Mifflin County's 2017 budget to raise taxes

With a dramatic increase in expenditures looming, the Mifflin County Commissioners on Wednesday unveiled their proposed county budget for 2017 with a tax increase totaling 1.75 mills.

Citing 2 huge expense-related activities that are on the horizon, the proposed spending plan will total $30,486,639, as opposed to the current year's budget which totaled $25,853,887. Commissioner Lisa Nancollas said the average property tax rate in the current budget is $541.50. With the tax increase, that average will rise to $608.10. As a comparison to normal every day purchases, Nancollas said the $5.55 average monthly increase is less than the price of a movie ticket, a Big Mac meal, a pack of cigarettes or 2 pounds of hamburger, among other things.

2 major increases in expenditures explored in detail Wednesday include a federally mandated requirement that the Mifflin County Correctional Facility be in compliance with the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) and the county's share of the cost of an upcoming death penalty criminal trial.

"All 3 of us worked very hard to develop the best budget for Mifflin County," Nancollas said. "These are trying times for Mifflin County. We have urgent issues. This is a difficult time with the proliferation of regulations."

Commissioner Stephen Dunkle said the federally mandated PREA compliance represents the biggest cost increase, noting that only 20 of Pennsylvania's 67 counties are in compliance today. He said 1 of the main reasons for that is the enormous cost associated with compliance. "It's expensive to do and we have to foot that bill," he explained. "Why is it important to be in compliance? If we're not, the federal government begins deducting 5 % of federal grant money for prisons in the 1st year. If we're not compliant in the s2nd year, that goes to 10 % and so forth and so on. The federal government is putting down the hammer."

Dunkle said the county must be in compliance to continue housing prisoners from other counties, including Juniata; the board is expected to approve another 2-year agreement with Juniata County at next week's voting meeting. Dunkle said in 2014, Mifflin County received $925,000 to house Juniata County inmates. That number fell slightly to $868,000 in 2015. This year through the end of September, the amount received totals $850,000.

"If you project that out for the next 3 months, that's $1,100,000 of income to help offset prison expenses," Dunkle reported. "Our contract with Juniata County expires at the end of this year. They put out requests for proposals from other counties, which was prudent on their part. It ended up our real competition was Centre County. Because of our rate and the travel distance being less, Juniata County decided to continue with us. But, Juniata County stipulated that we must become PREA compliant or they will no longer house their prisoners in our prison. We figured we might as well jump in and get it done so we can house prisoners from other counties with similar concerns."

One of the largest increases in cost will be the additional staffing PREA demands. Currently, the county averages 34 full-time corrections officers to oversee 163 inmates. Also, female and male inmates will have to be held separately, with plans being made to house all female prisoners in the county's annex building and moving work release prisoners to the correctional facility. In addition, the prison's surveillance video camera system will need to be seriously overhauled.

"Anywhere a prisoner goes you must have coverage by cameras," Dunkle said of the compliance regulations. Dunkle said the cost to replace and add cameras is going to be very substantial and one of the primary reasons we have to raise the taxes at this point."

Commissioner Kevin Kodish outlined the massive cost to the county for an upcoming capital murder trial in which two individuals are charged with double homicide and the state has decided to seek the death penalty. Those costs, Kodish noted, "are out of our control." Kodish said since the death penalty is being sought, the defendants are required to have death sentence certified counsel, of which there is only one in Mifflin County. Also, Kodish stated, "If the defendant doesn't have the means to pay, the county, the taxpayers, will need to take care of the cost. The county has to pay for all witnesses. If the judge sees fit to bring a jury in from out of town, those juries are sequestered. We'd have to pay for lodging and meals. The meter is running."

In summarizing the budget process, Nancollas said, "This has been particularly difficult. With what we have shown I hope you'll understand and see what we've gone through and what we've had to do to develop this budget."

Dunkle added, "One of the chief responsibilities of being a county commissioner is to administer the county. A major component of that is the levying of taxes. It would be irresponsible at this time with what we're facing not to step up and do what this job demands. We continue to look at cost savings, however, tax increases happen. This is only the 2nd increase since 2006 so it's not like taxes have increased yearly. We will continue to do our best."

Kodish said the commissioners are aware of and concerned about the situation of county residents.

"We're very limited in terms of choices," he stressed. "When we have this kind of major expense, we can't print money in the basement of the courthouse. If we make more personnel cuts we can't meet the needs of residents. I think we did all we can do at the present time. This is not what we wanted to do. We took a hard look at everything involved with this."

Nancollas said the proposed budget is currently on display at the county commissioners' office and invited interested citizens to go there to inspect it. Passage of the budget will be in December.

(source: The Sentinel)


Appellate court agrees on throwing out SC death sentence

An appellate court says a South Carolina man should be released from death row because a prosecutor's "racially coded references" made a fair sentencing impossible.

The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Monday that a lower federal court was right to throw out the death sentence against Johnny O. Bennett.

Bennett has been on South Carolina's death row for 2 decades for the killing of a 24-year-old man, stabbed more than 60 times with a screwdriver. He was first sentenced to death in 1997, but that was overturned. A jury sentenced Bennett to death again in 2000.

In that 2nd trial, before an all-white jury, Solicitor Donnie Myers compared Bennett, who is black, to "King Kong on a bad day."

Myers didn't return a message seeking comment.

(source: Associated Press)


Attorney doubted mental competence of man accused of shooting mother, daughter in Downtown Long Beach

A defense attorney who previously represented an Oklahoma man accused of gunning down a 4-year-old girl and her mother in downtown Long Beach raised doubts about the man's mental competence during an unrelated court proceeding, according to court records.

A judge, however, disagreed, ruling in early November that 22-year-old Brandon Ivan Colbert was fit to stand trial on charges related to car theft in Los Angeles.

Colbert had been arrested and booked on those charges in August while Long Beach police still were searching for him in connection with the slayings of 26-year-old Carina Mancera and her daughter, Jennabel Anaya.

Police have said they're still trying to find a motive for the Aug. 6 killings, but detectives now believe Colbert waited for Mancera and Anaya before firing on them with a shotgun as they returned to their apartment near Locust Avenue and Ninth Street after getting groceries. Police said Colbert took a bus to California from his home in Tulsa just days before the shooting.

Before Long Beach police zeroed in on Colbert as a suspect, Los Angeles police arrested him on Aug. 27. In court documents, prosecutors accuse Colbert of stealing a Range Rover SUV in Los Angeles on Aug. 8.

He pleaded not guilty to 4 felony counts related in the case, according to court records, but on Sept. 7, Colbert's public defender moved to suspend the proceedings because she doubted Colbert had the mental ability to help in his own defense.

It's unclear what prompted Colbert's public defender, Eleanor Schneir, to question his mental competence. She did not return a voicemail message asking about the topic.

The judge ruled on Nov. 4 that the criminal case could proceed against Colbert, but prosecutors dropped the charges 3 days later as he would soon face 2 counts of murder in the Long Beach case.

By that time, Long Beach police had homed in on a man, later identified as Colbert, by picking him out from surveillance footage that tied him to the shooting scene.

Authorities were on a nationwide manhunt for the man, whose name they didn’t know, until the Los Angeles County crime lab notified detectives on Oct. 31 that DNA from the scene had matched Colbert, who was in county jail in connection with the car theft, police said.

Long Beach police took custody of Colbert on Nov. 6, and the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office charged him Nov. 8 with 2 counts of murder and 1 count of attempted murder in connection with the Long Beach shooting. After gunning down Mancera and Anaya, Colbert fired at Anaya's father, Luis Anaya, but missed, according to prosecutors.

Colbert's current public defender has so far not indicated any doubt in the defendant's mental abilities, according to court records.

Colbert is set to be arraigned on the charges Dec. 20. He's being held without bail and could face the death penalty if prosecutors choose to pursue it.

(source: Press-Telegram)


Do the December 2012 gangrape convicts really deserve the death penalty?----Supreme Court's amicus curiae points out the pitfalls of a collective punishment for murder in the absence of any evidence of premeditation.

If the December 2012 Delhi gang-rape roiled the nation like no other case and even led to legal reforms, it was surely due to the brutality of the violence suffered by the victim, who has widely come to be known as Nirbhaya. What has not however been judicially established is the identity of the 1 out of the 6 accused persons on the bus who had actually inflicted the fatal injuries with an iron rod.

This gap in the narrative has been flagged by the Supreme Court's amicus curiae, senior advocate Raju Ramachandran, while providing an independent appraisal of the death sentence pronounced by the lower courts on the 4 convicted persons in the 2012 Delhi rape case.

In his written submissions earlier this month, Ramachandran raised a host of procedural and substantive issues questioning the order of sentencing by the trial court in 2013 and the confirmation of the death penalty by the Delhi high court in 2014.

One of the substantive issues is that in the sentencing process, those 2 courts did not take into account this mitigating circumstance in favour of all the convicted persons: "that there was no attribution of individual role with respect to the use of the iron rod".

Objecting to the idea of sentencing the convicted persons in a "collective" manner, Ramachandran said: "It may be pertinent to note that the use of the iron rod was a crucial consideration in convicting the accused under section 302 (for murder) and also in determining the brutality of the crime." He even cited Supreme Court precedents rejecting the death penalty "for lack of attribution of specific roles".

Exception - not the norm

Significantly, this is the 3rd high-profile case in which Ramachandran came out in the apex court against the death penalty. The earlier ones were about the hanging of Ajmal Kasab for 26/11 and Yakub Memon for Bombay blasts. Ramachandran's stand in the latest case is also in tune with the reservations to the death penalty expressed by scholars and women's groups before the Justice JS Verma Committee, which had been set up in the aftermath of the 2012 Delhi rape case to tighten the provisions relating to sexual crimes.

The most telling precedent cited by Ramachandran to buttress his arguments against the death penalty in the case is the 1953 Supreme Court verdict in Dalip Singh vs State of Punjab. This belongs to the era when the courts, governed by the criminal law of colonial vintage, were justified in awarding death penalties as a matter of course. For the 1898 Code of Criminal Procedure required that if the court refrained from awarding death for an offence punishable with death, it would have to give reasons why the death sentence was not passed. It was only subsequent to the 1953 Dalip Singh verdict that Parliament reversed the law to stipulate that for offences punishable with death, the court shall give special reasons for awarding the death penalty.

Yet, while deciding the Dalip Singh case prior to the liberalisation of the criminal law, the Supreme Court held that the failure of the lower courts to ascribe an individual role to the accused was a reason for setting aside the death penalty. This, the amicus curiae in the 2012 Delhi rape case, has interpreted to mean that "surely, under the new code when life imprisonment is the norm and death the exception - the lack of individual role must be a major mitigating circumstance".

Planned and premeditated?

On another substantive issue, Ramachandran said that there was no evidence on record "to demonstrate that the rape and murder of the victim was planned and premeditated." According to him, the testimonies of neither her male friend who was with the young woman on the fateful bus journey nor the previous male victim who had been robbed and thrown out by the same accused persons suggest any premeditation. "The accused never knew the victim or had any occasion to believe that she would be present at the relevant spot on the fateful day," Ramachandran added.

In the written submissions that otherwise steered clear of the merits of the conviction of the four accused persons, this was as close as Ramachandran could get to challenging the finding of conspiracy in the case. So does his critique of the death sentence in the 2012 Delhi case necessarily mean that the 4 convicted persons should have instead been awarded a life sentence, subject to the usual remission after a term of 14 years? For all his opposition to the death penalty, Ramachandran conceded that the prospect of a 14-year incarceration for the guilty in the 2012 Delhi rape case might be inadequate. He pointed therefore to the 3rd option for sentencing created by the Supreme Court in 2008, to bridge the gap between the death penalty and a 14-year imprisonment. It's the option under which the Supreme Court or the high court fixes a term greater than 14 years or even specifies that the imprisonment would be for the remainder of the life of the convicted person.

Some of the insiders connected with the prosecution side admitted that although two consecutive courts had upheld the conspiracy charge, there was no evidence that the crime was premeditated. Since the victim's friend had been pinned down in the front portion of the bus, he could not see who exactly had assaulted her with the iron rod in the rear portion. If the conspiracy provision was still invoked, it was because in the absence of any eyewitness account attributing specific roles, that was the strategy adopted by the prosecution to establish liability for the murder. As a corollary, all the conspirators were rendered liable for the actions of each other, thereby relieving the prosecution of the burden of attributing specific roles. It remains to be seen whether the Supreme Court will uphold this odd proposition of a conspiracy having been executed without any evidence being adduced of premeditation.

On the other hand, even if the Supreme Court does not accept its amicus curiae's submissions, the questions raised by them may serve as an opportunity to sensitise people to the exacting standards that a death sentence has to meet. For even in a case as egregious as the 2012 Delhi gang-rape, there could well be, from an independent perspective, mitigating circumstances which require the convicted persons to be spared the noose.

(source: Manoj Mitta;


2 murder convicts handed death penalty

Anti-Terrorism Court here on Thursday sentenced 2 persons to death for killing a person in 2015, who had refused to pay them 'bhatta'.

The court found both Shoaib Qadri and Syed Imran Ali guilty in the murder of Hassan Khoso, who had sustained critical gunshot wounds after the assault and died in the hospital.

In another case of possession of illegal weapons, the court sentenced Qadri and Ali to 7 years in jail.

The 2 were also ordered to pay Rs200,000 fine each in a murder case and Rs50,000 fine each in the case of possessing unlicenced weapons.

According to A-Section police station, 5 persons had been nominated in the FIR, but 3 of them, Noman, Sadiq and Babul were absconders.

(source: The Nation)


Northern Iran: 7 Prisoners Executed

According a report by the Iranian state-run news agency Jame Jam,2 prisoners were hanged in the Gilan province (northern Iran) on murder charges. The report does not mention the identities of the prisoners or the exact location or date of the executions.

The human rights news agency HRANA has reported on the execution of four prisoners at Karaj Central Prison (Alborz province, northern Iran) on drug related charges. According to the report, the executions were carried out on Thursday November 24. The names of the prisoners have been reported as Mohsen Jamali, Yasser Kavyani, Davoud Totalzehi and Asef Mohammad Saeedpour. Mr. Totalzehi and Mr. Saeedpour were reportedly Baluch citizens.

The Kurdistan Human Rights Network has reported on the execution of a prisoner at Mahabad Prison (West Azerbaijan province, northwestern Iran) on drug related charges. According to the report, the prisoners name is Jamshid Tahami and he was executed by Iranian authorities on Thursday November 24. Mr. Tahami was reportedly detained in prison for three years prior to his execution.

Iranian official sources, including the media and Judiciary, have been silent about the executions in Karaj Cenral and Mahabad prisons.

(source: Iran Human Rights)


Man sentenced to death over 2 murders in Shizuoka

The Shizuoka District Court on Thursday sentenced a 64-year-old man to death over the 2012 murders of a dried fish store owner and one of her employees before robbing the store of money.

In a case without solid evidence such as a murder weapon, Kimiaki Hida, a former employee of the store, had maintained his innocence from the time of his arrest. His lawyers said they will appeal the decision.

In handing down the ruling, Presiding Judge Chie Saito said, "Circumstantial evidence strongly suggests the defendant was the murderer."

The death penalty for Hida is "unavoidable," the ruling said, calling his crime "an inhumane and cruel act."

The court ruled that Hida stabbed store owner Takako Shimizu, 59, and 71-year-old employee Keigoro Obuchi, and trapped them inside a freezer in the store setting the temperature at minus 40 C on Dec. 18, 2012, before leaving them to bleed to death.

Hida stole around 320,000 yen ($2,833) from the store, according to the ruling.

Hida told the court that he did visit the shop on the day of the incident to "ask to be rehired." But he said that "once I saw the 2 in a pool of blood inside the store, I ran away because I thought I would be the suspect."

The ruling said according to circumstantial evidence presented by public prosecutors, Hida stayed in the store at least 40 minutes and it was difficult to think he was not involved in the murders.

Demanding the death penalty before a panel of 3 professional judges and 6 citizen judges, public prosecutors argued that Hida committed the crime after getting in financial trouble with the store owner over his unemployment insurance.

(source: Japan Today)


The Gallows Or A 2nd Chance - Bahamians Must Decide

last week, Archbishop Patrick Pinder urged the government to abolish the death penalty. Instead, in a pastoral letter from the Bishops of the Antilles Episcopal Conference, it was recommended that government should concentrate on the rehabilitation of the offender.

It said that while a "climate of lawlessness" is prevalent in The Bahamas and the region, capital punishment does not "assist the criminal to reform," nor does it "assist the victim to restore his or her violated dignity".

5 days later, Bishop Walter Hanchell, chairman of the Citizens for Justice, begged to disagree. He announced that he remained a firm supporter of "restorative justice" for all those convicted of crimes, but not for murderers. In his opinion murderers should "suffer the penalty of death for their crimes as prescribed by law". In other words Bishop Hanchell belongs to the school of "hang 'em high!"

On the other hand, Archbishop Pinder and the Bishops of the Antilles Episcopal Conference believe that to take away a person's "basic right to immunity from fatal harm" is to "compromise his/her sacred dignity".

As for Bishop Hanchell, he believes that capital punishment is an act, not conceived by Man, but by God. Scripture, he said, decreed that murderers should be "punished and removed" from society. However, he quoted no Scripture that said that they should be killed.

And then there is psychologist Dr David Allen with a plan to save youth from the anger that triggers violence, thus setting them on the right path before they stumble and have to be rehabilitated.

We have often been asked what side we are on. Having grown up in the midst of 2 brothers with strong opinions on the matter we wavered for a long time, until experience convinced us that hanging was not a deterrent.

However, Sir Etienne Dupuch believed it was a deterrent, although towards the end he had started to have doubts. His "baby brother", the Hon Eugene Dupuch, QC, had no doubts. He was firmly against capital punishment. This was the only subject on which the two brothers disagreed.

Sir Etienne believed it was a deterrent because he recalled his father talking of the public hangings on the Eastern Parade. On February 2, 1856, the Bahamas Herald reported the hanging of Daphe Neilly on the Eastern Parade. As crowds gathered an open coffin was put in front of the prisoner at the foot of the scaffold. Neilly was positioned beneath the drop "and in a few moments afterwards she was in eternity." After being "suspended for nearly half an hour," the report continued, "the body was removed to a neighbouring burial ground and there interred".

Such a gruesome public scene would certainly have been a deterrent. However, statistics today show that the death penalty is no longer a STOP sign to murder. In the US, states that do not have the death penalty show that murder is consistently lower than in states with the death penalty.

Said Police Chief James Abbott of West Orange, New Jersey, in 2010: "I ... know that in practice, (the death penalty) does more harm than good. So while I hang on to my theoretical views, as I'm sure many of you will, I stand before you to say that society is better off without capital punishment ... Life in prison without parole in a maximum-security detention facility is a better alternative."

Although still on the statute books, no one has been hanged in the Bahamas since January 6, 2000. We believe that it should be officially abolished.

Too many mistakes are still being made and too many innocent persons in other jurisdictions are still being executed - despite DNA testing - to justify its retention.

However, even in this - although we believe that a convicted murderer should be jailed for life with life meaning a man's full lifetime, not 25 years - even these rules should not be so hard and fast that during the course of an offender's lifetime, there cannot be a reprieve.

Not too long ago, we received a letter from a young Bahamian who is serving a life sentence in a US prison for participating in an argument with a group of boys that ended in murder. We know the family. A fine Bahamian family deeply anchored in their religious faith. But we shall let the young man tell his own story.

"I grew up," he writes, "in an environment that was full of love, devotion to faith and was taught how to care, share and respect others. I can remember my high school days where I would do the announcements in the mornings in the dean's office and then turn around and plan events for the school with some of my other peer councillors, a prefect, on the Key Club and participated in the Kiwanis Club meetings, along with the school's basketball and softball teams that I played for.

"During the summer months, I worked doing air-conditioning and refrigeration until I finished high school. Upon completing high school I earned a partial scholarship from the Lyford Cay Scholarship Foundation to attend. It was during this time that I got into trouble with the law for the decision to hang with the wrong crowd and that decision cost me my freedom."

The young man admits his mistakes, but he is not bitter. He has a positive attitude and is preparing himself for the day that he can come home and help others to avoid his errors.

#The prison to which he has been assigned has many positive programmes to prepare inmates for the world outside. He has taken advantage of everyone of them so that he can return home equipped to help young Bahamians stay out of trouble, and show them the consequences of a wrong decision. In prison he tutors other prisoners to prepare them for their tests. He has taken anger management courses, a psychological course that deals with criminal thinking, a course for ways in which to keep a family together, and a course to help a man be a better father for his children.

"In between helping these guys, I find time to exercise and work out, write and read. But none of these things would have been possible if not for God's grace and my positive attitude. That is all that it takes. It's not easy dealing and coping with what I go through - but I know deep down inside me that I'm going to come home and some day have an impact in my country.

"This institution has a Gavel Club and I'm in the process of trying to enrol and become a member. I do these things in order to be of service and to be able to give back and to lead by example."

This is a young man who is needed in this country. However, his one unfortunate decision has banished him from society for life - unless a way can be found to have him released.

This is one of the many reasons that we are against the gallows - there are those who can be redeemed, and are worth being given a 2nd chance.

(source: Editorial, Bahamas Tribune)

NOVEMBER 24, 2016:


Pa. Supreme Court voids death sentence for 'Greensburg 6' torture murder of intellectually disabled woman

Saying a legal error gives it no other choice, a divided state Supreme Court has overturned the death sentence for a western Pennsylvania man involved in the torture and murder of an intellectually disabled woman.

The court's decision, outlined in a majority opinion Justice Kevin M. Dougherty issued this week, requires the Westmoreland County Court to summon another jury to again consider whether Melvin Knight should be executed for the 2010 slaying of 30-year-old Jennifer Daugherty in Greensburg.

The justices refused to overturn Knight's murder conviction.

Knight, 27, of Swissvale, pleaded guilty to 1st- and 2nd-degree murder, conspiracy and kidnapping. The jury in his case only weighed whether he should receive a death sentence or spend the rest of his life behind bars.

The error the high court cited in voiding his death sentence involved a failure to instruct the jury that Knight's lack of a criminal record should have been considered as a mitigating factor against capital punishment, Dougherty concluded.

So the Supreme Court majority sent the case back to county court for a new penalty hearing. Justice Sallie Updyke Mundy filed a dissenting opinion, arguing that her court should not have substituted its judgment for that of the jury.

Knight was among a group of defendants, dubbed the "Greensburg 6," who pleaded guilty or were convicted in connection with Daugherty's horrific death.

In his opinion, Dougherty noted that the Mount Pleasant woman, who had the intellectual capacity of a 14-year-old, was targeted for abuse by the group after she made sexual advances toward the boyfriend of one of the group's female members.

Over 2 days, the victim was beaten and raped. Her tormentors cut off her hair and made her drink concoctions of urine and feces, the justice noted. He added that after the group voted to kill her, her abusers made Daugherty write a suicide note.

Knight forced Daugherty into the bathroom, made her kneel and asked her if she was ready to die. Then, Doughtery wrote, Knight stabbed her in the chest and cut her throat. When she didn't die immediately, another man cut Daugherty's throat while Knight strangled her with some Christmas lights.

Daugherty's body was found the next day stuffed head-first into a trash can in the parking lot of a middle school.

The other defendants in the case either pleaded guilty or were convicted. One of them, Ricky Smyrnes, also received a death sentence. A 17-year-old girl involved in the slaying was sentenced to life in prison, while the other defendants are serving prison terms of at least 30 years.



Grace, Justice, and Mercy brings awareness to problems with the death penalty

Justice 360 is a South Carolina non-profit organization that advocates for fairness, equality, and the eradication of racial bias in the prosecution of capital punishment cases in our state. Justice 360 was founded in South Carolina in 1988 and through the work of its legal staff and advocacy efforts has moved 38 men off death row since the organization's then. South Carolina has the 7th highest per capita execution rate in the country. It is estimated that 4 out of every 100 death row inmates are innocent.

According to Mandy Medlock, executive director of Justice 360, "Every state, if they have an active death penalty also has some type of death penalty resource center that provides legal representation to those facing the death penalty in their state."

She shares that the prevailing challenge facing organizations such as Justice 360 is an observed racial bias in the prosecution of death penalty cases.

Another issue affecting these inmates is mental illness. Over 70 % of South Carolina's current death row population suffers from a serious mental illness.

Medlock says, "Folks are starting to realize the death penalty, in fact our entire criminal justice system is biased against people of color, people with mental illness, people with intellectual disability, and most of all the poor, the least among us."

Approximately 800 - 1,000 people attended a special event at the Township Auditorium in Columbia sponsored by Justice 360 called "Grace, Justice, and Mercy" featuring attorney and author Bryan Stevenson who has dedicated his legal career to the cause of those facing possible unjust capital punishment decisions.

Bryan Stevenson is the executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery, Alabama. Under his leadership, the Equal Justice Initiative has won major legal challenges eliminating excessive and unfair sentencing, exonerating innocent death row prisoners, confronting abuse of the incarcerated and the mentally ill, and aiding children prosecuted as adults. Stevenson is the author of Just Mercy which tells his story in working with these special cases and clients, compared in its impact to Harper Lee's To Kill A Mockingbird. Stevenson spoke to the crowd on the importance of not losing hope when working for change for the underprivileged.

Panel speakers included Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin, poets from The Watering Hole, and Master of Ceremonies Sherard Duvall.

Medlock encourages the public to get involved in the advocacy work of Justice 360 by following their social media sites on Facebook and Twitter and signing up for the e-blast newsletter on the organization's website:

(source: The Columbia Star)


Death penalty ruling could set big precedent in future cases

The Florida Supreme Court set a potentially big precedent on Wednesday when it overturned a death sentence for a convicted murderer. The court ordered that a death row inmate be re-sentenced because the jury was not unanimous when it handed down the sentence.

"While we're somewhat disappointed in the ruling, we have to abide in the decision," Assistant State Attorney John Molchan said.

Molchan said that the ruling has turned their office upside down. He is not sure how this will affect the nearly 400 people on death row in Florida. He said that it is possible they may all have to be re-sentenced, but that has not been clarified. Molchan is confident that the new ruling will apply to any person awaiting or currently standing trial.

For opponents of the death penalty, it is a victory.

"I just feel like there's certain limits that we have to make judgement as an individual human on this earth," Wylie Murray said.

Others believe the ruling makes it too difficult to sentence anyone to death.

"If they're murdering people, if they're mutilating people, they're cutting up people, then yeah, they should get the death penalty," Laurie Zaslove said. "There's something wrong in their head."

The ruling could impact some potentially high-profile local cases.

Nearly 2 decades have passed since the murder of Cynthia Harrison. A community was shocked that Timothy Hurst tied up his boss, stabbed her more than 60 times and left her body in a Popeye's freezer. Hurst has been waiting on death row since then, but he successfully appealed his sentence last year.

"That went to the U.S. Supreme Court who sent it back and indicated that there had to be findings of aggravating circumstances that had to be found by the jury," Molchan said.

Molchan said the Hurst is now waiting to be re-sentenced. This time, all 12 people on the jury will have to recommend capital punishment to send him back to death row.

There are 385 people currently on death row, 8 sentenced in Escambia County, seven in Santa Rosa County and 4 in Okaloosa County.

(source: WEAR TV news)


Supreme Court rejects death row appeal

Condemned murderer Tavares J. Wright will remain on death row for killing 2 men during a robbery and leaving their bodies in a Polk City orange grove, according to a Florida Supreme Court ruling released Wednesday.

Wright, 35, had appealed on grounds that his trial lawyers failed to adequately investigate and present testimony to support a sentence of life imprisonment, as opposed to the death penalty, and their failure to discredit 2 jailhouse informants who testified against Wright during his 2004 trial. He also challenged a Circuit Court ruling that he's not intellectually disabled.

The Florida Supreme Court rejected those arguments Wednesday.

Wright, along with co-defendant Samuel Pitts, was convicted of abducting James "Jimbo" Felker, 18, of Plant City, and his cousin, David Green, 21, who was visiting from Virginia. They were taken from a Winn-Dixie supermarket parking lot in north Lakeland and driven in Green's car 15 miles north to an orange grove in Polk City where they were shot.

In November 2004, a Polk County jury convicted Wright of 2 counts of 1st-degree murder, 2 counts of kidnapping, 2 counts of robbery and 1 count of carjacking. Wright waived his right to jury recommendation in the penalty phase, and in October 2005, after hearing testimony and other evidence, Circuit Judge Dick Prince sentenced him to death for the 2 execution-style slayings.

The murders were part of a 3-day crime spree in April 2000. Investigators linked the crimes to a stolen pistol, which investigators tied to Wright.

Pitts, 36, was sentenced to life imprisonment for his involvement in the killings.

In Wright's initial appeal to the Florida Supreme Court, which is automatic when a death sentence is imposed, the state's high court rejected his arguments.

With Wednesday's ruling, the state's high court again rejected Wright's arguments, which means he will remain on Florida's death row.

(source: The Ledger)


Death row inmate who killed corrections officer to be resentenced----Sgt. Ruben Thomas stabbed 14 times in cell at Columbia County Correctional

The Florida Supreme Court is ordering a new sentencing hearing for a man on death row for killing a 24-year-old Columbia County corrections officer in 2002.

The court issued its ruling Wednesday, saying the jury that voted to condemn Richard Franklin wasn't unanimous.

Franklin was serving 2 life sentences for murder and robbery in March 2012 when he fatally stabbed Sgt. Ruben Thomas in the neck with a handmade knife. According to the report, Franklin stabbed Thomas 14 times.

He was convicted the following year and a jury voted 9-3 in favor of executing Franklin.

Last month the state Supreme Court ruled that death sentences have to be unanimous, citing a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in January that overturned a Florida death sentence issued on a 7-5 jury recommendation.

Franklin's case will go back to a jury for a new penalty hearing.

Thomas was training to fulfill his dream as a game warden. He loved the outdoors, but most importantly, he adored his family, daughter Emma and his pregnant fiancee.

"Just so excited about the baby and watching his little girl grow," Paula Thomas said of her son.

Investigation into corrections officer's death

According to the investigation into Ruben Thomas' death, he went into Franklin cell after the inmate called him on the intercom. Franklin put him in a headlock, and the officer's radio and personal body alarm fell down a floor.

Ruben Thomas got away and Franklin chased after him across the catwalk and down the stairs to a door, which was immediately opened for him. The chase continued to another door that another officer working opened. Ruben Thomas tried to close it, but the inmate grabbed the handle.

The two began a tug of war over the door, and each time Franklin pulled open the door he stabbed Ruben Thomas, as the other officer repeatedly radioed for assistance. According to the report, Franklin used a shank, a homemade knife that a fellow inmate made from a piece of metal pipe.

Widow believes Thomas' death was preventable

"I don't think a lot of people understand that there are murderers walking around in an open cell population, and I think that they should be classified differently amongst themselves than with somebody who has maybe written a bad check and is in prison," Paula Thomas said.

She said the prison definitely needs more guards working, especially at night.

"The ratio is awful," Paula Thomas said. "It's two to around 200, and there's no way that they could protect themselves, if needed."



Prosecutor files 1st-degree murder charge in motel room death

Last Saturday, a woman charged in the shooting death of a suspected methamphetamine dealer in a Columbia motel room told someone the man was dead - before police released his name - and that she was the last person to see him alive.

Jaclyn A. Rose years ago may have been in a relationship with Gregory J. Moore, who was found dead in his room on Thursday. But recently their relationship was limited to meth transactions, a witness identified only as E.M. told Columbia police, according to a probable cause statement. 2 people who visited Moore before his death at his ground-floor room in the northwest corner of Welcome Inn, 1612 N. Providence Road, provided Columbia Police Department Detective Alan Mitchell with Moore’s phone number and one said the phone should be in the room with Moore. One of the people, identified as S.P. in the statement, told police Moore sold meth and kept a gun for protection.

When police searched the motel room Moore's phone and gun were missing. Rose, 33, was arrested on suspicion of drug possession early Thursday, before Moore's body was discovered, and investigators found on her a phone they later learned belonged to Moore, Mitchell wrote.

Columbia police put out information to other area law enforcement agencies that detectives were looking for Rose and she was picked up Tuesday night in Fulton. Detectives brought her back to Columbia and on Wednesday afternoon, Boone County Prosecuting Attorney Dan Knight charged Rose with 1st-degree murder and armed criminal action. Rose remains in the Boone County Jail on a $1 million cash-only bond. She did not have an attorney listed in online court records.

Knight declined to say whether he would seek the death penalty for Rose, 1 of 2 penalties for 1st-degree murder. The other possible punishment is life in prison without parole. No Boone County prosecutors have sought capital punishment against murder defendants during Knight's almost 10 years in office. Knight declined to comment on the case.

Police were called to the motel at 6:28 p.m. Thursday after someone found Moore unresponsive in the room. He was pronounced dead at the scene with an apparent gunshot wound.

Surveillance video, Mitchell wrote, shows a woman who appears to be Rose pull up to the motel in a light-colored sedan last Wednesday just after Moore arrived and went into his room. As Moore went to his car, the woman, who was carrying a bag, walked past him and went into his room, and Moore returned. A person identified as S.P. came and left the room and, Mitchell wrote, "A short time later subjects standing near room 149 all look in the direction of the room as though they heard something."

The woman later left the room carrying 2 bags and briefly stopped at a car before leaving the motel. S.P., the person in the car, told Mitchell the suspect spoke to them briefly and described the woman as having blonde hair. Police tied Rose to the scene using S.P.'s description and surveillance video.

After police obtained a search warrant for Moore's phone and turned it on, they found texts from Rose that Moore read before he died, Mitchell wrote.

A police spokeswoman at the motel when Moore was found told reporters that Moore was a long-term resident there. Residents told the Tribune he had been there for a few weeks.

At the time of his death, Moore had pending charges of failing to register as a sex offender and distribution of a controlled substance. Moore was convicted in St. Louis County in 1996 of statutory sodomy involving a 16-year-old girl. Boone County sheriff's deputies arrested Moore on Oct. 3 after they learned he was living at 110 Ripley St., which is close to several schools, and never registered as a sex offender in Boone County. Deputies found several bags of meth, packaging materials, a scale and marijuana in his home.

(source: Columbia Daily Tribune)


The long road; Death row: the lawyer who keeps losing ---- A single attorney has had more clients sentenced to death in federal court than any other defence lawyer in America. He's part of a deeply flawed system that is about to get worse

On the evening of 19 November 1998, the body of a Colombian man, Julian Colon, was found in the boot of an abandoned car in Kansas City, Missouri. His hands, feet and eyes had been bound with duct tape, and he had been shot in the head. Cartel drug lords, who were importing cocaine, via Mexico, into Texas and distributing it onwards from Kansas City, were convinced that Colon had stolen $300,000 from them, and had him executed.

10 days later, a Colombian immigrant, said to be an enforcer for the cartels, German Sinisterra, was arrested. Under interrogation, he confessed, saying that he had been told by the traffickers to fly to Kansas City from his home in Dallas, and to undertake a job for a fee of $1,000. He was afraid to say no: most of his family was in Colombia, vulnerable to reprisals. Sinisterra described how Colon was lured to a meeting by 2 cartel associates, where he was bound and beaten, before Sinisterra was ordered to shoot him.

Sinisterra went on trial for 1st degree murder in Kansas City in December 2000. His case was not heard in the local state court, but in the separate federal system, run by the Department of Justice - the forum for some of the most serious cases, many involving organised crime or terrorism. The prosecution asked the court to sentence him to death.

Leading his defence was Frederick Duchardt, a Kansas City attorney appointed by the judge. American death penalty trials consist of 2 successive phases. In the 1st - the "guilt phase" - the jury decides whether the prosecution has proven its case beyond reasonable doubt. Then, in the "penalty phase", the same lawyer presents the case, and the same jurors determine whether the prisoner should be sentenced to death or life imprisonment.

As Sinisterra's guilt was not disputed, what sentence he would receive was crucial. Duchardt's plea for Sinisterra in the second, penalty stage focused on evidence that he was a caring husband and father, beloved by his family in Texas, and his relatives still in Colombia. Duchardt revealed that Sinisterra was raised in poverty in the port city of Buenaventura, had emigrated in his late teens and worked in construction. His wife, a nurse named Michelle Rankin, told the court he was "loving and caring". They had 2 small children, and he also took care of his daughter from a previous relationship. His mother-in-law testified that all her family adored him. Videotapes in Spanish recorded by family members in Colombia spoke of his generosity. His 9-year-old said that her father played with her, took her to school, and had bought her a Bible story book.

None of this made much impact. The jury deliberated for less than a day before sentencing Sinisterra to death.

Since Sinisterra's sentencing, 3 more of Duchardt's clients have been condemned to death: Wes Purkey, Lisa Montgomery, and, most recently, in 2014, Charles Hall. Out of 7 federal death trials, 4 of Duchardt's clients have received the death penalty, 2 have been handed life sentences and 1 has been acquitted after an appeal and a retrial. This tally means that Duchardt has had more clients sentenced to death in federal court than any other defence lawyer in America.

The lawyers appealing against the death sentences of Sinisterra, Purkey and Montgomery have all separately argued that their sentences should be quashed because Duchardt's performance was "deficient", and that his failure to present critical mitigating evidence amounted to what US law terms "ineffective assistance of counsel". (Hall's appeals have not yet started.)

Duchardt finds these allegations preposterous. A tall, softly spoken figure of 64, he has wispy, greying hair and a droopy moustache. Not for him the lawyer's uniform of white shirt and dark suit: both times we met, he wore jeans and an old sweater. I got the impression he wanted to be liked, generously suggesting we set aside at least 2 hours for our meeting on my first day in Kansas City.

When it came to specific claims about his own conduct, he stiffened and, palpably defensive, declined to go into details. The reason his clients got the death penalty, he said, had nothing to do with his performance, but related only to the seriousness of their crimes: "If you've read the facts of these cases, you'll know they were ugly, ugly." He didn't mind criticism if it was fair, but all too often, it was not. "Some allegations of ineffectiveness which are made in post-conviction cases are frivolous, simply not comporting with the facts and/or the law."

Blaming trial defence counsel for death sentences, he pointed out, was merely a legal ploy: "Frankly, unless you've got fresh evidence, it's the only way you can get relief, because you have to raise issues that haven't been raised before. The question is, are you going to be bound by the facts, or make stuff up? You show me where I screwed up, and I'll admit it."

He acknowledged that he was a maverick, but he insisted that his methods were appropriate.

Professor Sean O'Brien of the University of Missouri law school, a veteran defence lawyer who has fought numerous capital trials and appeals - and who has known Duchardt for many years - disagreed. He believes Duchardt's work has been so poor that it helps to explain a surprising fact: that federal courts in Missouri are far more likely to pass death sentences than those in any other state.

"Meeting the proper, nationally agreed standards of capital defence is demanding, and complying with them is expensive," O'Brien said. "One reason why Missouri's federal courts crank out so many death sentences is that they repeatedly appoint a lawyer - Duchardt - who has rejected these standards."

Missouri has become a federal death penalty hotspot. Of the 62 prisoners on federal death row, 9 were convicted in Missouri, 14.5% of the national total, though the state's population of 6 million amounts to just 1.9% of the US as a whole. Since the 1990s, the chances of being sentenced to death in a federal court in Missouri have been many times higher than anywhere else.

To Duchardt, the explanation is simply that Missouri has more heinous murderers, more homicides with "egregious facts". Again, O'Brien disagreed. "When the prosecution seeks the death penalty, it commits skilled lawyers with unlimited resources to get the job done. For an indigent defendant, getting a skilled lawyer who will demand the resources to make it a fair fight is like winning the lottery - you will probably live. Many defendants lose that lottery, and they get a lawyer more worried more about pleasing the court and the prosecutor than about fighting for the client. Those are the ones who die. When one lawyer produces nearly half the federal death sentences in a state, there's a problem."

It has long been recognised that in state courts, the quality of capital defence lawyers is sometimes appalling. In Texas, which as of October 2016 had executed 538 men and women since 1982 - far more than any other state - at least 3 prisoners have been sentenced to death, despite the fact their attorneys spent parts of their trials asleep. At an appeal for 1 of them, prosecutors argued that this did not matter, because the man's attorney only missed unimportant parts of the testimony. One Texas lawyer, Jerry Guerinot, has had 21 clients sentenced to death in state courts, including a British woman, Linda Carty. When I interviewed him in 2007, he said he was "an extremely aggressive lawyer" unlike those who "just sit in their chair and let the state run over them". However, he admitted he spent barely an hour with her before her trial started, and failed to speak to crucial witnesses who would have supported her claim of innocence.

It is not easy to be a capital defence lawyer. By definition, most cases in which prosecutors seek the death penalty will be horrifying. Jurors will be questioned before they are sworn in, and those who admit they are opposed to capital punishment are excluded - creating an inherent, pro-death bias. The system is not always good at deciding which defendants really are the "worst of the worst", and in 1994, Stephen Bright, founder of the Southern Centre for Human Rights in Atlanta, argued in a seminal paper that death sentences were generally imposed "not for the worst crimes, but the worst lawyers."

African American people make up 12% of the population of the US, but almost 1/2 of federal death row's inmates

By contrast, federal courts are supposed to be a paragon of American justice. Federal judges are appointed by the president, and prosecutors work for the Department of Justice in Washington. The US attorney general has to approve every federal case in which prosecutors seek the death penalty. As for the defence, public funding is generous: defence costs in a federal capital trial will usually be about $2m (in the Missouri state system, the average defence cost of a capital murder trial is $127,000).

Yet there is evidence that the federal death penalty is applied unevenly, disproportionately affecting minorities and the marginalised. African American people make up 12% of the population of the US, but almost 1/2 of federal death row's inmates. Sinisterra was convicted of drug trafficking and murder, and sentenced to death under a law devised for drug trade "kingpins", although, as a cartel courier and hitman, he was pretty low down the hierarchy.

Sinisterra's main challenge against the death sentence - known in the trade as a "2255 motion", after the relevant section of the US penal code - was handled by a team led by Tim Gabrielsen, a death penalty specialist from Arizona. When he started work in 2004, he formed the view that Duchardt's conduct of the penalty phase of the trial ignored long-established practice. In many capital cases where prisoners' lives have been spared, it is because their lawyers have been able to show that their childhoods were grotesquely abusive, that they were mentally ill, or intellectually disabled. In such circumstances, the US supreme court has set binding precedents, determining that prisoners who are not so much evil as deeply damaged should be shown mercy.

"Digging deep into the defendant's background is at the core of mounting a defence: you have to persuade the jurors the defendant is not a monster, but a fellow human being," said Professor O'Brien. "It isn't enough to present testimony from mental health experts. You have to connect the jury with their life story. Some might say that's touchy-feely. But it's the way to save lives."

For decades, the accepted way to get at this evidence has been to engage a "mitigation specialist": an investigator skilled at persuading an offender's friends and family to reveal painful secrets, and at finding the medical, psychiatric and other records that may support such disclosures. In 1998, America's National Judicial Conference endorsed a report by a senior judge stating that all capital defence teams should include a mitigation specialist: this, it said, was nothing less than a "minimum standard of care". The American Bar Association followed this with supposedly binding guidelines in 2003, saying lawyers "must" employ such experts.

However, when Duchardt was preparing for Sinisterra's trial case, he chose not to do so. In advance of the appeal, Gabrielsen employed an experienced mitigation specialist of dual US-Colombian citizenship, who carried out a painstaking investigation in Colombia to see whether there was anything Duchardt had missed.

Talking to Sinisterra's friends and family, the specialist discovered that from an early age, Sinisterra had been beaten by both his parents. His father used his fists, but sometimes his mother would lash him with a horsewhip, or submerge his head in a bucket of water.

When Sinisterra was 7, 2 men raped him at knifepoint, an attack so traumatic he ran away from home and lived on the streets. There, he was assaulted again. His attacker smashed his head against a lamppost so hard he was unconscious for 2 days. When he did finally go home, he was raped repeatedly by a friend of his mother who was a known paedophile, and by an elder brother who was high on drugs. While he was in his teens, 2 of his other brothers were murdered, one of them in front of him.

Gabrielsen also had Sinisterra assessed by a forensic neuropsychologist, Professor Antolin Llorente of the University of Maryland, who found that Sinisterra had an IQ of 68, below the threshold of what American law then called "mental retardation". His head injuries had left him with permanent "organic brain damage". This impaired his cognitive abilities, and he was unable to read or write.

It became clear that the view the original trial jury had of Sinisterra was far from complete. But almost as troubling as the details of his childhood were the reasons why Duchardt had failed to uncover them.

It turned out that Duchardt had left the preparation of the penalty phase to his junior co-counsel, Jennifer Herndon, who filed an affidavit describing her role for the appeal. In this she said that before the trial opened, she had also been getting ready for an unrelated capital case in St Louis, and was extremely busy. She said she had urged Duchardt to ask to have the trial postponed, to give them more time. He declined. She also said she had begged him to employ a mitigation specialist. In 10 years' experience of capital trials, she said, she had never known a defence team without one.

Finally, just 4 weeks before the trial began, Herndon had travelled alone to Sinisterra's home town, Buenaventura, and interviewed some of his family via an interpreter, but these were only "get acquainted" interviews, designed to establish "rapport and trust with the family". They contained nothing revealing about his early life.

It is true, as Duchardt said, that it is common to claim "ineffective assistance of counsel" in challenges against sentence. Otherwise, a court will usually refuse to consider evidence that could have been heard at the trial. On the other hand, it is very hard to win such claims: the judge not only must be persuaded that the trial lawyer did a poor job, but that there is a "reasonable probability" that the unheard testimony would have produced a different outcome - a very high bar.

In April 1998, 7 months before Sinisterra's trial began, the supreme court reviewed a case with a direct bearing on his - the death sentence imposed on Terry Williams, a murderer tried in a state court in Virginia. Like Sinisterra, Williams had endured an appalling childhood, marked by frequent and extreme sexual and physical abuse, and had grave intellectual disabilities. None of this emerged until after he was sentenced.

The court decided that the mitigating evidence the jury never heard was compelling enough to save Williams's life, and that his lawyer's failure to produce it amounted to ineffective assistance. Had he cited this, and uncovered the evidence that made it relevant, this binding precedent should have been a great help to Duchardt's defence. But he did not.

In 2002, the Supreme Court also issued a general ban on executing anyone who was "mentally retarded", deeming this "the purposeless and needless imposition of pain and suffering".


When I contacted Duchardt, he readily agreed to be interviewed, stipulating that we should meet in his favourite restaurant, Arthur Bryant's Barbecue, in the Kansas City jazz district - a multiracial neighbourhood that once nurtured musicians such as Charlie Parker. Duchardt was proud of that heritage and proud of the restaurant, whose walls are decorated with photos of famous customers such as Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, Steven Spielberg and Jack Nicholson. Duchardt insisted he would be paying, and after we met a second time in another traditional restaurant closer to his home, he told me to put my wallet away, saying I could pay when we met in England, which he hoped would be soon.

He hadn't a bad word to say about anyone. The prosecutors he faced in court might be trying to kill his clients, but they were, he said, "in my experience, some of the best of the best of the local bar, who also take their duties to uphold the law very seriously. To call these folks worthy opponents against defence attorneys like me would be to say the least."

Duchardt said that although the people he defended had committed horrifying crimes, "very few are any different to you or me. Some are among the nicest people I've met. It's a classic case of 'there but for the grace of God go I'. No matter what the facts of the case, most of us in the capital defence bar believe we should save every client's life, and experience bitter, personal disappointment over a death penalty verdict."

In the mid-1990s, Duchardt tried to prevent African-Americans charged with capital murder being tried by all-white juries in the Missouri state system. However, he admitted that when it came to death penalty defence, he had learned "on the job" - without any of the specialised training that has since become standard for "death-qualified" attorneys.

Fresh out of law school in 1980, he spent 15 years at the Missouri state public defender's office. "30 years ago, none of that specialisation existed," he said. "I was hired as an assistant public defender in the office in Clay County, a suburban portion of the Kansas City area. A year later, I was running that office." 4 years into his career, he successfully argued that a double murderer and rapist named William Wirth should not be executed. That led to his being appointed in a further 5 state capital trials.

Duchardt said he left the public defender system in 1995 after a row with a new boss. Since then, he has worked from his home in a Kansas City suburb as a sole practitioner. Most of the cases he has taken on in that time have been in the federal system, where fees are higher - although, as he pointed out, he was still making less than he would in commercial branches of the law.

Here too he has had some success. His first federal capital client, Dennis Moore, was sentenced to life, as was the triple killer Demetrius Hargrove in 2005. Another, an alleged murderer and drug dealer named John P Street, was sentenced to death, but Duchardt managed to have his conviction overturned by challenging the forensic evidence. Duchardt appears to have been more successful with good old-fashioned forensics. His critics accept that in this instance, he did a good job. For the past 20 years, Duchardt said, he has defended "in most of the federal capital cases in the Western District of Missouri" - 1/2 half the entire state.

Duchardt has no lack of confidence in his abilities. He was, he added, proud to be "old-school", a term he used several times. He also said that his critics, with their faddish modern theories, knew much less than he did about how to impress juries - especially when it came to the penalty phase of trials. There, he said, he was proud to be a maverick. The American Bar Association could insist all it liked that capital defence teams must include a mitigation specialist, but in his view, they were usually of little value. "I do not follow orthodoxy," he said. His voice became a sneer: such specialists focused on mere "social work type issues", and he considered these irrelevant.

"As a lawyer, you have to understand your audience. Social work perspectives are accepted by a lot of well-educated, liberal people," he said. "But there are a lot of people on juries who don't have that education." The problem with lawyers who tried to impose this approach was that they did not realise that often, it just didn't work. "There's a saying in American football: when your opponents can stop the plays, you need to find a new one."

In the UK, it is axiomatic that a judge who has tried a case will never be appointed to hear its appeal. In America, however, one of the system's peculiarities is that the judge who originally tried a capital case - and appointed the defence lawyer - will often be asked to decide whether that trial was fair. Few judges will relish admitting they got such matters of life and death wrong. Another peculiarity of the system is that in order to save his former client from execution, the lawyer must admit he made mistakes - which is something not many lawyers are keen to do.

Duchardt was appointed to all his federal capital cases by 2 judges, Gary Fenner and Fernando Gaitan. They were, he said, known for being tough, but "I've known both of them for years, and if you wanted to pick 2 guys to sit down and have a beer with, you'd pick those 2. Fernando Gaitan has a dry sense of humour; Gary Fenner is just a very nice guy."

Later, he amplified his comments in an email. "I believe both of those men are well-educated, well-experienced, and smart lawyers, and at the same time are very fine persons ... whenever I have a case assigned to either of those 2 judges, I always rest assured that my client will get a fair hearing on the fact and the law."

It was Fenner who presided over Sinisterra's trial in 2000, and Fenner who dealt with his appeal. After the appeal lawyer Gabrielsen filed it, Duchardt set out an affidavit about his conduct of the trial, in which he insisted that he had always been "aware of all the information" about his client's background, but had chosen not to use it for unspecified "strategic" reasons. He admitted that he had not known about Sinisterra's cognitive disabilities.

In December 2007, Judge Fenner rejected the appeal, quoting extensively from Duchardt's affidavit in his ruling. He concluded that far from providing ineffective assistance, the "strategic decisions of Mr Duchardt were well reasoned, as reflected by the record and the oversight of the court".

But the case wasn't over. Sinisterra appealed to the 8th circuit court of appeals, 1 of the 12 federal appeals courts, the last rung in the ladder below the US supreme court. This "remanded" it back to Judge Fenner, ordering him to conduct a hearing, in which the witnesses to Sinisterra's childhood abuse gave evidence.

Duchardt also testified in person. Contradicting his earlier affidavit, he now admitted that before the trial, he had known nothing about the abuse Sinisterra had endured in childhood. But he blamed Herndon for this gap in his knowledge, saying he believed that when she went to Colombia, she would "exhaust all leads". Gabrielsen commented: "He threw her under the bus."

Sinisterra's appeal lawyers were hopeful that after this hearing, the death sentence might be quashed. They never got a chance to find out. In March 2013, Sinisterra died from a heart attack in prison. Fenner had given no indication which way he was likely to rule, and the legal saga was over.

Gabrielsen still regards the case with bitterness. "Fred said in his affidavit that he knew all about Sinisterra's background, and decided not to use it. Yet he didn't even go to Colombia. And Judge Fenner simply believed everything Fred said." As for Duchardt, he said he could not comment on the details of this or any of his cases beyond what was in the legal record.


In 1998, a 16-year-old named Jennifer Long, who lived on the Missouri side of Kansas City disappeared. All efforts to find her proved futile. The following year, while a habitual criminal named Wes Purkey was in a Kansas state jail awaiting trial for murdering an 80-year-old woman, he said that he had picked Long up in his car, kidnapped and murdered her. This was a crime that involved the crossing of the Kansas-Missouri state line, which bisects Kansas City. That meant that Purkey was tried in federal court. He explained the absence of Long's body by saying that, having raped her and stabbed her to death, he had dismembered her remains and burned them in his fireplace.

Duchardt was appointed by Judge Gaitan to represent Purkey. To use Duchardt's term, the facts of murder cases do not get much "uglier" than this. The prosecution decided to seek the death penalty, and it was clear that given Purkey's confession, the best chance of saving his life would come during the 2nd, penalty phase.

A mitigation specialist might have found plenty of material to make a case. Purkey, who was raised in Wichita, Kansas, had endured an almost unimaginably awful childhood. He was just six years old when his alcoholic mother began to abuse him sexually, the start of years of frequent, escalating abuse. On numerous occasions, Purkey witnessed his mother having sex with strangers. His father was also an alcoholic, and beat Purkey, telling him that only through violence could he show his worth as a man. Purkey was also seriously injured in a car crash, in which he suffered permanent brain damage.

Purkey's lifelong friend Peggy Noe recalled in a later affidavit that when they were teenagers, he told her his mother was sexually abusing him. When she asked for details, "he would start stuttering really bad, to the point he couldn't even talk". Once Purkey brought Noe to his family home. It was afternoon, but "when we went in, his mother was in the bed in her nightgown, either drunk or hungover ... Wes was ashamed of the abuse and ashamed that his home life was so horrible." When they were in their 20s, they shared a motel room on a road trip, and she discovered he was still wetting his bed.

Purkey drifted into alcoholism and drugs, and spent time in prison: 1st for minor offences, and then, in 1980, for attempted murder. In 1987, by then 35, he was seen by a prison psychologist, Dr Rex Newton. Purkey asked him for therapy to deal with his childhood trauma and to help him turn his life around.

Newton, the prison psychologist, wrote that Purkey "displayed behaviours and characteristics common among many men in prison who started life being sexually abused by family members. The sexual abuse made Mr Purkey feel dirty and unworthy inside ... those feelings turned to anger and rage in his adolescence when he became mature enough to understand how he was victimised." He concluded: "Horrific things were done to Wesley Purkey throughout his childhood that sent him on a life path so filled with rage it practically guaranteed his ending up in prison."

As he prepared for Purkey's trial in November 2002, Duchardt decided once again not to employ a mitigation specialist. Instead, he relied on Mic Armstrong, a guilt-phase investigator and friend from his time with the state defender's office. Duchardt told me that Armstrong, who died in 2015, was an "exceptional" investigator.

Duchardt did give the jury some information about Purkey's childhood history of abuse. But he and Armstrong had failed to speak to Dr Rex Newton, so there was no corroboration. Without it, the prosecution was able to turn it against Purkey, thanks to testimony from Dr Park Dietz, a forensic psychologist. According to Dietz, Purkey's claim to have endured physical and sexual abuse in childhood was a pack of lies, dreamed up to save him from lethal injection: the sort of thing criminals said when "facing capital murder charges and have people looking for bad things in childhood to help in mitigation". The prosecutor called Purkey's story the "abuse excuse", claiming it was a "fairytale".

Purkey was sentenced to death. It was only when his new legal team began to prepare his 2255 appeal, which was heard in 2008, that the evidence that might have produced a different outcome started to emerge. Purkey's brother, Gary, had not only witnessed their mother's abuse of Purkey, but had also been sexually assaulted by her on multiple occasions. His story, properly researched by a skilled mitigation specialist, might have done much to add credibility to Purkey's own account. But the prospects of the jury hearing it had been sharply reduced by the fact that when Duchardt showed up at Gary's house in order to interview him, he brought along his teenage son. This, Gary explained to Purkey's appeal lawyers, made it impossible for him to make painful, personal disclosures.

Wes Purkey had a daughter, Angie: she could also have told the jury important things about her father and his dysfunctional background. She did take the stand at the trial, but examining her as a witness, Duchardt seemed to have had little idea of what she might say. The reason was that Duchardt and Armstrong had introduced themselves to Angie by arriving unannounced at her wedding, where, amid the celebrations, they sought to interview her about her father's pending murder trial.

In 2003, the year after Purkey's trial, a supreme court judgment overturned the death sentence imposed on convicted murderer Kevin Wiggins on the grounds he had been severely abused as a child. This case seemed to have considerable implications for Purkey's appeal. In its judgment, the supreme court reiterated that the American Bar Association guidelines requiring mitigation specialists and the fullest possible investigation must be followed - and failure to do so would usually amount to ineffective assistance of counsel.

Duchardt knew about the Wiggins case when he came to submit an affidavit, justifying his conduct of Purkey’s trial, to Judge Gaitan. But in the course of an astonishing, self-justifying account that ran to 117 pages, he argued that this case had no relevance to Purkey and criticised his client's appeals lawyers. "Despite the invective tone of the arguments advanced by counsel for Purkey, there is no factual or legal support for the arguments themselves," he wrote.

Much of the affidavit consisted of detailed explanations as to why Duchardt had decided not to call particular witnesses, and it made assertions that had never been tested in court.

He admitted that he failed to tell the jury that Gary, like his brother, had been sexually abused by their mother, because he did not know about it. He claimed he had spoken to Dr Newton - although Newton said he had not.

Duchardt's affidavit shocked the legal establishment. Purkey's current lawyer, Rebecca Woodman, said: "He went way beyond what would have been acceptable, not only revealing confidential information, covered by attorney-client privilege, but actually accusing Purkey's new counsel of lying."

The appeals process presents the original defence lawyer with an awkward choice: admitting error might help save the client's life, but at cost to the lawyer's reputation. According to Professor Sean O'Brien of the University of Missouri law school, having once defended Purkey, Duchardt had "switched sides against his client". O'Brien added: "The most troubling sections are when he claimed that witnesses weren't called for 'strategic' reasons, even though those witnesses were never interviewed. You can't possibly know what you have never bothered to learn. That's not strategy, it's a failure to prepare."

"This argumentative response ... did not seek to protect Purkey's interests," wrote Professor Tigran W Eldred in the Hofstra Law Review. "Rather, it was a full-throttled defence by Purkey's trial lawyer of his own conduct." In Eldred's view, this was unethical. Lawyers had continuing obligations to their clients, especially those whose lives were at stake, and even if they were "motivated to protect their own self-interests", they must not "rationalise their own misbehaviour".

Judge Gaitan rejected Purkey's appeal. Purkey appealed to the 8th circuit, and then the supreme court, again without success. He has now exhausted his appeals.


Duchardt's next client to be sentenced to death was accused of a crime even more dreadful, if possible, than Purkey's. The prosecution claimed that having met the heavily pregnant Bobbie Jo Stinnett in an online chatroom, Lisa Montgomery arranged to visit her in December 2004. Then, it was alleged, she strangled her, cut her unborn baby from her womb and took the infant home to care for her.

Duchardt was assigned to the case by Judge Fenner at the end of April 2006, but until the end of that year, he was getting ready for the imminent appeal and retrial of John P Street and was too busy to do much preparation, so he only visited Montgomery 3 times. Montgomery, it seemed, did not trust men, and in an effort to develop a rapport with her, Duchardt sent his wife, Ryland, to visit her in prison 16 times. Ryland had no experience of investigating death penalty cases. Her recent expertise was in horse therapy for autistic children.

As the trial date approached in October 2007, Duchardt was focused on the guilt phase, convinced he could secure a not-guilty verdict through 2 contradictory strategies. The 1st was to suggest that Stinnett was killed not by Montgomery but by Montgomery's brother, Tommy, who had then given his sister the baby. But shortly before the trial it emerged that Tommy had an alibi: at the time of the murder, he had been with his probation officer.

Duchardt was forced to abandon this line of defence just a week before the trial began, and it had a disastrous consequence. The rest of Montgomery's family, who might have been able to give the "life story" mitigation evidence that could save her from death row, believing she had tried to blame her brother, withdrew their cooperation. Duchardt's 2nd strategy was to admit that although Montgomery was the killer, she was not guilty by reason of insanity - because, he believed, she had been suffering from a phantom pregnancy, or pseudocyesis.

The pseudocyesis theory did not stand up. Before the trial started, the prosecution managed to have the diagnosis offered by Duchardt's main expert excluded from the case altogether, on the grounds it had no scientific basis. Lisa Montgomery was convicted of murder and sentenced to death. Her appeals team, led by Kelley Henry from an office in Nashville, dug deep into her background, swiftly learning there were very good reasons why she did not trust men. Of all Duchardt's clients, the physical and sexual abuse she had suffered as a child and young woman was the most extreme and relentless.

Her stepfather raped her over many years. When she turned 13, he built a special room in his trailer where he could attack her in privacy. He also stored liquor there, which she would drink in order to block out her horrifying reality. The following year, her mother burst in as she was being attacked. There followed what her appeal filing describes as "the most terrifying night of her life", as her mother held a gun against her daughter's head.

Montgomery tried to escape her chaotic home by marrying when she was just 18. The couple had 4 children. But both this and a subsequent marriage were marked by further violence and abuse. The experts who examined Montgomery post-conviction found that unknown to her trial jury, her upbringing had left her suffering from florid psychosis, bipolar disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder. She was often disassociated from reality, and as a result of her many beatings, had suffered permanent brain damage.

But before her trial, neither the prosecution nor the defence had investigated the relationship between Montgomery's many symptoms and her appalling history. She had seemed to the jury impassive and unemotional, as if she bore no remorse. In fact, this was the result of powerful antipsychotic medication. About the only relevant condition she had not suffered from was pseudocyesis. The evidence that Lisa Montgomery was a victim as much as a perpetrator should have been overwhelming.

Just as he had in the Purkey case, Duchardt responded to Montgomery's appeal with an affidavit of more than 100 pages defending his conduct, insisting that "none of the issues raised" by her appeal lawyers "has merit". He added: "I have tried and prepared more than a dozen capital cases, and I have addressed complex mental health issues in many ... My guess is that my credentials stack up as well as any capital case attorney or 'mitigation specialist' to be found. I know that my credentials are as good or better than those who have been relied upon as experts by Current Counsel for Ms Montgomery."

In fact, Duchardt concluded, his former client's appeal lawyers were nothing more than "spoiled, selfish prima donnas". This time, Judge Fenner did not accept Duchardt's word, but held a hearing. Duchardt testified over 2 days in November 2016. On the 1st, he sported a Kansas City Chiefs football team tie. On the 2nd, he replaced it with one bearing the stars and stripes.

With the prosecutors, his demeanour was friendly: he even inquired after the health of the "lovely wife" of the lawyer cross-examining him. His attitude while being questioned by Montgomery's appellate defence was more hostile. Repeatedly, he interrupted 1 of her lawyers, Amy Harwell, telling her patronisingly there was a "problem with the way you're asking the questions, Ms Harwell".

When it was put to him that he "didn't like mitigation specialists", he denied this, saying: "I don't know where this comes from." He refused to accept that pursuing the pseudocyesis line had been an error. As for the evidence of Montgomery's appalling background, in Duchardt's view, much of the research into this by other lawyers was "garbage".

It was clear that Duchardt was not going to admit he had made mistakes, even though it would have helped his former client if he did so. Montgomery's defence lawyers declined to comment for this article. Fenner's decision whether to quash her sentence is expected by the end of the year.

According to Professor O'Brien, by defending himself so fiercely, once again, Duchardt seems to be trying to impress the judges who appoint him. But, he added: "The court is not the client."

The election of Donald Trump has set the clock ticking. The Obama administration has not sought to execute anyone on federal death row, although there are several inmates who have exhausted their appeals. Trump has been an outspoken supporter of capital punishment for 30 years, as is Jeff Sessions, whom Trump has announced he will nominate as US attorney general. "Death penalty, it's going to happen," Trump said in 1 campaign speech. "I expect use of the death penalty to be ramped up really quickly," said Rebecca Woodman. "Defending capital clients is going to be much harder."

(source: David Rose, The Guardian)


Seal Beach Mass Murderer's Death Penalty Up to State AG ---- Whether or not Scott Dekraai will bet the death penalty is ultimately up to the California Attorney General, according to OCDA's office.

Revelations from Tuesday show that the ultimate decision on Scott Dekraai's future lay with the California Attorney General, according to a recent release from the Orange County District Attorney's office.

"It will be up to the California Attorney General to decide whether or not to pursue the death penalty for Scott Dekraai, to take this case to a jury to decide whether or not the defendant will get the death penalty, or to appeal the decision. The OCDA will support her decision," OCDA Chief of Staff Susan Kang Schroeder said in a recent statement.

"The defendant stands convicted of 8 murders with special circumstances and one attempted murder," she said. "If he does not receive the death penalty then he will be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

The property is currently the most expensive listing in Malibu, even for the ultra-posh beachside town.

"Our hearts, of course, first go to the victims and their families in this case, and we feel tremendous pain for their loss. Many of them know that we truly care about them and that we worked tirelessly and vigorously to seek justice in this case. The OCDA worked hard along with the Seal Beach Police Department and many first responders to make sure this defendant was convicted. As a result of hard work by local law enforcement, Dekraai will never see freedom outside of prison. No matter who handles this case, the OCDA believes that these murders were callous, cruel, and committed with a malignant heart. The defendant deserves the ultimate punishment of death."



Decline in capital punishment is result of America getting tough, not soft, on crime

On Nov. 8, Nebraskans voted to repeal controversial 2015 legislation banning execution in the state. The result comes as no surprise; national opinion polls show a strong majority support the death penalty, though the number of executions and support for them have declined since the turn of the century.

While eliminating the death penalty is regarded by progressives as important criminal justice reform, the decline in executions across the U.S. in recent decades is more an acknowledgment that America's "tough on crime" policies have succeeded than that they have failed. Indeed, the fact that the death penalty has come under scrutiny in a state like Nebraska suggests that conservative states could soon be phasing out capital punishment for fiscal purposes.

Use of the death penalty started declining in the 1960s and 70s. Historic lows in public support of the death penalty dominated the 60s, and Supreme Court challenges almost eliminated execution altogether. The landmark 1972 Furman decision declared all death penalty legislation unconstitutional, which wiped the slate clean until the court upheld revised death penalty laws in 1976.

The Furman ruling

With a doubtful outlook on the future of execution, politicians sought workable alternatives to remain tough on the worst offenders.

Prior to Furman, 7 states had life without parole (LWOP). Between Furman and 1990, 25 states and the District of Columbia put LWOP statutes on the books. Today, only Alaska refrains from punishing offenders with life sentences - and it has no death penalty, either.

The expansion of LWOP legislation has broadened and increased the power of states to lock up offenders for the rest of their lives, making it an agreeable substitute to the dying practice of executing criminals for both those who want to be tough on crime and those who morally oppose putting criminals to death.

Indeed, the post-Furman peak in executions (98 in 1999) did not halve the pre-Furman peak (199 in 1935) despite public support for capital punishment reaching an historic high of 80 % in 1994.

Meanwhile prisons, as of 2012, have filled with almost 50,000 prisoners sentenced to life without the possibility of parole. Compare that to the 8,446 sentenced to death between 1973 and 2013.

Voters ensured the death penalty will endure in Nebraska by the letter of the law, yet execution may have reached a technical end before any ballots were cast. Like many states, Nebraska has seen the use and allowed methods of execution limited by court challenges and legislation.

Currently, Nebraska has found no reliable supplier to replenish the state's store of the 3 drugs required to perform a lethal injection, the only method of execution allowed under a 2009 state law. Electrocution was ruled by the state supreme court to be "cruel and unusual punishment" in 2008.

Other states have encountered problems with lethal injection, which is the only shared method of execution among the 31 states with the death penalty. Pharmaceutical companies in the United States and the European Union no longer sell drugs to states intending to use them in executions.

To tighten the market for lethal injection drugs further, the FDA has blocked several attempts to import lethal injection drugs from elsewhere, including Nebraska's 2015 purchase of the drug sodium thiopental from India.

Because lethal injection has been used in all but 15 of the 841 executions since 2000, according to the Death Penalty Information Center, these economic and regulatory barriers pose an existential threat to capital punishment in the United States.

Today as in the late 1970s and 80s, conservative state lawmakers find themselves at a crossroad where they can fight federal restrictions on execution or find alternative ways to stay tough on crime.

The enduring legacy of "tough on crime" policies from the 1980s and beyond allows for a painless switch away from capital punishment to the expanded use of LWOP, increased mandatory minimum sentences, and broadened criminalization of nonviolent offenses.

Because the additional cost of sustaining the death penalty is estimated to be as high as $14 million annually, conservative politicians and advocacy groups in Nebraska and elsewhere have opted for the cheaper alternatives and added capital punishment to their list of ineffective and costly government programs to strike down.

Thus, the decline of capital punishment has not come as the result of moral concern regarding how the government punishes criminals but because of a simple exercise in fiscal responsibility.

(source: Michael Kotrous is a graduate of Creighton University in Omaha, Neb., where he studied economics and journalism. He is a former student research scholar with the Institute for Economic Inquiry at the Creighton University Heider College of Business--The Hill)


In the US, The Death Penalty Has Now Become A Way of Life - Is There Any Hope?

"To survive, you need to occupy your mind", Ricardo, an inmate at the Allan B. Polunsky Unit, Texas's death row, explains to me from behind the thick, soundproof glass that separates us. He is encased in a claustrophobically small booth and his voice reaches me through a phone. To occupy himself, Ricardo writes poems, draws horses, devours books, and listens to current affairs on the radio. He has been on death row for over 8 years.

Last week, 3 states in the US - California, Oklahoma and Nebraska - voted overwhelmingly to either retain, strengthen or restore the death penalty. Even more consequential is the election of Donald Trump, a vocal and enthusiastic supporter of capital punishment who now wields the power to appoint a Supreme Court justice.

The fact that the death penalty is getting a comeback should frighten anyone committed to human rights and justice. Over the summer, on behalf of Amicus ALJ, I worked as a law clerk in a capital defense office in Austin that represents death row inmates in their appeals to the State of Texas. My work in researching and investigating capital cases directly exposed me to the injustices that result from the application of the death penalty, namely, the ways in which race, socio-economics, violation of due process and ineffective legal counsel determine the fates of our clients. Race remains the most reliable predictor of whether a defendant will be executed.

Prolonged isolation devastates the psyche. And yet contact visits are prohibited at the Polunsky Unit. From the moment they are sentenced, inmates are deprived of human touch: they will never again experience a handshake, much less the embrace of a loved one. Other than a few minutes to shower and an hour alone in a larger recreational cage, inmates inhabit a small cement enclosure for 23 hours a day. At least 10 % of the death row population consists of young veterans with PTSD, leaving one to contemplate how much such conditions must exacerbate their trauma. Decades of solitary confinement meant that many of the inmates I spoke to were battling depression, suicidal thoughts and hallucinations.

"Polunsky is full of success stories", an attorney at my office once quipped. She was not being facetious. Indeed, more often than not, those that I met on death row disproved the logic of capital punishment: like all human beings, they manifest a capacity to change. Many had taught themselves to read or write, using those skills to study law and correspond to the outside world. Others had learned sign language in order to communicate across the aisle of the visitation room, to other inmates locked in glass booths. Some had applied themselves to yoga or meditation to stay sane. They were resilient and hopeful. They were 'rehabilitated.' But still, they will be executed.

In the US, the death penalty is more than state policy: it is a way of life. It has taken on a political resonance, shorthand for elected officials to signify a cluster of positions on other issues. "Law and order" candidates are not just "tough on crime," but tough on immigrants and minorities, rooted in tradition and conservative on social issues.

On my way back to Austin, we drive through Huntsville, the notorious site of Texas's execution chambers. Right across the road from the Huntsville Unit, the prison housing Texas's execution chamber, a local restaurant called "Mr Hamburger" proudly advertises its specialty "Killer" and "Old Sparky" burgers. One burger named after Huntsville's most famous sojourners; another named after their historical demise by electrocution on the euphemistically-called "Old Sparky".

The original "Old Sparky", an electric chair that killed 361 prisoners from 1924 and 1964, is housed across town, at the Texas Prison Museum. The museum also includes an exhibit of lethal injection syringes lined up neatly in a row, with cards under each to explain its purpose - from sedation to death. Children under 6 visit for free, and for a dollar per person, visitors can wear striped shirts and take selfies behind bars.

In some quarters of the US, therefore, the death penalty has been reduced to a tourist attraction - a testament to a culture of disrespect towards human life. Capital punishment is not just state-sanctioned killing, but state-sanctioned dehumanization.

Is there any hope? For now, hope seems to lie in the work of those tireless advocates who in the absurdly mundane visitation room at Polunsky courageously play the roles of social worker, friend and champion in an increasingly unforgiving world. Most of all, hope lies behind the soundproof glass, where human beings, continue to endeavour at living a meaningful life ...

(source: Sam Mottahedan, Co-Director at Vocalise UK; former intern at Amicus,


Sent to the gallows

Some honourable members of the Rajya Sabha had raised a proposal to do away with capital punishment. D. Raja, a CPI leader, even moved a resolution for the abolition of such punishment in India, because in his opinion it has its own basis of formulating laws and it should respect the prevailing sentiment of the people. According to him, it is not a question of technicality or legality but a crucial matter of philosophy and morality. So in his view the time has come to abolish capital punishment from the country.

However, the resolution was rejected by the House by a voice-vote. But some other members advised the Government to consider the issue with necessary care and wisdom. According to them, it should amend the rules relating to death sentence and until then such penalty needs to be stopped. Moreover, some laws which provide for such life-penalty should be changed, because many crimes are committed due to predicament and deprivation. This is why it has been suggested that the issue should be referred to the Law Commission for its meticulous consideration.

But Kiren Rejiju, the Minister of State for Home, emphatically informed the House that the government is not in favour of abolishing the death-sentence in the prevailing circumstances. It means that it would remain in force, because in the present condition we can do away with it at the cost of our own peril.

It is absolutely true that many countries have abolished such punishment for some obvious reasons. They felt that some people may commit heinous crimes like murder but the state cannot kill them by law. It has the serene duty to save the life of every citizen and the time and date of one's death is to be decided by Providence alone. Moreover, they believe that death-penalty of a person can by no means prevent crime in society because out of a distrust on the legal system, some people feel that they should take the law in their own hands and some offenders fondly think that they might go away with impunity.

But Rijiju countered all arguments of the dissidents by some cogent logic. First, the Constitution has expressly provided various safeguards against the miscarriage of justice regarding death-penalty. We have a 3 or4-tier legal system and, more often than not, a case comes up to the higher court on appeal. If capital punishment is awarded by a lower court by judicial mistake, it can be corrected by the appeal-court. Moreover, even if such case is not moved to the higher court, the sentence pronounced by the Judge is to be approved by the High Court which can correct the error.

Thirdly, our Supreme Court has made it crystal clear that this judicial power must be exercised in 'exceptional circumstances' and as 'an unavoidable alternative'. In other words, the apex court clearly ruled that such sentence can be pronounced only in the 'rarest' case.

Above all, the accused can, under Art. 72 (i), appeal to the President to grant pardons, reprieves, respites or remissions of punishment or to suspend or commute the sentence. Almost similarly, he can under Art. 161, also send an appeal to the Governor to exercise his mercy power. In such case, the President can, if he deems fit, save the life of the offender and the Governor can, in some cases, use his clemency-power.

Such power has been conferred upon the executive for a valid reason. The courts apply the law and they cannot go beyond it. But the President and the Governor can consider several non-judicial factors such as the offender’s socio-economic condition, motive, health, age, sex, psychological stage, background of the crime and circumstantial sequence. So there is sufficient scope for commutation of the death-penalty.

While a pardon absolves the offender from punishment, commutation substitutes one form of punishment to another of a light character. Remission reduces the amount of sentence without changing its nature. Respite means a lesser punishment due to some reason like pregnancy and reprieve implies a stay of the execution of the sentence.

In this matter, the Constitution has granted almost concurrent power to the President and the Governor. So if one of them refuses to respond, the petitioner can approach the other. However, V.D. Mahajan points out the President alone should be vested with such clemency-power, because it is normally a prerogative of the Head of the State which cannot be claimed by others. Of course, this gubernatorial power is not so wide as that of the President, because he can exercise it in case the punishment is inflicted for violating a law relating to the executive power of the state.

But, it has practically widened the range of executive mercy to the accused by keeping 2 alternatives. Thus, the President's power does not affect the similar power of the Governor. Of course, there seems to be some inconsistency between Art. 161 and Art. 72(1) (c), because both the President and the Governor have been granted clemency-power. But, according to G.S. Pandey, the 2 can surely be reconciled. In cases where death-sentence has been awarded, the President alone can leniently deal with it.

Thus, there should be little fear for judicial 'murder'. Before pronouncing the death-sentence, the courts meticulously consider all sides of the case and, very rarely, do they issue an order to hang the offender. Moreover, such verdict can be modified by the executive Head of the State on humanitarian grounds.

As a stark reality, every civilized society requires some sort of penalty for individual acts of offence. A cold-blooded murder or a gang-rape cannot go with impunity and if one deliberately destroys another's life, he cannot have the right to live. Moreover, the capital punishment definitely has a deterrent effect - the fear of death often prevents people from committing a heinous crime.

However, it does not in any way imply that the legal system should be based upon the cruel principle of 'eye for an eye' or 'tooth for a tooth.' It simply means that society must be legally cleansed. When an enemy agent sells a secret document to his master for sabotage or the terrorist takes away innocent lives, no legal system can show him any mercy. Even our Law Commission has suggested that in the case of terrorism and waging war, death-sentence shall be the befitting penalty. In other words, some kind of fear is really needed in order to stem the rot in the polity.

The aim of the law is to protect people from the terror and tyranny of the miscreants. So, when the crime is diabolical, the law should be sufficiently severe in order to punish the offender and prevent its recurrence by other. This is why the death-penalty should remain in force until peace and tranquility are within our reach. We can, at best, codify some crimes which, in effect, would entail death-penalty.

(source: Nirmalendu Bikash Rakshit; The writer is a Griffith Scholar, Author and Former Reader, New Alipore College----The Statesman)


4 People Publicly Hanged In Southern Iran

4 men were publicly hanged in the Persian Gulf Island of Qeshm, on Wednesday November 23, according to the local "qeshmeazad" news website. The 4 prisoners were convicted of raping a girl in 2014 said the report.

The pictures published on this website show hundreds of people watching the public hanging in a beach area. None of the prisoners were identified by name.

(source: Iran Human Rights)


Hassan Rouhani: Iran's Executioner

There has been an atrocious rise in the number of executions in Iran under the mullahs’ president, Hassan Rouhani, according to dissident writer Heshmat Alavi writing in the American Thinker on November 23.

The following is the text of the op-ed:

November 23, 2016

Hassan Rouhani: Iran's Executioner

By Heshmat Alavi

As we begin to wind down to the end of Hassan Rouhani's term as president of the regime in Iran, it is time to take a look back at the past four years. We all remember how the West joyfully welcomed his election -- read selection -- as a change of gear in Iran aimed at moderation. However, what the world witnessed ever since has been anything but. An atrocious rise in executions, continued public punishments and an escalating trend of oppression has been Rouhani's report card during his tenure. With a new administration coming into town, Washington must make it crystal clear to Tehran that human rights violations will no longer be tolerated.

Unprecedented executions

Despite pledging to hold the "key" to Iran's problems, Rouhani has failed to provide even an iota of the freedoms the Iranian people crave and deserve. His record has revealed an unrelenting loyalty to the regime establishment in regards to social oppression and continued crackdowns. Iran sent 18 to the gallows last week alone, according to official reports.

As the international community continued its policy of appeasement, Rouhani and the entire regime used this opportunity to launch an execution rampage. Over 2,500 people have been sent to the gallows ever since Rouhani came to power, shattering all records held by this regime itself in over 2 decades.

In 2015 alone, Iran was executing an individual every eight hours, as reported by Dr. Ahmed Shaheed, former United Nations special rapporteur on human rights in Iran.

Vast social crackdown

Rouhani's commitment to regime supreme leader Ali Khamenei and the ruling elite has rendered a wide-ranging, escalating crackdown. In addition to the executions mentioned above, state-sponsored social oppression has resulted in horrific scenes of public hangings, floggings, and even limb amputations.

The prisons are overwhelmed with inmates, leading to intolerable and inhumane conditions. Political prisoners, specifically, are subject to horrendous treatment by the authorities. Renowned human rights organization Amnesty International has recently issued an Urgent Action call expressing major concerns over the case of Maryam Akbari Monfared, a Green Movement organizer still in prison 2 years after her family put up her bail.

And this is merely a single example of the dreadful results of Rouhani's domestic policies. The regime, with the West unfortunately falling in line, had claimed that the Iranian nation welcomed Rouhani's presidency with open arms. While such assertions were politically motivated from the very beginning, the ordinary Iranian has been the first to pay the price of such a failed engagement policy.

A call for justice

The Iranian population is extremely fond of the Internet and millions are actively using social media. Despite its vast censorship efforts, the regime has failed to completely firewall the entire globe from the clever and highly motivated Iranian netizen. Various clips, images, and stories from inside Iran are leaking to the outside world as we speak, revealing ever more the regime's atrocities.

One significant case involves the exposure of a controversial sound file shedding light on a private meeting between the late Ayatollah Hossein-Ali Montazeri and the main officials involved in the horrendous 1988 summer massacre of over 30,000 political prisoners across Iran. Montazeri was the successor to Iranian regime founder, mullah Ruhollah Khomeini, set aside by Khomeini himself considering his opposing perspectives.

This disclosure sent shockwaves amongst the Iranian people from all walks of life, and throughout the globe. As a result a global movement is demanding accountability from those responsible for the horrific massacre of thousands of innocent political prisoners. The victims of this carnage included members and supporters of the main Iranian opposition entity, People's Mojahedin Organization of Iran, and other dissident groups and minorities. The PMOI, more commonly known as the MEK in the West, has also been the focus of a lobbying campaign launched by Iran. Tehran's mullahs are terrified of MEK supporters such as former New York City mayor and ambassador John Bolton being considered for senior cabinet posts in a Donald Trump White House.


The entire regime in Iran, including the so-called "hardliners" and "moderates," are shifting gear for the upcoming presidential elections in June 2017. Members of the Rouhani faction have described U.S. President Barack Obama's tenure as a "golden era." This signals how Tehran took full advantage of Obama's rapprochement as a green light to escalate executions and further implement social crackdown.

With a new administration set to take the reins in Washington, the opportunity has arrived for America to raise the issue of Iran's human rights violations. Such outrageous crimes have no place in the 21st century, and all eyes are on U.S. president-elect Donald Trump. Supporting the call to hold all senior Iranian regime officials involved in the 1988 massacre accountable for their crimes is a good start.


Execution of 4 young men in public in Qeshm

Iranian Regime's Member of Parliament: 5,000 young people of 20 to 30 years old in Iran's prisons are on death row

The religious fascism ruling Iran, in order to intensify the atmosphere of intimidation and to prevent popular uprising, has resorted to public hangings, and everyday shows horrendous scenes of hanging bodies from the cranes in public.

On Wednesday November 23, the mullahs' henchmen publicly hanged 4 young people collectively in the Qeshm Island in Hormozgan province.

Hassan Norouzi, a member of the regime's Parliament in a shocking confession said: "5,000 people aged 20 to 30 years old are on death row. Most of them are 1st-time drug offenders" (Mehr state run news agency - November 23).

Youssefian, another member of parliament said: "We have executed so many, we execute every day. ... Rajaeeshahr 30, another place 20, another place 10, what was the result? In 1990 when I was the prosecutor in Mazandaran province, a report came from the office of education that when you execute 1 person, 20 to 30 other students don't come to school ... a lady said in the court ... in Iran a whole family is executed, it is not the individual who gets executed." (Farhag state-run radio November 23).

Any relationship with this medieval regime, which maintains power only through torture and execution, must be contingent upon a halt to executions. Ignoring the appalling record of human rights violations by the clerical regime under any pretext further emboldens Iran's ruling criminals.

(source for both: NCR-Iran)


Belarus' efforts to uphold democratic values are "insufficient", MEPs say

MEPs say that Belarus' progress in upholding democratic values is "insufficient" in a resolution voted on Thursday. They note that Belarus is taking new political prisoners, harassing the opposition, using capital punishment, and failing to address safety concerns about its first nuclear power plant, being built in Ostrovets.

MEPs stress that "since 1994 no free and fair elections have been conducted in Belarus" and that its attempts to make progress during 2015 presidential and 2016 parliamentary elections were insufficient. Key sectors of the Belarusian economy are still under state control, no new political party has been registered since 2000, new ways to harass or even jail the opposition are being found, they add.

The resolution calls on Belarus to stop these developments, reiterates the European Parliament's commitment to support the pro-democratic aspirations of its people and calls on the European External Action Service and the EU Commission "to continue and strengthen support for civil society organisations in Belarus and abroad."

Stop capital punishment

MEPs urge Belarus, the only country in Europe still applying capital punishment, to "join a global moratorium on execution of the death penalty as a 1st step towards permanent abolition." The Belarusian Supreme Court confirmed four death penalties in 2016, they note.



Reports say ex-death row inmates awaiting re-sentence are risks to society

In a hearing yesterday to determine their fate for the murders they committed, 2 former death row convicts awaiting resentencing - Atley Alexander and Fitzroy Jarvis - have been described as potential "risks" to society.

Justice Darshan Ramdhani, who presided over the case, will be spending the next few days reviewing arguments on the appropriate sentence for the convicted killers who will be re-sentenced on Monday, because the Privy Council has ruled that the automatic sentence of death is unconstitutional.

And further, even if the death penalty is warranted in the two cases, the Privy Council has already handed down a landmark decision making it impossible to carry out the death sentence if a person has been on death row for more than 5 years.

Each man has been on death row for more than a decade.

Alexander was des-cribed as someone with antisocial personality disorder and his risk for recidivism (to re-offend) is, according to a psychiatric report, considered high.

The court heard that he has been in solitary confinement by request to avoid interaction with other inmates and "to avoid problems".

Jarvis's relatives said they do not think he should be released. His psychiatric evaluation report indicates he is a risk and residents who were interviewed by the Probation Department said they are concerned that he could be a risk to them.

Alexander was initially sentenced to death in 1999 but has been behind bars since his arrest in 1997 for killing his ex-partner Jacqueline Simon, who was 9 months pregnant, and her 2 children - Amber James, 13 and 10-year-old Sophia Jones.

He had doused the house with gasoline and set it alight while they were asleep. Another of Simon’s daughters who was in the house managed to escape to tell the story of what transpired right to the end of the tumultuous relationship.

The DPP argued that the crime was heinous, premeditated and done in a manner to ensure the victims had no chance to escape. Up to yesterday, Alexander denied he was the killer and the court noted he showed no remorse.

The alibi he gave claiming he was at his own home at the time of the incident, was discredited and proven false at trial.

(source: The Antigua Observer)


Kano State Governor Signs Death Penalty for Kidnappers, Others into Law

Kano State Governor, Dr Abdullahi Umar Ganduje, has signed the State's Kidnapping, Abduction and Forced Labour bill into law.

This was contained in a press statement in Kano on Wednesday by the Director General of Media and Publicity to the Governor, Malam Salihu Tanko Yakasai.

The statement explained that the law became necessary in view of the spate of kidnappings in the state, particularly in local government areas neighboring Falgore forest.

"The law provides for death sentence for kidnappers who abduct and kill their victims, while kidnappers who abduct but did not kill their victims, if apprehended and found culpable, would be jailed for life", the statement revealed.

According to it, Ganduje therefore advised kidnappers to repent and hand over their weapons to security agencies.

He explained that those who do so would be considered for rehabilitation, to enable them re-integrate into the society.



Man to hang for stealing child's slippers and shoes in Nakuru

A man who stole a pair of slippers, a pair shoes and a wrist watch has been condemned to death.

Samuel Ndung'u had initially been sentenced to seven years in prison by the Magistrates Court for using a metal rod to steal the items which belonged to a child.

But aggrieved with his conviction in 2011, he moved to the High Court which enhanced the sentence.

The Court of Appeal has upheld the death penalty, saying the State has proved the robbery with violence charge.

He had filed a 2nd appeal before a 3-judge bench composed of justices Phillip Waki, Roselyne Nambuye and Patrick Kiage hoping that he could get his freedom back.

"The position in law is that due process had to be followed for the proof or otherwise of the offence charged. In the instant appeal due process of the law was followed and the offence established and proved to required threshold against the appellant. We cannot therefore, interfere with their concurrent findings on guilt and punishment. In the result we find no merit in this appeal. It is dismissed in its entirety," the appeal court ruled.

According to the evidence before the court, Ndung'u together with an accomplice stole the items in broad daylight.

The incident occurred in Molo, Nakuru County.

The court was told that on June 6,2011 Samuel Macharia was on his way home when he noticed 2 men standing at his gate.

The old man ignored the duo and entered his compound only for them to force their way in.

The robbers went for Macharia's grandchild's pair of slippers and shoes that had been left out to dry.

Macharia raised alarm as he grabbed Ndung'u and wrestled with him to the ground. Passers by heard his cry and assisted him to arrest Ndung'u. His accomplice escaped.

"We also find that the violence meted on the complainant was in the assailant's attempt to prevent the complainant from thwarting the said robbery," said the judges.


NOVEMBER 23, 2016:

TEXAS----impending execution

Attorney Wants Execution Halted For Dad Who Killed Daughters

A man set for execution next month is appealing a judge's ruling last week that he's mentally competent to be executed for fatally shooting his 2 young daughters more than 15 years ago in Dallas while their mother listened helplessly over the phone.

John David Battaglia has asked the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, the state's highest criminal court, to halt his scheduled Dec. 7 lethal injection in Huntsville.

State District Judge Robert Burns last week ruled Battaglia was faking delusions that could make him ineligible for the death penalty under U.S. Supreme Court rulings.

Battaglia's attorney, Michael Mowla, says in his appeal that Burns' ruling was "unsupported and incorrect." He wants the execution stopped so the state appeals court or a federal court can review the competency ruling.

(source: Associated Press)


Legislation Promises Stiffer Punishment For Targeting Police Officers

New legislation filed at the state capitol aims to provide stiffer punishment for those caught targeting police and first responders.

Following the shooting of San Antonio Police Det. Benjamin Marconi, the city's police Chief William McManus said that it was obvious, the uniform, not the officer was the target.

It's that idea that has spurred the creation of new legislation ahead of the January session that would enhance crimes against a police officer.

Charlie Wilkinson is the executive director for the Combined Law Enforcement Associations of Texas also known as CLEAT. Wilkinson says CLEAT is in support of the bill because it creates a new class of hate crimes when police officers and first responders are the intended target.

"This was Detective Marconi doing his job and filling in in a place where he was needed and he was targeted simply because he was a police officer," Wilkinson says.

The bill's author, Dallas Republican State Rep. Jason Villalba says it wouldn't only apply when an officer is targeted and shot.

"Let's say you are driving a car and you see a cop and you take your truck and you plow into their car, and the police officer isn't harmed. Obviously that isn't a case that is going to be a capital crime that results in the death penalty. It's going to be a crime that results in a 2nd degree felony. If we have a 2nd degree felony under our statute it moves up to the next highest class," Villalba explains.

The bill will be introduced in the legislative session that begins in January.



Texas Death Case Tests Standards For Defining Intellectual Disability

The U.S. Supreme Court hears a case that questions intellectual disabilities and the death penalty - specifically, what standards states may use in determining whether a defendant convicted of murder is mentally deficient.

In 2002, the justices barred the execution of the intellectually disabled. But it left the states considerable room to decide who is "mentally retarded." Two years ago, the court put its thumb more firmly on the scale, telling states they were not free to use a rigid IQ number to determine "retardation," but instead "must be informed by the medical community's diagnostic framework."

Now the state of Texas is defending its use of standards that major medical organizations do not endorse. Instead, the state's test is based on what the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals called "a consensus of Texas citizens," that not all those who meet the "social services definition" of "retardation" should be exempt from the death penalty.

The man at the center of the case is Bobby J. Moore, whose gun discharged during a botched robbery, killing a 70-year-old store clerk in Houston in 1980. There is no doubt about his guilt or about the fact that he has limited mental abilities. Even the prosecution's psychologist testified at trial that Moore likely "suffers from borderline intellectual functioning."

Moore's lawyers argue that Texas is using outdated standards to determine "retardation," instead of the current medical standards required by the U.S. Supreme Court. The state of Texas argues that there is no national standard, and that the state should not be limited to current medical diagnostic tools or standards.

Moore's lawyers note that, at age 13, he didn't understand the days of the week, the months of the year, how to tell time, or the principle that subtraction is the reverse of addition. He failed first grade twice, but school officials continued to advance him in order to keep him with children of a similar age. In addition to his other difficulties, his father beat him repeatedly over his failures in school. And when Moore was 14, his father threw him out of the house to live on the streets.

Moore's IQ tests range from a low of 57 to a high of 78 with an average of just over 70 - definitely in the retardation range.

All of that led a Texas trial judge to conclude that under current medical standards, it would violate the Constitution's ban on cruel and unusual punishment to execute Moore.

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals reversed that decision, declaring that states are not obligated to use current medical standards alone. Instead, the Texas court used the definition in the diagnostic manual put out by the American Association on Mental Retardation in 1992 as opposed to the revised manual put out in 2010.

The state court said that using that earlier standard, Moore was not mentally deficient citing that he was able to adapt to circumstances. As a young teenager, Moore adapted to life on the streets and robbed stores to finance a drug and alcohol habit. Moreover, the appeals court noted he was able to make and execute plans. For example, during the 1980 robbery, he wore a wig to conceal his identity.

Using these factors, the appeals court concluded that Moore was not sufficiently disabled to qualify for exemption from the death penalty.

Now the Supreme Court will decide, and its ruling could well affect the standards in other death penalty states.



5 things to know about N.J. and the death penalty

Nearly 9 years after the Garden State banned capital punishment, a pair of state lawmakers introduced a bill this week seeking to restore it for serious crimes committed in the state.

Here are 5 things to know about the proposal and New Jersey's ban:

1. New Jersey made history with its ban.

In December 2007, the state Legislature voted to make New Jersey the 1st state to abolish the death penalty in 42 years. The state Assembly voted 44-36 to give the bill final legislative approval.

Gov. Jon Corzine, a Democrat and death penalty opponent, signed the measure into law days later, replacing capital punishment with life in prison without parole.

The effort was successful despite polling that showed 62 % of Americans favoring the death penalty and 53 % of New Jerseyans opposing its ban in the state.

Still, proponents of the ban said was the death penalty not only outdated and inhumane but also never used in the state.

Plus, lawmakers said getting rid of capital punishment would save money. The cost of the state keeping inmates on death row at the time was $72,602 a year for each prisoner - compared to $40,121 a year to keep them in prison, according to a state commission.

2. The law spared the lives of a handful of inmates.

There were 8 inmates on death row in New Jersey when Corzine signed the law. One of the most notorious was Jesse Timmendequas, a sex offender convicted of the 1994 murder of Megan Kanka, a 7-year-old Hamilton girl whose killing led to the passage of "Megan's Law."

Another was John Martini, convicted of kidnapping and killing Fair Lawn businessman Irving Flax after receiving $25,000 in random money.

Another was Brian Wakefield, who was convicted of invading an Atlantic City couple's home, beating and stabbing them, seeing their bodies on fire, and going on a spending spree with with their credit cards.

3. A majority of states still have the death penalty.

New Jersey is 1 of 18 states without the death penalty. The District of Columbia has also banned it.

The 18 are: Alaska, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Rhode Island, Vermont, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.

There are 32 states still have some form of capital punishment: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, and Wyoming.

4. The new bill was a response to recent events.

The proposal introduced Monday says the death penalty would apply to "extreme" New Jersey crimes - such the murder of a police officer; the murder of a child in commission of a sex crime; deaths caused by an act of terror; killings committed by those who have previously been convicted of murder; and for serial killers.

The sponsors of the measure said it was spurred by recent terror attacks and fatal ambushes of police officers across the U.S.

One sponsor, state Sen. Jeff Van Drew (D-Cape May) said added that "it has to be used very sparingly, only in circumstances where there is clear proof" such as a confession or DNA evidence.

5. The measure's future is uncertain but unlikely.

Similar efforts to revive the death penalty in the state have failed in recent years. And it's unlikely it would pass both houses of the Democratic-controlled state Legislature now. If it did pass, it would also have to be signed by the governor.

State Sen. Raymond Lesniak (D-Union), a key sponsor of the 2008 ban, said he does not expect New Jersey to go "back to the dark ages."



47 people executed under flawed Florida statute

In January 2016, in a case called Hurst v. Florida, the United States Supreme Court held that Florida's death penalty scheme was unconstitutional and violated the Sixth Amendment, pursuant to its decision in Ring v. Arizona.

The Court held that Florida's statutory scheme was flawed because it failed to require the jury, rather than the sentencing judge, to make findings of aggravating circumstances relied upon by the state to justify imposition of the death penalty. Ring first established that principle in 2002.

On remand in Hurst, the Florida Supreme Court followed the Supreme Court's mandate and further held that to be constitutional under both the federal and state constitutions, the death penalty statutory scheme must require unanimous findings by a jury on aggravators, as well as to a recommendation of death. Because the Florida high court relied upon the Florida Constitution, its decision on unanimity is not reviewable by the U.S. Supreme Court. State high courts have the final say on state constitutions.

What may be overlooked in the aftermath of these decisions is the shocking fact that after the decision in Ring v. Arizona in 2002, some 47 persons have been put to death in Florida under an unconstitutional process. And while many may assess the blame as falling on Florida's 3 branches of government for not acting after Ring to correct Florida’s statute, it is apparent that a large share of the blame rests with the discretionary review procedures of the U.S. Supreme Court.

Let me explain. Following the decision in Ring, many Florida death row inmates petitioned the Florida courts, including the Florida Supreme Court, to apply Ring and invalidate Florida's death penalty scheme. However, relying on prior U.S. Supreme Court decisions generally upholding Florida's scheme, Florida's high court denied relief.

But many of these disappointed death row inmates sought further relief in the U.S. Supreme Court. Surprisingly, despite the clear holding in Ring, the Court inexplicably rejected these appeals, until finally, the Court accepted review in Hurst and specifically held Florida's scheme unconstitutional under Ring. These many unexplained denials also sent a false signal that despite Ring, Florida's scheme might be valid.

Tragically, in the 13 years since Ring, some 47 persons have been executed in Florida under an unconstitutional statute. Had the U.S. Supreme Court accepted review of a Florida case soon after Ring, those executions may arguably not have occurred - at least not until further review for harmless error, waiver or some other possible argument by the state was first evaluated. But none of that took place.

Of course, the U.S. Supreme Court has absolute discretion in deciding what cases to review. And ordinarily those decisions cannot be challenged. But, surely the exercise of this discretionary review authority should take into account the fact that lives hang in the balance.

As the high court itself has observed, "death is different." Or is it?

(source: Opinion; Harry Lee Antstead is a retired justice and Chief Justice of the Florida Supreme Court----The Tallahassee Democrat)


'We want justice:' Death penalty possible if young Alabama killings suspect convicted

Prosecutors haven't ruled out the option of seeking the death penalty if 1 of 4 young Decatur residents is convicted of capital murder in the 2015 random killings of 2 men.

Morgan County District Attorney Scott Anderson said he hasn't yet decided whether his office will seek to have Joseph Cowan, 22, put to death if he is convicted of killing Joshua Davis and Antonio Hernandez-Lopez in Decatur.

This week, Cowan and 3 teenagers were denied youthful offender status in connection with a May 2015 crime spree that included several armed robberies and shootings into homes, in addition to the fatal shootings.

Joseph Cowan, 22, Cedric Cowan, 17, Amani Goodwin, 18, and Cortez Mitchell, 18, were denied youthful offender status in orders released today by Morgan County Circuit Judge Jennifer Howell.

"We are in full agreement with the judge's decision," Anderson said. "We want justice for these victims and their families. We were anticipating the applications to be denied."

At the time of the crimes, Cowan was 20, his brother Cedric Cowan was 16, Cortez Mitchell also was 16 and Amani Goodwin was 17.

Youthful offender status would have guaranteed the suspects not be sentenced to more than 3 years, if convicted.

For the teen defendants, the death penalty is out of the question if they are convicted because the Supreme Court has ruled it unconstitutional to sentence juveniles to death.

But, in the older Cowan's case, "we haven't made that call yet," Anderson said of seeking the death penalty. "We'd like to get all of the case information and evidence in to take a look at it. We also want to talk to the victims and their families about our decision."

If prosecutors choose not to seek death, Joseph Cowan, upon conviction, would face life in prison without the possibility of parole.

We want justice for these victims and their families

The teen defendants could face life with or without the possibility of parole, if convicted.

Each of the suspects is charged with 3 counts of capital murder - 1 for killing 25-year-old Davis during a robbery, 1 for killing 27-year-old Hernandez-Lopez during a robbery and the final count for killing 2 or more people.

The 6 counts of 1st-degree robbery the defendants are charged with each carries a sentence of 20 years to life in prison. The defendants face 1 to 10 years in prison on 1 count of shooting into an occupied dwelling and 2 to 20 years on a 2nd count of that charge.

The next court hearing is an arraignment scheduled for Dec. 19 at 10 a.m. At that time, the defendants will enter pleas of guilty or not guilty.

The defendants remain in the Morgan County Jail, where they have been housed without bail since their arrests on May 17, 2015.



Death row inmate whose conviction overturned granted bond

Rodricus Crawford, a local man previously convicted of 1st-degree murder and sentenced to death, could be released from jail for now after a judge in Caddo District Court assigned him a $50,000 bond on Tuesday.

Crawford was convicted in 2013 of the 1st-degree murder of his 1-year-old son, Roderius Lott. The Louisiana Supreme Court last week vacated the trial court's verdict, and now Crawford has the opportunity for a new trial. Crawford had been on death row in Angola. The case has drawn attention from the national media.

At the hearing on Tuesday, the defense requested that Crawford's bond be set at $25,000, while the prosecution asked for $50,000.

While Judge Brady O'Callaghan said the bond amount was "inappropriately low," he agreed to give the state's recommendation the benefit of the doubt.

"The charge against you is serious and has not been dismissed," O'Callaghan said to Crawford after setting the amount of the bond. "Please be prompt in all of your appearances."

According to the judge, an indictment is still pending.

Crawford's attorney, Cecelia Kappel, had no comment.

In a statement to The Times last week, the Caddo Parish District Attorney's Office said the case will be reassigned. A new assistant district attorney will re-evaluate the case in order to make a determination on a proper course of action to proceed further in the matter.

"This case has been a tragedy from the start," Kappel said in a statement to The Times. "We look forward to continuing to work with the Caddo Parish District Attorney's Office in order to right this injustice."

(source: Shreveport Times)


Appeals Court: DA disqualified from OC's worst mass murder trial

A state appellate panel upheld a Superior Court judge's recusal of the Orange County District Attorney's Office from prosecuting the penalty trial of Scott Evans Dekraai, the worst mass killer in the county's history.

The 3-justice panel of the Fourth District Court of Appeal backed Orange County Superior Court Judge Thomas Goethals, who found that the DA's office could not ensure that Dekraai would receive a fair shake in the penalty phase of his trial because of loyalty to the Orange County Sheriff's Department, which Goethals mainly faulted for issues with the handling of jailhouse informants.

Dekraai pleaded guilty to the murders of 8 people in and around a Seal Beach beauty salon 5 years ago and is awaiting a resolution on Goethals' ruling for the penalty phase to begin.

The District Attorney's Office was seeking the death penalty, but if the appellate court ruling is not overturned by a higher court, then it will be up to the California Attorney General's Office on how to proceed with the continued prosecution of Dekraai. Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas said he would support Attorney General Kamala Harris' decision on how to proceed.

Rackauckas' office Tuesday released the following statement:

"Our hearts, of course, first go to the victims and their families in this case, and we feel tremendous pain for their loss. Many of them know that we truly care about them and that we worked tirelessly and vigorously to seek justice in this case.

The OCDA worked hard along with the Seal Beach Police Department and many first responders to make sure this defendant was convicted. As a result of hard work by local law enforcement, Dekraai will never see freedom outside of prison.

No matter who handles this case, the OCDA believes that these murders were callous, cruel, and committed with a malignant heart. The defendant deserves the ultimate punishment of death."

The Attorney General's Office appealed Goethals' ruling, arguing that the Sheriff's Department was to blame for the misconduct related to the handling of informants in the case against Dekraai and others and that local prosecutors did not have a conflict of interest.

The sole issue is whether the trial court erred by recusing the entire OCDA's office from prosecuting Dekraai's penalty phase," the appellate justices' opinion states. "...we conclude it was well within the court's discretion to recuse the entire OCDA's office from prosecuting the penalty phase because the OCDA had a disqualifying conflict of interest."

The justices noted that the Attorney General's Office argued that Goethals' ruling "was a remedy in search of a conflict." They replied, "Nonsense. The court recused the OCDA only after lengthy evidentiary hearings where it heard a steady stream of evidence regarding improper conduct by the prosecution team. To suggest the trial judge prejudged the case is reckless and grossly unfair. These proceedings were a search for the truth."

Dekraai's attorney, Scott Sanders, has argued that Dekraai's constitutional rights were violated in the way informants were used to glean damning evidence against his client. Prosecutors have denied the claims.

Dekraai went on a rampage Oct. 12, 2011, at the Salon Meritage at 500 Pacific Coast Highway that killed Dekraai's ex-wife, 48-year-old Michelle Marie Fournier, 47-year-old Christy Wilson, store owner 62-year-old Randy Lee Fannin, and Victoria Ann Buzzo, 54, Lucia Berniece Kondas, 65, Laura Lee Elody, 46, and Michele Dashbach Fast, 47.

After leaving the salon, Dekraai gunned down his last victim, 64-year- old David Caouette, as the victim sat in his Range Rover, which was parked next to the gunman's vehicle.

Dekraai pleaded guilty May 2, 2014, to the 8 murders and an attempted murder involving a 9th victim, 77-year-old Hattie Stretz, who survived.

In response to a motion filed by Sanders in early 2014, Goethals held a series of evidentiary hearings but denied the attorney's request to dismiss the death penalty and recuse the OCDA's Office.

However, the matter resurfaced when new evidence arose that the sheriff kept a log of inmate movements - known as TRED records - that hadn't been disclosed previously. Following a new round of hearings in 2015, Goethals recused Rackauckas' office from the case.

At issue was whether the informants simply overheard incriminating statements and passed them on to their handlers or if they questioned cellmates about their cases, which is a violation of the law if the defendant has an attorney. Another legal no-no is promising a reward to an informant in exchange for information.

Sanders also argued that sheriff's deputies would move defendants around the jail to be near informants so they could elicit evidence. In some cases, he said, informants would be placed in disciplinary isolation with another defendant even though the snitch did nothing to merit such punishment.

Mexican Mafia shot caller turned informant, Fernando Perez, befriended Dekraai in Orange County Jail and alerted authorities to conversations they had. Because prosecutors did not wish to use Perez as a witness they instead had Dekraai's cell wired with a recording device.

While Goethals concluded in 2014 that the conduct did not rise to the level needed to toss the District Attorney's Office from the case, the surfacing of the TRED records changed his mind. He noted last year that 2 sheriff's deputies "either intentionally lied or willfully withheld material evidence" from him.

The appellate panel concurred, writing, "Based on the entire record, we conclude substantial evidence supported the trial court's conclusion OCDA had an actual conflict because its loyalty to OCSD prevented the OCDA from performing its constitutional and statutory obligations in this case."

The justices, like Goethals, singled out two deputies, Seth Tunstall and Ben Garcia, for their conflicting statements on the handling of informants.

"Needless to say, there was overwhelming evidence supporting the trial court's conclusion Garcia and Tunstall intentionally lied or willfully withheld information at the 1st hearing and they lacked credibility," the justices wrote.

The justices also had harsh criticism for Dekraai's prosecutors, Dan Wagner and Scott Simmons.

"Both Wagner and Simmons admitted they were aware Perez had initiated conversations with a represented defendant," they wrote. "This should have been a red flag for them."

The Dekraai hearings also raised questions about the use of informants in crackdowns on Mexican Mafia violence in the jails. The justices criticized former Deputy District Attorney Erik Petersen for what they called lapses in his legal duties. Multiple cases Petersen prosecuted had to be revisited with some killers getting plea deals that allowed them to walk free or escape life sentences.

Goethals was right to recuse Rackauckas' office because case law allows for it when there are "institutional" problems between law enforcement agents, the court concluded.

"Here, institutional interests and structural incentives between the OCDA and OCSD constituted a genuine conflict of interest," the justices wrote.

"In Orange County, the OCSD is charged with investigating crimes, and the OCDA is charged with prosecuting those crimes. In this case, though, the evidence demonstrates the OCSD, in its secondary capacity as county jailer, created and maintained a CI program whereby it continued to investigate criminal activity in contravention of targeted defendants' constitutional rights."

The justices ruled there are "systemic problems" in the use of informants in Orange County.

"The magnitude of the systemic problems cannot be overlooked," the justices wrote.



California passes death penalty reform to speed executions

California voters have decided to repair the state's dysfunctional death penalty by passing a measure intended to speed up appeals, uniting with voters in more conservative states that also supported capital punishment.

Proposition 66 continued to hold a 51 % margin of support Tuesday after two weeks of counting millions of ballots in a contentious race that also saw voters reject a dueling measure to end executions.

"California voters not only want to keep the death penalty intact but they want it to work as intended," Sacramento County District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert said in a statement. "The reforms outlined in Prop. 66 are smart fixes that will eradicate waste, delays and inefficiencies while protecting due process for all those who are given the ultimate sentence of death."

The waning California vote count also showed voters narrowly rejected a finance measure that could have threatened 2 of Gov. Jerry Brown's megaprojects. The measures were the final 2 to be called of 17 statewide initiatives voters faced in a lengthy ballot.

The 2 death penalty measures drove massive spending from both sides of the contentious issue. Law enforcement groups were the biggest supporters of Proposition 66, pouring $12.6 million into the campaign and outspending the rich donors who fueled an $11.5 million effort to fight it. The same backers kicked in about $10 million each to fight or support Proposition 62, which would have repealed the death penalty.

Backers of both measures agreed the current system was broken. More than 900 convicted killers have been sent to death row since capital punishment was reinstated, but only 13 have been executed since 1978. The last execution by lethal injection was more than a decade ago and 750 killers languish on death row.

The reform effort was proposed to "mend not end" capital punishment after 52 percent of voters rejected a repeal measure in 2012.

In passing Proposition 66, California joined 2 other states in support for capital punishment on Election Day, bucking a pattern of states that have abolished the death penalty.

Nebraska reinstated the punishment a year after lawmakers abolished it. Oklahomans voted to make it tougher to repeal the death penalty in the future.

Those votes run counter to a nationwide move away from capital punishment. A Pew Research Center poll in September showed support for the death penalty at its lowest level in 40 years.

7 states - not counting Nebraska's reversal - have done away with the death penalty legislatively or judicially since 2000. Death sentences and executions have mostly been in a steep decline over that same period.

California's Proposition 66 would change how appeals are handled, appointing more lawyers to take cases, putting certain types of appeals before trial court judges and setting a 5-year deadline for appeals to be heard. Currently, it can take longer than that for an attorney to be assigned to a case and upward of 25 years to exhaust all appeals.

Opponents had said the system was fatally flawed and argued that eliminating it would save $150 million a year largely by reducing lengthy appeals.

They claimed the reforms would be no panacea and instead wreak havoc on courts, lead to incompetent lawyers being appointed for appeals and could result in wrongful convictions.

"We would like nothing better than a criminal justice system that is responsive and fair," said Ana Zamora, manager of the No on Prop. 66 campaign. "But California just made a mistake the size of Texas. We cannot say with any certainty that California will not execute an innocent person."

Some death penalty foes have already asked the California Supreme Court to block Proposition 66 from taking effect. Supporters of the measure criticized that as a frivolous move and another stall tactic in delaying executions that could otherwise resume next year.

Franklin Zimring, a law professor at the University of California, Berkeley, said the court filing was "just a preview of coming attractions" as death penalty opponents try to keep the system at a standstill.

"The irony is that Prop. 66 was supposed to simplify and speed things up," Zimring said. "The smart money would bet that it has made things more complex, increased the set of issues to be litigated and, if anything, could slow down the path to execution in California from its glacial pace previously, it is this."

(source: Mercury News)


Report: Suspect in party attack wrote lyrics about killing

A young man charged in a mass shooting at a Washington state house party last summer has been writing rap lyrics from jail bragging about killing - writings that could influence whether prosecutors decide to seek the death penalty in his case, a newspaper reported.

The material included a letter that 20-year-old defendant Allen Ivanov penned to a former Snohomish County jail inmate convicted of murder.

It starts with "rap ideas" and the lyrics focus on guns, violence and what Ivanov calls the "murder game," the Daily Herald of Everett reported Tuesday ( ), citing records it obtained through a public records request.

The lyrics appear to reference the July 30 shooting in Mukilteo that left 3 people dead and 1 injured, the newspaper reported. Authorities say Ivanov opened fire with an AR-15-style rifle he had just purchased.

The letter was written to Christopher Garcia-Gonzalez, who is serving 20 years after being convicted of murdering a piano teacher after answering the man's online ad for a "hot male housekeeper."

"I knew she knew who I was 'cause I saw her face right before I pulled the trigger," Ivanov wrote, the Herald said.

Ivanov is charged with aggravated murder in the killings of his ex-girlfriend, Anna Bui, and Jacob Long and Jordan Ebner, all 19. Another man, Will Kramer, then 18, survived after being shot in the back.

Investigators said Ivanov was upset that Bui was moving on with her life.

The materials also include a 6-page, single-spaced letter Ivanov reportedly wrote just before the shooting. At least part of it reached his mother, who turned it over to police.

"You know what's funny? The media is going to portray me as some unstable, overly emotional, crazy lunatic," the letter reads. "There's nothing wrong (with) me or the way I think. There's really nothing wrong with me: I have a roof over my head, access to food and resources, a loving family, an amazing job, etc. I'm selfish. That's why I did this."

The letter also suggests he knew what he was planning was wrong: "Is this the right thing to do? Of course (expletive) not. Never, ever, ever, ever in a trillion years. Taking lives is insane. This is like my early retirement. I'm giving up on solving things. I'm a loser. I quit," the newspaper reported, citing the documents.

Snohomish County Prosecuting Attorney Mark Roe is weighing whether to seek the death penalty for Ivanov. The young man's lawyers, Walter Peale and Karen Halverson, have been working to compile information that might persuade him not to. A decision is expected next month.

The documents obtained by the newspaper included more than 390 pages of text messages between Ivanov and one of his friends - some released previously - that indicate Ivanov first started talking about shooting Bui on July 22. Within hours, he was sending his friend links to information about military-style weapons available at gun stores in Lynnwood and Marysville.

Ivanov's friend repeatedly pleaded with him to stop talking about hurting people, to get some help and to not obtain a firearm.

After Ivanov bought the gun, the friend asked if he really intended to shoot Bui.

"I feel like im talking to a future serial killer," the friend wrote.

"I'm just stuntin (sic) nothing will happen," Ivanov replied.

But in the ensuing days, Ivanov wrote about how much pain he was in.

"im gonna do it," Ivanov wrote in one of the messages.

(source: Associated Press)


Bishop Hanchell Backs Use Of Death Penalty

Despite calls by Archbishop of the Catholic Archdiocese Patrick Pinder for regional legislators to abolish the death penalty, another religious leader has come forward with demands for the enforcement of capital punishment.

In a detailed statement to the press on Monday, Citizens for Justice (CFJ) Chairman and local bishop, Walter Hanchell said he disagrees with the archbishop's position on the issue, calling it "biblically and morally" contrary to scripture.

Bishop Hanchell, of Great Commission Ministries, said his church remains a firm supporter of "restorative justice" for all those convicted of crimes other than murder.

For those convicted of murder, Bishop Hanchell said they ought to "suffer the penalty of death for their crimes as prescribed by law".

Archbishop Pinder, last week, in a joint pastoral statement from the Bishops of the Antilles Episcopal Conference (AEC) in commemoration of the Catholic Church's Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy, urged governments and citizens in the region to abolish capital punishment. 19 bishops signed the statement.

The statement said to take away a person's "basic right to immunity from fatal harm" is to "compromise his/her sacred dignity".

"However, responding to these claims on Monday, Bishop Hanchell suggested that capital punishment was not an act conceived in the mind of any human being, but was an act instituted by God according to scripture to "punish and remove" murderers from society.

"It was never meant to be a deterrent even though studies show that it most certainly is," wrote Bishop Hanchell.

"Cries that capital punishment is inhumane and barbaric in the 21st century are irrational when we consider that God has not changed and his word, which is His will for mankind, certainly has not changed and never will.

"The Holy Bible in both the Old Testament and the New Testament commands that persons guilty of committing the crime of murder be punished by death. God is both a God of love and a God of justice.

"All moral laws, including capital punishment, have their root in the Bible. A close study of scripture will reveal that the death penalty was always mandatory except in cases of accidental or intentional death. The word of God is clear concerning punishment for murder and no bishop, government, parliament, judiciary or agency such as Amnesty International, has the power or authority to overrule the laws of God," he added.

Bishop Hanchell said rather than advocate for the removal of a law, perhaps religious and political leaders should look at the plight of the thousands of children who are left fatherless and the families who mourn the loss of their loved ones because of senseless killings.

"If you believe that human life is a sacred gift from God, then why is the life of a wicked murderer more precious than that of his innocent victim? Nobody has the right to take a life except the state in capital offences."

Analysing the issue from a political perspective, Bishop Hanchell noted that despite the valiant efforts of the police force, the government and legislators have intentionally refused to enforce the laws of the Bahamas to the detriment of all who live here.

"The ruling Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) government led by Prime Minister Perry Christie did not carry out a single execution during their first term in office from 2002 to 2007. While serving as the Leader of the Opposition in 2011, Mr Christie declared his party's support for capital punishment. Despite record murder statistics in the current term, not a single person has been executed for the hundreds of brutal murders that have been committed in the Bahamas over the past 15 plus years."

The last time capital punishment was carried out was in 2000.

Bishop Hanchell said politicians who were elected to enforce the law have failed "miserably in this endeavour."

He added: "In March 2006, the Privy Council ruled that the mandatory death sentence was unconstitutional. Members of Citizens For Justice believe that this ruling was flawed since the Constitution of The Bahamas clearly makes capital punishment legal.

"Capital punishment has long been abolished in the United Kingdom and most of Europe and we are of the view that members of the Privy Council have attempted to bring an end to the practice in The Bahamas."

In June 2011, the Privy Council overturned Maxo Tido's death sentence in connection with the killing of 16-year-old Donnell Connover, whose body was found off Cowpen Road, battered and bruised and her skull crushed. There was additional evidence that parts of her body were burned after her death.

But the Privy Council concluded that the murder was not an example of the "worst of the worst."

In November 2011, Parliament passed legislation to define the types of murder constituting the "worst of the worst" guidelines set out by the London court.

Bishop Hanchell added: "A simple legal definition of what the 'worst of the worst' or the 'rarest of the rare' has caused cold-blooded killers to have their death sentences commuted to life in prison and many are walking the streets because of technicalities in our justice system."

He said it remains a mystery why Parliament has not addressed this extremely important national concern.

"We are calling again on the government to defend the Constitution of The Bahamas and for Prime Minister Christie to deliver on his promise to the Bahamian people to resume capital punishment. Citizens For Justice also calls for the removal of the Privy Council as our final Court of Appeal."



Politicole: The Church And The Death Penalty

I woke the other morning to the news that another armed robbery had occurred in my home city. Another store robbed early in the morning of its cash that many had laboured to earn, because others somehow thought it their entitlement and so they took it by force.

Thankfully, no one was physically harmed in the ordeal, but emotionally there was some harm done. My cousins were there and they experienced the trauma of wondering whether or not they would come face to face with a madman and his gun. After all, you'd have to be a madman, or extremely desperate, to think that someone else's laboured-for possessions are yours and you should take them by force with a weapon.

While searching for more details of this crime news story, I came across and was reminded of another news story that had replicated itself into sub-stories, you know, in the way that a reporter asks a dozen people he/she interviews in one day for their opinions on the same things ... and that all becomes the news.

The main story was a repeat of the Catholic Church's position on capital punishment. The sub-stories were heartfelt commentaries by Member of Parliament Leslie Miller and Democratic National Alliance (DNA) leader Branville McCartney, who were both clear on their favour of the death penalty. Reporters also interviewed Reverend Simeon Hall, who himself declared that he straddled both sides of the fence on the issue.

Essentially, the Catholic Church, via the Catholic Archbishop Patrick Pinder, is calling yet again for the abolition of the death penalty in our country, in our region, in our world. And I wondered why all of a sudden this was news again. Well, it's partly because the Church uses certain seasons to say certain things, and they also seem to think that politicians in this election season will use their advocacy of capital punishment to win votes ... something the Church, of course, abhors.

The Antilles Episcopal Conference (AEC) is still, since making a similar statement in 2000, "urging governments to abolish the death penalty in the region". The Catholic Church has denounced the death penalty on paper for the past 16 years, at least, and insisted that "a more meaningful method" be used to deter criminals.

They say: "We believe that human life is a gift from God and is sacred" and "We should protect and defend human life in all circumstances".

It seems the Church is concerned about capital punishment not being a good deterrent and not falling in line with its concepts of "reconciliation, conversion, reform, restitution and forgiveness".

The Church further iterates that "the death penalty is both cruel and unnecessary". Well so is murder, no? Unless it is very clearly accidental or committed in obvious self defence. And murder is also irreversible.

The whole of the Church's statement focuses on capital punishment as a deterrent. It is not meant to be a deterrent. It is not a deterrent. It is a punishment. People who support capital punishment are not trying to reconcile with capital punishment. The purpose of capital punishment is to punish for extreme wrongdoing against another human being. And a would-be murderer who sees that the Church's - or a government's - intention is not punishment will seek to more readily perpetrate crime. Hence our current problem in The Bahamas - and the region.

The original statement by the Church/AEC declares "to take away a person's basic right to immunity from fatal harm is to compromise his/her sacred dignity". And somehow this applies only to the murderer and not the victim?

The Church is against capital punishment because the criminal/murderer should "have a chance to reform", but the victim has no chance to live again.

The Church acknowledges that "there are 2 parties involved in reconciliation: the wrongdoer and the victim". But the victim cannot reconcile with anyone or anything once dead, so what is the point of that acknowledgement?

Yes, forgiveness is good. But you must still pay the equal cost for your crime, unless of course one person's eye or tooth is better than someone else's.

"You reform on one end, yes. But you must punish on the other. Without attacking the problem from both ends, it will never diminish.

There is DNA testing in modern forensics that affords an accuracy for conviction unlike before when innocent people may have met their end on account of poor evidence and weak judgments. So, if the religious men/leaders are concerned about this they need not be.

They say themselves that "modern society has a means of protecting itself without definitively denying criminals the chance to reform". Yes. That is agreeable. And that mechanism is called law and law enforcement. You abide by the law, you don't get punished. Surely there are laws in the Catholic Church that must be adhered to and, when they are not, repercussions are met.

Of course, all of this argument by the Church is based on the assumption that it is filled with "prophets", men who fail to accept that someone who commits a crime can repent on his or her own. There is no need for a Church, or priest, or a confession booth to say "I'm sorry, I was wrong." If we cultivated people to rely on the God within them, the mercy that emanates from that spirit of goodness, then we wouldn't have a crime problem in the first place. But I suppose that's the curse of religion; it tells you that your salvation is always in someone else's hands.

The bottom line is, if you ignore and abolish capital punishment, there is no ultimate penalty for murder. The society will implode from within, as is currently underway.

But why is the Church so concerned about something that isn't even being used with any regularity? Is it so that the region can officially fall in line with a global view?

It would be more helpful for the Catholic bishops to offer suggestions on real alternative penalties, if they don't support capital punishment. But they need to give some hard and fast measures, not these notions of suffering and sacrifice that float in the air and you can't do anything tangible with them when the circumstances call for it. And "socialisation, rehabilitation and reconciliation" don't count, because they are not punitive. I put to the Church, while you wait for a better society, what exactly will the urgent action on crime be? How is your idea of abolishing the death penalty helpful, other than to keep the Church relevant?

And the Privy Council's 2011 ruling that "the death penalty should be reserved for the worst of the worst and the rarest of the rare" is no help either. Putting a grade of one to 10 on how bad a murder is, or how important a victim is, is an abomination against equal justice.

I wonder ... what would the Church's position be, if one of its own was murdered? I guess they would call it 'God's will'.

Leslie Miller says "if the bishop and his crew could bring back the dead, okay, then I would say we should abandon capital punishment".

Miller lost his own son years ago to crime, and while many have debated his son's involvement in crime and whether or not his lifestyle was conducive to his demise, as people often judge, Miller knows and understands the loss associated with crime, murder in particular. He says "who feels it knows it". And he asks who will speak for the victims, when the Church is not speaking on their behalf?

Branville McCartney, who lost his brother to crime, murder specifically, says that he totally disagrees with Archbishop Pinder that the death penalty should be completely abolished.

"I find this incredible ... for that comment to be made. Those who take a life, are they entitled to life? My brother was killed on the streets of New Providence because of these criminals. You don't believe that I'm going to deal with crime? When I become Prime Minister? I'm the one, and the only one, who will deal with crime." He says "the DNA will fix the law so that the Privy Council can't wiggle around it".

If it's one thing he'll do, I think you can be assured this is it.

Many people say men like Miller and McCartney are too close to the problem, and, because of their personal experiences they are too impassioned about capital punishment. People believe their experiences create strong prejudices for them. But would you not want someone who was impassioned about a job to do a job, as long as it was done responsibly?

In particular, rather than ridicule McCartney's comments as too emotive or too feeling, maybe you can appreciate the fact that maybe he is someone who can feel loss ... someone who can actually feel ... possibly someone with a conscience, and a notion of right and wrong. Unlike the other leaders you have now.

(source: Nicole Burrows


Police release circular on 'treason' amid planned mass rally

Jakarta Police have issued a circular, reminding people that an act of treason could face the death penalty amid a plan by some Islamic conservative organizations to carry out another large-scale demonstration on Dec. 2.

"In expressing one's thought in public, it is illegal to carry out [an act that will jeopardize] the nation's security such as treason against the president or the vice president," the circular stated, which was signed by Jakarta Police chief Insp. Gen. Mochammad Iriawan.

"[The person responsible for] the act could be sentenced to death or with a life sentence," the circular added.

A group called the National Movement to Save the Indonesia Ulema Council's Fatwa (GNPF-MUI), the same group that organized the rally on Nov. 4, previously said they would carry out another mass rally on Dec. 2 because their demand of having the inactive Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama arrested had not been fulfilled by the police.

Ahok, a Christian of Chinese descent, has been accused of blasphemy when he mentioned a Quranic verse in a public event that was recorded and eventually went viral on social media last month.

The allegations triggered uproar among Muslim conservatives, where over a 100,000 protesters conducted a mass rally on Nov. 4 to demand the immediate arrest of Ahok.

Police named Ahok a suspect in the case last Wednesday but was not arrested.

(source: Jakarta Post)


ATC sentences 5 to death over burning alive Christian couple in Kot Radha Kishan in 2014

An Anti-Terrorism Court on Wednesday sentenced 5 men to death on 2 counts for their involvement in the burning alive of a Christian couple in Kot Radha Kishan in 2014.

ATC-I Judge Chaudhry Muhammad Azam imposed a fine of Rs200,000 on the 5 men identified as Mehdi Khan, Riaz Kambo, Irfan Shakoor, Muhammad Hanif, and Hafiz Ishtiaq - a local prayer leader - for their involvement in the lynching.

8 others have also been charged with involvement in the lynching and sentenced to 2 years each in prison.

The 8 men were identified as Muhammad Hussain, Noorul Hasan, Muhammad Arsalan, Muhammad Haris, Muhammad Muneer, Muhammad Ramazan, Irfan and Hafiz Shahid.

A challan submitted in court claimed the 5 men handed the death penalty gathered a large mob of hundreds by making announcements over a mosque loudspeaker and incited them to violence with incendiary speech.

Kot Radha Kishan lynching

A mob of around 400 people lynched Shahzad and Shama for their alleged role in desecrating the Holy Quran in November 2014. Both husband and wife were brick kiln workers from Chak-59 of Kot Radha Kishan, a town in Kasur district. The woman, mother of 3, was pregnant.

Police and witnesses told Dawn in Nov 2014 that announcements had been made from mosques on Tuesday asking villagers to gather at the Yousaf brick kiln where 25-year-old Shama and her husband Shahzad Masih worked as bonded labourers.

Over 1,000 charged people from 3 villages took out the couple from a room (where they had taken shelter) after tearing apart its roof.

The mob tortured the couple before putting them into the kiln's furnace.

The mob held hostage 5 policemen who tried to rescue the couple. The villagers also manhandled some media personnel and snatched their cameras.

Police registered a case against 660 villagers, including 60 who were nominated in a First Information Report lodged on the complaint of Sub-Inspector Muhammad Ali of Chowki Factory Area.

The FIR said the mob had thrashed the couple and dragged them to a kiln where Mohammad Yousaf Gujar, the kiln owner, and his accountants Shakeel and Afzal, allegedly removed a lid from one of the openings of the furnace and threw the couple into it.

"Both Shama and Shahzad were reduced to ashes in no time," the FIR stated.

'No one listened to her'

Bilqees, a local Muslim resident, recounted the horrific incident to Dawn in 2014.

She said that Shama, known in the village as Saima, married Shahzad Masih about 10 years ago. They had 3 children aged between 2 and 7. She said Shama was pregnant at the time of the incident.

Nazir Masih, father-in-law of Shama, was a faith healer and died a few weeks ago. After his death, Shama had burnt some of his belongings, including papers. She added that Shama was illiterate.

Bilqees said a vendor who had visited the brick kiln found the pages of the Holy Quran and showed them to the villagers.

Later on Tuesday morning, hundreds of villagers gathered at the kiln and burnt the couple alive without even listening to Shama.

"She was screaming that she was unaware of what the papers were about, but no one listened to her," Bilqees said.

International uproar

The lynching of Shama and Shehzad caused international uproar. In 2014, A top Vatican official described the lynching of the couple as a humiliation for all of humanity.

Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, the chair of the Roman Catholic church's council for interfaith dialogue, had said he was profoundly shocked by accounts of the horrific death of Shehzad and Shama.

"How can we remain impassive before such crimes, justified in the name of religion?," Tauran had earlier said on Vatican Radio, urging Muslim leaders in Pakistan to vigorously condemn the killings.

"It is all of humanity that is humiliated," he had said, adding: "The 1st victims are in fact Muslims because these misdeeds give an image of Islam that is terrible."



45 years to life for ex-death row convicts

Mellanson Harris and Marvin Joseph will be in their 60s by the time they have served 45 years of the life sentence imposed on them yesterday by High Court Justice Darshan Ramdhani.

At that time, the convicts who were on death row, will qualify for a review of their sentences in relation to the time being spent for the 1994 murders of US and UK visitors William and Kathleen Clever, Ian Cridland and Thomas Williams who were gunned down on the Computa Centre Challenger vessel moored just off Barbuda.

The judge asked the men to stand in the prisoner's box, before declaring "Marvin Joseph ... Mellanson Harris you are sentenced to life imprisonment. You shall serve a minimum of 45 years as representing the punitive element of this sentence. All time spent on remand or under detention shall be deducted from this period. On the expiry of this period, you shall be reviewed by a court in accordance with Section 3 (b) of the Offences against the Person Act for the possibility for early release."

The men, who have been behind bars since 1994 were stoic, while relatives of the Clevers were in tears for most of the proceedings.

The judge noted, "This is perhaps one of the worst cases of public criminal violence ... They were bound, gagged ... they initially offered no resistance thinking that the men were going to rob them and then escape ... This is a case where the seriousness of the offence is exceptionally high, and committed in a heinous manner."

He also noted that although the quartet was helpless, they were murdered and it must have been a traumatic experience to listen to the attackers plan their death and then take them out execution style one at a time.

Harris and Joseph who were 21 and 20, respectively, at the time of the killings, were initially sentenced to death following their conviction in 1996. While they were incarcerated, they were measured for their coffins and they observed the preparation of the gallows while awaiting the imposition of the death penalty as the date drew near.

This was the mandatory sentence at the time, but years later, the Privy Council ruled it as unconstitutional, stating that each case should be treated on its own merit and the convict must be given an opportunity to mitigate and plead with the court prior to sentencing.

Although the Privy Council's ruling was made more than a decade ago, the 2 convicts were only called up for resentencing in 2013.

(source: Antigua Observer)


Iranian MPs to mull plan ending death penalty for drug offences

Iranian lawmakers agreed to give urgency to addressing a plan for ending death penalty for drug offences in the country, Iran's ILNA news agency reported Nov. 23.

The urgency plan was approved by 147 MPs voted in favour, 21 against and 4 abstained.

Murder, rape, armed robbery and trafficking of drugs in quantities exceeding 5 kilograms are among the crimes punishable by death in Iran.

Iran ranks 2nd after China in terms of the number of executions.

Without specifically referring to drugs, Iran's Justice Minister, Mostafa Pourmohammadi, announced in October that the death penalty is applied as punishment in too many cases.

Pourmohammadi's comments came shortly before it was announced that a motion signed by 76 MPs has been submitted to parliament with the aim of ruling out the death penalty for 1st-time drug smugglers.



SAIRR report finds in favour of the death penalty

The death penalty could deter brutal crimes in South Africa, where almost 500 000 people have been murdered since 1994.

Based on an analysis of annual SAPS crime statistics, many others have been injured and traumatised.

The South African Institute of Race Relations released a report on Tuesday that focused on whether capital punishment should be reinstated, after the Constitutional Court abolished it 21 years ago.

The SAIRR found that crime in the country could be characterised as cruel and violent.

The organisation cited the Rhodes Park murder and rape case as an example.

3 men are on trial for allegedly murdering 2 men and sexually assaulting and raping their partners.

The 2 couples were taking a stroll in the Kensington park in October last year when the gang pounced. SAIRR chief executive Dr Frans Cronje said its board members were approached by various interest groups and those in the field of criminal justice to study whether the death penalty was a viable solution to South Africa's high violent crime level.

"We were asked to look into the death penalty as a way to deter the most cruel and violent crimes, such as the Rhodes Park murders. These are crimes characterised by gratuitous violence in which victims are tortured, family members raped or executed in front of their loved ones, and children harmed," he said. M

Cronje said the perpetrators in those types of cases went beyond the violence needed to execute the robbery or whatever initially motivated the crime.

"The examples are frightening: women tortured by having kettles of boiling water thrown over them, people burnt with irons or on stove tops, families executed."

The SAIRR said that while compiling the report, it managed to overcome certain objections in favour of reinstating the death penalty. These included whether the death penalty was cruel and unusual, a form of retribution, arbitrary, and that it didn't serve as a deterrent.

The institute said that according to its research, capital punishment wasn't necessarily cruel and unusual, society was entitled to a measure of retribution, and arbitrariness wasn’t unique to that form of punishment.

It added that although international evidence was mixed, in the South African context the death penalty could be a deterrent to the commission of the most cruel and violent of crimes.

The SAIRR found that the most compelling argument against the death penalty was the possibility of error, particularly in the case of the criminal justice system.

It concluded that while a case could be made to reopen a debate into the death penalty, the issue of whether an irreversible error could be made would have to be overcome.

The Institute for Security Studies (ISS) said there was no substantial evidence showing that the death penalty deterred perpetrators from committing serious crimes.

ISS governance, crime and justice division head Gareth Newham said the certainty of criminals getting caught and punished could possibility stop them from committing, and not necessarily capital punishment.

SAPS spokesperson Brigadier Selvy Mohlala said police couldn't deviate from the constitution, which prohibited the death penalty.

The SAPS doesn't keep more than 10 years of statistics on its website, but they indicate there were about 174 000 murders from April 2006 to March this year.

Other sources, based on SAPS stats, indicated that more than 270 000 people were murdered in the 12 years before that, giving a total of about 445 000 murders over the past 22 years.

The argument against was the possibility of an irreversible error.


NOVEMBER 22, 2016:

TEXAS----impending execution


John Battaglia, aged 61, is scheduled to be executed in Texas on 7 December. He was sentenced to death for killing his 2 young daughters in 2001. Three psychologists have concluded that a delusional disorder renders him incompetent for execution. On 18 November, a Texas judge ruled that he is feigning mental illness and can be executed.

Write a letter, send an email, call, fax or tweet- including inmate number #999412 in your appeals:

* Calling for the execution of John Battaglia to be stopped and for his death sentence to be commuted;

* Noting that 3 psychologists have found he has a delusional disorder that leaves him without a rational understanding of his impending execution;

* Explaining that you do not wish to downplay the seriousness of the crime or deny the suffering caused.

Contact these 2 officials by 7 December, 2016:

Important note: Please do not forward this Urgent Action email directly to these officials. Instead of forwarding this email that you have received, please open up a new email message in which to write your appeals to each official. This will help ensure that your emails are not rejected. Thank you for your deeply valued activism!

Clemency Section, Board of Pardons and Paroles

8610 Shoal Creek Blvd.,

Austin, Texas 78757-6814, USA

Fax: +1 512 467 0945


Salutation: Dear Board Members

Governor Greg Abbott

Office of the Governor

P.O. Box 12428

Austin, Texas 78711-2428, USA

Fax: +1 512 463 1849

Contact form:

Salutation: Dear Governor

(sourc: Amnesty International USA)


N.J. lawmakers want to reinstate death penalty in 'extreme' cases

2 state lawmakers are looking to reverse New Jersey's landmark ban on the death penalty and restore the punishment for serious crimes.

On Monday, Senators Steve Oroho (R-Sussex) and Jeff Van Drew (D-Cape May) introduced a bill that would restore capital punishment in certain murder cases, citing recent terror attacks and fatal ambushes of police officers across the United States as examples of crimes warranting the death penalty.

New Jersey eliminated capital punishment nearly a decade ago, and the measure would have to be approved by the Democrat-controlled state Legislature in order to pass. Previous attempts to roll back the prohibition have failed in recent years, and opponents who shepherded the state death penalty ban into law vowed to fight any effort at repeal.

But its sponsors say recent events merit a fresh look at allowing capital punishment in "extreme" cases.

According to a copy of the bill obtained by NJ Advance Media on Monday, it would restore capital punishment in cases including the murder of a police officer; the murder of a child in commission of a sex crime; deaths caused by an act of terror; killings committed by those who have previously been convicted of murder; and for serial killers.

In a statement announcing the introduction of the bill, Oroho cited the case of Ahmad Khan Rahimi, the man accused of planting bombs in New Jersey and New York in a botched terror plot in September, in advocating for a return to capital punishment.

But even if the bill were currently law, Rahimi himself wouldn't likely face the death penalty, because despite causing widespread panic and injuries, the string of bombings caused no fatalities.

In an interview, the senator said the accused Elizabeth bomber was used as an example.

"There could have been significant fatalities had it actually gone off as planned," Oroho said, adding that he hoped the possibility of capital punishment would serve as a deterrent to future plots.

Sen. Ray Lesniak, a key sponsor of the legislation banning capital punishment in the Garden State, said on Monday that the testimony that led to its passage included the family members of major crime victims who opposed answering killing with more killing.

He also said the specter of wrongful convictions should give pause to anyone looking to reinstate the death penalty.

Van Drew, a Democrat who said he voted against the repeal of the death penalty, said there was "no question that it has to be used very sparingly, only in circumstances where there is clear proof" such as a confession or DNA evidence.

Lesniak said he did not expect the bill to pass.

"We haven't had the death penalty for almost 10 years now, and we're not going to back to the dark ages," Lesniak said.

Ari Rosmarin, the public policy director for the state chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, which fought for the death penalty ban, said capital punishment in New Jersey "is in the dustbin of history, where it belongs."

"Lawmakers submit thousands of bills every year that will never see the light of day in an effort to generate a headline," Rosmarin said in an e-mail. "This is one of them."


VIRGINIA----new execution date

Execution date set for Ricky Gray

A Jan. 18 execution date has been set for Ricky Javon Gray for the capital murders of two Richmond girls in 2006.

Richmond Circuit Court Judge Beverly Snukals set the date during a brief hearing Monday morning. Executions are conducted at the Greensville Correctional Center, in Jarratt, and unless the courts or Gov. Terry McAuliffe intervene, Gray will die by injection or electrocution.

Under Virginia law Gray can choose between the 2 methods. If he does not choose, lethal injection is the default means of execution. The Virginia Department of Corrections has said it has enough of the 3 drugs required to carry out 1 execution.

Rob Lee, of the Virginia Capital Representation Resource Center, one of Gary's lawyers, said consideration is being given to appealing Snukal's action setting the date. He also suggested a clemency petition will be forwarded to the governor.

Much of the discussion at Monday's hearing between Lee, Snukals and a representative of the Virginia Attorney General's office centered on a grievance filed by Gray from death row.

The state, and ultimately Snukals, characterized it as a request to the Department of Corrections to suspend the execution, something the department is not empowered to do. Lee, however, said Gray was explicitly asking for more information about the manufacturing of the chemicals to be used in a lethal injection so that Gray can make an informed choice about the way he would be executed.

If carried out, Gray will die little more than 11 years after a murder spree that claimed seven lives in Richmond.

He was sentenced to die for the New Year's Day 2006 slayings of sisters Ruby Harvey, 4, and her sister Stella Harvey, 9. He also killed their parents, Bryan Harvey, 49, and Kathryn Harvey, 39, in their South Richmond home.

Gray, 39, and Ray Dandridge, 39, murdered 7 people in Richmond in 2006. Dandridge was sentenced to life and Gray to deaths.

Gray and Dandridge also killed Ashley Baskerville, 21, who had been a lookout when Gray killed the Harveys; Baskerville's mother, Mary Tucker, 47; and stepfather Percyell Tucker, 55, in their Richmond home days after the killing of the Harveys.

Gray's most recent appeal was turned down by the U.S. Supreme Court last month and the justices denied him a rehearing earlier this month.

Because of the reluctance of pharmaceutical manufactures to make drugs used in lethal injections, many states, including Virginia, did not have enough on hand to conduct execution by injection.

Earlier this year, the General Assembly passed a law allowing the Department of Corrections to buy special-ordered drugs from compounding pharmacies rather than getting them directly from pharmaceutical manufacturers. The law took effect July 1 and allows the vendor's identity to remain secret.

Compounding pharmacies are not subjected to the same approval process as larger manufacturers, leading to litigation and allegations about the drugs' effectiveness and the possibility of a botched execution.

The Department of Corrections has said it now has enough chemicals to conduct one execution. Under Virginia's protocol, a sedative is administered followed by a paralytic in step two, and the final drug stops the heart.

(source: Richmond Times-Dispatch)


Prosecutor's 'racially coded references' require reversal of death sentence, 4th Circuit rules

A South Carolina inmate's death sentence must be reversed because the prosecutor compared the defendant to King Kong and used other "racially coded references," a federal appeals court has ruled.

The Richmond, Virginia-based 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled (PDF) on Monday in a habeas appeal by Johnny Bennett, who was convicted of murder, kidnapping and armed robbery. He was sentenced to death by an all-white jury in 2000 after reversal of his original death sentence.

The prosecutor, identified in the opinion as Donald Myers, "chose to use racially charged language from the 1st sentence of his opening argument to his final soliloquy," the appeals court said, "casting aside the race-neutral presentation he had employed" with the 1st, mixed-race jury that sentenced Bennett to death.

Most egregious, the appeals court said, was Myers' closing argument in which he said that if jurors did not impose the death penalty, "vile Johnny" would return. Meeting Bennett, Myers said, would be "like meeting King Kong on a bad day."

Myers also labeled Bennett a "caveman," a "mountain man," a "monster," a "big old tiger," and a "beast of burden," the appeals court said.

Myers also elicited "inflammatory testimony" from a witness who recalled a dream about being chased by murderous black Indians, the court said. When questioning another witness, Myers referred to Bennett's sexual partner as a "blonde-headed lady," which alerted jurors to the interracial relationship, according to the appeals court.

The South Carolina Supreme Court had acknowledged the King Kong statement could have racial connotations, but said the reference conveyed Bennett's size and strength and was a response to the defense portrayal of Bennett as a peaceful and helpful man in prison. The South Carolina court also said the "caveman" comment referred to past testimony about Bennett pulling someone by the hair.

The 4th Circuit disagreed. "With all respect, these were unreasonable findings of fact," the 4th Circuit said in the opinion by Circuit Judge J. Harvie Wilkinson. "The prosecutor's argument here exceeded all permissible bounds."

"We understand that closing arguments can be florid," Wilkinson wrote. "Vivid expression and exaggeration for effect are many an attorney's stock-in-trade. But the remarks challenged here were unmistakably calculated to inflame racial fears and apprehensions on the part of the jury."

The appeals court said its decision made it unnecessary to consider Bennett's claim about alleged racial bias, which stemmed from a juror's use of the N-word when referring to Bennett in a post-trial interview with Bennett's lawyer.

Myers didn't immediately respond to an ABA Journal email and phone message requesting comment.



Parishioners petition to keep man charged with priest's murder off death row----Steven Murray is charged with the murder of St. Augustine priest Father Robert

Parishioners are trying to save the life of the man charged with killing a popular St. Augustine priest. Prosecutors have filed notice they are seeking the death penalty.

He's currently in a Georgia jail. Steven Murray pleaded not guilty to malice murder in the April death of Father Rene Robert. Murray is being held without bond in Burke County.

Parishioners of the Diocese of St. Augustine have been signing a petition so that Murray does not face the death penalty. They say this is in line with the wishes of the late Father Rene that if he were to be in a situation like this. They say he believed whomever is responsible for taking his life should not have their life taken.

71-year-old Father Rene, as everyone called him, was last seen April 10. He was working with Steven Murray, who had recently gotten out of jail. On April 12, the St. Johns Sheriff's Office did a wellness check. The next day, Murray was allegedly seen driving Father Rene's car, leading police on a chase. That car was found crashed in a wooded area in Aiken, South Carolina.

After Murray was arrested, he took detectives to Father Rene's remains in Georgia. Although the police say Father Rene's body was in bad shape, parishioners want to make it known they support Father Rene's wishes and want Murray's life spared.

Father John Gillespie from San Sebastian Catholic Church says, "Father Rene was strongly opposed to capital punishment and left in his files, written 20 some years ago, the important letter in which he says that if anyone should do me harm in the future and that person is facing judgment, I do not want in my name, the capital punishment death sentence."

To further show their commitment against the death penalty, the diocese is cohosting Cities for Life to abolish the death penalty. It will be next week, Wednesday, November 30 at The Shrine at Mission Nombre de Dios, 101 San Marco Ave., St. Augustine.

Although motions will begin December 2, the trial isn't expected to start for another 2 years.



Florida Supreme Court justice orders probe into death penalty lawyer

In a highly unusual move, Florida Supreme Court Chief Justice Jorge Labarga has ordered an investigation of a death penalty lawyer who has repeatedly missed critical deadlines, was involved in a capital case in which roach-infested boxes of documents were destroyed by rain and who is currently representing 2 inmates who are trying to fire her.

Labarga ordered the probe of Fort Lauderdale lawyer Mary Catherine Bonner "pursuant to the Court's authority to monitor the representation of capital defendants to ensure that the defendants receive quality representation" on Nov. 8, 7 months after prominent death-penalty lawyer Martin McClain wrote to the court outlining concerns about Bonner.

Bonner, included in a registry of lawyers appointed by the court to represent Florida death arow inmates in post-conviction appeals, was rebuked by a federal judge several years ago for failing on two separate occasions to meet a 1-year deadline to file habeas corpus petitions. Such federal appeals provide inmates a last chance to have their convictions reviewed on a variety of grounds.

In this month's administrative order, Labarga appointed 3rd District Court of Appeal Judge Kevin Emas as the referee in the Bonner investigation and named Belvin Perry - a former 9th Judicial Circuit chief judge who presided over the Casey Anthony murder trial - to serve as special counsel to the referee.

Labarga gave Emas 90 days to complete the inquiry and file a report on Bonner.

"The referee shall make findings of fact and recommend any necessary remedial action, including the removal of Mary Catherine Bonner from the registry for postconviction capital attorneys, if appropriate," the 2-page order said.

Bonner did not respond to phone calls and emails seeking comment.

Numerous death-penalty legal experts told The News Service of Florida that Labarga's order appeared to be the 1st of its kind.

Florida's death penalty has been under scrutiny for nearly a year, since the U.S. Supreme Court, in a case known as Hurst v. Florida, issued a ruling in January that struck down the state's capital sentencing system as unconstitutional because it gave too much power to judges, instead of juries.

State lawmakers hurriedly passed a new law intended to fix the deficiency, but the Florida Supreme Court last month overturned that law because it did not require unanimous jury recommendations for the death penalty to be imposed.

Labarga ordered the Bonner investigation after McClain sent a letter April 4 to the clerk of the Florida Supreme Court raising alarms about 2 death row inmates, Alphonso Cave and Paul William Scott, whom Bonner represents in state court. Cave and Scott have independently asked the court to dismiss Bonner from their cases; both men alleged that their lawyer went for years without contacting them. McClain represented Scott for a period over a decade ago, as well as Cave's co-defendant, who has since been executed.

McClain also wrote about Bonner's court-appointed representation of 2 death row inmates - including Mark James Asay, whose pending execution was put on hold by the Florida Supreme Court earlier this year. McClain now represents the 2 death row inmates.

In 2009, U.S. District Judge Timothy Corrigan harshly criticized Bonner for filing federal appeals in the cases of Asay and William Greg Thomas more than 200 days after a 1-year deadline had run out.

Bonner blamed the delays in part on health problems both she and her husband had undergone, but the Jacksonville judge was not appeased.

"The terms 'bad faith' or 'dishonesty' capture Ms. Bonner's conduct and are the type of egregious conduct that rises well above professional negligence or even gross negligence," Corrigan wrote of Bonner's handling of Asay's petitions in 2009.

Bonner's delays in filing the federal appeals prompted Corrigan to grant "equitable tolling" in both cases, allowing the missed deadlines to be ignored.

The Florida Attorney General's office, which represents the state in capital cases, opposed giving the inmates more time to file the federal appeals but maintained that Bonner's conduct warranted sanctions.

Even so, the state opposes allowing inmates whom Bonner currently represents to fire her.

In March, Cave sent a hand-written letter to the Supreme Court requesting that Bonner be terminated as his attorney, saying he had not seen her in four years and she had not responded to his letters and calls.

Cave - whom Bonner has represented for nearly half of the more than 3 decades he has spent on death ow - was concerned about the impact of the Hurst ruling on his case. That decision prompted the state court to put the scheduled executions of Asay and Cary Michael Lambrix on hold indefinitely.

In April, Bonner asked the state court to keep her on as Cave's lawyer, saying she "took a very bad fall" and broke her shoulder. Bonner went on to describe in detail problems she encountered during her recovery, including "a terrible adverse reaction to pain medication" and lengthy waits at the hospital where she was being treated.

Bonner - who has a clean record with The Florida Bar - also wrote to Cave, asking him to keep her on as his attorney.

"I care about your fate and will vigorously litigate on your behalf," she wrote to the inmate on April 3.

In a hand-written response to the court dated April 11, Cave wrote that he simply wanted a lawyer who would file the appropriate documents on his behalf

"It is unfortunate and just not right that I had to write this Honorable Court to get my lawyer to correspond with me," Cave, 57, wrote.

Cave's letter is the latest document posted in his case on the Florida Supreme Court website.

Scott also asked the court to remove Bonner as his lawyer in state court. After the court refused that request, Scott appealed. That appeal is pending, according to the state court website.

Asay's case became the focus of attention earlier this year.

McClain took over Asay's case in January, shortly after Gov. Rick Scott set a March execution date for the convicted double murderer.

After being sentenced to die, Asay went for a decade without legal representation, and almost all of the paper records involving his case went missing or were destroyed.

McClain described difficulties he encountered trying to retrieve documents from Bonner, who had served as Asay's lawyer in the federal appeals.

"Despite the exigencies created by Mr. Asay's pending death warrant, she repeatedly delayed ascertaining and advising what files she had. About a week into the warrant, she had 4 mold and insect infested boxes delivered to my office. One of the boxes was largely empty. All of the material in the boxes had been exposed to water and was ruined. The prevalence of mold made the boxes a health hazard," McClain wrote to Florida Supreme Court Clerk John Tomasino on April 4.

Bonner later delivered more boxes to McClain "after they had been left outside in a driving rain storm," he continued.

The boxes were "completely waterlogged" and "were literally disintegrating as they were carried to my office," he wrote.

Much of the material in the boxes was unrelated to Asay's case, according to McClain's letter.

(source: Orlando Weekly)


Florida death penalty cases in limbo

The State of Florida is eager to execute some people. State and federal courts are saying, not so fast.

In January, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Florida's old capital punishment law, ruling that it was unconstitutional because it allowed judges - not juries - to make the ultimate decision about imposing the death penalty. The State responded by passing a law that jurors must unanimously agree that a case includes at least 1 aggravating circumstance to warrant a death sentence, and it increased the number of jurors needed to approve capital punishment from 7 to 10.

But that didn't cut it either.

The Florida Supreme Court ruled that juries must unanimously recommend death, meaning all 12 jurors. This decision affects cases in which defendants have already been sentenced to death as well as cases that are pending.

So, Florida death penalty cases are in purgatory, including 30 cases in state's 4th District, which encompasses Clay County.

"The legislature will have to address this," Assistant State Attorney Bernie de la Rionda told Clay Today. "My opinion is that for people who were previously tried, convicted and sentenced to death - this ruling should not applied retroactively."

His view is similar to that of Attorney General Pam Bondi, who asked the Florida Supreme Court in October to clarify its ruling. However, several organizations and attorneys in the state, including 3 former chief justices of the Florida Supreme Court, have argued that sentences of death should be commuted to life in prison.

Incoming State Attorney Melissa Nelson, who defeated Angela Corey's bid for reelection, has said that going forward with death penalty cases in the absence of the legislature amending the law could lead to reversals on appeal.

During a May hearing in the case of Hurst v. Florida, which involves the conviction of Timothy Lee Hurst for killing a co-worker in 1998, a handful of justices said they were concerned about whether the revised death-penalty law provides constitutional protections for people staring at a death sentence.

Less than 50 % of Americans support the death penalty, according to recent polling, but Florida, Texas, Georgia, Alabama and Delaware are among a handful of states that still impose it. Florida and Texas have executed at least 1 person every year for the last 8 years.

The death penalty has statistically been shown not to deter violent crime, and states that have capital punishment on the books do not have lower murder rates than many states with no death penalty. Also, because of the appeals process in cases where capital punishment is opposed, a death sentence costs the state more money than life imprisonment.

"I don't think the cost for the death penalty is ridiculously high," de la Rionda said. "I think appeals take too long. In my 1st death penalty case, from the 1980s, the guy is still on death row."

Kristina Musante of the National Community Reinvestment Coalition - and formerly of the Justice for Jacksonville Coalition - has argued that the death penalty is overused in Florida and that the death penalty "costs $51 million per year over the cost of life without parole."

It may be several months from now, when the legislature convenes, before there is more clarity on Florida's capital punishment law.

"My personal view is that the death penalty is a valid law in appropriate cases - and I want to stress, appropriate cases," said de la Rionda, who has challenged the financial figures. "Not all murders are first-degree, and not all 1st-degree murders have the aggravating factors required for capital punishment.

"Human life is precious. The manner in which some individuals decide to murder some other individuals, such as stabbing someone 70 times and enjoying doing it, that person deserves the death penalty."



Constitutional Law----State supreme court upholds prosecutor juror ratings that began with 'gut reaction' and 'B' label

A prosecutor who used peremptory challenges to strike 10 of 11 blacks as potential jurors did not violate the constitutional rights of a capital murder defendant, the Alabama Supreme Court has ruled in a case on remand from the U.S. Supreme Court.

The court on Friday upheld the conviction of death-row inmate Christopher Anthony Floyd, reports in a story noted by How Appealing. The state high court ruled after the U.S. Supreme Court vacated Floyd's conviction and ordered the case to be reconsidered in light of its May opinion in Foster v. Chatman, which found that prosecutors in Georgia had violated the constitutional rights of a black man by using peremptory challenges to keep blacks off the jury.

The Alabama prosecutor in Floyd's case had used the letter "B" to denote potential jurors who were black, as had the Georgia prosecutor in the Supreme Court case. Floyd is white, and his lawyer did not object to the prosecution's juror strikes at trial. As a result, there was no immediate hearing on whether the prosecutor violated the ban on racial discrimination in jury selection established in Batson v. Kentucky. The hearing was held after a state appeals court raised the Batson issue on direct appeal.

The prosecution in Floyd's case used its 36 peremptory challenges to remove 10 of 11 black jurors and 12 of 18 female jurors. The only African-American on the jury was an alternate.

In a Batson hearing on remand, the prosecutor said that in capital murder cases he initially relies on a "gut reaction" to rate every potential juror with a plus for good jurors, a minus for bad jurors, or an OK for jurors who are just OK. At the same time he places a "B" next to the names of jurors who are black.

Though the prosecutor says he has found his initial gut reaction to be pretty accurate during his 30 years of experience, he nonetheless adjusts his initial ratings based on the potential jurors' responses to questions and their demeanor during questioning. The prosecutor also said he considers age, place of employment and apparent physical ability. He seeks jurors who are stable members of the community, who have jobs requiring education and attention to detail, who have past jury experience, and who have rendered a past guilty verdict.

The prosecutor then explained why he struck each black juror from the jury pool. Many of his reasons were because of past convictions, and 1 was because of stated opposition to the death penalty. 1 black juror was struck because she nodded in agreement with defense counsel and didn't make eye contact with prosecutors. 1 black juror knew defense lawyers as well as members of the district attorney's office. 1 black juror was 77 years old and might not be able to serve in a long case. 1 black juror didn't respond to any questions in voir dire and the prosecutor was concerned because he didn't know anything about her.

The Alabama Supreme Court ruled after considering supplemental briefs. The state supreme court concluded that Foster does not change its conclusion that there was no unconstitutional discrimination during jury selection, and that a specific black juror's religious beliefs could affect her ability to judge the defendant.

Floyd "makes the same arguments he made in earlier appellate reviews" and he doesn't supply sufficient reason to change the Alabama Supreme Court's earlier judgment upholding the verdict, the court said in its opinion (PDF).

The state supreme court acknowledged that the prosecutor used the letter "B" to denote black jurors, but said that wasn't enough to demonstrate purposeful discrimination. The prosecutor had used the letter in light of the trial court's concern about Batson violations, the state supreme court said.

Even though the prosecutor did indicate the race of potential jurors, the state supreme court said, "we simply cannot conclude ... that the record in this case evidences a 'concerted effort to keep black prospective jurors off the jury.'"



Arkansas death-case jury found factors met; Torres transferred to prison in Grady----Benton County Circuit Judge Brad Karren followed the jury's recommendation and ordered Mauricio Torres be sentenced to death by lethal injection. Karren set the execution date for Nov. 15, 2017, but an automatic appeal will be filed and the execution date will be set aside.

A Benton County jury decided prosecutors proved all of their aggravating factors in Mauricio Torres' death penalty case last week.

Torres, 45, of Bella Vista was sentenced to death Tuesday for killing his 6-year-old son. The jury found Torres guilty of capital murder and 1st-degree battery. He also was sentenced to 20 years in prison for the battery conviction.

Maurice Isaiah Torres, 6, died March 30, 2015, at a Bella Vista hospital. A medical examiner testified the boy's death was caused by a bacterial infection as a result of being sodomized with a stick. The medical examiner also testified chronic child abuse contributed to the child's death.

Mauricio Torres admitted placing a stick in his son's rectum but claimed his wife, Cathy, shoved their son down on the stick. She is charged with capital murder and 1st-degree battery. Her trial is set for May.

Nathan Smith, Benton County's prosecuting attorney, listed three aggravating factors for seeking the death penalty, and the jury found all existed: Torres previously committed another violent felony; the murder was committed in an especially cruel and depraved manner; and the murder was committed against a victim Torres knew was especially vulnerable because the boy was 12 years or younger.

Torres' defense team provided the jury with about a dozen mitigating circumstances, or reasons, why he should not receive the death sentence.

The jury did not think the following circumstances existed: Torres committed the murder while under extreme mental or emotional disturbance or while he was acting under unusual pressure or domination of another person; the murder was committed by another person and Torres was an accomplice playing a minor role; and Torres had no significant history of criminal activity, had a difficult relationship with his family, has skills that would help him to contribute to society in prison and he attempted to revive his son and is remorseful for his son's death.

5 times all jury members found that a mitigating circumstance existed: He was a hardworker, he was an occupational therapist assistant, he helped other people recover from injuries, he suffered from obesity and other associated medical problems, and he was abandoned as a child by his mother and grew up without her.

Twice a juror agreed a circumstance existed -- Torres was exposed to civil war during his childhood in El Salvador, and he did not intend to cause the death of his son.

Jurors did not write down any of their own mitigating factors.

The jury then had to decide whether the aggravating factors outweighed the mitigating circumstances. The 7 men and 5 women decided that beyond a reasonable doubt the aggravating factors justified a death sentence, and all 12 signed the form recommending the death sentence.

"It makes sense that the jury found that there were some mitigating circumstances since the law requires them to consider that," Smith said Monday. "Ultimately, the jury concluded that the aggravating circumstances were of such gravity to justify a death sentence as the law directs. I am grateful for the care the jury took in reaching their decision and for their service."

Kim Anderson of Springdale was an alternate juror in the trial. Anderson sat through the trial with the other jurors but didn't vote or take part in any deliberations.

"The law took the emotion out of the process," she said after the trial. "I saw a system work as it was intended to. I personally think it was a very tough decision, but one that would have to be made. If we were to follow the law it was the only decision that could be made. It was tough but right."

Mauricio Torres was transferred from the Benton County jail to Varner Supermax in Grady on Friday.



Father of murdered 3-year-old girl: 'She was brain dead - there was no way of surviving' -- Christopher Cheary has been convicted in the death of Sophia Acosta. A Tulare County jury is now deciding if he should receive the death penalty.

The father of 3-year-old Sophia Acosta testified Monday that the loss of his daughter still haunts him 5 years after she died from injuries suffered at the hands of her mother's live-in boyfriend.

Obie Acosta, Sophia's father, was among the witnesses called to testify in the penalty phase of the Tulare County murder trial against Christopher Cheary, who could be sentenced to death.

Cheary, 25, was found guilty Nov. 14 of 1st-degree murder in the death of his girlfriend's child, who was living with the couple in an Exeter apartment. The jury also found true 2 special circumstances of sexual penetration with a foreign object and torture.

On May 11, 2011, the girl was taken to Kaweah Delta Medical Center in Visalia and later Valley Children's Hospital. She died a few days later. A coroner ruled that blunt-force trauma was the cause of death.

Because of the special circumstances, Cheary faces either the death penalty or life in prison without the possibility of parole.

The Tulare County Superior Court jury of 5 women and 7 men that found him guilty has been hearing witnesses called by both the prosecution and the defense for the penalty phase.

Acosta, the girl's father, who had split from the child's mother, testified that he went to the hospital to see his daughter.

"I just remember sitting by her side, just holding her hand," he said. "Later on they called me, said she was brain dead - there was no way of surviving it."

Her organs were used in transplants.

5 years later, the death of his first-born child weighs on him, he said.

"It affects me a lot," he said. "There are nights I can't sleep ... I have to keep myself busy ... so I don’t get stuck on it."

After the girl's father testified, defense attorneys called Cheary's mother, Laura Campanur, to the stand. She testified that her son was hyperactive as a child and took Adderall and Zoloft to calm him down so he could sit still in class, and other medications when he was older.

She said her husband used illegal drugs and went to rehab twice. Their rocky marriage failed and she filed for divorce when her son was in 8th grade, she said.

Her son got failing grades in junior high and did not graduate from high school, she said.

He started smoking marijuana, and after he moved into an apartment as a teen with his older brother she learned he was using heroin, she said. At the time, she did not have custody, so it was hard to help him, she said.

Campanur said she loves her son and has stayed in steady contact with him for the 5 years he has been in jail, by telephone and visits.

"He so affectionate," she said. "I get a lot of my strength from him."

Prosecutor David Alavezos read from a transcript of a telephone call that Cheary made from jail.

"I'm tired of sitting here with my hands crossed, looking like a scared little puppy," Cheary said in the transcript.

A former teacher testified in his favor.

Jerrie Ogden of Stanislaus County said she was his teacher in Denair when Cheary was in 8th grade.

"Chris was always respectful and he was a very sweet person, always smiling, always a good sense of humor," she said.

(source: Fresno Bee)


Gary Lee Sampson Trial: Defense Begins Follow Up----The defense continues with its case Tuesday, then jurors will take a break until after the Thanksgiving holiday.

As Gary Lee Sampson fights for his life in his federal death penalty retrial, the government rested its case in chief Monday and the defense took over, presenting its first witness.

Retired Terre Haute federal penitentiary warden and defense team correctional consultant Mark Beezy testified about the conditions Sampson could face in prison if he is given a life sentence.

This video of Sampson allegedly attempting to assault a corrections officer with a broom handle sharpened into a shank was central to the testimony. The government arguing it shows how dangerous Sampson is while in custody, even in the Special Containment Unit on death row.

Beezy testified that even the current warden believes Sampson's bark is worse than his bite.

He said on the stand, "I see him as a cell warrior. As long as he's in restraints he knows he can't do it, so he throws wolf tickets out to show everyone how big and bad he is."

Beezy also testified that Sampson told him that if he was able to get off death row, his goals for the future would be to spend time in the prison library, explore his artistic side by painting more, and visit with his brother.

Beezy has testified for the defense in 16 death penalty cases, including on behalf of Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.

The defense continues with its case Tuesday, then jurors will take a break until after the Thanksgiving holiday.



Dylann Roof competency hearing will continue Tuesday

A federal judge's closed-door competency hearing to discuss a new psychiatric evaluation of church shooter Dylann Roof stretched through Monday and will resume Tuesday, a court official said.

U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel is presiding over the hearing to determine if the self-avowed white supremacist is competent to face his looming death penalty trial.

Last week, Gergel banned the public from the hearing despite pleas from many of the 9 Emanuel AME Church shooting victims' families and the survivors who wanted to observe the proceedings. Several media outlets, including The Post and Courier, also objected to the closure.

Gergel said that once the competency hearing is completed, he would release a public order stating whether he has found Roof competent to stand trial, although he did not say when he would do so.

The judge also pledged to review a transcript of the hearing and release portions that don't need to be kept confidential. His staff, he added, will work through the Thanksgiving holiday to complete those tasks.

At the competency hearing, attorneys had planned to discuss a new court-appointed psychiatric examiner's report, which relied heavily on interviews with Roof. Gergel said last week that the report contains sensitive details that, if revealed, could threaten Roof's rights to a fair trial and impartial jury, particularly given the jury hasn't been selected.

New questions about Roof's mental state arose 2 weeks ago, just minutes before jury selection was set to begin. After defense attorneys filed a sealed motion, Gergel found reason to believe Roof might suffer a "mental disease or defect" that rendered him unable to assist properly in his defense or to grasp the nature and consequences of the proceedings against him, as the law requires. Gergel ordered an evaluation, which was completed last week.

Roof, 22, is accused of gunning down nine worshipers during the Charleston church's Bible study in June 2015. Authorities say he targeted his victims because they were black. In all, the Eastover man faces 33 federal charges, including violations of hate crime laws and religious freedoms.

If Gergel finds Roof competent to stand trial, jury selection is scheduled to begin Nov. 28. If Gergel finds the killer incompetent, he could send Roof to a prison psychiatric facility. The staff there would work to restore Roof's competency so he could face his trial.

Roof has offered to plead guilty and serve life in prison, but federal authorities are seeking the death penalty.

Meanwhile, he also faces the death penalty in state court. That trial is scheduled to begin in mid-January.

(source: The Post and Courier)


The cost of the Dylann Roof trial

With the death penalty on the table, the federal murder trial for accused Charleston church shooter Dylann Roof could be the most expensive trial ever held in Charleston County.

The average cost of a federal death penalty trial is more than $600,000 according to the Office of Defender Services. That is 8 times more expensive than a federal murder case when death is not considered. Every trial is different and so are the costs associated with them, but a few factors could send the price tag soaring. Roof is facing 33 charges including murder and civil rights violations for the shooting at Emanuel AME church June 17, 2015.

High profile death penalty cases have been known to skyrocket in price, costing taxpayers millions of dollars.

For example, in July 2014, a Colorado jury found James Holmes guilty on 24 counts of first-degree murder for the Aurora theater massacre. According to the Denver Post, it cost at least $3 million to prosecute the capital case against Holmes. This includes $1.2 million for victims advocacy services and travel for family, $775,000 for expert witnesses and other costs associated with the District Attorney's office. Another $612,000 was spent on two state-appointed psychiatric evaluations. The total doesn't include unreleased costs related to Holmes's defense. Holmes faced the death penalty but was sentenced to life in prison.

Ten years earlier, the capital murder trials against Beltway Snipers John Allen Muhammad and Lee Boyd Malvo both cost more than a million dollars according to the Associated Press. Muhammad and Malvo were tried separately in 2004 and both trials were relocated from Northern Virginia. Muhammad's trial cost $1.4 million, including $886,000 for his defense. Malvo's trial cost the state of Virginia $1.3 million with more than $1 million to pay for his defense. The defense paid $59,000 for one expert witness alone according to the Associated Press. Both Muhammad and Malvo were convicted, but only Muhammed received a death sentence. He was executed in 2009.

"If you're going to be exacting the ultimate punishment, you need to make sure you got it right," Summerville attorney Robert Robbins said.

Robbins has practiced law in the Lowcountry for almost 30 years and worked on both sides of murder cases. He helped prosecute several capital cases while working in the Solicitor's office in Summerville from 1997 to 2004.

"I think it is the amount of work involved in these cases that drives the cost up," Robbins said.

That work includes the investigation of the crime scene and investigation into the defendant. This can include hundreds of hours of preparation from the prosecution and the defense.

We filed nearly a dozen Freedom of Information Act requests to local, state and federal agencies but were denied the costs associated with the trial. Each agency told us the records were either unavailable at this point in the process or releasing them could interfere with the judicial proceedings.

Some associated costs are already available due to fixed payments by the court system. The cost of the jury in federal court could be at least four times higher than a state murder trial. Anyone summoned for federal jury duty is paid $40 per day plus expenses, compared to a state juror who is paid $10 plus expenses.

The cost of picking a jury in the Dylann Roof federal trial has already exceeded $30,000 during the initial summons. Almost 800 jurors were called in during the last week of September. The voir dire process of questioning individual jurors could a few weeks, costing an additional $15,000 to finally seat a jury.

Costs will continue to rise each day of the trial, and one expensive part for the prosecution or defense could be the testimony of an expert witness.

"If their rate is $300 an hour and if they're not local, then you probably have to fly them in, house them in a hotel and then they're here for whatever period of time at that rate," Robbins said. "Yeah, it could be several thousand dollars just to secure their testimony."

The cost of security around the trial must also be considered. The Boston Police Department reported it spent almost $750,000 in overtime during the 5-month trial of Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.

In our FOIA requests, we reached out to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, US Marshals, Charleston County Sheriff's Office and the Charleston Police Department, but were told costs were not available at this time.

"We don't talk about specific numbers assigned because that's not appropriate for us in terms of our security planning," Charleston Police Chief Greg Mullen said.

A technology cost associated with the trial was paid for by a federal grant. Charleston County received $61,000 to provide live streaming of the trial to overflow courtrooms provided to family and media.

The total cost of the trial may not be known until all legal proceedings are done, but it is expected to carry a price tag higher than any other trial in Charleston County.

(source: WCSC news)


Bo Dietl: Cop Killers 'Should Be Put Up for Execution'

The murder of a police officer should be a federal crime, and anyone breaking that law should be sentenced to death, New York media personality and ex-NYPD detective Bo Dietl said Monday, a day after 4 police officers were shot, 1 fatally, on Sunday.

"This is a plague across our country," Dietl told Fox News' "Fox & Friends" program, while also noting he plans to challenge New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, as a fellow Democrat, for mayor.

"This is 129 killed this year. What I'm calling out to our new president-elect, it should be a federal crime when you kill a police officer and you should be open for the death penalty."

4 police officers were shot dead in separate incidents across the nation, and police are saying 2 of them were specifically targeted, with one of those officers dying of his wounds.

In San Antonio, Detective Benjamin Marconi, 50, a 20-year department veteran, was shot to death in his squad car, while he was parked outside police headquarters writing a traffic ticket. Also on Sunday, a police sergeant is in critical condition after being shot twice in the face during in an ambush shooting while he was sitting in traffic in his police cruiser.

Officers were also shot on Sunday in Gladstone, Missouri, and Sanibel, Florida, while they were making traffic stops, but it's not known if they were targeted for being police officers.

Dietl said he's been involved with President-elect Donald Trump since the beginning, and Trump is "one of the greatest supporters of the police. You are not going to see none of this nonsense going on which has been the last 8 years across the country."

President Barack Obama, said Dietl, says nothing when police officers are shot, but "when there's a questionable shooting of a black man, all of a sudden he goes and opens his big mouth. Why isn't he say anything about these poor police officers? When those 5 officers were killed in Dallas and others in Louisiana?"

But with Trump in office, "he should make it a federal crime and he can if you kill a police officer, you should be put up for execution," said Dietl.

Also on Monday, Dietl said he agrees with Trump's stance on banning federal funding from sanctuary cities, and the issue will come into play for his mayoral campaign, as de Blasio disagrees with Trump.

"My feelings are if you commit a crime, you are illegally in this country," said Dietl. "Bye-bye, you get them out of the United States of America. Nobody should be able to commit a crime who is illegal in this country and stay."

He said he also believes immigrants need to be identified.

"What is the problem with knowing who is in our city, whether they are illegal or legal?" said Dietl. "I want to know where, who they are. I'm not sitting here saying I want to deport 11 million people. I'm saying we must identify the people who are here."

Also on Monday, Dietl commented on the extra money being spent to protect Trump, who has been conducting a series of high-profile transition meetings at Trump Tower in Manhattan.

De Blasio has said he will seek reimbursement for the NYPD, and Dietl agrees that the federal government should pick up the tab.

"This is the president of the United States and we must protect him and his family and the costs should be picked up by the federal government and shouldn't be pushed upon the New York City Police Department," said Dietl. "That's the only thing I agree with de Blasio on."



A 73-year-old Aussie woman has had her death penalty reduced to life in Vietnam

An appeals court in Vietnam has commuted the death sentence of a 73-year-old Australian woman convicted of heroin trafficking.

The online state media outlet Vietnamnet quoted the People's High Court in Ho Chi Minh City as citing Nguyen Thi Huong's sincere confession and age for granting leniency. The sentence was reduced to life in prison at the appeals trial on Monday.

Court officials were not available for comment on Tuesday.

Huong was sentenced to death in June after being convicted of trafficking over a kilo of heroin.

She was arrested in December 2014 when checking in for a flight to Australia after the heroin was found hidden in 36 bars of soap in her luggage.

The court originally ruled that the offence was "extremely dangerous to the community" and found her guilty. She would have faced death by lethal injection.

Huong has always maintained her innocence saying the bars of soap were given to her and she planned to take them back to Australia as gifts for family not knowing what was inside.

Vietnam has some of the world's toughest drug laws where trafficking even small amounts of heroin is punishable by death.



Death sentences reduced to 20 years by Malaysian court

2 Turkish Cypriots, who appealed death sentences imposed on them last year in Malaysia for drug offences had their punishments reduced to 20 years' imprisonment, the foreign ministry announced on Tuesday.

"The supreme court of Malaysia, met yesterday, November 21, 2016 to hear the appeal of Cypriot nationals Mehmet Ucaner Oktay and Muhammet Osman, against the death penalty imposed on them by the first instance court following their arrest for possession and drug trafficking," a statement from the foreign ministry said.

"The supreme court quashed the first instance judgment, and instead condemned the said persons to 20 years in prison. 1 of the 2 was also sentenced to 10 lashes."

The ministry said the sentences will run from November 5, 2011, the date on which the pair, said to be aged 67 and 57, were arrested at Kuala Lumpur Airport after arriving on a flight from Dubai. They have been in prison since then after being found to be in possession of a large quantity of unspecified drugs, found in their luggage.

The initial court decision, in April last year, ruled they be hanged for their crimes, with the death sentence being mandatory for those found guilty of drugs trafficking in Malaysia.

"From the time of their arrest, until the final decision, full consular assistance was provided by the foreign ministry, which included frequent visits to prisons by consular officers of the high commission of the republic in New Delhi, financial and psychological support, and most importantly, the delegation of a suitable law firm for their defence, which resulted in the result reported," the statement continued.

"The ministry of foreign affairs and particularly the high commission in New Delhi had, throughout the judicial process excellent cooperation both with the prisoners themselves and their families and with their defence lawyers. It is noted that the handling of the whole matter took into account the seriousness of the offence for which both Cypriot nationals were accused, but also the principled position of the republic against the death penalty."



Apostasy and blasphemy laws curtail freedoms

The fate of the 2 Sudanese pastors facing espionage and apostasy charges in Sudan remains unknown, despite some movement in the case.

Open Doors, the charity that serves persecuted Christians around the world, reports that after many delays this year, lawyers have finally been able to begin their defense of the 4 men - 2 Sudanese pastors, a Czech aid worker, and a 3rd Sudanese man. Middle East Concern sources note multiple postponements, with no updates coming from the November 21rst hearing. The 4 are accused of 7 charges, including waging war against the state and spying, and face the death penalty if convicted.

It seems like an unusually harsh penalty, and yet Sudan is one of 12 countries in the world where there are both apostasy and blasphemy laws in force.

It's a diverse nation, especially where Arabic culture meets African culture. Islam became more prevalent when Sudan and South Sudan separated, with the North becoming 90 % Muslim. According to the Joshua Project, 5 % of the population in Sudan is considered Christian, with just .39 % claiming to be evangelical. The rest are animists, adds 'K'*, a man who advocates for religious freedom in the Muslim world.

'K' says it would be unfair to consider Sudan an Islamic country. "If you say it is an Islamic state, there is no place for non-Muslims. Faith is nothing you can force on anybody. Faith actually has to come from the heart. If it doesn't come from the heart, God will not accept it."

However, many others like 'K' who follow Christ in Sudan have been tortured, lost their dignity, or their liberty. Because although they may share the same faith as many in our own country, they do not share the freedom experienced by those in the West.

'K' explains, "It is in the laws of the countries that it's a death sentence for apostates. An apostate is anybody who leaves Islam, and also for blasphemers. If you say, for example, you don’t believe in Muhammad (the prophet of God), you are also sentenced to death."

What does this mean for those who live in relative religious freedom?

Irish philosopher Edmund Burke said it best: "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men should do nothing." Together, we can work to give Muslim people the freedom to change their faith, to live out and practice their new faith, and to experience freedom, justice, and equality in their homeland as non-Muslims. The first thing 'K' notes is true empowerment does not come from human means, but through Christ alone.

Acknowledging that, what more can we do? We can create awareness of the situations of former Muslims in Islamic countries around the world. Many are unaware of what happens to the person who leaves Islam. These people face loss of job and family, discrimination, sometimes torture and imprisonment and even death. In countries like Egypt, Libya, and Syria, they have no legal rights. In others, like North Sudan, Afghanistan, and Saudi Arabia, conversion from Islam is illegal and punishable by death.

Share the stories you come across from advocacy groups like Voice of the Martyrs, Open Doors, Middle East Concern and other similar ministries. They are part of an international network of individuals, churches, and organizations working for the freedom of converts from Islam to live and practice their new faith, to experience equality and justice in their home countries.

"Christians, through the centuries, have played an important part," says 'K'. "For example, to take away slavery, we have Wilberforce and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. So we need, as a Church, to stand for justice and for equality and for freedom. We have a responsibility to do that."

The Bible calls us to be a voice for the voiceless. Blasphemy and apostasy laws affect 1.3 billion people. 'K' urges us to pray, "...that these laws would be abolished, that people would have the freedom to follow their own belief, and have the freedom to leave Islam and to practice their new beliefs and exist, and have true civil rights."

Pray for the release of prisoners accused of apostasy and blasphemy. Ask God to make His presence and peace known to both prisoners and their families. Pray for the oppressors to experience God's love and forgiveness and for a change of attitude towards former Muslims in Islamic countries.

*For security purposes, we've elected to identify this advocacy worker by his first initial only. The name of the ministry he is connected to was also not revealed so their work can continue.

(source: Mission News Network)


CDC backs down on death penalty plan

The Constitution Drafting Committee (CDC) bowed Monday to widespread criticism of a proposal for the death penalty for politicians convicted of selling or buying political positions, saying life imprisonment will be worded into the organic law on political parties as an alternative.

CDC chairman Meechai Ruchupan said the panel has noted the criticism, mostly from politicians, and agreed to include life imprisonment as an alternative to the death penalty. He insisted the law is better having the death penalty.

"If you look at other laws including those passed last year, the death penalty remains the ultimate punishment -- narcotics, rape, or human trafficking. Junior government officials who commit corruption offences also risk the death penalty. I think we'd better keep it there," he said.

Earlier, Mr Meechai said the death penalty was aimed at deterring corrupt people from getting involved in politics and discouraging the buying of ministerial positions.

One of the staunchest critics of the proposal is Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva who said he has no objection to penalties for corruption being made more severe, but he does not support capital punishment under these circumstances.

Another is National Legislative Assembly (NLA) deputy chairman Peerasak Porjit who said he is not in favour of the death penalty, saying the measure is simply too harsh.

Mr Meechai also said he does not mind if the NLA makes changes to the draft organic laws prepared by the CDC during scrutiny, but stressed that changes must not contradict the constitution adopted in the referendum.

A joint committee will be set up to scrutinise the draft laws if the NLA and the CDC disagree on key issues that are deemed against the new constitution or are likely to cause problems once enforced, he said.

On the tenure of members of independent bodies, the CDC chairman said the panels asked to select members of independent organizations will have the final say if the current members should stay on or go.

He dismissed criticism that stringent qualification rules for serving on ublic indpendent organizations are aimed at forcing current members to quit.

"They should accept it and live with it. This is because the charter writing process was open and transparent. Moreover, the charter contents were endorsed in the public referendum," he said.

Mr. Meechai said that the charter does not allow or require existing members to complete their terms because the independent bodies under the new charter have more powers and responsibilities, so their members must meet new qualification criteria.

"We didn't consider the qualifications of each individual member during the process of charter writing. We are concerned that when the independent bodies are given more powers to proceed with national reform, higher-calibre people are needed for the work," he said.

(source: Bangkok Post)


Form 5 student nabbed for possession of 1,730 stimulant pills, faces death penalty

A 17-year-old here was arrested for possession of 1,730 stimulant pills worth RM 17,300.

District police chief Superintendent Mohd Zamri Mohd Rowi said a narcotics team raided the Form Five student's home at Kampung Gong Penaga here following a tip-off on Thursday at 6.15pm.

He said the suspect, who tested negative for drugs, lives with his grandmother, and has been involved in distributing drugs since March.

"During the raid, the suspect panicked, and attempted to chuck a packet of stimulant pills out the window," he said yesterday.

"Later, the suspect led the police team to the kitchen area where a packet of 1,600 stimulant pills was found," he said today.

Zamri said the teen was taken to the Kuala Besut police station for further investigation under Section 39B of the Dangerous Drugs Act for trafficking.

If convicted, the suspect could face a mandatory death sentence.

"Initial investigations show that the suspect has been selling drugs in the Jertih and Gong Penaga. Fortunately, he has not been distributing drugs at his school," Zamri added.

(source: New Straits Times Online)


Drug trafficker who was hanged given every chance to fight death sentence: Appeal Court

Convicted drug trafficker Chijioke Stephen Obioha, who was hanged last Friday, was given every chance to fight his death sentence, including applying for re-sentencing, explained the Court of Appeal in judgement grounds released on Tuesday (Nov 22).

Instead, the Nigerian decided not to be re-sentenced, and launched an 11-hour bid last week to stay the execution by arguing that that the 8 years he spent on death row amounted to cruel and inhuman punishment.

Highlighting that this latest argument could have been brought up at earlier hearings over the last year, the Appeal Court said the 11th-hour bid's only purpose was to prevent the carrying out of his sentence, and amounted to an abuse of process.

Chijioke, 38, was found guilty and sentenced to death on Dec 30, 2008 for trafficking in 2,604.56g of cannabis here. His appeal was dismissed in 2010. When the review of the mandatory death penalty was conducted between 2011 to 2013, Chijioke was given a stay of execution. For 2 years after, he was given a chance to be re-sentenced under the new regime which gives judges the discretion not to impose the death penalty.

He repeatedly refused to do until a sudden U-turn in May 2015, after he lost a last-minute bid to overthrow his conviction. After several hearings his re-sentencing, he abruptly withdrew his application in August this year.

On Oct 12, he was informed that his stay of execution would be lifted on Oct 24, and that he had till Oct 21 to show there was a good reason not to. Instead, he filed his latest claim on Nov 16.

Wrote Judge of Appeal Andrew Phang, who sat in the Appeal Court alongside Judge of Appeal Tay Yong Kwang and Judicial Commissioner Hoo Sheau Peng: "A moment's reflection will reveal that, quite apart from there not being any cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment, the applicant has been guilty of an abue of process, as we have already stated."



Lawyers debate Japan's capital punishment system at EU-organized symposium

2 prominent lawyers, one for the death penalty and the other against it, held a heated debate last Thursday at a symposium in Tokyo that sought to deepen discussion on Japan’s capital punishment system.

Yuji Ogawara, a Tokyo-based lawyer, contended that the death penalty should be abolished because of the possibility of a miscarriage of justice.

"In Japan, a suspect is interrogated, for example, by investigators without a defense lawyer present," he said. "Given the shortcomings of a judicial system handled by human beings, wrong judgments cannot be avoided."

He cited the exoneration of four death-row inmates through retrials in the 1980s. In 2014, another death-row inmate was released following 48 years behind bars after a court reopened his case. The decision has been appealed by prosecutors.

Ogawara, secretary-general of a Japan Federation of Bar Associations committee that seeks a moratorium on capital punishment, also said that a democratic society that respects human rights and justice cannot cling forever to a punishment system that allows some offenders to be killed.

Ogawara was involved in drafting a declaration by the Japan Federation of Bar Associations seeking the abolition of the death penalty by 2020.

The symposium was organized by the Delegation of the European Union to Japan following that declaration, and was attended by around 120 people. The European Union regularly releases statements of protest after executions in Japan.

Countering Ogawara, Masato Takahashi, vice president of the National Association of Crime Victims and Surviving Families, said those victimized by murders "want offenders to pay for their crimes with death."

Their feelings of retribution must be satisfied legally, Takahashi argued.

"Criminal courts were controlled by judges, prosecutors, defense counsels and defenders, while victims and bereaved families were kept out of the loop and were used merely as 'evidence' to be examined," he said. "But they are now guaranteed the opportunity to raise their voices in court. ... It is their right to demand that the state hang offenders on their behalf."

Japan introduced the lay judge system in 2009, in which a panel of 6 citizens and 3 professional judges deliberate serious crimes, including capital cases.

Given that development, calls have grown that the government should disclose more information on the execution process, including the process by which the order of executions is decided.

The secrecy surrounding executions in Japan has been criticized at home and abroad, with neither death-row inmates nor their lawyers and families being given advance notice of hangings. It also remains unclear what criteria authorities use in deciding when inmates are to be executed.

"We need to promote further debate on capital punishment as part of our effort to create a better society, and we need to have more information for that purpose," Ogawara said.

After the Japan Federation of Bar Associations last month adopted the declaration calling for abolition of the death penalty, the government executed a death-row inmate on Nov. 11 - the 17th execution in the almost 4 years since Prime Minister Shinzo Abe came to office in December 2012.

After the hanging, the EU Delegation issued a statement, together with the heads of mission of EU member states and the heads of mission of Norway and Switzerland, noting, "We hold a strong and principled position against the death penalty and we are opposed to the use of capital punishment under any circumstances."

While a government survey shows more than 80 % of the people support capital punishment, Japan has faced international criticism, with the U.N. Human Rights Committee in 2014 urging Japan to "give due consideration to the abolition of the death penalty."

"I think Japan should make efforts to maintain international solidarity with other nations sharing the same democratic values, including those in the European Union, rather than keeping the death penalty," Ogawara said.

(source: The Japan Times)


Pakistan army chief Raheel Sharif confirms death sentence of 10 terrorists----The 10 condemned terrorists were given capital punishment by special military courts set-up after the 2014 Peshawar school attack for speedy trial of terrorists.

Ahead of his retirement, Pakistan Army chief General Raheel Sharif Tuesday confirmed death sentence handed down to 10 "hardcore terrorists" by military courts for their involvement in killing 4 commandos and other heinous offences related to terrorism. The 10 condemned terrorists were given capital punishment by special military courts set-up after the 2014 Peshawar school attack for speedy trial of terrorists.

"Today, Chief of Army Staff confirmed death sentences awarded to another 10 hardcore terrorists who were involved in heinous offences related to terrorism, including killing of innocent civilians," army said in a statement.

The militants had also slaughtered Special Services Group's 4 commandos who had been captured and mercilessly killed during Swat operation of 2009.

Army said the convicts also planned and executed attacks on Armed Forces and Law Enforcement Agencies of Pakistan which resulted in deaths and injuries to several soldiers.

They were also involved in destruction of educational institutions and communication infrastructure. Fire-arms and explosives were also recovered from their possession.

The military courts were set up in Pakistan to expedite the trial process for terror-related offences following the December 2014 Taliban's massacre at an army-run school in Peshawar in which over 150 people, mostly school children, were killed.

Following the attack, the government had lifted the moratorium on the death penalty and the Parliament passed the 21st amendment which established military courts which was challenged in the Supreme Court.

The apex court ruled in favour of setting up of the courts in August last year.

It is not known where the trial was held and when the verdict of conviction announced, as the military courts work in secrecy due to fear of backlash by militants.

Raheel will end his 3-year term as army chief on November 29.



Should criminals be hanged by the neck?

Should violent criminals in our ravaged society be hanged by the neck to pay for their crimes?

For some, this is justice.

For others, it's an act of barbarism that simply reinforces the violence in a society.

And still for others, it is a hideous ghost from the gallows of apartheid where people were hanged simply for their political affiliation.

It is not a comfortable question‚ but one which sits on the lips of many South Africans outraged by how murder, rape, gang rape and violent assault have become a norm in society.

Now‚ the Institute for Race Relations has just released a report that says 4 of the 5 main arguments against capital punishment can be debated without conclusion - but it is the "possibility of error" that really cements capital punishment as a "no go" area.

IRR security analyst Kerwin Lebone said: "Almost 500‚000 people have been murdered by violent criminals since 1994. Many more have been maimed‚ otherwise injured‚ or traumatised. It must be expected that the society might ask questions of the wisdom of having abandoned the death penalty."

In its research‚ the IRR tested 5 objections to the death penalty: That it is cruel and unusual‚ that it is a form of retribution‚ that it is arbitrary‚ that the penalty is not a deterrent to crime‚ and that an irreversible error can be made.

According to a statement released by the IRR‚ it was "able to overcome the first 4 objections. It found that the death penalty is not necessarily cruel and unusual. Society is entitled to a measure of retribution. The arbitrariness is not unique to that form of punishment. The international evidence is mixed but‚ in South Africa's unique circumstances‚ the death penalty could well be a deterrent to the commission of the most cruel and violent of crimes."

But‚ the IRR found that "the most compelling argument against the punishment was the possibility of error" - particularly in the case of the South African criminal justice system. The IRR said that‚ while a case could be made to reopen a debate into the death penalty‚ this debate would have to overcome the 5th objection to that penalty.

Barend van Niekerk‚ a fervent death penalty abolitionist‚ said in 1967 that "47% of the executions in the world were carried out in South Africa". According to the IRR‚ it is a figure that was "questioned but never refuted".

Up until 1989‚ when executions were stopped in SA‚ around 4‚000 had been capitally punished in the country in the 80 preceding years. Today, "technological advances (like DNA testing)" could reduce the risk of error‚ as could "better police and prosecutorial procedures".

However‚ even if all precautions were taken‚ "the risk of error might be lessened but could never be completely avoided".

In conclusion‚ the IRR said that British politician Gerald Gardiner had summed up in 1964 a principle which still sticks: "Human beings who are not infallible ought not to choose a form of punishment which is irreparable."


Crimes like Rhodes Park murder case prompt report into reintroduction of death penalty: IRR

The "most compelling argument" against the reintroduction of a death penalty is "that an irreversible error can be made"‚ the Institute for Race Relations (IRR) said on Tuesday.

The think tank said it had compiled a report on the controversial topic "against a context of rising levels of serious and violent crime‚ often characterised by extraordinary cruelty and violence on the part of perpetrators".

"The current Rhodes Park murder and rape case would be an example‚" an IRR statement said.

That refers to the ongoing trial of Thabo Nkala‚ Admore Ndlovu and Mduduzi Mathibela‚ who are accused of being part of the gang of men that killed Sizwe Tyeke and Zukisa Kela‚ and raped their female partners in Kensington October 2015.

Said IRR CEO Dr Frans Cronje: "We were asked to look into the death penalty as a way to deter the most cruel and violent crimes - such as the Rhodes Park murders. These are crimes characterised by gratuitous violence in which victims are tortured‚ family members raped or executed in front of their loved ones, ‚and children harmed. South Africa has far too many examples of such crimes."

IRR security analyst Kerwin Lebone said that‚ considering "almost 500 000 people have been murdered by violent criminals since 1994 ... it must be expected that the society might ask questions of the wisdom of having abandoned the death penalty".

The IRR said its research "tested 5 objections to the death penalty". They were: "that it is cruel and unusual; that it is a form of retribution; that it is arbitrary; that the penalty is not a deterrent to crime; and that an irreversible error can be made".

"The IRR was able to overcome the first 4 objections‚" the statement said. "It found that the death penalty is not necessarily cruel and unusual. Society is entitled to a measure of retribution. The arbitrariness is not unique to that form of punishment. The international evidence is mixed but‚ in South Africa's unique circumstances‚ the death penalty could well be a deterrent to the commission of the most cruel and violent of crimes."

But‚ the statement added‚ "the most compelling argument against the punishment was the possibility of error - particularly in the case of the South African criminal justice system" and that "while a case could be made to reopen a debate into the death penalty‚ this debate would have to overcome the 5th objection to that penalty".

(source for both:


N'ganj 7-murder: Prosecution seeks death penalty for accused

Prosecution today appealed before a Narayanganj court to hang all accused of the sensational 7-murder case.

The prosecution made the plea before the District and Sessions Judge Syed Enayet Hossain, reports the Bangla daily Prothom Alo.

After hearing arguments from prosecution and defence sides, the court fixed Tuesday for hearing on the appeal, Public Prosecutor Wazed Ali Khokon said at a press conference on the court premises.

On February 8, the same court indicted 35 people including prime accused Nur Hossain and 3 former Rab officials - Tareque Sayeed, Arif Hossain and Masud Rana - in 2 cases filed for killing 7 people in the district in 2014.

Today was the 34th working day since the charges were framed against the accused of the case, he added.

A total 20 witnesses of the case have so far given their testimony against 21 accused under section 164 of the Criminal Proceeding Code.

The state side presented 164 witnesses before the court. Of them, 60 are eyewitnesses.

7 people, including Narayanganj City Corporation councillor Nazrul Islam and senior lawyer Chandan Sarker, were abducted from the Dhaka-Narayanganj link road on April 27 in 2014.

Later, their bodies were found floating in the Shitalakkhya River.

Nazrul's father-in-law Shahidul Islam alleged that Rab personnel abducted and killed Nazrul in exchange for Tk 6 crore from local ward councillor Nur Hossain.

(source: The Daily Star)


Religious groups give opposing views on death penalty

Religious groups on Tuesday gave contrarian opinions to lawmakers on the morality of imposing death penalty even on the most heinous of criminals.

Various religious groups read out their position papers during the House justice subcommittee on judicial reforms hearing, which discussed the bill seeking to reimpose capital punishment.

Grecor "Butch" Belgica, a murder convict turned evangelist, told the committee that even the Bible condones capital punishment on people who have sinned against the commandments of God.

Belgica is the father of defeated senatorial candidate Greco Belgica.

"Biblical law pities the offended and not the offender, and sympathizes with the aggrieved and not with the aggressor ... Biblical law assures 'due process' to the offender but bequeaths justice to the offended. In short, justice for the aggrieved, and due process for the aggressor," Belgica said.

Belgica said capital punishment would ensure the cleansing of the world from sinners.

"God's law establishes the responsibility of civil rulers to act as representatives of the people in doing what is right in the sight of the Lord to cleanse the land of innocent blood. Therefore, we vote for civil rulers who actively support capital punishment for murderers," Belgica said.

"A magistrate (candidate) who opposes the death penalty for murder is a dangerous man for he stands against the only penalty that will cleanse the land of innocent blood, and therefore, he willfully contributes to the pollution of the land by blood," he added.

For his part, Father Eli Rowdy Lumbo, executive director of the Philippine Jesuit Prison Service Foundation, opposed the death penalty because it rules out the chance for reformation even to the most heinous criminal.

Lumbo shared his experience of dealing with convicts who regretted committing heinous crimes, and those wrongfully accused of the crime but acquitted after years in detention.

"How do we see such persons? Is it not incumbent upon society to form or reform those who have gone astray, to teach those who were not taught and guide those who have made wrong decisions?" Lumbo asked the lawmakers.

"We make a stand against the restoration of the death penalty. It is not the solution to the criminality that confronts our country and the death of the offender is not the answer to senseless deaths of the innocent. We stand for reformation and rehabilitation of the offender," he added.

Leyte Rep. Vicente "Ching" Veloso, the chairperson of the House justice subcommittee, said this issue has divided the nation, but he takes courage from the children of the nation whose future is at stake.

"Listening to both parties, I am in a bind ... If I would say I am not in favor, what would my children say? ... The issue has divided the great minds of our society," Veloso said.

It was Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez who first filed the bill seeking to reimpose death penalty after former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo abolished capital punishment in 2006 for its failure to deter crime.

Alvarez filed the bill to reinstate death penalty, pursuant to President Rodrigo Duterte’s campaign promise of returning capital punishment against heinous criminals.

Alvarez's bill sought to reimpose death penalty on heinous crimes listed under Republic Act 7659, including murder, plunder, rape, kidnapping and serious illegal detention, sale, use and possession of illegal drugs, carnapping with homicide, among others.

In the bill he co-authored with deputy speaker Capiz Rep. Fredenil Castro, Alvarez said there is a need to reimpose death penalty because "the national crime rate has grown to such alarming proportions requiring an all-out offensive against all forms of felonious acts."

"Philippine society is left with no option but to deal with certain grievous offenders in a manner commensurate to the gravity, perversity, atrociousness and repugnance of their crimes," according to the bill.

Duterte has won the elections in a campaign promise to restore death penalty by hanging, even making a snide remark that the convicts’ head should be severed from the hanging.

Alvarez said Congress would look into the cheapest way for death penalty, either by firing squad, lethal injection, or by hanging.



Solon fears railroading of death penalty bill

Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman warned the public that the Lower House may be seeking to railroad the passage of a law reimposing the death penalty.

Lagman pointed out that the House Justice Committee has been conducting marathon hearings on the measure, which is one of the priority bills of the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte.

"Today the committee on justice set a whole-day meeting. Again, tomorrow, it's a full-day meeting. Prior to that, there was also another meeting. That will only show to you how they will like to railroad the passage of the bill," Lagman said.

Lagman, nonetheless, held out the possibility that the proposed measure will face significant opposition at the plenary of the lower chamber.

"They should expect opposition from members of the House, also coming from the supermajority. There are many members who are against the re-imposition of the death penalty. There are I think 14 members who were also part of the 13th Congress when this was abolished and 12 of them of them are still steadfast in supporting the non-reimposition, There are 26 members of the House who voted for the abolition of the death penalty," he said.

"I think we will have that close to our chest. We don't want to unduly alarm the leadership of the supermajority. We have significant numbers."

The bill is authored by no less than House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, Majority Leader Rodolfo Farinas and Deputy Speaker Fredenil Castro.

Alvarez had reportedly expressed his intention to have the Lower House approve the bill by Christmas.

Lagman, meanwhile, noted that the proponents want to impose the penalty for narcotics offenses.

"I think they will like it easier to pass by limiting the imposition of death penalty on a particular set of crimes. It's a way of hastening the passage of the bill because some might agree to just limit it to drug-related offenses. But to those who are against the death penalty, it is immaterial," he said.

"What is important is there should be no imposition. It's against human rights. It's not a deterrent. All empirical studies would show that death penalty has no deterrent effect."

President Duterte earlier said that death penalty is not necessarily for deterring crimes but for retribution.

Lagman's ally and member of the so-called "Magnificent 7", Akbayan Rep. Tom Villarin, meantime, cautioned the House majority against railroading the bill.

"This is a public issue. Definitely there would be mobilization against this proposal," Villarin said.

"We remind the House leadership that the public is watching. There are stakeholders and its the future of our country that we are discussing here. Death penalty belongs to the dark ages."