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

SEPTEMBER 27, 2016:

FLORIDA:

Florida Christians push to classify abortion as capital murder - punishable by the death penalty

Evangelical Christians in Florida are pushing for a ballot initiative in 2018 that would not only make abortion a crime, but re-classify the procedure as 1st-degree murder.

According to Hemant Mehta at The Friendly Atheist, anti-choice activist group Abolish Abortion Florida has launched a petition calling for an amendment to the state constitution that deems medical termination of a pregnancy to be a premeditated murder under Florida state law - making women who have abortions and their doctors eligible for the death penalty.

"The people of Florida murder 72,000 babies every year while the 'pro life' politicians we've elected to protect them attempt to regulate the practice of child sacrifice as if it were healthcare, instead of addressing it as murder," the petition said. "Contrary to widespread misinformation, the right to murder humans is not protected by the Constitution and our legislature is not bound by any law or duty to aid or abet the Supreme Court in their attempted perversion of it."

The group is hoping to gather enough signatures to land the statute on the 2018 election ballot.

Christian News Wire said, "Under the proposed amendment, anyone who performs or procures an abortion would be charged with first degree, pre-meditated murder. 'Abortion' would include any abortifacient drug or device that can kill an embryo by preventing implantation, as well as the intentional destruction of unwanted IVF embryos. The amendment would define life as beginning at fertilization rather than 'conception,' and declares that 'abortion deprives an innocent human being of the inalienable right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."

"They're pro-life and want to see women who get abortions executed," wrote Mehta, "in case you needed more proof that Christians are often hypocrites."

"No word yet on whether the women and their doctors should be murdered by way of a firing squad or lethal injection," he quipped. "But I sent them an email to find out."

(source: rawstory.com)

SUDAN:

Trial Adjourned Of Christian Pastors Facing Death Penalty In Sudan

Pastors Kuwa Shamal and Hassan Taour are among 4 Christians facing the death penalty for claims that Christians are persecuted in Sudan.

The "spying" trial of pastors in Sudan has been adjourned until next month after the prosecution failed to prepare adequately for the case.

4 defendants, including 2 Christian pastors and a foreign Christian worker, are accused of spying. They have denied the charges.

Their trial in Khartoum was delayed for a 2nd time after the judge accused the prosecution of being inadequately prepared.

All 4 men face the death penalty if found guilty.

They are Rev Hassan Taour, Rev Kuwa Shamal, Czech aid worker Petr Jasek and Darfuri graduate Abdulmonem Abdumawla.

When the case resumed yesterday, the prosecution used videos to back up the charges of spying, sources close to the trial told World Watch Monitor (WWM).

The defence said the material was not relevant to the case. The judge apparently agreed and warned the prosecution to come better prepared next time, WWM reported.

The hearing was adjourned until 17 October.

According to Christian Solidarity Worldwide, Jasek is charged with propagating false news. He, Taour, Shamal and Abdumawla face at least seven charges including waging war against the state. One charge against the pastors is that they propagated news about churches being burned down in Khartoum and bombed in the Nuba mountains, where Christians are classed as "atheists".

On the Open Doors' 2016 World Watch List, Sudan is ranked eighth, and the organisation has requested prayers for the 4 defendants.

(source: christiantoday.com)

OHIO:

Former Ohio Attorney General Joins Anti-Death Penalty Organization

Jim Petro, the state attorney general who oversaw 18 executions in Ohio, was elected to the board of directors of Ohioans to Stop Executions this weekend with his wife, Nancy. The move is a high-profile turnaround for a Republican state official.

"Ohio has an unusually high number pro-death penalty government officials who have changed their positions on the issue, but this is the 1st time we've had a couple with such experience join our leadership team," Melinda Elkins-Dawson, board chair, said in a public statement.

Petro urged "a re-examination of Ohio's death penalty" via OTSE's work. He said he recently arrived at the conclusion that it's time to rethink this policy arena. (Nancy has always opposed the death penalty.)

In Ohio, Ronald Phillips is scheduled to be killed in January.

(source: clevescene.com)

****************

Glen Bates found guilty in murder of 2-year-old daughter

A man who prosecutors said swung his 2-year-old daughter into a door frame "like a baseball bat," contributing to her death, was found guilty Monday of charges including aggravated murder.

The verdicts were announced shortly before 2:15 p.m. in Hamilton County Common Pleas Court. A jury of 8 women and 4 men deliberated about 2 hours, also finding Bates guilty of murder and child endangering.

As he has done during much of the trial, Glen Bates showed no emotion when the verdicts were read. He stared ahead blankly or closed his eyes.

The sentencing phase of the trial is set to begin Wednesday. The jury must still determine whether to recommend a death sentence. Judge Megan Shanahan will make the final decision.

Bates, 34, rejected at least 2 plea deals before deciding to stand trial in the beating and starvation death of Glenara Bates. If he'd accepted either of those deals, he would have faced a minimum of 15 years to life in prison.

It was Glenara's mother, Andrea Bradley, who carried Glenara's cold and limp body into Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center on March 29, 2015. Bradley's case is being handled separately. She faces the same charges.

Closing arguments in Bates' trial took place Monday morning after 3 days of testimony.

Prosecutors said Bates intended to kill Glenara when he held her by the legs and swung her into a door frame, striking her head.

In order for Bates to be found guilty of aggravated murder - and thus a possible death sentence - prosecutors had to prove that he specifically intended to kill Glenara.

Hamilton County Assistant Prosecutor Rick Gibson said during closing arguments that Bates had no other purpose.

"He takes this 2-year-old girl, and he swings her as hard as he can into that door frame, hits her head on the door frame," Gibson said, adding, "Like a baseball bat, with all his might."

"What does that action tell you about his intent?" Gibson said.

Glenara's 10-year-old sister testified about that alleged incident on the trial's 1st day.

The girl, who is now living with a foster family in rural, western Ohio, said Glenara cried briefly "and then she stopped."

Gibson said the head injuries that led to Glenara's death were consistent with being swung "at a high rate of speed."

It tore veins and caused the internal bleeding inside Glenara's skull that was found during an autopsy, he said.

Glenara's body was "covered from head to toe" with bruises, scars and burns, Gibson said. She was also severely malnourished and weighed just 13 pounds when she died.

He directed much of the blame at Bates, who lived on and off with Glenara, her mother, Andrea Bradley, and several other children in a rented house in East Walnut Hills.

Bates told detectives that he began living at the home 1 or 2 weeks before Glenara died.

His attorneys have directed blame at Bradley.

Defense attorney Norm Aubin said Bradley was around the children more and was responsible for feeding Glenara. There was testimony that Bradley "didn't like" Glenara and would bite her and whip her with a belt.

"He walked in on a situation that was already going bad," Aubin said in his closing arguments.

He asked jurors not to allow anger toward Bates or sympathy for Glenara affect their judgment.

"I do not believe he purposely intended to cause the death of his child," Aubin said.

(source: cincinnati.com)

INDIANA:

7th Circuit Court orders issuance of writ of habeas corpus for convicted murderer

The full 7th Circuit Court of Appeals has ordered that writ of habeas corpus or a new trial be ordered for a man convicted of 3 murders and sentenced to death, finding that state courts incorrectly omitted a key piece of evidence in the defense's case.

In the case of Wayne Kubsch v. Ron Neal, 14-1898, Wayne Kubsch was convicted in the 1998 murders of his wife, Beth Kubsch, Rick Milewski and Aaron Milewski, Rick Milweski and Beth Kubsch's son, in Mishawaka. Kubsch was sentenced to death as a result of his convictions.

While the 7th Circuit Court wrote in its Friday opinion that the jury in the case had correctly relied on circumstantial evidence to convict Kubsch of the murders, the court also wrote that one piece of evidence that was omitted could have been used to prove Kubsch's innocence. The evidence was a videotaped testimony of Amanda Buck, a 9-year-old girl who said in the video that she saw Aaron Milewski at 3:30 p.m. on the day of the murders, which would have undermined the state's theory that the murders were committed between 1:53 p.m. and 2:51 p.m.

Buck was called to testify at a 2nd trial in the case in 2005, but she claimed to have no memory of the videotaped interview with police. Kubsch's lawyer attempted to use the transcript of the interview to refresh Buck's memory and later to impeach her, but the prosecution objected, and the court sustained the objections. The court also refused to permit the use of Buck's interview as a recorded recollection.

After direct appeals and post-conviction proceedings in state courts, Kubsch filed for habeas corpus relief in federal court. The district court and a panel of 7th Circuit judges found that the state court decisions passed muster, but that opinion was vacated when the full 7th Circuit Court decided to hear the case en banc.

In its opinion handed down on Friday, the 7th Circuit Court wrote that the heart of Kubsch's case went to whether the state had violated his rights to due process under the 14th Amendment by rendering a decision contrary to the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in the case of Chambers v. Mississippi, 410 U.S. 284 (1973).

In that case, the U.S. Supreme Court held that, "Few rights are more fundamental than that of an accused to present witnesses in his own defense. ... Although perhaps no rule of evidence has been more respected or more frequently applied in jury trials than that applicable to the exclusion of hearsay, exceptions tailored to allow the introduction of evidence which in fact is likely to be trustworthy have long existed."

In applying Chambers to Kubsch's case, the 7th Circuit Court wrote that the excluded recording of Buck's testimony was the strongest evidence in Kubsch's defense based on actual innocence and, as Chambers requires, was unusually reliable.

If a jury had been allowed to hear Buck's testimony or that of her mother, the circuit court wrote that they could have reasonably acquitted or convicted Kubsch.

"All we are saying is that the jury should have been given the chance to evaluate the case based on all the evidence, rather than on the basis of a truncated record that omitted the strongest evidence the defense had," the court wrote. "The facts of Kubsch's case parallel so closely the facts of Chambers ... that a failure to apply those cases here would amount to an unreasonable application of law clearly established by the Supreme Court."

The 7th Circuit Court reversed the district court's judgment and remanded the case for the issuance of a writ of habeas corpus, unless the state takes steps to give Kubsch a new trial within 120 days.

However, Judges David Hamilton, Frank Easterbrook and Diane Sykes dissented, writing in a separate opinion that the en banc majority had "crafted a new rule so narrow and case-specific as to be good apparently only for this case."

"The residual risk or error in capital cases is deeply sobering for all of us with roles in the criminal justice system," Hamilton wrote. "That risk offers a powerful policy argument against the death penalty. It does not provide a reason to disregard rules of evidence that apply to both sides and have been designed to ensure fair and reliable evaluation of evidence."

St. Joseph County Prosecutor Ken Cotter told the Associated Press on Monday that he will consult with the victims' families and review case files before determining how to proceed.

Defense attorney Alan Freedman said Kubsch is relieved by the ruling and is awaiting the prosecutor's decision.

(source: The Indiana Lawyer)

MISSOURI:

MO Supreme Court To Hear Tisius Death Penalty Case

The State Supreme Court will hear oral arguments Wednesday in Jefferson City in the case of a man who was sentenced to death for killing 2 mid-Missouri jailers 16 years ago.

Michael Tisius was convicted of 2 counts of 1st degree murder for the June 2000 killings of Randolph County jailers Leon Egley and Jason Acton. Tisius is currently under 2 death sentences.

The Missouri Supreme Court has scheduled oral arguments for Wednesday morning at 9:30 in Tisius' appeal, which involves claims of ineffective assistance of counsel.

Prosecutors say Tisius and Tracie Bulington tried to break Roy Vance out of the old Randolph County Jail in Huntsville in 2000. Egley and Acton were both shot to death.

Tisius is being held at the maximum-security Potosi Correctional Center in Mineral Point. Bulington is serving 2 life sentences in Chillicothe, after being convicted of 2 counts of 2nd degree murder. As for Vance, he's serving a life sentence without parole in Potosi.

Tisius will not be in the courtroom on Wednesday. There is no timetable on how long it will take the Supreme Court to rule.

(source: ozarksfirst.com)

IDAHO:

Judge rejects motions on death penalty

Additional attempts at taking the death penalty off the table for the man accused of murdering Coeur d'Alene Police Sgt. Greg Moore fell short Monday.

But, Kootenai County District Court Judge Lansing Haynes has yet to rule on 2 others.

Jonathan Renfro, a 26-year-old Rathdrum resident who allegedly admitted to killing Moore in a Coeur d'Alene neighborhood on May 5, 2015, currently faces the death penalty if found guilty of charges associated with the incident. In a series of hearings in Kootenai County District Court beginning last week, Haynes has heard arguments from the team of public defenders representing Renfro as to why their client should not face execution for reasons ranging from international law to the nature of the encounter Moore had with Renfro prior to the shooting.

Monday's hearing began with Kootenai County Public Defender John Adams stating Moore's interaction with Renfro around 1:30 a.m. constituted an unreasonable seizure. Renfro walking in the Coeur d'Alene neighborhood was legal, and Adams said the experienced officer was "acting on a hunch" when he approached the Rathdrum man.

"Unfortunately it's a hunch that went terribly wrong," Adams added.

Once Moore asked for and received Renfro's driver's license, Adams said the encounter went from being consensual to one where any individual would come to the conclusion they were not free to leave. Due to Adams' assertion that his client's "seizure" by Moore was unconstitutional, the public defender challenged Haynes to suppress all evidence gathered from the officer's dashboard camera, and to not allow the death penalty to be pursued by the Kootenai County Prosecutors Office.

"1st degree murder has to go away, it's got to be a 2nd degree murder," Adams said. "It's a big call, but the law is pretty straightforward."

Kootenai County Deputy Prosecutor David Robbins, however, argued Renfro was not "seized" by Moore. To fall under the legal definition of the term, Robbins said Renfro had to have either been surrendering to law enforcement authority or physically restrained.

"The moment he pulled that trigger, he was not unconstitutionally seized," Robbins said. "A person who is seized does not shoot a police officer."

Following arguments, Haynes told the courtroom he would issue a ruling on Adams' motion during a hearing on Oct. 12.

Haynes denied 2 other motions made by the public defender's office that also asked the judge to not allow the death penalty to be among the potential punishments for Renfro. Kootenai County Public Defender Linda Payne presented arguments for both of the motions, the 1st of which involved the assertion that the use of capital punishment in America conflicts with international law, which she said has deemed the practice "cruel and unusual punishment" due to the amount of time it takes before a prisoner on death row is executed.

However, Haynes agreed with Robbins' counter-argument that the international law in question allows for individual countries to still use capital punishment.

The 2nd motion Payne argued asked Haynes to preclude the death penalty because "evolving standards of decency" have caused pursuit of death as punishment to decrease. In some states, Payne said the practice has been essentially abolished by the act of not imposing the death penalty.

"The respect for human life and rights does not include imposing the death penalty," Payne added.

Robbins told Haynes a shift in the amount of capital cases does not mean the practice itself is unconstitutional. He added there is no indication the Idaho Legislature plans on eliminating the death penalty in the state.

Haynes agreed with Robbins and denied the motion. The judge will issue rulings on 2 more motions at 9:00 a.m. on Oct. 12.

(source: Bonner County Daily Bee)

CALIFORNIA:

Death penalty trial starts in Baby Sophia case

The death penalty trial of Christopher Cheary, accused in the sexual assault and blunt-force trauma death of a 3-year-old girl, started Monday, more than five years after the toddler was found dead.

Cheary, 25, is accused of 1st-degree murder in the death of Sophia Acosta at an apartment building in Exeter. He committed sodomy, torture and lewd acts, making it a capital case, the Tulare County District Attorney's Office said.

A jury of 6 men and 6 women is hearing the case before Judge Jospeh Kalashian. There are 7 alternate jurors.

On the afternoon of May 7, 2011, Exeter police went to an apartment building on the 800 block of West Visalia Road after getting a call from a neighbor that a child reportedly was not breathing.

Paramedics found her lifeless on the floor of the apartment where she lived with her mother, Erika Smith, and her mother's boyfriend.

The girl was taken to Kaweah Delta Medical Center, then flown by helicopter to Valley Children's Hospital. She never regained consciousness and died May 11. Her organs were harvested.

A few weeks later, Cheary was arrested in Stanislaus County following an investigation by Exeter police.

Proscutor David Alavezos told jurors during opening statements that Smith and Cheary had an argument and Smith left for Visalia, leaving Sophia and a younger sister with Cheary, and later returned.

After she returned, she soon went over to a neighbor's apartment and asked for a ride to the hospital because Sophia wasn't breathing. The neighbor called 911 and went to the apartment.

Circumstantial and physical evidence links Cheary to Sophia's death, including semen found on a bedskirt in Sophia's room, a condom wrapper, unusual actions and differing stories told by the defendant, he said.

"He later admitted he lied," Alavezos said.

The girl was bleeding from her anus and the autopsy showed lacerations to the girl's anus, she said. She had bruises to her back, buttocks and head, he said.

Cheary used heroin, he said.

But defense attorney Angela Krueger started her opening by challenging the prosecutor's case against Cheary.

"There was no rape, there was no torture, there was no murder," Krueger said.

The prosecution has said there was significant blood coming out of Sophia's anus, "but at the apartment, there was no fresh blood," she said. "If there were anal lacerations, there would be blood in the apartment."

At the hospital, the girl was bleeding from several places and the medical evidence will show the girl may have suffered from a blood-clotting problem, she said.

She died of lack of oxygen to the brain because she had blood clots, she said.

"It's rare, but children do get blood clots," Krueger said. She had massive irrerversible brain swelling, she said.

As for Cheary's DNA, "they found none of him on her or her on him," she said. "There was no DNA of Mr. Cheary anywhere where it shouldn't have been."

The small amount of his sperm found on a bedskirt is explainable from living with his girlfriend and does not link him to her death, she said.

Police missed the condom wrapper on several searches, she said. It was never checked for fingerprints, she said.

Cheary told police a story the girl's mother told him to tell, she said.

She admitted Cheary was using heroin and had smoked it with his girlfriend, she said.

Neighbor Mary Ann Flores said Smith pounded on her door and was hysterical and wanted a ride to the hospital because Sophia wasn't breathing.

She went to the apartment and Cheary brought down a lifeless body from the 2nd floor.

"She was nude. She was sopping wet," Flores said. When she asked why she was wet, Cheary said. "because he had to rinse her off."

Cheary tried CPR on the girl, but "to me she was already dead," Flores said.

(source: The Fresno Bee)

WASHINGTON:

Washington state mall shooter had no militant contact: source

There is no evidence showing that a man charged with 5 counts of 1st-degree murder after confessing to a shooting rampage at a shopping mall in Washington state over the weekend had contact with any known Islamic militant groups or individuals, a law enforcement official told Reuters on Monday.

Turkish-born Arcan Cetin, a 20-year-old legal U.S. resident, was advised of the charges against him during a brief hearing in Skagit County District Court in Mount Vernon, Washington, on Monday and ordered held on $2 million bail.

According to charging documents, Cetin admitted to police investigators that he brought a Ruger .22 caliber rifle into the Macy's department store at Cascade Mall in Burlington, about 65 miles (105 km) north of Seattle, on Friday evening and fatally shot 5 people.

Skagit County District Attorney Richard Weyrich declined to discuss a motive for the shootings. But a law enforcement official familiar with the investigation told Reuters there was nothing to suggest that Cetin had had contact with any known Islamic militants.

However, the source said Cetin's motives for the attack were still unclear.

Cetin walked into the Macy's shortly before 7 p.m. PDT (0200 GMT), gunning down a 16-year-old girl near a clothing rack, then opening fire on the other 4 victims in the make-up department before placing the gun on a cosmetics counter and walking out, prosecutors said in the court papers.

Representative Rick Larsen said on the floor of the House of Representatives on Monday that the slain girl was high school sophomore Sarai Lara, a cancer survivor.

Also killed in the attack were Shayla Martin, a 52-year-old Macy's makeup artist, Boeing employee and father of 2 Chuck Eagan, retired probation officer Belinda Galde, 64, and her 95-year-old mother, Beatrice Dotson, Larsen said.

Wearing red and blue jail garb and shackled at the waist, Cetin showed no emotion during Monday's court appearance and spoke only to respond "yes, your honor" several times to the judge.

"It's a terrible, terrible thing and a terrible tragedy for the whole community," Weyrich told reporters after the hearing, adding prosecutors have yet to decide whether to seek the death penalty against Cetin.

The attack follows a series of violent outbursts at shopping centers across the United States, including the stabbing of 9 people at the Crossroads Center in Minnesota on Sept. 17. The FBI has said it considers that attack a "potential act of terrorism."

Cetin was taken into custody without incident Saturday evening after police spotted him near his home in Oak Harbor, 30 miles (48 km) southwest of Burlington.

According to the charging documents, Cetin initially walked into the mall unarmed, through a Chuck E. Cheese family entertainment and pizza restaurant, then went back to his car to retrieve the rifle from the trunk, moving the car closer to Macy's.

According to prosecutors, Cetin's father told them that he and his son had had a falling out recently.

The father said he last saw his son at dinner at about 4:30 p.m. on the day of the shooting and that his rifle, which matched the description of the murder weapon, was missing along with ammunition.

(source: Reuters)

USA:

Here's what Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump think about criminal justice

The US locks up more of its citizens than any other country, so it's no surprise that mass incarceration and criminal-justice reform have become prominent issues on the presidential campaign trail.

Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton has treaded carefully on this front, denouncing some of the tough-on-crime laws from the 1980s and 1990s that contributed to mass incarceration and walking back her decades-old remark calling young offenders "super predators."

It has been difficult territory to navigate; both Clinton and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, advocated harsh sentencing during his administration, particularly when the two were drumming up support for the 1994 crime bill.

The changes introduced by the law - which called for severe sentences, strict gun laws, and more police officers and prisons - have been widely derided in recent years as a key cause of mass incarceration. The data shows the law, in fact, has had minimal influence in reforming or influencing state policies.

Clinton has now proposed numerous policy changes geared at reducing the number of incarcerated people and facilitating prisoners' reentry into society. At the same time, her Republican opponent, Donald Trump, has ramped up his rhetoric on cracking down on violent crime and cast himself as the "law and order" candidate.

It's worth noting that the federal government, headed by the president, has jurisdiction only over federal laws and prisons, which hold just 211,000 of the US's estimated 2.2 million incarcerated people. The White House can try to influence state and local laws by offering or retracting funding, but the effects are often limited.

Regardless, both major-party nominees have asserted their positions on crime, prisons, and mass incarceration. Here's how Clinton and Trump say they'll handle criminal-justice issues.

Crime rate

Even on this basic statistic that underlies most criminal-justice issues, Republicans and Democrats remain split on the data. The FBI has recorded a steady downward trend in violent crime rates over the past decade, and Democrats have used this to bolster their arguments to reduce incarceration.

Clinton told a Columbia University audience in July that crime was at "historic lows."

Republicans, however, have seized on the rising murder rate in cities such as Chicago and asserted that President Barack Obama's policies have allowed criminals to run amok.

"Decades of progress made in bringing down crime are now being reversed by this administration's rollback of criminal enforcement," Trump said at his speech to the Republican National Convention.

Trump has loudly spoke of "out of control" crime rates and asserted that inner cities have reached "record levels" of crime. But according to projections for 2016 crime rates, violent crime across the country remains near the bottom of a 30-year downward trend, even with a projected 5.5% increase for 2016.

Prison privatization

The Department of Justice appeased prison-reform advocates in August when it announced it would phase out the use of private prisons for federal inmates. An Inspector General's report one week earlier had declared the facilities were less effective and more dangerous than their government-run counterparts.

Private prisons have received renewed scrutiny in recent years after reports revealed consistent problems with violence, squalid conditions, neglectful medical care, and overcrowding. The Department of Homeland Security has also said it will review its use of private facilities for immigrant detainees.

Clinton has pledged to "end" for-profit detention facilities, and she no longer accepts donations from private-prison lobbyists.

Trump has expressed support for private prisons but hasn't discussed the issue at length.

"I do think we can do a lot of privatizations and private prisons. It seems to work a lot better," he said at a town hall in March.

Clemency

Presidential clemency has received more attention than usual this year after Obama began to make unprecedented use of the power. As of September, he has commuted the sentences of 673 inmates, more than the previous 10 presidents combined, and pardoned 70.

Clemency can be used to pardon federal inmates or commute their sentences. It's one of the few direct, relatively unchecked actions a president can take in the criminal-justice system, as it bypasses both Congress and the courts.

Clinton has not explicitly said whether she would continue Obama's trend of granting commutations to hundreds of prisoners at a time. Her platform does include "allowing current nonviolent prisoners to seek fairer sentences," but she typically discusses the need to overhaul federal mandatory-minimum laws in place of granting clemency.

Trump has criticized commutations and called the nonviolent drug offenders who have been released under Obama's clemency project "bad dudes."

"These are people who are out, they're walking the streets," he said at a rally in August. "Sleep tight, folks."

Obama has concentrated his clemency efforts on inmates who were harshly sentenced for nonviolent drug offenses during the tough-on-crime era of the late 1980s and early 1990s. Were they convicted today, many of those inmates would have received substantially less severe sentences.

Sentencing and drug-law reforms

Clinton's main focus in reducing mass incarceration has been to overhaul sentencing for drug offenders - even though as president she would have the power to influence only federal laws, not state ones.

She supports halving current mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent drug offenders, retroactively applying equal sentencing to crack and powder cocaine offenses, and eliminating nonviolent drug offenses from the "strike" system.

Beyond criminal sentencing, drug-policy reform advocates have also looked to Clinton with the hope that she would adopt a progressive stance on federal marijuana laws and decriminalize the drug.

Clinton is in favor of reclassifying marijuana to a Schedule II substance under the Controlled Substances Act, which would acknowledge its medical use. It is currently classified as a Schedule I elicit substance, putting it alongside drugs including heroin.

Clinton has been more wary, however, on the issue of recreational marijuana and opted to review how the policies have fared in states that have already legalized, such as Colorado.

In a similar vein, Trump has said he is "100%" in favor of legalizing medical marijuana but has been shakier on the drug's recreational use. He has said such policies should be "up to the states," but his close relationship with Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey - a vocal opponent of marijuana - has left marijuana advocates uneasy over whether Trump would be lenient with the drug.

Trump also hasn't spoken at length on his position on sentencing reform, but his tough-on-crime rhetoric suggests he might favor harsher sentences and oppose efforts to revisit mandatory minimums.

Reentry and integration

With the national conversation focused largely on preventive measures to mass incarceration, some advocates of criminal-justice reform have called on lawmakers to help lower recidivism rates and ease ex-felons' transitions back into society.

Clinton believes ex-felons should be allowed to vote and has promised executive action to "ban the box," which would prevent questions about criminal history being asked during the hiring of federal government employees and contractors. Clinton has also proposed a $5 billion investment in reentry jobs programs for ex-felons.

It's unclear where Trump stands on a "ban the box" initiative, but he has come out strongly against lawmakers who restore voting rights to ex-felons, whom he suspects will vote Democrat.

"You know what they just did in the state of Virginia - 200,000 people that were in prison for horrible crimes are being given the right to vote," he told a Rhode Island audience in April, lambasting Virginia's Democratic governor, Terry McAuliffe. "That's crooked politics. Because Virginia's a very close state."

Death penalty

The federal use of the death penalty dramatically expanded in the 1990s, and its modern use has grown increasingly at odds with its dwindling use in the state systems. Recent reports show that states' use of the death penalty is declining each year - in part because of widespread shortages of lethal-injection drugs - yet is propped up by a handful of counties that often demonstrate systemic failings, such as overzealous prosecutors, inadequate defense lawyers, and racial bias and exclusion.

These concerns have been projected onto the federal system as well, particularly in cases such as Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's, when the convicted Boston Marathon bomber was sentenced to death by a federal jury in Massachusetts, a state that devoutly opposes capital punishment.

Both Clinton and Trump support the death penalty - Clinton even splits with her party on this issue, favoring a limited-use policy while the Democratic platform endorses its abolishment. In a memorable exchange with a death-row exoneree in March, Clinton was asked how she could justify her stance on the death penalty given mounting awareness of wrongful convictions.

Clinton gave a meandering response, saying she would "breathe a sigh of relief" if the Supreme Court or the states eliminated the death penalty, but she believed it should still be used for those who commit "really heinous crimes."

She continued:

"Where I end up is this - and maybe it's a distinction that is hard to support - but at this point, given the challenges we face from terrorist activities, primarily in our country, that end up under federal jurisdiction, for very limited purposes I think it can still be held in reserve for those."

Trump appears to have fewer qualms about using the death penalty and said last year he would sign an executive order to mandate the death penalty for anyone convicted of killing police officers.

(source: Business Insider)

IRAN----mass execution

Mass Execution: 17 Prisoners Hanged at Vakilabad Prison

17 prisoners sentenced to death on drug related charges were reportedly hanged at Mashhad's Vakilabad Prison (Razavi Khorasan province, northwestern Iran) on Sunday September 11, 2016.

"There are currently about 400 prisoners in Vakilabad Prison who are on death row for drug related offenses, and their execution sentences have been confirmed," a close source tells Iran Human Rights.

Close sources say these 400 prisoners are all relatively new individuals who were arrested by Iranian authorities within the last 2 or 3 years. The hundreds of other death row prisoners who were detained in Vakilabad prior to this have reportedly been executed. Iran Human Rights (IHR) has previously reported about the secret executions of several hundred prisoners in the Vakilabad prison.

Iranian official sources, including the Judiciary and the media, have been silent about these 17 executions. In 2015, 61% of the executions carried out in Iran (approximately 596 executions) were not reported by Iranian official sources.

(source: Iran Human Rights)

SINGAPORE:

6 Bangladeshi men charged with murder of compatriot near Tuas View Dormitory

6 men from Bangladesh were on Tuesday (Sept 27) charged with the intentional murder of a compatriot near Tuas View Dormitory at 70 Tuas South Avenue 1 on Saturday night (Sept 24).

The foreign workers - Ripon Hasan Shahidullah Bhuiyan, 34; Ahamed Fahad, 32; Ahmed Kayes, 31; Sohel Rana Abdul Kadir, 30; Miah Mohammad Rasal, 28; and Goni Osman, 23 - are accused of taking part in an unlawful assembly with several other unknown people between 9.30pm and 9.47pm on Saturday.

The group's intention was allegedly to cause hurt to Mr Munshi Abdur Rahim, 32, also a Bangladeshi national, who later died.

The 6 men's charges did not state how Mr Munshi was killed.

The men will be remanded for one week at Central Police Division for investigators to probe the involvement of other accomplices.

The 6, who were arrested on Sunday (Sept 25), may also be brought out of remand.

The case will be mentioned again on Oct 4.

Under the law, an assembly of 5 or more people is considered unlawful under certain circumstances, such as if the group's intention is to commit a crime.

If a crime is indeed committed by a member of an unlawful assembly, every member of the group is then liable to be punished for that crime.

The punishment for murder with intention is the mandatory death penalty.

(source: straitstimes.com)

PHILIPPINES:

Duterte seeks death penalty in war on crim----Philippine president seeks restoration of capital punishment in his fight against drug traffickers and users.

President Rodrigo Duterte has made a case for the restoration of the death penalty in the Philippines, saying the law had previously lost its effectiveness because it was not fully implemented.

Duterte told reporters on Monday that past presidents had succumbed to the pressure of the Catholic church and other "bleeding hearts" who argued against capital punishment "because only God can kill".

"The problem with that is, I ask you, 'What if there is no God?'" Duterte said at the presidential palace in the capital, Manila.

"When a 1-year-old, an 18-month-old baby is taken from the mother's arms, brought under a jeep and raped, and killed, where is God," he asked.

"People in the Philippines no longer believe in the laws, because the fear is not there," Duterte said in a mix of Filipino and English.

"That is why I said, give me back the death penalty."

While professing that he personally believes in God, the Philippine leader said, the existence of a higher being is a "perpetual question" for him, when he sees "heartaches, sorrows and agony" around him.

Since he took office in June end, more than 3,500 people have been killed as part of Duterte's war on drug traffickers and users.

And he has not taken kindly to the global condemnation of the spiralling death toll. Last week the Philippine president lambasted EU after it called for "strict monitoring of human rights abuses" in the country.

Earlier this month, Duterte directed profanities at UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and US President Barack Obama, after they made similar comments about the mounting death toll in the the Asia Pacific nation.

On Friday, in a speech to police officers, Duterte made a similar comment while talking about illegal drugs in the country, and the rules of engagement in dealing with suspected drug criminals.

"Maybe God doesn't want all these killings. But nevermind, God is not my enemy. I'll talk to him when I get there," he said, drawing laughter from the officers.

"I'll ask him, 'If you are really God, you didn't do anything, and the Filipinos are going crazy'" with illegal drugs "by the millions", he said.

During the campaign, Duterte had promised to re-impose the death penalty as part of his policy to deal with illegal drugs in the country.

On Monday, he said he has "always been a hardliner when it comes to the penal laws".

(soruce: aljazeera.com)

KUWAIT:

US citizen gets death sentence

The Criminal Court presided by judge Mohammad Al-Mutairi has sentenced a US citizen to capital punishment for smuggling cocaine into Kuwait for the purpose of trafficking, reports Al- Jarida daily.

The convict is expected to appeal the verdict which may be upheld or commuted to life imprisonment. In Kuwait death penalty is carried out by hanging.

(source: arabtimesonline.com)

INDIA:

State ropes in AG, SGI to plead Yug Chandak's case in SC

Maharashtra government has roped in attorney general Mukul Rohatgi and solicitor general Ranjit Kumar to plead the prosecution's case in the murder of e8-year-old Yug Chandak in the Supreme Court. A communique by the government informed that either of them would plead the case, where the accused were awarded a rare double death by Nagpur Sessions Court, which was later confirmed by Nagpur bench of Bombay High Court.

Yug's father, Dr Mukesh Chandak, has also filed an intervention plea through counsel Rajendra Daga in the SC, praying to maintain the death penalty of the accused. Rajesh Dhanalal Daware (19) and Arvind Abhilash Singh (23), who had brutally killed the 8-year-old for ransom in 2014, had moved the apex court praying for leniency and acquittal.

Yug was murdered on September 1, 2014, sparking off outrage and protests across the city. It was the 2nd such killing in the city within 3 years, with another 8-year-old, Kush Katariya, having been killed by Ayush Naresh Pugalia on October 11, 2011, for extracting Rs2 crore ransom from his parents.

To take revenge on Yug's father, a noted dentist, and also extract ransom, Daware and Singh had hatched the conspiracy to kidnap and kill his son, a Standard II student of Centre Point School, Wardhaman Nagar. They killed Yug by smothering him on September 1, 2014 and buried his body in sand near a culvert on the desolate Gumthi-Gumthala Road near Patansawangi village, 27km from Nagpur. In all 26 injuries were found on Yug's body, most of them on or near the neck. The duo planned to escape after receiving the money but were arrested the very next day, after the Chandak family raised suspicion on Daware. During interrogation, both confessed to the crime and took the police to the spot where they had buried the body.

(source: The Times of India)

PAKISTAN:

Imminent execution - Pakistan heads for breach of international law

Pakistan's Supreme Court today dismissed an appeal brought by lawyers for a severely mentally ill prisoner, who now faces execution in as little as a week's time.

Lawyers for Imdad Ali, who has been diagnosed with schizophrenia, argued that he should not be executed as to do so would violate both Pakistani and international law. Mr Ali came within hours of execution last week, despite prison doctors having assessed him as being "insane", including on the night before the execution.

Yet today, Supreme Court justices dismissed the appeal, claiming that a large proportion of Pakistani prisoners suffer from mental illness and they "cannot let everyone go." The judges conceeded that Imdad was mentally ill but concluded that they would dismiss the appeal because the case had already been considered by the Court and - in their view - nothing had changed.

Mr Ali's execution received a last-minute stay from the Supreme Court last week, but with that stay now expired, he could receive a new 'black warrant' and face execution as early as next Tuesday (4 October). Just hours before his scheduled hanging last week, Mr Ali's severe mental illness meant he was unaware that he was due to be executed.

The Pakistani Government is now the only body with the ability to halt Mr Ali's execution. Mr Ali's lawyers have sent a mercy petition to Pakistan's President Mamnoon Hussain with testimony from medical experts. The petition provides an array of medical evidence for the President to consider, such as a statement from psychiatric consultant Dr Feroze Khan, who examined Mr Ali's mental health and recommended that he be transferred to a mental health facility for active psychiatric treatment.

"It is indisputable that Imdad suffers from serious mental illness. There is therefore no doubt that, should Pakistan execute him, it will be committing a grave violation of both Pakistani and international law. It is shocking that the system has failed Imdad at every turn - right the way up to the Supreme Court. The Pakistan Government must immediately halt Imdad's execution, and undertake a comprehensive review into how someone who is clearly mentally unfit to be executed has been allowed to come so near to the noose."----Harriet McCulloch, Deputy Director of Reprieve's Death Penalty Team

A statement issued by 14 of Pakistan's leading psychiatrists also warns that executing Mr Ali would run contrary to Pakistani law. The experts, including Dr Malik Hussain Mubbasshar, Professor Emeritus at Lahore's University of Health Sciences, said that:"[The] Law does not allow such execution of prisoners suffering from this nature of mental disorder in which the prisoner is having a psychotic illness and is unable to know why he is being executed and what will be the consequence of this punishment."

Mr Ali comes from an extremely poor family. His family began to notice signs of mental illness as long ago as 1998 - but they could not afford to pay for private medical assessments, which could have identified his mental illness, and possible treatments, earlier. Following his initial detention, his mental illness has been exacerbated by 14 years in overcrowded prison cells and lengthy periods of solitary confinement.

(source: reprieve.uk.org)

*******************

Calls for Asia Bibi's release heightening as her case hearing date approaches

As the case hearing date of Asia Bibi draws nigh, calls for her release and acquittal increase nationwide. In this respect Christian organization Release International if calling upon Pakistan to ensure the Christian respondent's release. At the same time, there are calls to repeal the draconian blasphemy laws in the country.

Asia Bibi appeal case hearing

Asia Bibi's case hearing is scheduled to be heard by the Supreme Court of Pakistan in October, when her fate will be decided. Asia Bib has been on the death row since she was convicted of blasphemy a crime punishable by death. Section 295-C was invoked against the Christian woman which leads to capital punishment.

Release International is a Christian charity group which serves Christians persecuted for their faith, has called on the Prime Minister of Pakistan Nawaz Sahrif to repeal the blasphemy laws, which "are often invoked to take revenge, incite violent attacks and eliminate rivals."

In this regard, Chief executive of Release International, Paul Robinson said: "We call on the government of Pakistan to abolish the blasphemy laws and seek to create a society where every Pakistani citizen is free to exercise their faith and live in peace with their neighbors."

Asia Bibi, a Pakistan Christian woman was accused of committing blasphemy in 2009 and was arrested by the police in June the same year. She was charged under 295-C of Pakistan Penal Code, which is non-bailable and carries death penalty. In 2010, a local judge Muhammad Naveed Iqbal handed down death penalty to her along with a penalty of net amount equivalent of $1100.

Asia Bibi's defense counsel Advocate Saif-ul-Malook filed a petition against her death sentence in Supreme Court's Lahore registry. The Apex court previously halted her death sentence. "Asia Bibi anxiously awaits release from captivity, as she had certainly been guilty of what she has been convicted of."

(source: christiansinpakistan.com)

KENYA:

Murang'a residents want death penalty scrapped

Murang'a town residents have asked the government to come up with alternative penalties for capital offences, saying executions violate religious teachings. They spoke on Friday at a public forum organised by the Power of Mercy Advisory Committee.

They said convicts should be used to implement development projects such as road construction. Kikuyu Council of Elders' member Joachim Gitonga said life is sacred and the state should use traditional means to punish convicts.

But Murang'a Township chief Charles Muna said the death penalty should not be scrapped as it deters many people from engaging in capital crime.

(source: The Star)

SEPTEMBER 26, 2016:

NORTH CAROLINA:

Jury starts deliberations in Winston-Salem home-invasion killing; defendant could face death penalty

In closing arguments this morning, Forsyth County prosecutors painted Anthony Vinh Nguyen, on trial for the murder of an Ardmore woman in 2013, as a cool and calculating killer. But Nguyen's attorneys painted a different picture - that the evidence points to one of Nguyen's co-defendants as the one who actually pulled the trigger.

Nguyen, 24, has been on trial for 1st-degree murder, 1st-degree kidnapping, 1st-degree burglary and armed robbery in the death of Shelia Pace Gooden. Forsyth County prosecutors allege that Nguyen and 2 other men - Daniel Aaron Benson, 25, and Steven George Assimos, 24 - broke into Gooden's house at 700 Magnolia St. at 11:30 p.m. Oct. 10, 2013, held Gooden hostage and stole a flat-screen TV. They say Nguyen shot Gooden 3 times - once in the right leg and twice in the head.

After closing arguments, the jury was given instructions and started its deliberations. If convicted of 1st-degree murder, Nguyen could face the death penalty.

Assistant District Attorney Ben White said in closing arguments that Nguyen gave all three men clothing to disguise themselves and rubber gloves, drove the men to Gooden's house and knocked on Gooden's door. All of this was done in a cool and calm manner, he said.

Nguyen shot Gooden in the leg and then later, while she was kneeling on the ground and crying, Nguyen shot her again, this time twice in the head, White said. Nguyen didn't want to leave any witnesses, he told the jury.

"There is no calmer or cooler killer than the defendant," White said.

John Bryson, one of Nguyen's attorneys, said Nguyen is not the killer here. Benson pulled the trigger, he said.

Bryson pointed out that most of the gunshot residue investigators found was on the shoes Benson was wearing on Oct. 10, 2013. The gray hoodie that Nguyen wore had no gunshot residue, he said.

And Benson's testimony is not consistent with the physical evidence in the case, Bryson said. Benson testified that Nguyen shot Gooden in the head while in the living room, even though Gooden's body was found in the back hallway, Bryson said. Benson testified that he and Assimos were in the living room when Gooden was shot in the head.

According to testimony, a bullet was found underneath her head in the back hallway. Bryson said that indicates that she was shot in the back hallway and not in the living room. Assimos gave a different story than Benson's, he said.

Assimos testified that Benson was already outside when Gooden was shot and that Nguyen had moved Gooden from the living room to the back hallway. Assimos said he was outside when he heard 2 gunshots. Then Nguyen came out and said he had messed up and might have shot Gooden, Assimos testified.

Benson also had motive for the robbery and eventual murder, Bryson said. There had been a longstanding feud between Gooden's son, Cory Joe Prince, and Benson because Benson believed Prince had sex with Benson's then-girlfriend. At a party in September 2013, Benson and Prince got into an altercation during which Prince swung a machete, Bryson said.

Assistant District Attorney Jennifer Martin said Assimos and Benson didn't give identical testimony but they were consistent that Nguyen was the one who drove them to the house and Nguyen was the one who provided dark clothing for disguise and rubber gloves.

Martin also criticized Nguyen's testimony that he dropped off Assimos and Benson at the house and went to a nearby store to get cigarettes during the time when Gooden was killed. She said it was convenient that Nguyen was with Assimos and Benson all day on Oct. 10, 2013, except for the 10 minutes during which Gooden was shot to death.

"This is not a conspiracy or a plot against the defendant," she said.

(source: Winston-Salem Journal)

GEORGIA:

Trial to begin for man accused of robbing, killing Vernon Forrest

The trial of a man facing the death penalty for allegedly robbing and killing a champion boxer in Atlanta in July 2009 is set to begin Monday in Fulton County.

Charmon Sinkfield faces 2 counts of murder, 6 counts of felony murder, armed robbery and other related charges in connection with the death of Vernon Forrest.

On July 25, 2009, Forrest was robbed at gunpoint by Demario Ware at a Southwest Atlanta gas station as the boxer put air in his tire. Ware stole Forrest's championship ring and Rolex watch. Forrest chased Ware, but lost him near an apartment complex on McDaniel Street. Forrest then encountered the Charmon Sinkfield. As Forrest turned away, Sinkfield shot him 7 times, including 5 times in the back.

Ware was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole.

Jury selection is set to begin Monday. If convicted, Sinkfield could receive the death penalty.

Forrest, a former world boxing champion, competed between 1992 and 2008. He won the International Boxing Federation's welterweight title in 2001; held the unified welterweight titles from 2002-2003; and the WBC super welterweight title twice, from 2007 to 2009, according to his Wikipedia profile.

(source: Fox news)

ALABAMA:

Death row inmate wants chance to argue for firing squad

An Alabama death row inmate says the courts should allow him to argue that getting shot would be a less painful way to die than enduring the state's current execution protocol.

In a filing with the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals Friday, attorneys for Thomas Arthur, convicted in 1982 in a murder-for-hire scheme, say the sedative used in Alabama's lethal injection procedure could possibly trigger a heart attack before the administration of the lethal drugs in the procedure. Arthur's attorneys said in the filing a district court improperly denied him the ability to argue for alternative methods of execution - such as a firing squad, a different sedative or changes to the current protocol.

"Absent this court's intervention, Mr. Arthur will soon be executed with having been afforded the chance to prove that Alabama's method of execution is highly likely to subject him to agonizing pain," the filing stated.

The Alabama Supreme Court earlier this month set a Nov. 3 execution date for Arthur. Mike Lewis, a spokesman for the Alabama attorney general's office, said they had no comment. Bob Horton, a spokesman for the Alabama Department of Corrections, said in a statement the department "is prepared to carry out the execution as ordered by the Alabama Supreme Court."

The filing, the latest in a years-long challenge brought by Arthur against the state's death penalty, follows a July ruling that dismissed his challenge. Arthur's attorneys want the circuit to send the case back to Alabama for further consideration.

Arthur first filed suit over the state's methods of execution in 2011. The inmate argued that the sedative in the procedure - 1st pentobarbital, then sodium midazolam - would not render him unconscious in time to avoid the pain associated with rorcuronium bromide, which paralyzes the muscles, or potassium chloride, which stops the heart. Arthur's attorneys said that violated his Eighth Amendment protections against cruel and unusual punishment.

Attorneys for Arthur also said Alabama Departments of Corrections officials did not regularly apply a consciousness test to inmates before administering the last 2 drugs in the execution protocol, a violation of his 14th Amendment due process rights.

Arthur won several stays of execution while his challenge and others to the constitutionality of the sedatives used in the procedure went forward. In 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Glossip v. Gross, a challenge to Oklahoma's use of midazolam, that those challenging the constitutionality of an execution method had to propose one that would be less painful.

The inmate tried to argue that the state should use pentobarnital instead of midazolam at a trial in January, but lost that case as well as later motions to change the protocol due to Arthur suffering cardiovascular disease. Writing in July, U.S. Magistrate Judge Keith Watkins wrote that Arthur had no had a health evaluation since 2009 and had not made "good faith" efforts to square his medical condition with the way the state proposes to execute him.

"Intense prodding by the court saw Arthur essentially standing mute as to the existence of a specific remedy, i.e., a proposed alternative method of execution, for an alleged unconstitutional risk," he wrote.

Arthur's attorneys say that due to their client's health issues, the use of midazolam could give him a heart attack before staff administers the fatal drugs. They also argue that the trial court should not have prevented him from arguing for execution by firing squad, citing Utah's use of the procedure in 2010.

"Over the past century, a firing squad execution has never resulted in a botched execution (i.e., resulting in an agonizing death for the inmate), in contrast to more than 7 % of lethal injection executions," the briefing said.

The state argued that execution by firing squad was not a method available in the state.

Arthur also argues the use of pentobarbital, or modifications to the midazolam protocol, may do a better job rendering him unconscious. Arthur originally challenged pentobarbital's use - the state had run out of the sedative by 2014, which led to the switch to midazolam - but his attorneys wrote that was about the use of pentobarbital in the old protocol, and that the "gradual administration" of the drug would not reflect Arthur's initial complaint. The appeal also suggests the lower court applied the Eighth Amendment -- not the Fourteenth -- in dismissing Arthur's concerns over the consciousness test

The inmate's attorneys argue the court accepted "perfunctory" arguments from DOC personnel that they could not obtain pentobarbital, and prevented his defense from discovery that might have added more information about DOC's efforts in that regard.

"Mr. Arthur is thus . . . required on the one hand to prove the availability of an alternative execution method to ADOC, but prevented, on the other, from developing the factual record to meet that burden," they wrote.

The state executed Christopher Brooks in January for the 1992 rape, murder and robbery of Jo Deann Campbell. Witnesses said Brooks showed no visible signs of distress during his execution. The state planned to execute Vernon Madison in May for the 1985 murder of Mobile police officer Julius Schulte, but the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals stayed the execution due to questions about the effect a series of strokes had on Madison's state of mind.

(source: Montgomery Advertiser)

*******************************

Saraya Atkins sentencing: Brutal murder followed troubled childhood, lawyers say

Defense attorneys for Saraya Atkins, who was found guilty of capital murder in the robbery and shooting of Robert Perry in 2014, sought to prove to jurors that Atkins rough upbringing and neglect from her parents led to her poor decision making.

The penalty phase of the trial began in the courtroom of Judge Michael Youngpeter Monday morning.

Mobile District Attorney Ashley Rich and Defense Attorney James Vollmer had brief opening statements to the jury before testimony began. Vollmer had his assistant attorney, Greg Hughes, plead to jurors that Atkins is not the worst of the worst and does not deserve the death penalty.

He told jurors before testimony began, "She was a loving and caring person, she still has potential and there is still value in that girl's life."

Police say Atkins and another woman, Kymberli Lindsay, 27 robbed and then killed Robert Perry, 66.

Atkins sat quietly as most of her family members waited in the hallway during testimony, while Perry's family members sat quietly in the front row.

Rich opened testimony with Perry's stepdaughter, Stephanie Finney, 45, explaining her relationship with Perry to jurors, which began when he married her mother when she was 18.

"He was everything to me, said Finney. "My daddy turned his back on me and he took up that role when another person shouldn't have too."

She told jurors he assisted her in raising her own son after his father left. She described him as a outgoing, positive and forward pushing person who saw the good in everyone.

When Rich asked her about her last memory of Perry, she burst into tears.

"Not one day or night I don't see him drowning on his own blood," said Finney. "I will never get over that day."

The testimony of Perry being outgoing and very family oriented continued as his daughter Angela Perry and his wife Barbara Ann Flores-Perry's statements.

Angela told jurors how he would spend three to six months at her home in Washington state each year to help with her children. He said he spent time taking his grandchildren to Vancouver Island, which was one of his favorite places.

Perry's wife, Barbara Ann, said he had 13 brothers and sisters, 8 children and 18 grandchildren. Throughout their 25 year relationship and marriage, she described him as a hard worker, while photos of him with his grandchildren were shown to her on the stand.

"He worked since he was 14 helping his mother take care of his sisters and brothers and that carried on to his children and grandchildren," said Flores-Perry. "He was my soulmate. "

The defense set out to detail Atkins life growing up with her mother, Shawnette Spicer, when she gave her emotional hour long testimony.

She testified to jurors that she became pregnant with Atkins at 18 and she was her oldest child. Once her family found out about the pregnancy, she was quickly disowned by her family in Michigan and moved around with Atkins. She told jurors Atkins biological father was in and out of prison all of her life.

Vollmer put photos of Atkins on the monitors in the courtroom showing her as a 10 pound baby a few days after Spicer had given birth. Spicer burst into tears.

"She was so big and so sweet," said Spicer. "I can't understand it."

After moving from Michigan to Georgia to stay with a relative she said things got bad with Atkins behavior even as a infant.

"Kicked out of 5 daycares. I couldn't understand it," said Spicer.

She moved back to Michigan and became homeless living wherever she could with Atkins. She finally found a job, enrolled in college and started a new relationship with an abusive man. That relationship ended after she was physically abused and raped by the man and he was sent to prison. Spicer said once he was gone, she often had to leave Atkins at home alone at 5-years-old to go to night classes.

"I didn't know what I was thinking. I didn't have anybody to leave her with so I left a tray of food and her favorite TV show on while she slept," said Spicer.

She said one night she returned home from a 2 hour class and Atkins was screaming in the window of the apartment.

"I screamed at her and fussed and whipped her," said Spicer. "I never once said I was sorry for doing that to her."

She cried loudly throughout her testimony looking at Atkins, seemingly as if she was testifying to her. Spicer said she got married to her current husband when Atkins was 4-years-old. While she testified that he was always loving and caring toward Atkins, she always seemed to hate him.

"Saraya was so difficult," said Spicer.

She testified about having Atkins taken to jail at 4-years-old for stealing and having multiple counseling sessions.

"She was peeing on the floor and I would whoop her," said Spicer. "I didn't understand. I thought she may have been retarded."

She continued saying that she would whip Atkins whenever she did things wrong. By the age of 9, Atkins was sent to stay in Chicago with Spicer's sister. A few months later she was brought back to Michigan to live with Spicer.

During that stint, at the age of 10 she lived with Spicer's mother until she was arrested for stealing her grandmother's credit cards. A few months later, Atkins stole her mother's car and was arrested for joyriding.

"I would call the police for her in an attempt to scare her straight, said Spicer. "It seems to me I jacked it up."

While Atkins continued to make decent grades in school, Spicer said she also became more defiant and would not follow rules.

At 16, Atkins moved in with a friend and her parents.

"I presented her with the same ultimatum my father had given me when I became pregnant with Saraya: Abide by my rules or get out."

Atkins finished high school and came to Mobile with her high school sweetheart to attend Bishop State College. After their relationship went bad, Atkins moved out on her own.

After losing a few jobs and dropping out of school, Atkins found herself calling her mother for monetary help before the robbery and shooting of Perry. Atkins claimed that she had been robbed.

In a huge burst of tears Spicer told jurors, "I said, 'Saraya, what's wrong?'

'She said I got robbed,'" said Spicer. "I told her I didn't have the money until the weekend."

The following morning she got a call about the shooting of Perry. When defense attorney Vollmer asked her how the death sentence would impact her she said it would kill her.

Spicer who told jurors she now holds multiple degrees and has found financial security and that it's her fault Atkins followed the wrong path.

"I have it all because I didn't take care of her," said Spicer. "I'm the one that's guilty."

(source: al.com)

MISSOURI:

Death-Penalty Drugmaker Shouldn't Be Anonymous

In a case that evokes a modern-day hangman's mask, a pharmacy that provides lethal drugs for carrying out the death penalty is arguing that it has a constitutional right to anonymity. The argument should fail, because there's no right to confidentiality in providing government services. But it shows just how dangerously far the idea of corporate constitutional rights has gone in the era of Citizens United and Hobby Lobby.

The strange situation, as reported by BuzzFeed News, arose out of a lawsuit by death row inmates in Mississippi who are arguing that the particular combination of drugs used by their state as its method of execution is cruel and unusual. In the course of the suit, the Mississippi inmates subpoenaed the Missouri Department of Corrections to find out, among other things, what drugs the state uses in its execution cocktail and who provides them. In response, Missouri argued that it had a sovereign right to keep confidential the identity of its supplier.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit is considering whether to quash the subpoena. It has allowed Missouri's supplying pharmacy, identified in court papers only as M7, to file its own argument with the court.

Quicktake Lethal Injections

M7, which has sold more than $125,000 worth of lethal chemicals to Missouri, said its identity shouldn't be disclosed, because it has a First Amendment free-speech right to act in support of the death penalty on the basis of its political views.

The broader context here is that abolitionist opponents of the death penalty have been shaming the corporations that provide drugs intended to kill people at execution. The technique has been surprisingly effective, with some 20 major pharmaceutical companies, such as Pfizer, saying their products must not be used in executions. As a result, a number of states have had difficulty getting anyone to sell them the drugs they need to execute by lethal injection. A recent Council of State Governments newsletter spoke of a "lethal injection drug shortage."

Anonymity, of course, is a way to avoid shaming. But M7's constitutional argument is deeply flawed. (I almost wrote "fatally flawed" -- but the ubiquitous legal metaphor is a little too close to home in this case.)

The core of M7's argument is that the First Amendment includes a right to speak anonymously. Under certain circumstances, that's true. In the landmark 1958 case of NAACP v. Alabama, for example, the Supreme Court held that the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People couldn't be obligated to disclose the identity of its membership. In the background was the concern that the members could be subject to harassment for exercising their First Amendment right to speak and associate.

But there's an enormous difference between speaking and acting -- particularly when that action is a for-profit commercial transaction with the government. A government contractor like Halliburton, for example, might be subject to public criticism for a contract like the cost-plus arrangement the company had with the Defense Department during and after the U.S. occupation of Iraq. The potential for public criticism wouldn't justify a claim by Halliburton to keep its provision of services secret.

To the contrary, in a democracy, it's crucially important for the government to disclose its vendors, both to avoid corruption1 and to promote transparency.

More fundamentally, M7 isn't speaking at all: It's performing the act of selling drugs. This behavior can be subject to ordinary regulation, including public disclosure if ordered by a court. The company shouldn't be able to protect its actions from regulation simply by insisting that it is performing them out of political belief. If that were plausible, businesses could escape all sorts of government regulation by saying that they really, really believe in their corporate mission.

But despite the flimsiness of its legal arguments, there's a reason M7 is trying to get away with its free-speech argument: the trend in recent years toward constitutionalizing corporate interests. The Citizens United decision in which the Supreme Court by a 5-4 vote held that the First Amendment applied to corporate speech, is the most prominent example.

At least in Citizens United, the corporation was actually speaking. In Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, the justices, again split 5-4, applied the Religious Freedom Restoration Act to a corporation's funding of its employees' health care. True, that case technically involved federal law, not the First Amendment. But the subtle difference is easily lost. In essence, the court held that a corporation has a legal right to the liberty of conscience in its business dealings.

A similar impulse lies behind claims by florists or wedding cake bakers who want to be exempt from antidiscrimination laws that might require them to serve gay couples. They are saying that they should be protected by religious liberty so that they may discriminate invidiously while engaged in commercial transactions.

The M7 situation helps demonstrate why it's so dangerous to treat corporations as though they have fundamental constitutional rights while doing business. Those basic rights are designed to protect individuals against government power. They aren't supposed to be used to exempt businesses from regulation or publicity whenever it's convenient for them.

1.----In this case, there's actually the possibility of something fishy: Missouri has been paying M7 $7,188.88 for 2 vials of pentobarbital for each execution, a price that is allegedly above market value.

(source: Bloomberg news)

NEW MEXICO:

Death penalty fight steals focus from NM budget crisis

Until last month, Gov. Susana Martinez resisted calls for a special session by lawmakers. Facing a budget shortfall for the current year of $458 million following another bad budget year, Sen. John Arthur Smith (who heads the Legislative Finance Committee) and other legislators called for a session to figure out how to pay the bills and contain the catastrophe.

Calling a special session is the governor's prerogative, and she sets the agenda at that session. By July, confronting public pressure to call lawmakers back, Martinez allowed that she might call a special session for as little as 4 hours, though she offered no hint as to how the budget gap, without sweeping layoffs of state workers or any compromise on taxation, could be solved in four hours.

Now the governor has announced that she will add a bill reinstating the death penalty to the special session, not at next year's session as previously planned. So much for concentrating on our budget emergency. Indeed, she has hinted that other tough-on-crime measures might also be on the agenda. These are all spending items, at a time when revenue is dropping or being left uncollected, and painful cuts are being made. Late last week, the Associated Press reported that the state has failed to collect at least $193 million in taxes on insurance premiums. That's an awful lot of revenue left on the table while people and their communities suffer.

The governor seeks to create an opening to reinstate capital punishment by allowing it for the murderers of children or police officers. She is capitalizing on public anger over a few recent cases: the murders of Hatch police officer Jose Chavez, Alamogordo officer Clint Corvinus, and the incomprehensible torture of 10-year old Victoria Martens in Albuquerque.

Capital punishment might satisfy an impulsive desire for blood vengeance but criminologists have shown in numerous studies that it offers no more deterrent value than long prison terms. Some of the states with the highest murder rates are death penalty states. This conforms to common sense: the impulses and infirmities of a murderer's mind are not held in check by reasoned consideration of penalties.

Minus deterrent value, capital punishment merely empowers the state to commit violence and posits sadism and revenge as platforms of a civilization. It should also give us pause that over 150 innocent people have been rescued from death row, with the average time between conviction and exoneration over 11 years. This, along with its pointless cruelty towards the rightfully convicted, argues for a moratorium on the practice on grounds of due process of law and human dignity.

It is not only a matter of morality, but of governance. Death penalty systems waste money, and since abandoning this savagery in 2009, New Mexico has saved millions of dollars each year. As for reducing crime, some proven deterrents include good employment, housing, access to food, health care (including treatment for addiction), crisis intervention, counseling services, and education - all of which are affected by the state's budget crisis. Remember that? That was the original reason for a special session.

Yet we have money to spend on death penalty cases and executions, says this governor who wants to close drug treatment centers and build more cells on death row. Even if this effort fails, the governor might be able to embarrass rival lawmakers ahead of the election, even if it means exploiting human loss for political gain.

Meanwhile, any hope of responsible governance during the state's fiscal emergency is being squandered.

(source: Opinion; Algernon D'Ammassa, Las Cruces Sun)

USA:

Roof jury selection underway in Charleston federal death penalty case

The 1st of some 3,000 potential jurors in the Dylan Roof death penalty trial began reporting Monday to the U.S. District courthouse in downtown Charleston.

Jurors were summoned, some 80 at a time, before U.S. Judge Richard Gergel, whose questions were aimed at weeding out those who obviously cannot or who will elect not to serve: people over 70, having no one else to care for young children and the like. Also to be excluded: those whose minds are already made up about Roof's guilty, or whether to impose the death penalty.

Roof, 22, a self-proclaimed white supremacist, is charged with federal hate crimes resulting in death in the June 2015 slayings of 9 African-Americans who were attending an evening Bible study at historic "Mother" Emanuel AME church downtown.

Of the first 80 prospective jurors in court on this morning, some 90 % were white. 9 were black. All were somber. Gergel deferred 2 teachers.

The initial jury selection is taking place in a relatively small courtroom on the 4th floor of an old federal courthouse on Broad Street. It has only about 80 seats, nearly all of which were taken up Monday by prospective jurors.

Gergel allowed a sketch artist, along with one pool print reporter to write accounts of what happened. Other journalists watched the proceedings on a flat-screen television in a nearby courtroom. Unlike state court, no cameras or reporters' tape recorders are allowed in federal court. The in-court proceedings in this story were furnished by the pool reporter.

Roof stared down at his defense table during much of the morning. During Monday’s initial session, he appeared unemotional. In numerous pretrial hearings since last year, he has waived his right to be present in court.

The Roof case is set to be one of the most sensational criminal trials ever held in South Carolina, due to the racial dimensions of the case and the brutality of the crime.

Underscoring the emotionalism of the trial and the effect of publicity about the case, Judge Gergel has ordered dozens of pretrial documents to be kept secret so as not to taint the jury pool.

Roof also faces charges of murder in Charleston County state court. Prosecutor Scarlett Wilson is also seeking the death penalty in that case. Jury selection is set to begin in January in that case.

Monday's proceeding in federal court is designed to produce a smaller pool of some 700 prospective jurors. Those potential jurors will begin a more detailed questioning session on Nov. 7. The actual trial will not start until late November, observers estimate.

It's the opening day of a long, tedious and potentially confusing jury selection process in the Dylan Roof federal trial in the June 2015 slayings of 9 African-Americans at a historic downtown Charleston church.

(source: thestate.com)

SAUDI ARABIA----execution

Saudi Arabia executes Ethiopian maid

Saudi authorities on Monday executed an Ethiopian housemaid convicted of killing the child of her employer more than 3 years ago, the Interior Ministry said.

The ministry noted in a statement that the execution was carried out after the death sentence was endorsed by the king.

Meanwhile the convict had confessed having knifed to death the 6-year-old girl in June 2013, allegedly in retaliation for her family's ill-treatment.

Monday's beheading brings to 119 the total number of executions so far this year in the conservative kingdom.

According to international rights groups, Saudi Arabia is among the top executioners in the world.

On Jan. 2, authorities beheaded 47 people, including a prominent Shiite cleric, on terrorism-related charges.

Report says Saudi Arabia has imposed death penalty for murder, armed robbery, banditry, rape, drug-trafficking and witchcraft.

The kingdom, which applies a strict interpretation of Islamic law, has repeatedly rejected calls to end the death penalty, saying the punishment deters would-be offenders.

The rate of crime in Saudi Arabia is often described as low by foreign ministries and other sources.

In many countries, there are established minimum and maximum sentences for different crimes or a penal code; in Saudi Arabia, that is virtually non-existent.

Only a handful of crimes, including murder, adultery and "consensual sexual relations between adults of the same sex," carry specific punishments, and in each of those cases, it's death, according to Death Penalty Worldwide.

(source: dailytrust.com.ng)

JORDAN:

Family of murdered writer calls for Jordanian prime minister to resign

The family of a Jordanian writer who was shot dead outside an Amman courthouse called on the prime minister to resign on Monday.

"We demand that all those whose actions lead to the assassination of the martyr be held accountable," said Majed Hattar, 51, a brother of murdered Nahed Hattar. He added that the family had so far refused to collect the 56-year-old's body for burial.

Nahed Hattar, an outspoken leftist and secular writer from a Christian family, was shot 3 times at close range on Sunday as he arrived at the court of justice to face charges of offending Islam. His killer, who was arrested at the scene, has been identified as Riyad Ismaeel Abdullah, 49. Local media has said he holds extremist views.

On Monday, authorities referred Abdullah to the state security court on terrorism-related charges. A judicial source said he had been remanded for 15 days and faces the death penalty.

Meanwhile, around 300 of Hattar's relatives rallied in front of the prime minister's office, chanting slogans against Hani Mulki who was reappointed to the role on Sunday following parliamentary elections.

"Out out Mulki," they chanted. "Mulki you coward, you betrayed justice."

Hattar's family said the writer was given no protection by the authorities despite receiving hundreds of death threats after he shared a cartoon on Facebook that was deemed offensive to Islam.

"We handed over 200 names [of people who had threatened the writer] to the governor [of Amman], including that of the assassin, and demanded protection," said Khaled Hattar, another of the victim's brothers.

"But he refused, saying there was 'no real threat'."

Relatives also say Hattar's death could have been prevented if Mr Mulki had not ordered an investigation into the writer's sharing of the cartoon, which resulted in multiple charges against him, including offending Islam, inciting sectarian strife and racism, and insulting religion.

"The prime minister should have left it to the judiciary," said Mary Hattar, 58, one of Nahed's cousins. "He asked for protection but when he was released from prison he was asked to sign a document [stating] that he was responsible for his own safety."

Human Rights Watch agreed that the charges against Hattar made him a target for "vigilante reprisals".

"Nahed Hattar's senseless murder in front of an Amman courthouse comes on the heels of the government's senseless charges against him over a cartoon he posted to his Facebook page," said Sarah Leah Whitson, the New York-based organisation's Middle East director.

"Arbitrary prosecutions for defamation of religion stigmatise individuals and make them targets for vigilante reprisals."

(source: The National)

PAKISTAN:

Stop execution of death row prisoner with mental disability

Pakistan's authorities must not execute Imdad Ali, a death row prisoner with a history of mental illness, Amnesty International said today.

Imdad Ali was convicted of the murder of a religious teacher in 2002. In 2012, he was diagnosed a suffering from "paranoid schizophrenia," a condition the doctor who examined him described as "a chronic and disabling psychiatric illness."

Dr. Naeemullah Leghari, the head of psychiatry at Nishtar Hospital in the central Pakistani city of Multan, added that Imdad Ali's illness "impairs the person's rational thinking and decision-making capabilities."

The latest execution was scheduled for Tuesday, 20th September 2016, but he was given a stay at the last minute so the Supreme Court could consider whether his execution warrant should be suspended on grounds of his mental illness.

On Tuesday 27 September, the Supreme Court will hold a hearing to decide whether to suspend Imdad Ali's execution warrant.

Imdad Ali remains at risk of execution. If the Supreme Court rejects the petition to suspend the execution warrant, a new date for execution can be set immediately.

This is the 2nd execution warrant that has been issued in Imdad Ali's case. In 2015, the Pakistani Supreme Court rejected his appeal, ruling that there was no evidence of his mental disability.

However, the Supreme Court's judgment shows that Imdad Ali's lawyer had not included the 2012 medical report diagnosing him with paranoid schizophrenia as evidence. This oversight raises fair trial concerns.

"The minority of the world's countries that still resort to the death penalty can only do so in line with international human rights standards. This includes the prohibition against executing against people with mental illness. Imdad Ali should not be subjected to this cruel punishment," said Champa Patel.

Background

Pakistan is the world's 3rd most prolific executioner after China and Iran. Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all circumstances, regardless of the crime or the method of execution. It is the ultimate, cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment.

Pakistan has executed more than 400 people since a moratorium on executions was lifted in December 2014. Some of the prisoners executed were juveniles at the time of the offence they were convicted for or had a mental disability.

Amnesty International is also concerned that in Pakistan many death sentences are handed down after trials that do not meet international fair trial standards and violate Article 10(A) of Pakistan's constitution, which calls for a fair trial and due process for the determination of a person's civil rights and obligations in any criminal charge.

(source: Amnesty International)

TEXAS:

HCN wins Dallas Bar Association award

The Hood County News is the recipient of a 2016 Stephen Philbin Award for excellence in legal reporting from the Dallas Bar Association. Winners were announced Friday during a luncheon at the Belo Mansion in downtown Dallas.

Since 2008, the HCN has won 5 Philbin Awards. 2 have been grand prizes.

The HCN won in the suburban category for its 2-year death penalty research project, which involved going through every death penalty case file at the Court of Criminal Appeals in Austin and working with staff at the Texas State Library and Archives Commission. Documents obtained through the research show the time between indictment and judgment, which could indicate whether a defendant was rushed to trial, as well as the names of individual defense and state attorneys involved in each case. The data was compiled into a spreadsheet and made available to researchers, journalists and students through the Texas Center for Community Journalism.

(source: Hood County News)

MISSOURI:

Pharmacy Argues There's A First Amendment Right To Secretly Sell Execution Drugs----Selling execution drugs "is an expression of political views, no different than signing a referendum petition or selling a t-shirt," an anonymous pharmacy argues in a new court filing.

A pharmacy whose drugs have been used in 16 Missouri executions is arguing that its actions are political speech protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution, and that its identity should remain secret.

Death row inmates in Mississippi subpoenaed information from the Missouri Department of Corrections - including about the drugs and supplier - months ago. Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster has attempted to have the subpoena quashed, but so far has been unsuccessful.

In the past 2 weeks, the supplier has spoken up for the 1st time, under the pseudonym "M7." In a motion filed late Friday night, M7 said its drug sales are political speech.

The "decision to provide lethal chemicals to the Department was based on M7's political views on the death penalty, and not based on economic reasons," M7 wrote in an affidavit.

Although the pharmacy argues its execution drug sales are not based on economic reasons, it has made considerable money in the process.

Missouri has paid M7 more than $125,000, all in cash, for execution drugs, according to documents obtained by BuzzFeed News. The amount they are paid per execution - $7,188.88 for 2 vials of pentobarbital - is well above market value, and experts have expressed concern that the cash deals could violate federal tax law.

"The fact that M7's expression of political views involves a commercial transaction does not diminish M7's First Amendment rights," the pharmacy's attorneys wrote in Friday's court filing.

Selling execution drugs "is an expression of political views, no different than signing a referendum petition or selling a t-shirt."

Although M7 repeatedly cites a Supreme Court case - Doe v. Reed - for the proposition that "compelled disclosure of signatory information on referendum [is] subject to First Amendment review," M7 does not mention the outcome in the 2010 case: The Supreme Court ruled that petition signers, in general, are not protected by the First Amendment against having their identity revealed under a state's public records law.

While the court was split on whether petition signers' names could ever be shielded from public scrutiny, a majority of the court appeared skeptical. The court, however, left the possibility open, with Chief Justice Roberts writing for the court, "[T]hose resisting disclosure can prevail under the First Amendment if they can show 'a reasonable probability that the compelled disclosure [of personal information] will subject them to threats, harassment, or reprisals from either Government officials or private parties.'"

It is that possibility that M7 uses to press its case for avoiding disclosure here.

Mississippi death row inmates have subpoenaed the Missouri execution drug information to help make their case against the Mississippi Department of Corrections in a challenge to its current execution protocol. In order to succeed, the inmates have to come up with a better method of execution. Their attorneys have subpoenaed information from several other states who have carried out executions recently.

M7's attorneys say the pharmacy will not sell execution drugs to Mississippi - and speculated that the subpoena would be "nothing more than a sham.":

"At issue in this matter is whether the discovery process can be used to find out the names of lethal chemical suppliers so that anti-death penalty activists may harass and boycott those suppliers in an effort to coerce them into not supplying lethal chemicals," the attorneys wrote.

M7 argues - using the Doe v. Reed case - that it is afraid of facing boycotts, harassment, and even threats if its identity were revealed. The pharmacy sought out the opinion of a "threat assessment expert" to lay out his opinion in their motion.

The expert, Lawrence Cunningham, has testified about the threats to execution drug suppliers in Texas and Ohio as well. BuzzFeed News recently revealed that Cunningham's marquee example - that the FBI investigated a serious bomb threat to a supplier - was false. Cunningham spoke to no compounding pharmacies as part of his research, and based much of his opinion on social media.

M7 appears to have copied, quite literally, the evidence from the Texas and Ohio cases in making its argument that disclosing the information is unsafe - although, this time, Cunningham made no mention made of the now-discredited alleged FBI investigation.

"[T]here is a significant and substantial threat of physical harm to the compounding company/pharmacy, delivery personnel and pharmacist, as well as others in the vicinity of the compounding company/pharmacy if the identity of the compounding company/pharmacy or pharmacist is publicly disclosed," Cunningham wrote in an declaration.

This is the 2nd time the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals has heard the case. Originally the court declined to quash the subpoena, arguing much of the state's argument was speculation. But at the request of Missouri, the court agreed to rehear the case.

This past week, the M7 pharmacy also attempted to intervene in an open records lawsuit that has been ongoing for more than 2 years in Missouri by several First Amendment groups, media outlets, and this reporter.

(source: buzzfeed.com)

NEBRASKA:

No wiggle room on the death penalty

Tom Venzor, the executive director for the Nebraska Catholic Conference, purports to summarize the church's moral guidance on the death penalty (More Commentary, Sept. 19 World-Herald).

While his commentary reaches the correct conclusion - that the death penalty should remain abolished in Nebraska - it errs in 3 respects:

--It offers Catholics (like Gov. Pete Ricketts) seeming justification for defying the church's teachings.

--It nowhere mentions Pope Francis' unequivocal demand for "global elimination" of the death penalty.

--It ignores the simple teaching of the Ten Commandments, applicable to all Christian faiths: Thou shall not kill.

Respectfully, the Nebraska Catholic Conference, as a teaching resource for all, should be as clear and unequivocal as is the pope, and it should offer no political cover for Catholics who reject clear church teaching.

And to the anti-big-government conservatives who are unconcerned with the morality of taking human life, we should ask: Why do you fear the government taking our guns but authorize big government to take its citizens' lives?

Tom Kenny, Omaha

(source: Letter to the Editor, Omaha World-Herald)

NEW MEXICO:

Activist shares her experience with wrongful convictions

It is possible to murder a woman without killing her - all you have to do is break her.

Jennifer Thompson's voice quavered slightly during her speech at the UNM School of Law on Thursday evening, as she described the night she lost herself.

At 3 a.m. on July 29, 1984, Thompson died while she was raped in her own bed. While not clinically dead, she said she had died on the inside.

Nearly every audience member's eyes filled with tears as she told listeners the thoughts that went through her mind while the attacker, who had broken into her home, violated her.

A sorrowful silence settled over the crowd as she recounted every detail of her attacker with no hesitation: 5-foot-11-inches tall, somewhere between the age of 21 to 23, light-skinned African-American male, a pencil-thin mustache and close-cropped hair. He wore a dark blue shirt with white stripes, white knit gloves that ended at his wrists, olive-green or maybe gray tight khaki pants and slip-on canvas boat shoes - dark blue or maybe black.

Though she survived the assault in a physical sense, the hopeful 22-year-old college student who aspired to become a physical therapist was gone.

"I had gone to bed Jennifer Thompson, this girl full of potential and possibilities, and my future was right in front of me," Thompson said. "That part of my life would be over in less than 30 minutes. I would never, ever see that girl again."

In her place would be the new Jennifer Thompson - the rape victim who had a duty to remember her experience, the victim who prayed to God every night that her attacker would be raped in prison and then murdered.

Thompson told listeners how she spent the next decade trying to find meaning in her life after working with police to identify and put away the serial rapist who had assaulted her and numerous other women - including 1 within an hour after Thompson had escaped him.

She told of the day everything changed in June 1995 when DNA testing proved that Ronald Cotton, the man who she identified as her rapist and testified against, was innocent.

"Here's the thing - I had been a rape victim for 11 years. I knew what to do with that. What do I do with this?"

Thompson then told of the start of her journey to become who she is today. She met with Cotton in April 1997 and told him how sorry she was for putting him in prison, and they became close friends after that.

"We had travelled this parallel journey of hurt and from that place, we could begin to build. From that place, we could begin to reconcile," she said. "Ronald taught me that day that love and hate cannot coexist in the same human heart. That you cannot be a peaceful person and an angry person in the same human spirit. It doesn't work like that. Ronald Cotton freed me that day."

From there, Thompson said she went on to become an advocate for change in the justice system, testifying to how flawed and imperfect eyewitness accounts actually are.

Years later, in the summer of 2000, she would find herself in Houston, in a room full of exonerated men, and 1 woman, who had all been incarcerated because of the testimony of eyewitnesses.

She was there for a press conference about the case of Gary Graham, an inmate on death row who was going to be executed by the state of Texas. She was planning to tell her story in hopes of convincing the state to give Graham a new trial.

"What was really, really frightening to me was that the state of Texas was going to kill a man based on a single eyewitness ID," she said. "One who says, 'I see the shooter from my rearview mirror at 10 o'clock at night, 75 feet away, for 2 to 3 seconds.'"

Thompson said that after the eyewitness gave the description, it took 6 months and several visits from police for the eyewitness to identify Graham with any kind of certainty - despite the fact that several witnesses who said they knew the real killer were positive it wasn't Graham. None of them were ever called to testify, she said.

Graham was executed in June 2000.

"I vowed that day for the rest of my life that I would be an advocate for the abolition of the death penalty," she said. "I've met a lot of innocent people. It's changed me and it’s challenged me to think bigger and deeper than what I was given by my birthright."

Thompson has spent the last 16 years doing just that - advocating for system changes, for those harmed by the system's failure, and for women.

"It has become beyond just my passion. I think it's now my vocation," she said

This led her to launch Healing Justice, an organization with a mission to offer restoration to people who have been wrongfully convicted.

"It is the only nonprofit in the country that works to heal the harm when the system fails," she said.

The organization works to help exonerees and their families, crime victims and their families, and anyone else who has suffered from a wrongful conviction.

Thompson ended her speech by telling the audience she hoped her story left an imprint on their hearts that will challenge them to think about the system and how they can help change it.

During the Q&A session that followed, Thompson emphasized her belief that even though people like the man who raped her shouldn't be able to walk free in society, she is firmly against the death penalty.

"I don't think the state has any right to kill people in my name," she said.

Many audience members, moved by her speech, lined up to buy the memoir she co-authored with Cotton about their experience, including Jonathan Gardner, an assistant district attorney for New Mexico.

Gardner said Thompson's presentation inspired him to become a better assistant DA, and to do his job right.

"As an assistant district attorney, I'm of course on the side that's trying to get convictions," Gardner said.

"Wrongful convictions are important because a wrongful conviction is a miscarriage of justice. And law students, as the next generation of attorneys, have a responsibility to uphold justice," Gardner said.

Brittany Edwards, a second year law student who worked with Innocence and Justice Project New Mexico, said she felt it was important for law students to hear stories like this while they're still learning to become lawyers.

"It's something that's very real and we're going out into this system with these issues that are constantly affecting so many people and even damaging this profession," Edwards said. "I think it's important to let (students) know, so that we can be the ones that try to fix it or help prevent something like this from happening."

Gordon Rahn, a law professor and the director of the Innocence Justice Project, said Thompson's presentation was the 1st of 3 in a series of speakers coming to UNM to talk about wrongful convictions and how they have impacted their lives.

He said he hopes audiences learn that wrongful conviction is a societal issue that everyone must work together to change.

"The fingers of a wrongful conviction are far-reaching, and it could affect anybody out there," Rahn said.

For more information about the speaker series presented by IJPNM, visit lawschool.unm.edu.

(source: The Daily Lobo)

ARIZONA:

Murder suspect to represent himself

A Superior Court judge last week allowed a Kingman murder defendant to represent himself in his criminal case.

Richard Joseph Polaski, 63, is charged with 1st-degree murder in the stabbing death of John Holland in July 2015. He is being held in county jail on a $1 million bond.

Holland's body was found Aug. 29 in the backyard of Polaski's former Kingman home. The cause of death was found to be multiple stab wounds.

Polaski's attorney, Robin Puchek, tried to talk his client out of representing himself, bringing up that Polaski attempted suicide at a Laughlin casino and may have issues with depression.

Superior Court Judge Lee Jantzen explained the pitfalls of a defendant wanting to represent oneself including having to interview witnesses, file motions in the case and do legal research.

Jantzen also asked Polaski what his education background was, whether he is mentally competent and if he had represented himself in prior cases. Polaski said he has several years of college specializing in computers.

Jantzen also spoke of the 3 penalties Polaski faces if he is convicted of 1st-degree murder: the death penalty, natural life in prison or life in prison with a chance of parole after 25 years.

Despite warnings from the judge, Polaski also said several times in court that he had killed Holland and said it was self-defense. He also wanted to plead guilty right away.

Deputy Mohave County Attorney Greg McPhillips, who is not the prosecutor in Polaski's case, said other charges may be filed dealing with fraud.

Jantzen allowed Polaski to represent himself and set his next hearing for Oct. 18, giving him time to talk to the prosecutor about a possible plea agreement.

Polaski was arrested July 12 at a Laughlin casino after a failed suicide attempt. He reportedly confessed to Las Vegas Metro Police and a nurse at a Bullhead City hospital that he had killed Holland and buried him in his backyard of his Lass Avenue home.

On July 27, 2015, Polaski confronted Holland at his Northern Avenue home about money that Holland reportedly owed him. Holland reportedly had a handgun and knife on his desk and threatened to shoot Polaski. Polaski reportedly picked up the knife and allegedly stabbed Holland in the stomach several times. He then allegedly placed Holland's body in a trash can and drove back to his own home. He allegedly put Holland's body in a hole in his back yard, poured lye on the corpse and filled the hole in with cement.

Polaski later sold his Lass Avenue property and moved into Holland's home on Northern Avenue after allegedly putting the deed in his own name.

(source: Mohave Daily News)

CALIFORNIA:

Archbishop Gomez: It's time to end the death penalty

Californians should vote for Proposition 62, a ballot measure to end the death penalty, the Archbishop of Los Angeles has said in a reflection on justice, Catholic teaching and American society.

"It is time for us to end the death penalty - not only in California but throughout the United States and throughout the world," Archbishop Jose H. Gomez said Sept. 21.

"In a culture of death, I believe mercy alone can be the only credible witness to the sanctity of life and the dignity of the human person."

His essay is part of a special issue of the Los Angeles archdiocese's newsweekly Angelus dedicated to the Church and the death penalty.

Rather than condemn criminals to death, he said, Christians "should pray for their conversion and encourage their rehabilitation and ultimate restoration to society."

Those who seek an end to the death penalty must not forget the victims of crime and their loved ones.

"We entrust them to the Father of mercies and we pray that he grant them healing and peace," the archbishop continued.

California's ballot measure Prop. 62, which is on the November ballot, would replace the death penalty with lifetime in prison without parole.

Public opinion survey results have been mixed.

A Sept. 1-8 online poll of 1,909 registered voters sponsored by the USC Dornslife College and the Los Angeles Times found that only 40 % of registered voters would approve the proposal. Another survey, run by the Field Poll, polled 942 likely voters Sept.7-13. It found support from 48 % of voters and opposition from 37 %.

Another ballot measure, Prop. 66, would limit the appeal process for death row inmates and shorten the time from sentencing to execution.

Archbishop Gomez cited St. John Paul II's words in his final U.S. visit in 1999, in which the Pope called the death penalty "cruel and unnecessary."

"The reason is that every life is sacred and every person has a dignity that comes from God," the archbishop explained. "This is true for the innocent and it is true for the guilty. It is true even for those convicted of the most violent crimes."

He acknowledged historical Catholic support for the death penalty.

"The Catholic Church has always taught that legitimate governments have the right to impose the death penalty on those guilty of the most serious crimes. This teaching has been consistent for centuries - in the Scriptures, in the writings of the Church Fathers and in the teachings of the Popes," he said.

"But in recent years, there has been a growing consensus that the use of the death penalty can no longer be accepted."

Archbishop Gomez cited a "strange appetite for violence" in American culture, violent video games, demeaning music and entertainments.

"In this cultural context, I do not see how the death penalty can ever again express society's ultimate value for human life. In this cultural context, the death penalty can only function as one more killing."

Archbishop Gomez and the Los Angeles archdiocese's Office of Life, Justice and Peace have established a website supporting a Yes vote on Proposition 62, www.killingisntjustice.org.

(source: The Boston Pilot)

IRAN----executions

4 Prisoners Executed on Drug Charges

4 prisoners on death row for drug related offenses were reportedly executed at Tabriz Central Prison early morning on Saturday September 24.

According to the Kurdistan Human Rights Network, the names of the prisoners are: Abdolkarim Bapiri, Mehdi Molaie, Salah Ghaderian, and Ali Mohtabipour.

These 4 prisoners were reportedly arrested by Iranian authorities in 2013 on drug related charges. Iranian official sources, including the Judiciary and the media, have been silent about their executions.

********************

Prisoner Hanged on Drug Charges

A prisoner sentenced to death on drug related charges was reportedly hanged at Taybad Prison early morning on Sunday September 25.

According to a report by the unofficial news agency, HRANA, the prisoner is Hadi Oskouie, 31 years old. The report says that 1 of Hadi's brothers was recently executed at the same prison on similar charges.

Iranian official sources, including the Judiciary and the media, have been silent about Sunday's execution.

***************************

7 Prisoners in Imminent Danger of Execution for Drug Offenses

7 prisoners in Minab Prison were reportedly transferred to solitary confinement on Sunday September 25 in preparation for their executions.

According to close sources, the 7 prisoners, who range from ages 25 to 30, are on death row for drug related offenses. Close sources identify the prisoners as: Kodabakhsh Balouch, Ali Balouch, Chaker Balouch, Mohammad Mohammad Zehi, Majid Nariman, Mehdi Moradi, and Mohammad Ghourchizadeh.

(source for all: Iran Human Rights)

UNITED ARAB EMIRATES:

Obaida's killer admits murder but denies rape in 1st appeal court hearing

A man sentenced to death for the rape and murder of an 8-year-old boy has appeared in court for a first appeal hearing.

Jordanian Nidal Eisah Abdullah Abu Ali on Sunday again admitted to murder and drinking alcohol but denied kidnapping Obaida Al Aqrabawi from outside his Sharjah home in May and raping him.

Under UAE law, people sentenced to death are automatically referred to the Court of Appeal. Ali, 48, is not challenging the sentence.

He was sentenced to death on August 15 after being found guilty of kidnapping the boy before raping and killing him.

On Sunday, he appeared with a long, white beard, surrounded by 4 police guards.

The father of the victim was the only member of Obaida's family present.

When confronted with the charges by appeal court presiding judge Eisah Mohammed Al Sharif, the killer confessed to murder. "Yes, I killed him and I did drink alcohol but I didn't rape him nor did I kidnap him," said the 48-year-old.

During the trial, the murderer claimed he suffered from a mental illness but the court found there was no evidence to support it.

Ali's lawyer submitted an application to reduce the charge from premeditated murder to assault leading to death. That was dismissed because Ali had the "intention to murder" at the time.

When he was handed the death penalty at the criminal court, about 10 members of the victim's family screamed "Allahu Akbar" and thanked the UAE and its legal system. The boy's father said then he would visit his son's grave and tell him justice had been served. "Thank you UAE, your just law gave us peace," he said, adding that he is "always grateful to God".

In court on Sunday, Obiad Al Mazmi, the lawyer representing Obaida's family's civil rights, submitted no requests and said they will be submitted once a lawyer has been assigned to defend the murderer.

Obaida was kidnapped on May 20 while playing outside his father's garage in one of Sharjah's industrial areas.

His body was found 2 days later in Academic City Road, Al Warqa, Dubai.

The next hearing will be on October 9.

(source: The National)

PHILIPPINES:

Duterte: Death penalty for heinous crimes in case there's no God

President Duterte wants to reimpose the death penalty to ensure that criminals pay for their sins in case God does not exist.

Duterte said "bleeding hearts" like priests and human rights groups claimed that the death penalty did not deter crime when it was in effect for years. But he said the problem was past presidents did not have the political will to use it strike fear in the hearts of criminals.

"Every president along the way didn't impose it only because the Catholic Church and all the bleeding hearts would say that only God could kill. But what if there is no God?" said Duterte in a speech in Malacanang Monday afternoon.

"When a 1-year-old baby, 18-months-old baby is taken from the mother's arms brought under a jeep and raped and killed. So where is God? My God, where are you?" asked Duterte.

"I believe in God but that is my perpetual question to him. Where were you when we needed you? It's not enough to say that at the end of the world, he will judge the living and the dead. What would be the purpose of all of that if the heartaches, sorrows and agony have already been inflicted in this world?" asked Duterte.

While the Philippines has always been a predominantly Catholic country, some are atheists and agnostics, according to Duterte. "Mind you, i's not only 1 or 2 or 3, in this age a lot of questioning (God) now," said Duterte.

He sought for a return of the death penalty because that would be the only way to win justice for the victims of heinous crimes.

Duterte, who grew up under the wings of priests from grade school to to law school, said that the lack of justice for victims of crime has made him question the existence and purpose of God while growing up.

(source: newsinfo.inquirer.net)

SINGAPORE:

5 face death penalty for kidnapping 9 foreign workers

5 men including a Bangladeshi and 2 Myanmar nationals were charged at the magistrate's court here today with kidnapping 9 foreign workers.

Mohd Ibroni Abdullah, 36; Zainal Nayan, 32; together with Zanggir Alam Abul Husin and Saiful Shona Miya from Myanmar; and Akhbar from Bangladesh; are jointly charged with detaining and kidnapping 8 Bangladeshi nationals and 1 Myanmar national.

They had demanded a RM15,000 ransom for each victim.

They were charged with kidnapping and detaining the men, aged between 22 and 45, at 51, Kampung Asam Jawa, Block C Perumahan, Pendang about 2.30am on September 6.

The men face the death penalty or life imprisonment and caning upon conviction under Section 3 of the Kidnapping Act 1961 that was read together with Section 34 of the Penal Code.

No plea was recorded from the accused.

Magistrate Mohd Khairul Hafizzudin Ramli set October 24 for mention. Deputy Public Prosecutor Eliana Ismail appeared for the prosecution.

(source: New Straits Times)

MALAYSIA:

Actor among 3 arrested for possessing ganja plants

A local drama actor was among 3 individuals nabbed by police for possessing 3 ganja plants and other dangerous weapons.

City police chief Comm Datuk Amar Singh said that the actor, the son of a private international school owner together with a Philippine national, aged between 29 and 36, were arrested during a raid on a bungalow at Jalan Ampang here on Saturday.

Comm Amar said that police seized 3 ganja plants that were between 19cm and 100cm tall.

He said that police also seized a total of 465 grams of dried leaves that were believed to be ganja as well as other weapons including 4 air pistols, 2 air rifles, 7 samurai swords, 19 knives, an axe, a police vest and a beacon light.

Comm Amar said that fertiliser used to grow the ganja plants and other equipment were also seized during the raid.

He said the trio were remanded until Friday (Sept 30).

The case is being investigated under Section 39B of the Dangerous Drugs Act 1952 which carries a mandatory death penalty if convicted.

(source: The Star)

PAKISTAN:

Christian Boy Could Be Put To Death for 'Blasphemous' Facebook Post

A 16-year-old boy in Pakistan, who was arrested for a Facebook post that was allegedly blasphemous, could be executed by death penalty.

Nabeel Masih from Chak 66 in the district of Kasur, Punjab Province, was reported to have insulted an image of the Kaaba in Mecca. The photo apparently showed the Kaaba, which Muslims consider as sacred, with a pig on top.

"Local people have told me that apparently the image of the Islamic Kaaba was shown on Nabeel's Facebook profile, showing the image of a pig on top. This infuriated local Muslims who then reported the crime to local police," Naveed Aziz, an investigator with the British Pakistani Christian Association, reported.

Aziz clarified that it is still unknown whether Masih posted the photo himself or was just tagged in the photo, and the allegation remains unproven.

Police said they took the image down from Facebook to prevent anger from being stirred up further. However, deleting the photo also made it difficult to determine if Masih was innocent or not.

Masih was accused of violating section 295 ("injuring or defiling place of worship, with intent to insult the religion of any class") and 295A ("deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs") of the Pakistan Penal Code. These are otherwise known as Pakistan's blasphemy law, according to The Nation.

Masih was taken into police custody in Kasur. His family and other Christians in the village have fled their homes as the issue continues to intensify tension in the area.

BPCA chairman Wilson Chowdhry condemned the accusations against Masih, saying he was arrested even though authorities did not conduct proper investigation. What happened was evidence of "the worthlessness of Christians in Pakistan," he said.

Chowdhry said Christians in Pakistan can become victims of "blasphemy entrapment" through social media, like what happened to Nadeem James in July.

James apparently posted a blasphemous poem using WhatsApp. His friend, Yasir Bashir, claimed James sent it to him, Morning Star News reported.

"In the case of Nadeem James on 4th July 2016, the blasphemous poem was said to have been planted on his whats' app. It would not surprise me if Nabeel was tagged into the image of the blasphemous image by haters," Chowdhry said.

Accusations of blasphemy often incite violence against Christians, such as a couple who was beaten to death by an angry mob of extremists after they were said to have desecrated the Quran two years ago. Also in 2014, a rioting mob killed a woman and her 2 children in Gujranwala after posting an allegedly blasphemous post on social media, The Independent reported.

(source: The Gospel Herald)

INDIA:

Somali protesters urge India to release 119 'pirates'----Hundreds of people in central Mudug region call on Indian government to release 119 Somalis accused of being pirates

Somali protesters have expressed outrage over reports emerging in India that 50 out of 119 detained Somalis suspected of being pirates could face the death penalty at the end of an ongoing trial.

The Times of India reported on Friday that 119 Somali pirates nabbed by the Indian coast guard and navy between 2011 and 12 had pleaded guilty to offences brought against them.

"This comes at the fag end of the trial that commenced in late 2012 with 70 witnesses deposing and difficulties caused by the absence of several foreign national witnesses. About 50 pirates, booked for murder, could face the death sentence," Times of India said in its report.

Hundreds of people in Somali towns of Galkio and El Buur in central Mudug region held peaceful protests against the Indian government and condemned the possible death sentences.

They urged the Somali government to intervene and make efforts to release their citizens in India.

"We are standing here under the boiling sun to tell the world that these people are innocent, they were falsely arrested in India, we need to release our people without any condition," Hakima Idris, one of the protesters, said.

The Somali Information Ministry in a statement on Sunday disputed the version that its citizens were pirates and termed the proceedings in India a case of "harassment against Somalis".

"Somali government regrets the neglect, injustice and harassment against Somalia youths those who live around the world, especially in India and Kenya," the statement said.

"We called [on the] Indian government to stop the harassment and respect the international law and humanity," the statement added.

The Somali president's office also made a series of tweets on the issue, saying: "#Somali and #Indian officials are in talks over the fate of suspected Somali pirates in Indian cells.

"#Somali and #Indian officials deny any sentences passed against Somali suspected pirates in India.

"#Somali officials say cases against Somali suspected pirates in Indian jails will be resolved soon."

(source: aa.com.tr)

SEPTEMBER 25, 2016:

TEXAS:

Death Watch: Appeals, Waived Appeals, and Conflicting Findings----5th Circuit strikes down request to test death drugs

The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals has denied a motion for stay of execution pending appeal for Terry Edwards and Ramiro Gonzales, 2 death row inmates named in the 5-inmate petition seeking to require that the state of Texas test their doses of compounded pentobarbital (the drug used for executions) before carrying out each killing. 3 judges from the federal court were "not persuaded these prisoners have made the showing required" for the stay, the 5th stated in a Sept. 12 opinion. Circuit judge Patrick Higginbotham wrote that the petitioning inmates "failed to reach the Eighth Amendment bar on unnecessarily severe pain that is sure, very likely, and imminent." The 3 other named inmates - Jeffery Wood, Rolando Ruiz, and Robert Jennings - have each received stays on their executions for reasons outside of this particular issue.

In the court's denial, Higginbotham wrote that since unconsciousness precedes death when pentobarbital is the sole drug used to execute, the "problem of conscious pain and suffering" is "effectively obviat[ed]." Essentially, if inmates aren't alert to feel and express their pain, does it really matter if their death is painful? The logic is rooted in part on the belief that the state has used compounded pentobarbital to execute 32 inmates "without issue" since turning to the compounded drug in 2013. But the inmates have argued that this thinking is flawed: The state's acquisition of compounded pentobarbital is hardly an aboveboard process, with shipments of the drug coming to Huntsville from unidentified compounding pharmacies, and a Department of Criminal Justice that won't disclose what's in the cocktail.

The state granted 1 inmate the right to have his dose tested for purity before his execution in 2015 when the Attorney General's Office extended the courtesy to Perry Williams. But then a state district judge withdrew Williams' July 14, 2016, execution date when TDCJ curiously failed to run its promised test in the 6 months after Williams received his death date. Wood et al.'s attorneys have argued that if the state sees fit to grant Williams new testing, it should serve as precedent for other inmates. Higgin­botham's brief indicates that the 5th Circuit will rule otherwise, writing that an equal protection claim premised on differential treatment for those not considered a "class" (as inmates aren't) may only be reviewed in the context of a "class of one." That, he said, would apply to Williams, not the other 5 inmates: "The prisoners' primary contention now is that re-testing in [Williams' case] created a right to re-testing for all prisoners, a novel and flawed invocation of equal protection doctrine."

Edwards is currently scheduled for execution on Oct. 19. Gonzales is set for the gurney two weeks later: Nov. 2. They await word on their appeal alongside Wood, Ruiz, and Jennings.

"A knowing, intelligent, and voluntary decision"

Barney Fuller was the 6th inmate with a death date as of Aug. 12 - the only one not named on the petition seeking new testing on compounded drugs. Last December, Fuller filed a motion to hold a hearing on whether he's competent enough to waive his outstanding appeals and get on with his execution. The 58-year-old was sentenced to death in July 2004 for the grisly double murder of his Houston County neighbors, Annette and Nathan Copeland, with whom Fuller had a court date to determine what should be done about his habit of shooting guns off at their house. (Fuller pleaded guilty to the charge of capital murder at his trial.)

A federal appeal filed in January indicates that efforts to save Fuller's life hinged on arguments that his trial attorneys provided him with weak counsel, but in late May Fuller went before U.S. federal judge Ron Clark in an effort to waive the appeal. In a June 1 opinion and order of dismissal, Clark wrote that Fuller "understands his legal position and the options available to him. He understands that a determination that he is competent to waive any further proceedings would stop his habeas review and allow the State to proceed with his execution." He said Fuller feels deserving of the punishment and is "ready to move on."

Fuller is scheduled for execution on Wednesday, Oct 5. He'll be the 538th Texan executed since 1976 but only the 7th put to death this year. He'll be the 1st since Pablo Vasquez, killed on April 6.

Supplemental copies of supplemental findings of Reed's facts

Bastrop Visiting Judge Doug Shaver has taken rubber stamping to a new level. On Sept. 9, the retired judge appointed to consider the re-testing of DNA evidence in Rodney Reed's case, signed 2 pre-prepared Findings of Fact - one presented to him by the state and one by the defense - and sent both off to the Court of Criminal Appeals to rule on Reed's July 2014 motion. Naturally, those findings differed: The state's copy determined that the chain of custody had been disrupted, and DNA on certain items of evidence could be contaminated; the version Reed's camp sent to Shaver proposed testing could still be done. The Bastrop County District Attorney's Office has requested that the CCA return both docs to Shaver for clarification on his standing. Reed's attorney Bryce Benjet told the Austin American-Statesman last Friday that he intends to object to that suggestion, and will request that a new judge handle the case on the district level. "When you have an error of this magnitude, we think it's appropriate for the court to reassign the case to a judge who can issue orders based on the record," Benjet told the daily.

(source: Austin Chronicle)

PENNSYLVANIA:

Death penalty in doubt

Jimmy Dennis has been on death row since 1992 for a crime he likely did not commit. Recently, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that prosecutors kept evidence of Dennis' innocence out of his trial. In the words of Judge Marjorie Rendell, this evidence "effectively gutted the commonwealth's case against Dennis."

Of all of the possible mistakes in our justice system, a wrongful execution is, by far, the most unacceptable. Dennis' story shows the all-too-real possibility that an innocent person could be executed. Dennis has spent the past 24 years on the verge of being executed. Now he may become the seventh person exonerated from death row in Pennsylvania.

As a society, we must do better than allowing a man to come this close to being wrongfully executed. We must repeal the death penalty in Pennsylvania or risk killing an innocent person.

Isaac Finkelman

South Oakland

(source: Letter to the Editor, triblive.com)

NORTH CAROLINA:

Racial Justice Act may have new use -- overturning death penalty

Opponents of North Carolina's Racial Justice Act of 2009 contended the anti-discrimination law was a back-door attempt to end the death penalty in North Carolina.

That was untrue, said lawmakers who pushed for the controversial law. The act gave death-row inmates a chance to convert their death sentences to life in prison without parole, if they could prove that racial bias in the court system influenced their trials.

But now, lawyer Ken Rose of the Center for Death Penalty Litigation says the Racial Justice Act can be used to try to overturn capital punishment here.

Rose told me this month the findings that Cumberland County's retired Senior Resident Superior Court Judge Greg Weeks made in 2012 for the state's first 4 Racial Justice Act defendants show that North Carolina's courts unfairly issued death sentences.

Weeks had reviewed a statistical analysis of jury selection in North Carolina's capital trials. He concluded that prosecutors illegally considered the race of potential jurors when deciding which ones to strike from their cases - that prosecutors illegally prevented black citizens from serving on juries that would have to consider the death penalty.

This pattern was perhaps in light of a perception that black people are less likely to sentence someone to death than white people.

"I would say that the argument's going to be made that there have been discriminatory use of strikes by prosecutors throughout the state so that race was a significant factor in the decisions to seek or impose the death penalty," Rose said. "Whether it's intentional, unintentional, it happened. And as a result, race was a significant factor in the use of the death penalty in North Carolina."

Weeks commuted the sentences of the first 4 Racial Justice Act cases to life without parole, but the N.C. Supreme Court last year reversed his decisions and said the hearings need to be done over. The Supreme Court ruled that Weeks did not give the prosecutors enough time to prepare for the hearings and should have conducted four separate hearings instead of 2.

In the meantime, the legislature in 2013 ended the Racial Justice Act. Despite this, its litigation is continuing in the state and federal courts. Those who tried to use the law say it's unconstitutional for the state to give it to them, let them try to use it and then take it back.

Of the 150 death row inmates, at least 141 have filed Racial Justice Act claims, according to the North Carolina Attorney General's Office. 8 chose not to use the Racial Justice Act, and the status of one in light of the act was not available.

Theoretically, North Carolina could start executing the non-Racial Justice Act inmates as soon as an unrelated matter before the courts - North Carolina's execution protocols and practices - is resolved. That litigation started in January 2007 and because of it, no one has been executed here since August 2006.

But Rose argues it would be wrong to resume executions for the 8 or 9 who don't have Racial Justice Act claims.

"If the death penalty has been applied discriminatorily in the state, then it should be struck down across the board," Rose said.

Because of the litigation over North Carolina's execution protocol and the unresolved Racial Justice Act matters, it will be years until anyone on death row is put to death.

(source: Fayetteville Observer)

MISSISSIPPI:

Life after freedom for the wrongly convicted

Sabrina Butler-Porter's nightmare began when her 9-month-old son died on April 11, 1989.

It should have ended in 1995 when she left death row and gained her freedom after being exonerated of killing him.

But the Columbus woman didn't fully regain freedom outside those prison walls.

From 1995 to 2009, she couldn't find a job. "No one would hire me after they looked up the case," Butler-Porter said.

"It was torture to be sentenced to die and serve time on death row for something you know you didn't do, and then to have to deal with life after getting out," she said.

Mississippi is paying compensation to Butler-Porter and nine other wrongly convicted individuals or their estates and have completed paying the maximum $500,000 to 21 others or their estates. As of the 2016 fiscal year, which ended June 30, more than $6.1 million has been awarded and the state has paid out $4.4 million through the fund, leaving $1.7 million due.

But these people didn't walk out of prison with money. Some states don't even have compensation plans and it can take years to get money in those states with compensation plans, said Karen Wolfe, a social worker with the national Innocence Project in New York.

Mississippi passed its compensation law in 2009, more than a decade after Butler-Porter's release. The amount the wrongly convicted receive is based on the amount of time they were incarcerated.

The state awarded Butler-Porter $329,000. Through the 2016 fiscal year, she had received $250,000.

But money alone couldn't compensate for the years, for many more than a decade, in prison and like Butler-Porter on death row.

They were returned to society like unwanted refugees in a foreign land, Wolfe said.

They have no money. They can't get a bank account. They can't get a driver's license.

Often they - especially African-Americans - are afraid to walk on the street for fear someone will ask for their ID because they don't have identification, Wolfe said. They fear they will be accused again of a crime they didn't commit.

"If you can imagine being dropped in Tupelo from another country as a refugee, at the age of 45, it is very similar to what an exoneree would be going through," Wolfe said. "They are often coming to a place they don't recognize with virtually no identity. Most of these exonerees don’t have identification. They usually have to get their birth certificate and Social Security card. They really can't do anything until they get that straight."

Wolfe said it can be very difficult for some to readjust to society because often they have spent the prime time for developing job skills and personal relations in prison.

"Really, they are like ghosts until they can recreate their identity," Wolfe said. "It's really tough, and you don't know your way around anymore ... Everything has changed."

Wolfe said many of her clients were in prison for 15 to 25 years. "They miss a lot of life experiences," Wolfe said.

Years of rejection

Butler-Porter, then known as Sabrina Butler, was 18 when she was wrongly convicted in March 1990 of felony child abuse in the death of her 9-month old son on April 11, 1989. The infant had a heart murmur, and when he stopped breathing in his crib he was taken to a hospital emergency room where doctors were unable to revive him.

Based upon a medical examiner's report, Butler-Porter was charged with felony child abuse the next day based on the bruises caused by the doctor's efforts to revive the child.

Butler-Porter was convicted on testimony that she caused the bruises by abusing her child - even though there was no evidence of any abuse and she wasn't present when the child stopped breathing.

A Lowndes County Circuit Court jury convicted Butler of capital murder and sentenced her to die. The state Supreme Court reversed the conviction Aug. 26, 1992, after she spent 2 years and 9 months on death row. She then waited 3 more years in the Lowndes County Jail for a second trial. Panola County jurors heard the case because of extensive pre-trial publicity in Lowndes County and found her innocent.

In that 2nd trial, the medical examiner changed his original opinion, stating the child died of an internal kidney malady, and a neighbor testified the bruises occurred during an unsuccessful attempt to administer CPR, the Innocence Project says.

She was a high school dropout when she was sent to death row. She got her GED while in custody.

After years of being rejected for jobs, Butler-Porter recently had her record expunged.

These days, she has been speaking at events across the country about innocent individuals wrongly convicted.

Butler-Porter and husband Joe are raising 3 children.

She works with an organization called Witness to Innocence, comprised of exonerees once on death row.

"We speak all over about the justice system and its approach to who gets the death penalty and who doesn't," Butler-Porter said. "It is racially motivated on every level and needs to be fixed. I have been doing advocacy work since I got out in 1995. I know that if I don't speak out, and people like me, then when will it ever change? Too many innocent people have been tortured by this unjust system. It must change, and one way is to get rid of the death penalty and put new laws in place. And hold people accountable for theiractions who intentionally put people in prison unjustly."

(source: Clarion-Ledger)

OHIO:

Death penalty phase of double murder trial to begin Monday

A Montgomery County jury found a Dayton man guilty in a double murder trial Saturday.

Jurors deliberated for 2 days before finding Harvey Jones guilty.

It was an emotional day in court for both victims' families as they listened to the jury find 37-year-old Harvey Jones guilty of murdering his ex-girlfriend 32-year-old Carly Hughley and her friend 29-year-old Demetrius Beckwith. The same jury who found Jones guilty, will now decide if he should get the death penalty.

Emotions were high Saturday as the court read all 8 counts 1-by-1.

The jury found 37-year-old Harvey Jones guilty on 4 counts of aggravated murder, 2 counts of aggravated burglary and 2 counts of aggravated robbery. Prosecutors argue Jones shot and killed his ex-girlfriend 32-year-old Carly Hughley and her friend 29-year-old Demetrius Beckwith inside a Harrison Township apartment in January 2013.

Hughley's son who was 10-years-old witnessed the murders according to the prosecution. Beckwith's sister Danada Beckwith - who we spoke with earlier this week says faith has helped her and her family cope throughout the trial.

"We're strong in our faith," Beckwith said. "And that's what's gotten us through this for the last 3 years."

The same jury who convicted Jones will now decide what happens to him.

"This concludes phase 1 of this trial," Judge Steven Dankof said. "Phase 2 of the trial the mitigation phase will begin Monday morning."

Starting Monday, the jury will decide if Jones should get the death penalty. Before then, all 12 jurors - who have been sequestered throughout the trial - have strict rules to follow.

"You know you are not to investigate or attempt to obtain additional information," Judge Dankof said. "About this case outside the walls of the court room."

Harvey Jones' death penalty trial will begins Monday morning at 8:30 a.m.

(source: WDTN news)

CALIFORNIA:

Death penalty is dying across America. Will California save it?

The last inmate executed in California was 76-year-old Clarence Ray Allen, legally blind and suffering from diabetes, who had his heart stopped with a lethal chemical cocktail as punishment for a triple homicide in Fresno he'd ordered from a Folsom Prison cell a quarter century earlier.

It was more than a decade ago when Allen spoke his last words - "Hoka Hey, it's a good day to die" - and the poisons flowed into his veins at San Quentin State Prison.

Now, with the death penalty dying across America, the nation is watching California as its voters weigh competing initiatives meant to either revive executions or abolish capital punishment. Several states in recent years ended their death penalties through court decisions or legislation, but California is a test of whether voters think executions are worth trying to save.

"The death penalty system has been so broken for so long in California that it seems there is a uniquely compelling argument for abolition, to say, 'Let's just cut our losses,'" said Douglas Berman, an Ohio State University law professor and criminal sentencing expert. "If abolition can't succeed in California I have a hard time thinking that it can succeed by plebiscite anywhere."

Proposition 62 on the November ballot would end the death penalty and convert the sentences to life without parole. Proposition 66 aims to speed up executions with - among other things - limits on appeals and deadlines on court rulings. Should both measures pass, the one with the most votes becomes law.

California's decision comes as the death penalty withers in the rest of the nation. There were 28 executions in America last year, the lowest number since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976, and a 70 % decline from the peak in 1998.

Only 6 states had executions last year, most of them in the cotton belt. Even America's execution capital of Texas is slowing down, with a 68 % decline in inmates put to death over the past 15 years.

A new Harvard University study found that just 16 counties in the U.S.'s 3,143 had imposed at least 5 death sentences since 2010. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer noted last year that "the number of active death penalty counties is small and getting smaller."

Reasons include legal challenges to death sentences, botched executions - including a 2011 Oklahoma injection where the condemned man writhed and moaned as it took him more than 40 minutes to die - difficulty obtaining lethal drugs from pharmaceutical companies reluctant to play a role in ending lives, and wrongful convictions.

More than 150 people on death row nationwide have been exonerated since 1973, according to the Death Penalty Information Center, including 3 in California. Wrongful convictions doomed the death penalty in Illinois, which passed legislation to abolish it in 2011.

States are also balking at costs of a death penalty case and appeals. Lawmakers in conservative Nebraska voted to join the states shedding the death penalty last year, citing expenses and religious objections. The issue will go to Nebraska's voters in a November referendum.

The death penalty is on hold in California, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Kentucky, Louisiana, Montana, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania and Washington state as a result of legal challenges or moratoriums imposed by governors.

Capital punishment has been abolished in 8 other states over the past decade and is in limbo in Florida, which has the nation's 2nd-most-populous death row after California, following a Supreme Court decision striking down the state's death penalty statute.

Polls find that a majority of Americans still support the death penalty, but the numbers are falling. The Pew Research Center found 78 % support in 1996 and 56 % last year.

"The death penalty is in decline by any objective measure," said Robert Dunham, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center in Washington, D.C.

Sacramento County District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert said that regardless of what was happening in the rest of the nation she saw the death penalty as appropriate justice for the "worst of the worst" killers in California.

"It's a policy that Californians continue to support but they want the system fixed," Schubert said.

California voters supported keeping the death penalty in 2012 with 53 % of the vote. Recent polling suggests this year's initiative campaign to end capital punishment is struggling to win majority support.

No state has repealed the death penalty by public vote since Oregon in 1964 - and voters there reinstated it in 1978. While courts and legislatures around the nation are abolishing capital punishment, when it goes to a public vote the hard line tends to have the advantage, said Franklin Zimring, a criminal justice expert at the University of California, Berkeley.

"The question is what do you do with the worst criminals you have?" Zimring said. "And if that ever becomes a question of sentiment the answer is boil them in oil."

California has the largest death row population in the Western Hemisphere, with 746 inmates who are sentenced to die. The nonpartisan Legislative Analyst's Office estimates that eliminating California's death penalty would save around $150 million a year, including reduced costs for trials and challenges to death sentences.

According to the study from Harvard's Fair Punishment Project, 5 of the 16 U.S. counties in the U.S. that imposed at least 5 death sentences since 2010 are in Southern California - Kern, Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino. Riverside County has become the nation's leader in death sentences - with 8 people sent to death row last year alone.

Meanwhile, no one is actually being executed in California.

A federal judge ruled in 2006 that the state's lethal injection procedures risked a painful and inhumane death. Other legal challenges followed, and the state is now considering a single lethal barbiturate dose to replace the 3-chemical method barred by the courts.

Cal-Berkeley's Zimring predicts the initiative designed to speed executions in California will have minimal impact if it passes. The main result would be litigation and delay, he said, since the ballot measure has so many pieces open to challenge.

That's disputed by Kent Scheidegger, legal director of the pro-death penalty Criminal Justice Legal Foundation in Sacramento.

"The most important reforms of this carefully drafted initiative are virtually bulletproof," he asserted.

California's vote in November will be "hugely significant" in the national debate over the death penalty, said Ohio State University criminal sentencing expert Berman. Politicians and judges pay attention to signals of the public's view on the death penalty, and the vote of a state like California carries weight.

"If it is a conclusive victory for 1 side or the other, that could be profound," Berman said.

(source: sacbee.com)

ZIMBABWE:

Death Penalty Violates Human Rights

Capital punishment has been a contentious issue in Zimbabwe for many years. While the new Constitution must be hailed for giving reprieve to women and men aged under 21 or over 70 years of age at the time of committing the crime, a lot of people still believe the death sentence should be removed from our statutes.

The debate over this controversial issue comes to the fore once again this week when the Constitutional Court sits to hear the third case of death row inmates who are fighting to have their death sentences commuted to life imprisonment.

Zimbabwe has not carried out any executions in more than a decade, with the last hangings being that of Edmore Edmund Masendeke and Stephen Chidhumo way back in 2003. The 13-year break has been lauded by human rights defenders and calls are now for Zimbabwe to declare an official moratorium on executions and to abolish the death sentence altogether. Amnesty International describes capital punishment as "the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment".

Farai Lawrence Ndlovu and Wisdom Gochera will have their fate decided by the highest court in the land in a case where they are represented by Tendai Biti.

The two were sentenced to death shortly before the new Constitution, which gives reprieve on murder convicts, came into force in 2013. Section 4.1 of the constitution has the encouraging sub-title "The right to life", but this fundamental human right is almost immediately erased when, in subsection (2), the death penalty is announced.

"A law may permit the death penalty to be imposed only on persons convicted of murder committed in aggravating circumstances . . ." the section reads.

We share the view that before we advocate for the death penalty, we need to take into cognisance the old adage that two wrongs do not make a right and that two murders do not bring back a life.

We should not pretend that capital punishment is not murder because of the legal technicality behind it. While we do not condone criminals, including murderers, we think the death penalty is morally wrong.

Section 4.5 of the constitution has the sub-title "Freedom from torture or inhuman or degrading treatment and punishment" and it clearly states: "No one may be subjected to physical or psychological torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment."

The cruel irony is that there is no worse torture than being on death row; living each day knowing that someone has the legal power to take away your life any time. By allowing the death penalty, the constitution in its present form is presupposing the infallibility of the judicial system, which is not always the case.

Judges and juries, like any other human beings, are prone to mistakes and globally, there are documented cases where people have been wrongly executed by the State. In this country, we have had people wrongfully accused of murder; Cain Nkala's case quickly comes to mind.

We are all aware of how the justice system is prone to manipulation by politicians in this country and it might not be surprising to have innocent people hanged for political expediency.

In a country like ours, where the police are known for lack of professional ethics, forced and falsified confessions can easily lead innocent people to the gallows.

It is also a shuddering thought that the State would employ a professional murderer in the name of a hangman. By implication, the executioner is a murderer who deserves to be executed as well.

A convicted murderer deserves severe punishment, but he or she is still a human being who deserves the chance to be corrected and rehabilitated, which is central to the modern-day prison system.

Research has shown that although the death sentence represents a strong condemnation of brutal and violent crimes, it does not necessarily deter people from perpetrating violent crimes.

Those who clamour for the death penalty do not know that they have literally descended to ancient times where an eye for an eye was central to legislation and this, as Mahatma Ghandi once said, will make the whole world blind.

It will only serve the purpose of advancing the murderous cycle.

Most Southern African countries have abolished the death penalty. Zimbabwe has carried capital punishment on its statutes from a Constitution inherited from the colonial era and has executed many people since 1980.

It is refreshing the Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa who is also the Justice minister, is himself a strong proponent for the abolition of the death penalty.

We rest in the hopeful comfort that Mnangagwa will prevail in his fight against capital punishment so that we as a country can stop playing God.

(source: Opinion; Zimbabwe Standard)

TAIWAN:

Former U.N. rights head suggests death penalty moratorium

Louise Arbour, the Tang Prize winner for the rule of law, suggested Saturday when asked how Taiwan might deal with the death penalty issue that many countries have adopted a moratorium on capital punishment before abolishing it.

Speaking at a press conference in Taipei, Arbour said several abolitionist countries, including Canada, have started by putting in place a moratorium on executions so that the death penalty remains an option and to avoid the appearance of radical change.

"Over the course of 5, 10, 20 years, it becomes evident that the crime rate doesn't increase and I think victims' families may come to understand that there's a larger public interest in particularly guarding against wrongful convictions," said Arbour, a former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and a current member of the International Commission Against the Death Penalty.

"Even the most sophisticated legal systems have, at times, convicted an innocent person," she said. "This is a price too high to pay for any society."

Public support for the death penalty remains high in Taiwan, with multiple media and government polls over the years consistently showing that over 70 or 80 % of Taiwanese oppose abolishing the capital punishment.

But Arbour, who is in Taiwan to accept her Tang Prize award, said scrapping the practice has become a worldwide trend and that in most countries the trend has not been started by public opinion.

"It comes from enlightened, progressive political leadership," she said.

Arbour added that a modern government should not base its policies on ideology, electoral considerations or public opinion, but facts and scientific evidence, including social science evidence.

"And on that, there is nothing to support the death penalty," she said.

(source: Focus taiwan)

EGYPT:

Egypt court sentences 7 to death for policeman killing

An Egyptian court on Saturday sentenced seven people to death for alleged links to the 2013 killing of a senior police officer, according to a judicial source.

The court also slapped 5 people with a 10-year jail term each and acquitted another defendant in the same case, the source said anonymously due to restrictions on speaking to media.

The defendants were accused of killing a senior police officer during a police raid in Kerdasa, west of Cairo, weeks after the military coup against elected President Mohamed Morsi.

Saturday's verdicts are still subject to appeal.

"We will appeal the verdict before the Court of Cassation, Egypt's highest appellate court," defense lawyer Abdel-Hamid Salem told Anadolu Agency.

"If the appeal is rejected, the death penalty will be implemented against the seven," he said.

Egypt has been roiled by turmoil since the military unseated Morsi, the country's first freely elected president, in a 2013 coup.

Since then, hundreds have been sentenced to death on charges of incitement to violence.

(source: Anadolu Agency)

VIETNAM:

Prisoner sells sperm to convict on death row

A DNA test result released yesterday confirmed that a male prisoner sold sperm to drug smuggler Nguyen Thi Hue awaiting execution under the death penalty in Qu?ng Ninh Province.

Drug trafficker Nguyen Thi Hue escapes death penalty after paying a female prisoner to bring her a plastic bag of semen and a syringe so that she could become pregnant.

Hue, 42, of northern Lang Son Province was arrested in 2012 for drug trafficking and sentenced to death in 2014.

In early February 2016, she was found to be some 4 or 5 months pregnant.

Investigation revealed that Hue offered a male prisoner named Nguyen Tuan Hung, 27, who was in charge of cooking, VND50 million ($2,300) to get her pregnant.

Under Vietnam's Penal Code, the death penalty can be reduced to a life sentence for prisoners who are pregnant or have a child under 36 months.

In August 2015, Hung sought ways to give Hue his sperm in plastic bags twice. Hue injected the sperm in her womb and became pregnant.

A birth certificate was granted by Dong Dang Town People's Committee in Cao Loc District, Lang Son Province, once Hue's baby was born. The certificate does not mention the name of the child's father.

Meanwhile, the DNA test result revealed that Hung is the baby's natural father.

Quang Ninh Police is also investigating superintendents in charge of Hue's case.

10 years ago, a similar incident occurred with another prisoner on death row, Nguyen Thi Oanh, at a prison in northern Hoa Binh Province.

Oanh was assisted by 2 jailers who opened her detention room 5 times allowing a male prisoner to have sex with her. The 2 jailers were imprisoned for 42-60 months.

(source: vietnamnet.vn)

PAKISTAN:

Why is our criminal justice system punishing a paranoid schizophrenic?

The mere mention of a crime engages our natural thought process into gauging a punishment for it. Some would just ask what punishment a specific crime entails, some of us would delve into arguing what purpose a particular punishment serves, while others would discuss whether a punishment is adequate or not. We all have our own thought processes and ideologies about what is acceptable as a punishment. However, what is important is to remember the basic idea behind it is.

The purpose ranges from retributive to utilitarian to rehabilitative. All punishments must serve some purpose otherwise it would be a futile exercise to impose any form of sentence for a crime. After all, what would be the point of punishing someone if it has no impact on them? Or when the person being punished is incapable of understanding why he is being punished or what lead to the punishment.

With that in mind, what purpose will the execution of Imdad Ali serve? For those of you who are unaware, Imdad Ali is a 50-year-old death row inmate. He was convicted of murder in 2001 and has been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia since. His family members were aware that he was mentally unfit and it was pointed out at the trial as well. However, this defence was rejected because of a judicial precedent that states that if the accused flees the scene of the crime he cannot be considered mentally unfit. He was due to be executed on September 20, 2016. Nevertheless, a last minute stay due to the efforts of Justice Project Pakistan has halted his execution till next week.

Before we go any further, I must say that murder is a heinous and horrible crime and anyone who commits the crime should be punished. However, to punish someone who cannot even understand why he is being punished, or what punishment he is being given is a crime in itself. His wife, after her last visit to him reported that he had no idea that he was going to die.

How will capital punishment achieve any purpose in the case of a paranoid schizophrenic?

With regard to the judicial precedent that I mentioned above, what I fail to understand is how fleeing from the scene of the crime can have any bearing on whether a person is lucid or not. I'm sure that sometimes even innocent people flee from the scene of a crime. How can that determine whether one is of unsound mind? What about the guilty people who remain at the scene of the crime? This precedent has opened the door for unjust decisions to fly through.

Why do I say that?

Because, it was due to this precedent that a mentally unstable man is on death row and this is just one case that we are all aware of. How many disabled people will have to be hanged before it is realised that this precedent can cause more injustice than justice, ever?

The death of the victim was the result of a mentally unstable man falling prey to a disability of the mind. That death was caused by something which was not in Imdad Ali’s control. To this date, Ali does not have much in his control. He is not even aware of what is happening around him.

To punish a criminal is justified. But what justice would this one do?

On the contrary, this is a terrible injustice to a mentally disabled man who has been on death row for the past 15-16 years for a crime he does not even understand he committed.

I've been trying really hard to understand what purpose this would serve.

Will it act as a deterrent?

If so, for whom? Mentally unstable people, or mentally stable people?

Will it be a form of retributive justice? Possibly.

If so, one begs the following question: is retribution - an eye for an eye, the foundation for our Criminal Justice system in the case of the mentally unfit?

Ironically so, the Pakistan Penal Code states that the death penalty shall not be imposed on an offender who is a minor or is insane. Then why is this not being followed? Is our criminal justice system so blind that it does not recognise the plethora of evidence suggesting that Imdad Ali is a paranoid schizophrenic?

Another factor to note is that Pakistan is a signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The convention not only guarantees the inherent dignity of individuals with disabilities but also gives protection to the disabled individuals from cruel punishment. A man who is clearly suffering from a disability has been in jail for the last 15 years and has not received treatment for his condition. Rather, he has been put in a place where his condition has only become worse.

How is that not a form of cruel punishment? To let a human being deteriorate into his disability and then to hang him for something that has resulted from that disability? By allowing the execution of Imdad Ali, our country will not only be failing to honour its international obligations but it will fail its very own citizens.

People with serious disabilities exist in our country and they need help and support from the State. They need the State to provide facilities for proper treatment. They need the State to recognise that acts committed by the mentally unstable are beyond their control and contemplation as crimes. They need the justice system to recognise these disabilities and how they impact people.

To punish Imdad Ali by execution will be to fail as a State and uphold a flawed system of justice.

(source: Opinion, Maryam Malik; The Express Tribune)

*****************

5 awarded death by military court file appeal in LHC

5 convicts charged with the Safoora Goth carnage and Sabeen Mahmud murder cases in Karachi, have filed appeals before the Lahore High Court (LHC), Rawalpindi bench, while praying that the orders of field general court martial (FGCM) on May 14, 2016 and rejection of their appeals on July 25, 2016 by military court of appeals may be set aside.

An LHC division bench will hear this case on Monday, September 26.

An Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) press release on May 12 had announced the confirmation of the death sentences to the 5 terrorists including Tahir Minhas, Saad Aziz, Asadur Rehman, Mohammad Azhar Ishrat and Hafiz Nasir Ahmed in nine cases of terrorism, including the Safoora Goth carnage and the Sabeen Mahmud murder case.

Petitioners have made secretary Ministry of Defence and secretary Ministry of Interior as respondents.

The petitioners through their counsel Hashmat Habib advocate contended in the petition that they were being involved in a number of cases and challans were submitted in the ATC. Trials of the said cases were pending but the Sindh Police without authority on January 12, 2016 transferred cases of the petitioners onward for trial by the military court. For 4 months, the petitioners remained confined and were not allowed to meet their family members. On May 14, 2016, the petitioners were shifted to Central Prison, Karachi, with military court orders to be hanged by neck till death.

That the judgment passed by the FGCM was challenged before the Court of Appeals that through single liner judgment rejected the appeals on July 25, 2016. During proceedings of appeals, the petitioners were not provided with the copies of FGCM proceedings.

The petitioners contended that they were innocent and have been made scapegoat to save the real culprits involved in different cases.

That from the sequence of events right from petitioners arrest till rejection of appeal, it appears that the petitioners have been awarded death penalty already determined by the elements at the helms of affairs. Thus, the sentence is not sustainable and is nullity in the eyes of law.

The petitioners contended that throughout the court proceedings, their defence lawyer was a mere spectator. All witnesses had changed and fine-tuned their statements recorded previously.

That under Article 10A of the Constitution, fair trial and due process is guaranteed further to avail the services of defence counsel of choice is also guaranteed. Similarly, the Pakistan Army Act and its rules also guarantee the right of fair trial and due process but all such rights have been refused and the petitioners are made victims of circumstances thus the sentence is not sustainable and liable to be set-aside.

As per prosecution, the convict Tahir Minhas was the mastermind of the Safoora Goth carnage date May 13, 2015 where 47 members of the Shia Ismaili community were killed in an attack on their bus.

(source:The News)

MALAYSIA:

Madpet shocked at execution on verge of abolition of mandatory death penalty

Malaysians Against Death Penalty and Torture (Madpet) is shocked to hear that Malaysia has executed one Ahmad Najib Aris on Friday (Sept 23, 2016), at a time when Malaysia is in the process of abolishing the mandatory death penalty, and possibly the death penalty for some offences.

Ahmad Najib Aris was found guilty of murder (Section 302 Penal Code) of one Ong Lay Kian (also known as Canny Ong).

Mandatory death penalty denies judges discretion in sentencing

Section 302 of the Penal Code provides for the mandatory death penalty - which means that once the judge finds the accused guilty of murder, the judge has no choice but to sentence the convicted to the one and only available sentence - death by hanging.

We recall that attorney-general Apandi Ali, who is also the public prosecutor, said that "...mandatory death sentences were a 'paradox', as it robbed judges of their discretion to impose sentences on convicted criminals... If I had my way, I would introduce the option for the judge in cases where it involves capital punishment. Give the option to the judge either to hang him or send him to prison. Then we're working towards a good administration of criminal justice." (The Malaysian Insider, Nov 13, 2015).

The attorney-general also said the he would propose to the cabinet that the mandatory death penalty be abolished.

Only circumstantial evidence?

Ahmad Najib Aris was found guilty of murder, for which he was sentenced to death, and also rape under Section 327 of the Penal Code for which he was sentenced to 20 years imprisonment and ordered to be given 20 strokes of the rotan (whipping). The evidence resulting in his conviction were only circumstantial evidence.

It must be pointed out that one of evidence adduced at trial, was that the car driven 'after the alleged abduction' by Ahmad Najib with Canny Ong seated in the passenger seat was stopped by 2 police officers, who did ask for the identity cards of both the driver and the passenger, which were given. They both also later confirmed their identities to the police when asked. When later asked to step out of the vehicle, the police officers allege that Ahmad Nazri drove off.

Of note also was the fact that the alleged victim was not seen by the said police officers to be bound or injured, and was seated in the passenger seat. The fact that Ahmad Nazri did stop the car, when the policemen on motorbikes asked him to do so also raises doubts as such is generally not the conduct of one who is in the process of committing a crime.

Now, it is important to note that the credibility of the Malaysian police is in doubt. The Enforcement Agency Integrity Commission (EAIC) in their inquiry surrounding the death in police custody of one Dharmendran a/l Narayanasamy, in their press release dated April 28, 2016, did, amongst others state, "The Commission found the police report on the death of the deceased lodged by SP25, the D9 Lock-up Sentry made upon the instructions of the Deputy Head of the Criminal Investigation Department of Intelligence and Operations IPK Kuala Lumpur (SP60) and written by Sergeant Major Ali (D9 personnel) contained false/misrepresentation of actual state surrounding the death of the deceased."

There were also finding by the EAIC that police made false entries into the lock-up diary.

In October 2015, in another death in custody inquiry, the EAIC also found that police had tampered with evidence in the Syed Mohd Azlan Syed Mohamed Nur case. Then, we also recall the infamous Anwar Ibrahim's black eye, and how the police said one thing, and finally it was revealed that it was the police that caused it.

Hence, the alleged perceived 'odd' conduct of Canny Ong that allegedly moved the police to ask Ahmad Najib and Canny to step out of the car, which resulted in Ahmad Najib driving off raises much questions. Was this observation of Canny Ong's 'odd' gestures true? Did Ahmad Najib really drive off to escape the police?

The Canny Ong case has received much media attention soon after her 'disappearance', and there was much public anger when she was later found murdered. There was much pressure on the police and the authorities to find and convict the person/s responsible. Would this have 'tainted' the administration of justice?

Doubts however also did emerge as to whether Ahmad Najib and Canny Ong had a personal relationship, and whether he really was the person responsible for the murder of Canny Ong. The absence of evidence of any struggle/protest at the alleged time of abduction, and her subsequent conduct, even in the presence of the two police officers, also raises concern.

In any event, the High Court found Ahmad Najib Aris guilty of both murder and rape, and both the Court of Appeal and the Federal Court agreed.

At the High Court, when the defence was called to present their case, Ahmad Najib Aris elected to be silent. It may be simplistic to assume that this 'silence' indicates guilt, but there are other possibilities. Was this silence a result of a threat by others on the lives of loved ones, or maybe some 'promises'?

The right to have a review of sentence?

When Singapore abolished the mandatory death penalty for some types of murder, it also provided for re-sentencing of persons previously convicted under the said offences and were facing execution.

These qualified cases were sent back to the High Court, who looked again at the facts and circumstances of the case, and mitigating/aggravating factors in determining whether the death sentence will be retained, or changed to a more appropriate sentence of imprisonment.

Malaysia is in the process of possibly abolishing the death penalty, starting probably with the abolition of the mandatory death penalty. Nancy Shukri, Minister in the Prime Minister's Department and also the de facto Law Minister, was reported stating that the proposal to amend laws to abolish the mandatory death sentence was to be tabled in Parliament as early as March next year [2016]. (The Malay Mail, Nov 17, 2015).

In a media release dated April 7, 2016 by the Asean Parliamentarians for Human Rights, it was stated that "...in November 2015, a roundtable discussion had been held in the Malaysian Parliament by Parliamentarians for Global Action (PGA) for the Abolition of the Death Penalty on initiatives, commitments and particularly reforms on the state of inmates on death row and the abolition of the mandatory death penalty.

"It was co-hosted by YB Mohd Nazri Aziz as the chair of the PGA National Group and also YB Nancy Shukri, Minister Minister of Law in the Prime Minister's Department; along with Luc Vandebon, EU Ambassador to Malaysia; Justice Mah Weng Kwai; MPs from Malaysia, namely YB M Kulasegaran, YB Shamsul Iskandar Akin, myself and international MPs as well.

"The main outcome of the meeting was that: (i) The Malaysian government pledged to introduce a bill aiming to abolish the mandatory death penalty for all offences and a review of the existing death row cases. (ii) The Malaysian government instate an official moratorium on executions pending the assessment of the report on effectiveness of the death penalty; ...

As such, if the mandatory death penalty is soon to be abolished in Malaysia, would not have Ahmad Najib Aris also then be given the right for his current mandatory death sentence to be reviewed? Would a re-sentencing court commute his sentence to imprisonment? Now, that Ahmad Najib Aris is dead, we will not know.

Likewise Gunasegar Pitchaymuthu, Ramesh Jayakumar and Sasivarnam Jayakumar who were suddenly executed earlier on March 25, 2016.

Sudden executions without sufficient notice denies ability to save lives

It must be pointed out when there is due notice of pending executions, the minister, the attorney-general and the Sultan of Johor, did previously act in a praiseworthy manner in stopping executions. This happened in the case when Duli Yang Maha Mulia Sultan of Johor in 2014 saved Chandran s/o Paskaran from being hanged.

Likewise the de facto law minister, and the attorney-general, did act and obtain a stay of execution in the case of Osariakhi Ernest Obayangbon (aka Philip Michael) in 2014.

As such, this sudden and 'secretive' execution of Ahmad Najib Aris should be condemned.

Global trend towards abolition of death penalty

On Dec 18, 2014, the UN General Assembly (UNGA) reaffirmed for the 5th time since 2007 the urging for a stop of all executions. In 2014, 117 nation States voted in favour, 38 against, 34 abstention with four absentees. Every time the said resolution had been adopted, the number of votes in favour has been increasing. The global trend continues to be for abolition.

It must also be pointed out that the death penalty in Malaysia is not pursuant to some Islamic law, or subject to Islamic evidential and procedural requirements.

Research has also demonstrated that most Malaysians are in favour of abolition of the death penalty.

Currently in Malaysia, the death penalty is mandatory for 12 offences, while about 20 other offences are punishable by a discretionary death penalty. As of May 16, 2016, there are 1,041 persons on death row.

Moratorium on executions

The Malaysian Human Rights Commission (Suhakam), the Malaysian Bar and many others have recommended that a moratorium on the use of the death penalty be put in place pending abolition of the death penalty.

Suhakam, vide statement dated March 29, 2016, also cautions "...that any miscarriage or failure of justice in the implementation of the death penalty is irreversible and irreparable. Further, the rationale that the death penalty acts as a deterrent has been discredited and dismissed on several occasions..."

Therefore, Madpet urges the imposition of an immediate moratorium on all executions pending abolition of the death penalty, or at the very least pending the tabling of the amendments that would most likely see the abolition of the mandatory death penalty, and abolition of death penalty for some offences. This also would justly result in a review of the death sentence of persons now on death row by reason of being convicted of offences with the mandatory death penalty.

Madpet also urges that the said laws and/or amendments to the law that will result in the abolition of the mandatory death penalty and/or death penalty be tabled forthwith at the upcoming session in Parliament in October 2016.

Madpet also urges Malaysia to vote in favour of the upcoming United Nations General Assembly Resolution calling for a moratorium of executions pending abolition of the death penalty, or at the very least record a vote of abstention.

Madpet reiterates its urgings for Malaysia to abolish the death penalty.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

(source: CHARLES HECTOR is coordinator for Malaysians Against Death Penalty and Torture (Madpet)----malaysiakini.com)

SEPTEMBER 24, 2016:

OHIO:

Forensic pathologist describes extent of Glenara Bates' fatal injuries

Bruises. Scars. Burns. Open sores. Missing teeth. Marks that were "consistent with" being whipped with belts. A gash in Glenara Bates' forehead that was possibly a day old.

On Friday, a forensic pathologist testified at the death penalty trial of Glen Bates that some of the head injuries suffered by his daughter typically are caused by "shaking or swinging."

The pathologist, Dr. Jennifer Schott, testified as photographs of the injuries that covered Glenara's emaciated body were shown on a large video screen in front of the jury box. Glenara weighed 13 pounds when she died on March 29, 2015.

Some jurors were visibly disturbed by the images. One appeared to be on the verge of tears during much of Schott's testimony.

"There's been an attempt to sew the skin together with regular sewing thread," Schott said about the head wound.

She said many of Glenara's injuries overlapped. The cause of death was battered child syndrome, acute and chronic head injuries, and starvation.

During much of Friday's testimony, Bates stared blankly toward a video monitor on the defense table. When a close-up autopsy photo of Glenara's face was shown, he appeared to close his eyes.

Glen Bates says he isn't responsible for the beating and starvation death of his 2-year-old daughter, despite evidence so damning his attorneys "begged" him to take a plea deal.

Bates, 34, chose to stand trial on charges that could lead to a death sentence rather than plead guilty to aggravated murder and face a minimum prison sentence of 15 years to life.

"I'm not going to deny that we argued for a plea," one of his attorneys, Norm Aubin, told Judge Megan Shanahan earlier this week after Bates unexpectedly announced he wanted to fire them. "We begged, we argued, we used logic, we used other attorneys."

"If I could have made him take the plea, I would have made him take the plea," Aubin added. "We also explained to him why he should take the plea, which is that the evidence in the case is what it is."

Shanahan denied Bates' request, and the trial went forward in Hamilton County Common Pleas Court, with prosecutors presenting their case over 3 days. Closing arguments are set to begin Monday.

The most significant evidence may have been the testimony of Glenara Bates' 10-year-old sister, who said Glen Bates - the day before Glenara died - held Glenara by the legs and "swung" her into a wall.

Bates' attorneys have directed blame at his onetime girlfriend, 30-year-old Andrea Bradley. Bates lived off and on with Glenara, Bradley and several of her children in a rented house in East Walnut Hills. Bradley, whose case is being handled separately, faces the same charges - aggravated murder, murder and child endangering. She also faces the death penalty and has turned down at least one plea deal.

At the time of her arrest, she was about 7 months pregnant with Bates' child, their 3rd together. All the children have been placed in foster care.

Bates' trial is the 1st death penalty case to go to trial in Hamilton County since 2014, according to court records. In that case, Daniel Davis was found guilty in the strangulation and stabbing death of a 79-year-old man. The jury, however, declined to recommend a death sentence.

Shanahan told jurors on Friday to pack overnight bags, in case they can't reach a verdict Monday. She said they would be sequestered in a hotel, something court officials said happens in all death penalty cases.

The trial also featured Bates' video-recorded statements to Cincinnati police detectives.

Jurors saw how, in an interview on the day of Glenara's death, he expressed no sorrow or outrage when detectives showed him photos of her numerous and often gruesome injuries.

After several times denying he had done anything, he said Glenara once "fell" on her head after he "was holding her by her legs, up in the air."

When asked about several bite marks found on Glenara's arm and chest, he said they were his after detectives said they would compare dental impressions.

"We'd be playing, like, doggie gonna get ya' ... and I'll shake her," he said. "I probably bit her too hard. Something like that."

Bates' attorneys rested their case Friday without calling any witnesses.

(source: cincinnati.com)

**********************

Attorneys for Danny Lee Hill say judge will deny request for new trial

A filing by attorneys for Danny Lee Hill, 49, says the judge considering a possible retrial for the death-row inmate has indicated she will deny the request.

The filing by attorneys Sarah R. Kostick and Vicky Ruth Adams Werneke renews their request to Judge Patricia A. Cosgrove for a hearing on the question.

Judge Cosgrove is a visiting judge hearing the case on assignment from the Ohio Supreme Court.

The Wednesday filing says Judge Cosgrove told the parties in an Aug. 8 telephone conference that she would have a hearing next Thursday and Sept. 30 to hear evidence on the motion for new trial.

But it adds that Aug. 17 Judge Cosgrove told the parties by telephone that the hearing was "revoked," and she would issue an opinion on whether to grant a new trial shortly.

Hill and another defendant, Timothy Combs, were convicted of raping, torturing and burning Raymond Fife, 12, in a wooded area along Palmyra Road on Sept. 10, 1985, as Raymond rode his bicycle to a Boy Scout meeting. Raymond died 2 days later from his injuries. An expert witness said the bite marks were made by Hill.

(source: vindy.com)

*********************

Suspected serial killer indicted for aggravated murder; potentially faces death penalty

The Ashland County Grand Jury ha issued a 23-felony-count indictment against Shawn Grate.

The indictment includes 2 charges of aggravated murder which is punishable either by life in prison or the death penalty.

The charges against Grate are related to the deaths of Elizabeth Griffith and Stacey Stanley and the kidnapping of an unknown woman this month.

Authorities are also investigating Grate for the deaths of 3 other women.

The indictment also references 2 unoccupied mobile homes in Ashland County, and the Miflin Flea Market. Sources tell 10TV none of those locations are related to any of the victims, and that Grate broke into the mobile homes and slept in at lease one because he was homeless.

Among Grate's former co-workers at the Sav-A-Lot in Ashland, his indictment brings a sigh of relief for one woman who doesn't want to be identified.

"He would follow me around the store and continually try to talk to me. He would get angry at our manager," she said.

The woman says Grate invited her over to his apartment but she turned him down.

"I thought to myself I'm glad I didn't go home with him. I mean there was no lure there and he was creepy," she said.

10TV has also learned Grate worked as a landscaper at the Mansfield Holiday Inn last fall.

(source: 10tv.com)

INDIANA----death sentence overturned

Appeals court overturns Indiana death row inmate's conviction

A federal appeals court overturned the triple-murder conviction of an Indiana death row inmate on Friday and granted him a new trial due to key evidence that was withheld in earlier trials, the man's attorney and court documents said.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit in Chicago voted 6-3 to overturn the conviction of Wayne Kubsch for the 1988 murders of his wife Beth Kubsch, her ex-husband Rick Milewski and his son Aaron Milewski.

A videotaped police interview with neighbor Amanda Buck, who was then 9, could have helped challenge the prosecution's timeline of events if it had been introduced as evidence, the court said.

The tape was never shown to a jury because Buck was later unable to retell the events she described to police during the interview.

"Amanda's statement was exculpatory. If the statement were factually accurate, then Kubsch would be innocent," court documents said.

The documents added that while the state was not wrong in its decision to exclude the tape from earlier trials, a precedent set by the U.S. Supreme Court made clear that it must now be entered.

The interview is "the only available information tending to corroborate Kubsch's claim of innocence," court documents said.

Alan Freedman, Kubsch's attorney, said by telephone he was relieved by the decision. Freedman said he spoke to his client earlier in the day to tell him the news.

Kubsch was tried twice for the murders. He was convicted both times and also recommended for the death penalty both times.

Beth Kubsch was found in September 1988 stabbed to death and wrapped in duct tape in the basement of a home in Mishawaka, Indiana.

Rick and Aaron Milewski were found in the same basement stabbed multiple times and shot in the mouth, according to court documents.

Wayne Kubsch was in severe debt, and 2 months before the murders had taken out a $575,000 life insurance policy on his wife, court documents said.

During his 1st trial, prosecutors argued that he killed his wife to collect the money from the policy.

(source: Reuters)

*****************

Prosecutor faces discipline for press comments over ruling for killer

Johnson County Prosecutor Bradley Cooper faces possible professional sanctions for comments he made to the Indianapolis Star and the Associated Press after a judge ruled a man facing the death penalty wasn't competent to be executed.

Cooper was a deputy prosecutor and among the first witnesses to see the body of 18-year-old Franklin College student Kelly Eckart in 1997 after her body was discovered in a ravine near Camp Atterbury in Brown County. She had been abducted, raped and murdered. Michael Overstreet was convicted of her rape and murder and sentenced to death in 2000.

After Overstreet failed to gain post-conviction relief that would spare him from lethal injection in 2013, the Indiana Supreme Court authorized a successive PCR petition on the claim that Overstreet was insane.

Justice Robert Rucker wrote for the court that a psychiatrist's evaluation of Overstreet opined that he "does not have, and does not have the ability to produce, a rational understanding of why the State of Indiana plans to execute him."

When Johnson Superior Judge Cynthia Emkes recused herself from the subsequent post-conviction proceeding because she had presided over Overstreet's criminal trial, the case ultimately was assigned to a judge in St. Joseph County, about 165 miles away. In November 2014, St. Joseph Superior Judge Jane Woodward Miller granted Overstreet's petition.

The Indiana Supreme Court Disciplinary Commission's complaint against Cooper claims he committed professional misconduct for comments he made in the wake of Miller's ruling. The complaint seeks appropriate sanctions against Cooper's license to practice law.

According to the commission, Cooper told The Star:

"I was angry and suspicious when this case was sent to a distant judge who is not accountable to the Johnson County citizenry or a grieving mother who couldn't even afford to drive up for the hearing. The idea that this convicted murdering monster is too sick to be executed is nothing short of outrageous and is an injustice to the victim, her mother, the jury and the hundreds of people who worked to convict this animal."

The commission also cited this statement Cooper made to AP:

"Once this case got shipped to a distant judge who is not beholden to the voters and citizens of Johnson County, it didn't surprise me that she didn't want to create the headache for herself by keeping with this case ... I think the idea that this rapist murderer is basically too sick to be executed is ridiculous."

Eckart's parents, Dale and Connie Sutton, told IL in 2011 they planned to continue showing up at Overstreet's hearings until the death sentence was carried out.

Cooper is charged with violating Rule of Professional Conduct 8.2(a), which states, "A lawyer shall not make a statement that the lawyer knows to be false or with reckless disregard as to its truth or falsity concerning the qualifications or integrity of a judge, adjudicatory officer or public legal officer, or of a candidate for election or appointment to judicial or legal office."

Cooper, who's represented by Indianapolis attorneys James Voyles and Jennifer Lukemeyer, acknowledged the comments in his response to the commission's complaint, but he denied the comments were a violation of Rule 8.2(a).

In his response to the complaint, Cooper said of his comment to The Star that "He emotionally responded to an inquiry from a reporter ... and did so via text messaging."

A month after Overstreet was ruled incompetent, Attorney General Greg Zoeller announced his office would not appeal after determining the decision comported with prior U.S. Supreme Court rulings.

Cooper's disciplinary hearing is set for 1:30 p.m. Oct. 5. Like the post-conviction proceeding, it will take place far from where Overstreet was convicted. The hearing will be in Richmond, about 80 miles from the courthouse in Franklin. Hearing officer and Wayne Superior Court Judge Charles Todd Jr. will preside.

((source: The Indiana Lawyer)

*********************

Judge weighs death penalty challenges

2 Lake County men charged with murder face possible death penalty sentences if convicted by juries during their trials.

Defense attorneys for Darren Vann and Carl Blount challenged the constitutionality of Indiana's death penalty in separate hearings Thursday before Lake County Criminal Court Judge Samuel Cappas.

Both sets of attorneys stated that the state's death penalty violates the U.S. Constitution's 6th amendment and cited other court cases from Indiana and other states.

Lake County Prosecutor Bernard Carter and Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Michelle Jatkiewicz participated in both hearings for the state of Indiana, defending Indiana Code 35-20-2 governing the death penalty sentences.

The team of Gojko Kasich, Mark Bates and Matthew Fech represented Darren Vann, who waived his right to be present at the hearing.

A suspected serial killer, Vann, 45, faces murder charges in the 2014 strangling deaths of Afrikka Hardy, 19, of Hammond, and Anith Jones, 35, of Merrillville. Hardy's body was found in a bathtub inside a motel room in the 3800 block of 179th Street in Hammond.

In a separate case, Vann is facing murder charges in the homicides of Teaira Batey, Kristine Williams, Tracy L. Martin, Sonya Billingsley and Tanya Gatlin. All 5 women were found dead in October 2014 in vacant buildings in Gary.

Blount, 28, is accused of killing Gary Patrolman Jeffrey Westerfield on July 6, 2014. He appeared for the hearing with defense attorneys Richard C. Wolter Jr., Robert Varga and Thomas Vanes.

In addition to Carter and Jatkiewicz, deputy prosecuting attorneys David Urbanski and Michael Toth represented the state in Blount's case.

After listening to the arguments and asking a number of questions during both hearings, Cappas took the matters under advisement.

The judge set a ruling on both challenges to the Indiana death penalty on Dec. 2.

(source: nwitimes.com)

NEBRASKA:

Omaha judge using Nikko Jenkins case to influence death penalty vote, Ernie Chambers says

The Nebraska state senator who sponsored the repeal of the death penalty said Friday that he thinks an Omaha judge is using Nikko Jenkins to manipulate voters into overturning the repeal at the polls.

Earlier this week, Douglas County District Judge Peter Bataillon scheduled a Nov. 14 death-penalty hearing for Jenkins, convicted of the 2013 killings of 4 Omaha residents.

The judge set the hearing for after the Nov. 8 general election, during which Nebraska voters will decide whether to reinstate capital punishment. State Sen. Ernie Chambers of Omaha mailed a letter to the judge criticizing him for setting a date for the hearing now instead of waiting until after the election to schedule it.

"I am extremely chagrined that you would behave, as a judge, in a manner that apparently is designed to have an influence on the outcome of the vote," Chambers wrote.

Bataillon was out of the office Friday afternoon and could not be reached for comment.

Lawmakers repealed the death penalty in 2015, which ignited a petition drive by capital punishment supporters to put the repeal on hold until voters could decide the issue at the ballot box.

If not for multiple delays related to questions over the mental capacity of Jenkins, he would have been sentenced by now. Jenkins pleaded no contest to murdering 4 people within 3 weeks of his release from prison in 2013, where he had served the previous decade for 2 carjackings.

Bataillon has declared Jenkins competent to undergo sentencing.

The judge announced the hearing date in a written order released Tuesday. In his letter, Chambers said he believed that the judge's timing was intended to send a message.

"Your purpose was to signal voters that if you don't want this murderer to escape the appropriate punishment for his crime, you had better vote to retain the death penalty," Chambers wrote in his letter.

The senator also noted that a day after news coverage of the judge's order, a letter appeared in The World-Herald's Public Pulse section that said executing Jenkins would be a strong reason to repeal the repeal.

(source: Omaha World-Herald)

COLORADO:

Arraignment continued for man accused in Centennial rampage as death penalty, insanity plea are weighed ---- Kevin Lee Lyons faces 12 felony counts in the April 4 shootings

An arraignment for the man accused of shooting and killing a doctor and wounding 2 women in an April rampage through his Centennial neighborhood was continued on Friday amid the possibility that prosecutors could seek the death penalty and his defense team might pursue an insanity plea.

Chief District Judge Carlos A. Samour Jr. pushed back the hearing, in which defendants typically enter a plea, to November at the request of Kevin Lee Lyons' attorneys.

Samour mentioned the possibility that the 18th Judicial District Attorney's Office is deciding whether to seek capital punishment in the case and that Lyons' defense team might be pursuing a not guilty by reason of insanity plea.

"I am willing to continue this, and I understand the reasons for it," Samour said.

Lyons, 46, faces 12 felony counts in the April 4 shootings. The charges include 1 count of 1st-degree murder after deliberation, 5 counts of attempted 1st-degree murder and 4 counts of attempted 1st-degree murder of a peace officer.

Chief Deputy District Attorney Elizabeth Oldham declined to directly say if prosecutors were considering seeking the death penalty, but said such a decision would have to come within 63 days after Lyons' arraignment. Factors, such as the manner of the killings and how many people were at risk of death, would need to be weighed.

"They would consider it, George Brauchler, the elected district attorney, and make a decision," she told reporters after Friday's hearing.

Lyons is accused of unleashing a hail of gunfire on his Centennial neighborhood, killing Dr. Kenneth Atkinson as the doctor ran out of his home to help 2 women. The 65-year-old physician was taken to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

1 of the women wounded in the shooting was Lyons' wife, Elizabeth Lyons. Authorities identified the 2nd woman as Laurie Juergens.

Lyons had been acting "weird" and saying "crazy stuff" for days before the alleged shootings, his wife told investigators. Defense attorneys have hinted that they might seek a a defense based on his mental health.

Lyons' competency came into question during his 1st court appearances when he made several loud outbursts. Samour in April, days after the rampage, ordered Lyons to be evaluated and eventually found him ready to stand trial in June.

Lyons, shackled and clad in red jail clothes, did not speak during Friday morning's brief hearing in Arapahoe County. At times he bowed his head as roughly a dozen supporters of the shooting victims looked on from the gallery.

Lyons is being held without bond.

(source: Denver Post)

UTAH:

Death penalty debate ignites in Utah

Utah is a death penalty state, although inmates are rarely executed. Utah's last execution took place in 2010. If the Catholic Diocese had its way, it would be the last.

The Diocese of Salt Lake City led a legislative push earlier this year to repeal the death penalty, but it didn't have much momentum. Now, church officials say, support is growing.

"We're seeing nationally, a lot of states recognizing just how horrific and useless this penalty is," said Jean Hill, government liaison for the Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City. "We want to get people to start talking to their legislators about it now."

The church argues that the execution process for death-row inmates is most difficult on the victims and their families and breeds more anger and resentment.

"When we bring out the death penalty, we know it's going to be a 20, 30 year process and we know we're going to relive every moment of that crime over and over and over again during that process," said Hill.

On the other side of this debate, Rep. Paul Ray from Clearfield.

"It's not like we're giving it to everybody, but there is a place for it," he said.

Ray not only supports the death penalty, but he thinks more murderers should be executed.

"You have the individual that goes into prison; life without parole. There is nothing that keeps them from killing other inmates or prison officials, because they got the worst penalty that they can get," he said.

Ray introduced legislation that brought back the firing squad as a secondary method to execute inmates.

"Some of these people are monsters and they cannot be rehabilitated, there is answer for that too. It is a deterrent," said Ray, adding that if an inmate was scheduled to be executed today, they would be shot to death. "You can't get the cocktail for lethal injection anymore, which is why I brought it back."

The church is supporting new legislation to repeal the death penalty next year and admits it may not pass, but they're confident it's not that far off.

"Firing squad, lethal injection, it doesn't matter your method. Bottom line is, you are responding to a violent act with a similarly violent act and that is not the message that we need to send," said Hill.

(source: KUTV news)

IDAHO:

Renfro's jail behavior to be used to support death penalty

Prosecutors will be able to use the testimony about how a man accused of killing a Coeur d'Alene police officer has acted while he's been in jail awaiting trial.

The Coeur d'Alene Press reports that a judge ruled on Wednesday and Thursday that 26-year-old Jonathan Renfro's alleged conduct in jail can be included in a list of aggravating factors the prosecution can present to the jury in an attempt to secure the death penalty.

Renfro is charged with 1st-degree murder, grand theft, removing a law-enforcement officer's firearm, concealing evidence, robbery and eluding police in connection to the 2015 shooting death of Coeur d'Alene Police Sgt. Greg Moore.

Prosecutors say he has fashioned weapons, made escape plans, and described his actions as noble while incarcerated.

A jury trial has been tentatively scheduled Feb. 6, 2017.

(sourcec: KXLY news)

CALIFORNIA----new death sentence

Death for double-murdering, mutilating OC actor

A convicted double-murderer who mutilated the body of one his victims and tried to throw authorities off his trail by framing the dead man for the 2nd killing was sentenced to death Friday by an Orange County Superior Court judge.

Daniel Patrick Wozniak, 32, a former Los Alamitos community theater actor who killed the victims to raise funds for his pending nuptials and honeymoon, was convicted in December of the 2010 murders of 26-year-old Samuel Eliezer Herr and 23-year-old Julie Kibuishi.

Jurors recommended in January that Wozniak be sentenced to death.

Herr's father, Steve, had his wife and 8 veterans, some of whom served in combat with his son in Afghanistan, join him as he told Orange County Superior Court Judge John Conley about the effect his son's death had on him.

"I could talk for hours about our love for Sam from the day he was born," Herr said. "For me, Sam was not just my son, he was my best friend."

Herr read a letter from his son's troop commander, who detailed the victim's leadership skills.

"He possessed an unmatched ability to operate independently under harsh conditions," the troop commander wrote.

"This is the man who you, Dan, brutally murdered and dismembered," Herr said as Wozniak intently stared back, leaning slightly over in his chair. "So you could have a great honeymoon and pay off some debts. You are a coward and a poster child for the death penalty."

Herr lashed out at Wozniak's attorney, Scott Sanders, for raising the issue that Sam Herr once faced murder charges himself but was ultimately acquitted in Los Angeles County, claiming the defense attorney did it "just to get back at me" for complaining about delays in the trial.

Sanders "uses the legal system to advance his own agenda," Herr said. "But the jury got it right. My only regret is this state won't let me kill this coward myself."

Julie Kibuishi's mother, June, told Wozniak, "You took advantage of my daughter's kindness. You took her precious life just as a decoy."

Wozniak also intently stared at June Kibuishi, but did not otherwise react.

"To you, my daughter was just a decoy, nothing else. You had absolutely no reason to take her away from us," June Kibuishi said. "On that day (her daughter died) my heart was ripped apart. I felt indescribable pain. Why? What did she do to you? How could you do something like that to my baby? My daughter was the most caring friend and I am very proud of her for that."

June Kibuishi said that throughout the 6 years of legal proceedings she did not see any indication Wozniak felt remorse.

"I got to see you coming out to court, smiling for the cameras, enjoying being the center of attention," June Kibuishi said. "Did I ever see any remorse? No. You're not worthy of being called a human being."

If there was a punishment worse than the death penalty, Wozniak should receive it, June Kibuishi said.

"We're happy for these family members that justice was finally done," Senior Deputy District Attorney Matt Murphy said after the hearing.

Earlier Friday, Conley denied a defense motion for a new trial and refused to dismiss the death penalty as a potential sentence based on claims of government misconduct in the case. Conley also dealt a tongue-lashing to Wozniak's attorney, Sanders, for filing a 132-page motion during his arguments this morning.

Noting that he had denied Sanders' motion for a delay in sentencing 2 days ago, the judge asked, "Isn't this just an attempt through the back door to get the continuance you wanted?"

Sanders explained that his filing was a response to prosecutors' criticisms of the defense attorney and that he was told to file it if he wanted. Conley ruled that the filing be "stricken," but it will be part of the record for an appeal.

Sanders again argued that the Orange County Sheriff's Department engaged in outrageous government conduct in the handling of jailhouse informants, particularly Fernando Perez, who heard Wozniak make incriminating statements. But Perez was never a witness in the trial, since Wozniak had already confessed to Costa Mesa police and Perez's information was redundant and not useful to prosecutors, Senior Deputy District Attorney Matt Murphy argued previously.

Sanders also argued that Murphy has made "inconsistent" arguments in the separate cases against Wozniak and his fiancee at the time, Rachel Buffett, who was charged as an accessory after the fact. The defense attorney also argued that a police lieutenant testified that Buffett should have been charged with murder.

Buffett is awaiting trial.

Conley, however, said while there was evidence that Buffett may have known about the murders there wasn't enough evidence to show she did anything to help Wozniak kill the victims.

Conley went over the gruesome details of the killings, including how Wozniak lured Herr to a Los Alamitos theater to shoot him in the back of his head and then, with help from a 16-year-old accomplice he "tricked," he used the victim's ATM card to withdraw money from Herr's bank account. Then he went on stage in Huntington Beach to perform in a play.

After the play, he went back to the crime scene and began hacking off the head and arms of the victim to impede the investigation, Conley said.

The next day, he used Herr's phone to lure Kibuishi to Herr's Costa Mesa apartment, where he shot her and then pulled her pants down to make it appear Herr had raped and killed her, Conley said. The judge noted Wozniak's use of the internet to research how to get away with the murders.

Wozniak then returned to the stage and "again he looked fine," Conley said.

Conley also noted that it took jurors about 79 minutes to return a verdict of death.

Conley said it was "unclear" how much of a role Buffett played in the killings, but it didn't matter because Wozniak was the one who carried out the murders and dismemberment.

Conley also denied an automatic motion to reject the jury's recommendation of death.

Wozniak was deep in debt in May 2010, facing eviction and without money for his pending wedding, when he concocted the money-acquisition plan to kill his neighbor, Herr, and throw police off the trail by making it look like Herr murdered and raped Kibuishi, Murphy argued at trial.

Wozniak, who grew up in Long Beach, further tried to confound investigators by dismembering Herr and dumping the body parts in the El Dorado Nature Center in Long Beach, Murphy said.

*********************************

After 37 years: Will he get death in cold case rape-murder?

The jury that convicted a man - already in prison for 1 murder - of murdering a young woman during the commission of a rape in Glendale about 37 years ago is due back in court Monday for the trial's penalty phase. Darrell Mark Gurule.Darrell Mark Gurule. Photo via Glendale Police DepartmentIn that hearing, the panel will be asked to recommend a sentence of death or life in prison without parole for the defendant.

Darrell Mark Gurule, 57, was found guilty Wednesday of the 1st-degree murder for the shooting death of 23-year-old Barbara Ballman, whose naked body was found inside her Volkswagen sedan that was parked across from Edison Elementary School in the early morning hours of Sept. 21, 1979.

The criminal complaint alleges that she had been killed on or about Sept. 20, 1979.

Jurors found true the special circumstance allegations of murder during the commission of a rape and murder with a prior conviction, and deadlocked on a 3rd special circumstance allegation - murder during the course of a robbery.

Glendale police said semen evidence was recovered from the victim, who had been shot in the abdomen, but DNA analysis was not available at the time.

In 2009, Glendale police re-opened an investigation into Ballman's killing and submitted the semen evidence to the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department's crime lab, police said.

The DNA was linked to Gurule, who was 19 at the time of the killing and had been serving a life prison sentence since 1987 for the kidnap-murder of a man in a case detectives believe was a drug deal gone wrong, according to police.

Jurors are expected to hear more about the prior murder case during the trial's penalty phase.

Gurule had also been convicted of attacking a woman in Los Angeles in 1977, according to police.

Gurule was arrested in 2010 in connection with Ballman's killing. He has remained behind bars without bail since then.

(source for both: mynewsla.com)

********

High-profile defense attorney attempts to represent Huntsman

An attempt by a high-profile defense attorney to represent a woman accused of killing 2 children was quickly squashed by a Monterey County judge in denying her request for a new trial date.

Santa Monica defense attorney Marcia Morrissey, who's represented Snoop Dogg and the Menendez Brothers, made an appearance in court Friday with Tami Huntsman in an attempt to be appointed as her 2nd attorney.

But after Superior Court Judge Pamela Butler said the trial date would not be postponed, Morrissey said she no longer would want to be considered.

"I cannot be ready for the case by February," she said. "I have obligations in other cases. I'll decline the appointment as it does not give me time to prepare."

California law allows a 2nd attorney to be appointed for indigent clients in death penalty cases.

Huntsman, 40, is accused of abusing a 9-year-old girl and of killing her 6- and 3-year-old siblings, Shaun and Delylah Tara. Their bodies were found stuffed in barrels soon after they were reported missing.

Huntsman is facing the death penalty. Her co-defendant, Gonzalo Curiel, is facing life in prison since he was a minor when the crimes were committed.

Butler said she would appoint a 2nd attorney, also known as Keenan counsel, on Oct. 14.

Morrissey and Kay Duffy, Huntsman's attorney, asked the court to put off the trial until September 2017 to give them time to prepare. Duffy said the February date would not give her enough time.

But prosecutor Steve Somers said the trial should not be delayed any longer because children will be called as witnesses and they are likely to forget details the more time goes by.

"I have children who have to remember things, and the defense (wants to) make it as long, tedious and expensive" as possible, he said.

Duffy denied wanting to protract the proceedings unnecessarily, saying she had an obligation to defend her client's life.

"We have an ethical obligation to do the process as it's supposed to be done," Duffy said. "We don't have a set agenda."

(source: Monterey Herald)

OREGON:

Woman accused of shooting Ex-Gladstone cop's wife spoke of killing her before, sister says

Karen Benton said Friday she never took seriously Susan Campbell's comments about trying to kill her sister-in-law.

Even after Debbie Higbee Benton was found dead in May 2001, Karen Benton testified in Clackamas County Circuit Court, she never connected it to statements Campbell had made months earlier. The fact was that Campbell threatened to kill many people, including her own husband, she said.

"I never took Susan seriously. She was always speaking grandiose things," Karen Benton said. "I thought she was just talking. She always talked like this."

The prosecution called Karen Benton to the stand as her brother's murder trial closed in on its 2nd full week. Lynn Edward Benton, a former Gladstone police sergeant, is accused of paying Campbell and her son, Jason Jaynes, $2,000 to kill Higbee Benton.

The couple, who married in 2010, had separated in April 2011 after Lynn Benton's transition from woman to man frayed their relationship.

Higbee Benton was found dead on the floor of her beauty salon, shot, strangled and beaten. Prosecutors say Campbell shot her and, when that didn't kill her, Lynn Benton watched as Jaynes strangled and beat her.

Lynn Benton could face the death penalty if he is convicted of aggravated murder. He also faces charges of solicitation to commit aggravated murder, criminal conspiracy to commit aggravated murder and attempted murder.

Campbell pleaded guilty in 2012 to attempted aggravated murder as part of a cooperation deal with prosecutors. However, a judge ruled that Campbell repeatedly violated the deal and it was revoked earlier this month.

Prosecutors say Lynn Edward Benton orchestrated the murder-for-fire plot against his wife, Debbie Higbee Benton, in 2011 with the help of a friend and her son.

Karen Benton, Lynn Benton's older sister, met Campbell in the early 2000s, before Lynn Benton and Higbee Benton started dating, she told prosecutors on Friday.

Karen Benton didn't know Campbell well, she said. She mainly interacted with Campbell when visiting her grandmother, whom Campbell was caring for in September 2010, she said.

That same month, Campbell told Karen Benton that she had tried to kill Higbee Benton multiple times. She claimed she tried to poison Higbee Benton and push her into a river, Karen Benton said. She also claimed to be building a silencer for a gun.

However, Karen Benton didn't believe her.

"I didn't take them seriously," she said. "They were the ramblings of an individual who never meant what she said."

In the days after Higbee Benton's death, she said that she didn't think about what Campbell's words. Instead, she focused on trying to support her brother, who was devastated, she said.

Them about a week after the slaying, Karen Benton drove Lynn Benton to a local restaurant to meet Campbell. Her brother and his friend exchanged checks, she testified, then Campbell leaned through the car window where Karen Benton sat.

Campbell asked if she had told anyone about what she'd said about Higbee Benton.

"I didn't know what to think," Karen Benton said. "I didn't know at that point in time whether Susan was serious when she made those statements months ago (or) is she just being her typical Susan self and making more grandiose statements?"

When investigators questioned her in November 2011, Karen Benton told them about Campbell's statements. She wondered then if things would have been different if she believed Campbell before, she said.

"Maybe if I had taken her seriously months ago then maybe Debbie would still be alive," she said.

Prosecutors also called Gladstone assistant city manager Jolene Morishita to the witness stand on Friday. Morishita recalled multiple conversations with Lynn Benton about his marital issues after his transition. At one point, he said Higbee Benton no longer loved him and that he believed she stole money from him, Morishita said.

The trial will continue next week.

(source: oregonlive.com)

USA:

Jury selection process in Roof trial begins Monday

One of the highest profile murder trials in state history begins in November, but first the lengthy task of finding a jury for Dylann Roof's federal trial must begin.

Roof is charged with killing 9 people Emanuel AME Church last year.

Court officials say they expect Roof to attend the jury proceedings that begin Monday. The process will take place in downtown Charleston, and many legal experts plan to observe.

"The procedure coming up in jury selection in my view is the key," said former state Attorney General Charlie Condon. "It's the key in the Dylann Roof case."

Condon believes it will be the most important murder case to be tried in South Carolina history. He believes who ends up on the jury could make or break the case.

"The defense really only needs to have one juror out of the 12 that will vote for life imprisonment. If that happens, it will be a life imprisonment sentence," he said.

That's why Condon thinks the jury process is especially critical. With an overwhelming amount of evidence against Dylann Roof and the nature of the crime, selecting a jury panel of 12 from a pool of 1,500 people will be challenging.

"First of all, you've got to get jurors what haven't made up their mind about guilt or innocence. That's why so many are being summoned to the federal court, because this case has been so very well-covered, as it should be," Condon said.

The former attorney general believes the jurors' beliefs on the death penalty will be weighed heavily.

"You cannot be a juror that says in every murder case the defendant has to get the death penalty," he said. "You can't be a juror that says in every death penalty case, 'I'm against the death penalty. I can never vote for the death penalty.'"

Even with strict qualifications, the long-time lawyer believes defense attorneys have a tough job.

"The defense has an extremely difficult burden in this matter, and the odds of them finding that 1 juror is going to be a really difficult task."

700 people will eventually be chosen from the group of 3,000 potential jurors. Selecting a final jury panel of 12 people will take place in November before the federal trial begins.

(source: WCIV news)

***********************

Racism is keeping the death penalty alive

The Delaware Supreme Court recently struck down the state's death penalty on Sixth Amendment grounds. In November, California, the largest state in the country, will have a ballot initiative to end the death penalty.

It's almost certain that the United States has executed innocent people, and death row inmates are being exonerated with DNA evidence across the country. With the possibility of a Supreme Court that is appointed by Democrats, it's increasingly likely that the death penalty will eventually be banned in the United States.

But despite the liberalization that has happened in America in recent decades on issues like gun control, marijuana legislation, and LGBTQ rights, the death penalty has proven stubbornly resistant to a change. A recent Gallup poll finds that 61 % of Americans still favor the death penalty; Pew places support at about 56 %. That's lower than in the early 1990s, when 80% of Americans supported the death penalty, but it's still high when compared to other industrialized nations, and a far smaller gain than other progressive political causes have made in the U.S. during the same time period.

Why has support for the death penalty proven so consistent among Americans? Our research shows 1 possible reason: namely, support for the death penalty is deeply linked to larger questions of racism in America.

In trying to answer these questions, we created a model that used several academic data sources and controlled for race, income, education, ideology and party to explore how racism affects attitudes about the death penalty. And when we ran the numbers, we found that people who harbor racist stereotypes about black people and those with racial resentment towards the position of black people in American society are far more supportive of the death penalty than those with more tolerant attitudes.

In other words, the data clearly show that the death penalty isn't a party-line issue- it's a racism issue.

The links between the death penalty and racism

We know, first and foremost, that support for the death penalty is most highly concentrated among older white Americans.

According to data from the 2016 American National Election Studies, a survey of 1,200 eligible voters taken in late January, 79% of Republicans support the death penalty, while only 45% of Democrats do. 63% of white people support the death penalty, compared with 42% of black people and 1/2 of all people of color. Among those less than 30 years of age, support stands at only 46%, while 65% of those 50 years and older favor the death penalty.

1 question on the ANES survey asks respondents, "Do you favor, oppose, or neither favor nor oppose the death penalty for persons convicted of murder?" We compared this data with other ANES questions that ask respondents questions about racial resentment - such as whether they think black people are lazier and more violent than white people.

Interestingly, this effect is not true among Latinos. Latinos who harbor more resentful views or negative stereotypes of black people are no more likely to favor the death penalty than those without resentful views. This suggests that the death penalty is uniquely tied to race for whites - maybe unsurprising, given its long history as a tool for racial oppression.

The death penalty is being successfully killed by high-knowledge Democrats

Even though support for the death penalty doesn't fall neatly along party lines, there is still a link to partisan politics - namely, Democrat-controlled states are much more likely to abolish the death penalty than those controlled by Republicans.

In 2012, 74% of Democrats supported the death penalty, compared to about 84% for Republicans and 81% for Independents. Between 2012 and 2016, Democrats and Independents have become significantly less likely to support the death penalty. Among strong Democratic partisans, there is now only a 45% probability of support for the death penalty, compared to 85% for strong Republicans.

The explanation for the emergence of partisan polarization on death penalty attitudes can be found in the shifts within the Democratic coalition. First off, we find that Democrats are no longer divided along racial lines - our model of 2016 opinions shows no significant differences in support probability between Democrats of different racial backgrounds. Second, and perhaps even more important, Democrats with high levels of political knowledge are now significantly less likely to support the death penalty than those with low levels of political knowledge. As shown in the chart below, probability of support among "high knowledge" Democrats - defined by the survey as Democrats who correctly answered a series of questions about American politics and government - is only 35%. This group, more than any other, is pushing the death penalty toward abolition.

America will probably abolish the death penalty - eventually

Though several states have curbed the use of, or entirely abolished the death penalty, it still exists in 31 states. The increasing difficulty in obtaining the drugs used to carry out lethal injections has also slowed the pace of executions. Executions per year have steadily declined, from 52 in 2009 to 28 in 2015 and 15 so far in 2016. One study finds, "Only 2% of the counties in the U.S. have been responsible for the majority of cases leading to executions since 1976."

But even if states don't vote to abolish the death penalty, the Supreme Court appears ready to strike, accepting two death penalty cases for its upcoming term. Both cases include sympathetic defendants: one, a black man whose trial included testimony claiming that black people are more prone to violence than whites and another includes a man with severe mental disabilities. Justices Breyer and Kennedy had previously signaled opposition on the grounds that the death penalty was applied too inconsistently. Ginsburg joined a Breyer dissent declaring death penalty unconstitutional and it’s likely Sotomayor believes this as well. It’s unlikely Kagan would dissent with the conservatives, particularly if Kennedy is on board.

The Court as it is currently will continue to limit the death penalty; a Court with a liberal majority could end the death penalty for good, while a Court with one or more new justices appointed by Donald Trump would likely uphold it. (Trump has signaled strong support for the death penalty, especially for people who kill police officers.)

The death penalty has a fraught history in the United States. It has roots in lynching, a form of extra-judicial terrorism that propped up white supremacy. A study by the Equal Justice Institute finds, "the decline of lynching in the studied states relied heavily on the increased use of capital punishment imposed by court order following an often accelerated trial." Black men were frequently executed for rape, though white men rarely did. According to the ACLU, "Between 1930 and 1976, 455 men were executed for rape, of whom 405 - 90 % - were black." The youngest American in the 20th century who was executed was a black 14 year old, convicted in a trial that was deemed unfair 70 years after his execution.

Even today, there are stark racial biases in who faces death, and for what crimes. These disparities persist today.

The death penalty can't be separated from America's long history of racial oppression. Luckily, the social liberalization of the country combined with judicial challenges may, eventually, make state-sponsored executions a thing of the past.

(source: fusion.net)

INDIA:

SC sets free death row convict

A death row convict was today set free by the Supreme Court saying the prosecution has not proved the charge against him of murdering his wife and five daughters on the basis of evidence on record.

\Justices Ranjan Gogoi and U U Lalit acquitted the man, even as Justice P C Pant, who was also part of the bench, dissented with their view and upheld the conviction.

Justice Pant, however, commuted to life imprisonment, the death penalty awarded to the Chhattisgarh native, saying the trial court and the High Court were influenced by the brutality and the manner in which the crime was committed.

The 2:1 verdict came on the man's appeal against his conviction and sentence.

\According to the prosecution, Chhattisgarh-native Dhal Singh Dewangan, killed his wife and 5 daughters on February 19, 2012.

In the majority verdict, delivered by Justice U U Lalit, the apex court held that the appellant deserved to be acquitted as the prosecution had not proved its case.

"We allow these appeals, set aside the judgments of conviction and sentence recorded by the Courts below against the appellant and acquit him of all the charges levelled against him. The appellant be set at liberty immediately unless his custody is required in any other case," the majority bench said.

The majority bench held that the circumstantial evidence, based on which the trial court had convicted the man, "did not form a complete chain of evidence."

"In our view, the circumstances mentioned do not form a complete chain of evidence as not to leave any reasonable ground for the conclusion consistent with the innocence of the appellant, nor do the circumstances exclude every possible hypothesis except the guilt of the accused," they said.

Justice Pant, in his minority view, said "the State has failed to show that the appellant is a continuing threat to the society or that he is beyond reformation and rehabilitation. Both the courts below, in my opinion, appear to have been influenced by the brutality and the manner in which the crime is committed."

"But this Court cannot ignore the fact that there are no criminal antecedents of the appellant. Also, it cannot be said that he is continuing threat to the society or that he cannot be reformed or rehabilitated," he said.

Justice Pant also observed that the convict belonged to a "socially and economically disadvantaged strata of the society" and considering the facts, it found that life imprisonment would meet the ends of justice.

(source: Press Trust of India)

JAPAN:

Japan's bar federation targets abolishing death penalty for 1st time

The Japan Federation of Bar Associations will propose for the 1st time to its members next month that they work for the abolition of capital punishment so that even the worst offenders can be rehabilitated.

The proposal comes at a time when more than 2/3 of nations have abolished the death penalty by law or in practice.

It also reflects concerns over miscarriage of justice, given that 4 death row inmates were exonerated in the 1980s through retrials and another death row inmate was freed in 2014 following 48 years behind bars after a court reopened his case. The decision has been appealed by prosecutors.

"If an innocent person or an offender who does not deserve to be sentenced to death is executed it is an irrevocable human rights violation," said Yuji Ogawara, a Tokyo-based lawyer who serves as secretary general of a JFBA panel on the death penalty.

The proposal will be submitted to the federation's annual human rights meeting on Oct 7 in Fukui for formal adoption as a JFBA declaration.

The federation is targeting abolition of the death penalty by 2020, when the U.N. Congress on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice will be held in Japan.

In its 2011 declaration, the federation urged the government to immediately start public debate on the death penalty, but stopped short of clearly calling for its abolition.

Since then, the federation has carried out more in-depth discussions on the issue by organizing symposiums, exchanging views with lawmakers, Justice Ministry officials, journalists and diplomats as well as those in religious circles.

It has also sent delegations overseas to research penal systems in countries including Britain, South Korea, Spain and the United States.

"There are still lawyers who support the death penalty, but I think we have developed an environment that enables us to seek its abolition," said Ogawara, who was involved in drafting the proposal.

As an alternative to the death penalty, the federation proposes whole life sentences without parole should be considered as 1 option.

But even if whole life sentences without parole are given, there should be scope for subsequently reviewing the sentence if an offender has truly been rehabilitated, as it would be inhumane to allow no possibility of such inmates ever being released, it says.

Those who commit crimes, in many cases, are the socially disadvantaged who could be rehabilitated with appropriate approaches, Ogawara said. "The penal system should contribute to promoting social reintegration of offenders, rather than satisfying the desire for retribution."

It is also important to enhance assistance measures for crime victims and their bereaved families, the JFBA says in the proposal, stressing the need to provide continued support to them "as the primary responsibility of society as a whole."

Japan was urged by the U.N. Human Rights Committee in 2014 to "give due consideration to the abolition of the death penalty," but has legitimized its continuance by citing the outcome of a survey that indicated more than 80 % of people in Japan support the death penalty.

Critics maintain that the respondents were not provided with sufficient information on the execution system.

The secrecy surrounding executions in Japan has been criticized at home and abroad, with neither death row inmates nor their lawyers and families given advance notice of hangings. It also remains unclear what criteria authorities use in deciding when inmates are to be executed.

Japan hanged 2 death row inmates in March, bringing to 16 the total number of people executed since Prime Minister Shinzo Abe came to power in December 2012.

(source: Japan Today)

ZIMBABWE:

More death row inmates fight capital penalty

The Constitutional Court (ConCourt) will next week hear the third case of death row inmates fighting to have their sentences commuted.

Legal experts, Veritas, who recently also took two other death row cases to the ConCourt, will next Wednesday assist condemned prisoners Farai Lawrence Ndlovu and Wisdom Gochera to fight for the commuting of their death sentences. The pair are represented by Tendai Biti of Biti Law Chambers.

Ndlovu has been at Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison for the 2012 murder of Michael Sunderland and Geoffrey Andrew Povey, while Gochera was convicted of the murder of a South African in 2002.

According to Veritas, the 2 were sentenced to death shortly before the new Constitution came into force in 2013.

"The argument, on their behalf, is that the new Constitution effectively abolished the pre-existing law that provided for the carrying-out of the death penalty and the new law providing for the death penalty had not been enacted at the time the court application was filed.

"Hence, the argument is that they cannot now be executed because the law to be applied is the law as it existed at the time of filing the application," Veritas said in a statement.

Other death row cases that Veritas took to the ConCourt are those of Cuthbert Tapuwanashe Chawira and others versus the Minister of Justice and others, and Emmanuel Dolosi versus the Minister of Justice and another.

Chawira and other death row inmates have been awaiting execution for lengthy periods, with some going up to 18 years living in constant fear that any day they will be called for execution, and living in appalling jail conditions, coupled with other cruel and inhuman treatment.

Although the ConCourt sat to hear the 2 cases, it has not yet passed a judgment.

Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa (pictured), recently attended the 9th International Meeting of Justice Ministers in Rome, Italy, where he said Zimbabwe was on the path to abolishing the death penalty.

In July this year, Veritas also succeeded in getting the courts to agree that life prisoners will now be eligible for parole like other convicts through a case they helped bring before the courts, Makoni versus Commissioner of Prisons and another.

The ConCourt ruled that life imprisonment without the possibility of release constituted a violation of human dignity and amounted to inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment in breach of sections 51 and 53 of the Constitution.

(source: NewsDay)

AUSTRALIA:

MP calls for death penalty for terrorism, child murder

Colourful Queensland MP George Christensen says those convicted of terrorism involving death and child rape-murder should face the death penalty.

Outspoken Liberal-National Party MP George Christensen says Australia should resurrect the death penalty but only for particular cases.

In an interview with the Courier-Mail newspaper, the North Queensland MP said it could be imposed for terrorism crimes involving death and for the rape and murder of children.

"I personally think it's warranted in some instances, but I'm not gung-ho enough to think I can, or anyone can, reinstate it in Australia," he said.

(source: sbs.com.au)

PHILIPPINES:

Death penalty support shaky

Public support for the restoration of the death penalty is weak and shallow. Many Filipinos who appear to favor the revival of capital punishment are merely venting their exasperation over the miserable performance of our criminal justice system.

Filipinos hunger and thirst for justice, not for blood. And this craving for justice may be satisfied only by profound and comprehensive reforms in law enforcement, prosecution service, the judiciary and our prisons.

This was shown in the results of an online poll on the House of Representatives' official website, which showed that 50 % of participants favored the renewal of the death penalty, while 48 % rejected it, with 2 % undecided.

The ratings imply that the reinstatement of the death penalty is a highly discordant matter that is best deferred by Congress.

The blame for the dismal functioning of the justice system that has deeply frustrated and angered many Filipinos is on widespread corruption.

Many citizens still do not report crime victimizations simply because they do not have confidence in our justice system. And the primary reason for this lack of public trust is corruption, which we have to eradicate first.

In fact, many homeowners in middle class subdivisions are extremely wary of opening their doors to Oplan Tokhang precisely because they're scared corrupt officers might put in false drug evidence.

(source: Opinion; Lito Atienza, House senior deputy minority leader and Buhay party-list representative----Sun-Star)

MALAYSIA----execution

Canny Ong rapist-killer finally hanged

The 40-year-old who formerly worked as an aircraft cabin cleaner had spent 11 years on death row appealing against his death sentence without success and was hanged about 6am yesterday, after meeting his family for the last time the day before, The Star reported today.

The daily cited an unnamed Kajang Prison spokesman saying he was later buried at the Sungai Kantan Muslim cemetery in Kajang.

Lawyer Mohamed Haniff Khatri Abdulla who had previously represented Ahmad Najib described the latter as a "good Muslim" while in jail to the newspaper, adding that prison officials related how he often led other inmates in prayer and taught them about religion.

"To me, at least the time he was in prison, he was a better person than many outside," Mohamed Haniff was quoted saying.

The 2003 murder case that was well-covered by the media sparked a nationwide uproar at that time due to the seemingly random violence perpetrated.

According to past reports, Ong, who was a US-based IT specialist home for a visit, was abducted from the carpark of the Bangsar Shopping Complex on June 13, 2003.

Her charred remains were found in a manhole along Old Klang Road here, several days later.

Forensic tests carried out later showed she had been raped.

Ahmad Najib was subsequently arrested and charged based on the forensic and criminal evidence. He was convicted and given the maximum sentence of 20 years imprisonment and 10 strokes of the rotan for Ong's rape and the mandatory death penalty for her murder.

In a separate statement, Amnesty International Malaysia which opposed the death penalty, condemned the government for the secret execution of Ahmad Najib.

Its executive director Shamini Darshni Kaliemuthu noted that Malaysia is not the only country that provides the capital punishment, but said the authorities should follow international laws and standards and provide sufficient advance notice to convicted killers on death row to enable them to seek further recourse at the national or international level.

"There is no convincing evidence to support the argument that the death penalty prevents crime more effectively than other punishments including life imprisonment. Further, statistics from countries which 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.

"What does hanging Ahmad Najib really achieve?" she asked.

AI Malaysia said Ahmad Najib's execution is only the 4th known to have taken place in the country and suspects there have been more executions conducted secretly.

"Amnesty International Malaysia does not downplay the seriousness of crimes committed, but we urge the authorities to consider introducing more effective crime prevention measures especially when there is overwhelming evidence that proves that the death penalty does not deter crime," Shamini added.

(source: themalaymailonline.com)

***************

Amnesty condemns execution of man convicted for Canny Ong's murder

Amnesty International condemned the quiet execution of Ahmad Najib Aris, who was hanged Friday after spending 13 years on death row for the rape and murder of Canny Ong Lay Kian.

"The death penalty is never an answer. Hanging a man for murder is not justice, it is revenge.

"We oppose the use of capital punishment regardless of the crime committed," Amnesty International Malaysia executive director Shamini Darshni Kaliemuthu said in a statement Friday.

Shamini said that while international law allows for the death penalty to be meted out for the most serious crimes, the lack of transparency on the use of the death penalty in Malaysia raises crucial concerns.

“International law and standards require that in countries which have yet to abolish the death penalty, the authorities must ensure that prisoners under the sentence of death and their families are given reasonable advance notice of the scheduled date and time of the executions.

"From Amnesty International Malaysia's experience in dealing with imminent executions, families are only informed between 72 and 24 hours before.

"Also of concern is the authorities deliberately concealing or minimising public scrutiny over imminent executions," she said.

Shamini said transparency in the use of the death penalty is important to avoid aggravating mental trauma of prisoners sentenced to death and is also a critical safeguard against unlawful executions.

"International standards on the use of the death penalty also set out that condemned prisoners and their lawyers be officially informed of the date of execution in sufficient time to take any further recourse available at the national or international level.

"However, we understand that lawyers in Malaysia are not informed of impending executions of their clients as case proceedings would have concluded," she said.

Due to the lack of transparency, Shamini said there were possibility of more executions which have not been disclosed by the authorities.

Shamini added that there is no convincing evidence to support the argument that death penalty can prevent crimes more effectively compared to other punishments including life imprisonment.

"Further, statistics from countries which 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.

"Amnesty International Malaysia does not downplay the seriousness of crimes committed, but we urge the authorities to consider introducing more effective crime prevention measures especially when there is overwhelming evidence that proves that the death penalty does not deter crime," she said.

In 2003, then 27-year-old Ong's charred body was found in a hole, below 2 cement-filled tyres were found 4 days after her kidnap.

Forensic investigation led to the arrest of Ahmad Najib, also 27-years-old at that time, who had raped her before killing her by stabbing her twice.

(source: malaysiakini.com)

IRAN:

Juvenile Offender Forgiven for Murder, Saved from Execution

Rauf Hasani, a juvenile prisoner on death row in Saqqez Central Prison on murder charges, has been saved from execution after the complainants on his case file forgave him.

A source close to Rauf tells Iran Human Rights: "The Hasani family and the family of the murder victim were present in court on September 14, 2016. At the hearing the murder victim's family agreed to forgive Rauf on the condition that he moves out of Saqqez and that he can only return in the event of a funeral for one of his immediate family members. The Hasani family agreed to the condition and the presiding judge confirmed it."

According to confirmed sources, Rauf Hasani, who was born in January 1997, was arrested by Iranian authorities in August 2013 in the city of Saqqez (Kurdistan province, northwestern Iran) on murder charges. Rauf, 16 years old at the time of his arrest, was sentenced to death in spring 2015 by the civil court in Saqqez.

Rauf, who has only completed school up to the 5th grade, is currently still held in the juvenile offenders ward of Saqqez Central Prison where he is awaiting a retrial.

Rauf Hasani is among 7 death row juvenile offenders identified in a recent report published by Iran Human Rights.

**********************

Least 11 Prisoners in Imminent Danger of Execution at Rajai Shahr Prison ---- Their executions are reportedly scheduled to be carried out on Wednesday September 28.

At least 11 prisoners are reportedly scheduled to be executed on Wednesday September 28 at Rajai Shahr Prison.

On the morning of Thursday September 22, at least 11 prisoners in Karaj's Rajai Shahr Prison were reportedly transferred to solitary confinement in preparation for their executions. Confirmed sources say that most of the prisoners were sentenced to death on murder charges.

Their executions are reportedly scheduled to be carried out on Wednesday September 28.

(source for both: Iran Human rights)

********************

Iran Executes Hundreds of People Each Year in Its UN-Funded War on Drugs

The latest session of the United Nations General Assembly is underway in New York City. The assembly has featured many speakers, including Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, who used the platform to address extremism in the world as well as the landmark nuclear deal with the United States and other world powers.

One thing he did not mention was the death penalty. Iran has one of the globe's highest rates of capital punishment, a fact that if ignored inside the chamber, was highlighted by protesters outside the General Assembly.

Many of the executions are carried out in the name of Iran's war on drugs, one of the bloodiest in the world. By Iran's own admission, 93 % of the 852 reported executions between July 2013 and June 2014 were drug-related. In 2015, Iran put more than 966 individuals to death, the majority of whom appear to have faced drug-related charges.

And the United Nations is complicit. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has for years given the Islamic Republic funding for its anti-drug efforts, a partnership that has raised serious concerns about the morality and legality of the UN's program, but will probably go unscrutinised at the General Assembly.

The UNODC was established in 1997 to address issues related to drug trafficking and abuse, among other issues related to crime and punishment. It has an estimated biennial budget of 700 million US dollars, and the majority of this funding comes from Western countries, many of whom have outlawed capital punishment in any form.

The UNODC has given Iran more than 15 million US dollars since 1998 to support operations by the country’s Anti-Narcotics Police. This is despite significant evidence that Iran’s governmental drug policies violate international law, and fall short of UNODC's own standards.

The UK-based human rights NGO Reprieve has linked funding from the UN to at least 3,000 executions in Iran, including the execution of juvenile offenders. In 2014, for example, Iran reportedly hanged an Afghan juvenile, 15-year-old Jannat Mir, for an alleged drug offense, despite the fact that he was a minor.

Those who are executed are often individuals who are marginalized in Iranian society. This includes undocumented migrants and refugees from neighbouring Afghanistan, as well as ethnic and religious minorities who face disenfranchisement in Iran.

In February 2016, it was reported that Iran executed the entire adult male population of one village based on drug charges. The village, Roushanabad, is located in Balochistan, Iran's poorest province. The population consists of ethnic and religious minorities, many of whom earn their livelihood through smuggling.

Those who face drug charges are often denied due process. A 2014 report by Ahmad Shaheed, the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Iran, quoted an experienced Iranian lawyer who said that drug trials "never last more than a few minutes." Prisoners are often denied access to counsel, and claim that confessions are forced under torture.

Human Rights Watch has accused Iran of using drug charges against political prisoners and dissidents, raising further concerns about the implications of the UNODC's support for the country's anti-drugs program. In 2009, Zahra Bahrami, a citizen of both the Netherlands and Iran was arrested and accused of drug trafficking - a charge she denied. She claimed her confession was extracted under duress, and activists contend that her arrest was based on her political views. She was executed in 2011.

"Iran has hanged more than a hundred so-called drug offenders this year, and the UN has responded by praising the efficiency of the Iranian drug police and lining them up a generous 5-year funding deal," said Maya Foa, strategic director of Reprieve's death penalty team, in an interview with the Guardian in 2015.

Instead of focusing primarily on endemic problems such as poverty and a lack of opportunities for youth that foster drug abuse, Iran continues to enact draconian punishments on individuals, including publicly executing them. Observers argue these killings are a strategy by the regime to maintain political authority through intimidation, as opposed to tackling the problems of poverty and drug abuse through treatment and economic development.

From a legal perspective, there is ample evidence that Iran's executions are a violation of international human rights law, as enshrined in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). The ICCPR, to which Iran is a party, explicitly reserves capital punishment for only "the most serious crimes." Article 6 of the ICCPR explicitly states that the death penalty cannot be imposed if a fair trial has not been granted.

In 2012, the UNODC released a position paper that appeared to critique its own involvement in Iran. The paper noted that cooperation with countries which use capital punishment "can be perceived as legitimising government actions." It concluded that in such circumstances the organisation "may have no choice but to employ a temporary freeze or withdrawal of support." Yet the UNODC has never publicly expressed a desire to withdraw support from its Iran program.

Iran has thus far practised its drug executions with impunity, and will likely avoid tough questions at the UN. Under current President Hassan Rouhani, who is often perceived and presented as a "moderate" politician, the rate of executions is higher than it was during the hardline presidency of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad - a reality that seemingly betrays Rouhani's own support base and promises of "prudence and hope." In 2015, the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Ahmad Shaheed noted that "the overall situation has worsened" with respect to human rights under Rouhani.

While the responsibility of executions and incarcerations lies foremost with the judiciary, the Rouhani administration and the appointed minister of justice, Mostafa Pourmohammadi, have remained silent and inactive on the issue.

The hypocrisy in aiding Iran is not lost on everyone. The UK, Denmark and Ireland have withdrawn funding for UNODC's Iran program, citing human rights concerns. However, other countries including Norway and France continue to provide funding. In 2015, the UNODC renewed a 5-year commitment with Iran promising an additional 20 million dollars. As the UN General Assembly convenes, the issue of funding Iran's executions appears to have been left off the agenda.

(source: globalvoices.org)

KENYA:

Get rid of death penalty, urge Murang'a residents

Kenyans want the government to get an alternative penalty to be meted on people found guilty of capital offences. The sentiments emerged during a public hearing forum organised by the Power Of Mercy Advisory Committee in Murang'a county on Wednesday.

Local residents said the said the government should drop execution of convicts and instead engage them in other productive activities and their sentence lowered to life imprisonment.

POMAC vice-chair Regina Boisabi said the committee was collecting views from the public to help formulate policy on death penalty going by the guidelines given by the United Nations to help Kenya give its stand on death penalty.

She said there are about 3, 000 people sentenced to death who are held in Kenyan prisons. "We have been to 24 counties and the views we collect from people shall direct our report."

(source: mediamaxnetwork.co.ke)

SEPTEMBER 23, 2016:

DELAWARE:

Del. Supreme Court to decide fate of those on death row

The Delaware Supreme Court will hear arguments about whether or not to convert the sentences of men on death row to life in prison before the end of the year.

After narrowly ruling that the state's death penalty was unconstitutional in August, the Delaware Supreme Court must now decide the fate of 13 men awaiting execution.

Attorney General Matt Denn (D) declined to appeal the death penalty ruling, but says these executions should be carried out.

Death penalty supporters argue the state has an obligation to carry out those original sentences so victims' family members can get closure.

But those who backed a legislative repeal effort here say those men were given a death sentence under a flawed system that the courts later overturned.

Lawyers for Derrick Powell, who killed Georgetown Police officer Chad Spicer in 2009 and had requested a life sentence at trial, will argue the case.

Oral arguments are Dec. 7.

(source: delawarepublic.org)

ALABAMA----female faces death penalty

Saraya Atkins guilty of capital murder in 2014 robbery, shooting----Shakai Atkins, 20, was arrested on March 12, 2014 after a fatal shooting in Coden. Atkins was convicted of capital murder Thursday, Sept. 22 and faces the death penalty or life in prison without parole.

A jury in Mobile County has found 22-year-old Saraya Atkins guilty of capital murder, robbery and theft in the 2014 shooting death of Robert Perry, 66. Police say Atkins and another woman, Kymberli Lindsay, 27 robbed and then killed Perry.

Perry was shot to death on March 11, 2014.

As the jury deliberated on a verdict, D.A. Ashley Rich consoled the nine family members of Perry as they waited for the jury's decision.

Atkins' 8 family members sat shoulder to shoulder in the rows across from Perry's. Before the jury gave the verdict, 5 police officers came into the courtroom and filled the middle rows in case there was an emotional out burst from family members.

After the verdict was read and the judge dismissed the jurors, Atkins put her head down and burst into tears. After she was led out with officers, she could be heard crying loudly in the hallway near the judges' chambers.

The trial will now enter a penalty phase where the jury will decide if Atkins should receive the death penalty or life without parole. The District Attorney's office will now push for the death penalty as their stance has been that Perry's murder was premeditated by Atkins.

Atkins attorneys will push back and continue to assert that the robbery was the only part of the incident that was premeditated. If they are able to convince the jury of that in the penalty phase Atkins would receive a life without parole sentence.

"She didn't have any money and she was going to get the money she needed," said District Attorney Ashley Rich.

The shooting came after Perry had been asked by his stepdaughter Stephanie Finney, 45, to take her to look at a used car she wanted to purchase from a man on Craigslist. Perry, said Rich earlier in the trial, drove his wife's red Toyota Prius to Finney's home on Bayou Jonas Drive to pick her up.

Finney had planned on cashing her $1,900 income tax check at the money store in the Wal-Mart in Tillman's Corner and meet the seller of the used car at that same Wal-Mart.

Rich told jurors Atkins had been facing some personal troubles of her own that led her and Lindsay to cross paths with Perry and Finney that day.

"She didn't have any money and she was going to get the money she needed," said Rich.

Rich said Atkins and Lindsay decided to ride to the Bel-Air Mall and find a license plate to steal off another white Chevrolet vehicle that matched her own. Rich said video surveillance at the Dillard's store shows both women unscrewing the license plate off a woman's vehicle and putting it on Atkins car.

As soon as Finney left the store, Lindsay followed her to see what vehicle she gets into before getting back in the car with Atkins. Perry and Finney drove to the back side of the Garden Center at Wal-Mart and meet the seller of the used car. Atkins and Lindsay pull into a parking space at a distance and watch.

Finney decides not to buy the car after checking it out with Perry and they decide to head home. Atkins and Lindsay realize this and follow the pair, 15 miles away, to Bayou Jonas Drive. Once they get about half way up the street, Atkins speeds up and cuts Perry off forcing him to slam on his brakes and hit the rear of Atkins car in the wet weather.

"She gets out the car with that loaded revolver screaming, 'Give me your wallet," said Rich.

Perry rolled down the window and tried to give her his wallet and Atkins screams again.

"I don't want your wallet, I want her wallet," said Rich to the jurors.

Finney hands her wallet to Atkins, who reaches inside the driver side window with the revolver to get the wallet. Perry tries to grab the gun and the wallet falls. He told Finney to run before the first gunshot went off and missed Perry going through the open passenger door as Finney tried to escape.

During the struggle for the gun, Perry gave up and tried to slide out the passenger side of the car. The second shot struck Perry in the left arm and pierce his jugular vein and exited his right side. The third gunshot went into the driver seat and into the gas tank.

"She opens the car door as he's dying and takes the wallet and flees," said Rich.

Rich said Lindsay never got out the car and that Atkins did not realize that Bayou Jonas Road was a dead end street as they sped off. The 2 women got out of the vehicle and ran into the woods for about 2 miles before getting caught by Mobile County Sheriff's Office deputies. The $1900 in cash wasn't found until after the 2 women were booked inside metro jail.

"The $1,900 dollars in cash was found in their vaginas and the revolver was found in the floorboard of the Chevy," said Rich.

Defense Attorney James Vollmer had maintained the homicide was not planned.

"This is not capital murder, it's felony murder," Vollmer said during opening statements. "As difficult as this may be to say, but she intended to rob someone but not to kill someone."

He said audio of Atkins statements to police detectives after being arrested clearly shows that.

"Once she learned of his death from detectives later that night she was horrified," said Vollmer.

(source: al.com)

OHIO:

Murder suspect Grate indicted on 23 counts in Ashland County, may face death penalty ---- Prosecutor says he will 'strongly recommend' the death penalty if Grate is found guilty

Murder suspect Shawn Grate faces a total of 23 felony charges including four counts of aggravated murder which carries a death penalty specification after an Ashland County grand jury issued an indictment Thursday.

Ashland County Prosecutor Chris Tunnell announced the new charges Thursday afternoon via Twitter.

"These are some of the most horrific crimes I've seen in my 15 years as a criminal prosecutor," Tunnell said after the indictment was released. "Given these depraved actions and the gruesome evidence, I will be strongly recommending the death penalty if a jury finds this defendant guilty."

Grate, 40, also faces 4 counts of kidnapping, 2 counts of gross abuse of a corpse, 4 counts of rape, 4 counts of burglary, and 1 count each of tampering with evidence, aggravate robbery, unauthorized use of a vehicle, robbery and breaking and entering.

According to the indictment, there are 2 counts of aggravated murder for each identified victim, 1 for the murder and 1 because the murder was committed during a kidnapping.

Grate is scheduled to appear in Ashland County Common Pleas Court on Sept. 29 at 8:30 a.m for a video arraignment.

In addition to the charges that are death penalty eligible (one for each of the two murders), the maximum prison sentence that could be given for conviction of all these crimes is 166 years. Ashland County has had only two death penalty eligible murders in the last 20 years: Maxwell White in 1996 for the murder of State Highway Patrol Trooper James Gross and Brian Siler in 2001 who was convicted of murdering his wife.

All 23 counts in the Grate indictment are related to the 3 Ashland County victims.

Tunnell thanked the agencies that have assisted with the case to date, including the City of Ashland Division of Police, the Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District, the Ashland County Coroner, the Ashland County Sheriff, the Ohio Attorney General's office, and the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation.

Grate is being held in Ashland County Jail on $1 million bond after initially being charged with 2 counts of murder and 1 count of kidnapping. He pleaded not guilty Monday to the charges.

Grate was arrested Sept. 13 after a woman called 911 and said she was being held against her will in a home near East Fourth Street in Ashland. Upon their arrival, police found the woman and Grate. The woman is not being identified because she is a sexual assault victim and the Ashland County Prosecutor does not identify victims of sexual assault.

Grate was taken into custody and police and BCI investigators searched the 2 homes on Covert Court, near the Fourth Street Laundromat. 2 bodies were discovered in one of the homes. The victims were identified as 43-year-old Stacey Stanley of Greenwich and 29-year old Elizabeth Griffith of Ashland.

Grate also led investigators to a body in a wooded area near a burned-out home on Park Avenue East in Madison Township. Authorities have not yet identified the victim.

Earlier this week, Mansfield Police announced they have re-opened the investigation into the death of Mansfield resident Rebekah Leicy. Leicy was reported missing in February of 2015 and her body was found in rural Ashland County in March 2015. Her death was ruled as a probable drug overdose by the Cuyahoga County Coroners Office as there were no signs of physical trauma.

Grate has also been tied to a 2005 murder in Marion County. He reportedly admitted to authorities that he killed a woman there in 2005. On March 10, 2007, Marion County authorities discovered the remains of a woman who has never been identified.

Tunnell led the Grand Jury investigation and will prosecute the case along with First Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Gary P. Bishop and Special Prosecutor Mark R. Weaver.

According to the website for the law firm Isaac Wiles where Weaver is a partner, prior to entering private practice, Weaver was the Deputy Attorney General of Ohio. The website states Weaver is often asked to act as a Special Prosecutor in criminal cases around the state and has prosecuted murderers, rapists, child molesters, and other violent criminals. He teaches Criminal Procedure and Constitutional Law to the Ohio Public Safety Leadership Academy and has been a featured speaker to the Ohio Prosecuting Attorneys Association, the Ohio Association of Chiefs of Police, and the Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association.

(source: The Richland Source)

****************

Ashland prosecutor seeks death penalty against suspected serial killer

The Ashland County prosecutor will seek the death penalty against a suspected serial killer.

Today, the Ashland County Grand Jury handed a down a 23 felony count indictment against Shawn M. Grate.

The charges including 2 counts of Aggravated Murder, each one of which would be punishable either by life imprisonment without parole or the death penalty. Additional charges include kidnapping, rape, burglary and gross abuse of a corpse.

In additional to the death penalty, the maximum prison sentence that could be given for conviction of all these crimes is 166 years.

"These are some of the most horrific crimes I've seen in my 15 years as a criminal prosecutor," Prosecutor Christopher R. Tunnell led said after the indictment was released. "Given these depraved actions and the gruesome evidence, I will be strongly recommending the death penalty if a jury finds this defendant guilty."

No trial date has been announced. A video arraignment is scheduled for September 29.

Grate has waived his right to have his trial held within a set number of days.

The full list of felony counts are:

1.Aggravated Murder of Elizabeth A. Griffith (F1)

2.Second charge of Aggravated Murder of Elizabeth A. Griffith (F1)

3.Kidnapping of Elizabeth A, Griffith (F1)

4.Gross Abuse of the Corpse of Elizabeth A. Griffith (F5)

5.Burglary of the residence of Elizabeth A. Griffith (F3)

6.Tampering with Evidence (F3)

7.Aggravated Murder of Stacey J. Hicks/Stanley (F1)

8.Second charge of Aggravated Murder of Stacey J. Hicks/Stanley (F1)

9.Kidnapping of Stacey J. Hicks, aka: Stacey J. Hicks/Stanley (F1)

10.Second charge of Kidnapping of Stacey J. Hicks/Stanley (F1)

11.Rape of Stacey J. Hicks/Stanley (F1)

12.Aggravated Robbery of Stacey J. Hicks/Stanley (F1)

13.Gross Abuse of the Corpse of Stacey J. Hicks/Stanley (F5)

14.Unauthorized Use of a Vehicle of Stacey J. Hicks/Stanley (F5)

15.Kidnapping of Jane Doe (F1)

16.Rape of Jane Doe (F1)

17.Second charge of Rape of Jane Doe (F1)

18.Third charge of Rape of Jane Doe (F1)

19.Robbery of Jane Doe (F3)

20.Burglary (F3)

21.Burglary (F3)

22.Burglary (F3)

23.Breaking and Entering (F5)

(source: WCMH news)

NEBRASKA:

Death penalty no longer good policy

I spent my professional life in law enforcement and was fortunate to serve as the Lincoln police chief and director of the Nebraska Crime Commission. I believe I understand public safety.

For many years I supported the death penalty. There were times I felt I could inflict the death penalty on some of our murderers myself, but that's just an angry and emotional reaction. Such emotion is common, but it’s neither thoughtful nor wise. Today it is clear to me the death penalty is no longer good policy.

In November we vote on the death penalty. I feel obligated to speak up about the ineffectiveness of the death penalty and its inability to keep us safe. The most effective punishments are those that are guaranteed. You may occasionally drive over the speed limit, but you don't when you see a police cruiser behind you. It's the certainty of punishment compelling us.

There's no certainty with the death penalty today. We've not had an execution in this state in nearly 20 years. Essentially, it is not deterrence.

Perhaps an even greater reason the death penalty isn't a deterrent is that people who commit murder rarely think about consequences. Most murderers are acting out of anger, under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol, are mentally ill, emotionally out of control or a mix of these. There are many law enforcement professionals who agree there's no public safety benefit to the death penalty.

In 1995 and 2008, 500 police chiefs across the country were asked to rank the tools they found most effective in preventing violent crime. In these surveys the death penalty was ranked absolutely last. Chiefs recognized more officers on the street, reducing drug abuse or having effective programs for the mentally ill were much more likely to reduce crime than having or increasing the use of the death penalty.

In a 2009 poll, 61 percent of chiefs said death penalty cases were hard to close and take up a lot of police time. This is another problem with the death penalty: It requires a great deal of time and resources not only for police but also for prosecutors and courts. Even if we are comforted by the symbolism of having a death penalty, it has unintended negative consequences for the resources available to protect society.

A recent study by Creighton economist Dr. Ernie Goss says Nebraska's death penalty costs an average of $14.6 million every year because of the additional investigations, extra trials, decades of appeal and other mandated processes making death penalty cases different than life without parole.

Given the complexity of capital cases and the U.S Supreme Court's strict guidelines for how they must be handled, it's no surprise we have this enormous price tag.

I would prefer these resources be used more wisely to help law enforcement and other parts of the criminal justice and mental health systems. Nebraska has quality men and women in law enforcement, as well as competent professionals throughout the system of justice.

I would like to see the $14.6 million now spent on a symbolic, unused death penalty invested in programs professionals consider effective in preventing violent crime. An urgent and current example of this need is the struggling Department of Correctional Services with its understaffed and overcrowded correctional facilities.

It's a shame and dangerous that we are failing to provide our corrections' officers the support they need to do their jobs. With proper staffing and tools, our correctional facilities can be a secure place for inmates, guards and the public.

Voters have an important opportunity in November to make a wise choice, not an emotional one, about where to put our resources. Choosing to retain the decision of the Legislature to end Nebraska's symbolic death penalty demonstrates Nebraskans aren't interested in emotional symbols, but want to invest in real solutions to violent crime and smart public safety policy.

(source: Opinion; Allen Curtis was Lincoln police chief from 1988 to 1993 and director of the Nebraska Crime Commission from 1994 to 2005. He is in the Nebraska Police Officers Association Hall of Fame----Lincoln Journal Star)

CALIFORNIA:

California Judge Blasts OC Sheriff Sandra Hutchens' Dishonesty In Death Penalty Case

A California Superior Court judge voiced incredulity today that Orange County Sheriff Sandra Hutchens continues to disobey a January 2013 discovery order in a pending death penalty case that exposed widespread law enforcement corruption and prompted calls for a U.S. Department of Justice probe.

"When should I expect full compliance with my lawful orders?" Judge Thomas M. Goethals asked Deputy County Counsel Elizabeth Pejeau, who represents Hutchens whose department has continually hidden embarrassing, key evidence in People v. Scott Dekraai and sent deputies to court where they've committed perjury to cover up illegal acts. "3 1/2 years isn't enough time?"

Pejeau conceded the sheriff and her staff repeatedly had been tardy turning over records - a laughable understatement - but argued, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, "They didn't try to bury it."

Because of Hutchens' brazen dereliction of duty and Pejeau's disingenuous spin, a bit of history is necessary.

Deputy District Attorney Dan Wagner and the sheriff pretended they'd fully complied with Goethals' discovery orders in 2013. A year later, deputies, who violated constitutional safeguards by using jailhouse informants to pressure pre-trial inmates into making incriminating statements, claimed during special evidentiary hearings that they didn't employ informants and knew of no records that would explain how snitches ended up in cells next to high-profile government targets like Dekraai.

After those hearings, Deputy Public Defender Scott Sanders, Dekraai's lawyer, discovered in late 2014 that deputies had hidden a records system called TRED that contradicted the officers' sworn testimony. Goethals reopened the hearing, forced the deputies to testify again, listened to more falsehoods and declared them liars. District Attorney Tony Rackauckas, whose cases were the beneficiaries of the deputies' schemes, and Hutchens have refused to apologize or impose discipline for the misconduct. In fact, the county's 2 top law enforcement officials angrily insist all errors were innocent mistakes.

However, as punishment for the cheating, Goethals, a well-respected, former homicide prosecutor, recused Rackauckas and his entire staff from Dekraai in March 2015. He cited concerns they couldn't be trusted to insure the prosecution team would behave ethically. The case landed in the lap of California Attorney General Kamala Harris, who is presently appealing Goethals' ruling.

Meanwhile, earlier this year, Sanders learned Hutchens also had hidden a second records system called "The SH Log" that was used daily by special handling deputies to document informant contacts and movements in government "capers" to trample defendants' constitutional rights. In June, Wagner, Dekraai's prosecutor, conceded the log's 1,157 pages contain impeachment evidence that Sanders should have received years ago.

It turns out the log documents deputy jail activities from 2008 to late January 2013. Oddly, Hutchens would have Goethals believe that the log suddenly ended just days after he issued his discovery order in Dekraai and that there is no replacement system. The judge today told Pejeau that she and the sheriff can't reasonably argue their present claim: That the log was vital to jail security, protection of informants and confidential investigations, but just ended. He believes that stance is continual evasiveness and asked county counsel if she is denying the existence of a new, secret version of the log.

"I absolutely cannot make that representation," said Pejeau, who claimed "the sheriff is still looking" to see what other evidence she possesses that should have been surrendered.

"How long are we going to search for an order that was issued in 2013," Goethals asked.

Pejeau replied that she could make no "guarantees" about when Hutchens, whose antics are featured in this week's Moxley Confidential, would finally comply with his order.

"Isn't that kind of sad, Ms. Pejeau?" the judge said. "I gave an order in January 2013. It's now 2016 . . . I don't have any confidence [I'll win compliance]."

Pejeau fired back, "I wouldn't expect you to [believe us]," adding lamely, "But that doesn't mean the sheriff isn't working to fix that issue."

The judge demanded again to know if the log had been replaced, saying, "It just doesn't make any logical sense [that it would have disappeared]. It just seems unlikely . . . I should have had full answers years ago."

Dodging the obvious reality that a sheriff running a para-military organization doesn't need 3.5 years to learn what records are in her possession, Pejeau conceded, "I expect there will be additional things [surrendered to Sanders]."

"So do I," Goethals replied.

Sanders said he is stunned Hutchens and other police officials act as if they can pick and chose which court orders they will obey.

"This dishonesty is so much worse than we ever imagined," he told Goethals. "And it will go on into perpetuity . . . [Hutchens, prosecutors and deputies] were going to keep quiet forever . . . They all took an oath of silence. This is a tremendous cultural problem [in OC law enforcement agencies]."

The judge scheduled an Oct. 28 hearing to give the public defender portions of the log with redactions.

Rackauckas and Hutchens are supporting a November ballot initiative, Proposition 66, that would speed up executions in California and significantly hamper the ability of defense attorneys to discover law enforcement corruption in those capital cases. In opposition, Proposition 62 would end the death penalty in the state if approved by voters.

(source: ocweekly.com)

*************

Support for death penalty wanes

A new poll suggests that the death penalty is falling out of favor with California voters.

There are 2 initiatives on the November ballot that could determine the fate of the death penalty. Proposition 62, the initiative to repeal the death penalty in California and replace it with life in prison without the possibility of parole, is narrowly supported by likely voters. The latest California Field Poll finds 48% of likely voters saying they intend to vote Yes.

Californians will also be asked to vote on a competing death penalty initiative, Proposition 66, which calls for changing procedures governing challenges to the death penalty and is intended to speed its implementation. 35 % say they are inclined to vote Yes and 23% would vote No. 42 % are undecided.

Looking back to 2009, a plurality preferred the death penalty.

(source: Inland News Today)

****************

As California Executions Hang In The Balance, Man Convicted Of Oakland Sleepover Murder Sentenced To Death

Even as the future of California's death penalty hangs on 2 November ballot measures, a judge ruled Wednesday that the man convicted of a high-profile double murder in the East Bay should be executed for his crimes.

As previously reported, 25-year-old Darnell Williams was convicted in Alameda County Superior Court this past May for the deaths of 2 people: 8-year-old Alaysha Carradine in Oakland on July 17, 2013 and 22-year-old Anthony Medearis in Berkeley 2 months later.

According to prosecutors, Carradine was killed when Williams "fired at least 13 shots into an apartment in the 3400 block of Wilson Avenue in Oakland in retaliation for the fatal shooting of his close friend, 26-year-old Jermaine Davis, in Berkeley about 5 hours earlier," KRON 4 reports.

The gunfire "also injured and nearly killed a 7-year-old girl, a 4-year-old boy and their 63-year-old grandmother," all of whom were inside the home of the girlfriend of Antiown York, the man Williams believed had killed Davis. (York was eventually charged with that crime, but the case was dismissed due to the unavailability of a key witness.)

Prosecutors say that 2 months later, Williams "fatally shot Medearis in the back as Medearis was running away from him because he thought Medearis was a snitch" as well as "because he wanted to rob him because he had run out of money to buy guns, drugs and jewelry."

On May 6, a jury found Williams guilty of 2 counts of 1st-degree murder, 3 counts of premeditated attempted murder and the special circumstance of lying in wait for the Oakland shooting, the special circumstance of murdering Medearis during the course of an attempted robbery and the special circumstance of committing multiple murders. On June 2, a jury recommended the death penalty for Williams over life in prison without the possibility of parole.

On Wednesday, Judge Jeffrey Horner concurred with that jury's decision, describing Williams' acts as "an orgy of revenge, slaughter and murder," ABC 7 reports.

"The overwhelming weight of the evidence and the credibility and believability of the prosecution's witnesses supports the jury's verdict," Horner said, citing "the evidence and the law."

Noting that Williams has previously been involved in a number of violent confrontations while in prison, Horner says that death is the only way to ensure that Williams could not kill again, sayng "When this defendant is executed he will no longer be a threat to anyone in any community."

Reactions to the judge's decision from the victim's families were mixed. Carridine's grandmother told KRON 4 that "My thoughts today is that it's not over he's still alive and even though it won't bring My LadyBug back I'm ready to see the day that he's no longer breathing...That way he'll never hurt anyone again."

Speaking with ABC 7, however, the aunt of Anthony Medearis said she'd hoped Williams would get life, instead, saying that "on death row you just sit, it's like you're comfortable."

"With life you have to worry, you have to look behind your back, you have to worry about everything."

And death row is likely where Williams will spend the foreseeable future, as California's death penalty has been on hold since January of 2006, when Clarence Ray Allen was executed in San Quentin for the murders of three people. Shortly thereafter, a federal judge put a stop to executions in the state over issues with the 3-drug lethal injection protocol, issues that have still yet to be resolved.

Meanwhile, in November voters will decide on 2 propositions new relevant to Williams' interests: Proposition 62 would repeal the state's death penalty and make life without the possibility of parole the maximum punishment for murder. Then there's Proposition 66, which supports changing the procedures governing state court appeals and petitions that challenge death penalty convictions and sentences, making it faster and easier for states to get to the execution phase of the sentence.

According to a Field Poll released today, the repeal bill is "narrowly supported by likely voters," with 48 % of likely voters saying they intend to vote yes, 37 % saying no, and 15 % still undecided. Poll respondents appeared less sure about the proposal to speed up the process, with 35 % saying they will vote yes, 23 % saying they will vote no, and a whopping 42 % saying that they are undecided.

(source: sfist.com)

USA:

'Very clear line' between lynching and death penalty: Alabama lawyer

As a co-founder of the Equal Justice Initiative, Bryan Stevenson is a disruptor of chronic injustices who fights for the lives of prisoners on Alabama's death row.

"[In the U.S.], 156 people exonerated after being sentenced to death. That means for every 10 people that have been executed in the U.S., we've identified 1 innocent person on the row, which is a really shameful rate of error," Stevenson tells The Current's Anna Maria Tremonti.

In his new book, Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption, Stevenson says that when lynching stopped, the death penalty started.

"[There's a] very clear line between our history of lynching and the modern death penalty."

He tells Tremonti when the southern states moved away from public lynchings, "they essentially moved the lynchings indoors and that's when you see a great increase in the number of death sentences being imposed."

When Stevenson looks at the injustices of the present, he sees acutely how the wrongs of the past - the legacy of slavery and lynching continue to reverberate today - in U.S. race relations, the justice system, and the frequent police shootings of black men, as we've seen this week in Tulsa, Okla. and Charlotte, N.C.

"Why do we want to kill all the broken people in this country? What is it about us, that when we see brokenness, we want to crush it, we want to hurt it, we want to kill it," says Stevenson.

But Stevenson sees "power in brokeness."

"It is really the broken who understand how compassion is supposed to work."

He tells Tremonti that he doesn't do his job because no one will. He does it because he's broken too.

"It's the broken who have an insight into justice. It's the broken who have some appreciation for what it means to be restored, redeemed, rehabilitated, recovered."

"And in many ways it's our community and standing with the broken that will get us closer to justice."

(source: The Current)

CANADA:

Feb. 3, 1953: Last hanging at Hamilton's Barton Jail ---- Harry Lee, last man to hang in Hamilton, was convicted of murdering Mary Rosenblatt.

The last person sentenced to the death penalty in Hamilton and hanged at the Barton Jail was a man named Harry Lee, a synagogue caretaker who was convicted of the rifle-slaying of Mary Rosenblatt, a married Jewish mother of two. Rosenblatt's body and Lee were found by police in a car on a side road near the village of Sheffield. Lee was wounded by the same weapon that killed Rosenblatt. He claimed the pair had been kidnapped, driven to a secluded area and shot. But the jury didn't buy it.

SIGNIFICANCE

Lee, who was deeply religious, held out he was innocent right to the end - saying, "No ... I did not (kill her). They're hanging the wrong man." He refused a Crown offer to plead guilty to manslaughter, which would not have carried the death penalty.

There was a letter-writing campaign and petition to try to save him. But Lee was hanged on Feb. 3, 1953. Many still contend Lee - whose mother was black and father was of Spanish background - was victimized for racial reasons.

"It was racism. There was no doubt about it, as far as I am concerned," Allison Gowling told The Spectator in 2013. Her father knew Lee in the small village of Canfield in Haldimand. Lee grew up in the community before moving to Hamilton in the late 1930s.

"The general consensus was, I remember my mother talking about it, is that he did not do it. He was set up. They were a target because she was a Jewish girl running around with a black man."

Hanged in Hamilton

A total of 8 people were hanged at Hamilton's Barton Street jail for murder from 1876 to 1953. All were men.

March 14, 1876

Michael McConnell, 38, was hanged for the murder of Nelson Mills. Mills was a tenant of McConnell, and a dispute escalated to a fit of rage on the part of McConnell, who stabbed Mills to death.

June 23, 1899

Benjamin Parrott, 30, was hanged for the murder of his 60-year-old mother, Bridget. During a drunken argument, Parrott split his mother's head open with an axe.

Dec. 7, 1900

George Arthur Pearson, 20, was hanged for murdering Annie Griffin. He claimed he meant only to threaten her with a revolver when the gun went off and the victim was struck in the head. After this, and realizing the "enormity" of what had taken place, he said he panicked and shot her a 2nd time.

Dec. 27, 1907

Jacob Sunfield was hanged for shooting and killing Andrew Radzik. Sunfield claimed he was innocent. His last words were, "I have been warned not to make a statement. Goodbye, gentlemen."

Dec. 19, 1919

Paul Kowalski was hanged for murdering Ignace (Knot) Trembluk during a robbery of $700. 2 weeks before his hanging, Kowalski murdered 2 of his jailers. He was not charged in those cases because it was argued he was being hanged and no further punishment could be inflicted on him.

Jan. 12, 1927

John Barty, 50, was hanged for the hammer killing of Nancy Cook of Welland. It's said that "he took his last hours as calmly as if he were settling down before the fireplace for an evening's smoke."

July 8, 1930

Mike Smith, 46, was hanged for the brutal murder of John Iwanetz, who was shot and pushed down some stairs at his Winona home during a robbery. F4 faced charges in the robbery, but Smith was the one to go to gallows. He claimed he was not the robber who fired the shot.

Feb. 3, 1953

Harry Lee, 37, was hanged for murdering his girlfriend, Mary Rosenblatt. Lee claimed innocence but the Crown held that Rosenblatt died during a murder-suicide attempt that Lee managed to live through after shooting himself.

Capital punishment in Canada

Between 1867 and 1962, 702 executions were carried out; 691 of them were men.

The last Canadian execution took place on Dec. 11, 1962, at the Don Jail in Toronto. Ronald Turpin and Arthur Lucas hanged for separate murders.

Crimes that have been punishable by death at various times included murder, rape and treason. Only 2 people have been executed for treason, 1 of whom was Louis Riel in November 1885 for leading an uprising.

After years of commuting death sentences, the House of Commons abolished capital punishment on July 14, 1976, in a free vote. 1st-degree murder became punishable by life imprisonment with no possibility of parole for 25 years.

(source: The Hamilton Spectator)

SINGAPORE:

Singapore tells world leaders to take balanced view as it defends death penalty----Death penalty has deterred major drug syndicates from setting up in Singapore.

Singapore has come out strongly backing capital punishment for drug-related offences, telling world leaders to respect the alternative views held by other countries. The city-state held itself up as a poster-boy for the effectiveness of the capital punishment deterrent, saying it has helped keep the nation drug-free and safe.

Speaking at a meeting taking place on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York on Wednesday, 21 September, Singapore's Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan urged world leaders to take a more balanced assessment of the death penalty.

"This debate is a heated, painful and emotional one but I just ask members ... to respectfully reflect on the views expressed, the diversity of the circumstances and the impact on the ground. And to give each state its sovereign right to choose the most appropriate judicial approach so that we can adopt a more balanced perspective on this complex issue," he said.

The Straits Times noted that speakers at the panel had placards stating #EndExecutions.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, in his opening speech at the meeting, had called on all countries to stop meting out capital punishment. "The world reached a major turning point in 2007 when the general assembly called for a worldwide moratorium. Since then the movement against capital punishment has been growing," he said.

Not directly referring to the spate of vigilante executions of drug offenders in the Philippines following newly-elected President Rodrigo Duterte's fight against illegal drugs, Ban said: "I am gravely concerned that some countries are suddenly resuming executions. Others are considering reintroducing the death penalty. We have to keep up the fight for the right to life."

Both the Philippines and Turkey are considering imposing the death penalty on certain crimes.

While not disagreeing that all human life is sacred, Balakrishnan said: "The immediate question that confronts all of us, whether within or without this room, is whether the death penalty, within the proper context, and in strictly limited circumstances, plays any role in protecting the sanctity of life."

Death penalty key in keeping Singapore safe

The minister outlined Singapore's approach to the use of the death penalty and why it continues to remain on its statute books. He said that the death penalty is applied "strictly in the context of an unwavering commitment to the rule of law ... resting on a strong and independent judiciary, there must be fair, transparent laws and due process."

He argued that the way Singapore has implemented its judicial system "has been pivotal in our efforts to foster a peaceful, safe, harmonious and inclusive society."

Balakrishnan added that capital punishment meted out to drugs-related offences and murder "has been a key element in keeping Singapore drug free and keeping Singapore safe. Singapore is probably one of the few countries in the world which has successfully fought this drug problem."

He continued: "We do not have slums, we do not have ghettos, we do not have no-go zones for the police. The death penalty has deterred major drug syndicates from establishing themselves in Singapore, and successfully kept the drug situation under control."

"For what it is worth, I can stand here and tell you that Singapore is one of the safest countries in the world. Our residents, including women and children, can go anywhere they please, freely and without fear, at any time of the day or night."

While there was strong support from Singaporeans for the death penalty, he said: "From time to time we will continue to review our legislation and make changes, according to our circumstances."

(source: ibtimes.co.uk)

PAKISTAN:

COAS confirms death penalty of 7 terrorists

Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif on Thursday confirmed death sentences awarded to another 7 hardcore terrorists who were involved in committing heinous offences, including the killing of innocent civilians, police officials and armed forces personnel.

According to the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), the convicts - tried by military courts - were also involved in sectarian killings, while firearms and explosives were recovered from their possession at the time of their arrests.

According to the military spokesman, 3 of the convicts - Muhammad Qasim Tori s/o Muhammad Farooq, Abid Ali s/o Muhammad Ramzan and Muhammad Danish s/o Noor Bux - were active members of different proscribed organisations. They were involved in attacking personnel of law enforcement agencies, which resulted in the death of Inspector Ali Asghar Dahri and Head Constable Raja Tariq.

Similarly, convicts Syed Jehangir Haider s/o Syed Karam Haider and Zeeshan s/o Mureed Abbas were involved in sectarian killings and attacking personnel of law enforcement agencies. The spokesman said that both the convicts had confessed to their crimes and hence were awarded death sentences.

Moreover, convicts Mutabar Khan s/o Parvanat Khan and Rehmanuddin s/o Moamber were active members of the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). They were involved in attacking personnel of the armed forces and law enforcement agencies, and the killing of a member of a peace committee.

(source: Daily Times)

PHILIPPINES:

Australian child molester Peter Scully faces death penalty in Philippines

WARNING: Graphic content

He is a 53-year-old Australian accused of the torture and murder of children for his own sexual gratification that authorities are considering reintroducing the death penalty for.

Peter Gerard Scully, a father of 2 from Melbourne, is in a Philippine prison charged with some of the vilest acts known to humanity.

During court hearings and while being filmed in prison, the man believed to have perpetrated some of the worst crimes against children laughed, joked and acted nonchalant about his alleged crimes.

His former lawyer Alejandra Jose Pallugna has revealed Scully treats jail like a holiday and has demanded a mobile phone and fresh beef, pork and chicken.

But that may change now the Philippines is considering putting him before a firing squad.

And it is the fate of 1 victim in particular that has prompted appalled Filipino prosecutors to call for Scully's execution.

Shocking details can be revealed about the 5-year-old girl who Scully hung upside down as he raped and tortured her with 2 accomplices.

Recording on videos which he then sold to paedophiles around the world, Scully also sexually abused a baby, and filmed his torture and rape of young girls as he made them dig their own graves.

Filipino police say Scully also buried a 11-year-old under the floor of a house he was renting after making a film of him raping her and strangling her to death.

Now the Philippines may reinstate the death penalty as the only punishment appropriate for Scully's "heinous crimes".

Capital punishment was outlawed in 1986 at the end of the brutal Marcos regimen, but assisted by widespread poverty, the country has become a hub of a billion-dollar, global child cybersex industry.

Scully allegedly committed unspeakable acts of abuse on young girls for his own sexual gratification.

Scullys 2 accomplices Carmen Alvarez and Liezyl Magallo wore masks for his most vile exploitation film, Daisy's Destruction.

According to a Fairfax report, during a court hearing where he faced the first 6 of 75 charges, Scully laughed and joked with his co-accused, who include 4 men, Christian Rouche, Alexander Lao, and Marshall Ruskin and Haniel Caetano de Oliveira.

Chief Philippine prosecutor Jaime Umpa told Fairfax that Scully was the mastermind of an extreme child sex and torture video syndicate based in the southern cities of Surigao, Cagayan de Oro and Malaybalay.

Scully fled to the Philippines from Australia in 2011 after he was charged with fraud.

Scully lured children away from impoverished parents with the promise of food and education or used teenage girl accomplices to kidnap them.

He then drugged the children and made films of him raping and torturing them for an international paedophile ring.

The title page of Peter Scully's most depraved video, Daisy's Destruction on his Dark Web 'No Limits Fun' channel shocked police.

Operating a secret child pornography site on the Dark Web called "No Limits Fun", he sold the videos for up to $10,000 per view.

But of all his despicable acts, his most infamous is the film he made for the Dark Web is Daisy's Destruction.

It is this film which shocked even seasoned child trafficking investigators, a Filipino police chief calling it "the worst we have encountered in our years campaigning against child pornography".

It is believed the victim in the film is a girl called Barbie, who was taken from her family at the age of 5 by one of Scully's cohorts, Liezyl Magallo.

Margallo and another young girl Carmen Ann Alvarez are also facing charges of child exploitation.

Alvarez is said to have been taken in by Sully as his girlfriend after he met her as a 14-year-old prostitute.

In the film, with Barbie playing "Daisy", Alvarez and Margallo participate in the child's torture and sexual assault.

The little girl screams and cries as she is beaten, raped, tortured and defiled by Scully and his 2 masked accomplices.

Scully uses hot wax, a lighter, barbed wire, submersion in water and sex aids. Scully sold his videos to customers in Germany, the US and Brazil.

His vile crimes went largely undetected until 2 of his victims, cousins Queenie and Daisy, aged 9 and 12, escaped.

Offered food and shelter by Alvarez, the girls were taken in, raped and tortured and held captive wearing dog collars and chains for 5 days.

Alvarez, known as Mistress Scully, made them perform sexual acts upon each other while Scully filmed it.

On camera, they were recorded digging their own graves while being continually raped. Alvarez reportedly let them go out of guilt.

Assisted by the Australian Federal Police and filmed by the Nine's 60 Minutes, Philippine police arrested Scully in February last year.

Alvarez led them to the apartment where the 11-year-old was buried and to another addresses where Scully raped and tortured his child victims.

Scully has pleaded not guilty to the rape and trafficking of 2 teenage girls and is being held in the Cagayan de Oro City jail.

(source: news.com.au)

AUSTRALIA:

Some crimes, like those of Peter Scully, deserve nothing but the death penalty

I'm sure the invitation is in the mail. But the delay is understandable. It's probably been pretty busy at your end this week, waiting for your moral cloak of superiority to come back from the dry cleaners as you begin to summon a fresh sense of outrage over the decision by Philippines prosecutors to call for the reintroduction of the death penalty for the Australian Peter Scully.

You know about his case, of course. You must be angry. Again. Scully fled Melbourne a few years ago after being involved in the fleecing of more than $2.6 million in a property scam. Made his way to the Philippines, where he set himself up filming the torturing and sexual abuse of little girls, which he later sold on a pay-per-view basis to like-minded scum around the world.

Australian Peter Scully appears in court on Tuesday facing child sex abuse and human trafficking charges in the southern Philippines.

He told 60 Minutes last year he wasn't sure why he'd ended up following such a depraved path but he was still wrestling with the notion of regret over his actions. "At what point do you have remorse? I can't answer that honestly yet," he said. Scully is now facing more than 70 charges, including the murder of an 11-year-old girl whose body was found, strangled, in a shallow grave beneath a house he was renting.

Prosecutors want the death penalty brought back for this case after the Philippines scrapped it in 2006, largely at the instigation of the Catholic Church.

This is a tough case for you, isn't it. You're opposed to capital punishment on all the usual grounds - that it debases us as a civilised society, that it lowers us to the same level as the perpetrator, that errors in law too often see the wrong person executed, that there is no evidence that the death penalty serves as a deterrent. But Scully's crimes are so horrendous that even you, staunch moral guardian that you are, must have paused and thought about your stance.

Still, your anger that anyone would dare question the sanctity of life and raise the spectre of execution has surely won out. That's why I'm keen to know if you have sent out the invitations for a candlelight vigil for Peter Scully. After all, you're morally obliged to hold one, aren't you?

Last year you wept and railed in Martin Place against the Indonesian government's decision to slay Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan over their role in a stupidly botched attempt to smuggle drugs.

You wrote letters of condemnation. You organised petitions on street corners and throughout social media. You called for all Australians to boycott travel plans to Bali and the rest of that nation.

And you spoke from a position of strength. Federal Parliament passed legislation 6 years ago preventing any state from reintroducing the death penalty. The people we elect won't even broach the subject. And if the Philippines do bring back the death penalty and execute Scully, it will be those same representatives in Canberra who will be obligated to lodge a formal protest with the Filipino government, as we do in all circumstances when an Australian is sentenced to death overseas. What an outstanding moral stance that will be.

So how about we add a question to next year's planned plebiscite on gay marriage asking Australians if they would support the idea of execution in certain circumstances where crimes are deemed so horrendous they are beyond comprehension. Cases like Peter Scully.

That won't happen, of course, because you know what the result would be. God help us. It might trigger a wave of changes that could see majority opinion becoming the norm in this country. And as you know, the masses have never known what's good for them.

The tiring argument you put forward is that sentencing people to life imprisonment, to be trapped by their thoughts and drown in their remorse, is a punishment befitting the snuffing out of an innocent human life. Do you honestly think Martin Bryant has suffered more than his victims and their families after the devastation he inflicted at Port Arthur?

Take off that moral cloak. People who believe in capital punishment in certain circumstances don't want to drag society back to the Middle Ages. Most don't even believe it is a deterrent. And they're even willing to take a risk that sometimes the law might get it wrong if it means real justice is served in certain circumstances.

Try a different moral standpoint. We should have no qualms about executing people like Peter Scully if found guilty because they have forfeited what it is to be human. Once you stop treating him as a fellow being, the rest comes naturally.

Most of us would like him to die as slowly and as horribly as his victims did. The last thing he realises in his miserable life? The knowledge that he failed that most basic of entry tests - a place among our species.

Go ahead and organise your candlelight vigil for Scully. You know you have to. Send the invitation if you must but I won't be able to make it.

Good luck drawing a crowd.

(source: Garry Linnell is co-presenter of The Breakfast Show on 2UE Talking Lifestyle----Sydney Morning Herald)

SUDAN:

Sudan bishop calls on UN to help Christian pastors facing death sentence

A Sudanese bishop has called on the United Nations (UN) and the U.S. government to help 2 Christian pastors facing the death penalty in Sudan.

In December, Rev. Abdulraheem Kodi and Rev. Kuwa Shamal Abu Zumam from the Church of Christ in Sudan were arrested and jailed for several offenses including espionage and waging war against the state. The 2 ministers are now facing trial and could be sentenced to death if found guilty of the charges, Fox News details.

"We call for their protection and immediate release and urge that the U.N., U.S. government - including Congress - and other world communities demand the freedom of these 2 men of God and other prisoners," the Rev. Andudu Adam Elnail, bishop of Kadugli Diocese, told Fox in an interview.

Elnail, who is now based in South Carolina after he fled from Sudan5 years ago due to threats from government forces, lamented the absence of religious freedom in Sudan. He said the 2 pastors were "unfairly targeted" when they were accused of sharing evidence of the government's attacks against churches in Khartoum and the Nuba Mountains.

Rev. Elnail said the government has a policy of keeping this information confidential to avoid being pressured by the international community. Now, the Sudanese bishop is appealing to the international community to pressure the government to grant people their freedom of religion.

In addition, Elnail said the hearings of the pastors keep getting postponed although a lot of people are attending these hearings. He also said some attorneys for the accused pastors were unable to attend the hearings. The pastors' defenders say the accusations of exposing state secrets have only been fabricated.

Christian Solidarity Worldwide chief executive Mervyn Thomas released a statement accusing the Sudanese authorities of manipulating the country's criminal justice system to target ethnic and religious minorities. He also urged the government to scrap the charges against the pastors without condition.

Meanwhile, a representative from the U.S. State Department said officials at the embassy in Khartoum are monitoring the case since the arrest of the pastors. The spokesperson also conveyed the department's commitment to work with countries in addressing issues involving religious freedom.

(source: Christian Daily)

CHINA:

Chinese Premier Defends Death Penalty ---- Canada-China extradition deal will not compromise values, says Trudeau

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang defended China's use of the death penalty when asked about an extradition treaty with Canada during a joint press conference with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Sept 22.

"If we abolish the death penalty, more innocent people will probably lose their lives. Many developed countries also maintain the death penalty," said Li.

Li said Chinese law provides for the humane treatment of prisoners and that judicial and law enforcement personnel follow those rules strictly. Human rights groups disagree, as do many Members of Parliament.

Conservative foreign affairs critic Peter Kent said any extradition treaty must include an absolute guarantee no individual sent back to China would face the death penalty given "the unfortunate history that China has of extrajudicial arrests and imprisonment, torture in prison, and execution on some of the flimsiest of charges."

One of Trudeau's top advisors overseeing the possible extradition treaty, however, told the previous government that China's so-called "economic fugitives" don't belong on Canadian soil, according to files obtained by The Canadian Press.

Then-deputy minister Daniel Jean offered that advice in a 2015 briefing note to the former Conservative government prior to his appointment in May as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's national security adviser.

"Canada does not want to be seen as a safe haven for fugitives and it is in Canada's interest to have such persons removed," said the note, obtained by The Canadian Press under the Access to Information Act.

In his new role with the Liberal government, Jean was in Beijing last week for the start of a new "high level dialogue" between Canada and China on national security and the rule of law - talks that include breaking ground on an extradition treaty.

Word of those talks sparked opposition charges Tuesday that the Liberals were abandoning their human rights principles. 2 major human rights organizations, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, questioned Canada's pursuit of an extradition deal, saying it doesn't square with China's rights record, including its widespread use of the death penalty.

China has mounted a vigorous international campaign to hunt down alleged economic criminals on foreign soil it says have absconded with millions of dollars of assets.

In the briefing note, Jean further describes Canada's response to China's 2014 campaign, dubbed "Operation Fox Hunt," an outgrowth of President Xi Jinping's anti-corruption campaign in which he "vowed to swat down both 'tigers' and 'flies,' regardless of their level, in efforts to clean up the Communist Party in China."

The targets were "corrupt public officials and private citizens alleged to have committed economic crimes such as financial fraud against persons, businesses and banks." The Chinese government estimated in 2014 that 208 people had fled with an estimated $1.93 million.

Even if China wants to bring back legitimate economic criminals, there are widespread human rights concerns about the Chinese legal system, said Amnesty International secretary general Alex Neve.

"It's impossible to imagine how you would have an extradition treaty that would line up with Canada's obligations to not send people to face the death penalty," Neve said in an interview.

"It's very clear that China regularly seeks the return to China of individuals who are wanted for political reasons or religious reasons."

Sophie Richardson, China director for Human Rights Watch, said it is "peculiar" for Canada and to be pursing an extradition treaty with China, because it is 1 of 3 countries - including the United States and Australia - that have rebuffed Beijing's requests in the past.

"I think China's particular interest in pushing this with Canada at the moment is to then be able to say to the U.S. and Australia, 'They did it, why won't you?'"

With or without a treaty, "the standard rules of the road are that you cannot forcibly return anyone to a country where they face a well-founded fear of persecution, or ill-treatment," she added.

Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan said Canada will address China's use of the death penalty during future negotiations.

On Tuesday, Trudeau told a news conference in New York that Canada would not be compromising its own values for the sake of diplomatic expediency.

"Extradition is certainly one of the things the Chinese have indicated they wanted to talk about. But as everyone knows, Canada has very high standards in terms of extradition treaties, in accordance with our values," he said.

(source: The Epoch Times)

***********************

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang defends use of death penalty as extradition talks continue

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang defended his country's continued reliance on the death penalty while visiting Ottawa on Thursday, even as he and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau continue to work toward a formal extradition treaty.

Li was asked about capital punishment in China by reporters on Parliament Hill, and responded that China is one of many nations that still use the death penalty to punish serious crimes.

He cited the country's enormous population as one of the reasons it has not been abolished, arguing that more innocent people could be hurt if the punishment were not so severe.

"In the society there are often crimes, and violent crimes," Li added, standing next to Trudeau.

"We maintain that the penalty is consistent with our national conditions and for years the ruling on the death penalty has been very strict."

Li said that movies and television shows may depict torture in the Chinese judicial system, and he cannot guarantee that this never occurs. But his country is moving toward a law-based society.

"Chinese law clearly provides that there must be strict compliance with judicial procedures and there shall be no torture," the premier said. "Humanitarian treatment must be applied."

The death penalty question may present a serious problem for the Trudeau government as the 2 countries move toward an extradition treaty. Even the mention of such a treaty has already prompted criticism from human rights groups because of concerns about China's lack of due process.

The government recently announced the possible deal after Trudeau's national security adviser, Daniel Jean, went to Beijing on Sept. 12 and agreed to start talks about an extradition treaty as part of a broader security dialogue.

On Thursday, Trudeau pointed out that Canada and China have been talking about extradition "for years."

"Up until now, it's been on an ad-hoc basis," he explained, adding that under no circumstances will Chinese citizens be sent home to be executed.

"Because we do not have capital punishment in Canada ... we will not extradite into situations of capital punishment," Trudeau said.

"We recognize that Canada and China have different systems of law and order ... it will be very important that any future agreement be based on reflecting the realities, the principles, the values that our citizens hold dear in each of our countries."

Li agreed that no deal will be signed until both sides can agree.

"We have been discussing it for many years, it must be based on the national conditions of both countries. The will of both sides."

(source: Global News)

INDIA:

35-yr-old man gets death sentence for killing minor

LANDMARK JUDGMENT BY SPECIAL COURT IN RAJGURUNAGAR

Calling it rarest of rare cases, this is the court's first ruling under the new law, POCSO Act, 2012

Claiming it to be the rarest of rare crimes, a special court in Rajgurunagar on Thursday awarded death sentence to a 35-year-old man for brutally sodomising and strangulating an 8- year-old boy near a construction site at Chakan in 2013.

Special judge S R Jagtap while awarding the sentence to convict Khalaksinh Janaksingh Panchal - a resident of Hamirpur in Uttar Pradesh - observed that such gruesome and brutal crimes against children were on the rise and any leniency to the offender would send a wrong message to the cultured society. "There is no scope to leniency since he lured the child and then abused him. Further, to hide the crime, he killed him. The presence of such people in the society can cause a huge threat and thus the convict has no right to remain alive," the judge said.

The judge also sentenced life imprisonment to the convict for sodomising and another 7 years' rigorous imprisonment for several other sections under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act and other relevant sections under the Indian Penal Code (IPC).

This is the 1st case under the provisions of POCSO Act, 2012, in the district, in which the special court has awarded death penalty ever since the new law was enforced in 2012.

A contract labourer by profession, Panchal, on May 15, 2013, lured the boy and sodomised him and later strangulated him to death. The heinous crime occurred at a construction site in Kadachiwadi, Chakan. The deceased's father also worked at the same site.

The investigation revealed that Panchal also sexually harassed and killed an 8-year-old girl in Narhe in Haveli taluka 2 years before this incident and that the case is still pending.

The police investigation further revealed that Panchal had been working at the site for one-and-half years and was staying at the same premises alone. In the evening, after completing his work, he used to call kids who stayed with their parents at labour camps and lure them with chocolates.

On the day of the incident, Panchal had called the kids, including the deceased, and gave them chocolates and stayed with them for some time. Later, all the other kids, except the deceased, returned home. When the victim did not return home till 10 pm, the parents got worried and started searching him and even consulted Panchal with whom the kid was last spotted. He, however, said that the deceased took chocolates and left for home. The child was found dead at the under-construction building site with blood around the mouth and without his clothes.

Later, Panchal's room was found locked from outside so the Chakan police attempted to trace him at Pune railway station. Panchal soon got arrested and confessed to the crime. He stated that he sodomised the kid before killing him.

Talking to Pune Mirror, assistant public prosecutor (APP) Kobal said, "We examined 10 witnesses, including a friend of the boy, shopkeepers, a labour contractor and the doctor who treated him. Looking at the brutality of the crime, the court has awarded death sentence to the convict which is first-ever in the district since the POCSO Act has been enforced." The accused was arrested under sections 302 (murder), 377 (unnatural sex) and relevant sections of the POCSO Act.

BOY'S FAMILY FAILS TO SHOW UP AT COURT:

The deceased child's parents hail from Nevasa in Ahmednagar district and have been working in Chakan for 15 years. However, after the incident, only the father of the boy stayed in Chakan, but never attended the trial except the day to record his statement. He was absent on the day of judgment, too. The mother of the child and 2 sisters left to their native place and never returned.

(source: Pune Mirror)

*********************

Bilkis case: No permission for re-examination of witnesses

The Bombay High Court today rejected an application filed by the lawyer of the convicts in the 2002 Bilkis Bano gangrape case seeking re-examination of some of the witnesses.

A division bench of justices V K Tahilramani and Mridula Bhatkar said it can't entertain such an application at a stage when trial is over and appeals are being heard.

Defence lawyer Harshad Ponda had sought the permission to re-examine prosecution witnesses K N Sinha, who led the CBI team which probed the case; Bilkis' nephew Saddam, who was 8-years-old at the time of the incident; and Budhsingh Patel, a 'writer constable' at Limkheda police station who wrote down the first FIR lodged by Bilkis.

Ponda also wanted to call a new witness, Mangal Singh, another 'writer constable' at Limkheda police station.

He wanted to re-examine the witnesses because the defence lawyers had made some mistakes during the trial and overlooked certain significant facts when cross-examining, he said.

CBI lawyer Hiten Venegaonkar opposed the application, saying it had come at a "belated stage".

Law does not allow calling of new witness or re-examination of a witness at a stage when the defence has concluded its arguments in the appeal, Venegaonkar said.

The Bombay High Court is hearing appeals filed by 11 convicts in the case, as well as the appeal filed by CBI seeking death penalty for 3 of them.

The accused were sentenced to life imprisonment by the trial court here in 2008 for the gangrape of Bilkis and murder of her family members during a post-Godhra riot.

On March 3, 2002, a mob attacked Bilkis' house at Randhikpur near Ahmedabad and killed seven members of the family. Bilkis, who was 5 months pregnant, was gangraped.

The trial was transferred out of Gujarat for the fear that witnesses might be intimidated or influenced.

(source: newindianexpress.com)

INDONESIA:

A Moratorium on the Death Penalty

President Joko Widodo should have the courage to impose a moratorium on the death penalty. With our legal system in chaos, there is a high probability that the wrong people can be victimized.

The case of Zulfiqar Ali is an example of the dangers of the death penalty. The Pakistani citizen was almost executed by firing squad on July 29 along with narcotics boss Freddy Budiman and his associates. But Zulfiqar was neither a courier nor a drug dealer. In 2004, he was arrested merely because he was a friend of Gurdip Singh and bought a Jakarta-Surabaya plane ticket. The official statement from Patrialis Akbar, the justice and human rights minister during the administration of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, that Zulfiqar was innocent, counted for nothing.

Our sense of justice finds outrageous the fact that law enforcement authorities from both the Yudhoyono and Jokowi administrations could behave so rashly in the Zulfiqar case. The textile trader from Tanah Abang, Jakarta, was arrested three months after Gurdip was detained in August 2004 in possession of 300 grams of heroin on a flight to Surabaya. Following torture at the hands of the police, Gurdip said he had obtained the heroin from Zulfiqar. It was Gurdip's confession that led to Zulfiqar being jailed. There was not a shred of evidence to back the charge.

At the beginning of the trial, because he had no legal adviser, Zulfiqar was unable to uncover the machinations of the case he had been dragged into. Eventually, the Supreme Court sentenced him to death. Even when a review of the case was requested, the judges closed their eyes to the facts. Gurdip's testimony before a notary, in which he stated the heroin had not come from Zulfiqar, was simply ignored.

The judges also paid no attention to the results of an investigation by a team set up by Minister Patrialis Akbar in September 2010, despite the unambiguous nature of the minister's conclusion that Zulfiqar had never in his whole life been involved with drugs. The case was contrived and rife with human rights violation.

This arbitrary verdict that nearly led to the death of Zulfiqar then came into the public spotlight. Indonesia's 3rd president, B.J. Habibie, wrote to President Jokowi, and the Pakistani government has just asked Indonesia to quash the verdict.

Jokowi should take the courageous step of pushing for the end of the death penalty. If executions are supposed to have a deterrent effect, the facts show that the number of criminals continues to rise. Many drug distributors have faced the firing squad but their numbers continue to grow. People are not afraid of the death penalty.

The serious problem is that the death penalty has often been imposed on the wrong people. Meanwhile, our legal system is in a state of chaos, with some court and law enforcement officials readily taking bribes. Besides Zulfiqar, there are a number of other similar cases. These were uncovered by the Freddy Budiman fact-finding team, which discovered that the government had wrongly passed the death penalty on the Teja case.

Teja, who knew nothing about drugs, was caught after Freddy asked him to meet a man called Rudi. When the case involving the possession of 1.4 million ecstasy pills came to light, Teja was caught up in it. Initially, he was only a witness, but then became a suspect, and was eventually sentenced to death.

President Jokowi must realize that there is much uncertainty related to the death penalty. Hence, it should not be applied. Humans have no right to play god, especially if the death penalty in drugs cases is only used as a political campaign tool for the purpose of seeking popularity.

(source: tempo.co)

SEPTEMBER 22, 2016:

TEXAS:

Law firm recommends system for initial capital case appeals

A law firm that's been representing Texas death row inmates for more than 2 decades is recommending the state establish a system for condemned prisoners to have better legal help during the initial appeal that follows their trial.

The Texas Defender Service this week released a report that examines what's known as direct appeals in death penalty cases. It cited "systemic weaknesses" in the way those appeals are handled, contending lawyers are overwhelmed by caseloads and underpaid for the time they spend on these cases, that some attorneys who do accept the cases are inadequately prepared and that no entity in the state is devoted to training or consulting with lawyers handling direct appeals.

"The direct appeal framework for Texas death penalty cases is fraught with structural weaknesses," the legal group concluded in its report, adding that those weaknesses heighten the likelihood that convictions and death sentences will be upheld when the appeals are reviewed by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, the state's highest criminal court.

In direct appeals, attorneys review the trial court record for potential errors.

The legal firm is calling on the Legislature to consider establishing a statewide capital appellate defender office to represent death row convicts in their direct appeals, a statewide appointment system with caseload controls and uniform pay rates, and appointment of 2 lawyers - rather than 1 now required - to handle direct appeals.

"Deficient representation squanders scarce criminal justice resources, undermines the integrity of the Texas criminal justice system and warrants immediate attention from stakeholders," the 56-page report said.

The group's recommendations are based on a review of documents from the 84 direct appeals to the Court of Criminal Appeals during the 7-year period ending Dec. 31, 2015.

In its study, the Defender Service said it found the direct appeal attorneys had inadequate resources, excessive caseloads, inadequate briefing and showed "routine avoidance" to filing reply briefs and applying for review by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Capital murder defendants in need of legal help - most of whom are indigent - already have a regional public defender for trials in most rural areas of the state. State lawmakers in 2009 created the Office of Capital Writs to handle later appeals. The Defender Service is recommending such formal legal availabilities be extended to the direct appeals process, where it argues the quality of representation has remained "unexamined."

Roe Wilson, who heads the Harris County District Attorney's Legal Services Bureau, which handles capital case writs in the county that has sent the most inmates to death row, questioned the need for 2 defense attorneys to handle a direct appeal.

"In a direct appeal, you're limited to the record itself, there's no outside investigation," Wilson said Wednesday. "It literally comes down to reading the record, identifying claims, doing the legal research and writing. I don't know why it would take 2 people to do that."

The report, however, pointed out that county prosecutors have more ready access to resources, such as auxiliary staff. Of the 84 cases in the study, 2/3 were handled by solo practicing attorneys. None of the 84 convictions was overturned by the Court of Criminal Appeals. The death sentence was overturned in 3 of them.

Wilson said defendants have better chances later in the appeals writ process because factual claims outside the trial record can be presented and investigated.

"It's very difficult to get any case, not just a capital case, overturned on direct appeal because you are limited to exactly what’s in front of you," she said.

(source: Associated Press)

*************************

Capital Punishment should be controlled by state

It has been just over 5 months since Texas last executed someone. This is the longest stay in executions since 2008, when the Supreme Court was on recess and states could charge people with the death penalty but couldn't execute anyone. With this stay, Texas has only executed 6 people this year, meaning this could be the 1st year since the death penalty was reinstated in 1974 that Texas' execution count doesn't reach double digits. This has caused many to wonder about the future of the death penalty, instead of highlighting the true issue - that the death penalty is enacted differently throughout the 254 counties in Texas.

Leading the states, Texas has carried out 537 executions since 1982. But not all counties handle the death penalty in the same way.

"If Harris County was a state, it would be 2nd only to Texas [in number of executions]," Jim Marcus, clinical professor at and co-director of the UT Law School's Capital Punishment Clinic, said. "But there are 254 counties in Texas, and over a hundred of them haven’t used the death penalty."

If you are prosecuted in Travis County and cannot afford your own lawyer, the county is responsible for funding and appointing your defense lawyer. These appointments are often corrupt, with local judges choosing lawyers who aren't versed in defending capital punishment cases without state oversight. Other states have statewide indigent defense systems, where the defense lawyers are funded by the state - not the county - and are trained to handle capital punishment cases. In these states, each appeal is overseen by a state office.

"You get the death penalty not for having committed the worst crime, but for having the worst lawyer," Marcus said. "Texas has chronically and systematically underfunded the defense for years."

This underfunding is partially due to the defense council not being funded by the state, as many anti-death penalty advocacy groups will attest. Tuesday the Texas Defender Service released a report that highlighted the many mistakes that have been made with death penalty cases from Jan. 2009 to Dec. 2015, and recommended Texas create a state office to oversee death penalty appeals.

In a state where the penal code allows capital felonies to be their own crimes, and where the jury is asked questions that distance them from the severity of the punishment they so often dole out, having a good defense attorney is a basic and necessary human right. A statewide indigent defense system that is funded by the state and forces every death penalty appeal to be overseen by a state office is the only way Texas can hope to account for the disparity in numbers of executions between its different counties. With a system like this in place, it could mean fewer people sent to death row, and that Travis County and Harris County resemble each other enough in their justice systems to make their being a part of the same state more plausible.

(source: Emma Berdainer is a philosphy junior from Boulder, Colorodo--The (Univ. Texas) Daily Texan)

****************

Law firm recommends system for initial capital case appeals

A law firm that's been representing Texas death row inmates for more than 2 decades is recommending the state establish a system for condemned prisoners to have better legal help during the initial appeal that follows their trial.

The Texas Defender Service, in a report examining what's known as direct appeals in death penalty cases, cites "systemic weaknesses" in the way those appeals are handled. The legal firm contends lawyers are overwhelmed by caseloads and underpaid for the time spent on these cases, that some attorneys who do accept the cases are inadequately prepared and that no specific state entity is devoted to training or consulting with lawyers handling direct appeals.

The group, among its recommendations, is calling for establishment of statewide capital appellate defender office to represent death-sentenced convicts.

(source: Associated Press)

*******************

Unusual misstep in Rodney Reed case prompts request for new judge

Rodney Reed wants a new judge to potentially review his request for DNA testing, after an assigned judge appears to have made an "inexplicable" error by simultaneously signing and adopting two opposing orders, according to Reed's attorney.

Assigned Senior Judge Doug Shaver's apparent mistake relates to Reed's request for post-conviction DNA testing on multiple pieces of evidence, which Reed's attorneys say could help exonerate the death-row inmate. A Bastrop jury sentenced Reed to death for the 1996 killing of Stacey Stites. She was found strangled and sexually assaulted on the side of a road outside Bastrop.

The state has opposed further DNA testing. The latest issue arose after the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals sent the issue back to Shaver and asked him to make additional findings on Reed's appeal for post-conviction DNA testing.

To argue their cases, both the state and Reed submitted findings of fact and conclusions to Shaver. The state argued against further DNA testing, and Reed argued for it. On Sept. 9, Shaver signed both the state's facts and conclusions against DNA testing, as well as Reed's facts and conclusions for DNA testing.

"This is extremely irregular, and frankly alarming, that a judge would make such an egregious error in a death penalty case. In my seventeen years practicing law, I've never seen a judge make a mistake like this," said Benjet in an email. "None of the experienced lawyers and retired judges I've talked to about this had seen anything like it either. It's really inexplicable how a judge can make diametrically opposite rulings on the same issues, in the same case, at the same time."

In light of Shaver signing both parties' proposed findings, the state has asked the Court of Criminal Appeals to remand the issue back to the convicting court, so it "may clarify which of the parties' findings - all of the State's, all of Appellant's, or certain findings from both - it intended to adopt as its own," according to a state motion.

Reed's attorneys have asked the Appeals court to make a decision on matter. If the Appeals court sends the issue back to the convicting court, Reed wants a new judge to be assigned.

"This court, the parties, and the public can no longer have confidence in Senior Judge Shaver's continued assignment on this case," Reed attorneys say in their opposition to the state's motion to remand.

Reed has maintained his innocence since he was convicted in 1998. In 2015, the Appeals court paused Reed’s execution less than 2 weeks before it was set to occur.

Reed's supporters say the state's original case against Reed has been undermined by multiple new pieces of evidence introduced since his conviction.

(source: KXAN news)

************************

Rick Perry, Who Oversaw Executions of Over 200 People, Makes It to 2nd Round of Dancing Show

The beautiful thing about the infectiously cheesy Dancing With the Stars is that all the contestants have often fraught, disappointing histories. Many of the "celebrities" haven't had real acting roles in decades; one Olympic swimmer recently peed on a gas station and fled a South American country. One of them has overseen more executions than any governor in modern history. Lives lived, you know!

ABC hit us with a 2-night 2nd week of the 23rd season - 4 hours of beautiful competition between mostly retired adults. Monday evening's show was Television Night, during which competitors had to do a themed dance to an assigned television show (if you were on one, that's the one you were assigned). So, Marilu Henner and Derek Hough danced to the Taxi, Maureen McCormick and Artem Chigvintsev did Brady Bunch with a guest appearance from Florence Henderson, Jake T. Austin (voice of Diego) and Jenna Johnson did an unsettlingly sexy interpretation of children's cartoon Go Diego Go!

Former governor and failed presidential candidate Rick Perry, whose 234 executions equal more than the next 2 highest execution states combined, and partner Emma Slater did a quickstep to the Green Acres theme song. It was goofy, down-homey, and made us forget for a little over a minute that he also vetoed a bill that would've excluded mentally disabled from the death penalty and fought vigorously to be able to execute minors!

Ultimately, Diego-voice Jake T. Austin, who said it was "ironic" that he and his dance partner were both born in 1994, was sent home, probably because his fanbase isn't allowed to use a telephone without parental supervision.

Perry, who is by far the worst dancer on the show, snuck through to the 3rd week - likely with his large contingent of Texas voters who think it's admirable that Perry only met 1 person on death row during his entire tenure as governor who he thought deserved to live! Even among those who forensic experts said were maybe innocent!

Bobby Finger, Jezebel staff writer and Texan, suggested a title for this article: "We Now Know How Rick Perry Sleeps at Night: By Exhausting Himself With Dance."

(source: jezebel.com)

FLORIDA:

Supreme Court of Florida could rule on fate of nearly 400 death row inmates----State's method of imposing death sentences ruled unconstitutional

The Supreme Court of Florida could rule as early as Thursday on the fate of nearly 400 death row inmates after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled last January that the way in which death sentences are handed down in the state is unconstitutional.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Florida's method is unconstitutional because the jury doesn't have the final say.

The first question facing Florida courts is what to do with the 388 people on death row. Jacksonville lawyer Richard Kuritz, representing 1 inmate, argued in June that they should all automatically be resentenced to life in prison.

"Absolutely, because when we start drawing a line, that's where the problem is going to be is because the statute has been declared unconstitutional," Kuritz said. "The sentencing scheme, well, it's the same scheme we've been using since the reinstatement of the death penalty case."

The 2nd question facing the court is whether the state's new death sentencing law, which lawmakers passed last spring, goes far enough because it requires 10 of the 12 jurors to agree on a death sentence.

Former Supreme Court Justice Raoul Cantero was in court this week lecturing on the death penalty. He wrote a decade ago that that Florida must adopt a unanimous jury if it wanted to continue to impose death sentences.

"But the Legislature refused to do it, and I think the law has evolved since then, and I think the time has come," Cantero said. "I don't think 10-2 repairs the deficiencies in the statute."

No matter what the court decides, it's likely to face multiple appeals that could take a long time.

Without the 10-2 compromise, lawmakers said there would be no death penalty at all. In the end, not requiring a unanimous jury might have the same result.

(source: news4jax.com)

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The 2 questions SCOTUS has to answer about Florida's death penalty

The U.S. Supreme Court recently ruled Florida's death sentencing rule unconstitutional, and now the court has 2 questions to answer.

The Supreme Court ruled that the way Florida imposes death sentences was unconstitutional because the jury didn't have the final say.

The 1st question facing Florida Courts? What to do with the 388 people on death row.

In June, Jacksonville lawyer Richard Kuritz, representing one inmate, argued they should all automatically be re-sentenced to life in prison.

"Absolutely, because when we start drawing a line, that's where the problem is going to be is because the statute has been declared unconstitutional," Kuritz says. "The sentencing scheme. well, it's the same scheme we've been using since the reinstatement of the death penalty case."

The 2nd question facing the court is whether the state's new death sentencing law, which lawmakers passed this spring, goes far enough because it only requires 10 of the 12 jurors to agree on death.

Former Supreme Court Justice Raoul Cantero was in the court this week lecturing on the death penalty. A decade ago he wrote that Florida must adopt a unanimous jury if it wanted to continue to impose death.

"But the legislature refused to do it and I think the law has evolved since than, and I think the time has come," says Cantero, "I don't think 10-2 repairs the deficiencies in the statute."

No matter what this court decides, it's likely to face multiple appeals that could take a long time.

Without the 10-2 compromise, lawmakers say there would be no death penalty at all. But in the end, not requiring a unanimous jury may have the same result.

(source: WCTV news)

INDIANA:

Pence puts politics ahead of fairness for innocent man

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence refuses to pardon an innocent man, apparently because he is so very afraid of offending a single Donald Trump voter.

We have seen how Trump compulsively puts political self-interest before fair play and decency. Now we have to wonder if Pence, his vice presidential running mate, is cut from the same cheap cloth.

Pence's general counsel this week notified a lawyer for Keith Cooper of suburban Country Club Hills that Cooper must pursue a lengthy and pointless legal proceeding - likely to take years - before Pence will even consider a pardon. That might sound reasonable to a non-lawyer, but it is in reality an unnecessary and unjustifiable barrier to ending this case fairly.

Cooper, originally sentenced to 40 years in an Indiana prison for armed robbery, was freed after 10 years in 2006, and the evidence of his innocence is overwhelming. But the felony remains on his record, making it hard for him to work up to better jobs or get compensation for his wrongful conviction and time in prison. No one can give him his 10 years back, but he certainly deserves better.

So what is Gov. Pence doing about that? Ducking.

Pardoning a man who has been convicted of a serious crime - even if the underlying case falls apart and the suspect is freed - is often seen as politically risky by governors. Nobody wants to look soft on crime, even if pardoning an innocent man is hardly being soft on crime.

Here in Illinois, for example, Bruce Rauner is the 3rd successive governor to refuse to pardon Gordon "Randy" Steidl, who spent 17 years in prison - 12 of them on death row - for a 1986 double murder he did not commit. Since being set free, Steidl has been a leading voice for the abolition of the death penalty, and he has helped change legislators' minds in many states. But his request for a pardon goes unanswered.

In Cooper's case, the victims who originally identified him and the Elkhart County prosecutor who originally helped put him behind bars all agree Cooper is innocent. A jailhouse informant who testified against Cooper recanted in 2003. In 2014, the Indiana Parole Board concluded that Pence should pardon Cooper.

And yet, Pence refuses to grant the pardon.

Cooper faced a difficult choice in 2005, when the Indiana Court of Appeals overturned the conviction of his co-defendant in the armed robbery case. The co-defendant eventually was awarded $4.9 million for his wrongful conviction. Cooper at that time was offered a choice between a new trial - with no quick resolution and the outcome in doubt - or walking out of prison immediately while remaining a felon. He chose the latter, partly because his family had been living in a shelter and needed help.

Proof that Cooper's case went off the rails is irrefutable. A key piece of evidence is the DNA from a customized baseball cap with rhinestones. The hat, worn by a perpetrator, fell off during a scuffle during the armed robbery for which Cooper was convicted. But it did not match Cooper’s DNA. In 2004, a 3rd DNA test linked the hat to a different man, who was serving time for a 2002 murder in Benton Harbor, Mich.

Governors can delay action on pardons, or refuse them, as they wish. Like the right of kings, from which this power descends, it is always their call.

But Pence has made a bad call, as best we can see it, and for the worst of reasons - bald political self-interest.

(source: Chicago Sun-Times Editorial Board)

NEW MEXICO:

Attorneys: Reinstating death penalty could cost millions

The governor wants to reinstate the death penalty after several children and police officers were killed this year.

But, if Gov. Susana Martinez gets her way, the New Mexico Public Defender's Office says it will cost the state millions of dollars.

"(It is) just a tremendous investment of time, trauma and money, and for what? We never actually use it," Jeff Buckels, the office's supervising attorney, said.

He helped abolish the death penalty in 2009.

"The numbers on this were all run through the Legislature in 2009, and I'm certain nothing's changed," he said.

Buckels says death penalty cases are more expensive because more is at stake, so cases usually take more time, require specialized attorneys and a more extensive jury selection.

According to 2009 legislative documents, court administrators said seating a jury typically costs about $8,000, but in a death penalty case, it's closer to $25,000.

Buckels also says a lot of convictions are often appealed.

He believes life without the possibility of parole is an appropriate alternative: less expensive, and "it doesn't involve killing someone who in the end could be proved innocent after they're gone," he said.

Senate Democrats and the Archdiocese of Santa Fe have also voiced their opposition.

(source: KOAT news)

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Reject Martinez call for NM death penalty

We, the Catholic bishops of New Mexico, find the decision by Gov. Susana Martinez to place the reinstatement of the death penalty on the agenda of a special legislative session to be irresponsible.

The Legislature spent a decade debating the issue, ending with a bipartisan vote that ended the practice of a state-sanctioned death penalty. This was a definitive decision and had ample discovery of evidence and debate. That decision should remain final.

The abomination of taking a life, the death penalty, needs to be addressed in a general session where full debate, in front of numerous committees, can examine all the facts and legislators can hear all public comment.

New Mexico faces the crisis of children being abused. Our utmost priority must be to work together to protect and prevent harm to our children, not reinstating state-sanctioned violence. Violence does not end violence.

The death penalty does not prevent the death of children. The current financial crisis of the state damages the ability for state programs to deliver critical prevention services. These are the issues at hand for a special session.

It is evident that the governor has chosen to use the deaths of police officers and children to drive a politically motivated action to place the death penalty on a very short special session purely for the purpose of politics and campaign jockeying.

We call on the governor to recant her call for placing this on the agenda of the special session. We also call on the legislators to reject this proposed agenda item in the special session.

Pope Francis has called for a world-wide end to the death penalty. We oppose the reinstatement of the death penalty in New Mexico.

If there were to be a debate on this, the integrity of the process should be protected by all. This irresponsible move by the governor is ignoring the immensity of the issue.

The national trend is to end the practice of using the death penalty. The evidence of innocent persons unjustly convicted and on death row that has been brought to light by DNA, for example, illustrates the unethical and problematic use of the death penalty.

The governor is attempting to create a distraction from the numerous crises taking place in New Mexico. The financial and social crises of the state need the full attention of our legislators.

(source: Guest Column; The Most Rev. John C. Wester / Archbishop Of Santa Fe The Most Rev. James Wall / Bishop Of Gallup And The Most Rev. Oscar Cantu / Bishop Of Las Cruces----Albuquerque Journal)

CALIFORNIA:

Wozniak to get death sentence on Friday

Convicted double-murderer Daniel Wozniak, a community theater actor from Costa Mesa, is scheduled to be sentenced on Friday, a judge determined on Wednesday.

Judge John D. Conley could follow a jury's recommendation that Wozniak be sentenced to death, after more than 6 years of court hearings.

The case was delayed as Wozniak's defense attorney, Assistant Public Defender Scott Sanders, alleged systemic misconduct by Orange County prosecutors and sheriff's deputies involving the use of jailhouse informants.

Sanders was able to persuade a judge to removed the entire District Attorney's Office from the penalty phase for Scott Dekraai, who pleaded guilty to shooting 8 people at a Seal Beach salon in 2011 and awaits sentencing, in another one of his cases. The ruling is under appeal.

In the Wozniak case, Conley found no evidence of misconduct and cleared the way for the trial to begin last year.

On Wednesday, the judge denied Sanders' final effort to delay sentencing so he could respond to accusations by Prosecutor Matt Murphy.

"I'm only interested in the case of Mr. Wozniak," he said. "I think the bickering between you 2 has clouded your judgment."

Wozniak, 31, was convicted in December of killing 2 friends for money to pay for his wedding and honeymoon.

On May 21, 2010, Wozniak lured Sam Herr, 26, to the Joint Forces Training Base in Los Alamitos and then shot and killed him. The actor returned the next day and cut off Herr's head, a hand and a forearm and tossed the body parts in Long Beach's El Dorado Park.

In an attempt to throw police off of his trail, Wozniak used Herr's cellphone to lure Juri "Julie" Kibuishi, 23, to Herr's apartment. Prosecutors said Wozniak then shot and killed her.

Many friends and family members, including fellow Army veterans who served with Herr in Afghanistan, are expected to attend the hearing. Those closest to the victims will give statements in court before the sentence is handed down.

(source: Orange County Register)

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Judge says evidence supports death verdict in murder case

Wednesday morning, an Alameda County Superior Court judge said the "overwhelming weight" of the evidence against convicted double murderer Darnell Williams Jr. "supports the jury's verdict of death" from earlier this year.

The hearing is ongoing and is slated to continue after lunch with victim impact statements from individuals tied to the case. The official sentencing has not been handed down.

The jury's recommendation earlier this year was the 1st death penalty sentence in Alameda County under the leadership of District Attorney Nancy O'Malley.

Williams, 25, of Berkeley was convicted by a jury in May, after nearly a month of testimony, of 2 fatal shootings in 2013. The victims were 8-year-old Alaysha Carradine and 22-year-old Anthony "Tone" Medearis III, a father of 3.

Wednesday, Judge Jeffrey Horner appeared poised to uphold that sentence and said the aggravating factors were "so substantial" that "death is warranted." He said the jury's ruling appeared appropriate due to the extensive evidence and testimony presented in the case.

Authorities said Williams killed Carradine in Oakland in July 2013 as retribution for the fatal shooting earlier that day of his longtime friend Jermaine Davis in Berkeley.

Carradine was a guest at a sleepover at the home of the wife and children of the man authorities say killed Davis. According to court testimony, Williams went to that home and opened fire, intent on exacting revenge by killing the former girlfriend and children of the man believed to have killed his friend.

Medearis' killing took place following a fight at a dice game in West Berkeley less than 2 months later. According to authorities, Williams planned to rob Medearis and wanted to kill him because of allegations he had "snitched" to police during an earlier incident.

(source: berkeleyside.com)

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Decades-old photo links serial killer Rodney Alcala to yet another slaying, this one in Wyoming, prosecutors

Nearly 4 decades after a pregnant woman's body was found on a Wyoming ranch, prosecutors have connected her death to one of California's most prolific serial killers, Rodney Alcala.

On Tuesday, prosecutors in Sweetwater County, Wyo., charged Alcala with the 1977 killing of Christine Ruth Thornton after discovering a photo that Alcala had snapped of her before her death. The aging photograph was found among Alcala's possessions by Huntington Beach police, but it was only recently that the dead woman's sister recognized Thornton among the images.

The photo was among several publicized by Huntington Beach detectives after Alcala was sentenced to death in 2010 for killing 4 women and a 12-year-old in the late 1970s. The photo was spotted by Thornton's relatives in 2013.

Known as the "Dating Game" killer because he appeared on the popular television program decades ago, the former photographer has also been convicted of killing 2 women in New York. Investigators believe the 73-year-old is responsible for scores of other deaths. They made some photos public in the hope that they would produce leads.

Prosecutors confronted Alcala with the photo at California's Corcoran State Prison. Alcala told prosecutors that he did indeed take the picture, but insisted that Thornton was alive when he left, Erramouspe said.

When asked if he killed the 28-year-old Thornton, Alcala responded: "You're crazy."

"But he said some things that help tie him to the murder," Erramouspe said. "He likes to talk."

Prosecutors say Alcala met Thornton, who was from Texas, during a road trip and buried her in a remote area. She was 6 months pregnant at the time.

Thornton's family never knew what happened to the expectant mother, but contacted Huntington Beach police when they saw her photo. 2 of Thornton's siblings submitted DNA samples to a national missing person's database, which also contained DNA from the Wyoming body, which had remained unidentified for decades. In July 2015, the database connected the samples and alerted Wyoming authorities that the deceased was likely Thornton.

So far, DNA recovered from the body also includes that of a Latino male, according to prosecutors. Erramouspe said samples are being sent to an FBI lab for further testing to see if they belong to Alcala.

The prosecutor said he is seeking to bring Alcala to Wyoming to get justice in the 1977 killing, but no timeline exists for the move.

Alcala's crimes stretch back to 1968, when he raped and beat an 8-year-old girl - crimes he was convicted of 4 years later.

The women and 1 girl he has been convicted of killing in California are Jill Barcomb, 18, who was sexually assaulted, bludgeoned and strangled before her body was dumped in the Hollywood Hills in November 1977; Georgia Wixted, 27, who was sexually assaulted, strangled and beaten to death in her Malibu home a month later; Charlotte Lamb, 32, who was found dead in her El Segundo laundry room after she was raped and strangled with a shoelace in June 1978; Jill Parenteau, 21, who was strangled to death and left in her Burbank apartment in June 1979; and Robin Samsoe, 12, who disappeared near Huntington Beach Pier in June 1979, and whose body was discovered days later in the Sierra Madre foothills.

After his sentencing, Orange County Dist. Atty. Tony Rackauckas declared: "Rodney Alcala is the poster child for the death penalty."

Many of the detectives who worked the case believe Thornton won't be the last victim tied to the killer.

"Him being behind bars since 1979 probably saved a lot of lives," said Cliff Shepard, a retired cold case detective with the Los Angeles Police Department.

(source: Los Angeles Times)

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Motion denied to separate trial for man accused of Sierra LaMar's disappearance from attempted kidnappings

A Santa Clara County Superior Court judge has denied a motion from a 25-year-old man to hold separate trials on charges of kidnapping and murdering 15-year-old Sierra LaMar in 2012 from 3 attempted kidnappings in Morgan Hill years earlier.

Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Vanessa Zecher denied a motion brought by Antolin Garcia-Torres to hold separate trials on charges surrounding Sierra's disappearance from the attempted kidnappings outside Morgan Hill Safeway grocery stores in March 2009.

Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty against Garcia-Torres, whose trial is expected to start later this year.

"Although there may be some potential prejudice to the charges remaining joined, the defendant has not made a clear showing of prejudice to support the granting of the Motion of Severance," Zecher wrote in a written order issued Tuesday.

Defense attorneys for Garcia-Torres argued in their motion that the Safeway parking lot incidents didn't show a link with Sierra's disappearance or indicate if the same person carried out the crime.

One of the women drove away as the suspect tried to open her car door and the other 2 victims were assaulted as they were either entering or exiting their vehicles, according to the defense attorneys.

Garcia-Torres was identified as a suspect through a latent fingerprint on a stun gun battery left behind in one of the attempted kidnappings, but the 3 victims didn't identify him as a suspect, according to the defense attorneys.

In response to the defense's motion, prosecutors argued that the alleged crimes showed a common scheme and shared themes of intending to kidnap, stalking and assault.

The jury should determine if there's enough evidence to show Garcia-Torres' role in the other crimes, prosecutors said.

Prosecutors said they anticipate that the Safeway victims' testimony at trial will make the attempted kidnapping charges equal to the ones in Sierra's case.

On March 16, 2012, Sierra was last seen at her home in unincorporated Morgan Hill and didn't make the bus stop for school. The girl's clothing and cellphone were found days after she went missing.

Garcia-Torres was arrested about 2 months after Sierra disappeared after her DNA was found in his red Volkswagen Jetta, prosecutors said.

Many organized searches have taken place in the 4 years after she was last seen, but her body hasn't been found.

(source: KRON news)

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Polls: Voters favor legalizing pot, outlawing capital punishment ---- A majority of Californians support a proposition to legalize recreational marijuana and a plurality support repealing the death penalty, according to 2 polls released Thursday. A poll by the Public Policy Institute of California also showed support for 2 tax measures on the November ballot.

Ballot initiatives that would make smoking marijuana for recreation legal for all adults and outlaw the death penalty have jumped out to big leads, according to 2 new polls released Wednesday night.

Prospects look especially strong for Proposition 64, the marijuana initiative, which has the support of 60 % of likely voters, a poll by the nonpartisan Public Policy Institute of California shows. The measure is opposed by 36 % of respondents, while only 4 % said they were undecided.

Proposition 62, which would replace the death penalty with lifetime imprisonment without parole, has a tougher road to passage, according to the Field Poll, done in conjunction with UC Berkeley's Institute of Government Studies.

The measure, which faces a competing state initiative, has the support of 48 % of likely voters, while 37 % oppose it and 15 % are undecided. The pollsters cautioned, however, that a nearly identical proposition 4 years ago enjoyed a similar lead before being defeated by an electorate that wasn't ready to soften sentences for some of the state's most violent criminals.

"The default position on any crime policy initiative is hard-line because criminals are not terribly popular in public opinion," said Frank Zimring, a UC Berkeley criminal justice professor who studies the death penalty.

While voters in recent years have appeared to be moving leftward when it comes to criminal justice issues, they seem increasingly stingy when it comes to giving the state a bigger line of credit. PPIC found that only 47 % of likely voters back Proposition 51, a $9 billion school facilities bond that Gov. Jerry Brown is opposing as fiscally reckless.

Bond measures have historically started with about 60 % support, said Mark Baldassare, PPIC's president and CEO.

"The governor has really stressed fiscal caution," he said, "and we're seeing some fiscal caution in terms of how people are reflecting on school bonds."

Likely voters, however, appear to be more receptive to approving taxes that won't affect most of them.

(source: Mercury News)

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End the death penalty in California

On the ballot this Nov. 8 in California is Proposition 62.

This proposition would repeal the death penalty in our state and would make life in prison without parole the maximum punishment that could be imposed for crimes of murder.

My brother bishops and I in the California Catholic Conference are supporting this effort.

It is time for us to end the death penalty - not only in California but throughout the United States and throughout the world.

The Catholic Church has always taught that legitimate governments have the right to impose the death penalty on those guilty of the most serious crimes. This teaching has been consistent for centuries - in the Scriptures, in the writings of the Church Fathers and in the teachings of the popes.

But in recent years, there has been a growing consensus that the use of the death penalty can no longer be accepted. This consensus is reflected in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, in the teachings of bishops’ conferences around the world and in the teachings of Pope John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI and now Pope Francis.

On his final visit to our country in 1999, St. John Paul called the death penalty "cruel and unnecessary." And it is true.

The reason is that every life is sacred and every person has a dignity that comes from God. This is true for the innocent and it is true for the guilty. It is true even for those convicted of the most violent crimes.

The Church has always opposed abortion and euthanasia because it involves the direct and voluntary killing of innocent human beings. Obviously, the death penalty is different. Those guilty of violent crime are not innocent.

But in opposing the death penalty we are also witnessing to the sanctity of life. We are saying that even the most sinful and guilty lives are precious to God and should not be taken by others.

The death penalty denies God's plan of mercy and justice. It violates the condemned person's dignity and deprives him of the chance to change his heart and make amends for his crimes.

In seeking an end to the death penalty, we never forget the victims of crime and their loved ones. We entrust them to the Father of mercies and we pray that he grant them healing and peace.

But we recognize that killing the criminal does not bring justice to the victims. Our country has far more effective ways to bring murderers to justice and to keep society safe from violent criminals.

Rather than condemn them to death, as Christians, we should pray for their conversion and encourage their rehabilitation and ultimate restoration to society.

For some criminals, this will never be possible. Their hearts are too damaged, too cruel and hardened. But we know that conversion and repentance is God's work, not ours.

We are encouraged by the witness of saints like St. Therese of Lisieux to continue to pray for and work for the conversion of those on "death row." We know that life belongs to God alone and we believe that there is no one who cannot be touched by God's mercy and changed by his love.

The Church is not changing her teaching. Governments will always have the justification to use the death penalty if it is necessary to carry out its task of ensuring social order. What the Church is urging is that the government use its discretion to show instead mercy as a testimony to the sanctity of human life and to the possibility that every person can find redemption and rehabilitation.

In this, we are following some of the great doctors of the ancient Church, such as St. Ambrose and St. Augustine. In their times, they also urged government authorities to show mercy in capital cases.

And, of course, we have the witness of Jesus Christ, who pardoned the woman caught in adultery - a crime at the time that carried a mandatory death sentence.

Something else I've been thinking about. We have a strange appetite for violence in our popular culture. We allow children to play violent video games and listen to music that demeans human dignity. For "entertainment," we watch movies and shows in which fictional criminals take other people's lives and commit unspeakable acts.

In this cultural context, I do not see how the death penalty can ever again express society's ultimate value for human life. In this cultural context, the death penalty can only function as 1 more killing.

In a culture of death, I believe mercy alone can be the only credible witness to the sanctity of life and the dignity of the human person.

I urge all of you to continue to pray and reflect on this complicated issue. We have established a website with resources to help in your reflection - killingisntjustice.org.

Pray for me this week and I will be praying for you.

And may our Blessed Mother Mary help all of us to be faithful citizens and witnesses to the culture of life in our time.

(source: Archbishop Jose Gomez, angelusnews.com)

JAPAN:

Lawyers to campaign for abolition of capital punishment in Japan

The Japan Federation of Bar Associations will launch a campaign next month for the abolition of capital punishment, arguing that even the worst offenders stand a chance of reintegration in society.

It will ask its members to approve the move at a meeting on Oct. 7.

The JFBA has recently conducted a flurry of research into the death penalty, including hearing from a wide range of people and comparing Japan's system with that in other countries.

Japan stands out among developed nations in clinging to the punishment, as more than two-thirds of nations have either abolished the death penalty or uphold a de facto moratorium on its use. The United States is the only other advanced nation that executes prisoners, although campaigners say it is tending toward abolition.

There have also been serious concerns about wrongful conviction resulting in execution in Japan, underscored by the exoneration of four death row inmates in the 1980s in retrials and the freeing of another in 2014 after he spent 48 years behind bars.

"If an innocent person or an offender who does not deserve to be sentenced to death is executed, it is an irrevocable human rights violation," said Yuji Ogawara, a Tokyo-based lawyer who serves as secretary general of a JFBA panel on the death penalty.

The proposal will be submitted to the federation's annual human rights meeting in the city of Fukui for formal adoption.

The federation is targeting abolition of the death penalty by 2020, when the U.N. Congress on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice will be held in Japan.

In its 2011 declaration, the federation urged the government to initiate a public debate on the death penalty, but stopped short of clearly calling for its abolition.

Since then, the federation has explored the matter by organizing symposiums and hearing from lawmakers, Justice Ministry officials, journalists, diplomats and faith representatives.

It has also sent delegations overseas to research foreign penal systems, including in Britain, South Korea, Spain and the United States.

"There are still lawyers who support the death penalty, but I think we have developed an environment that enables us to seek its abolition," said Ogawara, who was involved in drafting the proposal.

The federation wants the death penalty to be replaced with other options such as life without parole.

But it argues that even life without parole needs to include the possibility of release in cases when prisoners achieve rehabilitation. Failure to offer that possibility would be inhumane, the group says.

Ogawara said those who commit crimes are often the socially disadvantaged who stand a good chance of rehabilitation with the right approach.

"The penal system should contribute to promoting social reintegration of offenders, rather than satisfying the desire for retribution," he said.

It is also important to give victims of crime and their families better support, the JFBA says in its proposal, adding that continued assistance is a "primary responsibility of society as a whole."

In 2014, the U.N. Human Rights Committee urged Japan to "give due consideration to the abolition of the death penalty."

The government justifies its policy by citing a survey that found more than 80 % of people in Japan support executions.

Critics say the questionnaire was flawed.

Moreover, critics have assailed the secrecy surrounding executions in Japan, with neither death-row inmates nor their lawyers and families given advance notice of hangings.

It also remains unclear what criteria authorities use in deciding when inmates are to die.

Japan hanged 2 death-row inmates in March, bringing to 16 the total number of people executed since Prime Minister Shinzo Abe came to power in December 2012.

(source: The Japan Times)

SUDAN:

Christian pastors face death penalty if convicted in Sudan

Last December, 2 evangelical pastors from the Church of Christ in Sudan were taken from their churches and thrown into jail. Last month, the Rev. Abdulraheem Kodi and the Rev. Kuwa Shamal Abu Zumam were charged with numerous offenses, including waging war against the state, espionage and undermining Sudan's constitutional system.

Their trial has begun. They could get the death penalty if they're found guilty.

2 other men, Czech missionary Petr Jasek and Darfuri human rights activist Abduelmoneim Abdulmwlla, have also been detained. They, too, are accused of conspiring against the state, provoking hatred against or among sects and spreading false information.

(source: worthynews.com)

MEXICO:

How Mexico Saves Its Citizens From U.S. Executions

The Mexican government runs a fund to train poorly resourced American defense lawyers.

This piece was reported through The Marshall Project, a nonprofit news organization that covers the U.S. criminal-justice system.

When the body of 25-year old Lesley Hope Plott was found lying in a ditch in Russellville, Alabama, in February of 2013, police had little trouble zeroing in on a suspect: hours earlier, a nearby church’s security camera had recorded her being beaten and stabbed by her estranged husband, Angel Campos Nava.

Born in Mexico, Nava, 36, had come to the United States years earlier. He had already been convicted of assaulting Plott on 2 earlier occasions. A murder conviction could result in the death penalty. It was up to Rebecca Thomason, Nava's lawyer, to convince the Franklin County district attorney to instead seek a life sentence, or, failing that, to convince a jury to spare his life. It didn't help that Nava was undocumented, and they were in Alabama, a state with some of the harshest anti-immigration laws in the country.

Then, Thomason received a call offering her something few lawyers in death penalty cases get: money, training, and advice, courtesy of the Mexican government. Nava's case had caught the attention of the Mexican Capital Legal Assistance Program, created by Mexican officials in 2000 to save the country's citizens from execution in the United States.

One of the program's chief purposes is to help defense attorneys construct a biography of the accused - to humanize them. Poverty, family dysfunction, and developmental disability, are frequent themes in their clients' lives. When presented as part of a defense, such themes can encourage mercy among jurors and dissuade them from handing down a death sentence.

To that end, the program arranges for lawyers to go to Mexico to track down school and hospital records and stories about their clients' lives, either paying for their travel costs or advising them on how to request money from local courts. Under the program, Mexico pays American lawyers up to $220 an hour to track potential death penalty cases around the country - watching court decisions and news stories from the moment of arrest, all the way through the last minute scramble before an execution - and advise court-appointed lawyers like Thomason.

Since 2008, the program has provided these attorneys with an average annual budget of around $4 million to track as many as 135 cases at a time, according to the program's filings with the Department of Justice. That comes out to roughly $29,000 per case, per year. By contrast, the Equal Justice Initiative, which represents numerous inmates on Alabama's death row, has reported that many of them were sentenced to death after their attorneys' fees were capped at $1,000 for out-of-court trial preparation.

More resources and training translates into more compelling stories, as defenders plead for mercy for their clients. Monica Foster, a lawyer in Indianapolis who worked with the program for several years, explained that she would connect defense attorneys with officials in Mexico, who would help them travel to their clients' hometowns, many of which were often inaccessible by paved roads. "We'd help them understand...how you take that story and meld it into a complete package of 'How did this person end up in [the United States] and why should a jury feel compelled to extend mercy to them?'"

Houston-based attorney James Stafford was appointed to represent Mexican immigrant Francisco Castellano in 2005 for the murder of Castellano's niece. "When you're court-appointed you have limited resources in terms of what the court will give you to develop a defense," Stafford said. "It creates a team approach, where you have people at your disposal who can do research, talk to witnesses, etc., instead of it being a 1-man shop."

Stafford says the program's help finding mitigation evidence led to his success getting a district attorney to drop the death penalty and allow a plea for a life sentence. Such a scenario is not uncommon. In a 2008 Hofstra Law Journal article, Greg Kuykendall, the Tucson, Arizona-based director of the program, claimed that it had a 95 % success rate in keeping roughly 300 Mexican nationals from being executed. Such numbers are difficult to verify, however, because the program tends not to share much about its work publicly; Kuykendall was not granted clearance by the Mexican government to be interviewed for this story. Mexican Embassy spokesman Ricardo Alday told The Atlantic, "Mexico in no way condones or sympathizes with any criminal behavior for which some of its citizens have been accused," but the country's government "opposes the death penalty as a matter of principle and has a strong policy of protecting its nationals abroad including in the United States."

The program reflects how widespread international opposition to the death penalty is having an impact in the United States. It also highlights a complaint routinely made by defense attorneys - that they are not given enough resources to do their jobs effectively - by showing what often happens when they do have those resources: they avoid the death penalty.

* * *

The United States and Mexico have a long, contentious history when it comes to the death penalty. In the 1920s, American journalist Alma Reed campaigned to save the life of a 17-year-old Mexican on death row in California, earning herself an audience with the country's president, Alvaro Obregon. Writing on the current defense program in the Arizona Journal of International and Comparative Law, lawyer Michael Fleishman has noted that, since then, Mexico's largely Catholic population has come to consider American executions of their citizens a "tool of the bully to the north" and a sign of "Yankee imperialism."

In the 1970s, as the U.S. Supreme Court struck down and then revived the death penalty, the United States saw a lull in executions. But when they resumed, some invariably involved Mexican nationals, and the country's government began giving money and advice to defense lawyers in the United States - a precursor to the current program. This, inevitably, sparked the occasional flare-up. In 1994, a Mexican migrant worker named Aurelio Barajas was sentenced to death for the murder of a convenience store clerk in Idaho. Mexico helped fund his appeals, which eventually led prosecutors to negotiate down to a life sentence once his lawyer produced evidence that suggested he was mentally incompetent to stand trial, and showed that the psychologist who examined him did not speak Spanish.

At times, capital punishment has joined a broader set of tensions over U.S. immigration policy towards Mexicans.

"Imagine an American in a small town in Mexico accused of killing someone ...We are going to use the same force the United States would in such a case to help one of our own," Laura Espinosa, a deputy consul in Salt Lake City, told The Los Angeles Times at the time. In response, Idaho solicitor-general Lynn Thomas complained about "foreign governments bankrolling the opposition with unlimited resources."

At times, capital punishment has joined a broader set of tensions over U.S. immigration policy towards Mexicans. In 1997, a mariachi band played "Beautiful and Beloved Mexico" at a bridge over the Rio Grande river to greet the returning body of Irineo Tristan Montoya, a Mexican national who had been executed in Texas for stabbing to death a driver while hitchhiking. "Steel walls along parts of the border, increasingly restrictive immigration laws, violence and discrimination faced by many immigrants in the United States - Montoya has come to represent all such insults," the Associated Press reported at the time. 5 years later, shortly after the 2002 execution of Mexican citizen Javier Suarez Medina in Texas for the murder of a police officer, Mexican president Vicente Fox refused an invitation to George W. Bush’s ranch in Crawford, Texas.

Sandra Babcock, the American lawyer who in 2000 became the first director of Mexico's formal program to help capital defendants, saw the country's involvement in capital defense as proof that her own country was falling down on its obligations to defendants. "I think it's shameful," she told The Texas Observer. "There's extreme poverty and here we have the wealthiest country in the world that cannot provide adequate resources and competent legal counsel to people who are facing the loss of their lives." The help didn't always lead to success: 10 Mexican nationals have been executed in the United States since 1976, according to the Death Penalty Information Center (in addition to 22 citizens of other countries).

In some cases, foreign consulates have not been informed that citizens of their nations were were facing the death penalty in the United States. Mexico, the United Kingdom, Paraguay, and Germany have all argued that they might have been able to help their citizens avoid a death sentence had they been informed. These complaints came to a head in 2004, when Mexican lawyers convinced the International Court of Justice in The Hague to rule that, in more than 50 death penalty cases, the United States had violated the 1963 Vienna Convention on Consular Relations by failing to notify Mexico when its citizens had been arrested. That ruling led to Medellin v. Texas, a U.S. Supreme Court case in which the state, represented by then-Solicitor General Ted Cruz, argued that the international court's ruling had no power over the states. The court ruled 6 to 3 in favor of Texas, noting there was no federal law making that treaty binding on the states.

Since then, the Mexican government has lobbied Congress to pass a law requiring states to notify Mexican consulates when their citizens are arrested. In a 2014 letter to House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, Mexican Ambassador Eduardo Medina Mora wrote, "I respectfully submit that the United States would not countenance the same treatment of U.S. citizens by another signatory” to the Vienna Convention.

* * *

Shortly after Rebecca Thomason was appointed to defend Nava in 2013, the program flew her to Texas and California for training. At one session in Houston, she met Charlie Goff, an anthropologist who runs a language and culture school in Cuernavaca, Mexico. Goff flew to Alabama and discovered that a court-appointed interpreter had been using a Spanish dialect unfamiliar to the defendant, who spoke little English. "Nobody else could talk to him," Goff said. He convinced Nava to share details about his background. He said he was from El Terrero, a tiny village in the southern Mexican state of Guerrero.

So Thomason and Goff planned a trip (El Terrero is on the U.S. State Department's travel warning list. Before Thomason left, the local district attorney, Joey Rushing, joked darkly that he would create a GoFundMe page to raise money if she was kidnapped). There are no hotels in El Terrero, so the defense team stayed with Nava's extended family. "I think she had probably never seen poverty like that ... Open sewage, dirt streets," Goff said of Thomason. She learned about Nava's upbringing - "the drunken father, the angry mother taking a piece of firewood and hitting the kids." It became clear to her why her client would have been desperate to leave.

When Thomason returned to Alabama, she met with Rushing, the district attorney, and was candid about the mitigation evidence she would bring before the jury. "I told him how many people lived in one little bedroom, how when he was a child he was beaten," Thomason said. "He tried to pretend like it didn't get to him, but it got to him."

Rushing - who, like other district attorneys interviewed for this story, expressed no qualms about Mexico's involvement - shared this information with the victim's family. They agreed to support his decision, in June 2015, to let Nava plead guilty and avoid the death penalty.

Nava is currently serving a life sentence. He will be up for parole in 2028. If let out, he will immediately be deported to Mexico.

(source: The Atlantic)

GLOBAL:

U.N. Secretary General condemns death Penalty

United Nations Secretary-General, Ban Ki-Moon has condemned death penalty, saying that studies have proven that those who are poor, mentally disabled, and/or are minorities are at higher risk of receiving the death sentence, regardless of guilt or innocence

The Secretary-General pointed out during a high-level panel discussion, that the death penalty is not applied fairly and It is used disproportionately against minorities.

He said it was absurd that many innocent people are put to death every year.

He urged world leaders, legislators and justice officials to stop executions immediately and with a view to "abolishing the death penalty completely."

(source: tvcnews.tv)

******************

Take more balanced view on death penalty, Vivian urges world leaders

Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan called on world leaders to take a "more balanced perspective" of the death penalty, as he explained Singapore's approach to capital punishment.

Speaking at a meeting on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, he pushed back against calls for all countries to abolish the death penalty.

"This debate is a heated, painful and emotional one but I just ask members... to respectfully reflect on the views expressed, the diversity of the circumstances and the impact on the ground. And to give to each state its sovereign right to choose the most appropriate judicial approach so that we can adopt a more balanced perspective on this complex issue," he said yesterday.

At the opening of the meeting, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon had urged all countries to cease capital punishment: "I am gravely concerned that some countries are suddenly resuming executions. Others are considering reintroducing the death penalty. We have to keep up the fight for the right to life."

Dr Balakrishnan stressed that - as then Foreign Minister K. Shanmugam did in 2014 - the debate was not about taking lives versus not taking lives. "I think our starting shared position has to be that all human life is sacred... The immediate question that confronts all of us is whether the death penalty, within the proper context and in strictly limited circumstances, plays any role in protecting the sanctity of life."

He outlined Singapore's approach and said it had been pivotal to making the country safe: "In our view... capital punishment for drugs-related offences and for murder has been a key element in keeping Singapore drug free and keeping Singapore safe. Singapore is probably one of the few countries in the world which has successfully fought this drug problem. We do not have slums, we do not have ghettos, we do not have no-go zones for the police."

(source: Straits Times)

IRAN----execution

Public execution at sports stadium

This morning, 22 September, an inmate was hanged in public at the Neyriz sports stadium in Fars Province (south Iran).

Public Relations of the Fars province's Department of Justice announced: "Thursday morning September22 an inmate called Saeed T. was executed after due process of law.

Also Thursday morning September 22, more than 10 prisoners on death row in Gohardasht (Rajai-Shahr) Prison in Karaj, north-west of Tehran, have been transferred to solitary confinement.

Names of some of the prisoners from Ward 2, called the Daralqran are as follows:

Hatem Karim

Ali Hatami Zadh

In addition, Hossein Karami and Mohammad Jafari also have been moved to solitary confinement in Ward 6 of Gohardasht Prison.

One of the prisoners called F. Hatami who has been already more than 13 years in prison is also among death row inmates.

(source: NCR-Iran)

SEPTEMBER 21, 2016:

ALABAMA:

"An eye for an eye makes us all blind."

Photographer Toshi Kazama's photographs of execution chambers, death row inmates and victims' families show the reality of the death penalty that most of us don't see. He also asks a very important question to people who support the death penalty.

Straps dangle on a wooden chair. There's a faint dark burn mark on the middle of the seat. It's a chair used to kill death row inmates by electrocution in Alabama, US. The tailbone of the electrocuted inmate sometimes burns the seat leaving the mark, said Toshi Kazama, a New York-based photographer and death penalty abolitionist.

Kazama was in Jakarta recently, exhibiting his photographs of execution chambers, portraits of children on death row and victims' families, mostly from the US and some countries in Asia. His photos recently lined a corridor in Plaza Indonesia as part of the Festival "A Week of Celebrating Life" organized by the Coalition for the Abolition of Death Penalty in ASEAN.

Kazama's photographs show the reality of the death penalty. But he also has a question to ask the Indonesian public.

In the 18 months of President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo's administration, 18 death row inmates, mostly convicted drug traffickers, have been executed by firing squad.

Jokowi considers this a solution to the illegal drug trade and he has the support of a majority of Indonesians. According to a 2015 Indo-Barometer survey, 84 % of the Indonesian public supports the death penalty for drug traffickers.

"I want to ask each and every one of you. Do you have the guts to kill this drug trafficker or murderer, with your own hands? Can you pull the trigger?" he asked.

"I don't," he said.

Kazama's questions come at a time when Indonesia and its neighbors in Southeast Asia are witnessing a rise in state-ordered killings. The festival in Jakarta comes a little over a month after the third wave of executions in Indonesia.

"You have to understand, it's you who is doing the killing, not the executioner. He's just doing a job for you," he said.

Recently, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, whose tough stance on fighting drug crime has encouraged the extrajudicial killing of more than 2,000 people, reportedly gave a green light for Jokowi to execute Philippine national Mary Jane Veloso.

Sitting in the Mandarin Oriental on his last day in Jakarta before flying off to New York via Tokyo, Kazama talked about what had pushed him to work on the theme of the death penalty.

The chair - called Yellow Mama by the people in Alabama - was the 1st picture that he took of an execution chamber, he said.

20 years ago, Kazama was a successful commercial photographer who photographed famous musicians for CD covers and had his work appear in magazines such as Italian Vogue. "I was a pretty successful photographer and I only thought about myself," he said.

In 1996, he decided to take pictures of juvenile death row inmates to explore a different path in his career. "To be honest with you, I thought I would do a couple of death row inmates and publish them in Time or Newsweek," he said. "I thought it would help my career. I had that idea in the corner of my mind too," he said.

Kazama now in his late 50s, has always found the idea of killing someone as a form of punishment uncomfortable.

Born in Japan, Kazama moved to the US at 15. He remembers being bewildered watching Hollywood movies in the theater and people cheered when the good guy killed the bad guy.

The sinking feeling never left him as he grew up. "I got married. I have children. And this question that I had got bigger and bigger," he said. The death penalty then became a natural theme for him to explore outside of his commercial work.

It was not easy to start this endeavor. He found a list of juveniles on death-row from university research. He learned that a 16-year-old boy name Michael Barnes in Alabama was on death row.

He called the warden of the Alabama prison to ask permission and was immediately rejected and told never to call again.

"I was a little amused by this so even though he told me to never call him back, I called him back. He got angrier obviously," he said. But the warden told him if the Alabama Department of Corrections gave their permission, he would have to follow suit.

With the help of lawyers, Kazama asked permission from the Department of Corrections. After eight months, Kazama received permission.

The warden turned out to be a genuinely nice guy, Kazama said.

Meeting Barnes, his 1st portrait subject with an IQ of around 70, changed Kazama's life.

"I had no idea who I was going to meet. I was so stunned. He wasn't a monster. He was a regular 16-year-old boy who I could easily find in my son's classroom," he said.

"When that thought came, I started to think what if I was born like him? I would be on death-row and I would be photographed by this weird Asian photographer," he said.

He decided right then to treat Barnes as he would like to be treated by others. Kazama shook his hand and embraced Barnes. The 1st sentence that Barnes uttered was: "I'm a bitch." The 2nd was "I'm afraid of 1 hour."

Kazama later found out that inmates were given one hour out of their cells where they exercised or took a shower. Kazama also discovered that being a "bitch" in prison slang meant that Barnes had been raped by the other inmates.

After taking a picture of Barnes, Kazama said he could not go on doing commercial photography. "The day after I photographed [Barnes] I had to fly to New York to shoot CD covers and I usually enjoy shooting these musicians so much but the depth of the thing is completely different. I felt I could not go on," he said.

"I never thought I would have no interest in commercial photography because I enjoy making images of reality. I photograph images that are alive but there's always a shadow of death behind them because they [the death row inmates] are going to be executed," he said. "I could no longer wash my hands and say goodbye."

Barnes' sentence was commuted to life-in-prison after the US Supreme Court ruled in 2005 against the death penalty for child offenders. The Supreme Court's decision was based on the case of another child on death row, Christopher Simmons. Kazama also photographed Simmons.

Kazama said there were other children on death row who he photographed and who were executed before the 2005 Supreme Court ruling.

Kazama believes the issue of the death penalty encapsulates all societal issues. "It has [the problem of] poverty. It has [the problem of] education. Each case shows all the ill parts of society," he said.

Around the world, the poor and uneducated disproportionately face the death penalty.

"And as a society, the only solution we come up with is to kill another human being in the name of justice, or in the name of the victims," he said.

Kazama, who 13 years ago survived an attack that almost killed him, says revenge does not help victims to heal. He has permanent damage to his hearing and balance, but he does not want to be burdened by anger and hatred. He said a lot of victims' families feel the same way.

Kazama said the death penalty seemed like an easy way out. "But it doesn't make society a better place. We have killed many human beings in our history. We live over the corpse of dead bodies. It's a cycle of violence," he said.

"An eye for an eye makes us all blind."

(source: The Jakarta Post)

USA:

History of the death penalty in the United States

In 1980, the Roman Catholic Bishops of the United States called for an end to the use of the death penalty in our country. It was the judgment of the bishops that the use of state-sanctioned executions was no longer necessary and was, in fact, unjustified in our time and under current circumstances.

They wrote that our nation should forgo the use of capital punishment because executing people, when it is not necessary to protect society, violates our respect for human life and dignity. Its application is deeply flawed and can be irreversibly wrong, is prone to errors, and is biased by factors such as race, the quality of legal representation, and where the crime was committed. We have other ways to punish criminals and protect society, they asserted.

At the time, there were 45 states, along with the federal government and the U.S. military, that employed the death penalty or had the option of using it in sentencing those convicted of serious crimes. Please note that the phrase used was not "those convicted of murder." That is because it was only in 1977 when the Supreme Court, in Coker v. Georgia, declared it unconstitutional for a man to be executed for raping a woman, and to this day there are several states that can execute persons even though they have not killed anyone.

Despite their efforts, for nearly two decades it seemed as though nothing the bishops said could change the hearts and minds of Americans who supported the death penalty, not even Catholics. Massachusetts and Rhode Island were our only victories as they discontinued executions, but the Supreme Court in case after case reaffirmed its constitutionality and in 1994 President Clinton expanded the federal government's ability to put men and women to death.

However, the conversation changed in 1999.

It was in January of that year when Pope John Paul II arrived in St Louis to take part in a massive youth rally, preside at a Mass of more than 100,000 faithful, and lead an ecumenical prayer service. During the Mass the late pontiff, now St. John Paul II, said:

A sign of hope is the increasing recognition that the dignity of human life must never be taken away, even in the case of someone who has done great evil. Modern society has the means of protecting itself, without definitively denying criminals the chance to reform. I renew the appeal I made most recently at Christmas for a consensus to end the death penalty, which is both cruel and unnecessary. (Homily at the Papal Mass in the Trans World Dome, St. Louis, Missouri, Jan. 27, 1999).

Later that day, during the ecumenical service, His Holiness turned to the governor of Missouri who was sitting nearby and asked him to spare the life of Darrell Mease, a convicted murderer whose scheduled execution was approaching. Gov. Mel Carnahan, a Baptist, was so moved by the Holy Father's plea for mercy that he commuted Mease's sentence to life only a few days later. The governor's response was unprecedented and shocking to a lot of people, provoking a national debate on the subject like never before. Darrell Mease had been convicted of multiple murders and there was no doubt of his guilt. Why in the world would anyone show mercy to him of all people?

Of course, the answer to that question was that of all the people in the world it was the pope who would ask for mercy. From the start of his pontificate he taught that all life was sacred, even the life of the guilty. He had even displayed his ability to grant mercy by forgiving Mehmet Ali Agca, the would-be assassin who shot him in St. Peter's Square in May of 1981.

After St Louis and the ensuing uproar, the public dialogue on capital punishment was decidedly different. Those advocating for ending its use were no longer simply ridiculed or ignored. There was still a consensus that they were wrong, but a serious national debate had begun. It was a debate that forced national leaders, and the public in general, to think long and hard about what it is to have our government kill on our behalf. It was not long before such a debate began to yield results.

In 2002 the Supreme Court, in Ring v. Arizona, struck down the ability of a judge acting alone to sentence someone to death. The court said that only a jury could impose such a drastic sentence. Later that same year the same court declared, in Atkins v. Virginia that it was unconstitutional to execute the developmentally disabled. Then in 2005, in Roper v Simmons, the Supreme Court justices stated it was unconstitutional to execute anyone who had committed a murder under the age of 18. For the 1st time, in a long time, our nation had curbed the use of the death penalty, and in the Atkins and Roper cases, the U.S. Roman Catholic Bishops had been a factor in the deliberations. They had submitted amicus briefs in both instances and had been referenced in the majority and minority opinions.

After our nation's highest court had made history, it wasn't long before the states began moving away from capital punishment. New York (2007), New Jersey (2007), New Mexico (2009), Illinois (2011), Connecticut (2012), Maryland (2013), Nebraska (2015) and Delaware (2016) have now abolished its use. Another 4 states; Oregon (2011), Colorado (2013), Washington (2014) and Pennsylvania (2015) have gubernatorial moratoriums in place for the time being. Here, too, the Church has played an instrumental role.

For example, in New Mexico around 2007/ 2008, the state legislature passed a bill abolishing capital punishment. The governor at the time was the Honorable Bill Richardson, a Catholic, and when the legislation reached his desk he did what he had promised: he vetoed the bill. What few people know is that soon after he exercised his executive privilege, he was invited to breakfast with the three bishops of New Mexico. During that meal the bishops explained, in great detail, the Church's position and why the governor should reconsider his veto should a similar bill ever reach him again. That happened in 2009 and the 2nd time around the governor signed the bill.

So as of today, we are down to only 30 states, along with the federal government and the U.S. military, currently employing the death penalty. Most of those 30 states rarely impose death and instead sentence the guilty to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Here in California, where we have not executed anyone since 2006, we now have the opportunity to join the growing list of states who no longer need to put people to death. This November, voters can vote yes on Prop 62, which will abolish the death penalty once and for all, and, if history is our guide, it will be people of faith who lead the way.

(source: angelusnews.com)

TEXAS:

Report highlights 'broken' death penalty appeals process

A new report is raising concerns about an appeals system for death penalty cases in Texas. The analysis from the non-profit law firm Texas Defender Service found issues with the legal representation for defendants sentenced to death and who cannot afford attorneys. The report concludes that the mandatory appeals process in Texas death penalty cases called "direct appeal" is failing.

"We have attorneys that submit briefs that reuse the same losing arguments over and over again," said Kathryn Kase, executive director of Texas Defender Service.

The report states that some attorneys have skipped oral arguments or taken on case loads big enough for 3 or more attorneys to handle.

"These deficiencies reflect systemic problems with the state's indigent defense apparatus and not merely isolated failures by a handful of attorneys," the report notes.

Anthony Graves spent more than 18 years in prison. He was sentenced to die for multiple murders in Somerville, Texas - murders he did not commit.

"I lost the opportunity to see my kids grow up," Graves said in a Skype interview with KXAN.

Graves says he looked at the report from Texas Defender Service. Graves also did not succeed in his direct appeal.

"At the end of the day it's a rubber stamp system," Graves said.

"The easy fix is to establish a statewide office responsible for representing death sentenced inmates," said Jordan Steiker, co-director of the Capital Punishment Center at the University of Texas School of Law.

Now, it will up to the legislature to decide whether to establish such an office. A member of Texas Defender Service estimated the office would likely need a budget of around $500,000 per year.

Austin lawyer Ariel Payan, who has defended clients in death penalty cases, says he agreed with the findings he was able to examine in the report. He believes the system needs changes. However, he questions how a centralized office for direct appeals would work.

KXAN News also reached out to staff at the Texas District and County Attorneys Association and Travis County District Attorney's Office, but did not immediately hear back.

(source: KXAN news)

NEW HAMPSHIRE:

A death penalty story

Since 1976, 156 death row inmates have been released from American prisons because new evidence proved their innocence. One of them will be in New Hampshire later this month to show a documentary film about his narrow escape from execution.

In 1985, Kirk Bloodsworth, a former Marine with no prior criminal record, was erroneously convicted of murder and sentenced to death. He spent nearly a decade in prison, including 2 years on death row, before DNA evidence exonerated him.

New Hampshire is the only New England state that hasn't abolished the death penalty. As citizens of New Hampshire, we must ask ourselves whether we're willing to be complicit in the practice of legalized killing in retribution for crime. Is justice really served by taking a human life? Should we accept the occasional, but inevitable, execution of an innocent person as the price of retaining the capital punishment option?

Please spend an evening with Mr. Bloodsworth and hear his perspective on these issues. He'll be showing his film and answering questions at Southern New Hampshire University in Manchester (Robert Frost Hall) on Thursday, Sept. 29, at 6 p.m. Admission is free. Go to nodeathpenaltynh.org for more information, including additional dates and times.

MARY WILKE, Concord

(source: Letter to the Editor, Concord Monitor)

NORTH CAROLINA:

NC attorney general hopefuls debate: When is it OK not to defend a state law?

There's no incumbent in this year's attorney general race, but a debate Tuesday night between the 2 candidates for the office largely centered on Roy Cooper's record.

Cooper, a Democrat, is running for governor after 12 years as attorney general. Republican Sen. Buck Newton of Wilson and former Democratic Sen. Josh Stein of Raleigh are vying to replace him.

Newton repeatedly criticized Cooper during the debate, which was held in Asheboro and is the only forum featuring the attorney general race.

Newton said Cooper has refused to defend laws such as voter ID that he disagrees with. Cooper has defended the laws but declined to pursue some appeals sought by Republican lawmakers.

"As an attorney general, your job is to defend the laws of this state," Newton said. "It's a very dangerous thing for the concept of rule of law if you have an attorney general deciding which law fits their agenda."

Stein defended Cooper's approach, noting that the incumbent defended the voter ID law in court for 3 years, but he declined to appeal further after a federal court ruled it discriminated against black voters.

"When you've been told that you're denying people their constitutional rights, it's an appropriate time to step back," Stein said. "The role of the attorney general is not to make policy but to defend the state. When the state is sued, the attorney general will defend that, but it has to be consistent with the U.S. Constitution."

Stein criticized Newton for focusing on Cooper. "By the way, my name is Josh Stein, not Roy Cooper," he said. "You are running against me, not him."

Newton responded by pointing to Stein's 8 years working under Cooper as a deputy attorney general.

"Perhaps I'm running against someone who was very happy to work for him, who was very happy to be mentored by him," Newton said.

Stein, however, touted his experience. "I will not need on-the-job training as attorney general because I already know the job," he said. "My opponent has not worked a day as an assistant attorney general or a day as a criminal prosecutor."

Newton has been an attorney in private practice for 16 years. He has chaired judiciary and public safety committees in the Senate.

While both Stein and Newton said they support the death penalty, they disagreed about the Racial Justice Act, which allowed criminals facing the death penalty to get a sentence of life in prison by proving that race played a role in their jury selection. The law was passed by Democrats, including Stein, in 2009 and repealed in 2013 after Republicans took control of the legislature.

Stein says the law was needed to "ensure no one is put to death based on the color of their skin." But Newton said the law didn't work.

"This law allowed convicted white murderers of law enforcement officers to appeal their death sentence, simply because they said there weren't enough white people or black people on the jury," he said.

While both candidates have made House Bill 2 a frequent topic in their campaigns - Newton helped sponsor it and Stein is a vocal critic - debate moderators failed to ask about the controversial law.

The debate was broadcast live only by radio, but it will be televised Thursday night at 9 p.m. on UNC-TV's North Carolina Channel.

(source: newsobserver.com)

FLORIDA:

Death penalty hearings delay local murder trial

The trial of a man accused of 3 murders across the Panhandle will be pushed back as the U.S. Supreme Court assesses Florida's revision to its death penalty trial procedures.

The attorney for Derrick Ray Thompson, 43, appeared in court Tuesday on his behalf because Thompson is being housed in Santa Rosa County as a high-security prisoner. He is charged with 3 1st-degree murder charges stemming from July 2014, including the shooting death of a former Bay County sheriff's officer and nightclub owner, 66-year-old Allen Johnson. Thompson faces the death penalty, but his trial date is now in limbo as the U.S. Supreme Court looks over revisions to the state's capital trial procedures.

Prosecutors in Santa Rosa County also are pursuing the death penalty for Thompson in connection with the fatal shootings of Milton residents Steven Zackowski, 60, and Debra Zackowski, 59. A trial date in that case has yet to be announced.

During Tuesday's hearing, prosecutor Larry Basford said Thompson first will be tried in Santa Rosa on those charges. However, both circuits have concluded that taking the case to trial before a ruling on Florida's death penalty cases could be time-consuming and costly.

"We certainly want to get this case to trial, but we don't want to try it twice," he said.

Basford said he expects a ruling some time in November. A follow-up hearing was scheduled for January.

(source: Panama City News Herald)

*****************

Future of death penalty fuzzy as challenges delay executions

Like a prisoner awaiting execution, the death penalty may not have much time left.

Executions nationwide are on track to hit a 25-year low this year, caused by a mixture of drug shortages, poorly executed executions and legal changes in how death sentences can be imposed.

The state of Florida is dealing with all 3 of those issues, but the latest trouble comes from legal challenges. In January, the U.S. Supreme Court decided in a case known as Hurst v. Florida that it is unconstitutional for Florida judges alone to impose death sentences, without the recommendation of 10 out of 12 jurors.

Out of nearly 3 dozen states that have the death penalty, Florida is 1 of just 3 - including Alabama and Delaware - that do not require a unanimous recommendation for death, even with the new ruling.

Under Florida's old law, jurors by a simple majority could recommend the death penalty. Judges would then make findings of fact that "sufficient" aggravating factors, not outweighed by mitigating factors, existed for the death penalty to be imposed.

Only one execution has taken place in Florida this year, after 7 and 8 in 2013 and 2014, respectively, according to the Death Penalty Information Center, a national nonprofit organization based in Washington, D.C., that collects information and data about capital punishment.

Robert Dunham, the center's executive director, said Florida will have a number of important choices to make, including what to do with the nearly 400 death sentences that have been unconstitutionally imposed in the state.

"One way or another, the state has a problem because it will either declare Hurst v. Florida to apply retroactively, in which case most people on death row will be removed from the row, or it will say that it is OK with us to execute people despite the fact that we now know that they were not fairly sentenced to death," Dunham said.

"Either way, that's a significant problem," he said.

In a prepared statement, Gov. Rick Scott's office said his stance on the death sentence has not changed.

"Signing death warrants is one of the governor's most solemn duties," the statement read. "His foremost concerns are the families of the victims and the finality of judgments."

Stacy Scott, Alachua County's public defender, said she hopes the execution rate continues to decline.

"I hope that Florida joins the rest of the country in taking away the penalty," Scott said.

She also said the Legislature has the power to make that happen, if legislators have the will.

Besides legal troubles, Florida has, along with other states, faced drug shortages.

Up until 2013, states nationwide used a drug called pentobarbital sodium that was manufactured by Danish-based drug company Lundbeck. States had to switch to other substances once Lundbeck began to refuse to sell pentobarbital sodium for use in executions after it discovered the drug was being used for that purpose.

The 3-drug cocktail that many states switched to contains a new drug called midazolam hydrochloride, which has brought its own host of challenges. The 1st death row inmate injected with the drug was a Florida man named William Happ, in 2013. After he was injected with the drug and declared dead, he continued to move back and forth, even after his breathing stopped. Other states that have seen a dropoff in executions include Ohio, where the last execution took place in January 2014. The man put to death, Dennis McGuire, gasped and snorted repeatedly during a 25-minute execution that used a 2-drug combination that had never been tried before.

There have been 15 executions in the U.S. so far this year, and at the current pace there would be 19 by the end of 2016. That's far from the peak of 98, back in 1999.

Dunham said that he believes the death penalty may be on its way out. He notes that the punishment is being used in fewer places, is being sought by prosecutors less frequently and juries are increasingly reluctant to impose it.

"At some point, if these trends continue, the U.S. Supreme Court is going to review whether there is now a national consensus against the death penalty that would cause it to declare the practice unconstitutional," Dunham said.

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said in an interview with The Associated Press in July that she believes the death penalty may be fading away, based on the reduction in states that are enforcing the sentences.

"The executions that we have are very heavily concentrated in a few states and even a few counties within those states," Ginsberg said.

(source: ocala.com)

OHIO:

Trial set to begin for dad facing death penalty

Opening statements are set to begin Wednesday morning in the trial of a 34-year-old man facing the death penalty in the killing of his 2-year-old daughter who officials said was starved and tortured most of her life.

Glen Bates and his girlfriend, Andrea Bradley, are charged with aggravated murder in the 2015 death of their daughter, Glenara. Both have turned down plea deals that would have removed the option of death sentences. Bradley's case is being handled separately. On Monday, Bates for a 2nd time turned down a plea deal.

If Bates had pleaded guilty Monday, he would have faced at least 15 years to life in prison.

Officials have said Glenara likely had gone days without food or water before she died. It was Bradley who on March 29, 2015, brought her cold and limp body to Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center.

They were living in a rented house in East Walnut Hills with Glenara and Bradley's 5 other children, although Bates told detectives he’d only been living there about 2 weeks.

Hamilton County's coroner has said Glenara had no muscle mass, and was "literally skin over bones."

The case is in Hamilton County Common Pleas Court before Judge Megan Shanahan. Jury selection began Monday; a jury was finalized Tuesday.

(source: cincinnati.com)

MISSOURI:

Reginald Clemons will face retrial in 1991 Chain of Rocks Bridge killings next August

St. Louis Circuit Judge Rex Burlison on Tuesday granted a 6-month trial date extension for Reginald Clemons in the 1991 killings of 2 sisters on the Chain of Rocks Bridge.

At the end of a nearly 2-hour hearing Tuesday, Burlison tentatively set an August trial date for Clemons, 45, in the killings of Julie Kerry, 20, and Robin Kerry, 19. Clemons was convicted of the crime in 1993 but the Missouri Supreme Court in November overturned that conviction and sent the matter back to circuit court.

Clemons' trial date had been set for Feb. 23. His public defender, Charles Moreland, argued Tuesday that he needs more time to prepare a defense in the high-profile death penalty case. Moreland elicited testimony Tuesday from a top state public defender about the office's caseload and travel time and the complexity of defending death penalty cases.

The age of the crime is also a factor, Don Catlett, who supervises a division that handles capital cases, testified Tuesday.

"The older a case, usually the more time-consuming it is," he said.

Moreland also said additional time was needed because Clemons has retained pro bono legal help from a Washington, D.C., law firm.

Rachel Smith, chief prosecutor for Circuit Attorney Jennifer Joyce, objected to any delay, arguing that the victims' family have "a right to move this case forward. They have waited months and years." She said Clemons' decision to retain free, private counsel should not delay the trial further.

"We really need to keep this trial date," Smith said. "This isn't an opportunity for Mr. Clemons to shop around and add new lawyers to his team."

The Missouri Supreme Court overturned Clemons' conviction last year, based on the findings of a "special master" assigned to review the case. The judge found Clemons did not prove he was innocent but that prosecutors had wrongly suppressed evidence and detectives had beaten Clemons into confessing to the crimes.

Joyce announced in January her office would retry the 1st-degree murder charges against him and seek the death penalty again.

Her office added charges of rape and robbery in the case, which Burlison said would not be tried until after the retrial of the murder case. Under Missouri law in effect at the time of the crime, a 1st-degree murder charge must be tried separately.

Clemons was in court Tuesday. In July, Burlison granted Clemons' request to be moved from the Potosi Correctional Center to the St. Louis city jail to await trial.

Authorities have said Clemons was among 4 men who encountered the Kerry sisters and their cousin on the closed bridge, attacked them and forced them to jump into the Mississippi River. 1 of the other defendants was executed, 1 is imprisoned for a life term and 1 served his time and was released.

(source: stltoday.com)

OKLAHOMA:

Oklahoma should develop execution protocol for nitrogen gas, AG Scott Pruitt says

Oklahoma officials would be wise to develop an execution protocol that uses nitrogen gas, Attorney General Scott Pruitt said Tuesday.

Pruitt said states across the nation, including Oklahoma, have found it difficult to obtain drugs to administer lethal injections because manufacturers put restrictions on the use of the drugs.

"It will be a continuing problem," he said.

As a result, the state should develop a protocol for the use of nitrogen gas, Pruitt said.

In 2015, lawmakers passed and Gov. Mary Fallin signed House Bill 1879 following the state's use of a new, 3-drug protocol in the execution of Clayton Lockett, who spent 43 minutes on the death chamber gurney between the time of the injections and his death. His execution has been called a "procedural disaster."

Later it was learned that the state had used the wrong drug combination to execute Charles Warner in January 2015. 1 of the 3 drugs the state used was potassium acetate, not potassium chloride as called for in the existing protocol.

The execution of Richard Glossip, scheduled for last September, was put on hold after officials discovered that the state had received the same incorrect drug for his lethal injection.

The H.B. 1879 law says that if lethal injection is determined by courts to be unconstitutional or becomes unavailable, an execution shall be carried out by nitrogen hypoxia. Electrocution and firing squad are legal alternatives should nitrogen gas not be available or be held unconstitutional.

The Oklahoma Department of Corrections was charged with writing a new protocol for lethal injection following the May release of a multicounty grand jury report. The grand jury said the protocol should be revised and needs to require verification at every step of the process.

Pruitt previously said he will not request new execution dates until at least five months after the protocol is finalized.

"We are evaluating the current protocol, looking at the grand jury report and determining what changes need to be made," said Terri Watkins, an Oklahoma Department of Corrections spokeswoman. There is no timeline, she said.

Pruitt said he thinks "it would be wise for the state of Oklahoma to engage in a process on the nitrogen oxide (option)."

"It is authorized by statute," he said, but "it will be challenged. There will be an Eighth Amendment challenge."

The Eighth Amendment prohibits cruel and unusual punishment.

"We will litigate that," he said. "The policymakers have spoken. The policymakers have established that as a matter of law. It is an alternative."

No state has ever used nitrogen gas in an execution, but some researchers have suggested a protocol that would use a clinical plastic face mask connected by tubing to a canister of nitrogen gas rather than a gas chamber.

"I think it is wise for the DOC to consider both and to publish both," Pruitt said of execution protocols for lethal injection and nitrogen gas.

Administering the death penalty is the "most sobering responsibility that the state of Oklahoma has," Pruitt said.

(source: Tulsa World)

NEBRASKA:

Judge declares Nikko Jenkins competent for death penalty hearing

Get ready for Round 4.

A judge on Tuesday declared Nikko Jenkins competent to face a death penalty hearing in the August 2013 murders of Juan Uribe-Pena, Jorge Cajiga-Ruiz, Curtis Bradford and Andrea Kruger.

Douglas County District Judge Peter Bataillon set Jenkins' death penalty hearing for Nov. 14.

The judge scheduled the hearing for after the Nov. 8 election in which voters will decide whether to restore Nebraska's death penalty. State senators repealed the death penalty in 2015 - prompting a petition drive to try to reinstate it. If the death penalty is reinstated, 3 judges will meet to hear evidence on whether Jenkins should receive the death penalty.

The judge's order, released Tuesday, comes just a week or so after State Sen. Ernie Chambers asked for a Department of Justice investigation into how Jenkins was able to obtain the means to slice various parts of his anatomy, including his neck and penis.

Prosecutors allege that Jenkins' self-mutilation is just part of his attempts to manipulate the system.

Some psychiatrists have disputed that Jenkins' is faking it; concluding instead that he suffers from schizophrenia or bipolar disorder.

Despite the diagnoses and the disfigurements, Bataillon ruled, Jenkins is able to understand the proceedings and assist his defense attorneys in fighting the death penalty.

Thrice previously, Bataillon has set a death-penalty hearing - only to have Jenkins behave erratically and be declared incompetent before it could take place.

(source: Omaha World-Herald)

NEW MEXICO:

New Mexicans respond to governor's death penalty push

As lawmakers plan to debate reinstating the death penalty in New Mexico, one of them spoke with KRQE News 13 about why the issue should be tackled in a special session. That special session is expected to be called soon to fix the budget.

"I think it's important when going into a special session that we address an issue that is at the top of people's minds and at their hearts right now," said Rep. Monica Youngblood.

Rep. Monica Youngblood says the death penalty bill will address cop killers and those who murder children.

New Mexico abolished the death penalty in 2009. The governor says she will push to reinstate it.

But, Archbishop John C. Wester says bringing back the death penalty is not the answer.

"Let's find the funding. Let's get the revenue sources that we need. I know that we're down to the bare bones in terms of our budget, so let's get the revenue sources that we need and help our children and people in our state that need it," said Archbishop Wester, Archdiocese of Santa Fe.

No word on when the special session is set to start.

(source: KRQE news)

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NM prison gang revelations raise death penalty questions

Recent revelations into the inner workings of the Syndicato de Nuevo Mexico prison gang show the shocking extent of its resolve to defend its criminal enterprise by any means possible.

Some of the gang's members face federal prosecution as a result of a multiagency racketeering investigation into its activities, including a plot in 2015 to kill New Mexico Corrections Secretary Gregg Marcantel and another top Corrections Department official.

But it seems this band of hard-core criminals is willing to go far beyond what the law allows in response to the charges.

According to recently released court documents in the federal case, gang members have:

-- Plotted to have a gang member violate his parole so he could be sent to federal prison, where he could kill a former gang leader who had pleaded guilty in an agreement that implicated a top Syndicato boss.

-- Discussed killing FBI agents and blowing up a federal building.

-- Targeted for death several victims, witnesses, informants and perceived informants.

-- Beat and left for dead a man who was scheduled to testify against a gang member.

-- Secretly passed around discovery material from their federal case in an attempt to identify for possible hits people who were cooperating with prosecutors or who were witnesses.

The so-called syndicate has "amassed dozens of homicides in furtherance of the gang," according to an affidavit for a warrant to search gang members' residences. The affidavit also said the influence of the gang, which arose out of the 1980 Santa Fe prison riot, has spread to the federal prison system.

In response to threats against the FBI and others, law enforcement agents led by the FBI earlier this month raided 8 homes in Albuquerque and other locations.

Tactics uncovered in the ongoing investigations illustrate the difficulty in dealing with such violent and dedicated career criminals who are willing to do anything to further their organization's agenda and seem to know every prisoner protection in the book.

These kinds of ultraviolent criminals make a case for bringing back the death penalty in New Mexico for certain crimes, including killing a corrections or other law enforcement officer.

Gov. Susana Martinez has said she will put the death penalty on the call for an expected special budget session. Lawmakers should consider approving limited restoration and send the message that violent crimes have serious consequences and far-reaching criminal enterprises will not be tolerated.

(source: Albuquerque Journal editorial board; It is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers)

CALIFORNIA:

California Voters Should Remember Troy Davis This November

Today marks the 5th anniversary of the execution of Troy Davis. Troy was killed by the state of Georgia on September 21, 2011 despite a mountain of newly discovered evidence pointing to his innocence. The day he died, Troy said, "The struggle for justice doesn't end with me. This struggle is for all the Troy Davises who came before me and all the ones who will come after me."

For more than 20 years, courts and prosecutors refused to entertain the notion that a mistake could have been made and that Troy could be innocent. In fact, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia famously wrote in a dissenting opinion in Troy's case, "This Court has never held that the Constitution forbids the execution of a convicted defendant who has had a full and fair trial but is later able to convince a habeas court that he is 'actually' innocent."

This has become a hallmark of the American death penalty: don't look too hard, don't ask too many questions. Once a jury has reached a verdict, avoid at all costs the question of whether they might be wrong. Finality over fairness or accuracy.

I started my journey with Troy 20 years ago, though I didn't realize it at the time. I was working as an organizer for the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty (NCADP). During NCADP's annual convening, a woman, with her 3-year-old son in tow, came up to me and told me that her brother Troy was on death row in Georgia, and that he was innocent. I told her, "Bring us the evidence and we'll fight like Hell to set him free."

15 years later, while I was President and CEO of the national NAACP, I was asked by the President of the Georgia NAACP to meet with Troy. I agreed. In that meeting I was moved by Troy's religious conviction, his commitment to criminal justice reform, and the role he played in raising his nephew from the confines of his prison cell on death row. As I was leaving the prison, I ran into Troy's sister, Martina, in the parking lot. Her son De'Jaun, who was now 18 years old, was with her. She asked if I recalled the promise I had made her. Then, she showed me a picture of us that she had taken 15 years earlier, and opened the trunk of her car.

Inside of the trunk was mountains of files and folders. She was showing me the evidence.

In the intervening years between our first meeting and that day, 7 of the 9 original witnesses from Troy's trial had recanted. The only 2 that hadn't were a notorious criminal - the probable perpetrator of the crime - and a witness with a remarkably implausible claim about what he had seen that moonless night from a significant distance away. No physical evidence linked Troy to the crime.

From that day forward, I kept my promise to her. I spent the next 2 years fighting to prove Troy's innocence, but in 2011, Troy - a young Black man from the South - was executed - despite enormous doubt about his guilt.

We've learned time and time again, that proving one's innocence after one has been condemned to die is nearly impossible. Troy is not the only innocent person to be executed in recent memory. Evidence suggests that executed prisoners Cameron Todd Willingham and Carlos De Luna were also innocent. More than 150 men and women have been released from death rows across the country after evidence of their wrongful convictions emerged, some coming within just days or hours of execution. 2/3 of of these men and women have been people of color.

As long as we have a death penalty, the risk of executing an innocent person can never be eliminated. This November, in California, voters will have the opportunity to ensure that their state never makes the ultimate mistake by voting yes on Proposition 62, which will replace the death penalty with a sentence of life in prison without parole. In an attempt to confuse voters, however, prosecutors and prison guards have placed a second initiative on the ballot, Proposition 66, that promises to "speed up" the death penalty by removing important legal protections, imposing arbitrary timelines, and forcing inexperienced attorneys to handle death penalty cases. It is a recipe for disaster that will greatly increase the state's chance of executing an innocent person. The idea behind Proposition 66 is to bring Texas-style justice to California so they can operate death row like a conveyor belt.

The problem: Texas has executed innocent people. Both Carlos De Luna and Cameron Todd Willingham were executed in Texas, where introducing new evidence of innocence is nearly impossible. It is unfathomable that California would want to replicate Texas laws that have led to the execution of innocent people.

Both sides agree the California's death penalty is broken - there hasn't been an execution in over a decade, despite billions of dollars spent maintaining death row, and 3 innocent people have been released from death row in this state since 1989. Now voters have a choice about what to do with California's failed system.

In making this choice, I hope they will remember Troy. Troy knew that as long as the specter of the death penalty continues to haunt the American justice system, more innocent men and women would be executed. We must admit to ourselves that infallibility is beyond our grasp. It isn't a question of if we will execute another innocent person, but when - unless we recognize that the cost of this failed system is just too high. California voters should vote Yes on Proposition 62, and No on Proposition 66 this November.

(source: Ben Jealous served as President and CEO of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) between 2008 and 2012. Troy's sister Martina succumbed to cancer just months after Troy was executed, so Ben took on the responsibility of overseeing her son's education. De'Jaun is now a senior at Morehouse College where he is majoring in Physics and Electrical Engineering----Huffington Post)

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Proposition 62 Appeals to the Better Angels of Our Nature

No righteous, freedom-loving Californian believes human beings should be executed for possessing or selling pot. Indeed, we rightly cringe at the megalomaniac entreaties (such as, kill drug dealers and "I'll give you a medal" of military strongman, Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte, who incites, and has himself been directly linked to mass extrajudicial killings of Filipinos for non-violent drug crimes.

--We tsk-tsk and, secretly or not so secretly, we pat ourselves on the back for being so much more evolved.

Putting aside for a minute, the distant and distasteful asterisk of Newt Gingrich's proposed "Drug Importer Death Penalty Act of 1996," as conservative and liberal Americans in California, we wonder: How could social mores in the Philippines descend so low it becomes acceptable - and more than that, praised by the government - for vigilantes to kill over drug crimes? What became of the rule of law?!

We forget, as Don Jackson of The Los Angeles Free Press reported on April 10, 1970, that in California, "[t]he death sentence [was once] voted by the Bakersfield City Council for a second conviction of selling marijuana or illegal drugs. Councilman Robert Whitemore, who introduced the legislation said [at the time], 'Unless severe measures are taken, an entire generation will be destroyed by dope.'"

As reported that same month by The Desert Sun, even then-Governor Ronald Reagan "hinted he might favor capital punishment for some hard drug peddlers. Asked what he thought of [the] Bakersfield City Council resolution calling for life imprisonment or the death penalty for persons convicted twice of selling hard drugs [which at that time wrongly included marijuana, just as the federal government continues to wrongly classify it as a "hard drug" today], Reagan said he thought there was 'some justification' for considering dope pushers as dangerous as murderers."

In California, and across this great land, we long ago came to the realization as a people, through our democratic institutions and ideals - even ardent admirers of capital punishment, Ronald Reagan (and, yes, even Gingrich) - that it's immoral for the state to execute a person over drugs.

Another famous, former California Governor, the Honorable Earl Warren, who later became Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court, were he still alive, would observe, "our standards of decency" have "evolv[ed]," thereby "[m]ark[ing] the progress of a maturing society."

On November 8, by voting for Proposition 62 and against Proposition 66, Californians can take that next critical step forward towards marking our progress as a maturing society.

We aren't married to the death penalty but if we were, given its dastardly, dysfunctional and discriminatory history, it's well-nigh time for a divorce. By guaranteeing life without the possibility of parole for "the worst of the worst," we can, as peaceful, justice-loving citizens, properly and respectfully honor the victims of homicide and their families.

Without compromising our morality, as the competing ballot initiative, Proposition 66 would require, we can finally reject the antiquated, eye-for-an-eye mentality, at capital punishment's ignoble roots - an ideology steeped in revenge, hatred, even bloodlust.

As President Lincoln beautifully counseled at the close of his first inaugural address following the United States' gloomy upheaval of secession, the time is now for us to look to the "better angels of our nature," and end capital punishment. Moreover, also attributable to Lincoln: "Let's have faith that right makes might; and in that faith let us, to the end, dare to do our duty as we understand it."

(source: Stephen Cooper is a former D.C. public defender who worked as an assistant federal public defender in Alabama between 2012 and 2015----jurist.org)

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California Voters Face Choice: End Death Penalty, or Speed It Up

Beth Webb remembers talking with friends at her sister's Christmas party several years ago, wondering aloud if she would support the death penalty if someone she knew were murdered. Then, in 2011, her sister, Laura Webb Elody, was killed along with seven other people as she worked at a hair salon in nearby Seal Beach.

For weeks, Ms. Webb wanted revenge. And the local district attorney promised she would get it in the form of the death penalty. But 5 years later, the man who killed her sister and wounded her mother is still alive, and Ms. Webb is now helping to lead the campaign to abolish the death penalty here.

Tami Alexander has waited even longer. The man who killed her mother-in-law and sister-in-law has been on death row for more than 2 decades.

The death penalty has long been one of the most contentious issues in the state. Though California has executed only 13 people since the 1970s, it has sentenced hundreds to death and has more prisoners on death row than any other state. California has repeatedly been criticized for keeping those people in a suspended state for years, costing Californians billions of dollars.

There have been attempts before to reform the system - just 4 years ago a ballot proposition failed in its effort to abolish the death penalty entirely. Now voters are being presented with their latest choice in the matter: Should the state get out of the business of capital punishment completely or enact a plan to make executions happen more quickly?

Both proposals accept that the state's death penalty system - which costs an estimated $150 million a year for trials, appeals and death row facilities - is broken. The state's process is so prolonged, "with only the remote possibility of death," that it is tantamount to cruel and unusual punishment, a federal judge wrote in a 2014 ruling, calling the system dysfunctional and arbitrary. The 747 inmates on death row remain in a legal limbo: There has not been an execution in the state since 2006, as the state's lethal injection protocol remains tied up in the courts.

This year, voters will decide between two competing ballot measures: Proposition 62, which would end the death penalty and replace it with life without parole, and Proposition 66, which would speed up the executions by accelerating appeals for inmates on death row. A victory for either side will transform the state's system for capital punishment.

When the death penalty was last on the state ballot, the focus remained primarily on money - with opponents arguing that the state was spending billions without executing anyone. In California, most inmates spend at least 2 decades on death row. Far more have died from natural causes or suicide than have been executed.

After the measure to repeal it lost by 4 % points in 2012, supporters of the death penalty quickly pulled together to find a way to get their proposal to voters as quickly as possible.

"We knew we needed to say to California voters as quickly as possible that we have to get this fixed," said Mike Ramos, the San Bernardino district attorney and one of the leading proponents of Proposition 66. "Citizens are getting rightly frustrated that we are holding the worst of the worst, people who are evil, on hold indefinitely. The families would like justice, the people want justice, and what we have does not work."

This time, the arguments are as much about moral and philosophical issues as financial, with Ms. Webb and Ms. Alexander each seen as key advocates for the opposing measures.

"There is no way to know how much hatred you have in your heart until someone you know is murdered," Ms. Webb said in a recent interview. "That's what the people who want this understand - the frustration of somebody doing this to you and you not being able to do anything is overwhelming."

Though national polls show that a majority of voters favor the death penalty, there have been notable victories in attempts to repeal it. In the past decade, legislatures in New Jersey, New Mexico, Illinois and Delaware have all voted to end it, and other governors have declared moratoriums on executions. And 2 other states - Oklahoma and Nebraska - will also vote on ballot propositions this year.

"There are a few counties that are overproducing death penalties, and it is coming at an enormous cost to everyone in the state," said Robert Dunham, the executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center. "You no longer have to be against the death penalty in theory to be against the way the death penalty is practiced in the United States. We used to look at it dogmatically, and now we are looking at it pragmatically."

While opponents of the death penalty argue that eliminating death row would save $150 million, supporters similarly argue that speeding up the process would save the state more money in the long run. Proposition 66 would force courts to process death penalty cases more quickly, but opponents of the measure say there are not enough lawyers with the ability to handle the cases to move cases off the docket.

"Our family doesn't care if it takes 100 years if it's a case where the innocence is in question, but that's not what happens," Ms. Alexander said. "What happens is that we wait an eternity for someone who is already found guilty and that a jury found deserves to die. They can appeal over and over again on things that have nothing to do with the crime itself."

And the delays in execution, once an exception, are now routine for myriad reasons. In addition to the guilt phase of a criminal trial, the penalty phase can go on for years as lawyers compile thick histories of the suspect's criminal and mental health record, and few defense lawyers are interested in taking on such cases, said Ellen S. Kreitzberg, a law professor at Santa Clara University who has studied how the death penalty is carried out in California.

"In the counties where you have a lot of death penalty cases, you've got 35 % of a court's staff time spent on those," she said. "That means the system is not working. It's not equipped to deal with this."

Ms. Webb said it was not until her sister's case began to drag on that she began to rethink her views on the death penalty.

"The offer that the death penalty is somehow going to relieve your pain is on so many levels unfair," she said. "Because what they are saying is that if you hold on to that anger long enough we are going to release it for you when we murder this person. But I cannot live with the idea that somebody else's death is going to set me free. It would validate the very thing that he did."

Ron Briggs, who helped draft a ballot measure expanding application of the death penalty in 1978 and was one of the leading proponents of the attempt to repeal it in 2012, said that despite the narrow loss, he thought a quick return to the ballot was the best way to persuade voters to end capital punishment in the state.

"That gives all the closure the family needs and ends these endless appeals," Mr. Briggs said. "I think Republicans and fiscal conservatives are really beginning to get the message that this is costing a lot of money and not doing a lot of good."

(source: New York Times)

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Marin supervisors back death penalty repeal, parole reform

The Board of Supervisors decided provisionally Tuesday to throw its support behind propositions on the Nov. 8 ballot that would increase parole chances for some felons and repeal the death penalty.

4 of the board's 5 members - Supervisor Steve Kinsey was absent - discussed what their positions should be on the other 15 propositions on the ballot as well. A resolution making their choices official will be considered for a formal vote on Oct. 4. They decided not to take a position on Proposition 64, which would legalize the recreational use of marijuana.

Before staking out their position on Proposition 57, Gov. Jerry Brown's sentencing reform, the supervisors listened to dueling recommendations from Marin County Public Defender Jose Varela and Marin County District Attorney Ed Berberian. Proposition 57 would allow parole consideration for people convicted of nonviolent felonies once the felon has completed the full prison term for a primary offense.

"I'm going to ask the board to support Gov. Brown's push to continue reforms in the criminal justice system," Varela said. "One of the things that we are living through as a society is the over-criminalization that sent many people who shouldn't be in state prison into state prison, thereby creating more sophisticated criminals and allowing parolee populations in many jurisdictions in the state to then raise the crime level in those counties."

Berberian asked the supervisors to oppose Proposition 57. He said previous reforms in "3 strikes" sentencing requirements and early release programs had already reformed the state's criminal justice system, and Proposition 57 would swing the legal pendulum too far in the opposite direction.

"We can't seem to find a middle ground," Berberian said. "Prop. 57 really ignores victims' rights."

Nevertheless, a majority of the board - Kate Sears, Katie Rice and Damon Connolly - said they supported backing Proposition 57.

"I personally think there is a lot more criminal sentencing reform that can be achieved," said Sears, who noted that a bipartisan effort to reform sentencing at the federal level was stymied by a do-nothing Congress.

"I do think there is a role here for what this proposition is trying to achieve," Sears said.

Connolly said, "I see it as part of a larger picture unfolding at the policy level right now. I think on balance this is a move in the right direction."

Rice said she favored supporting the proposition, but she said she would be interested in learning more about it before the supervisors vote on the resolution.

Supervisor Judy Arnold did not express an opinion on Proposition 57, the death penalty initiative or legalization of marijuana.

Regarding Proposition 62, which would repeal the death penalty in California and replace it with life imprisonment, Supervisor Rice said she personally supports the initiative and was looking for guidance from other supervisors on whether the board should adopt a position.

Both Sears and Connolly said they were comfortable backing the proposition.

"I think it is a discussion worth having in society," Connolly said. "We're seeing there is a real risk of putting innocent people to death. There is a moral dimension to this."

Connolly was also the lone member of the board who advocated support for Proposition 64, which would legalize cannabis. Connolly said Proposition 64 would "bring the issue of recreational marijuana use out in the open and provide necessary regulation."

"I think it will actually enhance safety," Connolly said. "It will help with environmental protection. One of the big issues we're seeing right now with the illegal black market is destruction of public lands and sensitive environmental habitats."

Both Sears and Rice, however, said they thought it was inappropriate for the board to take a position on this issue. Sears said that when the county was preparing its ordinance for regulating medical cannabis she heard from many residents who were concerned about the effect that legalization of marijuana would have on their kids.

(source: Marin Independent Journal)

*********************

"Since 1978, California has spent $5 billion to put 13 people to death." -- Tom Steyer on Wednesday, September 14th, 2016 in a press release.

Did California spend $5 billion to execute 13 people?

California billionaire and potential gubernatorial candidate Tom Steyer joined the debate over ending the state's death penalty last week by repeating a questionable claim.

"Since 1978, California has spent $5 billion to put 13 people to death," Steyer said in a press release announcing his support for Proposition 62.

The measure would abolish capital punishment in the state.

Proposition 66, a competing measure on November's ballot, would keep the death penalty but proposes speeding up its appeals process.

There's no doubt California's death penalty system is slow and expensive: But $5 billion to execute 13 people? We decided to fact-check that suspect claim.

Our research

There are more than 700 people on California's death row, which the Yes on 62 campaign has correctly claimed is the largest death row in the Western Hemisphere.

The state has paid incarceration and court costs for all of those inmates, not just the few that have been executed since California reinstated the death penalty in 1978.

Steyer based his '$5 billion to execute 13 people' claim on information from the Yes on 62 campaign, according to his spokesman. The campaign has made the death penalty's high cost a central part of its argument for abolishing executions.

The Yes campaign made the same claim as Steyer in a September 12 Facebook post.

The Yes on 62 campaign made the same claim on Twitter on Sept. 16, 2016.

It published a more accurate and nuanced statement on its website: "Since 1978, California taxpayers have paid $5 billion to maintain the death penalty and death row, and executed 13 people."

The Yes on 62 campaign says it extrapolated the $5 billion estimate from a report by California's Loyola Law School in 2011 that placed the cost of the state's entire death penalty system at $4 billion.

One of the report's authors, Paula Mitchell, told PolitiFact California that the $5 billion figure is her updated estimate for how much state and federal taxpayers have spent on California’s entire death penalty system since 1978, not just on cases for the 13 people who have been executed.

Mitchell said Steyer and the Yes on 62 campaign left out this key context in their claims.

"I think the way to fairly characterize the expense is to say we've spent $5 billion on a system that has produced only 13 executions since 1978," said Mitchell, who heads Loyola's Project for the Innocent and is an adjunct professor.

Representatives for the No on 62 campaign rejected the claim by Steyer, noting costs are spread across "a much larger number of cases." They also called the $5 billion estimate in Mitchell's report "a wildly inflated number." Wildly inflated?

We dug a bit deeper to examine whether Steyer not only wrongly attributed the entire cost of the death penalty system to 13 cases, but also used a "wildly inflated" cost estimate.

Mitchell, who is an advocate for abolishing capital punishment, said she's worked with the Yes on 62 campaign to discuss death penalty cost estimates.

She said her estimates are derived from the cost of pre-trial investigations, trials, appeals and incarceration. Her report cites figures from the California Commission on the Fair Administration of Justice, among other sources.

Frank Zimring, a law professor and death penalty expert at UC Berkeley, said he's relied on the report in the past and finds the cost estimate credible, "give or take a hundred million or so."

Cost comparison

Mitchell's said her current $5 billion cost estimate represents the amount taxpayers spent "above what it would have cost us" without the death penalty. Her report could not reach a conclusion, she said, on how much a life in prison system would have cost taxpayers over the same period.

On average, it cost $47,000 per year to incarcerate a prison inmate in California during the 2008-2009 fiscal year, according to the Legislative Analyst's Office.

The cost to house a death row inmate, however, is $90,000 more per year than for an inmate in the general prison population, said Mitchell. She attributed the higher cost to lengthy and complex death row court cases.

Death penalty court cases cost more than others, in part, because more attorneys are legally required to participate and more investigation is required. Costs also mount because death penalty appeals must be heard by the California Supreme Court, which has only 7 justices. That creates a bottleneck, Mitchell said, where each case can stretch a decade or more.

Without the death penalty, Zimring said the cost of trials and appeals would be "vastly less."

Our ruling

Tom Steyer said recently: "Since 1978, California has spent $5 billion to put 13 people to death."

But that cost has been spread over hundreds of cases since 1978, not just the 13 that led to executions.

California currently has more than 700 inmates on death row. Prosecuting and housing each costs the state significantly year after year.

Steyer's claim might have been correct if he had said taxpayers have spent $5 billion on a system that's resulted in 13 executions. Instead, his words leave the impression California paid the entire $5 billion for a fraction of its hundreds of cases.

We rate Steyer's claim Mostly False.

(source: politifact.org)

TOGO:

Statement by the Spokesperson on Togo's accession to the Second Optional Protocol to the ICCPR aiming at the abolition of the death penalty

Togo's official accession to the 1989 Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights on the abolition of the death penalty on 14 September is a welcome step.

In doing so, Togo reinforces the global trend towards the abolition of the capital punishment, by becoming the 82nd state party to this important treaty. Togo's accession should encourage other countries to follow this example and also marks the remarkable abolitionist trend in Africa, as part of which many countries have done away with the death penalty in law or practice.

The European Union reaffirms its objective of working towards universal abolition of the death penalty.

(source: europa.eu)

SUDAN:

Sudan bishop urges UN to intervene to save Christians facing death sentence

Sudanese Bishop Andudu Adam Elnail, pictured in New York with actor George Clooney, has called for international action to save the imprisoned pastors who are facing the death penalty.

A prominent Sudanese bishop has appealed for the international community to intervene to save the lives of pastors who are facing the death sentence in a court in Sudan.

Bishop of Kadugli diocese, Andudu Adam Elnail, had to flee himself from Sudan to South Carolina in the US in 2011 after his property was torched when he refused to tell his Christian flock to endorse Sudan President Omar al-Bashir.

He called for the United Nations and the US to step in to help the 4 men on trial in Khartoum.

Bishop Elnail told FoxNews.com the charges were "concoted".

Pastors Hassan Abduraheem and Kuwa Shamal, on trial with Czech Christian Petr Jašek and human rights activist Abdulmonem Abdumawla face capital charges including espionage and waging war against the state. Jasek is also charged with the propagation of false news.

One charge against the pastors is that they propagated news about churches being burned down in Khartoum and bombed in the Nuba mountains, where Christians are classed as "atheists".

Bishop Elnail told Fox News: "We call for their protection and immediate release and urge that the UN, US government - including Congress - and other world communities demand the freedom of these two men of God and other prisoners."

Bishop Elnail said the 2 pastors are being held in solitary confinement. He said he had known Shamal, who has 7 children, for many years and described him as a "humble and good man" in his mid-40s who has dedicated his life to God.

He said: "The government is not interested in the Christian religion. There is no freedom for us, we cannot build churches, we are treated as second-class citizens. We need the international community to pressure the government of Sudan to give us our freedom of religion."

The US State Department has been tracking the case and is lobbying Sudan, designated a country of "particular concern", to show greater respect for religious freedom.

"We are committed to working with countries to make tangible improvements in respect for religious freedom and continue to look for opportunities to address these issues with the government of South Sudan," a spokesperson said.

World Watch Monitor

Christian Today has followed the case of the pastors and the 2 other accused men, and reported recently that their lives were at risk.

According to Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) which is campaigning on behalf of the men, the charges against the Czech man are central to the case.

Part of the case against Jasek is based on the financial aid given for the medical treatment of a young man from Darfur, Ali Omer, who was injured in a demonstration in 2013. Jasek donated $5,000 towards Omer's medical treatment, which was signed for by Abduraheem and Abdumawla. The Czech was arrested when he left Sudan and the other 3 arrested 9 days later.

The prosecution alleges that the $5,000 Jasek donated to Omer's treatment was in reality support for rebel movements in the South Kordofan, Blue Nile and Darfur regions, according to CSW.

Shamal was not involved in fundraising for Omer but appears to have been included because of his position in the Sudan Church of Christ.

Mervyn Thomas, chief executive of CSW, said: "The case against Rev Hassan Abduraheem, Mr Abdumawla, Rev Kuwa Shamal and Mr Petr Jasek is an example of NISS's manipulation of the criminal justice system to harass ethnic and religious minorities.

"The evidence clearly shows that Rev Abduraheem, Mr Abdumawla and Mr Jasek attempted to provide medical care for Mr Omer. As a consequence of their acts of kindness, these men have been detained in terrible conditions and are now enduring an unjust trial.

"RevKuwa Shamal, meanwhile, is being targeted simply because of his position as a senior church leader, his ethnicity and relationship to Rev Abduraheem. We urge everyone who is as concerned as we are about this grave injustice to join us in campaigning to see these men set free. CSW urges the government of Sudan to drop the charges against these men without conditions or delay."

He also called for the end of targeting religious and ethnic minorities in Sudan.

(source: Christian Today)

VIETNAM:

Vietnam drug kingpin, 8 henchmen get death sentence for heroin smuggling

A court in Vietnam sentenced to death a notorious drugs kingpin and 8 associates on Wednesday, delivering the maximum punishment in a single verdict over the trafficking of more than 1/2 a ton of heroin.

The case centered on Trang A Tang, a 33-year-old leader of a network that trafficked drugs from the infamous Golden Triangle area of northwestern Laos, northeastern Myanmar and northern Thailand, and distributed them in Vietnam.

Tang has become well-known for his opulent lifestyle and for managing to evade justice while spending lavishly on big houses and luxury cars.

The 4-day trial in Bac Ninh province heard how the gang had handled 2,181 heroin "cakes", weighing 350 grams (0.77 lb) each, between 2009 and 2013. That works out to 763 kg (1,682 lb) of heroin.

Ton Trong Hung, secretary of the court, said by telephone that nine members of the network had received the death penalty. Tang's wife and father were among 3 others jailed for life.

The judge called Tang "extremely dangerous" and said he "must be permanently removed from society", state-run radio Voice of Vietnam reported on its website.

Trafficking of more than 100 grams (3.5 oz) of heroin is punishable by death or life imprisonment in Vietnam.

Vietnam in 2014 condemned 30 people to death and jailed 69 others for trafficking more than 12 tonnes of heroin in a what was the communist country's largest-ever drugs trial, so big that it had to be held outdoors.

(source: Reuters)

JAPAN:

Calls to abolish death penalty grow louder in Japan----Country's legal community will declare its opposition to capital punishment amid concern over miscarriages of justice

Japan is expected to come under unprecedented domestic pressure over its use of the death penalty when, for the first time, the country's legal community calls for its abolition next month.

The Japan Federation of Bar Associations, whose membership includes 37,000 lawyers and hundreds of other legal professionals, said it would declare its opposition to capital punishment at a meeting in early October due to growing concern over miscarriages of justice.

The declaration will put the federation at odds with the prime minister, Shinzo Abe, whose administration has executed 16 people since it took office in late 2012.

Successive Japanese governments have resisted pressure from the UN, the EU and human rights groups to abolish the death penalty.

"If an innocent person or an offender who does not deserve to be sentenced to death is executed, it is an irrevocable human rights violation," Yuji Ogawara, who heads a bar association panel on the death penalty, was quoted as saying by the Kyodo news agency.

"There are still lawyers who support the death penalty, but I think we have developed an environment that enables us to seek its abolition."

The federation will call for an end to capital punishment by 2020, when Japan hosts a UN congress on crime prevention and criminal justice. It said life sentences without the possibility of parole should be considered as an alternative.

Japan and the US are the only G7 countries that continue to execute prisoners, while more than 140 countries have abolished the death penalty either by law or in practice.

Doubts about the safety of convictions grew in 2014 after Iwao Hakamada was released having spent more than 45 years on death row. A court ordered a retrial in Hakamada's murder case, amid suggestions that police investigators fabricated evidence against him.

The former professional boxer had been sentenced to hang in 1968 for the murders 2 years earlier of a company president, his wife and their 2 children.

In addition, 4 death row prisoners were found not guilty after being granted retrials in the 1980s.

Japan has resisted calls to end capital punishment, citing opinion polls showing high levels of support for its retention. Public backing for the death penalty remained strong during the trials of people accused of taking part in the 1995 sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway, in which 13 people died and thousands were injured.

In a damning 2009 report, Amnesty International accused Japan of subjecting death row inmates to "cruel, inhuman and degrading" treatment. Prisoners typically spend many years in solitary confinement, and only learn of the timing of their execution, by hanging, hours before it takes place.

Amnesty recently criticised Japan for executing or placing mentally ill and intellectually challenged prisoners in solitary confinement.

Legal experts welcomed the federation's decision. "Having Japan's largest human rights protection body come out in favour of eliminating the death sentence will have a huge impact," Prof Kana Sasakura from Konan University in Kobe told the Asahi Shimbun newspaper.

There are 124 inmates on death row in Japan, 89 of whom are seeking retrials, according to the justice ministry.

(source: The Guardian)

SRI LANKA:

Enforce the death penalty now

After the rape and murder of that 3 year old child, we now hear of other such crimes, the latest being of a 12 year old being raped and murdered - no, we cannot let this continue; yes let us recall the instance of the monster in human form who raped, mutilated and killed little Seya. He has been appropriately sentenced death, but he should be whipped in public, for fear and shame would indeed be a deterrent and the whole country will benefit.

The 'death sentence' today is converted to a sentence to life in imprisonment, where these monsters, who have been found guilty of taking the lives of others, spend their days well fed, clothed and cared for at our expense, as long as they live (and most of these monsters live long). Do these criminals deserve to live after the crimes of taking the life of little Seya and others in a cruel manner? Just imagine the fear and pain that Seya would have suffered at this monster's hands - how if she was one of ours, would this not have haunted us all our lives; just imagine the pain that her parents would be going through; NO, this monster has no right to live, he must be put to death.

If the President feels squeamish to sign the final order to carry out the death sentence, then he could refer it to a bench of three SC Judges to re-examine the record of the case and make the order to carry out the sentence; there are many of us citizens who are prepared to volunteer to see that the execution is carried out. If hanging be considered unacceptable, then let us reintroduce the system we had in ancient times - yes, let us reintroduce the barrel with nails and role them down a precipice; let not the EU or the West which has killed and are killing thousands of civilians with their sophisticated weapon systems and Drones, (their Arms Bazaars are making billions) preach to us. Let us reintroduce the death penalty and save our country.

I, was for some years Chairman of a Committee which inspected Prisons, and I have met many who had been sentenced to death for premeditated murder, including a man who had been sentenced to death for the murder of that great humanist Dr. Neelan Tiruchelvam, (they live happily in prison). When I asked the man found guilty of Neelan's murder as to whether he regretted the horrible crime he had committed, he laughed, and I have no reservations or regret in saying that I had the monster given the treatment, unfortunately I could not have him hanged.

I note that the now newly civilized persons and organization in the West have called upon us to do away with the death penalty, but we, for our protection MUST retain the death penalty for premeditated heinous crime. Countries that retain the death penalty know what a deterrent it is, and how life has been made safe for law abiding citizens. The government owes this to us, we must hang or put to death by other means pre-meditated murderers in the interest of our country and our people.

(source: K Godage; Writer is a former Sri Lanan Diplomat----slguardian.org)

TANZANIA:

How Verdict On Bageni Jump-Started the Katiba Debate

At a time when debate on the constitution is restarting ahead of the envisaged second phase of Tanzania's constitution review process, the Court of Appeal has delivered its verdict in the appeal filed against the acquittal of former Dar es Salaam Regional Crime Officer Abdallah Zombe and three others.

While the court upheld the acquittal of Zombe and 2 other people, it sentenced Christopher Bageni, former head of criminal investigation in Kinondoni District, to death for ordering the murder of 4 people in Dar es Salaam in January 2006. 3 traders from Ifakara District and a taxi driver were killed in cold blood in a forest in Mbezi Luis in the city.

Last week's court verdict came at a time various sections of the citizenry were calling on the Fifth Phase government under President John Pombe Magufuli to restart the constitution review process and pave the way for inclusion of issues that did not find their way into the Proposed Constitution passed by the now-disbanded Constituent Assembly in 2014. One of the proposals that were rejected at the time, despite intense lobbying for its inclusion, was the outlawing of the death penalty.

At the moment, there is a very ambiguous constitutional regime on capital punishment. The Constitution of Tanzania of 1977 provides for the right to life in Article 14 but only in a weak and limited manner. On the other hand, the law provides for the death sentence, which is the punishment for two capital offences, namely murder and treason.

According to Section 197 of the Penal Code (Chapter 16), "Any person convicted of murder shall be sentenced to death." This is a mandatory requirement that leaves the court with no option but to pass the death sentence upon the conviction of a person.

Only 2 categories of people are exempted - women who are pregnant and persons under the age of majority, who face life imprisonment upon being convicted of murder or treason in line with Section 26 of the Penal Code.

Unfortunately, none of the above grounds suit Bageni as he is neither an expectant mother nor a minor.

While treason carries the death penalty in line with sections 39 and 40 of the Penal Code, there is a relief for "misprision of treason" under Section 41.

The ruling has deeply divided the nation. There are those who argue that the slain men had the right to life and that Bageni deserves to die by hanging since evidence of his involvement in the murder was overwhelming and irrefutable. They are of the view that the Court of Appeal has accurately construed the capital punishment statutes. On the other hand, there are advocates of the law as a corrective tool, arguing that death should not be punished with death.

These human rights activists argue that meting out capital punishment to Bageni amounts to committing another murder, albeit legally. As far as they are concerned, murder is a wrong that cannot be righted with murder. Furthermore, they contend that a person who commits murder should be helped to regret the act and commit not repeat it by being given another chance. This line of advocacy concludes that death should not be a statutory punishment. According to this line of thinking, Bageni deserves nothing more than life behind bars.

Unlike murder, there is no record of a person in Tanzania who has been sentenced to death for treason. All along, the courts have always interpreted the phrase used for treason as merely setting the maximum punishment for the offence, and that the death penalty is not mandatory. Unfortunately, the wording used to describe punishment for murder is expressly mandatory and authoritative. The Court of Appeal may have found itself limited to one option only, which is the death sentence.

I wish to join those who have put the death penalty under intense scrutiny. In the early 1990s, the Nyalali Commission recommended that capital punishment be abolished for being a "barbaric form of punishment and therefore unsupportable". Several years later, Justice James Mwalusanya famously held that the death penalty was "inherently cruel, inhuman and degrading".

Last week's verdict by the Court of Appeal opened a Pandora's box and the constitution review debate is once again sharply in focus. Let's engage in it.

(source: Deus Kibamba is trained in political Science,International Politics and International Law----allafrica.com)

SEPTEMBER 20, 2016:

TEXAS:

TEXAS DEATH PENALTY APPEALS LAWYERS OVERWORKED, SOMETIMES SLOPPY

Texas' appeals system for indigent convicts facing the death penalty suffers from poor representation, plagiarized boilerplate legal arguments and other flaws that could result in innocent people being executed, according to a scathing new report by a prominent lawyers group.

The report by the nonprofit Texas Defender Service highlights cases in which attorneys never visited their condemned clients in prison, missed filing deadlines and even missed court hearings because they were busy on other cases.

The group, which has a reputation for challenging Texas' frequent use of the death penalty, called the legal deficiencies "multiple and severe."

"Because Texas uses the death penalty so much, that makes this report extra ugly," said Kathryn Kase, executive director of the group, which was created in 1995 to improve Texas' justice system and the quality of legal representation afforded to convicts facing the death penalty. "These findings are about as bad as you can get."

The report is focused on direct appeals, those started immediately after a conviction, in which trial errors and other issues can be legally vetted before an execution occurs. Those can include complaints of racial bias, ineffective counsel and other legal issues.

Condemned Texans who cannot afford to pay for their own lawyers - a majority on death row - typically get attorneys appointed by local judges, who generally award those cases to friends or lawyers willing to take on those appeals, the report said.

It recommends that Texas create a state office to oversee death-penalty direct appeals, to appoint 2 lawyers to each direct appeal instead of one, and to reform the system to provide minimum standards and better compensation for lawyers in some parts of the state to guard against ineffective counsel.

With public support for the death penalty in Texas waning, and as life without parole has become a more popular alternative, the group's findings almost assure that the oft-criticized appeals system in capital cases will be a topic of debate when the Legislature convenes in January.

A growing chorus of critics in recent years has warned that, absent reforms, Texas' current system is likely to face increasing scrutiny by appeals courts.

Patrick McCann, a Houston defense lawyer with expertise in capital appeals, characterized the report's findings as horrible, astounding and disheartening.

"This report is a very sad commentary on how the system runs and whether or not it should be revamped or scrapped," he said. "There's nowhere to go from here but up."

The report, "Lethally Deficient," was set for release early today. An advance copy obtained Monday showed the group reviewed 84 death penalty appeals decided by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals between January 2009 and December 2015.

Of those, Kase said, convictions were overturned in only 3 cases.

The report targets Texas' practices for selecting direct-appeal attorneys for its harshest criticism. While death-penalty trials require 2 attorneys be appointed to each case, direct-appeals appointments get only 1.

"This leaves the defense short-handed and runs counter to the recommendations from the State Bar of Texas and the American Bar Association that 2 lawyers represent a defendant through a death-penalty case," the report states. 2/3 of the cases in the study sample were handled by solo practitioners, who "may lack ready access to direct supervision, consultation or support staff."

The report also contends that low pay rates in some rural counties could lead to ineffective or sloppy representation.

"Some lawyers who handled appeals in our survey had a capital and noncapital workload during the 2014 fiscal year that equaled the recommended workload for three or more lawyers," the report states.

Additionally, the report's authors said, a lack of direct supervision led to instances in which appointed lawyers copied text in their filings directly from other appeals.

Lawyers in other states have been sanctioned for copying and pasting such wording in filings, but none in Texas has been penalized, the report notes. In one example cited by the report, a lawyer copied a trial motion "without analyzing the trial court's decision or making her own argument in support of the client's appeal."

The report also stated that lawyers in 24 cases did not list any time in billing records dedicated to communicating with their clients. 2 defendants wrote to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals to report that they had not heard from their lawyer; 3 defendants wrote that their appellate lawyer had filed briefs without consulting them.

Brian Stull, a North Carolina-based senior staff attorney with the Capital Punishment Project of the American Civil Liberties Union who has handled Texas death penalty cases, said the report highlights serious issues that need to be addressed.

"The direct appeal is where important issues are reviewed in death-penalty cases," he said. "The Texas system has major problems."

(source: Houston Chronicle)

NEBRASKA:

Wasting big money to keep death penalty

Nebraskans have the opportunity on Nov. 8 to end a wasteful and ineffective government program, capital punishment. Opportunities don't come along often when voters can so directly influence government spending.

According to a Nebraska economist's study, Nebraska is wasting a lot of money to maintain its death penalty. Creighton University economist Ernie Goss says its costs Nebraskans $14.6 million annually to prosecute capital punishment cases, defend against numerous appeals and house convicted prisoners on death row. Despite all the big spending, Nebraska hasn't executed anyone for almost 20 years. The last time a convicted killer was put to death was in 1997.

Today, 10 people with murder convictions face execution, but it's a long shot any of those 10 will ever make it to the death chamber. That's because recent court rulings are making it more and more difficult to impose the death penalty. Also, as Nebraskans know, it is difficult - if not impossible - to legally acquire the drugs needed for Nebraska’s lethal injection protocol.

Gov. Pete Ricketts and the Department of Corrections wasted $54,000 in 2015 attempting to purchase and import the death chamber drugs. The Federal Drug Administration won't allow the drugs to be imported, and American pharmaceutical companies don't want to supply them.

Voting to set aside lawmakers' 2015 repeal of the death penalty makes no fiscal sense. Why continue spending so much to maintain a program that produces so little? Nebraska is unable to use capital punishment because of legal and pharmaceutical hurdles, and even if we were able to execute convicted killers, would it really make a difference? Few studies have concluded the death penalty deters crime. That is because murder frequently is a crime of passion committed in the heat of the moment.

Since 1973, there have been 1,842 homicides in Nebraska, yet very few of those crimes resulted in death penalty convictions. Has the threat of capital punishment really slowed down the killing? No. Also, why, when there have been so many killings, are only 10 people awaiting execution?

There's a better way. Nebraskans should accept the Legislature's repeal of capital punishment in favor of life in prison without the possibility of parole. Life puts killers away for good, and their cases are resurrected only if credible evidence surfaces that puts their guilty verdict in question. No more innocent people will be sentenced to die for crimes they didn't commit, and Nebraskans would no longer be asked to pay for a government program that gets no results.

(source: Opinion, Kearney Hub)

NEW MEXICO:

Martinez eyes death penalty in special session

New Mexico Gov. Susan Martinez says she will place reinstating the death penalty on the agenda for the pending special session to fix the state's budget.

The Republican said in a statement Monday that she wants the death penalty as an option for convicted killers of police, children and corrections officers.

New Mexico repealed the death penalty in 2009 before Martinez took office by replacing provisions for lethal injection with a sentence of life in prison without parole.

Martinez previously indicated she would back legislation for capital punishment during the upcoming state legislative session in January.

The move comes as lawmakers are calling for a special session to address an half a billion dollar shortfall.

(source: Associated Press)

CALIFORNIA:

With Death Sentence Looming, Judge Keeps Defense Motion Sealed in Wozniak Case

With Daniel Patrick Wozniak's likely death sentence just days away, the judge in his double-murder case has taken the unusual step of blocking public release of the defense's last-ditch arguments to win a new penalty trial.

For nearly 2 weeks, Superior Court Judge John D. Conley has refused to unseal a 185-page motion filed Sept. 2 by Wozniak's public defender, Scott Sanders.

On Friday, during the case's most recent hearing, Conley agreed to keep Sanders' motion sealed because deputy district attorney Matthew Murphy said he needed more time to review the defense pleadings to insure no deleterious informant information would be inadvertently revealed. But then on Monday, Conley allowed the public release of Murphy's response to the sealed motion.

During arguments in court Friday, Sanders repeatedly insisted there is nothing in the motion that warrants sealing, adding he "never heard" of such a series of events.

Last January, a jury recommended the death penalty for Wozniak, a Costa Mesa man who in 2010 decapitated 26-year-old Samuel E. Herr, dismembered his body, and threw the parts in an estuary. He then shot and killed Herr's friend, 23-year-old Juri "Julie" Kibuishi, in an attempt to throw investigators off his trail.

It is widely expected that Conley will hand down a death sentence against Wozniak on Friday. There is another hearing scheduled for Wednesday, during which Conley could unseal Sanders' motion.

Wozniak's case has been extended for nearly three years in large part because Sanders in 2014 disclosed a wide-ranging informant network in Orange County jails, where sheriff's deputies and prosecutors had violated the constitutional rights of criminal defendants.

Sanders' revelations came as part of his defense of Scott Evans Dekraai - who in 2011 gunned down his ex-wife and seven other people in a Seal Beach beauty salon - but the ramifications have spilled over into the Wozniak case and others.

Various court proceedings and observers suggest Sanders' sealed motion may include more critical or embarrassing information about the DA's office, the court, and/or the Sheriff's Department.

The 34-page filing by Murphy is highly critical of Sanders' defense tactics for Wozniak and accuses him of "professional misconduct" in defenses in other cases.

When asked to comment, Sanders said: "Based on the court's rulings, I believe I am prohibited to speak about my own brief until it is unsealed."

In Murphy's filing, there are hints of what Sanders is arguing in his suppressed motion for a new penalty phase trial for Wozniak.

The pleadings suggest the defense is arguing Wozniak was denied the opportunity to fully cross examine Costa Mesa detectives because information about a jail informant was withheld until this spring - when yet another batch of hidden records was uncovered at the sheriff's department.

Additionally, the prosecution brief belittles Sanders' apparent theory that Costa Mesa police had planned to arrest Wozniak's fiancee - Rachel Buffett - for murder, but then did not. Sanders apparently argued this limited his ability to fully question detectives, compromising his client's defense.

Buffett, a former child princess in Disneyland shows, and, like Wozniak, a community actor, faces three felony counts of being an accessory after the fact to the murders for allegedly lying to detectives to protect Wozniak. Her prosecution has been delayed, with the next hearing set for Nov. 10. Her Santa Ana attorney, David Medina, couldn't be reached for comment Monday.

Also, Sanders apparently alleges in his sealed motion that details relating to the 2006 beating death of John Derek Chamberlain in the Theo Lacy Jail are pertinent to his defense of Wozniak.

Chamberlain was tortured and beaten to death by fellow inmates, who mistakenly believed he was a child molester, while sheriff's deputies failed to respond, some reportedly watching television.

Murphy argues all these issues are irrelevant, and their use is not supported by the law.

Evidence of Wozniak's guilt is overwhelming, Murphy added, noting the killer's confession, physical evidence, and his continued partying after the killings during the prelude to his planned wedding. Wozniak's desire for money to pay matrimonial costs has been cited as a primary motive.

Murphy goes on to assert in the filing that Sanders has accused some 15 prosecutors - including Rackauckas - of improprieties in various prior cases.

In early 2015, after Sanders spurred an unprecedented hearing revealing informant misconduct in the Dekraai case, Judge Thomas M. Goethals barred District Attorney Tony Rackauckas' entire office from prosecuting Dekraai's penalty phase. Dekraai pleaded guilty in 2014. That recusal ruling is under appeal by the state Attorney General's Office, which would assume the prosecution if Goethals' ruling is upheld.

Additionally, more than a half dozen individuals convicted of murder or other serious crimes have had their life sentences overturned based on informant revelations from Sanders' defense of Dekraai and Wozniak.

But Conley has blocked the use at trial of details about informants in the Wozniak case, calling them irrelevant and ruling such evidence couldn't be used by the prosecution.

In particular, Conley cut off Sanders' probing and disclosures about a cache of computer records deputies kept secret until this past spring. This "special handling log," in which deputies charted the activities of informants and others in the County Jail in Santa Ana, is among evidence Sander's cites in his sealed motion, according to Murphy's filing.

But on Thursday, Goethals will hold a hearing in the Dekraai case on Sanders' request to unseal records from the newly disclosed special handling log. Last month, Goethals ruled "a substantial amount" of records from that log were withheld from Dekraai for years.

During the Thursday hearing, the prosecution may report to Goethals on yet more evidence that should have been revealed previously to Dekraai's defense.

Last week, Sanders filed a motion asking Conley to unseal the special handling log in a manner to not endanger informants.

And late Monday, he filed a request for a 3-week continuance to Wozniak's sentencing - to give him time to respond to the prosecution's criticisms.

Sanders wrote that Murphy "wanted the allegations to be seen," preferably "at a time while [the defense] brief was sealed." Sanders added, "This is why he claimed for 13 days" he couldn't check the sealed motion for possible errant disclosures.

Sanders also wrote the prosecution's misconduct allegations against him are "patently false."

(source: voiceofoc.org)

SUDAN:

Christian pastors face death penalty if convicted in Sudan

Last December, 2 evangelical pastors from the Church of Christ in Sudan were taken from their churches and thrown into jail. Last month, the Rev. Abdulraheem Kodi and the Rev. Kuwa Shamal Abu Zumam were charged with numerous offenses, including waging war against the state, espionage and undermining Sudan's constitutional system.

Their trial has begun. They could get the death penalty if they're found guilty.

2 other men, Czech pastor Petr Jasek and Darfuri human rights activist Abduelmoneim Abdulmwlla, have also been detained. They, too, are accused of conspiring against the state, provoking hatred against or among sects and spreading false information.

Kodi and Zumam hail from the Nuba Mountains, a region that continues to be bombed and brazenly targeted by Sudan's president, Omar al-Bashir, in what human rights and Christian groups say is an effort to rid the country of the Nuba people - indigenous groups who do not fit the regime's vision of an Islamic nation and are accused of supporting anti-government rebels.

According to Elnail, FoxNews.com that the pastors were arrested not only to silence but to intimidate Sudan's Christian minority, which stands at around 1.5 %, as the Khartoum government increasingly pushes to enforce full-scale Shariah law in the country. Al-Bashir, the 1st sitting head of state to be indicted by the International Criminal Court - there is an outstanding warrant for his arrest in connection to war crimes in Darfur - took power in a 1989 coup and has long taken a stance of "1 language (Arabic), 1 religion (Islam)."

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir has imposed strict Islamic rule on his people.

Sudan's National Intelligence and Security Services have accused the pastors of exposing state secrets. But their defenders say the claims against them have been concocted, and that they are being persecuted by al-Bashir and the Sudanese government. They are appealing desperately to the international community to intervene.

"We call for their protection and immediate release and urge that the U.N., U.S. government - including Congress - and other world communities demand the freedom of these 2 men of God and other prisoners," said the Rev. Andudu Adam Elnail, bishop of Kadugli Diocese.

Elnail fled from Sudan five years ago after he refused to endorse al-Bashir and government forces allegedly burned down his property. Now based in South Carolina, he said Kodi and Zumam are in solitary confinement and are not allowed visits or phone calls with family members. He described Zumam whom he has known for many years, as a "humble and good man" in his mid-40s, a father of 7 who has dedicated his life to family and faith.

"The government is not interested in the Christian religion. There is no freedom for us, we cannot build churches, we are treated as 2nd-class citizens," Elnail lamented. "We need the international community to pressure the government of Sudan to give us our freedom of religion."

"The pastors are accused of sharing evidence of the government burning down churches in Khartoum and bombing churches in the Nuba Mountains," said Philip Tutu, a native of the Nuba Mountains, who now resides in the U.S and advocates for the rights of the Nuba people.

"The government says its security policy is to keep this information confidential to avoid pressure from the international community.

"Clearly, the pastors are unfairly targeted. The hearings are postponed repeatedly. A lot of people are showing up for the hearings and not everyone is able to attend, including some attorneys for the pastors."

The attorneys, who asked not to be identified, fearing government retaliation, stressed that more action is needed to support the pastors and to protect Christians in the Nuba Mountains, where they are deemed to be "atheists."

A spokesperson from the U.S State Department said senior officials at the U.S Embassy in Khartoum have been tracking this case since the pastors were arrested and have repeatedly raised concerns about the matter.

"We are committed to working with countries to make tangible improvements in respect for religious freedom and continue to look for opportunities to address these issues with the government of South Sudan," the spokesperson said.

Christian persecution is nothing new in war-torn Sudan, where churches are routinely razed and church leaders are targeted and taunted. And though Sudan has been designated a "Country of Particular Concern" by the U.S. State Department since 1999, the situation has worsened.

"Members of Sudan's minority Christian community have been arrested, their religious buildings attacked, churches and educational institutions closed and their religious literature confiscated," said the Rev. Thomas J. Reese, S.J, chair of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom.

"The government will no longer issue permits for the building of new churches. Government policies and societal pressure promote conversion to Islam. Christians are pressured to deny their faith or convert to gain employment."

Kiri Kankhwende, of the U.K-based advocacy group Christian Solidarity Worldwide, said the situation for Christians in Sudan has particularly deteriorated since the secession in 2011 of South Sudan, which was championed as a foreign policy success story by the Obama administration but has since descended into civil war.

"Since then, the government has called for a 100 % Islamic nation with a constitution based wholly on Shariah law," Kankhwende told FoxNews.com. "The restrictions placed on Christians over the last 5 years indicate that the government is moving toward this goal." Open Doors USA, a Christian human rights organization, has called the persecution of Christians in Sudan akin to "ethnic cleansing" and stressed that the "right kind of attention" in the case of the Sudanese priests is vital.

"The more influential voices that can be heard on this issue, the more likely the government of Sudan is to at least consider objections to this miscarriage of justice," said Open Doors president and CEO David Curry.

The Embassy of the Republic of Sudan in Washington, D.C., could not be reached for comment. The pastors' trial is set to resume Wednesday.

(source: Fox News)

IRAN:

Help Stop Extrajudicial Executions (Philippines: UA 186/16

Urgent Action

September 20, 2016

Approximately 3000 people have been killed by police and unknown vigilantes in the Philippines since President Duterte came into power on 30 June. Many may amount to extrajudicial executions. The President has vowed that the killings will continue.

Latest figures as of 20 September show that at least 3000 people have been killed in a wave of state-sanctioned violence since President Duterte came into power on 30 June. In a speech on 6 September, the President issued his latest promise that his crackdown on those accused of using or selling drugs would continue, acknowledging that 'plenty (more) will be killed'. On 16 September, President Duterte announced he was extending his campaign for 6 more months.

The wave of killing across the Philippines has resulted in increased lawlessness and 'punishment' being meted out in the absence of any legal authority or fair legal procedures. The unlawful killing has not just affected alleged drug users and dealers, but also many bystanders, including children as young as 5.

Under international law, the Philippines has a legal obligation to respect and protect the right to life at all times. International law and standards narrowly restrict the use of force by police to situations where it is absolutely necessary and used proportionately. Police must apply non-violent means before resorting to the use of force, and carry out their duties in a way that ensures full respect for human rights, among them the right to life, liberty and security of all persons, including those suspected of crime. Incitement to violence and discrimination is prohibited under international law and risks escalating violence in the country. The unlawful and deliberate killing carried out by order of officials or with the state's complicity or acquiescence is an extrajudicial execution and is a crime under international law. The Philippines has an obligation to investigate and prosecute credible allegations of extrajudicial executions and any other unlawful killings and bring those suspected of criminal responsibility to justice in fair trials.

1) TAKE ACTION

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

-- Urging the President to condemn extrajudicial executions and other unlawful killings and call on law enforcement officials to abide strictly by international law and standards on the use of force;

-- Urging the authorities to ensure prompt, independent and impartial investigations into all reports of use of lethal force by the police, extrajudicial executions and other unlawful killings and ensure those responsible are brought to justice through a fair trial process;

-- Urging them to ensure that police activities are subject to independent oversight by setting up an independent police oversight body, protection of witnesses and enhanced transparency and accountability mechanisms.

Contact these 2 officials by 1 November, 2016

President Rodrigo Duterte

Malacanang Palace

1000 Jose P Laurel Sr,

San Miguel, Manila,

Metro Manila,

Philippines

Email: pace_op@malacanang.gov.ph

Salutation: Your Excellency

Ambassador Jose L. Cuisia, Jr., Embassy of the Republic of the Philippines

1600 Massachusetts Ave. NW, Washington DC 20036

Fax: 1 202 467 9417 -- Phone: 1 202 467 9300 -- Email: information@philippineembassy-usa.org Salutation: Dear Ambassador

(source: amnestyusa.org)

TEXAS:

Capital Costs

Your right to an attorney. It's a right we all have. Even if we can't afford one, one will be appointed for us. But in the end, who picks up the tab for those lawyers? KIDY's Senora Scott this evening with a look at how many alleged killers are in our jail right now, and how much it's costing us.

As of mid-September, in the Tom Green County Jail, there are 4 people charged with murder and 10 people charged with Capital Murder. Of those cases involving Capital Murder, it's estimated they'll cost 1 to 2 million dollars per person. So who's paying for it? You are.

"Each county bears the burden of the expense of any death penalty trial," 51st District Attorney Allison Palmer said.

So why do they cost so much? If the state is seeking the death penalty, defense attorneys from the regional public defender's office will take the case. These lawyers are based out of Lubbock but have offices all over the state.

"Capital murder cases take longer to get to trial and capital murder cases where we're seeking the death penalty are vastly more expensive than other kinds of prosecutions," Palmer said.

Travel, scheduling, experts witnesses, gathering all types of evidence, and lab testing are just a few factors that rack up the taxpayer's bill. How many of these current cases are going to potentially fall under this category?

"I have given notice that I intend to seek death on 4 offenders, 4 indicted offenders," Palmer said.

Allison Palmer is the one who makes those decisions but she says she takes the jury into account when doing so. She asks herself the questions the jury would be asked. Like: Will the defendant be a future danger to society? Is there a criminal history? Did the person act as an accomplice or commit the crime themselves? Still the sheer number of pending cases creates its own set of questions.

"I've been here for more than 20 years in this district attorney's office and we've gone for a period of years without any homicide cases, without any murder cases, much less capital offenses," Palmer said.

And some of these cases involve juveniles - or people under the age of 17. We can't show their faces or give their names but palmer told me - due to their age, they are not eligible for the death penalty. While there are just a few juveniles involved, most would say, it's a few too many.

"It's the 1st time in my experience where offenders under the age of 17 have been charged with a capital offense," Palmer said.

If the courts stays on schedule, a few of those trials are slated to begin in October.

(source: myfoxzone.com)

NORTH CAROLINA:

Raleigh man charged with killing his wife

Ukranian immigrant Volodymyr Kocherhin and his wife, Olha Kocherhina, had both been in trouble with the law in recent years for driving under the influence and minor larcenies.

Now Kocherhin, 51, faces the possibility of life in prison or the death penalty, after he was charged over the weekend with the 1st-degree murder of his wife. Kocherhin had called police from behind a Kimbrell's Furniture store on New Bern Avenue early Friday morning to report that he'd found his wife "lying in blood" in the grass after she had gone missing the day before.

A sheriff's deputy pushed the wheelchair-bound Kocherhin into a Wake County District courtroom Monday afternoon for his 1st court appearances. A week earlier, he had pleaded guilty in Wake District Court to shoplifting and was given credit for the 20 days he had spent in jail.

Kocherhin and his wife were both scheduled to appear in court Nov. 17 in Dare County where police charged him with driving while impaired on July 20. They charged Olha Kocherhina with one misdemeanor count each of aiding and abetting an impaired driver and possession of an open container and consuming alcohol in the passenger area of the vehicle they were traveling in, state records show.

Dare County law officials revoked Kocherhin's driver's license for 30 days, pending the outcome of the DWI trial, state records show.

In 2007, police in Chatham County, Ga., charged Kocherhin with driving under the influence, along with a misdemeanor count of endangering the life of a child, state records show.

Olha Kocherhina was convicted in a Wake County courtroom of driving while impaired on April 6. She was sentenced to 1 year probation, state records show. Investigators reported that Kocherhina’s blood alcohol content was .35, more that 4 times the state limit of .08. Kocherhina spent nine days in jail after her arrest and lost her driver's license.

A Wake County judge ordered her to complete child safety and substance abuse programs after she pleaded guilty in 2009 to being intoxicated and disruptive. She was also convicted that year of shoplifting, state records show.

In 2008, the couple was convicted of misdemeanor larceny and sentenced to 1 year probation and ordered to complete 45 days of community service, state records show.

Investigators say Olha Kocherhina, 44, died of internal injuries, but they have not provided details or the circumstances surrounding her death. An arrest warrant charging Kocherhin with murder does not list a weapon.

Kocherhin called 911 shortly before 1:30 a.m. Friday. He told an emergency dispatcher he did not speak English very well, and the dispatcher relied on an interpreter to communicate with him.

Kocherhin said that he last saw his wife the day before when they had lunch together. He said that his wife had gone to the pool but never returned and that he called a taxi to help him look for her.

Kocherhin did not answer the dispatcher when she asked where his wife lived. He said he did not know why she was in the back of a parking lot.

(source: newsobserver.com)

FLORIDA:

Triple murder suspect in court after requesting speedy trial

A man accused of killing his wife and her 2 children appeared in court Monday after he submitted a handwritten request for a speedy trial.

The request by Luis Toledo, 34, would have had his trial starting in 45 days.

Toledo is charged with three counts of murder, accused of killing his wife Yessenia and her children 9-year-old Thalia and 8-year-old Michael.

The family was reported missing from their Deltona home in October of 2013.

Volusia County Judge Raul Zambrano told Toledo and 1 of his 3 defense attorneys, "I need to know whether there is any issues between you and him or he's on his own. This is a chance to say whatever he wants to say if he wants to say anything at all."

Toledo had nothing to say.

Defense attorney Jeff Dean asked that the motion be stricken.

The judge did just that, but cautioned the defendant.

"Mr. Toledo, I think it is very wise (for you) to go through your attorneys whenever you want to communicate anything to the court," Zambrano said. "To file something like this in the court file will cause me react and schedule a hearing and I think it's very inconvenient to the attorneys to have to run from wherever they are on a very short moment's notice to address these issues. So always go through your attorneys. You do have a right to demand (a) speedy trial and your attorney can tell you how, and what is the proper way to exercise that right."

The bodies of Toledo's wife and children have not been found.

If convicted of killing either of the children, Toledo could face the death penalty.

There is a tentative trial date of Jan. 9.

(source: WESH news)

OHIO:

Mistrial ruled in Seman case; change of venue denied

Judge Maureen Sweeney Monday denied defense motions to move the capital murder case of Robert Seman out of Mahoning County but she did agree to grant a mistrial and to dismiss the pool of jurors summoned for duty in the case.

Judge Sweeney instead ruled that a new pool of jurors will be summoned for the case against Seman, 47, of Green Township, who could face the death penalty if convicted of the deaths of Corinne Gump, 10, and her grandparents, William and Judith Schmidt, during a March 30, 2015, arson at the Schmidts' Powers Way home on the day Seman was to go on trial on a charge of raping the girl.

Seman was free on bond at the time of the fire.

A new trial date has not been set. A pretrial hearing in the case is set for Oct. 5.

Judge Sweeney based her mistrial ruling on arguments made by defense attorneys that during the Sept. 9 jury orientation, 1 of the jurors filling out a questionnaire was discussing the case with other potential jurors, which violated the oath that potential jurors took to not discuss the case.

That juror, defense attorneys claimed, already had determined that Seman was guilty and he was telling other potential jurors details of the case, which defense attorneys said skewed the pool against Seman and made it harder to find an impartial jury.

"There is no way to ferret out the negative publicity," said defense attorney Lynn Maro, in a brief oral hearing before Judge Sweeney issued her ruling.

Assistant Prosecutor Jennifer McLaughlin said during the hearing that there is evidence that jurors were following instructions because they told the juror who was making remarks about the case to stop talking about it.

"They told the juror to stop talking about it as you instructed them to do so," McLaughlin said.

Jury orientation in the case was Sept. 9, when more than 150 jurors reported to the courtroom to be questioned by attorneys to see if they could serve as jurors in the case. Individual questioning of jurors began Sept. 13, however, it was halted shortly after that because Judge Sweeney was attending a previously scheduled judicial conference.

Defense attorneys filed motions months ago to change the venue of the trial because of intense pretrial publicity, and Judge Sweeney denied that motion Sept. 12 but said she would revisit it during the jury selection process if it became difficult to pick a jury.

She said in her ruling Monday that she still thinks a motion to change venue in the case is "premature," but she added she is troubled that some people called for jury duty in the case ignored the oath they took before they filled out the questionnaires to not discuss the case.

In her ruling, Judge Sweeney said when the next jury pool reports for orientation, they will be split into small groups and those groups will be taken into the courtroom separately to be given their oaths and instructions, and that a deputy sheriff will then accompany each group as they fill out their questionnaires.

Seman is eligible for the death penalty if convicted of aggravated murder because prosecutors charged he killed the witness to a crime; killed a person younger than 13; killed 2 or more people; killed to escape prosecution from a crime; and killed someone in the commission of another felony, which in this case means aggravated arson or aggravated burglary.

If jurors find Seman is eligible for the death penalty, a 2nd phase of the trial, or mitigation phase, will take place at which defense attorneys will present evidence to jurors showing them why they should spare Seman's life.

(source: vindy.com)

*********************

Double murder death penalty trial continues

As she lay dying from 2 gunshot wounds, Carly Hughley told her 10-year-old son, "Tell the family I love them," the now 14-year-old boy testified in Harvey Lee Jones' murder trial.

Jones, 37, could face the death penalty if he's found guilty in the Jan. 24, 2013 aggravated double murder of Hughley, 32, and Demetrius Beckwith, 29 in a Harrison Twp. apartment.

Jones has pleaded not guilty to 6 counts of aggravated murder, 2 counts of aggravated burglary, 2 counts of kidnapping, 2 counts of aggravated robbery, and 1 count of having a weapon under disability.

The boy told the Montgomery County Common Pleas Court jury on Monday that Jones lived with him and his mother for a few months in 2012 and that during that time he saw Jones "every day."

Asked by Montgomery County assistant prosecutor Dan Brandt if Hughley and Jones got along, the boy replied, "sometimes," that "they would argue" and that Jones sent his mother threatening text messages.

The boy testified how he and his mother were watching TV in the living room before he went upstairs to watch TV in his bedroom.

The boy said he knew when "Fatboy" (Beckwith) came over and that when he heard the door open again, he saw Jones enter the apartment.

The boy testified that he hid behind the stairway wall and saw Jones with a gun in his hand shoot his mother and Beckwith 7 times.

The boy testified that he saw Jones then take a phone, money and keys out of his mother's and Beckwith's clothes and leave the apartment.

The boy recounted how - with blood on his hands from listening to his mother's last words - he asked a neighbor for help and told law enforcement about the gold car Jones drove. He used a pointer to show jurors where on the stairs he was when he watched the incident.

On cross examination by defense attorney Dennis Lieberman, the boy denied saying some statements from a police interview, that Beckwith often had a lot of cash and that he wasn't sure what Jones was wearing the night of the killings.

The boy denied telling deputies that all 3 adults had walked out of the apartment together before Jones forced the other 2 to get on the floor in the apartment.

The boy testified that he remembered his mother saying, "Please don't hurt my baby," that Beckwith begged for Jones to just take his money and not hurt him. The boy also said he thought Jones never saw him.

On redirect examination, Brandt asked the boy to identify Jones, which he did by pointing to him in the courtroom and saying the defendant was wearing a burgundy shirt.

Brand also asked if he was certain that Jones pulled the trigger and the boy said, "Yes." Asked if he'd ever forget that night, the boy said, "No."

Earlier Monday, Harrison Twp. first responders testified about the life-saving efforts they tried on Hughley and that a firefighter had left a bloody boot-print on the backside of a rug. Photos of the scene were shown to the jury.

The trial in Judge Steven Dankof's courtroom resumes Tuesday in front of 12 jurors and 6 alternates.

(source: WHIO news)

ARKANSAS:

State answers Rule 37 petition of convicted killer----State says convicted killer provides no proof for allegations

The state of Arkansas answered a Rule 37 petition filed by convicted double murderer Nicholas Ian Roos, stating the allegations in the petition are without merit, the petition was filed too late and that Roos never says in the petition he did not shoot and kill Midway couple Donald and LaDonna Rice during an armed robbery conspiracy with 2 co-defendants who have pled to lesser roles in the double murder.

One of the claims Roos made centered around what he alleged was a faulty identification of him as a suspect. Roos, who is serving a life sentence, claimed the witness was allowed to view Roos alone and handcuffed. What Roos failed to say in the petition, the state points out, is that the witness came to police first, stating he saw 2 men exit the woods where the victims' burned out truck was found and gave them a ride.

Roos, 23, of Flippin, also alleged in his petition that his attorneys, Katherine Streett and Teri Reynolds, provided ineffective counsel, did not file a motion to suppress evidence nor did they investigate his claim that he suffers from paranoid schizophrenia. Roos also alleged in his petition that his guilty plea was coerced by his attorneys who allegedly told him if he did not plea, he would get the death penalty.

In answer to those allegations, prosecutors noted Streett and Reynolds have each handled more than 50 death penalty cases and are "2 of the finest death penalty qualified attorneys in the state."

It was also noted by prosecutors that defense attorneys are not required to file a flurry of motions in order to see which ones stick. The state said the evidence against Roos and his codefendants Mikayla Mynk and Zach Grayham was overwhelming including a confession by Roos himself, a codefendant who agreed to testify against him, being seen in the vicinity of the stolen, burned out truck of the victims and being in possession of items identified as stolen from the Rice home.

Roos also claims in his petition that his attorneys did not sufficiently investigate his claim of suffering from paranoid schizophrenia. In answer to this claim, the state notes Roos offered no tangible proof of being diagnosed with the disease. Prosecutors note a diagnosis such as the one Roos claims is a life-long diagnosis that would leave a significant paper trail through the medical profession and with social workers. Bad behavior, the state argued, is just that, and not an indication of mental disease.

Finally, prosecutors noted Roos' petition was not filed within the time frame allowed by and should be denied by the court for that reason alone.

Circuit Court Judge Gordon Webb, who handled the case and accepted Roos' guilty plea to killing the couple, appointed local attorneys John Crain and Justin Downum to assist Roos with the petition. Electronic court records indicate Roos is scheduled to appear Oct. 25 in Baxter County Circuit Court.

(source: The Baxter Bulletin)

NEBRASKA:

Confusion could affect death penalty vote

Nebraskans for the Death Penalty will soon launch a multi-media effort to inform voters about potentially confusing language on the Nov. 8 general election ballot.

Bob Evnen, an attorney and co-founder of Nebraskans for the Death Penalty, told a gathering of the Sarpy County Pachyderm Club Thursday that voters wishing to retain the death penalty must mark the "repeal" oval on the ballot. The confusion arises because voters will be asked whether they wish to retain or repeal the Nebraska Legislature's 2015 decision to abolish capital punishment.

A vote to "retain," he said, will confirm the Legislature's decision to abolish.

A vote to "repeal" will undo that vote and reinstate the death penalty.

Evnen told the gathering of Sarpy County Republicans he is confident voters will overrule the Legislature.

Surveys continue to show that Nebraskans support the death penalty by a 2 to 1 margin, he said.

Evnen made his comments in the meeting room of the Shadow Lake Hy-Vee where he described capital punishment as a moral and practical good.

"Capital punishment is an act of moral accountability for the most heinous crimes committed by the most depraved killers," he said.

"We don't do it very much in our state. We sentence people to death only in a very limited number of cases, a limited number of crimes, and that is as it should be. But that doesn't mean you get rid of it."

Evnen said it is difficult to end up on Nebraska's death row, and outlined the brutal nature of murders committed by those who have landed there.

He dismissed concerns about wrongful conviction, asserting that death penalty opponents must reach back to the 19th century to find a Nebraska death row inmate who might credibly be considered innocent of a capital crime.

Nebraska's death penalty law requires a complex weighing of aggravating and mitigating circumstances, he said, which means only the most heinous crimes are likely to be eligible.

Law enforcement officials are overwhelmingly in favor of the death penalty, Evnen said, in part because they believe capital punishment exercises a deterrent effect on criminals who understand that murdering a police officer could result in a death sentence.

He also dismissed concerns about the cost of keeping the death penalty.

He said studies showing high costs, such as a recent study by Creighton University economics professor Ernie Goss, are not credible and fail to show the other side of the ledger.

The Goss study, which showed the death penalty costing Nebraska taxpayers $14 million a year, was a composite of statistics from other states, Evnen said, and bears no relation to actual costs in Nebraska.

He said the study also failed to account for cost savings incurred when expensive trials are avoided after suspects plead guilty to 1st-degree murder in exchange for a promise that prosecutors will not seek the death penalty.

(source: Papillion Times)

CALIFORNIA:

Sentenced to die? Depends on the county in California

As California voters weigh 2 ballot measures this fall to either abolish the death penalty or institute changes that aim to expedite what can be a decades-long process, they do so against the backdrop of its rapid decline across the state and an increasing disparity in where capital punishment is actually employed.

Since 2011, California has imposed the death penalty 78 times, including 5 so far this year. That's down from 112 in the 5 prior years, between 2006 and 2010 .

A Bee analysis of death row records shows that the verdicts come from just 14 of California's 58 counties, compared to 25 between 2006 and 2010. Only 8 counties have issued more than one death sentence since 2011.

In many counties, prosecutors now so rarely seek the death penalty that the policy is effectively in disuse.

The list includes some major population centers like Santa Clara County, a liberal stronghold with more than 1.9 million residents, where a jury last sentenced someone to die in 2010. The 4 counties with the highest homicide rate in recent years - Monterey, San Joaquin, Merced and Tulare - are a politically diverse bunch on the Central Coast and in the Central Valley that have not sent anyone to death row in at least 7 years.

The 2nd-most populous county in California last imposed the death penalty 6 years ago.

Encompassing about 3.3 million people, San Diego County is also the biggest in the state with no death sentences since 2011. It's an unexpected turn for the traditionally moderate area with a Republican district attorney, which in the 5 prior years accounted for 5 new death row inmates.

Public Defender Henry Coker takes pride in that fact. Since assuming the role in 2009, he said he has been particularly aggressive about pursuing resolutions to death penalty cases before they go to trial.

Though he would have once saved the best arguments for the jury, Coker said he now puts on emphasis on engaging the district attorney's office from the 1st day of the case. That can involve hundreds of hours spent researching mitigating factors and convincing prosecutors that the death penalty is not warranted.

"People don't just wake up in the morning and commit these horrific crimes. That must be studied," he said. "The people who commit these crimes generally come with a history that explains why they are where they are."

Coker credited District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis for being personally involved in every case and taking a holistic approach to capital punishment. But while the number of sentences has fallen dramatically over the past decade, Dumanis, a supporter of the death penalty and the November initiative that aims to expedite the process, said her approach has not changed since she took office in 2003.

"Each case present its own unique facts," she said. "We're not backing away in any shape or form."

Though no one in California has been executed in more than a decade because of legal challenges to the lethal injection cocktail, other counties continue to pursue death sentences at some of the highest rates in the country.

Since 2011, almost 85 % of death sentences in the state - 66 new death row inmates - have come from 5 neighboring counties in Southern California. Los Angeles, Riverside, Orange, Kern and San Bernardino counties represent about 48 % of the state population and 49 % of homicides during that time.

Critics say the geographic disparity in sentencing is another consequence of the arbitrariness of the death penalty, which is susceptible to the impulses of local prosecutors who decide when to pursue capital punishment.

Ana Zamora, a criminal justice policy director at the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California who is managing the campaign against the death penalty speed-up measure, compared it to research that has found nonwhite defendants are more likely to receive death sentences, particularly if their victim is white.

"It's very concerning that your likelihood of being sentenced to death in California has everything to do with the color of your skin and the county that you committed your crime in," she said. "It's unfair."

But supporters of capital punishment counter that local control is a strength, not a weakness, of the system.

"Criminal justice policy should as much as possible reflect the community, because it's a personal thing," Riverside County District Attorney Michael Hestrin said. "If they don't have a say in how justice is carried out, then they begin to lose faith."

The country as a whole is seeing patterns similar to those in California as support for the death penalty declines among the public and the legal community.

A Gallup poll last October found 61 % of Americans in support of the death penalty and 37 % opposed, the closest responses have been on that question in 43 years. In 2015, there were 49 death sentences nationwide, the lowest number since the U.S. Supreme Court required states to overhaul their sentencing statutes in 1972 and down from a record of 315 in 1996. The number is projected to be even fewer this year.

With 20 states already having abolished the death penalty, those verdicts are also coming from fewer places. Only 16 counties in the entire country imposed 5 or more death sentences between 2010 and 2015, according to a recent report by the Fair Punishment Project at Harvard Law School. 5 of those were Los Angeles, Riverside, Orange, Kern and San Bernardino.

"It could be that they're out of step with America," said Rob Smith, a senior research fellow at Harvard Law School who directs the Fair Punishment Project. He compared Southern California to a "new Deep South" for the death penalty, as even many conservative states hit the brakes on capital punishment.

In 2015, Riverside County imposed 8 death sentences, while Los Angeles County imposed 3 - more than the entire state of Texas. Juries in Georgia have not sentenced anyone to die since June 2014, though executions are being carried out at a record clip.

In 2015, Los Angeles County imposed more death sentences than the entire state of Texas.

"It suggests that the death penalty is an excessive punishment," he said. "If it were serving a purpose, it would be used more regularly."

Many California prosecutors do seem more cautious now about pursuing the death penalty. Since 2011, the 9 counties of the San Francisco Bay Area have collectively sent only 3 people to death row. That's down from 12 in the prior 5 years.

Santa Clara County District Attorney Michael Rosen said that, since taking office in 2011, he has only looked closely at capital punishment in 10 homicide cases with aggravating factors. He has sought the death penalty in 2, involving the kidnapping and murder of a 15-year-old girl on her way to school and the rape and killing of a baby. Both trials are still pending.

"Matters of race and class play a significant in who is arrested, who is prosecuted, who is punished and for how long," Rosen said. "It gives me pause in being too cavalier about applying the death penalty and encourages humility and self-restraint."

Deciding when a crime crosses that line can be an exhaustive procedure - involving presentations from senior prosecutors on how strong their case is, discussions with the family about their wishes and even hearing arguments from the defense on why a death sentence is not warranted - before Rosen ultimately makes the final decision. Other district attorneys described a similar process.

"Seeking the death penalty is not just an academic exercise," Rosen said. "I want to be able to explain my decision to seek death or not to seek death in a way that people in my county will understand."

Prosecutors often talk about their work as a reflection of the will of the community - and the geographic disparity of sentencing loosely tracks public opinion in California. 7 of the 9 Bay Area counties were among the minority to support an unsuccessful 2012 initiative to abolish the death penalty, while in 4 of the 5 Southern California counties with the highest number of death sentences, more than 60 % of voters rejected the measure.

But those connections only extend so far. Los Angeles County approved the 2012 initiative with nearly 55 % of the vote; since then, it has sent 18 more inmates to death row. San Diego County rejected the measure by nearly same the margin.

"Criminal justice policy should as much as possible reflect the community, because it's a personal thing."----Riverside County District Attorney Michael Hestrin

The disconnect fuels criticisms that the California death penalty is too reliant on the personalities of individual district attorneys, who are elected and face political ramifications for their decisions. It also inspires suggestions on how capital punishment might be improved: leave the decision up to the state attorney general, rather than county prosecutors, for a more uniform approach, or reduce the aggravating factors that can be used to seek the death penalty, a list of dozens that includes killing a police officer or committing murder from a motor vehicle.

Steven L. Harmon, public defender for Riverside County, attributed its status as a state and national leader in death penalty sentencing to a history of abuse by prosecutors. Since 2011, Riverside juries have imposed 24 sentences, 2 fewer than Los Angeles, which has four times the population and seven times as many murders.

"The people in Riverside are not death-hungry," Harmon said. "But if other jurors in other counties were given all of the chances that Riverside County jurors were given...I think the numbers would be higher as well."

Even that may be changing. So far this year, Riverside has sent only 1 inmate to death row.

Hestrin, the new district attorney, said he is "a little more restrictive" when it comes to the death penalty than his predecessors. Though he supports the November initiative to expedite executions, he also believes they should be rare, "both because of what's right and also because of the cost."

When he took over in 2015, Hestrin conducted a standard review of the office's 22 pending death penalty cases and chose not to continue with seven of them. During his 1st year, he said, he instituted changes to their deliberative process, like inviting the defense attorneys to make a presentation before bringing charges, and chose to seek death in only 4 of 11 cases they considered.

It reflects perhaps a conventional wisdom mounting in the legal community after decades of battle over capital punishment. Hestrin personally tried 7 cases in his career, which he called "excruciating for the victim's families and everyone involved."

"I understand the difficulties of trying these cases, both legally and personally. It is a very trying thing," he said. "You're going to come face-to-face with the defendant's humanity."

(source: sacbee.com)

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California bishops support death penalty repeal, prison rehabilitation ballot propositions

California's bishops recommend 2 yes votes and a no vote on 3 of the 18 California propositions on the Nov. 8 ballot. They have taken no official position on the remaining propositions but offer analysis at www.cacatholic.org/take-action/election-2016.

Proposition 62: Repeal of the Death Penalty

Proposes a repeal of the state death penalty and replaces the maximum punishment for murder with life in prison without the possibility of parole.

*California bishops support Prop. 62 (vote YES): "All life is sacred - innocent or flawed - just as Jesus Christ taught us and demonstrated repeatedly throughout His ministry."

Proposition 66: Death Penalty Procedures Initiative

Proposes amending state law in an attempt to speed up the judicial review of death penalty cases.

*California bishops oppose Prop. 66 (vote NO): "The search for a fair and humane execution process and protocol has failed for decades.Any rush to streamline that process will inevitably result in the execution of more innocent people."

Proposition 57: Public Safety and Rehabilitation Act

Proposes parole consideration for nonviolent felons. Authorizes sentence credits for rehabilitation, good behavior, and education. Juvenile court judge, not prosecutors, will decide whether juvenile will be prosecuted as adult.

*California bishops support Prop. 57 (vote YES): "A Catholic approach leads us to encourage models of restorative justice that seek to address crime in terms of the harm done to victims and communities, not simply as a violation of law."

(source: Catholic San Francisco)

USA:

Closed hearing in Charleston church shooting continues

A closed hearing on suppressing evidence in Dylann Roof's federal trial in the Charleston church shootings is resuming.

Roof's defense attorneys want some evidence kept out of his November trial stemming from the fatal shootings of nine black parishioners at Emanuel AME Church in June of last year.

U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel earlier overruled objections from media attorneys opposed to closing the hearing saying keeping it open could compromise Roof's right to a fair trial. That hearing continues Tuesday.

The 22-year-old Roof faces hate crimes and other federal charges in the death-penalty case. Preliminary jury screening begins next week in the case.

The judge has said 3,000 jurors will be summoned to the federal courthouse in downtown Charleston.

(source: Associated Press)

IRAN:

"Hands Off Cain" urges Italy to raise the issue of death penalty in Iran at UN Human Rights Council in Geneva

In an open letter to Italian Foreign Minister on September 14, the "Hands Off Cain" community has asked Paolo Gentiloni to raise the issue of death penalty in Iran during the current session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.

According to "Hands Off Cain", following Italy's decision to strengthen its political and economic ties with Iran and during the days when Mohammad Javad Larijani, Secretary General of the Iranian regime's Human Rights Council, is at the top of a delegation staying in Rome to participate in a seminar on comparing criminal justice systems, it is essential that Italy, as a leading country in fight against the death penalty, show a powerful figure and put international pressure on Iran to end the death penalty.

The "Hands Off Cain" community continues: "It is quite possible in Iran to be sent to the gallows for blasphemy, apostasy, non-violent crimes or for totally political reasons."

In their letter, the "Hands Off Cain" community asks the Italian Foreign Minister to boost the pressures on the Iranian regime and to discuss the sharp deterioration of human rights violations and the use of mass executions by the Iranian regime during the current session of the UN Human Rights Council which is underway in Geneva.

(source: NCR-Iran)

KENYA:

Ol Kalou residents want defilers, drug traffickers handed death sentences

Nyandarua residents have proposed that defilement be made a capital offense punishable by death.

They also want death penalty resulting from treason, robbery with violence, attempted robbery with violence, administering of oath purported to bind a person to commit a capital offence be abolished.

Residents spoke during a public debate on capital offences and punishment.

The debate was convened by the Power of Mercy Advisory Committee at the ACK hall in Ol Kalou on Friday.

Residents said defilement and rape tops the list of crimes in Nyandarua county.

"Defilement of minors and raping people living with disability has become an issue of concern in Nyandarua. The culprits need to be killed for us to be safe," resident Jackline Apeta said.

Githunguri assistant chief Pascal Gathima said defiling minors is equivalent to killing the nation's future.

(source: the-star.co.ke)

PHILIPPINES:

Death penalty call for accused Australian child sex predator Peter Scully in Philippines

Prosecutors in the Philippines have revealed they will call for the death penalty to be re-introduced in the case of alleged Australian child sex predator and 'dark web' mastermind Peter Scully.

Chief prosecutor Jaime Umpa told Fairfax Media that the 52 year-old Scully's deeds were the most shocking cases of child abuse and trafficking officials had seen.

Prosecutors allege that Scully directed a video involving torture and horrific injuries to an 18-month-old baby and participated in many debased acts against children. Prosecutors said he was for several years the mastermind of a worldwide syndicate selling extreme videos of child sex and torture.

On Tuesday, Scully was led handcuffed into a court in the southern Philippines to face the first 6 of 75 charges that could see him become the 1st person to received the death penalty in the Philippines in more than a decade. During the hearing he laughed and joked with his co-accused.

While naked and masked, 1 of Scully's 2 Philippine girlfriends is alleged to have inflicted the pain on the baby girl in a video called "Daisy's Destruction" that Scully is alleged to have sold to internet clients for up to $10,000.

In it, the baby girl is tied by her feet upside down while she is sexually assaulted.The girlfriend also allegedly bashed the baby,who survived and has been returned to the care of her parents, but remains deeply traumatized and becomes hysterical when memory of her abuse is triggered.

Prosecutors will allege another 11-year-old girl whose body was found in a shallow grave under a house rented by Scully was repeatedly sexually abused by him and then strangled.

8 other girl victims aged up to 13 at the time of the alleged offences are being held in witness protection while Scully pleads not guilty in court hearings that are expected to take years to be completed in the Philippines' log-jammed judicial system.

Scully has decided to contest the charges - putting his alleged victims through the ordeal of testifying in court - despite repeatedly telling Philippine media last year he was "remorseful" for what he had done to children.

Wearing a yellow prison T-shirt and runners, Scully looked tense and ignored questions from Fairfax Media as he was led into a special court set up in Cagayan de Oro's city hall on Tuesday.

Prosecutors allege that Scully was the white male person, whose face was pixilated or hidden, captured in videos forcing children to commit depraved acts. Many of the investigators, journalists and officials who have watched the videos have been brought to tears.

"They were the most devastating thing I have ever seen," said Ruby Malanog, who is 1 of 2 lawyers prosecuting Scully.

"I cried when I was watching them ... in fact I feel like crying just now while talking about it," she said. "It was hard to believe what I was seeing ... that somebody could do those things to children."

On the eve of Tuesday's hearing Mr Umpa, the chief prosecutor of northern Mindanao region, called for the reintroduction of the death penalty in the Philippines so that Scully, a Melbourne businessman, could be executed.

"If I had my choice it would be death for Scully. I want it to happen," Mr Umpa told Fairfax Media in Cagayan de Oro, a city of 1 million people where Scully allegedly lured impoverished children from shopping malls.

"We have to send a strong message to others that if they come to the Philippines and torture and abuse our children in this way they will be investigated with the full force of the law and executed," he said.

Mr Umpa said unless the death penalty was reintroduced prosecutors would push in the first hearings for Scully to be given the maximum sentence of life imprisonment for human trafficking and 10 years for each of the5 sexual abuse charges, meaning Scully could be jailed for up to 100 years.

But under current Philippine procedures, he would be released after serving 30 years and then deported to Australia.

"We don't believe this is sufficient for these crimes that were committed," Mr Umpa said.

Scully showed no emotion and looked away when Fairfax Media told him about the call which came only days after tough-talking Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte reiterated that he wants the death penalty returned for "heinous" crimes, including rape and murder. The country abolished it in 2006 following fierce opposition from the Catholic church, the religion of 80 % of Filipinos.

Mr Duterte, who was swept into office at May elections pledging to wipe out crime, has overseen a bloody crackdown on illegal drug pushers that has left more than 3500 Filipinos dead. Scully, who arrived in the Philippines in 2011 after fleeing fraud and deception charges in Melbourne, has been portraying himself as victim while on remand in Cagayan de Oro City jail, telling his lawyers that he was sexually abused by a priest when he was growing up in Victoria.

He was arrested last year on human trafficking charges. Jail warden Ferdiand Pontillo told Fairfax Media that Scully complains about conditions in a chronically overcrowded facility, wanting to be pampered with luxury food and a mobile telephone so he can make international calls. "He wants the same conditions as there are in Australian jails but this is not Australia," he said.

Scully refused to comment to Fairfax Media at the jail built to accommodate 350 prisoners, but which now has 1840. Scully's sister , who lives in Australia, has complained to the jail about the conditions he is being held under.

The first 6 charges that Scully will face relate to the alleged abduction and sexual abuse of 2 teenage girls in Cagayan de Oro in September 2014.

Prosecutors will allege the girls were lured to a house on the promise of food by one of Scully's girlfriends where they were given alcohol before they were raped by Scully and forced to commit sex acts in front of cameras.

When the girls tried to escape Scully forced them to dig a grave under the house where they were told they would be buried, Ms Malanog, the prosecutor, told Fairfax Media before the hearing began. When the girls escaped after 5 days they ran terrified to their parent's home, Ms Malanog said.

Mr Umpa said Scully faces a further 69 charges filed by the Department of Justice in Manila that relate to his alleged business making videos for so-called "dark web" clients, a reference to websites where server information, including IP addresss are hidden.

A murder charge has been absorbed into a human trafficking charge. Scully's activities in the Philippines have been linked to Melbourne university student Matthew David Graham, who was sentenced to 15 years jail in the Victorian County Court in March this year.

A judge described Graham as being involved in a "twisted and evil life" in "the dark shadows of the cyber world".

(source: Sydney Morning Herald)

INDIA:

Supreme Court Judge Expresses Reservations about Sentencing Policy

Justice Ranjan Gogoi of the Supreme Court, in line to become Chief Justice of India in October 2018, has expressed serious reservations about the sentencing policy followed by judges.

"For the same offence, the sentence awarded could be 6 months or 6 years. It is all rule of thumb", he observed, while hearing the review petition of B.A. Umesh, a death-row convict, who was sentenced for the offence of rape and murder.

Umesh's death sentence was confirmed and his review petition dismissed by the Supreme Court in 2011. His mercy petition was rejected by the president on May 12, 2013. Subsequently, his plea for open court hearing of his review petition was granted by the Supreme Court. Currently lodged in Belgaum Central Prison, Karnataka, he has already completed nearly 17 years in prison.

On Monday, the counsel for the registrar general of the Karnataka high court, Anitha Shenoy, submitted before the bench headed by Justice Gogoi, and also comprising Justices Prafulla C. Pant and A.M. Khanwilkar, that Umesh deserved no mercy because he was convicted on the basis of unimpeachable evidence, and as many as 8 judges, including the trial court judge, have found his offence the 'rarest of rare'.

After the trial court verdict went against Umesh, 2 high court judges differed over his sentence, while agreeing that his offence was rarest of rare. The judge who was reluctant to impose the death sentence on him, reasoned that life sentence would be harsher than death.

The case was then decided by the 3rd judge, who confirmed his death sentence. Subsequently, 2 Supreme Court judges also confirmed his death sentence. The same 2 judges also rejected his review petition in their chambers.

Justice Gogoi told the counsel that the offences of rape and murder do occur and, therefore, they cannot constitute rarest of rare offences, simply because they are committed by the same accused in succession. 'Would we need something more to make the offence a rarest of rare offence?', he asked the counsel.

Justice Gogoi then asked the counsel to respond to the 2 mitigating circumstances in Umesh's favour: he was just 29 at the time of commission of the offence, and he spared the life of the 7-year old boy of the deceased, who was a witness to the crime.

Put in this context, Justice Gogoi expressed his dissatisfaction with the court's sentencing policy, and asked the counsel to examine the sentencing policy followed in other countries. "I suggest this not for the purposes of deciding this case, but may be one can write an article. Perhaps other countries too face the same problem like us. How do you interpret the words "may extend to" and "shall not be less than" used while prescribing the sentence for some offences?," he asked.

When the counsel said 29 years cannot be construed as a young age, and therefore, a mitigating factor, Justice Gogoi responded by saying being young cannot be equated with the age of a juvenile either.

While the counsel laid stress on Umesh's incapacity for reform because of his repetitive offences, Justice Gogoi appeared to favour the idea proposed by a previous bench that mitigating circumstances in favour of the convict must be nil, before the rarest of rare test is applied.

While the bench has reserved its verdict in this case, Justice Gogoi's observations on sentencing policy assume significance, especially in the context of the recent trend among Supreme Court judges to quantify the life sentence as an alternative to the death sentence.

As Umesh has already completed about 17 years imprisonment, he will be eligible for remission if Justice Gogoi's bench merely confirms his life sentence, and sets aside his death sentence. In order to keep him in prison for a few more years, the bench has to quantify his life sentence, and declare it beyond the remission powers of the state government. While life sentence means the entire remaining life of the convict, the quantification will apply to the period when the state government cannot exercise its remission powers, even after the statutory period of 14 years.

The trend, which was first started in the Swami Shraddhananda case in 2008, by a 3-Judge bench, was confirmed by a 5-Judge Constitution bench in Sriharan @Murugan last year.

On September 16, another 3-judge bench found this sentencing policy innovative, and followed it while altering the death sentence of a convict, sentenced for rape and murder of a child, to imprisonment for 25 years without remission.

Justice Gogoi bench's judgment in Umesh's case is expected to carry this debate on quantifying the life sentence - as an alternative to the death penalty - further.

(source: thewire.in)

********************

Court cites reasons for death penalty in acid attack case

"A strong message needs to be sent to the miscreants of such crimes against women that such crimes shall not be tolerated," recorded a special women’s court last week, after it awarded the death penalty to the convict in a May 2013 acid attack case.

"This crime is 1st of its kind in India," Judge Anju S Shende, said on her last day at the City Civil and Sessions Court. "If the rising trend towards such crime is not checked at its inception, it will have monstrous effects on society, and soon it will spread widely." In a landmark verdict, the court, on September 6, convicted 26-year-old Ankur Lal Panwar for throwing acid on Preeti Rathi on May 2, 2013, at Bandra Terminus, with the intention of causing burns and committing murder. Ms Rathi, who hailed from Delhi and had arrived in Mumbai to begin her career as a nurse, died of her injuries on June 1, 2013. Her post mortem report recorded multiple organ failure due to the corrosion caused by the acid.

In a 150-page order, the court said, "Without a shadow of doubt, this (crime) falls in the category of the rarest of the rare case. The incident is extremely gruesome, revolting, and horrifying. This court is not in the knowledge of any case in which a crime of this nature has been committed and the accused is sentenced, till date. Therefore, deterrent punishment is the need of the hour. Being fully aware of the nature of the death penalty, the court has reached the conclusion to award the death sentence to the accused."

Drawing a parallel with rape, the court said, "The height of brutality in acid attacks was more than those in cases of rape. Rape destroys the soul of the victim. But she can be kept in isolation, without disclosing her identity, and can be rehabilitated. But for an acid (attack) victim, she has to move around with a destroyed body." The court then ordered, "The accused is to be hanged by neck, till he is dead, subject to the confirmation of the Bombay High Court."

While organisations working for acid attack victims are cheering the judgment, women s rights lawyers say that the death penalty does not necessarily act as a deterrent.

Senior counsel Gayatri Singh, who had represented an acid attack victim at Bombay High Court, said, "The death penalty doesn't help at all. This is like an eye for an eye; how would it help in solving our societal problems. I am not saying that wrong was not done to the woman, but instead of taking a retributive approach, you should have a more rehabilitative approach. You need to punish the person, but death penalty is not a solution."

Flavia Agnes, a women's rights lawyer, told The Hindu , "Time and again it has been proved that the death penalty does not act as deterrent. It is like private vengeance. So many countries have eliminated the death penalty, and we just keep on increasing its ambit. In this case, the woman died, but in the Shakti Mills rape case, they gave the death penalty. That's even more terrible." On the other side, a volunteer who works with acid attack victims told The Hindu on condition of anonymity, "It's important to look from the victim's point of view. When you do that you realise that death penalty is important. Acid attack victims undergo grievous hurt, and that does not go away by mere counselling. The convict will be awarded the death penalty only after confirmation from the High Court, so let's wait until then. But I can tell you that acid attack victims will be delighted if capital punishment is confirmed."

(source: The Hindu)

SEPTEMBER 19, 2016:

PENNSYLVANIA:

Prosecutors won't learn why Easton murder suspect granted new lawyers----Told he could face death penalty, Easton homicide defendant has outbursts in court Prosecutors won't learn why Easton murder defendant Jeffrey S. Knoble Jr. was granted new lawyers - at least for now.

In a 2 sentence order Monday, Northampton County Judge Emil Giordano took no action on a petition in which the prosecution was seeking to know why Knoble's public defenders were relieved this month.

Giordano's order reserved a decision, and said prosecutors can renew their request in the future "should it be deemed necessary."

At issue is a close-door meeting Sept. 2 that Giordano held with Chief Public Defender Robert Eyer, in which Eyer detailed the reasons why his relationship with his client had broken down. Giordano granted the meeting after Eyer worried he would violate attorney-client privilege if he divulged the information to the prosecution.

Knoble, 26, of Riegelsville faces the death penalty if convicted of murdering a man last year in a downtown Easton hotel room, and he has proven a disruptive presence in court, with repeated outbursts that included mocking the victim's family.

Prosecutors were excluded from Eyer's meeting with Giordano, and the judge ordered the transcript sealed. But District Attorney John Morganelli complained, saying he fears the defendant is playing games with the court and seeking to have the case unnecessarily delayed. Morganelli said his side needs to know what Eyer cited, in case the defendant adopts similar tactics with his new defense team.

Giordano's order falls in line with a compromise suggested by Knoble's new attorney, Gavin Holihan, at a hearing Sept. 12. Holihan said prosecutors should take up their request only if, as they predict, Knoble and his new lawyers clash.

On Monday, Morganelli said he was satisfied with that suggestion.

"The judge issued an order based on that, which is fine," Morganelli said.

Knoble is charged in the early March 11, 2015, death of 32-year-old Andrew "Beep" White, who was shot in the back of the head at the former Quality Inn on South Third Street. Authorities call White a good Samaritan who rented a room for Knoble that night because he had no place to stay, then was killed for his kindness.

Knoble was scheduled to face trial this month, but given his changing defense team, Giordano delayed the case until January.

(source: The Morning Call)

OHIO:

Death penalty trial begins in case of 'tortured' girl

A 34-year-old man facing the death penalty in the killing of his 2-year-old daughter who officials say was starved and tortured has rejected another plea offer and will stand trial.

Jury selection is underway in Hamilton County Common Pleas Court in the trial of Glen Bates.

Bates and his girlfriend, Andrea Bradley, are charged with aggravated murder in the 2015 death of their daughter, Glenara. Both have turned down plea deals that would have removed the option of death sentences. Bradley's case is being handled separately. In June, Bates turned down another plea deal.

If Bates had pleaded guilty Monday, he would have faced at least 15 years to life in prison. On Monday, before prospective jurors were brought into the courtroom, Judge Megan Shanahan ensured that Bates understood the possible consequences.

"You understand, Mr. Bates - so the record is clear - you are fully aware of the fact that you are facing the death penalty?" Shanahan asked.

"Yeah," Bates responded, nodding.

Officials have said Glenara likely had gone days without food or water before she died. It was Bradley who on March 29, 2015 brought her cold and limp body to Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center.

They were living in a rented house in East Walnut Hills with Glenara and Bradley's 5 other children.

Hamilton County's coroner has said Glenara had no muscle mass, and was "literally skin over bones."

At a hearing in June, prosecutors described the extent of her injuries. She had bite marks on her arm and chest. Most or all of Glenara's upper teeth were missing and likely had been knocked out. There was a 1-inch burn mark on her left thumb. The left side of her face and eye were swollen, and there was bruising.

She had numerous injuries on her arms, legs and abdomen from being whipped with a belt. Her right foot was swollen. She had "lesion scabs" on her buttocks. A gash in her forehead had been sutured by Bradley, who told police she had given the girl Tylenol for the pain.

In an interview with police, Bates said Glenara slept in a bathroom. Sometimes when the family went out, he said Glenara would be left behind "in a bathroom tub with a can of food."

Bates' attorneys have previously said he doesn’t believe he is responsible for Glenara's death.

Bates told a detective in an interview the same day Glenara was taken to the hospital that he bit her "like a dog." "We'd be playing, like, doggie gonna get ya...and I'll shake her. I probably bit her too hard," he said in the interview. "It ain't like she crying when I'm doing it. She playing. It's a game, you feel me?"

Bradley, however, told police that the girl's skin was ripped "off her stomach into (Bates') mouth," prosecutors said.

Also during that interview, Bates said he held Glenara upside down - from the top of a doorway, according to prosecutors - when she fell on the top of her head.

"I was holding her up, playing with her, she slipped... right out of my hands," he said. "I was like, damn."

(source: cincinnati.com)

*****************

Father accused of 'torturing' 2-year-old Glenara Bates to death goes on trial

The county prosecutor and coroner said Glenara Bates' death was one of the worst cases of abuse and neglect they had ever seen.

The father accused of torturing the 2-year-old to death went on trial for aggravated murder Monday and could get the death penalty if convicted.

Glen Bates, 34, dropped Glenara on her head and bit off her skin before the child died in 2015, prosecutors say. Glenara's mother, Andrea Bradley, is also charged with aggravated murder and will be tried separately.

Glenara suffered numerous broken bones and abrasions and weighed only 13 pounds when she died on March 29, coroner Lakshmi Kode Sammarco said.

She slept in a bathtub filled with feces.

Both parents starved and abused the child over several weeks, prosecutors said.

After Glenara's death, Deters said the 2-year-old was "tortured" to death by her parents and accused Job & Family Services of "dropping the ball" in the case by taking the child out of foster care and giving her back to her mother.

The JFS acknowledged that the case was mishandled, and 2 caseworkers resigned.

Glenara's grandmother sued JFS, Director Moira Weir and the child's caseworkers, as well as county commissioners.

Bates turned down a plea deal Monday before the trial began. Bradley could also face the death penalty in Glenara's gruesome death.

4 months before she died, Glenara was hospitalized with malnutrition as her mother dealt with depression and bipolar disorder.

JFS gave Glenara back to Bradley a few weeks before she died, records show.

Juvenile Court records obtained by WCPO show social workers removed some of Bradley's 7 children in 2010 because she knowingly "allowed drug trafficking" in her home.

Documents also showed one of Bradley's children suffered bruises to the neck, eye, back and legs in 2012.

But in late 2013, after Bradley completed drug treatment and parenting education, JFS asked juvenile court to give Bradley's children back to her.

"The push to put babies back into these homes is so tragic," Deters said at the time. "It's just got to stop. They just got to recognize there are some people who should just not have kids."

Bradley's attorney, William Welsh, blamed Glen Bates for Glenara's death, saying he abused, manipulated and controlled the girl's mother.

In response, Bates' attorney, Norman Aubin, pointed to Bradley's previous history with JFS.

"It's interesting to note [Andrea Bradley] also has a previous conviction for child endangering and her children were taken away by JFS. Those are just the facts," Aubin said.

(source: WCPO news)

UTAH:

Catholic Diocese pushes repeal of death penalty

The Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City is urging its followers to push the Utah State Legislature to repeal the death penalty.

"Pope Francis has called all Catholics to promote the culture of life by specifically working to end the use of the death penalty," the diocese said in an email to followers on Monday.

In the email, the diocese revealed that legislation was being planned for the 2017 session repealing the death penalty in Utah. It did not say who would be sponsoring the bill.

Last year, a measure to end capital punishment in Utah, sponsored by Sen. Steve Urquhart, R-St. George, failed to advance in the final days of the legislative session. Urquhart recently resigned from office because of a change in employment.

(source: Fox News)

CALIFORNIA:

Families Sue Over Baseball Bat Killings

Former minor league shortstop Brandon Willie Martin faces the death penalty for beating his father, uncle and another man to death with his personalized baseball bat. Now, children of 2 of the dead men are suing local officials and 2 home security companies for letting it happen.

The 6 plaintiffs accuse Riverside County and the city of Corona of taking the clearly disturbed Martin into custody on a 3-day mental health hold but then releasing him after 2 days without any treatment.

They accuse ADT Security Services and contractor Home Defender Inc. of not sending help upon hearing the sounds of the attack over the telephone during a call from their installer, who was the third man killed.

Spokesmen for the county, the city and ADT all declined to comment on the state court lawsuit, filed last week. Representatives from Home Defender could not be reached late Friday.

Ricardo Echeverria of Shernoff Bidart Echeverria, one of the plaintiffs' attorneys, did not respond to a request to comment.

According to the lawsuit and news accounts of the murders, Brandon Martin attacked his father, Michael Martin, uncle Ricky Andersen and ADT installer Barry Swanson on Sept. 17, 2015, after coming home from the county mental health facility.

"Immediately upon arriving at the home, Brandon smashed his wheelchair-bound father's head in with a baseball bat, killing him instantly," the plaintiffs say in their lawsuit. He next killed Swanson and mortally wounded Andersen when each tried to intervene. Police captured Martin the next day.

The Riverside district attorney's office has charged him with three murders, evading police, resisting arrest and injuring a police dog during his capture. Prosecutors plan to seek the death penalty and Martin has pleaded not guilty to the charges, according to news accounts.

His troubles had begun long before, according those accounts and the lawsuit.

A star player in high school, Brandon Martin was the 38th overall draft pick in 2011 when he was 17. Signed for an $860,000 bonus, according to a newspaper, he joined a Tampa Bay Devil Rays minor league team. In his 1st season, he led the team in runs and RBIs.

The plaintiffs say that over the next few years, Martin began to party and use drugs and alcohol heavily. During the 2013 season, he failed a drug test and "became increasingly rude and disrespectful." After a fight with a coach at the start of the 2014 season, the team released him to seek treatment.

He moved back home with his parents, even though his relationship with them had soured. He "began displaying irrational hatred and anger towards his African-American father" and "often made racially-charged comments" to him, the victims' children say.

One day, he punched his father in the face several times. Police arrived but did not arrest Martin out of concern for his baseball career, according to the lawsuit.

Then, on Sept. 13, he tried to choke his mother. 2 days later, he held scissors to her neck. Police were called again and took him away for a 72-hour mental health evaluation.

But the county mental health facility was overcrowded, and Martin spent most of the next 2 days in its waiting room. He was released early and given a bus pass that he used to return home where he committed the murders, the lawsuit says.

"Brandon had never been given a room ... and did not receive treatment or evaluations from Riverside Mental Health, as they were required to do" under the California Welfare and Institutions Code Section, the plaintiffs claim.

The 6 adult children - Andersen and Swanson each left 2 sons and a daughter - charge the city and county with negligence per se and negligent supervision for the alleged violations of statutory duties. If the laws had been followed, "Brandon Martin, who posed a danger to others, would not have been released to the unsuspecting public and allowed to murder Michael Martin, Barry Swanson and Ricky Andersen," the lawsuit contends. "These statutes were enacted to protect the public from the kind of harm Brandon Martin inflicted on the decedents."

In addition, the plaintiffs accuse ADT and Home Defender of negligence. Martin's parents had the rushed to have a security system installed as soon as they learned their son would be released from the hospital. Swanson was on the phone with his office doing the installation when Martin killed him.

"The call was recorded, and the attack can be heard. Despite being an alarm and security company and knowing the attack was ongoing, neither ADT LLC nor Horne Defender, Inc. alerted authorities," the lawsuit states.

"By holding themselves out as experts in the security and home defense industry and by promising to notify authorities once notice of a break in or attack is received, ADT, LLC [and] Home Defender, Inc. assumed and owed a duty to decedents and plaintiffs to notify authorities of the attack," the plaintiffs say.

Their lawsuit seeks general and special damages but does not specify an amount.

(source: Courthouse News)

USA:

Curt Schilling's solution for terrorism: Executions without trial

The New York City bombing and other incidents over the weekend prompted Curt Schilling, the former Major League Baseball pitcher whose outspokenness led to his dismissal by ESPN, to take to Facebook to offer his solution to terror: suspend immigration and subject people accused of terrorism to execution without benefit of a trial.

"You must, immediately, suspend immigration. You must, immediately, deploy national guard to points of entry and border crossings," he wrote. "You must immediately stop ALL foreign nationals from entering this country via air."

Schilling, who found himself in trouble with his former employer for sharing memes and strong opinions on social media, advocates new rules for those seeking to move to the U.S.:

"Unless an immigrant can PROVE beyond a shadow of a doubt no links with terrorism, they cannot come here. You must immediately detain ANY and ALL illegal aliens linked to terrorism or terrorists, and ANY and ALL illegal aliens who have a felony on their record. You immediately return these illegals to their 'home country.'"

And, in addition to supporting the building of "a version of the Berlin Wall on our southern border," he wants to see stern punishment for offenders.

"Anyone doing ANYTHING resembling the events of yesterday? You do not get your 'rights' under the law, you become an enemy combatant. Which means 'No alien unlawful enemy combatant subject to trial by military commission under this chapter may invoke the Geneva Conventions as a source of rights.' The defendant does not have the right to file Habeas Corpus petitions and can receive the death penalty.

Schilling was fired by ESPN in April for what the network deemed to be "unacceptable conduct" after a series of incidents. He was taken off ESPN's baseball coverage in September 2015 after he shared a meme that compared extremism in today's Muslim world to Nazi Germany in 1940.

(source: Washington Post)

PAKISTAN:

Supreme Court delays hanging of mentally-ill man

Supreme Court on Monday delayed for 1 week the execution of a man who had been declared insane by government doctors, after rights groups urged the government to halt the hanging.

"A mentally ill prisoner who was due to be hanged Tuesday morning has received a seven-day stay from the Supreme Court of Pakistan," Justice Project Pakistan, an independent rights group, said in a statement.

Imdad Ali had been scheduled to die at 5:30 a.m. on Tuesday in a prison in the city of Vehari despite having been diagnosed with schizophrenia, it said.

"His execution was stayed pending a hearing on 27 September, but he could still be executed as early as next week," it said.

Human Rights Watch also urged Pakistan on Monday to halt the hanging, saying the execution would violate its international legal obligations.

Ali, who is aged around 50, was sentenced to death for the murder of a religious cleric in 2002. HRW opposes the death penalty in all circumstances, its country representative Saroop Ijaz told AFP.

"But in this case it also violates Pakistan's international legal obligations," Ijaz said, referring to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities which Islamabad ratified in 2011.

"Imdad (Ali) has no insight into his punishment or condition or the idea of penalty. Executing someone who does not understand the punishment he or she is being awarded is simply harrowing and serves no criminal justice aim."

(source: The News)

CHINA:

Imprisoned engineer invents his way off death row

Li Hongtao's love for tinkering landed him in prison.

It also aided in his jailbreaks. Facing a death sentence in Yunnan Province for fraud and several other offenses, Li leaned on his ingenuity to escape from police custody, twice.

But it was the last-minute success of an electric motor he developed behind bars that earned him a death row pardon in 1993 - and later a job as a police consultant.

A Kunming native and college educated engineer, Li was apprehended by police in 1992 on 180,000 yuan ($27,000) in forgery charges.

But while his arresting officers were having dinner that night, he gave them the slip. Li then stole a car, which he ditched for a squad car.

Police caught up with him, but didn't hold him long. He fled again by digging through a prison wall, then called police from the outside to rub it in.

He was caught again, but rather than make another escape attempt, he instead put in an unusual request.

The Zhejiang University graduate wanted permission to design and develop a brushless DC motor. The warden agreed.

Miraculously, the day before his death penalty - his invention worked. The success won Li a stay of execution.

In 1995, the motor earned Li awards, a patent and most importantly - a reduced sentence.

Before his release in 2009, Li helped the prison develop their surveillance system to prevent future jailbreaks.

(source: Global Times)

IRAN:

Iran official defends execution and torture

The Secretary General of Iran's "human rights" council has attempted to hit back at comments by the UN regarding "fundamental problems" in regime's judicial process, by defending the execution of prisoners including juveniles.

Mohammad Javad Larijani wrote an open letter to the UN Commissioner, dated September 16, in which he tried to justify the executions

He wrote: "It should be pointed out that the commitment to abolish the death penalty has not been accepted by the international community as a hard or soft commitment and there is no consensus in this regard."

He continued: "Besides, the international covenant on civil and political rights does not completely rule out the death penalty. Rather, it even allows the member states to use it under certain conditions."

Now, the UN's opposition to the death penalty should be applied fairly, across all countries that use it, so in that - and that alone - Larijani made a good point. However, Iran currently has the highest execution rate per capita in the world.

He goes on to claim that the death penalty is "not a human rights issue", despite the right to life and the right to freedom from torture being enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Zeyd Ra'ad Al Hussein, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, addressed the 33rd session of UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, on September 13th.

He said: "Regarding the Islamic Republic, my office has not been allowed to have any kind of access from 2003 ... Our proposal to start technical talks about the death penalty has been, like other cooperation proposals, systematically ignored. This is unfortunate, especially considering the ongoing reports we receive on fundamental problems with the judicial administration of criminal justice, on the execution of so many people including juveniles, on prosecuting and discrimination against religious and ethnic minorities, on harsh restrictions on human rights defenders, lawyers, journalists and on discrimination against women both in law and in practice."

He criticized the number of executions in Iran under the rule of the Mullahs while expressing concerns over the ongoing execution of juveniles.

Ra'ad Al Hussein said: "Some countries may shut down UN (human rights) offices or refuse to cooperate with the international inspectors, but they should know that they can never close our eyes to the truth. We keep trying our best so that our reports on these countries remain accurate."

(source: iranfocus.com)

**************

A Report about the Condition of 51 Sunni Prisoners in Rajai Shahr Prison

After the "Black Monday" when 37 Sunni prisoner under high security conditions were transferred to solitary confinements and the execution of at least 20 of them, currently 51 Sunni prisoners with different sentences including death row ones in ward number 7 are serving under stress and daily fear.

According to the report of Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA), currently 51 Sunni prisoners are being kept in hall number 21 of ward number 7 of Rajaei Shahr prison.

Of these 51 prisoners, 11 are under death-row and the supreme court is processing the sentences of 7 of them.

5 prisoners with long term sentences from 10 to 15 years and 35 with medium term sentences, from 5 to 10 years are being held in this ward as well.

Based on HRANA's reporters' findings, 5 prisoners are suffering from serious illnesses, including heart disease, despite the fact that medical facilities and access to medicine and proper treatment is limited.

Need to be mentioned on Black Monday of Rajaei Shahr prison, after unprecedented raid of black uniformed prison guards, 37 death row prisoners of ward number 10 were transferred to solitary confinements under top security condition with handcuffs, shackles and blindfolded. According to judiciary, the sentences of at least 20 of them were executed. However, some others unofficial sources estimated that up to 26 prisoners were executed.

HRANA had reported that Farshid Naseri, Barzan Nasrollah Zadeh, Seyed Jamal Seyed Mousavi, Farzad shahnazari, and Taimoor Naderzadeh are 5 prisoners who had been transferred to hall number 7 from solitary confinements later.

Also in another report, HRANA published a video of the defenses of 4 prisoners before their execution.

Need to be mentioned that at least 11 Sunni prisoners in Rajaei Shahr are in danger of being executed. Among them, only 2 prisoners, including one minor were saved from mass executions. Due to recent unprecedented mass executions they are serving along with 49 other prisoners, including 9 with death sentences, in fear of being executed.

Harassment and threatening have not stopped inside the prison, and after the mass execution the families and prisoners were pushed to a nasty game, even though some of the family members have seen the corpses of their beloved ones, Behesht-e-Zahra (cemetery) authorities in response to their request for normal services stated to some of the families that the graves were empty and "these people were just transferred here and have not died that you are looking for their graves".

(source: Human Rights Activists News Agency)

NEW HAMPSHIRE:

Threat of death penalty will not stop drug dealers

Regarding the front-page article in about imposing the death penalty on individuals who sell what turns out to be lethal doses of heroin or related substances (Sunday Monitor front page, Sept. 11): I do not object to such a measure.

However, it will be an issue of justice, not an effective preventative. That is, the idea that someone would refrain from selling such substances out of fear of the death penalty, or any other sanction, is simply misguided.

Persons selling such substances are mostly addicts themselves, dealing/selling to sustain their addictive habit. To someone in the throes of such addiction, all potential consequences are subordinate to the compelling need to obtain the substance. That is the nature of the disease.

I cannot count the number of times, in my professional involvement with these issues, that the addicted individual has said, "I never would have believed I would ever (steal, neglect my kids, lie, inject substances, deal), but I ended up doing it."

Again, I am not saying it is wrong to impose such penalties for these serious crimes. I am saying that, to curb the current substance-misuse crises we face as a state, and a country, we will need a comprehensive program of prevention and treatment, costing us tremendously in treasure, time and effort. In the end, it will be worth the cost.

Mike Bradley

Hillsboro

(The writer is a master licensed alcohol and drug counselor.)

(source: Letter to the Editor, Concord Monitor)

CALIFORNIA:

Martinez: Death penalty jury breaks out in song

A capital murder case experienced a rare moment of levity Wednesday, arising from the dreariest of scenes.

Jurors in the trial for Darnell Washington - a jail escapee accused of murdering a retired Hercules teacher to steal her car - were forced to wait for 2 hours in the windowless hallways of the A.F. Bray courthouse Wednesday morning, as attorneys inside discussed a legal issue involving witness testimony.

In these situations, things can get awkward for jurors; they're all strangers, having been plucked randomly out of society and given this immense responsibility. Though they've been together since the trial started, July 25, they're forbidden from discussing the one thing they all have in common: the case.

But apparently these jurors have 1 other mutual interest: music.

As the waiting approached the 2-hour mark, a juror pulled out a smart phone and began playing a recording of Johnny Nash's #1 Billboard Hit, "I can see clearly now."

One began singing along, then 2, and within seconds a chorus of jurors had erupted in song. Of course, a courtroom bailiff picked that moment to poke his head through the door and tell them they'd been called back inside.

"I think we're starting to lose it," 1 juror joked on his way back in.

(source: East Bay Times)

OREGON:

Seaside toddler death-penalty trial could last 2 months

Clatsop County's 1st death penalty trial in 15 years starts Tuesday in Circuit Court.

Randy Lee Roden, 28, is on trial for allegedly murdering his girlfriend's 2-year-old daughter and abusing her 2 sons while they all lived together in a Seaside apartment. The gruesome scene discovered in December 2014 is described as among the worst child-abuse cases in the county.

The trial, in courtroom 300, will focus this week on jury selection. Prospective jurors will be screened in the courtroom in groups of 6 until the 12-person jury is selected, with 2 to 4 alternates. The pool of available jurors will be asked about their attitudes toward capital punishment and whether they think they can be impartial.

Judge Paula Brownhill decided to have the jurors questioned in groups, rather than individually, after her experience presiding over the county's last death penalty case.

In 2001, Anthony Scott Garner was found guilty and sentenced to life in prison for fatally stabbing a woman on a motorboat in the Warrenton mooring basin and setting the boat on fire to cover up the crime.

"We questioned jurors individually in 15-minute segments, and it took over a week to select 12 jurors," Brownhill said. "In the Roden case, we will bring jurors into the courtroom in groups of 6 rather than 1 at a time."

Evidence

The District Attorney's Office believes it has enough physical evidence and expert opinion to connect the crimes to Roden. The state will present evidence showing the 2-year-old, Evangelina Wing, and her brothers were tortured, burned, bitten and caged in the Seaside apartment their mother, Dorothy Wing, shared with Roden.

Evangelina Wing apparently died of battered child syndrome with blunt force trauma to her head. Blood spatter was found in almost every corner of the apartment, staining holiday decorations and the wall behind a Christmas tree.

Roden's defense is that he did not commit the crimes. His lawyer, Conor Huseby, is adamant that someone else is to blame, possibly the children's mother.

Dorothy Wing, 26, pleaded guilty in January to 1st-degree manslaughter and 2 counts of 1st-degree criminal mistreatment. She was sentenced to more than 15 years in prison, contingent on her truthfully testifying at Roden's trial.

"Mr. Roden's defense will be what it has always been; he simply did not commit the crimes the state has accused him of," Husby wrote in a court document.

Witnesses

Roden's trial could last up to 2 months. Trial days will be Tuesday through Friday, with occasional time off of those days if a session finishes early or the court has an emergency hearing in another case.

Multiple witnesses for the prosecution and defense will testify. Many are traveling from Georgia, where Roden grew up.

Witnesses for Roden include his close friends, sister, half brother and 6th- and 3rd-grade teachers. The defense also plans to call Janice Ophoven, a pediatric forensic pathologist, who claims the toddler likely died from complications of a flesh-eating infection, rather than from blunt-force trauma.

The prosecution will call 2 of Roden's ex-girlfriends, who can detail a pattern of violence against women and children.

One ex-girlfriend, who dated Roden from March to July 2014, will say he did not like children, he abused her children both physically and emotionally and her children were fearful of him. She will testify that Roden was very controlling with her and the children, threatened to move out and warned he would commit suicide in order to control her behavior, according to court documents.

Roden is serving an 8-year prison sentence for violating probation from a domestic violence conviction in 2013 involving his other ex-girlfriend. The woman is traveling from Tennessee to testify against Roden.

"(She) is a past girlfriend and prior crime victim of Mr. Roden and has abundant information about his character," Chief Deputy District Attorney Ron Brown wrote in a court document.

(source: The Daily Astorian)

EUROPEAN UNION/PHILIPPINES:

EU joins call for halt to killings in drug war

The European Union has joined the global call on the Philippine government to "put an end to the current wave of extrajudicial executions and killings" of drug suspects.

Alarmed at the rising death toll in President Duterte's brutal crackdown on drug syndicates, the EU Parliament directed its delegation in the Philippines and the embassies of 28 European countries in Manila to monitor rights abuses following his declaration on Sept. 3 of a "state of national emergency on account of lawlessness."

Mr. Duterte placed the entire country under a state of national emergency after a bomb exploded at a night market in his hometown, Davao City, on Sept 2, killing 15 people and injuring 69 others.

In an extraordinary intervention, the EU lawmakers passed a 5-page resolution expressing concern over the appalling number of drug suspects killed by police and vigilantes since Mr. Duterte launched a crackdown on illegal drugs upon taking office on June 30. More than 3,000 people have been killed in just over 2 months. Mr. Duterte has pledged to eradicate the drugs scourge in 3 to 6 months of his presidency.

The EU members represent the largest bloc of Western democracies, including Germany, France, Italy, Belgium, Luxembourg, Czech Republic, Sweden, Portugal and Finland.

The EU intervention aligned with a number of states (including the United States), the United Nations and international human rights watchdog organizations that have called on the Philippines to end the extrajudicial killings.

This growing concerted global demand to end the extrajudicial executions has put the Philippine government at risk of inviting international sanctions, including either diplomatic or economic, and isolation if it continued to defy or ignore the calls.

Without directly blaming the government, the EU lawmakers said they believed Mr. Duterte's incendiary public statements had encouraged mass murders involving drug traffickers and users.

"President Duterte repeatedly urged law enforcement agencies and the public to kill suspected drug traffickers who did not surrender as well as drug users," the EU resolution said.

"President Duterte publicly stated he would not pursue law enforcement officers and citizens who killed drug dealers and who resisted arrest," it added.

No to death penalty

According to wire services reports, the EU Parliament adopted the resolution dealing with extrajudicial killings in the Philippines based on the Partnership Cooperation Agreement signed by the European Union and the Philippines in 2014, to advance engagement on political, trade, security, environment and human rights issues.

The agreement commits the Philippines to uphold the rule of law, social democracy, as well as international human rights conventions.

The EU Parliament also emphasized that ending the extrajudicial killings of drug suspects was vital to the Philippines' holding the chairmanship of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) in 2017.

The lawmakers pointed out that "President Duterte has announced that during the Philippines' chairmanship, we (the government) will highlight Asean as a model of regionalism and global player, with the interest of the people at its core."

They also called on the Philippine Congress "to abstain from reintroducing the death penalty (which Mr. Duterte has endorsed) and from lowering the minimum age of criminal liability."

The EU Parliament said that based on "all empirical evidence, the death penalty does not reduce the drug delinquency and would destroy a great achievement of the Philippine justice system."

It directed its delegation in the Philippines to provide wide assistance to the Philippine government to implement measures in line with its commitment to international human rights obligations.

Lack of understanding

On another front, Mr. Duterte came under fire from the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights for speaking against and opposing human rights institutions and investigations.

Speaking at the 33rd session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva on Tuesday, High Commissioner Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein said, "The President of the Philippines" statements of scorn for international human rights display a striking lack of understanding of our human rights institutions and principles which keep societies safe."

Al Hussein pointed out that "fair and impartial rule of law is the foundation of public confidence and security" and "empowering police forces to shoot to kill any individual whom they claim to suspect of drug crimes, with or without evidence, undermines justice."

He emphasized, "The people of the Philippines have a right to judicial institutions that are impartial, and operate under due process guarantees; and they have a right to a police that serves justice. I strongly recommend the Philippines to extend an invitation to the special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions."

Al Hussein said that governments had accused human rights institutions of interfering in the affairs of sovereign nations.

"Are human rights exclusively a national issue? Governments have the responsibility to uphold their human rights obligations and to respect the standards. But the human rights of all people, in all countries, also require - unquestionably - our collective attention," he said.

"Human rights are universal, indivisible and interdependent. If states pick and choose which rights they will uphold, the entire structure is undermined," he said.

(source: opinion.inquirer.net)

SRI LANKA:

Pros And Cons Of The Death Penalty

The much anticipated judgement on Bharath Lakshman Premachandra murder case was delivered recently. Accordingly, 5 people including former MP Duminda

Silva were given the capital punishment. The issue of Death Penalty and life imprisonment has become a much discussed topic in the society at present. With the issue of child molestation and murder there was a outcry from the society to impose the capital punishment. However the death penalty is not implemented and the convicts are automatically given a life imprisonment.

Therefore there is a common belief in the society that these convicts are pardoned and released All this is centered around the imbalances and inequalities of our legal system.

The following are some of the comments made by intellectuals and civil society activisits regarding the pros and cons of imposing the death penalty in Sri Lanka.

****

Brito Fernando - Chairman, Organisation of the Family Members of the Disappeared

Some aruge that the criminals have lost their fear to commit crimes as death penalty is imposed When considering the long time it takes for our judicial system to arrive at a decision and the cost, the society expects a quicker punishment.

Some people may thus claim that cutting the arm of a thief is an appropriate punishment.

The reason for this is the long delay in convicting the criminals But we must understand that many countries now think that it is pointless to kill the criminals. One may argue in both ways in this regard.

For an example when the crime rates are increasing the people want increased punishments to minimise crimes. In this regard until steps are taken to speed up the justice system the rule of law cannot be upheld.

So until then the demand for the death penalty will not stop. So we must dispense justice faster then public will not demand a short term solution.

****

Saman Rathnapriya - Social Activist

Death Penalty is not imposed or implemented carried out in civilized countries. But when we look at the wave of murders rapes and other crimes that were reported in the country no wonder the people demand death penalty as a solution. it was even discussed in parliament.When the public trust on the law and its agencies are shattered people tend to demand more grusome solutions'. People tend to think that killing the criminals is the best way to prevent them from being released back in to the society. But unfortunately there are no country in the world that has disciplined the people by imposing death panelty or inhumane punishemtns.

The main reason for this problem as I see is the inefficiency of the rulers of the the country so far. As informed citizens we cannot agree with the idea of preventing crimes by killing off criminals. Just because a man kills another human we cannot attain justice by killing the criminal So it is important to rehabilitate criminals. We must give them an opportunity to change themselves. So we must change the society in order to prevent crime.

****

Sagara Kariyawasam - Attorney At Law

The way I see itdeath penalty is a form of inhuman punishment. The concept of "an eye to an eye" is not suitable for a civilszed society. We have no right to end the life of another human being. So even our laws must evolve from such primitive states and move towards civilization. By killing a person the state could only send a threatening message to the public. Other than that it does not prevent any person from doing the crime again. If we take the countries that impose the most gruesome punishments in the world for an example, in countries like Kuwait and Saudi Arabia there are weekly executions of criminals by beheading and stoning. But still those societies have not been devoid of crimes.

If anyone is in the view that the society can be disciplines by punishing those who commit crimes then it is not a practical solution. Crimes can only be prevented by developing the morals of the people. Education and spiritual upliftment is the key in this. If anyone believes that criminals can be discouraged by hanging, then that is a false belief. If we could reform our laws and remove the death penalty from our legal system then in my view that is the most appropriate thing to do.

We must remove those who commit crimes from the society and rehabilitate them. If there are those who cannot be rehabilitated then there is no problem imposing life sentences on them. But still when it comes to the right of taking a life, I still belive that no one has a right to do so.

If by killing the criminal we intend to punish him, it is an unsuccessful attempt as the criminal is being freed from the bonds of his life. What is the punishment there? Some try to justify this by saying that others learn a lesson by seeing the executions. But in reality the crime rates of the countries that do carry out the death penalty has not been reduced. Therefore in my opinion removing the gallows is the least we could do as a civilied society.

****

Rev. Shantha Sagara - Editor, Gnanarathna Pradeepaya

In our legal system the parties are being tortured in a lengthy legal procedure. But when the life time imprisonment is imposed, we still cannot see any strict application of justice. Therefore there is a common belief in our society that the law in Sri Lanka ia not strict and that it is not enforced. It has been confirmed by the way the trials are being conducted and the final outcomes of those trials.

The convict who receives a life time imprisonment goes out smiling. He shows his handcuffs to the public as he thinks that this is only for a short time. The death penalty has become a joke at present no wonder the people are laughing at the law.

In the past those court decisions were respected. But today it is not so. The convicts are either being freed under the frame work of human rights or on moral grounds based on the disgrace it creates in the international community. So we have to look for an alternative method. We must take the right decision on this regard. If we do impose capital punishment then we must carry it out or we must not impose the capital punishment at all.

Here we must look into the religious point of view when imposing capital punishment. Even though Sri Lanka is a Buddhist country the law and dministration must not take that into consideration when enforcing the law. Giving fair punishment for a crime is not something that is gainst the culture.

Especially when it comes to the fight against narcotics we see a deterioration of entunsiasm among our leaders. No matter how much we talk about it still there are kilos of narcotics being confiscated often. We even see foreigners moving freely inside the country with narcotics. The number of pardons available to criminals has removed all sense of repentance for the crime.

Even if we could not bring back the gallows we must do something to strengthen the seriousness of the law. The jail has now become a place that offers people free food and lodging. Some are even willing to stay in jail than be free. Words such as death penalty and gallows have lost there meaning. So we must find out a solution for this. Otherwise it's the law that is being disgraced.

****

Dr. Tudor Weerasinghe - Senior Lecturer, J'Pura University It is normal for humans to make mistakes.But unlike those who are compelled to break the law due to poverty or physical and mental deformities, there are group of people who commit organised crimes in order to enhance their power or wealth in the society. This latter group of individuals must be punished for their actions.

Under existing laws if anyone is found guilty beyond reasonable doubt then there is no problem in imposing the maximum punishment that is available, be it the death penalty, for he has committed the offense intentionally.

That is something that should not have happened in a civilised society. But we must also keep in mind that the society cannot be rectified by imposing the death penalty alone. The society can only be changed by making structural changes.

Even though there is a legal frame work in our country that permits the death penalty it is not being executed on moral grounds.

Instead the convicts are given a life imprisonment. But here the jail tem can vary on the government changes and other factors. So this has a serious effect on the society. This might allow people to think that they could evade justice by doing any kind of crime. This is only going to encourage criminals to do more crimes.

In a less developped society like ours the gap between social classes, wealth and power could have impact on law The capital punishment is the bench mark of the discipline of a country. So it has an effect on the society than we think. so we may argue that death penalty could do an injustice to those who have been wrongfully convicted. In our judicial system innocent people as well as criminals are being convicted and acquitted all the time.

That is is problem with the system. Our judicial system is tied to finances and how it floats. So on practical grounds it is not easy to expect justice. It may vary on money, power, social status, political influence etc

So there are many things that affects the dispensing of justice. In this regard it may be questionable for the people how the death penalty is carried out. Therefore it has become an important part in driving the society to a disciplined status.

(source: thesundayleader.lk)

SIERRA LEONE:

Koroma government of Sierra Leone resumes the death penalty

I listened to Palo Conteh, the Minister of Internal Affairs shooting from the hips in an interview in which he was literally telling the world, with all the glee of a grim reaper, to go to hell, because his government will soon hasten the dispatch of anyone sentenced to death for drawing blood from another person.

Fair enough, on the face of it, he has a good point that the law is still very much in our statutes. But I'm not sure that state killing is the answer.

I am not sure that the increasing wave of dastardly acts is a reason for the government to go down that barbaric road with all pomp and pageantry, when the nation - its people and its resources, are being systematically dismembered to the distrustful swagger and mocking actions and words of national undertakers who don the garb of statesmen and leaders.

How lovely it would be, if the gradually oppressive 'monarchical' order, applies the same blood-thirsty rule to the numerous kleptomaniacs in its circle, that together form the bedrock of its existence, and serve as the face of all that is bad in our governance.

It is just infuriating to hear how the supposed custodians of national morals engage in ethically wrong behaviour and go unpunished; yet minnows are killed by the state with a sledge hammer.

Palor ContehI also wish the administration of which Palo is an integral part, will simply use the same brainwave and determination to nail people to the cross, so as to solve the current deplorable state of our socio-economic and political problems - a creation of their making.

In great societies, laws are reworked and new ones created to engage the changing dialectics for the greater good.

No one is against corporal punishment if deemed absolutely necessary. But correcting the ills of the society is a better option for the development of a nation which, is continually plagued by fiscal indiscipline and financial irregularities of complex and unprecedented dimensions.

It is the government and political henchmen like Palo who, through corrupt tendencies, have created the state of economic and socio-political insecurity that are keeping away companies that would have provided employment for our teaming unemployed youths.

The roaming young men and women determined to utilise any available means for survival and social leverage, including fraudulent activities, intimidation and violence, are only taking a cue from the signals emanating from those in the corridors of power - no more no less.

8 years on since coming power, the government's much-trumpeted solution to the dilemma of our youths, is still in realm of the imagination of our leaders who swore heaven and earth to deal with the problem.

Yet, I did warn that post-war histories indicate that insecurity is a terminal outcome of a society which fails to tackle this problem of idle and frustrated young minds, that see their leaders living a life of luxury without sweat.

The very idea that 'Change' starts with the led and not the leadership, can best be described as an abdication of responsibility by the leadership. It is the likes of Palo that encourage the same level of indiscipline that prevails in the society today.

It is the greedy politicians seeking leverage in national politics, that empowered and encouraged the emergence of criminal groups who serve them well.

For example, the battle for control of the APC national Youth League now playing out, is an off-shoot of the power tussle within the ruling party, which is already having a spill over effect.

Those in power, such as Palo who should nip this in the bud are turning a blind eye and running after the gold when the gilt is right under their nose.

With activities which are indicators of economic buoyancy of the citizenry not thriving, why aren't those in power thinking about leveraging our blessed and resourceful land to innovate, instead of focusing on how to decimate an already emaciated populace? Or don't they know that a hungry person does not sing alleluia.

Rather than ministers behaving like talking dolls who spout inane phrases when the strings are pulled, those in power should realise that they have a moral duty to tame and civilise trendy savages.

But this can only happen if those in power have ensured that the general welfare of those whom they psychologically manipulate into voting for them, are improved.

Defence minister - Palo Conteh

Since joining the government, Palo, the preening peacock lusting after glory, has always seen himself as the 'untouchable' and a dragon who prides himself on some weird self-absorbed, self-adulatory knowledge, steel and expertise. But he isn't.

He might pride himself as having wrestled with the Ebola pigs, wriggled with the opposition snakes, able to live with thieves and having lunch with a mix breed of homo sapiens amidst the government's track record of celebrated looting, emptiness and mediocrity.

However, the crude cloak he adorns, tells a different story of whom and what he is. He is one mortal man who seems to have the eerie ability to screw up the simplest things with unbridled hubris, and who in his delusional mind, makes most decent folk want to reach for the 'vomit bucket' for crying out loud. Sad Nation.

I have a message for him and indeed those in the corridors of power who think the world is simply their oyster: At the cemetery - you will realize that life is worth nothing; the ground we walk today will be our roof tomorrow. Your only epitaph will be the legacy that leaves the majority better off than when you met them, rather than the mansions and fat bank accounts you leave behind.

Meanwhile, when you are dead, you do not know you are dead. All of the pain is felt by others. The same thing happens when you are stupid.

We are where we are because of our age long laziness on all fronts. Like I've said, we have become shock less...We are unprogressive in thought and actions. We revolve around the same circle all the time. Our voice is louder than our actions. We must change our ways and our thinking.

Sierra Leone as a nation appears cursed. This is one of the major reasons why the country is in the current very sorry state. We are collectively guilty as we have, by our complicit silence, contributed in no small way to the creation of the conscience-less nation that we have today and a leadership that promised much and delivered less, except personal aggrandisement.

Because we started worshiping the measurement and not the thing being measured, we are now celebrating IMF migraine, foreign-cash constipation, governance sciatica and socio-political diarrhoea.

The car-crash economic and socio-political dummy bleating in the wind is an indication of how deep the country is truly in shit. It's a deep governance rut indeed. And we still don't realise it. We are a revolving people on a journey to nowhere.

Today, our nation is having a downturn in her economic fortunes. Why are we in this state in the first instance? Rather than answers, all we keep on hearing are propaganda and rhetoric, as well as annoying and unguarded utterances from those in leadership positions, such as Palo.

Having signed away our future for a morsel of bread, the lie that we have been living appears to have eventually caught up with us.

President koroma and victor foh at APC conference 30 april 2015Still our leaders have failed to learn that our dreams are being destroyed by those they have given so much power and access to our wealth. It is these 'Samaritans' who have ensured that we remain perpetual parasites and impoverished dependents of an equally struggling taskmaster.

In their blind panic, our leaders are desperately looking for quick fixes and are even ready to sign away our future to those with bigger talons to suck us dry.

Without a hoot for future ramifications, they ignore the common sense dictum that says once you are funded by other people's money, either investors or international bankers, what they think is what matters, as they dictate what you can and cannot do; or what they want in exchange.

In a discussion with one of those who are latching on to the ever increasing number of aspirants for 2018, I realised that part of our problem is the peacock approach that most of those who should know better, take to the realities of our current situation.

I realised that the current hardship facing the nation is simply as a result of the fact that almost every one of us benefited from the cycle of corruption unleashed by our leaders and their cohorts, but tacitly welcomed by the generality of us. This shows how morally bankrupt we are.

Ours is a peculiar mess in need of perpetual emphasis until change comes. We may be close to the snag, but we are being held back by nonentities who live big and grow fat on what should otherwise be the commonwealth of all citizens.

The looters now own the capital, and risking it is the last thing on their minds. This is why not one of our so-called rich men has an industry or a business that can be termed a long term national asset that is of beneficial to the utmost growth of Sierra Leone.

I am not dumb not to know when slight change happens, and propagandists latch on it to massage the government's ego. However, all this propaganda about self-worth must stop. We need to see genuine change and improvement in people's lives.

People are suffering; no money; no job; no nothing; and you are massaging the egos of those whose principal job is to ensure that this does not happen.

It is this same set of oppressors, who see the downtrodden of the society as mere landscape features that must be exterminated.

There is a wide disconnect between the ruling elites and the masses, so much that even the media hasn't grasped the depth of poverty and hunger in the land and the effect of the social degradation now apparent.

Someone was complaining a few days ago about being stuck in traffic for over an hour, just because the President was going home. The trouble is, the 'Pa' had not even left his office when the roads were closed.

As a result, the 'god' of our land, who is failing to lift the bruised and battered populace, made several poor struggling people dashing around the land for survival, to miss opportunities that would have given them succour.

Well, the political class is aware that nothing guarantees bondage better than poverty. It is why the cornerstone of their governance is to ensure that the majority remain poor, hungry and battered to submission by the realities of their existence. This in turn saps them of any ability to rise up and challenge the audacity of the impunity of their leaders.

For us to move forward, we have to invest in our ability to create the future we want to see. That literally means we need to imbibe the culture of building solutions. It is because there is no political will to lead, that our leaders feed us with a diet of dust.

We need to start changing our mindset. We are in crisis because we squandered our boom at the inception of this administration.

Please let's not blame this mess on any past administration. It all started and ended with this government.

Fair enough, beyond the cacophony of blame and socio-economic and political shenanigans, it is our 'collective' stupidity that has continued to ensure that we've been engaging so much in motion without locomotion. It is our combined actions and in-actions that have brought us to this state of economic comatose that we are going through.

Rather than keep quiet and enjoy their loot, our leaders are running their mouths and misleading us with distorted stories of progress, change and buoyancy, while indulging in financial recklessness.

What temerity on our collective intelligence?

They are telling us how rosy the future is, amidst the painful economic strangulation, yet we can barely feed ourselves.

All our vital institutions have been crippled by corruption, so much that their ineffectual dexterity is a signpost of the extreme rut pervading our stunted growth.

Until we create a conducive atmosphere for investments to thrive, our youths will continue to be jobless and become agents of social and economic destruction.

Politically, the further decimation of the opposition, whose death wish is legendary, has created a void which is being filled by impunity.

Aided by a poodle legislature and a horrendously corrupt judiciary, those in power bare their fangs on the very heart of our nation; draining the blood like Dracula and oblivious (or is it uncaring) of the importance of the damage they do and the death knell they sound for our tomorrow.

Following their wanton display of greed, there are civil servants and private sector managers that have assets worth 100 times their entire career earnings.

They don't know any better and their children, having seen their parent's and leaders' model don't know any better. This is why we have the cyclical samba dance of greed and stunted growth.

Sierra Leone moving forward is dependent on the reconstruction of our national political and economic architecture; and the removal of the current system that subjugates economic development to sentiments and petty ethno-political and religious considerations, as the Kabala imbroglio has shown.

We currently practice a system that empowers corruption and guarantees bad governance, and we need to change that.

We cannot continue to trust the goodwill, good intention and integrity of the men and women we elect into political office. We must evolve and develop a system that motivates hard work, merit, good governance; and sanctions a system of political patronage and nepotism as we have now.

Our leaders promote a system that ensures that those who refuse to work, not only eat, but eat MORE than those who work.

This injustice has been our bane and the major, if not the sole reason we have been burdened with poor, nay, despicable leadership.

Sadly, we have been forced to distort our perception of reality, so much so that we, and especially those in the Diaspora, substitute our own experiences as the reality of all other compatriots.

Unfortunately, it takes a deliberate and often painful effort, to pierce the bubble wrap and actually see the bleak landscape inhabited by the masses that service our comforts and execute our needs.

But, bubble or not, we cannot hide from reality.

This is why things must change. This indeed is where our CHANGE must begin. Change will come to our nation only when we start to point out the irresponsible guys, whether past or present in our system, and fight for the entrenchment of true democratic ideals, good governance and accountability across board.

Sierra Leoneans - stand up and save your country, God has been more than kind to us. Let us fight for a system that will promote both equality and equity. Nothing will change until we are ready to address our fundamental flaws. We need to overhaul our laws where things can be done differently. Until then....

(source: Commentary; Raymond Dele Awoonor-Gordon, The Sierra Leone Telegraph)

INDIA:

Crime & commensurate punishment

Going by the factual matrix of the case reproduced by the apex court itself in a recent judgment dated September 15 in criminal appeal Nos. 1584-1585 of 2014 in Govindaswamy Vs. State of Kerala, one is constrained to conclude that the honourable court has been too lenient towards the accused/appellant in altering the death penalty to rigorous imprisonment of seven years though technical scholastic interpretation of the relevant sections of law cannot be faulted.

Briefly, the facts of the case are: the deceased/victim girl, aged about 23 years, was working in Ernakulam and was engaged to one Anoop who also happened to be employed in Ernakulam. Their betrothal ceremony was to be held in the house of the girl at Shomur on February 2, 2011. Anoop along with his family members was scheduled to visit the house of the girl on that day.

Accordingly, on February 1, 2011 the girl boarded the Ernakulam-Shumur Passenger Train at about 5.30 pm from Ernakulam Town North Railway Station to go to her home at Shomur. She had boarded the ladies division of the last compartment. There were other passengers also in the said compartment. When the train reached Mulloorkara, all other lady passengers in the said compartment had alighted and, therefore, the girl also got down along with them and hurriedly entered the ladies coach attached just in front of the last compartment.

The train reached Vallathol Nagar Railway Station, where it halted for some time. The accused/appellant, who is a habitual offender, noticed that the girl was alone in the ladies compartment. As soon as the train left Vallathol Nagar Railway Station and moved towards Shomur, the accused entered the compartment. The accused then assaulted the girl and, in fact, repeatedly hit her head on the walls of the compartment.

The deceased was crying and screaming. Then, the victim was dropped/pushed by the accused from the running train on to the track and the side of her face hit on the other side of the running train. The accused also jumped down from the other side of the running train and after lifting the victim to another place by the side of the track he sexually assaulted her. Thereafter, he ransacked her belongings and went away from the place with her mobile phone.

What is still more pathetic is the fact that the passengers travelling in the adjacent general compartment were dissuaded from pulling the chain saying that "the girl had jumped out from the train and escaped and that in these circumstances he (the fellow passenger) should not take the matter any further as the same may drag all of them to Court."

Eventually, the girl was found and admitted to the Medical College Hospital, Thrissur where she died on February 6, 2011. After a trial, the accused was convicted under Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 and sentenced to death. He was additionally convicted under Section 376 of IPC and sentenced to undergo rigorous imprisonment for life. Besides he was found guilty of the offences punishable under Section 447 of the IPC for which rigorous imprisonment of 7 years and 3 months was awarded.

The conviction of the accused and the sentences imposed were confirmed by the High Court. The apex court after considering the relevant facts of the case and hearing the arguments of the lawyers of both sides, thought fit in its wisdom to substitute the charge under Section 302 IPC with that of Section 325 of the IPC and set aside the death sentence.

The gruesome rape and murder of the lonely girl travelling without an accomplice and letting the accused with a lesser punishment by the apex court would certainly raise concerns about the safety of the women in general and those travelling alone.

(source: The Hans India)

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'Judicial innovation' helps SC avoid awarding death penalty

Death penalty is substituted with a "special category" of prolonged life imprisonment.

Tattu Lodhi, child rapist and murderer, cheated the noose on Friday because the Supreme Court decided to opt for a "judicial innovation" instead of the death penalty.

This judicial innovation, formalised by a Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court in the Rajiv Gandhi killers' case in December 2015, helps "get rid of death penalty" and addresses the genuine concerns of the society to see justice done, a 3-judge Bench led by Justice J. Chelameswar observed in its recent judgment.

No remission

The innovation involves substituting death penalty with a "special category" of life imprisonment without the benefit of release on remission for prolonged periods ranging from 25 to 30 years, if not more.

This innovative approach veering away from capital punishment was formalised after the Supreme Court gave itself the authority to tweak the sentencing laws and evolve a special category of sentence in its judgment in Union of India versus Sriharan alias Murugan last year. The special category is to be limited to a "very few cases". This special category finds its first mention in the Swami Shraddananda versus State of Karnataka judgment of the Supreme Court in 2008.

The innovation, according to Justice S.K. Singh, who authored the Lodhi judgment for Justice Chelameswar's Bench, is an endeavour by the apex court to make "no party (convict or the society) a loser".

So having saved Lodhi from the hangman's rope, Justice Singh stripped him of his right to apply for release from prison on remission for the next 25 years. Thus, any hope Lodhi might have had for his release after serving the first 14 years was effectively extinguished.

The prolonged period of incarceration with no hope, Justice Singh observed, was justice enough for the rape and murder of a "defenceless child" whose body was found in a gunny bag at Lodhi's residence in 2011.

Society's concerns

"The judicial innovation bridges the gap between death sentence on the one extreme and only 14 years of actual imprisonment in the name of life imprisonment on the other... it serves a laudable purpose," the Supreme Court observed.

Law Commission of India Chairperson, Justice B.S. Chauhan, seconds the judgment's optimism, saying the Supreme Court may have indeed found an "alternative" to capital punishment .

Quoting both the Sriharan and Shraddananda verdicts, Justice Singh, in his judgment in the Tattu Lodhi case, observed that "the innovative approach, on the one hand, helps the convict get rid of death penalty in appropriate cases. On the other, it takes care of genuine concerns of the victim, including the society..."

(source: The Hindu)

PAKISTAN:

Mentally ill death row inmate Imdad Ali to be executed tomorrow

Pakistan must not hang a mentally ill man suffering from paranoid schizophrenia, a rights group said, after a court issued a warrant for his execution next week.

Death row prisoner, Imdad Ali, who is around 50 years old, was sentenced to death for the murder of a religious teacher in 2002.

"Imdad Ali is mentally ill and has suffered years without proper treatment," a report by local watchdog the Justice Project Pakistan (JPP) said, adding he had been diagnosed as a "paranoid schizophrenic".

JPP said it had filed an appeal against a Lahore High Court decision last month which dismissed pleas that Ali could not be executed on the basis of his mental illness.

His medical condition should be looked into, as well as the extenuating circumstances that had aggravated his mental illness during his lengthy time on death row, the organisation argued.

Ali's execution has been scheduled for September 20 (Tuesday), it said.

Prison authorities have sent a letter - seen by AFP - to his relatives asking if they want a final meeting with him the day before his execution in the town of Vehari.

JPP executive director Sarah Belal said Pakistan would violate its international legal commitments if it executed a mentally ill person.

"Executing Imdad will exemplify Pakistan's failure to abide by its international legal commitments that forbid the death penalty for persons suffering from mental disabilities," Belal told AFP.

"Knowing what they do about his condition would make his hanging a most serious crime."

The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CPRD), which Pakistan ratified in 2011, guarantees the "inherent dignity" of individuals with disabilities, she said.

Pakistan reinstated the death penalty and established military courts after suffering its deadliest-ever extremist attack, when gunmen stormed Peshawar's Army Public School in 2014 and killed more than 150 people - mostly children.

Hangings were initially reinstated only for those convicted of terrorism, but later extended to all capital offences.

The country has executed over 400 people since resuming hangings in December 2014, according to new research by Reprieve, a British anti-death penalty campaign group.

(source: Agence France-Presse)

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Imdad Ali's death penalty: a travesty of justice?

The execution of Imdad Ali, which is scheduled for Tuesday, would be a great travesty of justice. Imdad Ali is a 50-year-old death row inmate who suffers from paranoid schizophrenia, but his defence for insanity has, unfortunately, been rejected due to a technicality in judicial precedent, according to which if the accused flees the scene of the crime he is not considered mentally unfit. This judicial precedent is woefully inadequate to define mental illness, to say the least, and the rejection for Ali's plea on that basis against the face of numerous medical examinations declaring him to be suffering from paranoid schizophrenia casts serious doubts over the ability of precedent to evolve in Pakistan's judicial system.

The fact that even jail authorities are sympathetic to Ali's case, and an examination carried out by the head of psychiatry of the Nishtar Hospital on the request of the superintendent of district Vehari jail formally diagnosed him with paranoid schizophrenia must be enough to merit a revision of Ali's death sentence. Moreover, there are testimonies of not just family members but also neighbours regarding Ali's behaviour that is characteristic of paranoid schizophrenia. Unfortunately, Imdad Ali's case is symptomatic of the faulty criminal justice system of Pakistan for which even the otherwise most ardent supporters of death penalty would not, in good conscience, be able to support the death penalty. And even amidst a narrative in which the death penalty has been deemed an imperative to eliminate militancy in the country, the execution of a mentally unstable person finds not even an iota of justification.

Ranging from incompetent public defence counsel to forced confessions, the problems plaguing the criminal justice system of Pakistan are glaringly apparent. And as those with access to resources are able to evade punishment, it is often the poor who are left to face the gallows. While there is good reason to doubt the veracity of most convictions, but even if there is the slightest chance that an innocent individual would lose his life then the ostensible grounds for the death penalty are lost, and carrying it out turns into the gravest of injustice and one that is wholly irreversible. In any case, advocating death penalty during present times is an anachronism, and there are plenty of studies that have shown that it does not act as an effective deterrent. The philosophical underpinnings of state sanctioned punishment are based on the need for preserving the social order and discouraging people from breaking laws that are there for the common good. While in ancient times the state apparatus was not well-developed and, consequently, the chance of catching a criminal were low, punishments were made severe and carried out in public to increase the cost of committing a crime. Now with the modern police system and advanced powers of surveillance, the functional need for the death penalty is no longer there.

Furthermore, a much more effective purpose of the criminal justice system is not the dispensation of punishment but the task of reformation. This takes into account the different circumstances that force an individual into becoming a criminal, and hence the responsibility of society is not to punish that person but to fix him and turn him into a functioning member of society. It is true that Pakistan is far from this ideal, but perhaps a starting point could be to not execute a mentally unfit person. Pardon Imdad Ali.

(source: Daily Times)

IRAN:

We must not turn a blind eye to Iran's executions and abuses

In the week the United Kingdom upgraded its diplomatic presence in Iran to having a full Ambassador, the Iranian regime sentenced a British woman, Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, to 5 years imprisonment, British lawmaker Mike Freer has pointed out.

This follows a series of arrests of British-Iranian dual nationality citizens, pointed out Mr. Freer, Member of Parliament from the Conservative Party.

"What has received less publicity is the ongoing program of executions undertaken by the regime. Whilst the West banks progress we turn an apparent blind eye to the bloodletting used to suppress opposition," he wrote on Sunday for Conservative Home.

He added:August 2016 saw Hassan Rouhani's supposedly moderate regime carry out a new spate of executions, including the mass execution of 20 members of a minority group.

Condemnation followed from many directions, including the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein, who criticised the Iranian authorities and expressed "doubts about the fairness of the trials, respect for due process and other rights of the accused."

This same month newly published audio recordings have emerged of meetings between Iran's most senior clergymen in August 1988. In the recording the late Ayatollah Hossein-Ali Montazeri is heard accusing the leaders of Iran's 'death commission' of "the greatest crime committed during the Islamic Republic, for which history will condemn us, has been committed by you..."

The late Ayatollah was referring to the massacre of tens of thousands of political opponents of the Iranian regime, including thousands of members of the People's Mojahedin Organisation of Iran (PMOI).

Tehran's use of executions as a form of suppression of its population's desire for democracy has continued from 1988 to the present day. Supposedly moderate Presidents have come and gone, but one thing that has never changed is the systematic use of executions.

Looking at the individuals who formed the 'death commission' leads us to a worrying conclusion: that in reality, although the puppet's head may change from election to election, those pulling the strings in Iranian politics have remained.

4 men made up the commission that led the massacres in 1988. Today 3 of those men remain senior figures within the Iranian regime.

Mostafa Pourmohammadi is Iran's Minister of Justice, Hossein-Ali Nayyeri Iran’s head of the Supreme Disciplinary Court for Judges, and Ebrahim Raeesi among the regime's most senior clerics and the head of the Astan Qods-e Razavi foundation (a multi-billion dollar religious, political and economic conglomerate and one of the most important political and economic powerhouses in the clerical regime).

This week the leader of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), Iran's largest coalition of opposition groups, called on the international community to bring about justice for those massacred in 1988 through the international prosecution of the masterminds of the 1988 massacre. I join her in that call.

Included in that list alongside Mostafa Pourmohammadi, Hossein-Ali Nayyeri, and Ebrahim Raeesi must be Ayatollah Khamenei Iran's current Supreme Leader and a public supporter of the 1988 massacres.

It is time to take decisive steps sending a clear message to the leaders of Iran that executions which take place without a fair trial, respect for due process or without the individual's rights being preserved will not be accepted by the international community. Have we sacrificed human rights for progress on decommissioning centrifuges?

It is important that in today's climate, where Hassan Rouhani is hailed as a moderate and a man the international community can work with, that we do not simply address the man but rather the establishment in Tehran. Entry into the international community and the benefits that brings must come at a cost for Iran and not simply be a right of way.

Bringing about international prosecutions against the perpetrators of the 1988 massacre is not only something we should have done many years ago, but it will show Tehran that breaches of international protocols will not be accepted if the regime wishes to play a greater part in the international community.

Mike Freer is MP for Finchley and Golders Green.

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Theoretician of execution and torture, reacts to UN Commissioner's remarks

In response to the statements of UN Commissioner Zeyd Ra'ad Al Hussein about the "fundamental problems" in regime's judicial process and execution of juveniles by Mullahs' regime, Mohammad Javad Larijani, Secretary General of regime's human rights council, has defended the execution of prisoners.

In a letter to the UN Commissioner on Friday September 16, Larijani tried to justify the executions and said: "It should be pointed out that the commitment to abolish the death penalty has not been accepted by the international community as a hard or soft commitment and there is no consensus in this regard. Besides, the international covenant on civil and political rights does not completely rule out the death penalty. Rather, it even allows the member states to use it under certain conditions. The death penalty is not a human rights issue, but an issue related to the criminal justice system and a deterrent element for serious crimes. Therefore, this punishment should be evaluated in accordance with the rights of victims and the right of society to live in peace and security. Any country has the right to choose its own criminal justice system or its legal, economic, cultural, political and social systems without the intervention of other countries. Purposes and principles of the United Nations charter clearly states, especially in article 2 paragraph 7, that nothing contained in the charter authorizes the UN to intervene in matters that are within the local jurisdiction of a member state."

With the start of the 33rd session of UN Human Rights Council on Tuesday September 13 in Geneva, Zeyd Ra'ad Al Hussein warned over the continuation of human rights violations in Iran under the rule of the Mullahs and the non-cooperation of the Mullahs' regime with human rights organizations. He said: "Regarding the Islamic Republic, my office has not been allowed to have any kind of access from 2003... Our proposal to start technical talks about the death penalty has been, like other cooperation proposals, systematically ignored. This is unfortunate, especially considering the ongoing reports we receive on fundamental problems with the judicial administration of criminal justice, on the execution of so many people including juveniles, on prosecuting and discrimination against religious and ethnic minorities, on harsh restrictions on human rights defenders, lawyers, journalists and on discrimination against women both in law and in practice."

Ra'ad Al Hussein criticized the number of executions in Iran under the rule of the Mullahs while expressing concerns over the ongoing execution of juveniles.

He then pointed to the non-cooperation of the Iranian regime and said: "Some countries may shut down UN (human rights) offices or refuse to cooperate with the international inspectors, but they should know that they can never close our eyes to the truth. We keep trying our best so that our reports on these countries remain accurate."

(source for both: NCR-Iran)

IRELAND:

Life after Death Row: How this couple escaped capital punishment and started anew in rural Ireland----Nestled in a warm home in the wilds of Connemara, Sunny Jacobs and her husband Peter Pringle could pass as any other older couple living the dream.

They have a view of the water from the living room window, some dogs and cats for company and family pictures scattered around the walls.

But, to put it mildly, American woman Sunny and Dublin-born Peter are unlike most other couples in the entire world. Both have escaped being put to death by their countries of birth.

"To put it very succinctly, I was in the wrong place at the wrong time with the wrong people," said Sunny (69).

Sunny, along with her then husband Jesse Tafero, was sentenced to death by electric chair for the murder of two Police Officers in Florida.

"I spent the next 5 years on death row, which wasn't really a row for me at all, because I was the only woman with a sentence of death, so I was kept in solitary confinement in isolation for five years," she said.

"I lost faith in everything I was ever taught to believe in - the justice system, society and God."

Although Jacobs' conviction was eventually overturned after spending 17 years in jail, it was too late for her husband, who was executed at the age of 43. Tafero's execution went badly wrong, with witnesses having reported seeing flames coming from his scalp.

Not long after the botched execution, the man who killed the 2 policemen confessed his crimes, paving the way for Sunny's release.

During her 17 years wrongfully spent in jail, Sunny devoted herself to meditation, yoga and prayer in an attempt to stay positive.

"I chose to live my life as fully as I possibly could."

After her release, Ms Jacob's became a fervent anti-death penalty campaigner. She was set to travel to Ireland later in the '90s, where she was advised to meet a man called Peter Pringle. This recommendation was given by 'Galway Girl' singer Steve Earle.

She would later find that Peter's story was strikingly familiar to hers.

Mr Pringle, from Portobello, spent 15 years in prison before his conviction for the murder of 2 gardai following a bank robbery in Roscommon was overturned.

3 men were seen in a getaway car, but only 2 were arrested at the time. Almost 2 weeks after the incident, Peter, who had a severe alcohol addiction at the time, was arrested and eventually convicted of murder.

Pringle, along with the 2 other men, was sentenced to hang for the crime. Although the last person to be put to death in Ireland was killed in 1954, Peter thoroughly believed he would meet the same end.

"I heard 3 jailers discussing what role they might have to play in my execution," he said.

"The conclusion they had come to was that when my body would go down through the gallows when I was hanged, there would be two jailers underneath, so each one would be obliged to pull on my leg to make sure my neck was broken."

His sentence was later commuted to life in prison at the time the death penalty was prohibited by law.

The 3rd criminal who took part in the double murder was never caught and the 2 jailed killers, who have since been released, refused to name their accomplice.

Peter admits there are still people who believe he should be locked up for the crime and his past involvement in republican activities does not do anything to quash such speculation.

"I don't know what the political involvement [in the crime was], but what I do know is that as a young man I was interred in the Curragh as a republican," he said.

"There are still a couple of people who speculate that I shouldn't have been released. That goes and you have to expect that.

"My life is good and I don't hold any animosity towards anyone."

Once released, Pringle was keen to continue his life out of the spotlight, but agreed to meet Jacobs in Galway.

"We met and became friends and then the friendship grew to more than friendship. We had a sort of a long term relationship for 3 years. Then, after 9/11 we decided that we would try to live together," Pringle said.

"So we gave it a shot and Sunny reversed what her ancestors had done. She packed 2 big bags and came over to Ireland and has been with me since 2001. About 5 years ago we got married."

Around a year ago, the couple set up a charity from their Galway home. Peter and Sunny are now welcoming fellow wrongly convicted people from around the world to stay at their house in order to reintroduce them to society.

Since the charity, called the Sunny Center, threw open its doors, a total of 9 exonerees from around the world have stayed with the couple.

The charity which is registered in New York, allows these people to stay in the Connemara home, but they must follow a few rules.

"We don't allow mood-altering substances, no alcohol or drugs and no violence," Sunny says.

"The man who was supposed to be here now couldn't come, because he was successful in getting a job, which is a good thing," Peter said.

"It's very difficult to get work after coming out of Prison, especially in America."

(source: The Independent)

BANGLADESH:

Tribunal sentences a man to death for murdering wife for dowry in Rajshahi

A court in Rajshahi has awarded death penalty to a man who killed his wife for dowry 3 years ago.

Convict Md Sujon was present at the court when the district's Women and Children Repression Prevention Tribunal-2 judge KM Shaheed Ahmed pronounced the verdict on Sunday.

Sujon's father Md Shamsuddin and mother Meher Nigar, both were absconding during the trial, were acquitted as the court found no proof of their involvement in the murder.

According to the case dossier, Sujon's wife Sima Khatun was found dead at their home in Polashbari village of Durgapur Upazila of the district on Mar 1, 2013.

Her father Rezaul Haque filed a case against Sujon and his parents accusing them of beating and strangulation of his daughter Sima.

(source: bdnews24.com)

SEPTEMBER 18, 2016:

NORTH CAROLINA:

Executions won't resume in North Carolina any time soon

Dixie Lowry Davis, whose husband was shot to death on Interstate 95 in 1997, has no expectation that Tilmon Golphin will be executed for the murder.

"No, I don't. I really don't," Davis said on Wednesday. She thinks that Golphin - sentenced to die for killing her husband, a state trooper, along with a deputy sheriff - is more likely to die in prison of natural causes.

Criminal justice lawyers share Davis' assessment that it will be a long time before North Carolina carries out an execution again, if it ever happens. North Carolina's last execution was in August 2006 and its unofficial moratorium on the death penalty started in January 2007.

Legal challenges to North Carolina's capital punishment laws pending in state and federal courts have forced executions to grind to a halt. And most death row inmates filed claims under the now-repealed Racial Justice Act, which allowed them to claim discrimination in their sentencing.

These legal actions are keeping the state's 150 condemned inmates away from the death chamber.

"Nobody is going to be executed as long as there is a motion pending in state or federal court that has not been heard," said Robeson County District Attorney Johnson Britt.

"Nobody can tell you how long it's going to be, but I would expect, given all these different levels of litigation, it's probably going to be years before we would have any executions," said retired University of North Carolina law professor Richard Rosen.

Defense lawyer Ken Rose with the North Carolina Center for Death Penalty Litigation is deeply involved in the issues that have stopped executions. There are 3 broad matters that the courts need to address, he said.

First, Rose said, are the continuing legal challenges to North Carolina's execution protocols. These are in North Carolina and federal courts.

The protocol questions triggered North Carolina's execution hiatus in 2007, but the matters had been in court well before then.

The issues in 2007 included the role of a doctor in executions, whether the drugs used in executions by lethal injection were causing intense pain as they killed the inmates and whether North Carolina prison officials illegally modified the execution protocols by not first getting approval from the state's top elected officials.

Over the years, the courts resolved some of the legal questions and North Carolina eliminated the use of the pain-causing drugs that were being challenged. Also, the legislature, upset that executions have been stopped for so long, changed death penalty laws to try to circumvent the legal challenges and resume carrying out death sentences.

The new laws fueled new legal motions by inmates.

"What is the current method of execution in North Carolina? What is the protocol?" asks Rose, who represents death row inmates. "...Where is the drug coming from? What is the drug?"

The Restoring Proper Justice Act of 2015, one of the laws aimed at restarting executions, has a provision to keep the company that produces the lethal drug a secret. Rose sees constitutional problems with that.

"In order to determine whether or not the use of a particular drug is cruel and unusual punishment, does the defendant have a right to know what that drug is? Know the source of the drug?" Rose said.

"You have a right to know enough detail to know if it's going to be unnecessarily torturous," Rose said.

Lethal injection executions in other states have gone wrong. According to media reports, Oklahoma this past week halted all of its executions because an execution in 2014 was badly botched and in 2015 the state was sent the wrong drug for use in lethal injection. Oklahoma now has plans to use nitrogen gas to kill its condemned inmates instead of lethal injection.

In North Carolina, Rose wants to know what North Carolina does to ensure the competency of the drug manufacturer or compounding pharmacy that produces the drug for lethal injection. He wants to know the qualifications of the people carrying out the execution.

"If the execution's botched and the drug doesn't kill the defendant in minutes, or even hours, what (are) the procedures that the state will use to revive the person - to prevent that person from just suffering without killing him?" Rose said. There appear to be no procedures in place for that contingency, he said.

A second factor postponing executions is the North Carolina Racial Justice Act of 2009. Out of the state's 150 death row inmates, approximately 140 have made Racial Justice Act claims.

The law gave death row inmates a chance to have their sentences commuted to life in prison without parole. They had to prove to a judge that racial bias tainted their trials and led to them receiving the death sentence.

The law was repealed in 2013 - and that repeal gave the inmates more legal fodder postpone their execution dates.

The issue is whether the repeal unconstitutionally snatched away a vested right when it repealed the Racial Justice Act, Rose said.

\ Four inmates, all defendants in Cumberland County homicides, had Racial Justice Act hearings. In 2012, their sentences were commuted to life without parole, but the state Supreme Court said a procedural error by the judge tainted their hearings. They have been sent back to death row and new hearings are scheduled.

The rest of the roughly 140 defendants who asked for Racial Justice Act hearings did not get them before the law was repealed.

Lawyers for the state argue that the law that did away with the Racial Justice Act prevents the inmates from pursuing the claims they filed before it was repealed.

The death row defendants may be able to beat that argument, said Rich Rosen, the retired UNC law professor.

"The federal constitution says that once you give a right you can't willy-nilly deprive people of that right," he said.

The 4 Racial Justice Act cases from Cumberland County are scheduled for a hearing Nov. 29 in Charlotte. A judge is to hear arguments that day on the state's motions to dismiss the cases.

Separately, the North Carolina Supreme Court has agreed to consider whether to the rest of the Racial Justice Act defendants can have hearings on their allegations that racism was a factor in their death sentences.

2 of the Cumberland County defendants have additional cases pending in federal courts alleging that the state violated the double jeopardy clause in the U.S. constitution that when it returned the inmates to death row. The double jeopardy clause says that once a defendant is acquitted, he can't be tried again. Their claim attempts to apply the clause to the ruling overturning their death sentences, saying they can't be imposed again once they've been lifted by a judge.

One of these inmates is Tilmon Golphin, who killed state Trooper Ed Lowry and Deputy David Hathcock in 1997. Lowry was Dixie Lowry Davis' husband. The other is Marcus Reymond Robinson, who killed a Fayetteville teenager in a robbery in 1991. Robinson was hours away from execution in January 2007 when North Carolina executions were halted.

The third major factor delaying executions, Rose said, is a new angle of attack that defense lawyers are using to try to overturn death sentences handed down in North Carolina prior to July 1, 2001.

That's when North Carolina implemented a major change to its death penalty laws, one that has drastically reduced the number of death penalty cases in this state.

Prior to July 1, 2001, state law required local prosecutors to seek the death penalty if the facts surrounding the crime were sufficient. If a murder was especially heinous, for example, or committed to obtain something of value.

Requiring that prosecutors seek the death penalty when certain elements were present resulted in dozens more death penalty trial and sentences. Prosecutors had no choice but to seek the maximum penalty.

"North Carolina as a result was one of the top death-sentencing states in the country," Rose said. "And that changed dramatically after July 1, 2001."

The law change in 2001 gave prosecutors discretion - freeing them to accept plea bargains that gave defendants sentences of life in prison without parole.

In the 1990s, North Carolina sometimes sentenced 20 to 30 people to death annually, according to a chart by the Death Penalty Information Center. In the past 10 years, juries have issued 5 or fewer death sentences per year, its chart says.

The old law that required prosecutors to seek death was unconstitutional, Rose argues.

Dixie Lowry Davis, Trooper Ed Lowry's widow, thinks Tilmon Golphin and his brother, Kevin Golphin, should have been executed shortly after they were sentenced in 1998 for Lowry's murder.

Now she worries whether they will be released from prison.

While Tilmon Golphin is on death row, Kevin Golphin, previously sentenced to death, is now serving life in prison and could become eligible for parole. Kevin Golphin was only 17 when he and Tilmon killed Lowry and Hathcock. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that defendants who were under 18 when they committed their crimes can't be sentenced to death and may not be automatically sentenced to life in prison without parole.

"It's been so long, we're just all so frustrated," Davis said of her family. "We would like to see the end to it. But we don't want the end to be that they get out of jail. So we want them to stay right where they are."

(source: Fayetteville Observer)

*******************

We track death penalty issues because they matter

North Carolina has 150 men and women on its death row, the 6th most in the country.

It is one of 30 states still executing criminals.

At least in theory, according to a story from staff writer Paul Woolverton on today's front page.

As he points out, it has been more than 10 years since the state has performed an execution, and with a raft of litigation ahead it appears like it will be years more before the next one.

These days, it appears, prosecutors are less interested in seeking death sentences, maybe because they've become more of a symbol than a real possibility.

North Carolina is far from alone in grappling with its death penalty statutes.

Just in the last 10 years, 8 states have abolished executions. Another four states have official moratoriums in place while they study the issue.

The battles over the death penalty have often taken on moral tones, with supporters taking the "eye-for-an-eye" stance and opponents calling it state-sanctioned murder.

But increasingly, states such as North Carolina are grappling with issues of fairness and constitutional questions that make it more and more difficult to put condemned men and women to death.

Is the death penalty being applied in all cases that deserve it, no matter the race or sex of the killer? Is one county's prosecutor more aggressive about pursuing the death penalty than another's, and if so, is that equitable?

Can any execution method stand up to the constitutional requirement to avoid "cruel and unusual" punishment?

The Observer - through the diligent reporting of Woolverton - has tracked these issues closely for years, primarily because one of the central roadblocks to executions is closely tied to four Cumberland County cases.

We also track it because it is an issue that matters to law enforcement, courts, families of victims and the people who are passionate about either side of the debate.

(source: Opinion, Michael D. Adams, Executive Editor, Fayetteville Obsesrver)

LOUISIANA:

Could a new trial happen for a death row inmate?

Oral arguments presented to the Louisiana Supreme Court on behalf of a death row inmate could lead to a new trial when an opinion is rendered in the matter.

The 2013 conviction of Rodricus Crawford, 27, by a Caddo Parish jury and his subsequent death sentence came under fire by Cecelia Kappel, an attorney with the Capital Appeals Project, during her arguments on behalf of Crawford on Sept. 7.

Kappel cited several examples questioning portions of the case presented against Crawford by the Caddo Parish District Attorney's office, including sufficiency of evidence, evidence of innocence and prosecuting attorney Dale Cox's statement that Jesus Christ would impose the death penalty.

In a case that was cited as entirely circumstantial, Crawford was convicted of 1st-degree murder in November 2013 for the death of his 1 year-old son, Roderius Lott. He was sentenced to death.

The case drew attention from national media as being one of several that allegedly highlights the high rates of cases resulting in death penalty sentences in Caddo Parish.

Also at issue in Kappel's arguments before the justices was the idea that the state's forensic expert testified that the death was "more likely than not" due to smothering.

"I wanted to focus on the evidence at trial," said Kappel in a later interview with The Times.

In hearing her arguments, justices also were interested in hearing about new evidence that wasn't previously brought to trial in Crawford's case.

Kappel noted that a large portion of the case against Crawford was almost entirely dependent on testimony from a pathologist that has since been disputed. The justices questioned Kappel on information regarding the original pathology report.

"The thing that's really important is all the new evidence brought before the Supreme Court now - this is the only opportunity they will have to look at this evidence," said Kappel. Her oral arguments also noted that she found prejudicial Cox's statements to the jury that Jesus Christ's verdict would be death.

Crawford told police he had been sleeping with his son beside him and found the boy unresponsive when he woke up on the morning of Feb. 16, 2012. Police asked Crawford about a bruise on his son's lip. Crawford said his son had fallen in the bathroom the previous day. He also denied having accidentally slept on top of the boy.

On the day of the death, Caddo Parish Coroner Dr. Todd Thoma determined the death was "suspicious" and referred the case to pathologist James Traylor, who conducted the autopsy.

Traylor later determined that the bruise indicated smothering and other bruises present on the boy's body were indicative of child abuse.

Traylor's determinations were made before additional test results showed Lott had pneumonia and streptococcus bacteria in his blood.

Based on Traylor's conclusions, Crawford was charged with homicide and Cox asked for the death penalty.

Kappel was assigned to Crawford's case in 2014. At the time, her own youngest son was 6-months-old. For the majority of the time that she worked on behalf of Crawford, Kappel said she watched her son grow into a toddler. She said she also saw him with the routine bumps and bruises that young children often get.

"It's just part of being a little boy," Kappel said. "When I look at the pictures in this case, I see my son. I don't see an abused child."

The validity of the pathologist's findings are one part of the sufficiency of evidence Kappel brought before the Supreme Court during her oral arguments.

Kappel argued that Crawford's jury overlooked evidence that could show Lott may have died from sepsis.

A report presented by defense-hired Daniel Spitz determined Crawford' son died from pneumonia.

In the course of Kappel's arguments and follow-up from assistant Caddo Parish DA Tommy Johnson, Justice Jeannette Theriot Knoll asked how the state came to charge Crawford with 1st-degree murder in a case based on circumstantial evidence.

"With a child that an autopsy had discovered had sepsis and ask that this man be put to death on weak circumstances -- you don't even have a motive," Knoll said.

At oral argument, the State conceded there was "no evidence" of any motive in the case.

The Times reached out to the Caddo Parish DA's office, but they had no comment.

Crawford is 1 of the 2 youngest men on death row at Louisiana State Penitentiary.

An opinion will be rendered by the state supreme court in one of six tentative upcoming dates for this session.

"I feel confidence in the evidence on behalf of Mr. Crawford," Kappel said. "I hope the justices will do the right thing."

Upcoming tentative opinion dates for the 2016-2017 session:

--October 19, 2016

--December 7, 2016

--January 25, 2017

--March 15, 2017

--May 3, 2017

[source: Louisiana Supreme Court]

(source: Shreveport Times)

OHIO:

Nitrogen best for execution

In his Sept. 10 op-ed "Death penalty is in decline, but problems remain," former Ohio Attorney General Jim Petro called it a "terrible suggestion" to adopt the gas chamber to conduct executions.

First, I have never called for a gas chamber. I have suggested that we ought to take a closer look at nitrogen asphyxiation as a method of execution. As I understand it, this can be administered by the use of mask, similar to an oxygen mask.

The use of a chamber might be advisable to avoid accidentally asphyxiating others, but I don't think the process requires a chamber.

Petro also said this method is "offensive to the human experience," whatever that means. But my research indicates that this is by far the most humane method of execution. Perhaps Petro is confusing this with suffocation. But the use of nitrogen involves the administration of pure or nearly pure nitrogen, which supplants the oxygen and nitrogen mixture that we normally breathe, and the lack of oxygen causes death.

The research I have seen indicates this is a painless process. I understand it to be similar to getting nitrous oxide at the dentist's office, except in this case it is pure nitrogen. In fact, there have been a number of accidental deaths from nitrogen gas because the victims did not realize they were breathing pure or nearly pure nitrogen.

This method also appears to be easy to administer and inexpensive.

John Murphy

Director

Ohio Prosecuting Attorneys Association

Columbus

(source: Letter to the Editor, Columbus Dispatch)

NEBRASKA:

Ballot question puts death penalty dilemma before votersHistory shows Nebraska unlikely to uphold death penalty repeal

At first glance, Nebraska Legislature's repeal of the death penalty in May seemed to have determined the future of the death penalty in the state, however, supporters acted quickly to campaign to bring the issue before the voters. A look at Nebraska's history shows the issue has often generated controversy in the state.

Society's use of the death penalty goes back for centuries and has been demonstrated to be used throughout the world, according to the Death Penalty Information Center, a research group opposed to the death penalty. In the 18th century B.C.E., capital punishment was codified in the Code of King Hammurabi of Babylon for 25 different crimes. The death penalty was part of the 15th century B.C.E., Hittite Code, the 7th century B.C.E., Draconian Code of Athens, which made death the only punishment for all crimes, and the 5th century B.C.E., Roman Law of the Twelve Tablets. Death sentences were carried out by such means as crucifixion, drowning, beating to death, burning alive and impalement.

On May 27, 2015, Nebraska became the 1st conservative state in more than 40 years to abolish the death penalty. According to the Death Penalty Information Center, North Dakota was the last conservative state to ban capital punishment in 1973. The center defines a conservative state as having voted Republican in the 2 most recent presidential elections and having a majority of its legislative members as being Republican. Since 2007, 6 states have abolished the death penalty: Maryland, Connecticut, Illinois, New Mexico and New Jersey.

The process to abolish the death penalty in Nebraska has not been an easy one.

Sen. Ernie Chambers introduced LB 268, seeking to repeal the death penalty. Each of the 38 years he has served in the Nebraska Legislature, he has pushed bills to abolish the death penalty. During the 2016 session, he was successful with legislators voting 32-15 to support the bill. After Gov. Pete Ricketts vetoed the bill, legislators overrode it by a vote of 30-19.

History shows Nebraska unlikely to uphold death penalty repeal

The bill replaced capital punishment with life imprisonment. Capital punishment was now abolished in the state, but many did not like the way in which it was accomplished.

"I made reference in my speech on the floor that it was so contentious that maybe it should be left to the people," said John Stinner, state senator. "There was some movement in the legislature to put it in front of the people, but it didn’t have much traction."

Ricketts, who supports capital punishment, openly lobbied to keep the death penalty.

"My words cannot express how appalled I am that we have lost a critical tool to protect law enforcement and Nebraska families," Ricketts said in a statement released May 27, 2015. "While the Legislature has lost touch with the citizens of Nebraska, I will continue to stand with Nebraskans and law enforcement on this important issue."

Chambers is not the 1st person in the state's history to be steadfast in his opposition of the death penalty.

According to a NET News report, "History not on the side of death penalty repeal in Nebraska," there have been regular attempts throughout state history to repeal capital punishment. In the 1910s, lawmakers seemed to send double messages - approving the electric chair as a method of execution, but representatives going on record as opposing the death penalty.

Like now, proponents relied on a familiar message to support their case: "The controversial and apparently too frequent use of pardons for criminals by Nebraska's governors gave supporters of capital punishment ammunition against their opponents."

And at times in Nebraska history, commutations by governors did result in unpredictability about whether defendants would serve out a sentence.

"Starting in 1893, the state's governors held the power to parole any prisoner who had at least served the minimum sentence permitted by the court," according to NET News report. "Those committing murder could be sprung from jail after 25 years. With a commutation, a prisoner could be set free if the governor, and the governor alone, felt a sentence had been unfair. Each year governors wielded the authority more and more freely. So loose were sentences that a study completed by the warden of the state penitentiary revealed 'a life sentence has meant only about 7 or 8 years and the longest term served by any man was only 15 years.'"

Efforts were made to reduce the decision-making power of the governor in commutating sentences. The state prison board was formed in 1911 to advise the governor, but it seemed to do little to reduce early prison releases. In 1920, the Board of Pardons, made up of the governor, attorney general and secretary of state was formed, taking exclusive pardon power from the governor.

In the 1920s, legislators once again felt pressure to repeal the death penalty as groups, like the Women's Christian Temperance Union, campaigned and sent out petitions. And, though he opposed the death penalty, Gov. Samuel McKelvie supported a bill that did not allow a death sentence to be altered and signed 3 death warrants during his term.

Bills seeking to repeal the death penalty have continued to be introduced, and fail, over the decades, including one supported by Gov. Frank Morrison in 1965.

A governor was also instrumental in an attempt to repeal the death penalty in 1979. Chambers had proposed a bill replacing the sentence in capital murder cases with a mandatory prison term of 30 years to life. The bill passed, 25-17, but Gov. Charles Thone vetoed it immediately and senators were unable to override his veto.

After the Nebraska Supreme Court ruled in 2008 that the electric chair was unconstitutional, the State of Nebraska chose lethal injection as its method for executions.

That decision came about because of a case involving a local defendant, Raymond Mata, convicted in the 1999 murder of 3-year-old Adam Gomez. In Mata’s case, the Nebraska Supreme Court ruled electrocution constituted "cruel and unusual punishment."

With the ruling, Nebraska was left without a method of execution until a bill was approved, changing the method to lethal injection. The bill was signed into law by Gov. Dave Heineman.

Nebraska statute sets out the guidelines for capital punishment in chapter 29 of the 2014 Nebraska Revised Statutes. After an initial trial to determine guilt of a defendant, a jury must look at the facts of the case, consider aggravating and mitigating factors and make a determination if the defendant is eligible for the death penalty. If they are deemed eligible, a 3-judge panel decides whether the defendant receives the death penalty or life in prison. The panel consists of the presiding judge in the trial and 2 judges appointed by the chief justice of the state supreme court. The decision must be unanimous or the sentence will be life.

The state has not executed a defendant since 1997 and no execution has been carried out in Nebraska using lethal injection.

Nebraska's 3-drug protocol calls for a dose of sodium thiopental to render the inmate unconscious, followed by pancuronium bromide to paralyze him, then potassium chloride to stop the heart.

Sodium thiopental has been the most difficult for the state to acquire. In November 2011, Nebraska purchased samples from HarrisPharma in India. A Swiss manufacturer of sodium thiopental, the provider of the drug to HarrisPharma, requested Nebraska return the drugs because they did not intend for the drugs to be used in executions. Nebraska refused and a legal battle began between the FDA and those companies. The drugs expired in 2013 and were no longer able to be used, so the State had to find another way to purchase the chemicals it needed.

The state again purchased 2 of the drugs needed for executions from HarrisPharma in May 2015, paying more than $54,000 for the drugs. Sodium thiopental was o1 of the drugs, but Nebraska was unable to obtain it because of federal regulations prohibiting it from being imported. HarrisPharma refused to refund Nebraska $26,700 for the drug, saying it was not their responsibility to make sure the drug could be imported into the United States.

Pharmaceutical giant Pfizer and several other drug manufacturing companies have prohibited distribution of sodium thiopental by their companies for use in executions, making purchase of the necessary drugs nearly impossible.

Ricketts continues to be openly involved in the effort to retain the death penalty. In 2015, he gave $100,000 to Nebraskans for the Death Penalty twice. His donations are nearly 1/3 of the campaign's funding. There has been controversy over whether a sitting governor should use his own personal funds to make such a purchase.

For his part, Stinner said he does not have any issues with Ricketts' donations to the campaign.

"He is a taxpayer and he has a right to do that," Stinner said.

The Star-Herald attempted to interview Ricketts for its series of articles. Officials from Ricketts' office directed the Star-Herald to an Aug. 1, 2015, article in the Omaha World-Herald where the governor addressed the donation issue. In that article, Frank Daley, director of the Nebraska Accountability and Disclosure Commission, said there are no legal barriers to the governor's contributions.

Ricketts told the Omaha World-Herald he thought it was appropriate to give Nebraska voters a chance to decide the issue.

"I think the Legislature was out of touch with how the vast majority of Nebraskans feel about this issue," he said.

Opponents of the death penalty cited Ricketts' donations in challenging the ballot measure, saying he wasn't listed as a sponsor on the referendum. However, the Nebraska Supreme Court ruled on July 8 that the governor's support, financial or otherwise, for the petition did not make him a sponsor of the referendum and there was no obligation to disclose his involvement.

The ruling meant voters would make the decision - deciding whether to uphold the Nebraska Legislature's decision to repeal the death penalty by casting a vote to retain or to repeal. A vote to repeal the legislature's decision will allow the death penalty to continue in Nebraska.

(source: Scottsbluff Star Herald)

OKLAHOMA:

Oklahoma will go a calendar year without an execution; future remains cloudy ---- For the 1st time since 1994, Oklahoma will not put to death any inmates this year

A quagmire of incompetency, investigations and court action has resulted in 2016 becoming the first year since 1994 that Oklahoma has not carried out an execution.

4 months after a grand jury released a highly critical report on the execution of Charles Warner and Richard Glossip's near-execution, the public still knows little about what's next for capital punishment in the state.

In a 106-page report released in May on its investigation of the Oklahoma Department of Corrections, the multicounty grand jury used terms such as "careless" and "cavalier" to describe the actions of some state officials. The jury said the execution protocol should be revised again and needs to require verification at every step of the process.

Attorney General Scott Pruitt said previously he will not request execution dates until at least 5 months after the DOC's updated lethal injection protocol is finalized, which means Oklahoma's earliest possible execution date will be in 2017.

The DOC has declined to provide information about what it will change about its execution protocol and has not discussed the matter at any subsequent meetings of its governing board. The Attorney General's Office says nothing in its monthly status reports required by the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals - which put an indefinite stay on executions in effect - except to inform the justices there are no updates.

The Governor's Office refused as recently as Friday to comment about the work still needed to resume executions in Oklahoma.

When asked for comment last week, Pruitt's office released a statement indicating he wanted to assure families of victims that the review process "will continue to be both deliberate and empirical."

"I am confident that the Department of Corrections, under the leadership of Director (Joe) Allbaugh, is taking the appropriate time needed to ensure the execution protocols are fully in place and without error in the most efficient way possible," Pruitt said.

The state will have 150 days after the DOC finalizes its protocol to set execution dates for Glossip and other death-row inmates, and the new protocol will likely be litigated at the federal level.

Glossip, whose scheduled execution last September was stayed, and 5 others are listed in ongoing litigation with the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals, as they have exhausted their appeals and are eligible to be scheduled for execution.

'Lack of transparency'

Robert Dunham, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center in Washington, D.C., said during an interview Friday that it is "disheartening" that there appears to be "continuing secrecy" in Oklahoma's reform process. The organization does not take an official stance on capital punishment.

"The level of administrative incompetence and reckless disregard for the law that was exhibited during the 3 execution botches (of Clayton Lockett, Warner and Glossip) is unparalleled in the United States," Dunham said. "The grand jury report indicated massive systemic failures and said essentially that there wasn't a single person involved in the process that did their jobs properly."

The report found that officials should have noticed Warner had been executed using potassium acetate, rather than the protocol's requirement of potassium chloride, but did not pay enough attention to execution policies. Records previously provided to the World show the DOC and the Attorney General's Office received a copy of Warner's autopsy as early as March 2015 but did not raise concerns about how he had died until late August 2015 despite it proving there was a drug mix-up.

The fallout from Glossip's Sept. 30, 2015, stay of execution - which Fallin ordered because her office learned the DOC again received an incorrect drug - eventually resulted in the retirement of Oklahoma State Penitentiary Warden Anita Trammell, as well as the resignation of Mullins and then-DOC Director Robert Patton.

"The grand jury report raised hopes that the executive branch would step back and carefully consider what had gone wrong and learn lessons from that," Dunham said. "We don't know what the protocol is ultimately going to be, but lack of transparency thus far does not instill confidence that the state has learned anything from the experience."

Attorney fees add up

State agencies have paid more than $45,000 in legal fees to two attorneys who provided legal services related to a multicounty grand jury's investigation into Oklahoma's use of the death penalty.

The Oklahoma Department of Corrections provided information to the Tulsa World on Friday indicating it paid former Attorney General Drew Edmondson $26,379 to advise DOC employees connected with the inquiry into the agency's handling of the January 2015 execution of Charles Warner and the scheduled September 2015 execution of Glossip.

Edmondson's contract, which a DOC spokesman said Thursday was allowed to expire June 30, indicates that Edmondson would receive $300 per hour beginning Oct. 9, 2015, and that an assistant would receive $150 per hour. Their travel rates were $150 and $75, respectively. The DOC did not say when Edmondson stopped providing outside legal services.

Gov. Mary Fallin paid attorney Robert McCampbell $18,794.50 for legal services and advice about the grand jury in October and November 2015, according to a copy of the final invoice billed to her office by his firm.

Fallin apparently hired McCampbell for those months at a rate of $250 per hour because her then-general counsel, Steve Mullins, was a subject of the jury investigation, and the Attorney General's Office - which she would normally turn to for legal needs - oversees the multicounty grand jury unit.

The Oklahoma Attorney General's Office told the World it would be nearly impossible to easily calculate how many hours were spent on the DOC investigation because the grand jury looked into other unrelated matters simultaneously.

State Question 776

State Question 776, which will be on the Nov. 8 ballot, would add language regarding the death penalty to the Oklahoma Constitution.

It would give the Legislature the power to designate an execution method of its choosing, prohibit a death sentence from being reduced because a method is declared invalid and bar the courts from ruling the death penalty is cruel and unusual punishment.

Sen. Anthony Sykes, R-Moore, and Rep. Mike Christian, R-Oklahoma City, wrote the measure last year, citing "overwhelming support" in Oklahoma for the death penalty. Christian told the World last August that he predicted it would pass with more than 70 % of the vote, while Sykes noted it had large bipartisan support in the Legislature.

But the question has drawn opposition over its constitutionality from people as varied as Rep. Regina Goodwin, D-Tulsa, former Tulsa Police Chief Drew Diamond and Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty.

All 3 were represented at a Wednesday gathering outside the Tulsa County Courthouse urging voters to say no to the measure.

"This measure will not limit the death penalty's brokenness one bit," Marc Hyden, a representative with the conservative group, told reporters. "Instead, it may exacerbate the underlying problems."

Goodwin, in her remarks, asked why the state would ask people to vote for something that she believes will fail legal challenges. She said supporters have characterized the question to voters as being about whether they support the death penalty, and pointed out it will not change existing statute on the matter.

"What this state question will do, though, is allow for it to be very difficult for the judicial branch to do its job," she said.

Dunham said the ballot question appears to want to make the death penalty above legal reproach and told the World it seems "premature" to discuss it before a bipartisan Blue Ribbon Commission headed by former Oklahoma Gov. Brad Henry completes its ongoing review of Oklahoma's use of capital punishment.

That report is set to be released next year.

"The ballot question appears to be a reflexive response by death penalty proponents to protect a practice that is increasingly seen as illegitimate and which they increasingly see as under siege," he said.

"With respect particularly to death penalty practices, there's nothing that the ballot question does that the Legislature could not accomplish on its own simply by passing statutes. The only use is to impair judicial review and significantly magnify the risk that unfair, unreliable and unconstitutional death penalties would go uncorrected."

(source: Tulsa World)

CALIFORNIA:

Fix the death penalty, don't throw it away

Those in support of abolishing the death penalty point to the possibility of an innocent person being executed. In California this couldn't be further from the truth. Those who commit a capital punishment-related crime will be prosecuted to full extent of the law. The innocent can take solace in knowing that a unanimous jury of 12 citizens must render the death verdict after an exhaustive trial where the accused murderer is represented by 2 highly competent attorneys and overseen by an independent judge who ensures a fair trial.

The death penalty is reserved for the worst of the worst offenders in California. These people have committed unspeakable atrocities against the citizens of California. People like Lonnie Franklin Jr. (AKA the Grim Sleeper), who was just recently sentenced to death in Los Angeles for the killing of 10 young African-American women. Or Tiequon Cox, who was hired by an imprisoned Rolling 60s Crips gang member to kill. Cox entered the wrong home and murdered 4 people including an 8-year-old and a 12-year-old. Then there's Charles Ng, who was convicted of brutally murdering 11 people and most likely murdered 25 more. There's also Lawrence Bittaker, who killed 5 young women after he raped and tortured them. The list goes on and on. To make matters worse, these horrific individuals excluding Franklin Jr. have been sitting on death row for decades, costing California millions of dollars to house, feed, clothe, guard and provide health care to them.

Currently, there are 746 killers sitting on California's death row. These inmates have murdered over 1,000 victims including 226 children and 43 police officers; 294 victims were raped and/or tortured. These killers and their repetitive appeals are the reason why a vote of No on Prop. 62 and Yes on Prop. 66 is recommended.

California's death penalty is a dysfunctional mess that doesn't bring justice to victims' family members. However, by mending, not ending the death penalty, we can change that.

Prop. 66 was written by legal scholars who know the ins and outs of the death penalty system. They have written Prop. 66 so that it speeds up the appeals process by eliminating legal and procedural delaying tactics while assuring due process protections for those sentenced to death. It ensures criminals sentenced to death are assigned a special appeals lawyer immediately by expanding the availability of lawyers to handle these appeals. Prop. 66 limits state appeals to 5 years instead of allowing for these convicted criminals to file appeal after appeal after appeal. However, the initiative does not impose a rigid deadline that must be met in every case as extraordinary cases make take longer. However, 5 years is generally sufficient to get through state appeals, even in the most complex cases.

While many point to the "exorbitant costs" associated with the death penalty they forget how expensive it to giving life without parole to these criminals. It's estimated that it costs at least $50,000 per year to house, feed, guard and provide health care to someone in prison, and that it averages between 20 and 25 years from a jury's sentence of death to an actual execution date. There are 746 inmates currently on death row, with an average age of 27, and average life expectancy of 74. Reducing someone's punishment to life without parole will cost taxpayers $1.8 billion in housing costs alone.

What I along with other district attorneys, law enforcement officials and families of victims want is justice. Justice to impose a lawful sentence recommended by juries and imposed by judges across California. Some deem the death penalty as cruel and unusual punishment, however most Californians disagree and believe that those convicted of these horrible crimes are depraved. In fact, any time we are asked to vote on whether or not to abolish the death penalty, Californians repeatedly vote to keep the death penalty intact. This year seems no different. A recent poll conducted by the Institute of Governmental Studies at UC Berkeley found that 75.7 % of Californians surveyed support Prop. 66.

Voters understand that the criminals on death row have been convicted of the most heinous crimes. Voters also realize that those left behind, grieving families throughout California and their loved ones, don't deserve anything less than justice.

Justice is a reformed, not eliminated death penalty. I urge a NO vote on Proposition 62 and YES on Proposition 66.

(source: Opinion; Michele Hanisee is a deputy district attorney for the County of Los Angeles and is president of the Association of Deputy District Attorneys--Los Angeles----Santa Cruz Sentinel)

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Prop. 66 will increase the risk of executing the innocent

Philando Castile. Eric Garner. Alton Sterling. It goes on and on. Terrifying displays of violence against innocent black men and communities of color are fueling national attention on racial inequality across the country. The criminal justice system, in particular, demonstrates these inequalities.

While disparate treatment by police has garnered the most attention, racial inequalities exist at every stage of the criminal justice process - all the way to the ultimate punishment: the imposition of the death penalty. This fall in California, the repercussions of racial disparities in death penalty sentencing could become much worse if voters enact a reckless ballot measure: Proposition 66.

Proposition 66 is a misleading initiative that will change death penalty procedures in several ways that will increase the state's risk of executing innocent people. Prop. 66 would remove important legal protections that currently exist in California law to prevent the ultimate injustice. As with most criminal justice policies, Prop. 66 would disproportionately affect people of color. Black and Latino men, in particular, will be at greater risk of being executed for crimes they didn’t commit. Of the 156 innocent people exonerated from death rows nationwide, 61 % were people of color.

People of color account for more than 1/2 of those awaiting execution, while only representing 1/3 of the general population in the U.S. In California, these disparities are even more stark. Black people account for 57 % of the folks on death row but only 7 % of the general population. In 2015, 86 % of new death sentences were given to people of color. One California study found that individuals who kill a white victim are 3 times more likely to get a death sentence than those who kill a Latino victim, and 4 times more likely to get a death sentence than those who kill an African American victim.

Systemic racial bias in the death penalty is also demonstrated by lack of diversity among prosecutors and juries. A 2015 study found that 95 % of elected prosecutors in states that allow the death penalty are white. Even in a state as diverse as California, 83 % of elected prosecutors are white. Research over the past several decades has demonstrated that people of color are excluded from serving on juries in capital cases at much higher rates.

If passed, Prop. 66 would make California's death penalty laws more similar to Texas' laws, which have resulted in the execution of at least 2 innocent people in recent memory. One of those people was Carlos De Luna. De Luna was wrongfully convicted and sentenced to death for murder, even though no blood, DNA or fingerprint evidence linked him to the crime. Due to Texas law, De Luna was unable to adequately present evidence of his innocence and was executed, despite the fact that another man who bared striking resemblance to De Luna admitted to the murder.

Prop. 66 would make it harder for defendants to introduce newly discovered evidence of their innocence. For all the reasons above, people of color would be most at risk of suffering adverse consequences. In this case, Prop. 66 literally could be the difference between life and death for innocent people.

As if increasing the risk of executing innocent people was not reason enough to vote no, Prop. 66 will vastly increase costs to Californians and strain scarce resources. The initiative is confusing, poorly written and lacks understanding of how the death penalty operates in California, which will lead to substantial burdens for taxpayers and government agencies. The state's nonpartisan analysts estimate that Prop. 66 will increase costs to taxpayers by tens of millions of dollars plus even more "unknown" costs. The initiative will add more layers of government bureaucracy by requiring local county courts to adjudicate death penalty appeals (currently, the state Supreme Court handles these), creating the exact opposite of expediency and encumbering already overburdened agencies with life-and-death responsibilities they are not equipped to handle.

It is time to send a message that we will not tolerate racial bias in any aspect of the criminal justice system, including in the administration of the death penalty. We must oppose any and all measures that would increase the chance of executing innocent men and women. We have seen too many innocent people of color killed for no reason other than their skin color. People of color would be disproportionately affected by this reckless and ill-conceived measure. Californians must vote no on Prop. 66.

(source: Opinion; Van Jones is a CNN political contributor, attorney, and has founded and led numerous social enterprises engaged in social and environmental justice----Orance County Register)

INDIA:

Left goes against its grain, wants noose for killer

A day after the Supreme Court commuted the death penalty of Govindachami, the sole convict in the Soumya murder case, the Left in Kerala has found itself caught in an ideological war of its own making.

On one hand, the CPM-led state government announced its plans to seek a review or revision of the Supreme Court verdict and seek the death sentence for the convict. However, this is contrary to the Left's pre-declared stand against capital punishment, which had them pitching for legislation to remove the death penalty from the Constitution.

CPM Politburo member M A Baby, a staunch opponent of capital punishment, stated that the Left was against the death penalty. "In general, the Left is opposed to capital punishment and we feel it should be removed from our system and Constitution through legislation.

"The Left believes that capital punishment is highly primitive and should be done away with," said Baby. "This is not a specific stance for Govindachami alone. We would have held the same view even if Nathuram Vinayak Godse, who killed Mahatma Gandhi, was on trial today."

Rejecting Baby's view, Kerala's Law Minister and CPM Central Committee member A K Balan said: "We will approach the court seeking maximum punishment under Section 302 (murder). There is no point in going for life imprisonment for Govindachami, as he has already been sentenced for a life term once," said Balan. Despite their opposite views, both Baby and Balan reiterated that there was no contradiction in the stance of the party and the Kerala government on the issue. Balan added that the party and the government are seeking death for Govindachami considering the grave crime he committed. Balan, who is in Delhi to attend a 3-day CPM Central Committee meet, will meet legal experts on what the immediate and best mode of approach in the court will be - to finalise whether the government should file a review petition or a revision petition. Since capital punishment is only for rarest of rare offences, the government's attempt will be to ensure the court awards punishment to Govindachami for murder, too.

As if sensing the dilemma within Left parties, BJP state chief Kummanam Rajsekharan lambasted the government, accusing it of foul play. Meanwhile, CPM state secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan tried to downplay the controversy, insisting that there was no irony in the matter.

"The CPM has demanded that Govindachami be given maximum punishment as per the existing law. As of now, there is capital punishment in the law. Hence, the government will demand the same," he said. "The Left's stance is not specific to this particular case. There is no need to link the 2."

The CPM had finalised its stance on doing away with capital punishment after earlier discussions within its Politburo and Central Committee.

(source: newindianexpress.com)

INDONESIA:

Tragic story of death-row maid caught up in Asia's war on drugs ---- Mary Jane Veloso says she was duped into smuggling heroin into Indonesia as she fled an attempted rape in Dubai

She has become a cause celebre in both the country of her detention and that of her birth. Condemned to death on drug-smuggling charges, she was temporarily reprieved hours before her execution, but still languishes on death row in an Indonesian prison. And last week the skies darkened again over Mary Jane Veloso, a Filipino maid whose plight has captured the imagination of 2 populations that know all about the vulnerability of migrant workers.

After the Philippines' president, the newly installed Rodrigo Duterte, visited Jakarta, it was reported that he had given his Indonesian counterpart, Joko Widodo, the go-ahead to execute her. Duterte has begun a ferocious and bloody war on drugs in the Philippines. That change of political direction has, it seems, led to yet another twist in the tortured tale of a woman who lost control of her life from the moment she entered Indonesia in 2010, hoping, she has said, to take up a job in domestic service.

Born to an impoverished family in the northern city of Cabanatuan, Veloso married at 17 but later separated from her husband. She moved to the United Arab Emirates in 2009 to earn money for her 2 young sons in the Philippines.

Veloso says that she had to flee Dubai after an attempted rape and was then duped into smuggling drugs into Indonesia. Her case has become the focus of sympathy in both the Philippines and Indonesia, where many families have loved ones working abroad, often in poor conditions with abusive employers. Before the original date set for her execution last April, more than 200,000 signatures from 127 countries were collected for a #SaveMaryJane petition.

Veloso says that a woman called Maria Kristina Sergio, the daughter of one of her godparents, told her to move to Indonesia for a maid's job in 2010. In an account that Sergio disputes, Veloso says the woman gave her new clothes and a bag that she says she was unaware had 2.6kg (5.7lb) of heroin sewn into it. "We're poor and I wanted to change our life, but I could never commit the crime they have accused me of," Veloso wrote last year in a letter to the then president, Benigno Aquino.

Her legal team launched 2 appeals in Indonesia, 1 that argued she did not have a competent translator, and a 2nd saying she was scammed. Both were rejected.

As her April 2015 execution date approached, protesters in the Philippines and Indonesia rallied to save her and hundreds of people held vigils outside the Indonesian embassy in Manila. Even world boxing superstar Manny Pacquiao made a public plea for her life.

2 days before Veloso's execution date, her family was allowed a visit. She explained to her sons that she would not be coming home. Her youngest child, 6-year-old Mark Darren, said he would try to think that "Mama is in heaven".

Then Indonesia shot dead 8 people, including 2 Australians, part of the Bali 9 heroin-smuggling ring, four Nigerians, a Brazilian and an Indonesian. But not Veloso, although several newspapers in the Philippines reported she was dead. The hashtag "maryjanelives" trended on Twitter across the Philippines and Indonesia.

The reprieve was down to an unexpected turn of events in her homeland. Veloso’s alleged trafficker, Sergio, had handed herself in to police hours before the execution. And Aquino, invoking a regional treaty that compels nations to co-operate on transnational crime, asked Indonesia to keep Veloso alive. He said she was needed to testify in the case against Sergio and another man, now accused of trafficking, illegal recruitment and fraud.

Indonesia's president insisted that the execution was merely postponed, but the campaign for clemency had new grounds for hope.

A year on, the accession of Duterte to the presidency has again changed the dynamics of Veloso's case. Duterte's first 3 months in office have been dominated by a bloody crackdown that has left 3,526 drug dealers and addicts dead, most of them in extrajudicial killings by vigilante groups, actions that were publicly encouraged by Duterte before he was elected.

Senator Leila de Lima, who has been leading a senate hearing into the killings and is 1 of the main domestic critics of Duterte, said that she was "sad and heartbroken that the president will throw away all our efforts to save a life just like that, when it is still in his power to request the holding off of the execution". But it was no surprise, she added, that Veloso's life might seem of no worth to an administration that had adopted judicial or extrajudicial executions as "government policy".

Even Duterte has said that fighting for Veloso's life would sit badly with his drugs crackdown. "It would have left a bad taste in the mouth to be talking about having a strong posture against drugs and here you are begging for something," he told reporters, adding that he told Widodo he supported the death penalty in Indonesia. Capital punishment was outlawed in the Philippines in 2006.

Veloso's legal team told the Observer it was very concerned. "Mary Jane is a victim of dire poverty, of lack of real opportunities for a decent job, of pernicious drug and human trafficking. The law may be the law, but it should not be blind or deaf to reality," lawyer Edre Olalia wrote in an email. "As the leader of this nation and as the pater familias of all Filipinos, President Duterte is expected to rise to his bounden duty and fight for her, and fight hard as he does for all victims of this transnational infection."

Widodo's reported conversation with Duterte has reinvigorated public interest in Veloso's case and the office of Indonesia's attorney general said last week that she would not be killed in the next wave of executions. The judge in the case involving Sergio said that she would fly to Indonesia this month to get a deposition from Veloso in her prison cell. Veloso's supporters believe that a trial can vindicate her, if it can prove she was used as a pawn.

"Winning the case will codify Mary Jane's innocence and erase all doubts that she should be spared from execution," said Garry Martinez, chair of Migrante International.

Ruperto Santos, a prominent Roman Catholic bishop in the Philippines, said that "conflicting reports regarding the actions of President Duterte" on the Veloso case were regrettable. "Let us continue to pray for her, that her life be spared."

(source: The Guardian)

SEPTEMBER 17, 2016:

TEXAS----new execution date

February execution date set for Fort Worth man

An execution date was set this week for a 36-year-old Fort Worth man condemned for smothering an 89-year-old Bell Helicopter retiree in 2004 and robbing him.

A date of Feb. 7 was set for Tilon Lashon Carter in 371st State District Court in Fort Worth. It is the 1st execution date for Carter, who has been on death row since December 2006.

He was condemned for the robbery and slaying of James Tomlin, who was known to keep cash in containers around his Handley home.

Prosecutors said Carter and his girlfriend, Leketha Allen - whose mother, a prostitute, had a 20-year relationship with Tomlin - went to Tomlin's home to rob him. His daughter found him dead later that day.

Investigators found more than $20,000 cash hidden in containers inside Tomlin's house and car. Allen and Carter made off with a shotgun and some coins, prosecutors said.

Allen reached a deal with prosecutors and received a 25-year sentence. She is in prison with a projected release date of 2029.

In March, the U.S. Supreme Court declined without comment to hear Carter's appeal. His appeals have focused on whether his Tarrant County trial attorneys were deficient and whether faulty instructions were given to trial jurors. At his trial, prosecutors portrayed Carter as a longtime criminal whose violence was escalating and who deserved the death penalty.

4 other Texas death row inmates have execution dates in the coming months.

(source: Fort Worth Star-Telegram)

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Executions under Greg Abbott, Jan. 21, 2015-present----19

Executions in Texas: Dec. 7, 1982----present-----537

Abbott#--------scheduled execution date-----name------------Tx. #

20---------October 5----------------Barney Fuller---------538

21---------October 19---------------Terry Edwards---------539

22---------November 2---------------Ramiro Gonzales-------540

23---------December 7---------------John Battaglia--------541

24---------February 7---------------Tilon Carter----------542

(sources: TDCJ & Rick Halperin)

********************

Judge's conflicting orders roil Rodney Reed appeal----Judge signs 2 documents, with conflicting recommendations, on additional DNA tests sought by Rodney Reed.

A judge has issued conflicting recommendations for resolving death row inmate Rodney Reed's request for additional DNA testing, throwing into disarray an appeal that has already lasted 2 years and 2 months.

The latest legal fight began in July 2014, when Reed - on death row since 1998 - filed a request to conduct DNA testing on crime scene evidence that Bastrop County prosecutors opposed. Visiting Judge Doug Shaver rejected the request toward the end of 2014, and Reed appealed.

Last June, the Court of Criminal Appeals returned the case to Shaver to determine whether evidence from the 1996 killing of Stacey Stites was still available for testing, whether its chain of custody was preserved and whether the items were likely to contain DNA traces.

Shaver, a retired judge who was appointed to Reed's case after the original judge stepped aside, ordered prosecutors and defense lawyers to draft proposed answers to the questions - a common practice - and both sides submitted a written list of findings and conclusions they hoped Shaver would adopt.

Problems arose when Shaver signed both sides' proposals last week and forwarded them to the Court of Criminal Appeals, even though they came to opposite conclusions about the chain of custody and the likelihood that the items contain biological material to test.

"This is a new one. I've never quite seen anyone rule for both sides at the same time," said Bryce Benjet, Reed's lawyer. "Not only is he just affixing his name on the bottom, he didn't even figure out whose side he was taking."

Bastrop County District Attorney Bryan Goertz on Thursday asked the appeals court to return the matter to Shaver with an order to clarify his position within 14 days.

As it stands now, Goertz said, Shaver has agreed with defense lawyers who believe the chain of custody is intact, and with prosecutors who insist that some items Reed wants tested could have been cross-contaminated because they were handled without gloves during Reed's trial and weren't stored in separate packages after trial.

"Both cannot be right," Goertz wrote.

Benjet said he intends to object to returning the case to Shaver, arguing that the Court of Criminal Appeals should be able to decide whether to grant the DNA testing based on a voluminous record that has been developed in hearings and briefs.

If the appeals court wants definitive answers from the court below, Benjet said he will ask that the case be assigned to another judge - one who will give proper consideration to a matter involving the death penalty.

"We've been waiting for a decision in this case for going on 2 years now," he said. "Furthermore, when you have an error of this magnitude, we think it's appropriate for the court to reassign the case to a judge who can issue orders based on the record."

Reed, now 48, was 10 days from execution when the Court of Criminal Appeals issued a delay in February 2015. Reed's lawyers claimed that a new look at old forensic evidence would show that he did not kill Stites, a 19-year-old Giddings resident who was strangled 18 days before her wedding date. Her body was found along a rural road in Bastrop County.

(source: Austin American-Statesman)

*************************

Family of Austin man on death row hopes new DNA analysis will reopen case

There are questions surrounding nearly 1,000 criminal convictions in Travis County.

Delia Perez Meyer says her brother, Louis Castro Perez, is among the death row inmates who received a Brady notice stating his case could be compromised due to new DNA information. Meyer hopes reanalysis will prove her brother's innocence.

"That picture's been sitting there for 18 years," Meyer says while pointing to the center of her kitchen table, where you'll find the center of her world. "It's 99.9 % of my life."

Meyer said defending her brother's innocence has become her life's work.

"We've just been fighting."

Perez is on Texas death row for the 1998 murders of 31-year-old Michelle Fulwiler, 38-year-old Cinda Barz and Barz's 9-year-old daughter, Staci Mitchell. The women worked for the Travis County Juvenile Probation Department, and evidence indicated Louis fatally beat the women with a cast iron skillet and strangled the young girl in their Austin home.

"I have never thrown away one shred of evidence that I thought may help my brother someday," Meyer says.

Now, some of the DNA evidence is under review. It was last fall when the Perez family and his attorney received a letter from the Travis County District Attorney's Office, outlining issues the Texas Commission on Forensic Science found with the way DNA was analyzed. It could impact cases across the state, including those like Perez's, where DPS analyzed the DNA evidence. Upon receiving the letter, Perez's attorney says she immediately requested a re-analysis.

"Now, 18 years later, Louis' case is not the only one that was possibly messed up."

As KXAN reported 2 weeks ago, legal experts say it was a change in scientific standards that's prompting the unprecedented statewide analysis. The issue is not with the actual testing of what are called DNA mixtures, but rather, with the probabilities scientists generate. Prosecutors often use these probabilities as evidence of the degree of the tests' conclusiveness.

DNA mixtures are cases where evidence from a crime scene contains 2 or more persons DNA profiles.

"I think the science evolved in the area of how to calculate the frequency that certain DNA profiles appear at random in the population," said Bob Wicoff, director of the Texas DNA Mixture Review Project.

Meyer says as she looks forward, she can't help but flash back to where it all began: in court, the day her brother was given the death penalty.

Her last words to her brother were, "I know at some point the truth is going to come out."

"And I think maybe we're closer to the truth now than ever before," says Meyer.

(source: KXAN news)

NORTH CAROLINA:

'We do forgive him,' says family of Spring Lake military vet charged with murdering wife, daughter

Several family members who were in attendance at the 1st court appearance for a 79-year-old military veteran charged with murdering his wife and daughter Thursday morning said he doesn't belong in prison.

Bobby King entered the courtroom using a walker and family members became very emotional as the judge read the 2 1st-degree murder charges against him.

The judge said King could get the death penalty if convicted.

According to police, King shot and killed his 84-year-old wife, Dorothy King, and 54-year-old daughter, Cynthia King, Thursday morning at their home at 1011 Diane Circle. He then called police at approximately 8:45 a.m. to admit what he had done. Police said that King did not say why he did it or what led up to the shooting.

The 2 women were later pronounced dead at Cape Fear Valley Medical Center.

King's daughter, Cheryl King, described meeting with her father after the shooting.

"When I walked in, Father didn't know who I was," she said. "Then, when his mind came back, he said, 'Hey, baby,' like he had no idea what went on. ... But I wanted Dad to know I loved him, I forgive him and that we're here for him."

While King did not have a criminal record, this was not the first time police had responded to the home at 1011 Diane Circle in Spring Lake in the past few years for domestic-related incidents, police said.

"We have received some additional information from the family about domestic-related calls, situations at the home, the father making accusations that property was taken away from him," said Spring Lake Police Chief Troy McDuffie.

Family members told CBS North Carolina that Cynthia King had just moved into the home with her parents to help care for them. The family had lived in the neighborhood for nearly 50 years.

A family member said Bobby King suffered from depression and dementia.

"[We're] gonna stand firm, gonna stand our ground, and fight for him, he doesn't deserve to go to prison and we love him and we do forgive him," Cheryl King said.

A spokesperson for the Cumberland County Sheriff's Department said "authorities are working to figure out the best plan of action in this case."

(source: WNCN news)

GEORGIA:

The Execution That Birthed a Movement----Troy Davis' death at the hands of the state on Sept. 21, 2011, transformed Occupy and kindled Black Lives Matter.

Jordan Taylor remembers precisely when Troy Davis was executed. It was 11:08 p.m. on Sept. 21, 2011, less than an hour before Taylor's 18th birthday.

"I had never heard his name before," says Taylor, who says he nonetheless attended a rally fellow students at SUNY New Paltz organized for a death row inmate they told him was innocent. On the threshold of adulthood, Taylor's eyes were opened: The execution of a Black man by the state of Georgia was connected to Black America's overall subjugation. "This new understanding of what it was to be a young, Black male washed over me," he says.

5 months later, when Trayvon Martin was killed by vigilante George Zimmerman, Taylor helped organize his campus's response. "Troy Davis cracked the screen of reality and Trayvon literally shattered it," he says. While he had initially seen Davis' case as the outcome of a broken system, he now understood that the system was functioning just as intended. Taylor later became a founding member of Black Lives Matter-Hudson Valley.

The current wave of racial justice organizing is often traced back to Zimmerman's acquittal, when the slogan "Black Lives Matter" came into being. But for Taylor and many others, it was Troy Davis' execution that planted the seeds of political consciousness.

Kenneth Foster Jr., an activist previously on Texas's death row (now serving a life sentence) puts it like this: "'I am Troy Davis' created a kinship among victims and supporters. 'I am Trayvon Martin' and 'I am Mike Brown' unified and spread the message that this could happen to anyone. This new awareness fueled Black Lives Matter."

Davis was sentenced to death in 1991 for the 1989 murder of a white police officer in Savannah, Ga. Despite the absence of physical evidence linking Davis to the murder - and several witnesses who said police coerced them - the state of Georgia doggedly pursued his execution.

As her body was beset with breast cancer, Troy's sister Martina Davis-Correia led what became an international campaign to save his life. The mobilization was unprecedented for an anti-death penalty case. From France to Peru to Hong Kong, thousands took to the streets. 51 members of Congress, President Jimmy Carter, Pope Benedict XVI and former FBI Director William Sessions appealed for clemency. Hundreds of college students in Washington, D.C., marched on the White House in hopes of appealing to the nation's 1st Black president to use his power to stop the execution of an innocent man.

But President Obama and Eric Holder, the 1st Black U.S. attorney general, said nothing.

"It was heartbreaking," Taylor says of Obama's inaction. "I didn't understand. He's the president. The president has this platform, and he's a Black man." For the 1st time, Taylor, and many others like him, questioned their faith in Obama.

"People experienced [Troy's execution] as a failure on every level of government," says Thenjiwe McHarris, co-founder of the anti-racist, anti-police violence group Blackbird.

Though there were those (including McHarris) who were never under the illusion that putting a Black person in the White House could eradicate white supremacy, many Black folks had hoped Obama's election would help. To them, Davis' execution delivered a painful but eye-opening message: Even under a Black president, Black lives still didn't matter.

"It got a lot of us more enraged, because even with a Black president this stuff still happened. That was an impetus for a lot of organizing energy," says Cherrell Brown, 27, a community organizer who also works for the African-American Policy Forum at Columbia Law School.

Davis' execution not only prompted protests against racism and injustice throughout the criminal justice system, but also helped catalyze the emergent Occupy movement. On the night of Davis' execution, McHarris and others organized a group of his supporters at St. Mary's Church in Harlem. Simultaneously, Occupiers who had just begun camping at Zuccotti Park in lower Manhattan held a vigil for Davis, using the "people's mic" to amplify a message Davis had given Amnesty International USA the previous day: "The struggle for justice doesn't end with me. This struggle is for all the Troy Davises who came before me and all the ones who will come after me."

On September 22, the night after the execution, hundreds gathered at Union Square for a Day of Outrage for Troy Davis. The marchers, chanting "We Are All Troy Davis!" merged with Occupiers.

That night, for the 1st time, police attacked Occupiers at Zuccotti Park, pushing demonstrators to the ground and arresting 6.

This experience drew attention and support to the nascent movement, as well as sharpening its analysis. "Before the Troy Davis execution, I feel like Occupy had a completely different dynamic," says brandon king, a member of the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement who was arrested that night. In the aftermath of the execution, says king, "the conversation about police violence and militarism became more apparent." Several weeks later, more than 30 protesters were arrested in New York at an Occupy Wall Street-backed protest against stop and frisk. Meanwhile, Occupy protests continued to pop up steadily in cities nationwide, resuscitating civil disobedience and militant protest.

On Feb. 26, 2012, 5 months after Davis' execution and the start of Occupy, Trayvon Martin was shot and killed by George Zimmerman. "On the heels of Davis' killing came another visible case of a teen who was criminalized and killed because of his Blackness," says McHarris.

In the wake of Martin's killing, thousands of people across the country took to the streets, with word of the protests spreading rapidly online. Activists occupying Florida's capitol building after Martin's killing posted real-time updates on Twitter and Facebook.

Social media allowed activists to circumvent mainstream media that either downplayed the activism or ignored it altogether. It also allowed ordinary people to remain connected to events long after the news cameras stopped rolling. "[With Troy], people realized we could use [social media] to get a message out. With Trayvon, that potential was fully realized," says Cherrell Brown.

Brown was a college senior when Troy Davis was executed. Though she had organized efforts to educate students about Davis' case on her North Carolina campus, she felt that she hadn't done enough. Three years later, she watched from her Washington Heights apartment as hundreds took to the streets of Ferguson. "I remembered how it felt to not be able to do anything in Troy's case," she says. So she set up a crowd funding campaign to purchase a plane ticket to Missouri. Upon arrival, she connected with the Organization for Black Struggle, a St. Louis-based group involved in the Ferguson protests. "I didn't know this resistance was possible," Brown says of the protests. "It was beautiful to witness."

It's no coincidence that organizers involved in Davis' case, including McHarris, played an instrumental role in developing the August 2016 policy platform of the Movement for Black Lives, a collective of more than 50 racial-justice organizations across the country. The platform includes a call to end executions.

"Troy's execution had an impact on folks," says McHarris. "A world that honors Black life, Black joy, Black resilience - it cannot be one that includes the death penalty."

Beyond this call, says McHarris, the core of the Black Lives Matter movement is honoring the resilience and strength of those who fight for their loved ones. As inspiration, she points to the tireless advocacy of Davis' sister Martina Davis-Correia. Human rights activists worldwide mourned when, 2 months after Davis' execution, Davis-Correia passed away.

"She fought so hard. She taught so many people what resistance really looks like and what it means to love somebody," says McHarris. "Those fighting to prevent injustices, like Troy's [family], and those who fight after their loved ones have been taken from them: That love sits at the heart of any movement for liberation. It's certainly at the heart of this one."

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Jen Marlow is an author, documentary filmmaker, playwright and journalist. She co-authored I am Troy Davis with Davis - who was executed by the state of Georgia in 2011 - and his sister, Martina Davis-Correia.

Keeanga-Yamahtta Talor is an assistant professor of African American Studies at Princeton University and the author of From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation.

(source: inthesetimes.com)

OHIO:

Attorneys ask for mistrial in Seman case

Attorneys in the capital murder case against Robert Seman have filed a motion in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court asking for a mistrial.

The motion was filed Thursday before Judge Maureen A. Sweeney. Because it is under seal, specific details are not available. The motion also asks the judge to disqualify the jury and discharge the jury pool in the case and also for a change of venue.

Jury selection started in the case Tuesday after more than 150 jurors showed up Sept. 9 for jury orientation. It has been delayed this week because Judge Sweeney is attending a previously scheduled judicial conference.

Judge Sweeney did overrule a defense request Monday for a change of venue due to intense pretrial publicity.

The motion was filed by defense attorneys Lynn Maro and Tom Zena several months ago. It was augmented over the weekend, however, with supplemental briefs from the jury orientation, where the defense attorneys said some potential jurors glared at Seman, some cried and a corrections officer at the jail where Seman is being held showed up in uniform and told jurors he supervised Seman at the jail.

All those incidents, the defense attorneys contended, would poison the remaining jurors against their client.

Judge Sweeney said while overruling the motion she would revisit the issue should there be problems picking a jury.

? Prosecutors on Friday filed a response to the defense motion, but it also is under seal.

Seman, 47, of Green Township, could face the death penalty if convicted of the deaths of Corinne Gump, 10, and her grandparents, William and Judith Schmidt, after an arson March 30, 2015, at their Powers Way home on the South Side the day Seman was to go on trial on charges of raping the girl.

Seman was free on bond at the time of the fire.

Seman is eligible for the death penalty if convicted of aggravated murder because prosecutors charged he killed the witness to a crime; killed a person younger than 13; killed two or more people; and killed someone in the commission of another felony, which in this case means aggravated arson or aggravated burglary.

If jurors find Seman is eligible for the death penalty, a second phase of the trial, or mitigation phase, will take place at which defense attorneys will present evidence to jurors showing them why they should spare Seman's life.

(source: vindy.com)

ARKANSAS----2, including female, face death penalty

Judge to allow interview recording in Bella Vista murder trial

A Benton County circuit judge closed a hearing to the media and public over concerns about recordings from an accused killer being played in open court.

Mauricio Alejandro Torres, 46, and and his wife Cathy Torres, 45, of Bella Vista are charged with capital murder and 1st-degree battery. The 2 will be tried separately. Prosecutors plan to seek the death penalty in both cases.

The couple is accused of killing their 6-year-old son. The jury trial for Mauricio Torres is set to begin Nov. 1.

Benton County Circuit Judge Brad Karren presided over a suppression hearing Friday. Defense attorneys want Mauricio Torres' statements to police excluded from as evidence at trial.

Jeff Rosenzweig, one of Torres' attorneys, requested Karren close the hearing to the media and public. Rosenzweig believes if the recordings were in the public domain they would impact Torres' chance for a fair trial.

"We would have to try this case on the other side of the state," Rosenzweig said.

Nathan Smith, Benton County's prosecutor, agreed playing the recordings in open court could have a negative impact on jury selection. Smith also was concerned if the recordings were played in open court they then could be subject to the state Freedom of Information Act.

Karren said he already had reviewed the recordings and transcripts of the interviews at the attorneys' request. He saw the issue of free press and vs. the right to a fair trial.

If potential jurors learned any information from the recordings it might make it impossible to qualify a jury, Karren said.

Karren closed his courtroom to the media and public for the suppression hearing, but said his ruling only concerned Mauricio Torres' case.

Capt. Tim Cook with the Bella Vista Police Department testified for about 3 minutes before the courtroom was closed to begin playing the recordings.

They listened to several hours of recordings before Karren issued his ruling.

Karren will allow the recordings to be used as evidence at Torres' trial. Karren said it was evident after reviewing the recordings Torres voluntarily agreed to speak with police. Karren said none of the interviews showed Cook made any inducements or promises to Torres to obtain the statements.

Torres testified during the suppression hearing and the judge found Cook was the more credible witness.

Mauricio and Cathy Torres could each be sentenced to life imprisonment without parole or the death penalty if convicted of capital murder. They face from 5 to 20 years if convicted of 1st-degree battery.

Maurice Isaiah Torres was pronounced dead at an area hospital March 29, 2015. A medical examiner determined the boy suffered chronic child abuse and his death was from internal injuries caused by rape, according to court documents.

(source: nwaonline.com)

MISSOURI:

Mexican national charged with killing 4 Kansans has murder trial shifted to St. Louis ---- Man is charged with killing 5 total

A judge has granted a venue change for a Mexican national accused of killing a Missouri man and 4 others in Kansas, ordering the Missouri trial to be held in St. Louis.

A judge in mid-Missouri's Montgomery County signed off Thursday on the venue change for 40-year-old Pablo Serrano-Vitorino.

Serrano-Vitorino is charged in Missouri with 1st-degree murder in the March 8 shooting death of Randy Nordman in New Florence. Missouri prosecutors are seeking the death penalty in the case, and Serrano-Vitorina has pleaded not guilty.

Serrano-Vitorino also is charged in Kansas with 4 1st-degree murder counts related to the March 7 shooting deaths of a Kansas City, Kansas, neighbor and 3 other men at the neighbor's home.

(source: Associated Press)

OKLAHOMA:

Oklahoma conservative group examines death penalty ---- Local conservative group discusses morality and economics sense of death penalty

Illinois death row survivor Randy Steidl said he can't explain the feeling he had when convicted of a crime he did not do. He spent 18 years on death row in Illinois after being wrongly convicted in 1987 for the brutal murder of a newlywed couple. He was released in 2004.

"It was like sitting on a bed of hot coals. You can't scream out and somebody is pointing at you that you did something you know you didn't," Steidl said.

Steidl and Ohio death row survivor Kwame Ajamu spoke in Guthrie this week before the Oklahoma Republican Liberty Caucus.

Logan County Commissioner Marven Goodman is chairman of the group and said the group represents a group of disenfranchised conservatives who are not satisfied with the direction many conservatives have taken in state government.

Goodman said he does not place much trust in government regulations. So he questioned why he should trust the government to execute people.

"What I will take away from this is tonight is the personal stories of these people that have been wrongly accused and put on death's door by the state," Goodman said.

In the United States 156 people have been wrongly convicted and sentenced to die before a court order reversed their death sentences because of DNA evidence, ineffective defense lawyers and new information about the crimes.

Steidl said his attorney was not prepared to defend him.

"But I was still hopeful when I went to death row. I went from my home to death row in 97 days," Steidl continued.

His mother cleaned houses to buy him a burial plot before it was determined 2 expert witnesses had charges pending on them and were chasing a $25,000 reward offered by the original suspect in the case.

The case was politically sensitive. It was organized crime, related to the Gambino crime family, Steidl said.

"Without the judicial review I finally got, I'd be dead today or at least be languishing in prison, Steidl added. "I really believe that Oklahoma"s track record so far is not very pretty when you've got 10 people that's been exonerated," he said.

Oklahoma has wrongly convicted 10 death penalty survivors since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976, said Marc Hyden, advocacy coordinator for Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty. The group is a project of Equal Justice USA.

Oklahoma has among the highest per-capita death penalty rates in the nation with 112 executions since 1976, he said.

"We don't know how many innocent people might have been executed because there is no method in the criminal justice system to go back and try them," Hyden said.

A 2015 Sooner Poll revealed 53 % of Oklahomans support abolishing capital punishment and replacing it with a sentence of life without parole, plus restitution to victims' families.

Oklahoma voters will decide the fate of State Question 776 on Nov. 11. SQ776 adds a new section to the Oklahoma Constitution to allow the Legislature to allow any method of execution not prohibited by the U.S. Constitution (see State Question 776: The final official ballot title is as follows.)

"It seeks to make sure that it can't be viewed as cruel and unusual punishment," Hyden said.

He fears more options would become available for executions such as firing squads, hangings and nitrogen gas.

Hyden pointed out that Oklahoma used the wrong drug to execute Clayton Darrell Lockett in 2014, and has had drug mix-ups during the last 2 execution attempts in 2015. He said he is pro life but the way the death penalty is run makes it offensive.

"This is a government that makes many mistakes," Hyden said.

As a fiscal conservative he cannot abide with the expense of the death penalty for the state during trials and the appeals process. Death row is about twice as expensive for housing prisoners as housing in a maximum security prison, Hyden said. It costs $2 million more than the life cycle of an inmate sentenced to life without parole, he explained.

Ajamu, 58, said did 28 years of his life in an Ohio prison for a robbery and murder of a Cleveland money-order salesman he did not do. Three of those years were on death row beginning at age 17. He was exonerated in 2014 after the key witness recanted his story.

"It has been my personal experience - and I tell you this is as pure as gold - when someone accuses you of something you didn't do you become defensive," Ajumu said. "But when someone accuses you and thus punishes you for something you didn't do, it hurts more than I can explain."

He never slept well because he was constantly thinking of ways to make a court realize he was innocent.

"The worst thing a state can do is hide evidence and buy and cheat to win a case," Ajamu said. "Prosecutorial misconduct is the worst thing that can happen. Those guys were to serve and protect, but they spilled dreams."

For more information about Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty, go to conservativesconcerned.org.

State Question 776: The final official ballot title is as follows:

This measure adds a new section to the Oklahoma Constitution, Section 9A of Article 2. The new Section deals with the death penalty. The Section establishes State constitutional mandates relating to the death penalty and methods of execution. Under these constitutional requirements:

-- The Legislature is expressly empowered to designate any method of execution not prohibited by the United States Constitution.

-- Death sentences shall not be reduced because a method of execution is ruled to be invalid.

-- When an execution method is declared invalid, the death penalty imposed shall remain in force until it can be carried out using any valid execution method, and

-- The imposition of a death penalty under Oklahoma law - as distinguished from a method of execution - shall not be deemed to be or constitute the infliction of cruel or unusual punishment under Oklahoma's Constitution, nor to contravene any provision of the Oklahoma Constitution.

(source: Edmond Sun)

NEBRASKA:

Death penalty ballot issue hearings scheduled

Nebraska Secretary of State John Gale has scheduled three public hearings in October on the death penalty question that will be on the state's general election ballot.

The hearings are required by state law, 1 in each of Nebraska's 3 congressional districts.

They are for Referendum No. 426, which will ask voters to either retain or repeal the law (LB268) that did away with Nebraska's death penalty in 2015. The bill also set the penalty for 1st-degree murder at life in prison.

The referendum will be the only statewide issue on the Nov. 8 ballot.

A petition drive that followed shortly after lawmakers abolished the death penalty resulted in enough signatures to put the question on the ballot, as well as enough signatures to stop the death penalty repeal from taking effect until voters could weigh in.

At the hearings, supporters of repealing LB268, which banned the death penalty, will be invited to speak first. Gale will moderate the hearings. Anyone is welcome to testify or attend.

"This is more than an informal town hall meeting," Gale said. "All comments become part of a permanent record on the issue. The purpose of the public hearings is to help educate citizens and the media through a meaningful exchange of views on the subject prior to the general election."

People who go to the hearings also will get information on how to interpret the language on the ballot, he said.

"In this case, voting to either retain or repeal doesn't apply to the death penalty itself. Rather, voters are being asked to decide whether to repeal LB268, thereby, reinstating the death penalty."

The 1st hearing will be Oct. 11 at 6:30 p.m. at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, Barbara Weitz Community Engagement Center, 6400 University Drive South.

The 2nd is Oct. 13 at 6:30 p.m. at the University of Nebraska at Kearney, Nebraskan Student Union, 1013 W. 27th St.

The last hearing is Oct. 18, 6:30 p.m. in Room 1525 at the Nebraska State Capitol.

In addition to the hearings, the secretary of state will print and distribute written materials about Referendum No. 426. County election officials may have copies of the pamphlets in their offices, and some may be in libraries and other locations.

The pamphlets will go out in the coming weeks. In addition, a copy will be published at sos.ne.gov.

(source: Lincoln Journal Star)

********************

Death penalty public hearing set for Oct. 13 on UNK campus

Interested voters may participate in a public hearing about the death penalty Oct. 13 at the University of Nebraska at Kearney.

According to a press release from Secretary of State John Gale's office, Referendum 426 asking voters to either retain or repeal LB268, which abolished the death penalty and set a maximum penalty for a 1st-degree murder conviction at life in prison, will appear on the Nov. 8 general election ballot.

Referendum 426 will be the only statewide issue on the ballot. It qualified following a petition drive that resulted in enough signatures for ballot placement, as well as enough to keep LB268 from going into effect until voters could weigh in.

"Witnesses will be able to address the underpinnings of what this issue is about, but also how to interpret the language when it appears on the ballot," Gale said in the press release. "In this case, voting to either retain or repeal doesn't apply to the death penalty itself. Rather, voters are being asked to decide whether to repeal LB268, thereby, reinstating the death penalty."

Those supporting Referendum 426 will be invited to speak first, followed by those opposing the measure. Hearings are moderated by Gale. Anyone may testify or just attend and listen.

"This is more than an informal town hall meeting," Gale said in the press release. "All comments become part of a permanent record on the issue. The purpose of the public hearings is to help educate citizens and the media through a meaningful exchange of views on the subject prior to the general election."

The public hearing will begin at UNK at 6:30 p.m. in Nebraskan Student Union Ponderosa Room E.

(source: Kearney Hub)

UTAH:

Park City killing could become death penalty case

Summit County prosecutors in the summer enhanced the charge in a February shooting death in Park City from murder to aggravated murder, a more serious count that allows them to seek the death penalty upon conviction if they opt to do so.

James Henfling had been charged with a count of murder with a dangerous weapon enhancement since a gun was used to kill Jose Fernandez. Joy Natale, a Summit County prosecutor assigned to the case, said in an interview a recent Utah Supreme Court case allows the count to be enhanced to aggravated murder as a result of the shooting occurring as part of a separate suspected offense of aggravated burglary. Natale said Henfling's entry into the apartment where the shooting occurred became unlawful when he fired the gun, prompting the enhancement of the charge to aggravated murder.

A preliminary hearing in the Feb. 22 shooting is scheduled in October. The judge will decide afterward whether to order Henfling to stand trial in the case. The judge uses a lesser standard when deciding whether to bind someone over for trial than a jury does when considering whether to convict someone.

If Henfling is bound over for trial, prosecutors will have 60 days to file a notice of intent with the 3rd District Court to seek the death penalty if he is convicted. Natale said the Attorney's Office has not decided whether it will seek Henfling's execution if he is convicted. Summit County Attorney Robert Hilder will ultimately make that decision.

Prosecutors have also charged Henfling with a 1st-degree felony count of discharging a firearm with serious bodily injury and a count of aggravated burglary with a dangerous weapon enhancement, which is also a 1st-degree felony.

In a charging document, the prosecutors say the Park City Police Department was called to the 7-Eleven on Park Avenue after a woman described as distraught went to the convenience store and then told the police Henfling, her boyfriend, shot a person. Henfling went to the store soon after, ordered out of a vehicle at police gunpoint and detained, the prosecutors said.

Officers responded to a condominium on Empire Avenue and found Fernandez on his back and bleeding from a gunshot to the head, the charging document says. He was taken to a hospital and died on Feb. 26.

Henfling's sister was at the condominium and saw the shooting, the prosecutors said. The charging document said Henfling admitted to the police he shot Fernandez with a .40-caliber pistol.

Fernandez worked at the No Name Saloon & Grill and Boneyard Saloon & Wine Dive. He was 37 years old.

Henfling, who is 28 years old and from Midvale, is incarcerated at the Summit County Jail, where he has been held since his arrest in February. Bail is set at $250,000, cash only. Henfling's attorney did not immediately return a phone message seeking comment.

(source: parkrecord.com)

CALIFORNIA:

"The Death Penalty Denies God's plan of Mercy": Abp. Gomez on Repealing California's Death Penalty

In a new video released earlier this month, Los Angeles' Archbishop Jose H. Gomez encourages Catholics throughout the state to join the Bishops of California in ending capital punishment by voting for Proposition 62 on November 8.

The Archbishop notes that, "The Church teaches that the death penalty can no longer be accepted." "Every life is sacred," he explains, as "every person has a dignity that comes from God" and it is to "God alone" that "life belongs."

"The death penalty," he continues, "denies God's plan of mercy and justice."

As the video message comes to a close, Archbishop Gomez reminds viewers that "killing the criminal does not bring justice to the victims."

The death penalty is an attempt to quench our sinful thirst for blood, our thirst for revenge, for power over life and death, our desire to scapegoat and condemn as opposed to reform and fight for justice.

"Rather than condemn them to death," the Archbishop closes, "as Christians, we should pray for their conversion and encourage their rehabilitation ... this is why I ask you to join me and the Bishops of California this November 8 to vote yes on proposition 62 which will repeal the death penalty in California. Together, let us answer the call of Pope Francis to seek mercy and a world without the death penalty."

It does make sense that this nation of capitalism is also composed of many states retaining the use of capital punishment, as both are forms of state-sanctioned execution and go together.

Of course, we hope Californians repeal capital punishment once and for all by voting for Prop 62.

Peace,

Keith Michael Estrada

(source: patheos.com)

USA:

Dylann Roof Wants The Jury Reminded They Are Never Required To Impose The Death Penalty----Lawyers for the accused Charleston shooter responded to the prosecutors motion to limit his use of a "mercy" defense at trial.

Dylann Roof's defense attorney responded this week to the prosecution's request that the court limit the accused Charleston church shooter's use of a "mercy" defense when he goes on trial for the killing of 9 people on June 17, 2015 inside the Emanuel AME church.

The main point being debated by each side in the case is whether or not it is appropriate for the judge to instruct the jury that each juror is by law never required to impose a sentence of death in any case. The prosecution's position is that mercy may enter into the debate over Roof’s sentence as a possible mitigating factor to be discussed during the sentencing phase of the trial, should Roof be convicted, but not before.

Roof's attorneys write that in their motion the government "conflates 2 distinct concepts in federal capital jury instruction."

'[F]irst, that the [Federal Death Penalty Act], by its terms, never requires a jury to impose a death sentence prior to discretionary finding that any aggravating factors sufficiently outweigh the mitigating factors," Roof's attorneys write. "[A]nd 2nd, the separate argument that, following the weighing process and a finding that the death penalty is justified, jurors should be permitted to exercise mercy and impose a sentence of life without the possibility of release."

Roof's attorneys add that the jurors need to be instructed on this point that a death sentence is never required of them in order to avoid confusion or an assumption that "the law will have determined in advance what crimes and offenders are to be punished by death."

"This persistent and widespread confusion should not come as a complete surprise," the attorneys write. "Few jurors - or judges, for that matter - will be glad to learn that the life of a fellow human being has been consigned to their discretionary moral judgement. Faced with this prospect, it is simpler to believe - even if it is not true - that the law itself provides the answer to the momentous question of life and death."

Earlier this week, the federal judge in the case ordered that jury selection will begin on Sept. 26 with 3,000 prospective jurors asked to appear at the district courthouse in Charleston. Phase one of jury selection will involve filling out a questionnaire that will include a list of possible witnesses - prospective jurors who know these witnesses will be excused. The questioning of individuals jurors has been tentatively scheduled for Nov. 7.

Roof's attorneys write that they intend to include an instruction to jurors stating that they are not required to impose the death penalty in any case when they submit their proposed jury instructions on Oct. 11.

(source: BuzzFeedNews)

SIERRA LEONE:

Sierra Leone to reintroduce death penalty as violent crimes spike

Sierra Leone's Minister of Internal Affairs has said the government would start implementing the death penalty to crack down on recent increase in gang-related killings in the country.

"We will kill when the state demands it," Palo Conteh said on Thursday. "I have called on the Director of Prisons to clean the gallows so that we will not be found wanting when the situation arises."

The gallows at the Male Correctional Center (Prisons) in Freetown have not been used since 1998 because President Koroma had put a moratorium on the death penalty, Conteh said.

"The death penalty is still in our law books and if any one is found guilty of murder we will not hesitate to enforce the law," he said.

Conteh pointed out that his ministry has instituted several methods to curb violence and the rampant killings in the country, in particular Freetown.

Meanwhile, the Sierra Leone police have started the "stop and search" raids in communities that are presumed to engage in violence activities. The ministry of internal affairs has also set up special units comprising Operational Support Division Officers together with detectives to go after thugs and cliques.

The minister also asked for the cooperation of the public with the police by informing them of any unusual activity in their community.

(source: Global Times)

KENYA:

Court Faults Penalty for Violent Robbery

The law stipulating the death sentence for robbery with violence is ambiguous, the High Court has ruled.

Judges Jessi Lesiit, Luka Kimaru and Stella Mutuku made the declaration Thursday in a suit in which 12 death row convicts had challenged the law that prescribes the death penalty for robbery with violence offenders.

The judges ruled that sections of the law do not meet the constitutional threshold of setting out precise and distinct differentiating degrees of aggravation of the offence of robbery and attempted robbery to adequately answer to charges as well as prepare a defence.

They argued that for one to be handed a death sentence, one has to defend oneself after the hearing before the final verdict is made in what is known as mitigation.

"Death sentence is not a cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment. However, it just cannot be meted to any person convicted of a capital offence," they said.

The judges pointed out that it was necessary for the mitigating circumstances to be considered so as to ensure the accused person's right is not violated in anyway and that there is a fair trial.

"If the court does not receive and consider mitigating factors and other statutory pre-sentencing requirements, it is not mandatory for the courts to pass a death sentence against persons charged with capital offences," they ruled.

In Kenya, offences with a death penalty, include robbery with violence and murder.

While noting that the verdict would consequently mean that several robbery with violence convicts would have to be set free, the judges temporarily suspended the decision for 18 months to enable the Attorney-General, the Kenya Law Reform and other relevant agencies to appropriately amend the impugned sections.

The court asked Parliament to take into consideration international good practices on sentencing so as to accord similar facts to similar charges of equal gravity.

But for those on death row after being convicted with the disputed sections of the law, the judges ruled that the AG with relevant authorities should find a remedy for the prejudice suffered and prescribe an appropriate solution in the same time frame.

Even though the verdict was in favour of the 12 filed the objection in 2013, after being handed the death sentence, the judges declined to grant a request to have their convictions looked again by the trial court.

They were all separately charged with offences of robbery with violence and attempted robbery.

With their petition, which challenged the death penalty as contrary to Bill of Rights, human rights and a right to a fair hearing, they first appeared before Justice Mohamed Warsame (now a Court of Appeal judge), who dismissed their suit.

The appellate court referred them back to the High Court to be heard on merit by a 3 - judge bench.

(source: Daily Nation)

ZIMBABWE:

Mnangagwa rekindles call for abolition of death penalty

Acting President Emmerson Mnangagwa yesterday rekindled his call for the abolition of the death penalty, saying those insisting that it be maintained need divine intervention.

The Constitution bars capital punishment for women, but men aged below 21 and 70 can be sentenced to death.

Addressing a constitutional advocacy meeting in Bulawayo, Mnangagwa said Zimbabweans must continue advocating for capital punishment to be struck off the country's statutes.

Mnangagwa has been at the forefront of the campaign against capital punishment after he faced the hangman's noose during the liberation struggle under the Rhodesian regime.

The push to abolish capital punishment is now at the Constitutional Court where Tendai Biti, who is representing death row inmates, seeks the court's intervention to drop the death penalty. The case will be heard at the Constitutional Court on September 28.

(source: bulawayo24.com)

NIGERIA:

21-yr-old barber remanded in prison for stabbing cousin to death

A 21-year-old barber has been remanded in jail for stabbing his cousin to death at their aunt's funeral.

The culprit, Ugbede Daniel, was remanded by a Lokoja Chief Magistrates' Court on Friday, September 16, for the death of the victim identified as Ebenezer Agada, aged 28.

According to the Chief Magistrate, Levi Animoku, Daniel's offence of culpable homicide contravened Section 221 of the Penal Code and attracts a death penalty.

Animoku added that the offence was not bailable, having Daniel remanded at the Federal Prisons, Ankpa.

The case has reportedly been transferred to Chief Magistrate Court in Ankpa, and adjourned till September 27 for mention.

The court heard that the crime was committed on Thursday, August 25, at Egahimotu-Ogugu in Olamaboro Local Government Area of Kogi State.

Prosecutor, Sgt. Tuesday Ganagana, said that the complainant, Joseph Daniel, had made a report stating that a quarrel had ensued between the accused and the deceased during the burial of their aunt, Rose John, at about 9pm on that fateful day.

Daniel who was armed with a dagger at the time dragged the deceased to the front of the house before stabbing him in the chest.

Agada was left in the pool of his own blood before he was rushed to the General Hospital, Okpo, where he was confirmed dead.

According to Ganagana, further investigation into the matter is underway.

(source: pulse.ng)

IRAQ:

Iraq executes Palestinian youth

Iraqi authorities executed a Palestinian youth yesterday after accusing him of collaborating with armed groups in Iraq, the Palestinian Safa news agency reported today.

Ahmad Husni Shwahneh was arrested by Iraqi authorities almost a year ago and charged with working with militant factions. However, reports were unclear as to whether or not these groups were related to Daesh, nor what evidence Iraq had against the youth.

Shwahneh, who also holds Jordanian nationality and lived in the Hashemite Kingdom with his family, was executed by hanging. An Iraqi court authorised his execution which was carried out before his family were informed.

His family have stated that they will be conducting his funeral in Jordan, with his extended family from the West Bank town of Qalqilya holding a remembrance service.

Iraq is known for its controversial anti-terror laws that have been criticised as allowing politically motivated executions. Amnesty International recently reported that Iraqi prisoners were routinely subjected to torture in order to extract "confessions" leading to unfair trials.

(source: middleeastmonitor.com)

INDONESIA:

Indonesia awaiting Philippines case before execution ---- Attorney General says Filipina convicted of drug smuggling won’t be executed until legal process in Philippines concludes

Indonesia's attorney general reiterated Saturday that the possible execution of a Filipina convicted of drug smuggling would be held off until a legal process involving her alleged recruiters concludes in the Philippines.

Mary Jane Fiesta Veloso, a single mother of two, had been seeking work in Malaysia as a maid when she was arrested with 2.6 kilograms of heroin in her luggage at Yogyakarta airport, Java island, in April 2010.

She was due to be shot by firing squad in April 2015 with seven foreigners, but was granted a temporary reprieve after her alleged recruiter surrendered to Philippines police.

Indonesian Attorney General Muhammad Prasetyo said Saturday that his office would act according to a statement by Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte in which he expressed respect for the legal process in Indonesia earlier this month.

"It does not mean that they gave the green light [for execution] ... We are still waiting for the legal process in Manila," detik.com quoted Prasetyo as saying.

He insisted, however, that it was "not possible" for Jakarta to comply with Manila's request that Veloso be allowed to travel to testify as a victim in the human trafficking case due to her status as a convict in Indonesia.

He reiterated the offer that Philippines officials could meet with Veloso in an Indonesian prison, from where she could also provide testimony via teleconference.

"They [the Philippines] have to accept what is our rule just as we accept to follow the legal process there," Prasetyo stressed.

Meanwhile, the Indonesian Migrant Workers' Network urged President Joko Widodo to call off the execution to some women suspected of being victims of human trafficking, including Veloso.

"Mary Jane is just a victim as well as dozens of Indonesian migrant women who are also being threatened with the death penalty abroad," its coordinator Sringatin, who like many Indonesians uses only 1 name, said in a statement Saturday.

"The decision to execute Mary Jane did not consider the fate of 209 Indonesian migrant workers [threatened with the death penalty], 63 of who are women who are awaiting execution abroad," she added.

Indonesia has some of the harshest anti-narcotic laws in the world. Widodo declared a "drug emergency" last year, on the grounds that such use reportedly kills around 40-50 people in the country daily.

In late July, Indonesia executed 1 national and 3 foreigners convicted of drug smuggling.

Last year's executions were heavily criticized by the international community, with some countries -- whose nationals had been put to death -- withdrawing ambassadors from Jakarta.

(source: worldbulletin.net)

INDIA:

'Will take steps to ensure death penalty for the culprit'

A day after the Supreme Court refused to confirm capital punishment to Govindachamy in the Soumya rape and murder case, the state government on Friday assured that it would take all steps to ensure that he gets the death penalty.

Law minister A K Balan said that rape, robbery, violence and injury all have been proven in the case. The only point of contention is over the killing of Soumya and whether the killing was intentional, he said. "There's no doubt on what has led to the killing of Soumya. Now the government is committed to proving this before the court,'' he said.

Balan said he was holding discussions with chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan and advocate general Sudhakara Prasad on the need for changing the state's counsel in the apex court. The government is also debating whether to submit a rectification petition or a review petition.

. The law minister who reached New Delhi on Friday said the government has decided to seek opinion from the best available legal experts in the country before submitting the petition in the Supreme Court. There will be no delay in submitting the petition, he added.

"The minister, however, ruled out reports that the CPM stand on capital punishment was causing a hindrance in this case. "This should not be clubbed with cases in which the LDF has been against capital punishment. In this, we are committed to getting capital punishment to the accused," he said.

Meanwhile, former chief minister V S Achuthanandan said that the CPM is against capital punishment. But it was natural that public sentiments will be aroused in cases like the Soumya murder cases and these should be treated as a form of protest by the people, he added.

(source: The Times of India)

*******************

Supreme Court sets aside death penalty in MP girl murder----The court handed out a jail term of at least 25 years, stating that although the crime could not qualify as 'rarest of rare', the convict did not deserve to be given any chance to be released.

The Supreme Court Friday set aside the death penalty of a man convicted of murdering a 7-year-old girl after attempting to rape her. The court, however, handed out a jail term of at least 25 years, stating that although the crime could not qualify as 'rarest of rare', the convict did not deserve to be given any chance to be released on remission after 14 years.

Tattu Lodhi was sentenced to death by a trial court in Jabalpur in Madhya Pradesh for killing the girl in 2011. The High Court had later upheld the punishment.

"Considering the fact that the ... helpless child fell victim of the crime of lust at the hands of the appellant and there may be probabilities of such crime being repeated in case the appellant is allowed to come out of the prison on completing usual period of imprisonment for life ... we are of the view that he should be inflicted with imprisonment for life with a further direction that he shall not be released from prison till he completes actual period of 25 years of imprisonment," said a bench led by Justice J Chelameswar.

************************

Surat hooch tragedy: 3 held, police register 4 FIRs----Gujarat ATS has invoked Section 65 (A) of Bombay Prohibition (Gujarat Amendment) Act, which stipulates maximum death penalty on conviction, against all the 3 persons arrested

Gujarat ATS Friday arrested 3 persons in connection with the hooch tragedy in which at least 23 persons were killed in Vareli village of Surat. Notably, the probe agency has invoked Section 65 (A) of Bombay Prohibition (Gujarat Amendment) Act, which stipulates maximum death penalty on conviction, against all the three persons.

Police said this was for the 1st time that they had to invoke Section 65 (A) in a case of hooch tragedy after it was first introduced in 2009 by Gujarat government, in the wake of Ahmedabad hooch tragedy, by an Amendment Bill. Nearly 160 persons were killed in Ahmedabad hooch tragedy.

The 3 arrested have been identified as Ramu Yadav, Kailash Tiwari and Manoj Verma. While Yadav is a native of Uttar Pradesh and a resident of Vareli village, Tiwari is a resident of Mumbai and Verma lives in Ahmedabad. With these arrests, the total number of arrests in the case has reached 10. Surat police have registered 4 FIRs.

Yadav has been named as the main accused in the case by ATS, said Gujarat ATS officer IPS Himanshu Shukla. Police claim that Yadav was making hooch with methanol and selling it to bootleggers in Surat city and district while Tiwari and Verma were tanker drivers working with Amit Roadlines, a transport firm in Mumbai. Yadav was earlier involved in bootlegging activities.

Police said that methanol, loaded in tankers, was on its way from a firm in Mumbai and was likely to be delivered to another firm in Bharuch.

Yadav used to purchase methanol from them and mix it with spurious liquor and sell it to bootleggers, police said. Shukla said, "Today, we have made 3 arrests and in future as the investigation progresses, we will arrest more people. We have seized methanol barrels from them and have sent them to FSL for lab analysis." He added: "We are also probing whether (other) employees of both firms in Mumbai and Bharuch are involved in this racket. We will question the company officials and if they are involved, we will take strict action against them."

(source for both: indianexpress.com)

PAKISTAN:

Prosecutor to seek death penalty in Samia Shahid 'honour killing'----Samia's ex-husband confessed to strangling her, but her father 'denies' any involvement.

The prosecutor in the murder of a British woman Samia Shahid will seek the death penalty for her father and ex-husband. Samia's father Chaudhry Muhammad Shahid and her first husband Chaudhry Muhammad Shakeel are accused of killing the 28-year-old from Bradford while on a visit to Pakistan.

The pair appeared in court in Jhelum in Pakistan's northern Punjab province on Saturday (17 September), but it was a brief hearing after prosecutor Najful Hussain Shah applied for more time to gather evidence.

He said Samia's mother and sister tricked her into visiting Pakistan in July by saying her father was gravely ill and that the women fled to Britain after her murder, according to AP reports.

Shah added that the Pakistani government is trying to bring them back for questioning.

Speaking to reporters outside the court, he also confirmed he will seek the death penalty for both men.

When Samia died on 27 July, her family declared she died of a heart attack and buried her in eastern Pakistan.

However , when her second husband Syed Mukhtar Kazim suspected it was an "honour killing" following their marriage, he urged Pakistani authorities to investigate and publicly accused Samia's family of being responsible for her death.

A Pakistani police investigation concluded that Samia's father stood guard while Shakeel raped her, before the two men strangled her to death. A post-mortem examination confirmed she died from strangulation.

Police sources in Pakistan claim Shakeel admitted the murder in an interview saying, "I strangled Samia to death using a dupatta [a scarf]."

Both men are yet to enter pleas however, BBC Pakistan correspondent Shaimaa Khalil said Shahid "flatly denied" any involvement in his daughter's death as he entered court on Saturday (17 September).

"For the 1st time since his arrest, Muhammad Shahid responded to media questions about her death," Khalil said, according to the BBC. "He said, 'It was all lies' and that he loved his daughter very much."

(source: ibtimes.co.uk)

*******************

UK woman's murder case delayed in Pakistan

A Pakistani court has adjourned the case of a British-Pakistani woman's murder until September 23 to give police more time to submit charges against her father and ex-husband, who are accused of slaying her in the name of honour, police and lawyers say.

Police brought both men before the court in Jhelum as they covered their faces and did not respond to questions from journalists.

After the brief hearing on Saturday, Najful Hussain Shah, the lawyer for the deceased woman's husband, told reporters that he will seek the death penalty for 28-year-old Samia Shahid's father, Mohammed Shahid, and ex-husband, Mohammed Shakeel.

He said Shahid's mother and sister tricked her into visiting Pakistan in July by saying her father was gravely ill and that the women fled to Britain after her murder. He said the Pakistani government is trying to bring them back for questioning.

Also on Saturday, defence lawyer Mohammed Arif dismissed the police allegations as baseless, saying his clients have been wrongly accused. He said he will appeal another court's recent rejection of bail for Mohammed Shahid.

Shahid's murder has shocked many Pakistanis since a government-ordered police probe concluded that she was strangled by her father and her ex-husband. Police allege that the father also stood guard while the ex-husband raped her.

The woman's father initially informed police that she died of natural causes. But Shahid's second husband, Mukhtar Kazim, publicly accused her family of killing her.

The case was reopened and a police probe quickly concluded that Shahid's death was a "premeditated, cold-blooded murder", according to a police statement.

Shahid married her 1st husband in February 2012 but stayed only briefly in Pakistan before returning to England where she obtained a divorce 2 years later. She later married Kazim and moved with him to Dubai.

(source: Associated Press)

SEPTEMBER 16, 2016:

DELAWARE:

Justice and the death penalty

The key issue in the death penalty is justice. All men are created equal and man's innate, God-given human right to self-preservation is the citizen's civil right to self-defense in equal justice

The death penalty is the sentence for murder in the 1st degree, for premeditated homicide with malice aforethought, for laying in wait for, planning and executing another legally innocent human being ... premeditated murder.

Capital punishment is enacted through the power of attorney of the condemned murderer. As a citizen of the state, the murderer is brought to justice by his own citizenship in the state and by his own justice.

All men have an innate human right to self-preservation and a civil right to self-defense. The prison guards, the warden, the contractors are all in double jeopardy while a murderer lives. All people are in double jeopardy of life. The first jeopardy was before the crime was committed in bloodlust. The 2nd jeopardy is now as the murderer lives.

Mary De Voe

Elkton

(source: Letter to the Editor, The News Journal)

GEORGIA:

Man accused in priest's murder pleads not guilty----Steven Murray faces murder charge in death of Father Rene Robert

The man accused of killing a St. Augustine priest in April pleaded not guilty Friday to malice murder in Burke County, Georgia.

Prosecutors have filed notice that they will seek the death penalty against Steven Murray in the death of Father Rene Robert.

Motions hearings in the case will begin Dec. 2, but the District Attorney's Office said it doesn't expect a trial for at least 2 years.

Murray, 28, led deputies to Robert's body in April in a wooded area of Burke County on State Road 56, after the priest had been missing for a week.

Investigators said Murray kidnapped Robert, who had been helping Murray after his release from prison, and drove the priest to northeast Georgia, where he shot him.

Robert, 71, was last seen April 10 and was reported missing after a funeral the next day. His car was found crashed into a tree in Aiken, South Carolina, and Murray was arrested nearby. He was extradited to St. Johns County on charges of aggravated fleeing and attempting to elude law enforcement.

He was sent back to Georgia after the malice murder charge was filed against him.

Priest was against death penalty

Those closest to Robert said the death penalty is not what the priest would have wanted for Murray.

He even wrote a letter 20 years ago addressing this exact situation.

"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," said Father John Gillespie of San Sebastian Catholic Church.

Gillespie, who served with Robert in St. Augustine, said that doesn’t mean Murray shouldn't be punished, just that his life shouldn't be taken in Robert's name.

Amy Law, 1 of the people who alerted police to Robert's disappearance, said she wants justice for Robert.

"(Murray) will get what he deserves. Hopefully, he will get what he deserves," Law said.

Murray moved around

Murray has been moved to several jails because of suicide attempts and damage he caused to a jail.

Murray was initially moved to Jefferson County after he tried to hang himself using a bed sheet, Burke County Sheriff Greg Coursey said.

Coursey told WRDW that Murray was put on suicide watch and Jefferson County Jail's facilities are better prepared for suicidal inmates.

While he was in the Jefferson County Jail, Murray damaged a sprinkler head, flooding his holding cell, Coursey said in a statement released Monday. WRDW reports that the damage was less than $150 and will be covered by Jefferson County.

Murray also pulled a metal drain pipe connected to the toilet loose, Coursey said.

The Georgia Sheriff's Association told WRDW that after Murray was returned to its jail, Burke County called asking for help to find another facility for him.

GSA suggested Clayton County and Sheriff Victor Hill agreed to the transfer.

While in the Clayton County Jail, Murray again attempted suicide by trying to hang himself, according to a report from WRDW.

(source: news4jax.com)

ALABAMA:

Nov. 3 execution date set for Tommy Arthur in '82 Muscle Shoals murder

The Alabama Supreme Court has set execution dates for 2 state inmates, including Tommy Arthur in a 1982 Muscle Shoals slaying.

Arthur is scheduled to be executed on Nov. 3. Arthur was convicted of the murder-for-hire of a Muscle Shoals man. This is the 7th time an execution date has been set for Arthur in his more than 3 decades on death row.

Ronald Bert Smith Jr. is scheduled to be executed on Dec. 8. Smith was convicted in the 1994 robbery and slaying of a Huntsville convenience store clerk.

Alabama is seeking to resume executions after a more than 2-year lull as the state faced a scarcity of lethal injection drugs and ongoing litigation over the death penalty.

The state in January carried out its 1st execution since 2013.

An appellate court in May halted the execution of Vernon Madison just hours before he was scheduled to be put to death.

Arthur was sentenced to death in 1983 for the Feb. 1, 1982, contract killing and robbery of Troy Wicker Jr. in Muscle Shoals.

On the day of the murder, authorities said, Arthur walked away from a work release program in Decatur and drove to Muscle Shoals.

Arthur was in the Decatur facility because he was convicted in the 1977 shooting death of a woman in Marion County, according to a 2007 Florence TimesDaily story in which authorities said Arthur was tied to at least 4 shootings.

Another shooting involved a Colbert County guard when Arthur broke out of the jail in 1986, shortly before the scheduled retrial in Troy Wicker's shooting.

The guard survived a gunshot wound to the neck.

(source: Times Daily)

OHIO:

Judge in death penalty case has jurors sign media waiver

All 12 jurors and 6 alternate jurors were asked to sign a pledge stating they would not watch television, read newspapers, read online news articles or consume other forms of media regarding a Dayton death penalty case Friday.

The pledge, orchestrated by the judge in the trial, Judge Steven Dankof, is an unusual move, as many jurors are asked verbally not to consume media during higher-profile cases and it's left at that.

Opening statements in the Harvey Jones case began Friday.

The double-murder suspect is accused of killing 29-year-old Demetrius Beckwith and 32-year-old Carly Hughley in January 2013. Harvey is believed to be Hughley's ex-boyfriend.

It happened the morning of Jan. 24, 2013 at the Catalpa Crossing Apartments on Turner Road in Harrison Township. Hughley's then-10-year-old son was in the apartment when the shootings took place and ran to a neighbor's house to get help.

The now-14-year-old boy is expected to testify, as he was the sole person to witness Harvey pull the trigger, deputies say.

Harvey was initially indicted on charges of murder, kidnapping and robbery charges.

Jury selection in the trial began Monday.

(source: WDTN news)

OKLAHOMA:

Suspect in Oklahoma rancher's slaying expected to plead guilty

A man who faces the death penalty if convicted for the shooting death of a Cherokee County rancher is expected to plead guilty instead of taking his chances with a jury in a 1st-degree murder trial.

Paul Newberry, 25, of Park Hill, Okla., hinted that he might be ready to seek a plea deal with the hope of taking the death penalty option off the table. Newberry is scheduled to appear at 1:30 p.m. Thursday before a judge in Cherokee County District Court to announce his decision.

"I anticipate that Newberry will enter a plea," Assistant District 27 Attorney Jack Thorp said Thursday after the accused appeared in court. "I can't get much more into it than that."

Newberry is suspected of fatally shooting Charley Kirk, 88, on July 27, 2015, during what prosecutors have described as a home invasion gone awry. Cheyenne Watts, 23, also faces a murder charge in connection with Kirk's death.

The 2 are accused of breaking into Kirk's home and then shooting him to death when the rancher confronted them. After ransacking the home - reportedly overlooking a safe that reportedly contained $186,000 - the 2 are believed to have stolen a handgun, a sawed-off shotgun, a German-style Luger, a Kawasaki Mule, batteries, a frozen pizza, Kirk's wallet and a pair of binoculars.

Kirk was shot 16 times during the melee. The bullets, according to a preliminary report previously presented by the medical examiner's office, struck Kirk in the head, neck, torso and his extremities.

Prosecutors charged both Newberry and Watts with 1st-degree murder, robbery with a weapon, 1st-degree burglary, attempted 1st-degree arson, larceny of an automobile and 3rd-degree arson.

Investigators say they found evidence of an attempted arson at Kirk's home, and the Kawasaki Mule reportedly was found burned at a location near Keys High School. The 2 men were arrested later at a casino in Pittsburg County.

A jury trial for Watts is expected to begin in mid January, according to court records.

(source: swtimes.com)

NEBRASKA:

Public hearings next month on death penalty ballot issue

Nebraska Secretary of State John Gale has scheduled public hearings concerning the death penalty issue that will appear on the November ballot. By state law, the hearings are required to be held in each of Nebraska's congressional districts whenever a petition issue is on the general election ballot.

Referendum No. 426 will ask voters to either retain or repeal Legislative Bill 268. In 2015, state lawmakers voted in favor of LB 268, which abolished the death penalty and also set a maximum penalty for a 1st-degree murder conviction at life in prison.

The hearings are moderated by Gale and anyone is welcome to testify or just attend and listen. "This is more than an informal town hall meeting. All comments become part of a permanent record on the issue. The purpose of the public hearings is to help educate citizens and the media through a meaningful exchange of views on the subject prior to the general election. In this case, voting to either retain or repeal doesn't apply to the death penalty itself. Rather, voters are being asked to decide whether to repeal LB 268, thereby reinstating the death penalty."

1 of the hearings will be held in Omaha at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, October 11th at the Barbara Weitz Community Engagement Center (rooms 201, 205 & 209) on the UNO campus.

Hearings will also be held on the UNK campus in Kearney on October 13th and at the State Capitol in Lincoln on October 18th.

(source: WOWT news)

CALIFORNIA:

California voters oppose ending state's death penalty

More than 1/2 of voters oppose a November ballot measure that would abolish the California death penalty, according to a new USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times poll conducted by SurveyMonkey.

Proposition 62, which would replace capital punishment with life without parole, had 40% support among the 1,909 registered voters polled in September across the state. 9 % had no answer.

It is 1 of 2 measures on the future of the death penalty that voters will weigh on Nov. 8. Both capital punishment initiatives would require current death row inmates to work and pay restitution to victims but take opposing approaches to what the measures both call a broken system.

Proposition 66 would keep the death penalty, limiting the number of petitions prisoners can file to challenge their convictions and sentences, and providing new deadlines intended to expedite appeals.

The poll only surveyed on Prop. 62, which has garnered some high-profile supporters, including California billionaire Tom Steyer and Former President Jimmy Carter and First Lady Rosalynn Carter.

A campaign to defeat Prop. 62 and support Prop. 66 has wide support from law enforcement officials across California.

Jacob Hay, a spokesman for the campaign in favor of the measure, disputed the results, saying internal polling using the full ballot language - including its fiscal impact - showed Prop. 62 in the lead.

"Voters move quickly towards Prop. 62 when they learn about the $150 million in annual savings Prop. 62 brings and how it guarantees California never executes an innocent person," Hay said. "Prop. 62 is the only real solution to a failed system that has cost $384 million per execution, delivers no crime prevention benefits, and is an empty promise to victims' families."

Sacramento County Dist. Atty. Anne Marie Schubert, a Prop. 66 supporter, disagreed. "This poll is consistent with what we see in other polls that show Californians support the death penalty but they want it fixed, and this is what Prop. 66 does," she said.

(source: Los Angeles Times)

*******************

California's Death Row

Each week, the editor's of LA Progressive pick what they regard as a particularly insightful comment from one of our readers, both to draw attention to one particular reader's thoughts and to encourage more readers to weigh in with their opinions. This week's pithy response comes from Nicholas C. Arguimbau, commenting on "Californians' Looming Life-Or-Death Decision" by Ernest Canning.

6 of the 746 men on California's death row were once clients of mine. 4 of the 6 have sat in prison waiting an outcome to their unending cases over 30 years or more. The people who are executed are a generation older and wiser than the people who we arrested.

I worked for 20 years on appeals from death sentences in California. I have great respect for all the men I represented, because the lives they led up to the point of an alleged killing were so uniformly terrifying that all you can say to yourself is "There but the grace of God go you or I." Capital murder is not normal behavior, and something abnormal led to it - generally mental illness or the sort of severe abuse as children that beat all the humanity out of them.

The only men on death row who have not been the subjects of severe abuse or mental illness are generally innocent. When the system is working, the jury will have come to understand that the individual deserves to be acquitted or has suffered mitigating circumstances that point to a lesser punishment than death by the terms of California's death penalty statute. That that has not happened to the 746 men on death row is almost always the result of some miscarriage of justice such as concealment of evidence by the prosecution or incompetence of the defense. So there is virtually no death row inmate who would be there had the law operated as intended.

But the irony of it all is that the great majority of death row inmates quote Patrick Henry in substance: "Give me liberty or give me death". They have come from backgrounds where life is grimly cheap, and they can stand the thought of capital punishment. Life without the possibility of parole, on the other hand, is an unbelievably terrifying sentence. It means being placed in a cold concrete prison hundreds of miles from the people you once knew, where the jailkeepers have an insatiable lust for cruelty, where there is no such thing as rehabilitation, and where you will live for decades without hope. So execution, relief from a nightmarish life is nowhere as terrifying to these men as life without parole.

So California will be well rid of capital punishment if that is what the voters choose.

Nicholas C. Arguimbau

(source: laprogressive.com)

WASHINGTON:

Decision on death penalty in Moneytree cases delayed again

A Selah man charged with killing two women outside a Yakima payday lending business in March could find out today if he'll face a possible death sentence if he's convicted.

Manuel Enrique Verduzco is expected to appear in Yakima County Superior Court at 9 a.m., where prosecutors are expected to tell Judge Michael McCarthy if they have decided to seek the death penalty in the March 26 homicides.

Verduzco is charged with 2 counts of aggravated 1st-degree murder in the deaths of Karina Morales-Gonzalez and Martina Martinez.

Morales-Gonzalez, 27, of Toppenish, and Martinez, 30, of Yakima, were opening the Moneytree at the corner of South First and East Walnut streets when each was shot once in the head, authorities say.

Verduzco once worked at the business.

Under the aggravated murder charge, Verduzco would face either life in prison without the possibility of parole or the death penalty if convicted.

The hearing for prosecutors to decide which penalty to seek has been delayed twice in order to obtain more information.

(source: Yakima Herald)

USA:

WikiLeaks' Julian Assange fails to overturn arrest warrant----WikiLeaks founder could face death penalty

The arrest warrant for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange on allegations of rape still stands, a Swedish appeals court announced Friday.

Swedish prosecutors issued the warrant for Assange, 45, in August 2010 based on allegations of sexual assault by 2 female WikiLeaks volunteers in the country and have for years sought his extradition.

He has been holed up inside the Ecuadorian embassy in London since 2012. Ecuador granted Assange political asylum after he said he feared an extradition to Sweden could lead to another extradition to the United States, where he could face the death penalty if he is charged and convicted of publishing government secrets through WikiLeaks.

Ecuador said last month it would allow an interrogation of Assange, which is now scheduled to take place October 17.

'Risk he will evade legal proceedings'

The order from the Swedish appeals court said that Assange "is still detained in absentia," adding that it "shares the assessment of the (lower) district court that Julian Assange is still suspected on probable cause of rape... and that there is a risk that he will evade legal proceedings or a penalty."

It was the 8th time the European arrest warrant has been tested in a Swedish court, with all 7 previous judgments also having gone against Assange.

WikiLeaks tweeted a statement from Assange's legal team Friday after the decision, saying their client was "disappointed."

"Mr. Assange will appeal the decision and remains confident that his indefinite and unlawful detention will cease and that those responsible will be brought to justice," the statement said.

The decision comes a day after WikiLeaks released medical records claiming that Assange's mental health would be adversely affected if he remained holed up in the embassy.

"Mr. Assange's mental health is highly likely to deteriorate over time if he remains in his current situation ... It is urgent that his current circumstances are resolved as quickly as possible," said a report published by the organization on Twitter.

A 27-page medical analysis, which was attributed to an unnamed "trauma and psychosocial expert" in London and dated December 11, 2015 was published alongside supporting documentation.

Assange's legal team has intensified its calls for Sweden to adhere to a non-binding opinion by the United Nations working group on arbitrary detention, which stated in February that their client's confinement in the embassy should be considered as arbitrary detention enforced by Sweden and Britain.

Exchange offered

On Thursday, Assange said he would agree to serve prison time in the United States in exchange for President Barack Obama granting clemency to imprisoned former Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning, the group's Twitter account said .

"If Obama grants Manning clemency, Assange will agree to US prison in exchange -- despite its clear unlawfulness," the group said.

Assange attorney Barry Pollack told CNN Thursday the deal would have to include a pardon for Manning, who was convicted in 2013 of stealing and disseminating 750,000 pages of documents and videos to WikiLeaks in what has been described as the largest leak of classified material in US history. Manning was found guilty of 20 of the 22 charges against her, including violations of the US Espionage Act.

Thursday's tweet offering the deal was posted along with a letter from Pollack addressed to Attorney General Loretta Lynch that pressed the Department of Justice to provide information about its ongoing criminal investigation into his client.

Pollack argued in the letter, which was written last month, that over the course of the investigation into Assange, which is in its sixth year, the Justice Department "revised the department's regulations with respect to obtaining evidence from and charging members of the news media."

Pollack also said "the department publicly announced it was closing its criminal investigation of the handling of classified information by Hillary Clinton," as another development that justifies more transparency into the case against Assange.

The Justice Department told CNN it was unaware of any deal being offered by Assange or his representatives. An official with the US Attorney's Office of the Eastern District of Virginia, where he would be prosecuted, had no comment.

(source: CNN)

PAKISTAN:

Rights group urges Pakistan not to hang mentally ill man

Pakistan must not hang a mentally ill man suffering from paranoid schizophrenia, a rights group said today, after a court issued a warrant for his execution next week.

Death row prisoner, Imdad Ali, who is around 50 years old, was sentenced to death for the murder of a religious teacher in 2002.

"Imdad Ali is mentally ill and has suffered years without proper treatment," a report by local watchdog the Justice Project Pakistan (JPP) said, adding he had been diagnosed as a "paranoid schizophrenic".

JPP said it had filed an appeal against a Lahore High Court decision last month which dismissed pleas that Ali could not be executed on the basis of his mental illness.

His medical condition should be looked into, as well as the extenuating circumstances that had aggravated his mental illness during his lengthy time on death row, the organisation argued.

Ali's execution has been scheduled for September 20, it said. Prison authorities have sent a letter -- seen by AFP -- to his relatives asking if they want a final meeting with him the day before his execution in the town of Vehari.

JPP executive director Sarah Belal said Pakistan would violate its international legal commitments if it executed a mentally ill person.

"Executing Imdad will exemplify Pakistan's failure to abide by its international legal commitments that forbid the death penalty for persons suffering from mental disabilities," Belal told AFP.

"Knowing what they do about his condition would make his hanging a most serious crime."

The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CPRD), which Pakistan ratified in 2011, guarantees the "inherent dignity" of individuals with disabilities, she said.

Pakistan reinstated the death penalty and established military courts after suffering its deadliest-ever extremist attack, when gunmen stormed a school in the northwest in 2014 and killed more than 150 people -- mostly children.

Hangings were initially reinstated only for those convicted of terrorism, but later extended to all capital offences.

The country has executed over 400 people since resuming hangings in December 2014, according to new research by Reprieve, a British anti-death penalty campaign group.

(source: Business Standard)

TEXAS:

State to help Coryell County in capital murder trial, set for August 2018

The Texas Attorney General's office is providing a prosecutor to assist the Coryell County district attorney's office with a capital murder case against Chet Michael Shelton, 27, of Gatesville.

However, the trial won't begin until August 2018 - which will be almost 3 years after 2-year-old Makai Brooks Lamar was allegedly beaten, sodomized and killed by Shelton, Coryell County District Attorney Dusty Boyd said Tuesday.

The date was set so far in the future because of the logistics of scheduling 3 different offices in the death penalty case - the attorney general, Boyd's office and Shelton's regional public defender, Anthony Odiorne, located in Burnet, Boyd said.

Odiorne, one of Shelton's attorneys, said Tuesday that the regional public defender's office has a policy of not talking about pending cases.

Regional public defenders, contracted by individual counties, defend only in death penalty cases and travel a lot. Finding a date without conflicts was a challenge, Boyd said.

Utilizing the services of Lisa Tanner from the attorney general's office will not cost Coryell County taxpayers anything. Tanner will assist Boyd, he said Tuesday.

Boyd requested the assistance because a child's death is a unique case and Tanner has a lot of experience with those cases and in prosecuting crimes where a baby's death is involved, he said.

Tanner's experience will help the DA's office handle the type of case "we don't necessarily see very often," Boyd said.

Boyd has never prosecuted a case involving a child's death, he said, although he has handled cases involving aggravated sexual assault of a child.

"Anytime a baby dies, it is catastrophic to any community, no matter the community's size," Boyd said. "It's tough for a community to go through."

The district attorney's office will seek the death penalty against Shelton, Boyd said.

An autopsy showed Makai died from blunt force trauma and had many injuries to his head and internal organs. The autopsy results also said Makai was sodomized, according to an arrest affidavit.

Shelton told a Gatesville Police Department investigator that he was baby-sitting Makai for his girlfriend, who was Makai's mother. The mother reportedly came home for a short period of time and then went back to finish a double shift at a local restaurant, the affidavit said.

After eating, Makai fell asleep on the couch, Shelton said. He added that he moved Makai to the child's bedroom and went outside to smoke. He came back inside, checked on Makai and found he wasn't breathing, the affidavit said.

Shelton said he started CPR and it wasn't working, so he carried Makai to a neighbor, a Coryell County deputy sheriff, for help.

EMS reports said Makai was found naked on the floor. Marks were found on the 2-year-old that weren't consistent with any emergency treatment. Those injuries were on the head, face and abdomen, and his extremities had various bruises and burns. At least 3 lacerations seemed to indicate Makai was hit multiple times on the right side of the head with an object, the affidavit said.

A quarter-size stain of blood was found on Makai's pillow and a larger blood stain was found on the comforter.

Shelton admitted to the investigator that he'd used methamphetamine during the 48 hours before he baby-sat Makai, according to the affidavit.

(source: Copperas Cove Herald)

PENNSYLVANIA:

22-year-old on trial for his life in Feltonville shootout that killed 1, wounded 4

It's a case with the elements of a tragedy all too common on Philadelphia streets. It's about young men with guns, and with grudges that began in their teens, and indiscriminate shots that killed an innocent bystander and wounded four other people.

Among the wounded: the alleged target, who now says police concocted his identification of his boyhood friend as one of the shooters.

It is titled Commonwealth v. Siddiq Shelton, and its namesake, now 22, could end up with a death sentence.

Assistant District Attorney Deborah Watson-Stokes told a Philadelphia jury in her opening statement Thursday that the evidence would prove that Shelton and a never-identified 2nd gunman fired 15 shots at a group of people sitting on the front porch of a Feltonville rowhouse at 12:19 a.m. July 29, 2014.

The shooters' target was Michael Benjamin, a childhood friend of Shelton's against whom Shelton bore a simmering grudge, according to Watson-Stokes. Benjamin was wounded in both legs and in his scrotum.

Elisha Bull, 20, who was on the porch visiting three sisters who lived at the house in the 4900 block of North Front Street, was killed. Bull died after being hit twice in the head, twice in the chest, and once each in the left wrist and right ankle.

The sisters were not related to either Bull or Benjamin. 2 of the sisters, both teenagers, were wounded, as was another female friend. An older sister dived to the floor with her 8-month-old baby and escaped injury.

"They didn't care who they shot, as long as they had an opportunity to shoot at Michael Benjamin," Watson-Stokes told the Common Pleas Court jury of 7 women and 5 men.

'Mistaken identity'

Defense attorney Gary S. Server, who is handling the case with David Rudenstein, told the jury that Shelton's arrest a week after the shootings was a case of "mistaken identity."

"Just imagine how horrific it was, how chaotic it was," Server said of what he called "an ambush."

"You have to ask yourself about whether or not the people actually involved - the alleged eyewitnesses - were they really eyewitnesses and did they actually see what they now claim to have seen?"

The so-called no-snitch culture in Philadelphia neighborhoods and witnesses' fear of retaliation will be on display in the trial, which is expected to last two weeks.

Watson-Stokes hinted as much to the jury, saying: "These are real people, and in this case they are young."

4 witnesses came to court only because of bench warrants issued by Judge Glenn B. Bronson. And Bronson warned that they had better be in court Friday or face 5 months in jail for contempt of court.

Benjamin, now 25, has already "gone south" on prosecutors. At Shelton's preliminary hearing in November 2014, Benjamin recanted his statement to homicide detectives identifying Shelton as one of the shooters.

Benjamin testified that he was high when he was shot and that it was too dark for him to see the gunmen.

Plea offers rejected

According to Philadelphia court records, on Aug. 28, Shelton rejected 2 offers from the District Attorney's Office. The 1st would have removed the death penalty if he agreed to a nonjury trial before Bronson. Shelton then declined an offer to plead guilty to 3rd-degree murder in Bull's death and aggravated assault for those wounded.

If the jury finds Shelton guilty of 1st-degree murder, the trial would move into a penalty phase in which the prosecutor would argue for a death sentence and the defense would present evidence supporting the only alternative under state law: life in prison without parole.

Death sentences have become less common in Pennsylvania as prosecutors press fewer capital cases and juries seem increasingly reluctant to impose death.

Pennsylvania prison records show that no juries have imposed death sentences this year; 3 were imposed last year. A Philadelphia jury last sentenced someone to death in 2013.

In February 2015, Gov. Wolf announced that he would delay all executions until a legislative task force completes its report on the future of the Pennsylvania death penalty.

Even before Wolf's action, executions were rare: just 3 since capital punishment was reinstated in 1978, the last in 1999.

Still, 177 people, including one woman, remain on "death row" at five state prisons, in solitary confinement except for 1 hour of daily exercise.

(source: philly.com)

DELAWARE:

Judge holds bail hearing in case overturning death penalty

A judge is holding a bail hearing for a murder suspect whose case led to Delaware's death penalty being overturned by the state Supreme Court.

Benjamin Rauf is charged in last year's drug-related killing of 27-year-old Shazim Uppal of Hockessin, a fellow Temple University law school graduate.

Prosecutors had planned to seek the death penalty against Rauf, but after a U.S. Supreme Court ruling regarding Florida's death penalty statute, the judge sought a state Supreme Court opinion on Delaware's law, which is similar to Florida's.

A majority of the justices concluded that Delaware's law was unconstitutional because it allows judges too much discretion and doesn't require that a jury find unanimously and beyond a reasonable doubt that a defendant deserves execution.

(source: Associated Press)

NORTH CAROLINA:

DA seeks death penalty in Whiteville stabbing, murder case

Prosecutors will seek the death penalty against a man who was arrested in Brunswick County and charged in the stabbings of 2 women last month in Whiteville, including 1 who died of her injuries.

James Edward McKamey, 51, of Whiteville is accused ofstabbing 35-year-old Reshonta Love in the 300 block of West Nance Street on Aug. 29 and 65-year-old Greer in the 900 block of Smyrna Drive minutes later.

Love suffered about 20 stab wounds, but got away from her attacker and drove herself to Columbus Regional Medical Center in Whitevillefor treatment, according to a report in The News Reporter of Whiteville.

A neighbor found Greer dead the next morning near a shed in her backyard.

District Attorney Jon David announced during a news conference Wednesday, Sept. 14, his office will seek capital punishment for the crimes.

Earlier in the day, a Columbus County Superior Court grand jury indicted McKamey on charges of felony assault, 2 counts of felony robbery, felony attempted murder and felony 1st-degree murder.

Following the discovery of Greer's body Aug. 30, David said, detectives learned that her 2012 Subaru Outback was missing, and issued alerts nationwide to be on the lookout for McKamey and the vehicle.

Brunswick County Sheriff's Office deputies pulled over a Subaru Outback matching the description released to the public on at 9:15 a.m. Thursday, Sept. 1, and discovered McKamey driving the vehicle with his wife, 46-year-old Rocky McKamey, who was his passenger. The 2 were booked at the Brunswick County Detention Facility less than an hour after the traffic stop, and were taken to Columbus County by Whiteville police officers Friday, Sept. 2. Following their extradition, Rocky McKamey was released on no charges.

David described Greer's death as a crime of opportunity after McKamey fled West Nance Street, which he said is a few hundred feet away from Smyrna Drive.

"It's been often said since this incident happened that Ms. Greer was in the wrong place at the wrong time," he said. "I've heard that from a lot of people, and quite frankly I disagree with that characterization, because she was in her driveway in the middle of the day. Who could possibly say that that’s the wrong place at the wrong time?

"After all, we're dealing with a woman that was in her golden years. She was at a time and place in her life where she should feel most secure. The fact that this incident happened reminds us that evil does exist in the world, and it's the responsibility to vigorously pursue these cases when they do occur."

David said Love is devastated by what happened but has cooperated with authorities. He said while the case is only 2 weeks old, his office felt it was already in a position to bring the case before the grand jury Wednesday morning.

"I have to tell you, as a district attorney, I had to balance out the need to be thorough on one hand, but be as efficient as possible on the other," he said.

David said the 2 possible sentences his office can seek for a 1st-degree murder conviction are life without the possibility of parole or, in extreme cases, the death penalty.

"I will tell you that within my office right now we have upward of 30 pending murder cases, and there's only 1 other pending that's a death penalty case at this point," he said. "I regard the decision to seek the death penalty as being larger than 1 person, and I will tell you that last week I convened a meeting of senior assistant district attorneys within my office to evaluate the facts and the law, and to decide whether or not we wanted to certify this as a death penalty case."

David said his office decided to ask for a Rule 24 hearing, a hearing before a judge in a 1st-degree murder case. He said this hearing should take place in the next 30 days then the state will officially announce its intention to seek the death penalty. The state has contacted McKamey's lawyer, Teresa Gibson of Shallotte, regarding its decision, he said.

At the next hearing, David said, the state will lay out the factors of 1st-degree murder in court, and said if one at least one aggravating factor exists in the state's evidence, the case will certify as a death penalty case. At that point, McKamey would receive a second lawyer and the process will move slower from then on.

David also lamented the loss of Greer, who spent at least 3 decades teaching music in Whiteville City Schools, saying not a day has gone by since her death when people have not told him what a loss it is to their community.

"I've also met with the Greer family, and I can tell you that the legacy of Ms. Greer is best summed up in how she raised her children," he said. "She has 3 children that are productive members of their communities. They were raised right, for a lack of a better word, but her legacy extends far beyond how she raised her own children."

McKamey is being held in the Columbus County Detention Facility without bail because of the 1st-degree murder charge.

A Brunswick County Superior Court grand jury indicted McKamey on July 11 on charges of felony cocaine possession and drug paraphernalia possession. Brunswick County court records also show he pleaded guilty April 28, 2011, to simple worthless check, but his sentence wasn't available.

According to the North Carolina Department of Correction, McKamey received a suspended 12-month sentence in New Hanover County for his March 2 conviction on Aug. 26, 2014, and Sept. 3, 2014, misdemeanor charges of obtaining property by false pretense.

(source: Brunswick Beacon)

ALABAMA:

When Juries Say Life and Judges Say Death

If one state best embodies all the irrationality, unreliability and arbitrariness of the death penalty in America in 2016, it is Alabama.

With a population of just under 5 million, and with more than 450 people sentenced to death since 1977, Alabama has by far the highest per-capita death-sentence rate in the country. And yet in nearly 1 in 4 of those cases, the jury voted for life in prison - in some cases unanimously - only to be overruled by the judge.

The state law authorizing these judicial overrides, now the only law of its kind in the country, was passed in 1981, in theory to allow judges to protect defendants from vengeful or careless juries. In practice, the opposite has happened. While Alabama judges have converted death sentences to life in 11 cases, they have rejected the jury's mercy and chosen death in 101, nearly 1/4 of all death sentences handed down in Alabama since 1982.

Now there is evidence that these override cases involve a disproportionate number of wrongful convictions. 3 of the 6 Alabama death-row inmates who have been freed from prison since 1981 were condemned by a judge after the jury voted for life, according to a paper published last month in The Yale Law Journal.

The paper's authors, Patrick Mulvaney and Katherine Chamblee, both capital-crime defense lawyers, call this discrepancy unsurprising. They attribute it to the phenomenon of "residual doubt" among capital jurors, who must decide on guilt and punishment in separate phases of a trial. When jurors are faced with a life-or-death decision, they may be confident enough to convict, but not so confident to vote for execution. Beyond a reasonable doubt, in other words, doesn't always mean no doubt at all.

Studies have found that residual doubt of guilt is the most important factor in capital jurors' decision to spare someone's life - even more than other mitigating factors like childhood trauma - and it may well explain why half of the exonerations in Alabama were cases in which jurors initially voted against death. In each case, prosecutors were found to have withheld exculpatory evidence from the defense. A juror in the trial of Daniel Wade Moore, who was sentenced to death by a judge in 2003 and exonerated in 2009, told the paper's authors that even after voting to convict Mr. Moore, he voted for life in prison because he was "still unsure" about Mr. Moore's guilt. In 2010, the trial judge, Glenn Thompson, said he "didn't think the state had proven" its case, but overrode the jury's vote and sentenced Mr. Moore to death anyway. His explanation? "The jury said that he did it."

Judge Thompson, like all Alabama jurists, was elected to his seat, which only increases the pressure to act tough on crime - as judges themselves openly admit. In 2013, Justice Sonia Sotomayor pointed to this problem in her dissent from the Supreme Court's refusal to consider a challenge to Alabama's law. The state's judges, she wrote, "who are elected in partisan proceedings, appear to have succumbed to electoral pressures."

Justice Sotomayor was right to say that the override law undermines "the sanctity of the jury's role in our system of criminal justice." It also appears to increase the risk that wrongfully convicted people will be sentenced to die.

(source: Editorial Board, New York Times)

**********************

The Death Penalty Case Where Prosecutors Wrote the Judge's 'Opinion'----Is that fair? The U.S. Supreme Court could soon decide.

When judges make a decision - especially in a death penalty case - we'd like to think they weigh all sides, consider the law and come to a measured, independent conclusion. Not so in Alabama, where a judge's shortcut in the case of Doyle Lee Hamm has shown how often the state makes a mockery of the appeals process.

The U.S. Supreme Court is now considering whether to take up the case of Hamm, an intellectually disabled and possibly brain-damaged man who was sentenced to death in 1987 for killing a motel clerk during a robbery. Doyle went to his fate after a rushed trial marked by an anemic defense and constitutionally murky decisions by prosecutors and the judge. That's sadly common in Alabama.

What happened next also is common in Alabama - but pretty much nowhere else.

12 years after Hamm was sentenced to death, an Alabama judge rejected an attempt by his new attorneys to win another sentencing hearing for their client. The lawyers wanted to present facts from Hamm's grim life that might have convinced a jury not to impose death - so-called mitigation evidence - that Hamm's 1st lawyer failed to unearth during his trial. That, too, happens all the time.

But in turning down the appeal, the judge exposed the entire process as a sham. He signed an 89-page order written entirely by the Alabama Attorney General's Office - and did it within 1 business day of receiving it. He didn't even take the time to cross off the word "Proposed" in the title, "Proposed Memorandum Opinion." Hamm's attorneys allege the judge never read the opinion before signing it, and no state attorney has ever refuted that.

Many judges across the country routinely sign perfunctory orders drafted by lawyers, usually 1- or 2-page documents. But only in Texas and Alabama, evidently, is this done with substantive opinions on which appellate judges later rely.

In the Hamm case, the "opinion" is the lynchpin of Alabama's decades-long defense of its conviction and death sentence. It has been cited as gospel over and over again since 1999 by state and federal judges to justify their refusal to give Hamm a new sentencing hearing. Over and over again, the argument justifying this practice has been the same: it doesn't really matter who wrote the opinion or even whether the judge who signed it ever read it because Hamm hasn't proven that the contents of the order were wrong.

No one disputes Hamm's culpability in the murder of Patrick Cunningham. 2 accomplices, who at first claimed they had been kidnapped by Hamm, agreed to testify against him. But prosecutors probably didn't need them. Hamm confessed after a lengthy interrogation. The statement was read for the jury, which took just 50 minutes to come back with a guilty verdict.

It was the next phase of Hamm's trial - the sentencing phase - that raises the questions now on appeal to the Supreme Court.

Hamm's trial attorney did virtually nothing to try to spare his client's life and called only 2 witnesses in his 19-minute defense: Hamm's sister and a bailiff. When prosecutors improperly introduced evidence of Hamm's prior convictions in Tennessee - convictions that may have been based on flawed procedures - Hamm's attorney did nothing to correct the error. It took the jury just 45 minutes to come back and recommend a death sentence.

Jurors were never told that Hamm had been diagnosed as borderline mentally retarded as early as 1969, nearly 2 decades before the crime. They were not told about a school record that repeatedly cited his intellectual deficits. Nor were jurors given any expert evidence about Hamm's lengthy history of seizures, head injuries and drug and alcohol abuse. The fuller portrait of Hamm's life was that of a barely literate, brain-damaged man with little impulse control, someone who might have been perceived as having diminished criminal responsibility.

Alabama prosecutors maintain that information would have made no difference in his sentencing. The 1999 opinion naturally took a took a dim view of the relevance and timeliness of the evidence presented by Hamm's new defense attorneys. The opinion states the evidence wasn't "new" but "cumulative" - essentially, repetitive - a legal standard that makes a difference in winning a new hearing. How evidence that was never introduced at trial could be considered "cumulative" 12 years later was a question left unanswered.

No judge evaluating this case has ever declared the "Proposed Memorandum Opinion" invalid. The closest anyone came was last year, during oral arguments before the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, when an incredulous Judge Adalberto Jordan questioned Alabama attorneys about the appearance of partiality created by the "opinion." Wouldn't you be hollering if the judge had rubber-stamped an 89-page ruling drafted by defense attorneys, the judge asked state lawyers? And isn't there something fishy about such a detailed opinion being signed on a Monday after being submitted on the previous Friday?

The state had no good answer to those questions, but it didn't matter. Jordan, like all the judges before him, shrugged and joined 2 other appellate judges in denying relief to Hamm.

Both in and out of court, Alabama has defended both Hamm's sentencing hearing and the ghostwriting episode. The "Proposed Memorandum Opinion" is sound no matter who wrote it, state lawyers argue, and there is no reason to think it unreasonable that the judge who signed it did so without considering its contents.

It would be one thing if the ghostwriting scenario that took place in the Hamm case was a one-off event. It is not. In support of Hamm, a group of former Alabama judges and past state bar presidents told the justices in Washington that it is routine practice in Alabama for prosecutors to write proposed orders for judges in capital cases. In 2003, a study found that in 17 of 20 recent capital cases the judge had denied relief in orders written entirely by prosecutors.

Sure, the criminal justice system would move more quickly if prosecutors ghostwrote appellate decisions in capital cases. No defendant ever would win an appeal. No conviction or sentence would ever be adjudged unfair or unjust. Judges could knock off early. But that's not how our system works, at least not beyond the borders of Alabama. Hamm may be a convicted murderer. But that doesn't mean the state can subvert his rights in such a blatant fashion.

This shouldn't be a tough call for the Supreme Court. The case presents a straightforward opportunity to send a clear message to lower court judges: whatever else due process means, whatever else federal habeas corpus rules mean, they require a judge to at least pretend to carefully consider the evidence before rendering judgment in a capital case. If the Supreme Court does this and no more in the Hamm case, it will be furthering the interests of justice.

(source: Andrew Cohen is the commentary editor for The Marshall Project. He oversees the site's analysis and commentary section and helps provide daily coverage of legal events and issues. A recovering attorney, he is the legal analyst for 60 Minutes and CBS Radio News, and a fellow at the Brennan Center for Justice----altlernet.org)

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Stacey Gray to face death penalty in death of Nancy Renee Eldridge

The man accused in the death of a 25-year-old Columbus woman will face the death penalty, the Chambers County, Ala., district attorney said on Thursday.

Stacey Demar Gray, 46, is charged with 2 counts of murder in the death of Nancy Renee Eldridge, whose body was found July 7, 2015, in Osanippa Creek in Valley. Gray was indicted in February.

District Attorney E. Paul Jones said Gray was in the courtroom when his office made a final determination on whether it will seek the death penalty.

"We are going to seek the death penalty," he said.

Gray's next appearance in court won't come until early next year, possibly in April, for a status conference.

"There won't be anything else this year on this one," he said.

Eldridge was reported missing during the 4th of July weekend in 2015 after her mother returned to their home on 46th Street and found her daughter's bedroom in disarray. 3 days later, a body was found in Osanippa Creek and it was identified as Eldridge. She died of blunt-force trauma to the head.

Gray was developed as a suspect before he was taken into custody on July 13, 2015, in a yard on Lily Lane in Notasulga.

(source: ledger-enquirer.com)

MISSISSIPPI:

Hearing set for man charged with killing 2 nuns

A man charged with killing 2 nuns in Mississippi is scheduled for a court hearing Friday, where prosecutors will present some evidence before the case goes to a grand jury.

Rodney Earl Sanders, 46, of Kosciusko, is charged with capital murder in the slayings of Sisters Margaret Held and Paula Merrill, who worked as nurse practitioners in one of the poorest counties in the nation.

Holmes County District Attorney Akillie Malone-Oliver said Thursday that at least 1 investigator will testify during the hearing, and Sanders' attorneys will have a chance to respond.

Merrill and Held, both 68, were found stabbed to death Aug. 25 in their home in the small town of Durant after they failed to show up for work at a clinic in nearby Lexington. The hearing Friday is taking place in Durant municipal court.

The nuns' relatives and colleagues have said they oppose the death penalty, including for Sanders. Malone-Oliver told The Associated Press on Thursday that she still has not decided whether to pursue the death penalty for Sanders.

Under Mississippi law, capital murder is a killing that occurs with at least 1 other felony, and it is punishable by lethal injection or life in prison. Sanders is charged with 2 counts of capital murder, 1 count of burglary and 1 count of grand larceny.

Sanders was arrested Aug. 26 and is being held without bond in the Holmes County jail. He confessed to the killings but gave no reason, Holmes County Sheriff Willie March has said. March was briefed by Durant police and Mississippi Bureau of Investigation officials who took part in Sanders' interrogation.

Marie Sanders, the suspect's wife, told The Clarion-Ledger newspaper that he had left their home in Kosciusko days before the killings and he had been staying with relatives who live across the street from the nuns' home.

Sanders' attorneys did not immediately respond to calls from The Associated Press seeking comment Thursday.

Malone-Oliver said it would be unusual for someone charged with capital murder to enter a guilty plea during a probable-cause hearing such as the one set for Friday.

"He can, but it is very rare," she said. "We would definitely accept it." The nuns' funerals were Sept. 2. Merrill was buried in Kentucky, where she belonged to the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth. Held was buried in Wisconsin, where she was a member of the School Sisters of St. Francis in Milwaukee.

(source: Associated Press)

ILLINOIS:

Crime kept dropping after death penalty abolished

The statewide murder rate continued to decline after Illinois abolished the death penalty 5 years ago, following a nationwide trend of decreasing crime.

However, some state lawmakers want to reinstate capital punishment in certain cases.

Illinois has a long and complicated history with the death penalty. The 1st execution after Illinois attained statehood occurred in 1819, and Springfield hosted its 1st government-sanctioned hanging in 1826. Illinois has twice reinstated its death penalty after courts struck it down: once in 1974 after a 1972 U.S. Supreme Court decision, and again in 1977 after a decision by the Illinois Supreme Court in 1975.

In 2000, former Gov. George Ryan declared a moratorium on executions in Illinois following the exonerations of several people who had been sentenced to death. Just before leaving office in January 2003, Ryan commuted the sentences of 167 death row inmates to life in prison.

When former Gov. Pat Quinn signed a bill abolishing the death penalty in 2011, Illinois joined 15 other states without capital punishment. Today, 20 states have no death penalty. Thirty states still have a death penalty, although four of those are under an execution moratorium by gubernatorial decree.

According to data from the FBI Uniform Crime Reporting system, Illinois has seen a decrease in murders and non-negligent manslaughter since abolishing the death penalty. However, the decrease started well before that. The FBI data shows 986 murders and non-negligent manslaughters in Illinois during 2001, a number that gradually dropped to 721 in 2011. For 2014, the most recent year for which data is available, there were 685 such crimes reported in Illinois.

Violent crime, which for the FBI count includes murder, rape, robbery and aggravated assault, dropped in Illinois both before and after the death penalty's abolition. In 2001, there were 79,504 violent crimes in Illinois. That number dropped steadily to 55,247 by 2011 and continued dropping to 47,663 in 2014.

The data does have some limitations stemming from how crimes are reported and classified - or not reported at all. Until 2009, Illinois only reported crime data to the FBI for certain metropolitan areas, meaning statistics for the rest of the state were estimated. Additionally, the FBI previously counted sexual assault as rape only if the victim was female and force was used. Starting in 2013, the definition was widened to include any sexual penetration without consent. Crime reporting also relies heavily on police agencies, which can sometimes become political as cities try to manage their public image.

Still, Illinois' experience with decreasing crime follows a national trend. From a peak of 1.93 million in 1992, the annual number of violent crimes nationwide has dropped steadily to fewer than 1.2 million in 2014.

Criminologists don't agree on why crime is decreasing, attributing it to a variety of factors like an improved economy, more effective law enforcement, changing drug abuse trends and even decreased incidence of lead poisoning.

Despite the drop in crime, the death penalty remains popular. National pollster Gallup, which has tracked public opinion on the death penalty since at least 1936, recorded 60 % support for capital punishment in every poll since 2000. The most recent poll in 2015 showed 61 % of respondents in favor of the death penalty.

The Gallup data shows support for the death penalty has eroded significantly among Democrats in the past 2 decades, from 75 % support in 1994 to a still-majority 49 % in 2014. And although Democrats led the charge to abolish the death penalty in the Illinois General Assembly, some lawmakers within their own party fought to keep capital punishment intact.

Among them is Sen. William Haine, D-Alton, who served as a prosecutor before his election to the Illinois Senate. Haine argued against abolishing the death penalty in 2011 and has since called for reinstating it in some cases. Last year, Haine announced he would seek a new death penalty for cases involving mass killings or killing of police, children, elderly people or people with disabilities. He could not be reached for comment.

Republican state Rep. Mark Batinick from Plainfield says he's considering a similar bill which would apply to first responders. He points to a "recent uptick" of crime targeting police, like the police shootings in Dallas and Baton Rouge earlier this year.

"If first responders don't feel protected," Batinick said, "it's harder for them to protect us."

(source: Illinois Times)

NEBRASKA:

Should Nebraska have a death penalty?

Wednesday, the Nebraska attorney general questioned a study by Creighton economist Ernie Goss about the cost of the death penalty.

Thursday, both sides of whether or not Nebraska should keep capital punishment debated in downtown Omaha.

Those against capital punishment say it costs taxpayers millions of dollars each year and runs the risk of putting innocent people to death.

Those in favor say it protects prison staff, police and saves lives by deterring crime.

"So we now have people who have been sentenced to death and have been sitting there not for years, but for decades," said State Senator Colby Coash, Lincoln.

Coash referenced a Creighton study last month showing that Nebraskans spend $14.6 million per year on a death penalty that hasn't been used since 1996.

Other studies released since suggests that abolishing capital punishment in Nebraska would save much less than millions.

"You have to ask yourself this question, because the legislature asked itself this question over and over again: regardless of the cost, is the taxpayer getting what he or she paid for?" Coash said.

Senator Coash says the death penalty should not be an option because innocent people are sometimes put to death.

Attorney Bob Evnen disagrees.

Evnen says there has never been an innocent person executed in Nebraska.

"I can't justify the Jim Crow south," Evnen said. "I cannot justify the corruption of other states. This is state issue for our state. And I can tell you in our state, we have never executed an innocent person."

Because the death penalty deters crime, it saves lives, Evnen said.

"If we know or have good reason to believe the death penalty saves innocent human lives, then isn't it the case that it's not only morally permissible, it's morally required," Evnen said.

The legislature overturned a veto last year that would have kept Nebraska's death penalty intact.

Voters have a chance in November to repeal last year's decision that abolished capital punishment in Nebraska.

(source: kmtv.com)

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Spirited debate begins at Death Penalty Forum

As the vote to retain or repeal the death penalty in Nebraska nears, a death penalty forum was held in Adams at the American Lutheran Church where Gage County officials answered questions.

Gage County Attorney Roger Harris, Gage County Sheriff Millard Gustafson, and Pastor Bob Bryan, pastor for the Followers of Christ Prison Ministry, all sat down to discuss their views and have a conversation with those in attendance.

"Overall I think it went really well," said Pastor Nathan Metzger, pastor at the American Lutheran Church. "When we set out to do this, the goal was to have a thoughtful conversation on the subject and I think that we accomplished our goal.

"I was very pleased with the panel. It was our intention to try to get as mixed a panel as possible in terms of those in favor and those against the death penalty and I think it ended up being a very balanced conversation."

Throughout the discussion a variety of topics were brought up, including mental health, innocent people who could be executed and consideration of the safety of officers.

"We weren't trying to push any agenda," Metzger added. "The way we vote on this is not going to be a determining factor of somebody going to heaven. At this point we don't have an agreement, but however the outcome is decided, we all must live with one another."

While Sheriff Gustafson expressed support for the death penalty, as did other officers in the room, Pastor Bryan and individuals who made connections to religion and Christianity held the opposite view, which created a spirited yet civil debate.

"I was picked because I'm a proponent of capital punishment and they wanted people from both sides in the discussion," Harris said. "I thought it was a good informational forum; it’s one of those discussions that can be very personal. Anytime you can have a forum like this where you are able to exchange ideas and begin a conversation I think is a good thing."

One sticking point in the conversation was whether or not the death penalty costs more money to the tax payers. Retain A Just Nebraska claims that the death penalty is consistently more expensive than life in prison without parole because of the additional preparation in capital cases, the separate sentencing phase, post-conviction appeals and other costs of death row.

In spring 2015, the Unicameral voted 30-19 to replace the death penalty in Nebraska with life without parole, according to information from Retain A Just Nebraska. On November 8 Nebraska voters will choose to either retain the law or repeal it and bring the death penalty back to the state.

(source: Beatrice Daily Sun)

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Death penalty supporters, foes argue over $14M cost estimate

Attorney General Doug Peterson again sought to discredit a study that says Nebraska's death penalty costs $14.6 million per year, while the economist who conducted it stood by his work Wednesday.

The Republican attorney general, who supports the death penalty and has criticized the Legislature's decision to abolish it, said the study inflated the defense and housing costs for death row inmates, as well as the number of court days spent on capital punishment cases. "There are serious inaccuracies contained in this report," Peterson said at a news conference less than 2 months before voters will decide whether to overturn the state's ban on the death penalty in the November general election.

Creighton University economist Ernie Goss said his study is scientifically valid, based on U.S. census data and is generally accurate. He was hired to do the report by death penalty opposition group Retain a Just Nebraska.

Peterson said the report falsely claims that seating a jury and imposing a sentence in a death penalty case can take weeks, countering that the average time in Nebraska to select a jury for the current death row inmates was 3 days and to impose the sentence was 3.6 days.

But Goss' study doesn't say that seating a jury or imposing a sentence takes weeks in Nebraska, instead citing averages drawn from a separate study of Colorado's criminal justice system, which concluded that capital punishment cases take longer than others.

When it comes to the price of the death penalty, Goss said he looked at average spending by states with the death penalty and those without for 2012 and 2013, the latest years with available data. His comparison showed that states with capital punishment generally spend more, and then he adjusted the numbers to account for differences among states, such as prison population, per-capita income, geography and minority and religious populations.

"I did not calculate a bunch of these little things together and add them up," he said. Death penalty supporters are "using anecdotal data. When you use anecdotal data, the margins of error are really huge."

Goss also stressed that his study only addressed the financial costs of the death penalty, not the moral, ethical or religious issues. The conservative economist has refused to discuss his personal feelings about the punishment.

(source: Associated Press)

CALIFORNIA:

Rethinking the Death Penalty----The option on the death penalty that few know about.

In California, the death penalty has been a hot topic. This year is no different. In November, voters have a choice between Proposition 62, which outright abolishes the death penalty in the state, and Proposition 66, which significantly alters it. Most, if not all, the talk is on keeping or not keeping it. What we don't realize, however, is that a 3rd option does exist. If the death penalty is given some retooling, there's a rather decent chance it can regain its effectiveness as a deterrent.

First, the appeals process for inmates on death row can be streamlined. This means cutting down on the timeframe for an appeal, and the number of appeals themselves. This means voting 'Yes' on Prop 66. According to the California Complete Voters Information Guide, the proposition 'Designates superior court for initial petitions and limits successive petitions.' In short, it will cut down on the repeated appeals some death row inmates repeatedly file to stave off an execution for as long as possible. The description goes on to say, "A defendant's claim of actual innocence should not be limited, but frivolous and unnecessary claims should be restricted." With the appeals down, the process will go faster, and, more importantly, less money will be used. That is music to the ears of a state that is tight for cash.

According to the San Jose Mercury-News, "the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a federal judge's sweeping decision last year finding California's death penalty system unconstitutional because of decades-long delays in the handling of death row inmates' appeals." This decision is important to the cause of keeping the death penalty in California, as it keeps the door open to fixing a broken system. Proposition 66 will take things a step further when streamlining the appeals process. It will then take months, not years, to process the appeals by criminals.

Think of this for a second: California's death row at San Quentin Prison is home to around 700 male inmates. The last time one of them was executed was in 2006. As harsh as it might sound, executions need to happen more frequently again. Therefore, the factor of intimidation the death penalty once had will return again.

We also need to return the 'deterrence' factor the death penalty once had. Much of what has been outlined above can help towards that. More executions means more people getting the message that if you kill someone, you forfeit your right to live. In a speech in the British Parliament against a bill that would abolish capital punishment, in 1868, John Stuart Mill said, "...to deter suffering by inflicting suffering is not only possible, but the very purpose of penal justice. We show, on the contrary, most emphatically our regard for it, by the adoption of a rule that he who violates that right in another forfeits it for himself, and that while no other crime he can commit deprives him of his right to life, this shall."

Mill is right: If we have to inflict suffering on another person to show everyone else that doing so is wrong, we shall. Similar to how if you steal, you get fined, or if you try to kidnap someone, you get held in prison. The punishment has to fit the crime.

Also, when a murderer kills someone, it shows their disregard for human life, and therefore, they must be punished accordingly. Now, does the deterrence effect work? Well, according to US News, from September 2014, quoting a study by Kenneth Land of Duke University, "from 1994 through 2005, each execution in Texas was associated with "modest, short-term reductions" in homicides, a decrease of up to 2.5 murders."

If there's one thing that the study proves, it's that the death penalty, when used correctly, deters crime. There is a deterrent effect. The last time California executed anyone was a decade ago. That needs to change. We talk the talk, now we have to walk the walk. If we vote "No" on Proposition 62, and "Yes" on 66, the death penalty has a chance. Taking measures, such as those outlined above, will go ways to make it greater and effective again.

(source: Mesa Press)

************

California's choice on death penalty: End it - or speed it up?

In November California voters will be asked to look at 2 competing ballot measures on the death penalty - 1 to abolish it and 1 to speed it up.

Proposition 62 repeals the death penalty in California and replaces the maximum punishment for murder with life in prison without possibility of parole. It would also apply to the more than 700 inmates who are already on California's death row.

Proposition 66 keeps the death penalty in place and sets up new procedures to speed up appeals of capital punishment cases, so that executions could be held more quickly after the sentence is delivered.

Members of law enforcement, families of murder victims and other supporters of Prop. 66 argue that the California legal system takes too long to carry out the death penalty once a defendant has been sentenced.

"The average death row inmate has spent 16 years with a death sentence. No one on California's death row has been executed in 10 years," said Orange County Sheriff Sandra Hutchens.

Beth Webb supports Prop. 62, to end the death penalty. Her sister Laura was 1 of 8 people murdered by a gunman who opened fire on a Seal Beach salon in 2011.

She argues that the death penalty makes the state sink to the level of those who carried out the murders.

"Any eye for an eye is not accurate, it's not going to happen. And it just sinks us to his level. So we want to make a statement saying we're not at your level. We're better."

(source: KABC news)

*******************

Riverside County death sentences lead the nation

The death penalty is the ultimate form of punishment.

Ostensibly reserved for the worst offenders against society, use of the death penalty has declined throughout the country, with fewer than 1/2 the number of death sentences being handed down in 2015 than in 2010. Yet the Inland Empire, especially Riverside County, has remained a big contributor of death sentences.

According to a recent report by the Fair Punishment Project, an initiative of the Harvard Law School's Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race & Justice and the Criminal Justice Institute, "Riverside County has become the nation's leading producer of death sentences."

In 2015, of the 45 death sentences ordered nationwide, Riverside County was the source of 8 of them, sending more to death row than every other entire state with the exception of Florida and California.

According to the report, minorities make up the overwhelming majority of individuals sentenced to death in the county, with 76 % of all death sentences between 2010 and 2015 being imposed on minorities. Additionally, 23 % of the cases involved defendants with intellectual disabilities, severe mental illness or brain damage.

Along with Riverside County, San Bernardino County is 1 of 16 counties in the entire country to impose 5 or more death sentences between 2010 and 2015. San Bernardino County will be the subject of a report due sometime this month.

San Bernardino County District Attorney Mike Ramos and Riverside County District Attorney Mike Hestrin are proponents of streamlining executions in the state. With over 700 offenders currently on death row in California, they have backed Proposition 66, which, among other things, would limit the appeals process.

Our editorial board has not yet taken a position on that particular initiative, or the competing Proposition 62, which would outright abolish the death penalty. But we are concerned that a punishment as severe as depriving someone of life is being sought so often in the Inland Empire.

This is true even though the death penalty is rarely carried out. More individuals have been added to death row without assurances the penalty will ever be carried out, hollowing the meaning of a death sentence and leaving taxpayers with the legal bills.

(source: Editorial, The Daily Bulletin)

******************

Jury deliberations begin in Indio double-killings retrial

Jury deliberations began Thursday in the retrial of a 30-year-old gang member accused in the execution-style killings of 2 rival gang members in Indio more than a decade ago.

Elias Carmona Lopez is accused in the shooting deaths of Erineo Perez and Martin Garcia on Oct. 10 and Oct. 26, 2004, respectively. Perez was found in the front seat of his vehicle near Indio City Hall and Garcia was found dead in an Indio alley. Both victims were shot several times, including in the face.

Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for Lopez, who is charged with 2 counts of 1st-degree murder, with special circumstance allegations of lying in wait and being an active gang member.

Closing arguments began Wednesday and concluded this morning with the prosecution's rebuttal, then jurors got the case.

Deputy District Attorney Scot L. Clark urged the panel to hold Lopez accountable for "the 2 lives he destroyed,'' saying it had been "12 years that justice has been deferred.''

Clark said the evidence clearly pointed to Lopez as the killer of both men. He cited the murder weapon, a .22 caliber handgun found beneath Lopez's mattress, as well as Lopez's move out of the state - days after the 2nd killing - to Avondale, Ariz., with his then-girlfriend and his mother.

Once there, Clark alleged, Lopez told his girlfriend that he had committed both murders, providing her details that only the killer would have known.

But defense attorney Demitra Tolbert said Lopez's ex-girlfriend not only had an ongoing methampetamine addiction that made her recollection of events unreliable, but she loathed Lopez, and sought to rid herself of him, particularly because of her current relationship with a member of a rival gang.

Her testimony was "uncorroborated, unreliable and untrustworthy,'' Tolbert argued. Tolbert also disputing that the witness was privy to things only the killer would have known, noting testimonial inconsistencies, as well as the fact that 2 years passed between the killings and her statements to police.

Shell casings taken from both crime scenes came from the same gun, the 22-caliber Smith & Wesson found beneath Lopez's mattress, Clark said. Tolbert countered that the evidence presented throughout the trial did not prove the murders were committed by the same person, only that the same gun was used.

Lopez told investigators in 2004 that he was only holding the gun for a friend.

According to a probable cause statement prepared by Indio police Detective Christopher Piscatella, Lopez would not identify the friend he said he was holding the gun for, nor would he volunteer how he came to possess the weapon.

Clark said a number of other potential suspects suggested to be the killer by the defense could be easily ruled out. According to the prosecutor, none of the supposed killers had connections to both Perez and Garcia, and none of them could have managed to get the murder weapon underneath Lopez's mattress.

But Tolbert said detectives did not fully pursue the connections between those suspects and the victims to the extent necessary, saying "law enforcement failed miserably'' in its investigation, dismissing potential suspects and not following through with DNA testing or witness interviews at both crime scenes.

Lopez was an early suspect in both killings, but there was insufficient evidence to prosecute the case until July 2008, according to prosecutors. He was serving an eight-year sentence for armed robbery at a Tucson, Ariz. state prison when the murder charges were filed against him.

In his 1st trial, jurors deadlocked 11-1 in favor of conviction after about six weeks of testimony. Before a mistrial was declared, Lopez agreed to plead guilty to a single felony count of participating in a criminal street gang.

(source: The Desert Sun)

********************

Qualified death penalty lawyers don't grow on trees

In response to The San Francisco Chronicle's recent editorial "Fight crime, not futility: Abolish the death penalty," a thorough evisceration of Proposition 66 - the Grim Reaper ballot initiative seeking to speed-up state-sponsored executions - Sacramento D.A. Anne Marie Schubert promised California voters that, "[t]he overall changes" needed to repair the state's discriminatory and horribly dysfunctional death penalty are, "easy fixes."

To anybody who believes that: Not only do I have a snazzy bridge in Brooklyn to sell you, I'll throw in a bridge to nowhere too.

The Chronicle, which published Schubert's glib and disjointed talking points under the header "dissenting view," was also clearly unimpressed. It excerpted just 1 devastating paragraph from its prior full-length blistering editorial to run beneath Schubert's superficial response.

The Chronicle reminded Californians it urges a "No" vote on Proposition 66, and a "Yes" vote on the counter-initiative, Proposition 62, which would end capital punishment forever in California: "Prop. 62 offers a straightforward and certain solution: abolish the death penalty, and replace it with a punishment of life without the possibility of parole. The other [ballot initiative], Prop. 66, proposes a highly complex, probably very expensive and constitutionally questionable scheme for streamlining the appeals process in hopes of shaving years off the timeline between conviction and execution. Even the most ardent advocates of capital punishment should be wary of the promises in Prop. 66."

Perhaps the biggest of the false promises made by Prop. 66 that The Chronicle alludes to - one that all Californians should be wary of - is Prop. 66 proponents' claim (led by Schubert), that "Prop. 66 would expand the pool of qualified lawyers to deal with [capital] cases." Again and again, this mantra has been repeated in their op-eds and public statements campaigning for more and quicker state-sanctioned death. I guess they figure if they keep repeating this claim - without a shred of evidence to back it up - that this canard of Prop. 66 will be plum overlooked by California voters. It won't be.

As explained in "Proposition 66, The 'Death Penalty Reform and Savings Act of 2016,' is Fool's Gold for Californians" qualified death penalty lawyers don't grow on trees. Nor will a gigantic stork suddenly deliver them on November 9. There simply "are not enough willing and qualified lawyers in California to take these kinds of cases - the most difficult, emotional, time-sensitive, resource-draining cases our legal system has."

Prop. 66's "easy fix" for this catastrophic flaw in the death penalty system is, by its express language, to: (1) pressure defense attorneys who don't currently handle death penalty cases to start doing so, or risk their livelihood, because if they refuse, they won't be eligible for court appointments at all, and (2) handicap the quality of capital defense representation in California by decimating the independence and the leadership of California's Habeas Corpus Resource Center (an agency which has been zealously and competently representing death row inmates in the state for decades).

Beyond windy platitudes and rehearsed talking points, not a single Prop. 66 proponent has articulated to voters just how, in practice, Prop. 66's proposed shotgun-style-appointment of defense attorneys in capital cases, or its ruination of the Habeas Corpus Resource Center, will "expand the pool of qualified lawyers to deal with [capital] cases."

There's a reason for this, and it begins with that bridge in Brooklyn I mentioned earlier - the one I've said you can have for a steal - and it ends with that other bridge, you know, that one that'll take us, and our state, nowhere.

Instead of embarking on that fruitless endeavor, I implore you, my fellow citizens, to vote "No" on Prop. 66 and "Yes" on Prop. 62. Ending the death penalty is the only sensible path forward for California.

(source: Stephen Cooper is a former D.C. public defender who worked as an assistant federal public defender in Alabama between 2012 and 2015. He has contributed to numerous magazines and newspapers in the United States and overseas. He writes full-time and lives in Woodland Hills, California.; thehill.com)

OREGON:

What I Learned From Executing 2 Men

As superintendent of the Oregon State Penitentiary, I planned and carried out that state's only 2 executions in the last 54 years. I used to support the death penalty. I don't anymore.

I was born and raised in the segregated South. I was 13 when Emmett Till was lynched for "flirting" with a white woman. I can remember upstanding black Christians expressing hope that his murderers would be caught and hanged. It seemed quite reasonable to me then that death was the only proportionate response for people who would so egregiously violate the norms of a society.

Years later, as a young law enforcement officer, I lost a close friend, John Tillman Hussey, and a cousin, Louis Perry Bryant - both law enforcement officers themselves - to execution-style murders at the hands of felons who were attempting to avoid arrest. I remember feeling that justice had been served when one of their killers was executed.

In 1994, during my interview for the superintendent job, I was asked if I would be willing to conduct an execution. I said yes. Oregon had not executed anyone in decades, but the death penalty was part of the criminal justice system, and I had to be prepared for all of the duties that a superintendent could be called upon to perform.

Shortly afterward, I was charged with executing 2 inmates on the penitentiary's death row, Douglas Franklin Wright and Harry Charles Moore. Moore had been convicted of killing his half sister and her former husband, and he said he'd take legal action against anyone who tried to stop his execution. Wright was sentenced to death for killing 3 homeless men. He later admitted to killing a 10-year-old boy. He, too, had given up his appeals.

Regardless of their crimes, the fact that I was now to be personally involved in their executions forced me into a deeper reckoning with my feelings about capital punishment. After much contemplation, I became convinced that, on a moral level, life was either hallowed or it wasn't. And I wanted it to be.

I could not see that execution did anything to enhance public safety. While death penalty supporters suggest that capital punishment has the power of deterrence, a 2012 report by the National Research Council found that research "is not informative about whether capital punishment decreases, increases or has no effect on homicide rates."

I now believed that capital punishment was a dismal failure as a policy, but I was still expected to do my job. So I met with my staff and explained my position. I made it known that anyone who felt similarly opposed could back out of our assignment. According to state policy, assisting in the executions was voluntary for everyone but the superintendent. And yet each of those asked to serve chose to stay to ensure that the job was done professionally.

I'm a Vietnam-era veteran, and a law enforcement professional who has been trained to deal with life-or-death situations, as were many of my colleagues. We focused on carrying out our responsibilities and leaving everyone involved with as much dignity as possible.

I began to feel the weight of this undertaking while practicing for the executions. Teams rehearsed for more than a month. There was a full "run through" of the execution every week.

The weight intensified during the executions, which took place 8 months apart, and it didn't subside until well after they were completed. I cannot put into words the anxiety I felt about the possibility of a botched procedure. I wasn't certain how my staff would fare. These were the first executions in Oregon in over t3 decades. These were the first executions in Oregon to be administered by use of lethal injections. I was the 1st black superintendent of the Oregon State Penitentiary. All of these firsts had the potential to come together in a very negative way if my team made a single mistake.

Planning an execution is a surreal business. During a prisoner's final days, staff members keep the condemned person under 24-hour surveillance to, among other things, ensure that he doesn't harm or kill himself, thus depriving the people of Oregon of the right to do the same. I can understand the administrative logic for this reality, but it doesn't make this experience any less strange.

During the execution itself, correctional officers are responsible for everything, from strapping the prisoner's ankles and wrists to a gurney to administering the lethal chemicals. One of the condemned men asked to have his wrist straps adjusted because they were hurting him. After the adjustment was made, he looked me in the eye and said: "Yes. Thanks, boss."

After each execution, I had staff members who decided they did not want to be asked to serve in that capacity again. Others quietly sought employment elsewhere. A few told me they were having trouble sleeping, and I worried they would develop post-traumatic stress disorder if they had to go through it another time.

Together, we had spent many hours planning and carrying out the deaths of two people. The state-ordered killing of a person is premeditated and calculated, and inevitably some of those involved incur collateral damage. I have seen it. It's hard to avoid giving up some of your empathy and humanity to aid in the killing of another human being. The effects can lead to all the places you'd expect: drug use, alcohol abuse, depression and suicide.

But the job gets done - despite the qualms and the cost. That's the way it's supposed to work. Capital punishment keeps grinding on, out of sight of society.

The average citizen will never find himself looking a death row prisoner in the eye, administering a lethal injection and stating the time of death in front of observers and reporters. But we all share the burden of a policy that has not been shown to make the public any safer, and that endures despite the availability of reasonable alternatives.

I am encouraged that Oregon now has a moratorium on executions, and there have not been any in the state since the ones I oversaw. Nationwide, in the past few decades, executions have also been declining, from a high of 98 in 1999 to 15 so far this year. But people continue to be sentenced to death.

Since I retired from corrections in 2010, my mission has been to persuade people that capital punishment is a failed policy. America should no longer accept the myth that capital punishment plays any constructive role in our criminal justice system. It will be hard to bring an end to the death penalty, but we will be a healthier society as a result.

(source: Opinion; Semon Frank Thompson was the superintendent of the Oregon State Penitentiary from 1994 to 1998. An interview with him appears in the forthcoming "Death: An Oral History," edited by Casey Jarman----New York Times)

USA:

Defense intends to add jury instruction on sparing Dylann Roof's life

Defense attorneys for Dylann Roof say they intend to tell jurors they don't have to pick the death penalty during the sentencing phase of the trial.

Citing Fourth Circuit precedent on the matter, attorneys Sarah Gannett, David Bruck, and Kimberly Stevens say the government's request last week that a mercy instruction be barred from use during the trial should be denied.

Citing an article on juror instructions that found there tends to be a "presumption of death" by the jury when jurors are confused that can lead to a default death sentence.

"This ... confusion should not come as a complete surprise. Few jurors - or judges, for that matter - will be glad to learn that the life of a fellow human being has been consigned to their discretionary moral judgment. Faced with this prospect, it is simpler to believe - even if it is not true - that the law itself provides the answer to the momentous question of life and death," Gannett writes.

Roof faces the death penalty if he's convicted of the nearly 3 dozen hate and gun crimes he's been charged with in connection to the church shooting. His attorneys have offered repeatedly to have him plead guilty if the government will walk back the death sentence as a possible punishment.

Roof also faces the death penalty in state court, which is slated to begin at the end of January.

(source: WCIV news)

MALAYSIA:

South African engineer faces death

A South African electrical engineer found behaving suspiciously at the airport and later allegedly excreted capsules containing cocaine at the Penang Hospital, has been charged with drug trafficking.

Brits Shaun, 30, was indicted in a magistrate's court here with trafficking in 810gm of cocaine at a toilet in the hospital between 3.45pm on Sept 3 and 3.30pm on Sept 5.

No plea was recorded from Shaun who faces the mandatory death penalty if convicted.

Magistrate Mohamad Amin Shahul Hamid fixed Nov 23 for mention pending the chemist report.

It was reported recently that a South African gambled with his life when he swallowed more than 60 cocaine capsules to avoid getting caught.

He was earlier taken aside to be searched after being spotted behaving suspiciously by the airport police at about 9.30am on Sept 3.

An X-ray examination at the Penang Hospital revealed the capsules in his stomach and he subsequently passed them out in stages.

(source: The Star)

ZIMBABWE:

Mnangagwa rekindles call for abolition of death penalty

Acting President Emmerson Mnangagwa yesterday rekindled his call for the abolition of the death penalty, saying those insisting that it be maintained need divine intervention.

The Constitution bars capital punishment for women, but men aged below 21 and 70 can be sentenced to death.

Addressing a constitutional advocacy meeting in Bulawayo, Mnangagwa said Zimbabweans must continue advocating for capital punishment to be struck off the country's statutes.

"We have reduced the age of majority from 21 to 18. What are we saying? We are saying anybody below the age of 18 cannot be sentenced to death. Those above 18 except women, women cannot be sentenced to death. Women cannot be hanged.

"But men, any men above age of 18 up to the age of 70 can be hanged. I am above 70 so I cannot be hanged again. I have no doubt that we will continue advocating for total abolishing of the death penalty, but we still have strong views both from men and women who want people to be hanged, but we pray to God so that they see the light," he told various stakeholders including legislators, residents and service chiefs who attended the meeting.

Mnangagwa has been at the forefront of the campaign against capital punishment after he faced the hangman's noose during the liberation struggle under the Rhodesian regime.

The push to abolish capital punishment is now at the Constitutional Court where Tendai Biti, who is representing death row inmates, seeks the court's intervention to drop the death penalty.

The case will be heard at the Constitutional Court on September 28.

Meanwhile, Mnangagwa said the ministry had managed to translate the Constitution into 8 vernacular languages. The Constitution recognises 16 official languages and the VP said it will be translated in all languages.

"The government has made great strides towards the production of the constitution in vernacular languages. I am glad to report that we now have abridged versions of the constitution in Ndebele, Shona, Tonga, Chewa, Sotho, Kalanga, Venda and Braille for the blind," he said.

(source: Newsday)

SIERRA LEONE:

Sierra Leone to apply death penalty once again

Sierra Leone's Internal Affairs Minister Paolo Conteh has told a local radio in Freetown that the death penalty should be reactivated for people found guilty of murder in order to curb gang violence.

Sierra Leone still has the death penalty by hanging for those found guilty of murder and treason. But no one has been put to death since 1998.

"I have given instructions to the prison officers to clean and ready the tools and machines used to kill people, as reckless killing is on the increase. We have lost a lot of people through reckless killing and ended wasting resources feeding such prisoners for several years. This is unacceptable," the minister told Radio Democracy in the capital Freetown.

The minister's comments come in the midst of an increase in gang and political violence in the country.

Last week, 2 Sierra Leoneans were sentenced to death by hanging after they were found guilty of murdering a popular radio DJ in Freetown.

Conteh, who is also a retired major in the country's military, said the death penalty will scare others who think taking others lives carelessly is justifiable.

"It's in the bible, an eye for an eye. Our local people say kill a dog in front of another to know that death is real," the Minister said.

This week, the Sierra Leone police issued a public notice to offer a cash payment of $400 to anyone providing information leading to the capture of any gang leader.

(source: World Bulletin)

PHILIPPINES:

Rep. Veloso says death penalty bill of Speaker Alvarez almost done

Representative Vicente "Ching" Veloso of the 3rd district of Leyte said the imposition of death penalty will soon be revived in the country under the administration of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte as the bill filed by Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez is almost done as a law.

Rep.Veloso, senior vice chair of the House committee on justice, said House Bill 1 which seeks to impose the death penalty on heinous crimes filed by Speaker Alvarez is almost approved and done as a law.

"The bill on the imposition of death penalty filed by Speaker Alvarez is almost done and approved by Congress as this will help in the anti-illegal drugs campaign of President Duterte," Rep. Veloso told Manila Bulletin.

(source: mb.com.ph)

*******************

Philippine bishops' head issues strong 'no' on restoring death penalty

The head of the Philippine bishops' conference set "ethical guidelines" against proposals to reinstate the death penalty as the country's war on drugs continues, with body counts increasing daily.

In a statement released Sept. 14, Archbishop Socrates Villegas of Lingayen-Dagupan, conference president, urged Catholic lawmakers not to support "any attempt to restore the death penalty" and called on Catholic lawyers to "study the issue and to oppose" it by filing legal cases against it. He also appealed to Catholic judges to "heed the teaching of the church and to appreciate every possible attenuating or mitigating circumstance" so the death penalty would not be imposed.

Less than a week after Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte was sworn into office, a staunch political ally and the new speaker of the Philippine House, Pantaleon Alvarez of Davao del Norte, filed a proposal to reinstate the death penalty. It was the first bill filed in the new congressional term.

Duterte ran, and won by a large margin, on a platform of ridding the country of criminals by having them killed and encouraging the public to kill them. He has repeatedly called for the death penalty to be reinstated and, in early September, again urged congress to pass the bill.

Since Duterte took office on June 30, more than 3,400 people accused of drug dealing or addiction have died at the hands of law enforcement and private citizens. In response to critics who have said the death penalty does not deter criminal activity, the president has taken the position that the death penalty is a means to make criminals pay for heinous crimes, not to keep them from committing them again.

In recent months, the church in the Philippines has held firm in its rejection of the death penalty. Archbishop Villegas emphasized its stance with the ethical guidelines.

"While it is true 'retribution' has been central to many theories of penalty, it is at best a nebulous concept that is hardly distinguishable from a stylized and sanitized form of vengeance," he said.

Citing a passage in the book of Genesis, Archbishop Villegas said, "In every human person is that incomparably precious breath of life from God himself. ... It is this divine gift of life, sublime and unsurpassable, that the death penalty takes away."

The archbishop also pointed out changing views on the death penalty in the last century, with more and more people, including St. Pope John Paul II, opposing it and questioning the need for it altogether. He said this was especially true with the evolution of more humane forms of punishment.

"You cannot, without contradiction, insist that the person is secure from cruel punishment," he said, "and at the same time open the possibility of inflicting upon him or her the most cruel punishment possible: the calculated, planned and deliberate deprivation of life."

Archbishop Villegas called Pope Francis' declaration in the exhortation "Amoris Laetitia" that the church "firmly rejects the death penalty" the "definitive teaching of the Catholic Church for the 3rd millennium."

"It is time then to rid ourselves of the obsolescent notion that a person who commits a heinous wrong 'forfeits his right to life,'" the archbishop said. "No one can forfeit the right to life, because life is at the free disposal of none, not even the state."

(source: catholicregister.org)

INDIA:

Jigisha murder: 3rd convict also challenged death penalty, court told

Ravi Kapoor, the 2nd death row convict in the 2009 Jigisha Ghosh murder case, informed the Delhi High Court on Thursday that he too has challenged the death penalty awarded to him by the trial court.

Ravi's counsel Amit kumar told the court that he has filed the appeal through the jail authorities and therefore, it will take some time to reach the court.

The court was hearing the death reference for confirmation of the death sentence awarded to him and co-convict Amit Shukla.

Both Ravi and Amit were produced before the court on Thursday. The High Court has fixed the case for hearing on September 25.

It has also directed the registry to prepare electronic form of all records in the case and supply the same to the lawyers in the matter.

Convict Amit Shukla had also approached the High Court, saying the trial court had awarded him the capital punishment by "wrongly holding that the case falls in the category of rarest of rare".

The trial court on July 14 held Kapoor, Shukla and Baljeet Malik guilty of the murder of 28-year-old IT executive Jigisha.

The court while sentencing Kapoor and Shukla to death on August 22, had said that the girl was killed in a "cold-blooded, inhuman and cruel manner" and "brutally mauled to death".

(source: The Hindu)

BANGLADESH:

15 appeals in war crimes cases pending with court in Bangladesh

Although most of the top Jamaat-e-Islami leaders have been executed, the most recent being Mir Quasem Ali, 15 war crimes cases are waiting for appeal hearing before the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court (SC) has so far disposed of 9 cases of crimes against humanity.

It has handed down the death sentence against 6 war criminal - Abdul Quader Molla, Kamaruzzaman, Salauddin Quader Chowdhury, Ali Ahsan Mujahid, Motiur Rahman Nizami and Mir Quasem Ali.

They have already been executed after all legal procedures were carried out.

The SC also delivered judgment in the appeal petitions of Gulam Azam, Delwar Hossain Sayedee and Abdul Alim.

The SC awarded life in prison to Gulam Azam, Sayedee and Abdul Alim.

Gulam Azam and Alim died while serving their jail terms.

But both the defence and the state have pleaded for review of the SC judgment that had commuted the death sentence of Jamaat nayeb-e-ameer Delwar Hossain Sayedee to life imprisonment.

The state sought death penalty, while the defence appealed for acquittal of Sayedee.

The apex court is yet to hear the review petitions.

Apart from this, at least 15 cases are now pending before the apex court relating to war crimes.

Most of the convicted appellants were mid-level or even grassroots-level criminals, who terrorised their neighbourhoods.

The cases are against Jamaat nayeb-e-ameer Moulana Abdus Subhan of Pabna, fellow Jamaat man ATM Azharul Islam of Rangpur, Mobarak Hossain of Brahmanbaria, Syed Kaiser of Habiganj, engineer Abdul Jabbar of Pirojpur, Mahidur Rahman and Afsar Hossain of Chapainawabganj, Sheikh Sirajul Haque and Khan Akram Hossain of Bagerhat, Forkan Mallik of Patuakhali, Ataur Rahman Noni and Obaidul Haque Taher of Netrokona, Shamsuddin Ahmed of Kishoreganj and Mohibur Rahman, alias Boro Miah, and his cousin Abdur Razzak of Habiganj.

Of these 15 appeals, the state has pleaded for the death sentence for Jabbar, who had been sentenced to life imprisonment by the International Crimes Tribunal-1 (ICT-1) considering his age.

The other appeals were lodged by the convicts against their sentences by the tribunal.

2 tribunals have so far disposed of 24 cases in 6 years.

The 1st special court was set up on March 25, 2010.

Trials of more than 50 accused in 18 cases are going on at the single tribunal after the merger of the 2.

Jamaat leader Abdul Quader Molla was the 1st war criminal to be sent to the gallows on December 12, 2013.

This was followed by Mohamed Kamaruzzaman (April 11, 2015), Salauddin Quader Chowdhury and Ali Ahsan Mohamed Mujahid (November 21, 2015) and Jaamaat supremo Motiur Rahman Nizami (May 10, 2016).

At least 62 new cases are going to be filed shortly, while hundreds are in the process of investigation, sources in the investigation agency of the tribunal said.

There are over 2,000 accused in at least 622 cases now being looked into by the investigation agency of the ICT.

The second bench (ICT-2), which was formed on March 22, 2012, was dismantled on September 15, 2015 and the ICT-1 was reconstituted.

The ICT-1 disposed of 10 cases, and the 2nd tribunal 11.

A Dhaka court yesterday acquitted wife and son of executed war criminal Salauddin Quader Chowdhury while it sentenced 5 people to different jail terms in a case filed over leaking the draft verdict of the International Crimes Tribunal (ICT) that sentenced him to death.

Dhaka cyber crimes tribunal judge KM Samsul Alam passed the order.

The court acquitted Salauddin Quader's wife Farhat Quader and son Humman Quader from the charges while sentencing his lawyer AKM Fakhrul Islam to 10 years' imprisonment and fined him ten mn taka, in default, to suffer 6 months' more rigorous imprisonment.

Besides, the court sentenced his manager Mahbubul Ahsan, Fakhrul's associate lawyer Mehedi Hasan, 2 staff of the ICT-1 Nayan Ali and Faruq Hossain to 7 years' imprisonment and fined them 10,000 taka each, in default, to suffer 6 months more rigorous imprisonment.

Earlier on August 28, the Dhaka court deferred its judgment until September 15.

On August 4, Judge of the tribunal KM Samsul Alam fixed August 14 for delivering the judgment on completion of arguments in the case.

The court also sent 4 accused - Fakhrul, Faruq, Nayan and Mahbubul - to jail when they appeared before the court while lawyer Fakhrul's associate Mehedi Hasan remains absconding.

On February 15, the court framed charges against 7 people, including wife, a son and a counsel for executed Bangladesh Nationalist Party leader Salauddin Quader Chowdhury, in the case.

Detective branch inspector M Shajahan submitted a chargesheet to the Dhaka metropolitan magistrate court against the 7 accused on August 28, 2014. On October 1, 2013, ICT sentenced BNP standing committee member Salauddin Quader Chowdhury to death after finding him guilty of committing crimes against humanity and genocide during the Liberation War in 1971.

However, some parts of the draft verdict were found posted on the internet several hours before pronouncing the verdict.

Later, showing the copy of the draft verdict, Salauddin's wife and son raised a complaint that the verdict originated from the law ministry.

On October 4, a case was filed with Shahbagh police station under sections 57 and 63 of information and communication technology act.

Salauddin Quader Chowdhury was executed in the Dhaka Central Jail on November 22, 2015.

(source: Gulf Times)

INDONESIA:

Drug agency arrests 2 dealers carrying 18 kg of meth

The National Drug Agency has arrested 2 drug dealers, who are members of a cross-provincial syndicate with 18 kilograms (kg) of methamphetamine (meth) in their possession in Medan, capital of North Sumatra province.

The Deputy of the Eradication division at the agency, Arman Depari said in Medan, on Thursday, that the arrest of both dealers with the initials BB and RP was a result of cooperation between the North Sumatra Drug Agency, the North Sumatra Police, Customs, and the Medan Police.

Both dealers were arrested during a transaction, which then led to a search of one of the suspects residence in the Medan Helvetia sub-district.

The arrest is also a result of a deeper investigation into an earlier arrest of a meth dealer in Jakarta in March, from whom 35 kg of meth was seized.

The initial bust also led to the capture of 11 suspected dealers in Medan with 5 kg of meth taken into custody at the end of March.

The National Drug Agency predicted that the contraband was transported from Malaysia into Indonesia through the Aceh province.

The syndicate's network is considerably vast as they take their illegal goods through to North Sumatra to be sold in Medan and its surrounding areas.

Some of the drugs are also taken to Jakarta to be sold in the Jabodetabek area, as well as a number of major cities in the Java and Bali islands.

From their working pattern, the syndicate is estimated to have been operating for quite some time.

"Although when we arrested him, the suspect admitted that he had only sold drugs once," he added.

According to the agencys investigation, the suspect sold 6 kg of drugs to his network in Medan.

"He had already sold 6 kg of the contraband, we are trying to track it down," said the former Riau Islands Police Chief.

Based on the arrest chronology and the discovery of evidence, Arman thinks the suspect does not have any meth stored in his house, rather, it is placed in the residence of a family member, which is located a mere 4 houses away from his own.

However, 2 family members, whose house was used to store the drugs, escaped when they found out about the search at their relatives house.

The Agency then urged both family members to surrender as they have been identified by the authorities.

It would also help to solve the case sooner.

"We urge them to hand themselves in, especially given the fact that they left a 10 year-old child behind," he reiterated.

For the possession of 16 kg worth of methamphetamine, the suspect will be charged with Clause 112, 114 and 24 and the State Regulation number 35 of 2009 related to Narcotics and is looking at a death penalty.

(source: Antara news)

*********************

Bengkulu Gang Rapists, Murder Convicts Demand Death Sentence

4 of the 5 defendants in the gang rape and murder of 14-year-old Yuyun in Bengkulu are now pleading for the death sentence - the same sentence the prosecutor demanded for their alleged ringleader, known as Zainal.

"4 of the defendants have requested the death penalty, the same sentence demanded for Zainal," Kristian Lesmana, the defense team's spokesman, said in Rejanglebong, Bengkulu, on Thursday (15/09).

The 4 convicted rapists and murderers are 19-year-olds Tomi Wijaya, Suket and Faisal and 20-year-old Bobby. Prosecutor Arlya Novian Adam had demanded 20-year jail terms for all of them.

Kristian said this was an odd request, as the defense team has been pleading for leniency. The lawyers suspect the young men had been intimidated and forced to ask for the heavier sentence.

"So far we don't know why they [the 4 defendants] have asked for the death penalty, whether it's pressure from someone or if they are depressed. It doesn't seem logical to ask for a worse sentence than what the prosecutor demanded," Kristian said.

The defense team has given the judges the right to decide whether or not to meet the demand in the next trial.

Meanwhile, the Rejanglebong district attorney, led by prosecutor Dodi Wira Admadja and Arlya, said they will stick with the original sentences they demanded.

They will seek the death penalty for Zainal and 20 years imprisonment for the rest of the group.

"We will stick with the original sentences, even though these 4 defendants have now requested for the death sentence, just like what we demanded for Zainal. The judges will deliver their decision at a hearing on Sept. 29," Dodi said.

The 5 men will be sentenced for violating Child Protection laws and for premeditated murder.

The Yuyun case shook Indonesia - and the world - with its brutality, exposing other child rape and murder cases around the country and highlighting the need for more effective child protection laws.

(source: beritasatu.com)

SOUTH SUDAN:

An eye for an eye is the wrong response to attacks on humanitarians ---- I survived the attack in which South Sudanese soldiers murdered and gang raped aid workers - but executing the perpetrators will not bring justice.

It has been 2 months since I was brutally attacked along with more than 30 other individuals by armed soldiers at the Terrain compound in Juba, South Sudan. The incident resulted in the death of a dedicated and inspiring friend, John Gatluak Manguet Nhial, repeated sexual and physical assaults, and the lingering pain from the physical and psychological injuries we sustained that day.

The international community has made a loud and united call for this incident to be properly investigated and for the government of South Sudan to prosecute the perpetrators and ensure justice for survivors. In August, Ban Ki Moon called for the government to "prosecute those involved in these unspeakable acts of violence".

I have spent many years working on the other side of such reports, speaking to victims and perpetrators, and making similar calls. But as I find my role transformed, I can't help but feel that this "justice" we ask for is as elusive as ever.

If the ongoing presidential investigation into the attack is thorough and soldiers are indeed found guilty of the crimes committed against us, there is a high chance they may be sentenced to death. Recently, 2 soldiers in Wau found guilty of committing murder and other crimes were executed by firing squad.

I can only speak about my own reaction to the events that followed the attack against us. I know very well that not everyone will agree with what I am about to say: but after 2 months of healing, I am wondering what "justice" even looks like.

In the decade since the 2003 UN Baghdad bombing, aid worker casualties have tripled to more than 100 deaths per year. This question of justice is not only asked by the survivors of the Terrain attacks, it is a question asked by humanitarians affected by violent war crimes all over the world.

Causing suffering in others does not alleviate my suffering

Yes, I am angry. I am angry because I feel that the UN failed to do anything to protect us or to rescue us after the attack. I am angry at a nation that has a large armed force but no funds to pay them - soldiers that in many cases joined this army as children, trained and initiated into a life of destruction, fear and anger. I am angry at those soldiers who during the event clearly coerced younger troops, some who could not have been more than 16, to rape foreigners while they watched and cheered. The lives of those young soldiers have also been changed forever.

Yes, I am angry. Yes, we need justice. But the death penalty does not give life to John Gatluak Manguet Nhial. Causing suffering in others does not alleviate my suffering. Instead, the death penalty only further erodes society's respect for the sanctity of life. It builds scar tissue to coarsen our culture, diminish our humanity.

As a humanitarian, I moved to South Sudan to support a population that has endured war for generations. As humanitarians, we lived in South Sudan to use whatever skills we had to try and save lives. The thought of people being killed on my behalf makes me feel sick.

Are we as humanitarians left with the choice to either report crimes against us and participate in an unjust system, or simply not report these crimes at all?

It is too soon to say whether this investigation will be taken seriously by the government, by its army and their military court, or to say whether any investigation will result in the execution of perpetrators. But this discussion needs to happen before that call is made, before the trigger is pulled.

We need to work towards better implementation of international humanitarian law and accountability for those who violate it. But these efforts must work hand in hand with the need to continue work to strengthen judicial systems and encourage governments to stop the use of capital punishment immediately.

How can we call for justice when we know the consequences of that justice offend our moral code?

South Sudan has continued to use the death penalty despite well-documented weaknesses in the country's legal system, which prevent it from ensuring the basic legal rights of people accused of crimes. How would we be sure the right people were being punished?

This week I will speak to investigators from South Sudan's government who will play a role in deciding the fate of these soldiers. I will tell them my story in unflinching detail so that the full consequences of these violent actions can be understood. And I will call for justice - a justice that encompasses the dignity and respect survivors deserve as well as the dignity and respect for human life that we, as humanitarians, should demand

(source: anonymous, The Guardian)

SEPTEMBER 15, 2016:

VIRGINIA:

Virginia won't say how much it would pay secret supplier for lethal injection drugs ---- Agreement between Virginia Department of Corrections and secret vendor for purchase of lethal injection drugs

It's unlikely there are many state contracts as peculiar as the one between the Virginia Department of Corrections and a secret vendor.

The contract - a memorandum of agreement obtained by the Richmond Times-Dispatch under the Freedom of Information Act - states that it is "for the purchase of drugs to be used exclusively for implementing the lawful order of the court for a death sentence by lethal injection in the commonwealth."

A Virginia law that took effect July 1 keeps the identity of the supplier secret, and the Department of Corrections will not even reveal what the vendor is charging to provide Virginia a product or products specified only for use in executions.

A request to the governor's office for the figure was not answered Wednesday.

The initial agreement may be good for up to seven years but can be ended by the vendor if it cannot make a requested compound, "or for no reason whatsoever."

As pharmaceutical manufacturers have stopped supplying drugs for executions, some states have found so-called compounding pharmacies willing to do so - provided they are not identified.

But 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.

Last year, Virginia had to obtain a compounded drug from the state of Texas to execute serial killer Alfredo Prieto, who also had been sentenced to death in California.

Earlier this year, it appeared the Department of Corrections did not have enough drugs to execute Richmond mass-killer Ricky Gray. His March execution date was stayed when his lawyers appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

7 men are on Virginia's death row, but none has a pending execution date.

Robert Dunham, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, wrote in an email Wednesday, "We don't know who has actually requested the secrecy, the pharmacies or the states (or both). But it is clear that the pharmacies that have chosen to supply execution drugs prefer that the public not know they are doing so."

"No execution drug supplier has voluntarily disclosed its identity. At least 1 - a Tulsa pharmacy known as the Apothecary Shoppe - was identified as a result of a Missouri lawsuit, and was found to have committed more than 1,800 regulatory violations," Dunham wrote.

The secrecy provision was passed by the General Assembly in April as a compromise that avoided a return to the electric chair if lethal injection was not available, something Gov. Terry McAuliffe opposed.

Virginia law allows an inmate to choose between the 2 methods of execution. If the inmate refuses to choose, the default method is by injection.

The memorandum of agreement between the Department of Corrections released by the department this week has redacted the identity of the supplier, the date it was signed, and the price to be paid for "each distribution to the Department of Corrections of a requested compound."

"Each distribution" is defined as "a batch of sufficient quantity of vials of the compounded drug to permit 1 execution by lethal injection (i.e., 1 dose and 2 backup doses) plus enough vials to allow for testing of the compounded drug for every month prior to the date of expiration (i.e., 1 vial every month)."

Citing the state's new secrecy amendment, the Virginia memorandum states: "The identity of the pharmacy or outsourcing facility that supplies drugs for lethal injection, or any officer or employee of such pharmacy or outsourcing facility, and any person or entity used by such a pharmacy or outsourcing facility to obtain equipment or substances to facilitate the compounding of lethal injection drugs shall be confidential, shall be exempt from the Freedom of Information Act, and shall not be subject to discovery or introduction as evidence in any civil proceedings unless good cause is shown."

"The above exemption includes any information reasonably calculated to lead to the identity of such persons, including their names, residential and office addresses, residential and office telephone numbers, Social Security numbers and tax identification numbers," the memorandum says.

The amended state law does not appear explicitly to include the price paid for the drugs as being exempt from the Freedom of Information Act.

(source: Richmond Times-Dispatch)

NORTH CAROLINA:

NC State Bar panel approves rules for evidence of innocence

North Carolina prosecutors would have to reveal evidence of innocence obtained after a person is convicted under a rule that a State Bar approved Tuesday.

Previously, prosecutors only had to reveal the evidence of innocence before a conviction. After agreeing to that rule, the panel went a step further and tentatively signed off on another new rule that requires all attorneys, including criminal defense attorneys, to reveal post-conviction evidence of innocence, provided they're not violating rules including attorney client-privilege.

"A clear decision was made by the subcommittee today that it was not comfortable making years ago," said defense attorney Brad Bannon, referring to a decision several years not to send the prosecutors' rule to the full committee. "We have seen these wrongful conviction cases increase in the years since, and we need to be sure that the people most able to correct that injustice - prosecutors and other lawyers - take steps to do so."

The proposal from the ethics subcommittee now goes to the full ethics committee, which meets in October. If it is approved, it's then sent to attorneys for comment.

The 5-member subcommittee had met several times previously to discuss the rule and discussion Tuesday was brief and mostly concentrated on language to tell prosecutors that they must consider the evidence they receive and not just focus on the credibility of the source.

The American Bar Association says 14 states have a rule about prosecutors and post-conviction evidence of innocence and recommends that each state approve such a rule.

For the proposal involving all attorneys, the subcommittee discussed whether to allow attorneys to ignore attorney-client privilege. Eventually, the panel said the importance of protecting that relationship was greater.

"This is the classic example of a clash of values," said Alice Mine, the State Bar's assistant executive director and ethics counsel. "We've got this value of preventing wrongful convictions. But we also have this value of protecting the interest of our clients. And the duty of confidentiality is really core to the attorney-client relationship."

Advocates cited a Buncombe County murder case as a prime example of why North Carolina needed the rule for prosecutors. 5 innocent men served prison terms in connection with a 2000 home-invasion murder they didn't commit.

Another man confessed in 2003 and implicated an accomplice whose DNA was eventually found on masks and bandanas near the scene. The district attorney said in a deposition that he didn't believe the confession and that he never saw the DNA evidence, although the report from the State Bureau of Investigation showed it was copied to the DA.

The 5 received a total $8 million for their wrongful convictions. Some of them had pleaded guilty to avoid the threat of the death penalty.

(source: Associated Press)

CALIFORNIA:

A Look Inside San Quentin, Home of Death Row

Controversial, complicated, and at times contradictory -- life on California's death row is in many ways a mystery. As voters prepare to decide the fate of the death penalty in November, FOX40 was the only local TV station allowed access to San Quentin State Penitentiary, California's only death row for male inmates.

The home of one of the most breathtaking views of the San Francisco Bay is also home to 700 convicted murderers awaiting execution -- just one of many paradoxes behind the walls of San Quentin State Penitentiary.

It's hard to argue there's not something charming about San Quentin's old world feel. Touring the 19th century prison at times seemed like walking through a movie set or prison museum... surreal.

That feeling was short lived.

The stab proof vests the FOX40 crew had to wear were actually our 2nd reality check. The 1st was the "no hostage" policy we had to sign, warning that if an inmate took us captive, the guards would not bargain for us.

We were part of an international group of journalists allowed rare access to 5 cell blocks where male condemned inmates live starting with the most restrictive, the adjustment center -- the sometimes temporary, sometimes long-term home to inmates with behavioral issues. The spit shield we had to wear when approaching those men was reality check No. 3.

Yard time in the kennel-like exercise cages of the adjustment center isn't much, but at least there's fresh air. Adjustment center inmates spend as many as 24 hours a day in a cell with a concrete door, getting to use the exercise cages on average 3 days a week.

"What am I supposed to do for the rest of my life, just sit here?" asked inmate Jamar Tucker.

Incarcerated on and off since he was a teen, a deadly home invasion in 2005 got Tucker life in prison, killing his cell mate 5 years later got him a death sentence.

"I don't regret nothing," he said.

After 6 years on death row, the 34-year-old seemed to welcome his execution.

"I'm ready to go," he claimed.

There is a long line ahead of him. California has only executed 13 prisoners since 1978. Leaving about 600 inmates in the standard death row cell blocks.

The prison didn't let us prearrange interviews, but we were allowed to approach anyone we came across.

Richard Allen Davis, who kidnapped Polly Klass from her home nearly 16 years ago, ignored us.

A few cells down, Douglas Clark, also known as the "Sunset Strip Killer," wanted to talk. 30 years later he insists he's innocent of the 6 L.A. area murders that put him on death row. His accomplice, Carol Bundy, avoided death row by testifying against him.

"I'd have killed the b---- if I had a chance," said Clark.

Notorious or not, inmates spend on average more than 20 years on death row. At this point, they are more likely to die of illness, suicide or old age than execution. And that's the real death row reality check.

"I think they're just waiting on their ass for me to die of old age," said Charles Case.

Also known as the "Midday Rapist," the 75-year-old has been on death row for two decades after a Father's Day double murder in Sacramento.

Our 4-hour tour came to an end without ever seeing the place where condemned prisoners are supposed to meet theirs. The lethal injection chamber is the entire purpose of death row -- yet it hasn't been used in a decade, and of the 747 prisoners condemned to die, not one is scheduled to have that sentence carried out, which is the ultimate San Quentin Penitentiary paradox.

Executions are on hold in California until at least November while a new lethal injection protocol is developed.

It's unclear if that will happen before voters go to the polls to decide whether to speed up the death penalty process or abolish capital punishment altogether.

(source: Fox News)

INDIA:

Soumya murder: SC scraps Govindachamy's death penalty

The Supreme Court on Thursday set aside death sentence given to convict Govindachamy in Soumya murder case.

The apex court, however, held him guilty of rape.Soumya, an employee of a shopping mall in Kochi, was raped and pushed out of a running train in February 1, 2011.

Sowmya, who was 23 then, was pushed down from the Ernakulam-Shoranur passenger train while she was returning from Ernakulam after work to Shoranur and raped and murdered by Govindachami.

The Thrissur Fast Track Court in November 2011 awarded death penalty to the accused which was upheld by the Kerala High Court in December 2013.

(source: sify.com)

PHILIPPINES:

CBCP opposes revival of death penalty

The Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) has appealed to court judges to follow the teaching of the Church and not to impose death penalty.

"We appeal to our Catholic judges to heed the teaching of the Church and to appreciate every possible attenuating or mitigating circumstance so as not to impose the death penalty," said CBCP President Archbishop Socrates Villegas in a statement entitled CBCP Ethical Guidelines on Proposals to Restore the Death Penalty.

Likewise, the Lingayen-Dagupan prelate urged them not to support the reimposition of capital punishment.

"We call on our Catholic jurists to study the issue and to oppose, through proper judicial proceedings, the re-introduction of capital punishment," he said.

Villegas added, "It is time then to rid ourselves of the obsolescent notion that a person who commits a heinous wrong "forfeits his right to life". No one can forfeit the right to life, because life is at the free disposal of none, not even of the State!"

The CBCP head also asked legislators not to vote for restoration of the the death penalty.

"We ask Catholic law-makers to withhold support from any attempt to restore the death penalty," he said.

Villegas pointed out that the country has a legal obligation not to restore the capital punishment.

"This is an obligation in law that it took upon itself when our government ratified the Second Optional Protocol to the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Significantly, Article I of the Protocol cannot be clearer about our legal obligations:1. No one within the jurisdiction of a State Party to the present Protocol shall be executed. 2. Each State Party shall take all necessary measures to abolish the death penalty within its jurisdiction," he said.

The Catholic bishop added, "And there is nothing in the Protocol that would allow the Philippines to denounce the international agreement. In fact, it would not be in our best interests to do so, in light of the fact that in respect to other aspects of our national life, we take refuge and seek legal relief under the norms of international law and international agreements."

He also cited the existence of a law that was passed 10 years ago that repealed the imposition of death penalty.

"Our position against the death penalty therefore rests not only on considerations of human dignity but has legal foundation. In the country's legislature R.A. 9346, the act repealing the death penalty and granting universal commutation to life imprisonment and reclusion-perpetua (June 24, 2006)," the Lingayen-Dagupan prelate added.

(source: mb.com.ph)

INDONESIA:

We have permission to execute Philippine prisoner

"He simply said: 'Follow your own laws, I will not interfere'".

"You know this is in Bahasa and it might have been lost in the translation", Yasay said. Before leaving for a regional summit in Laos on September 5, Duterte said he "might just accept the system and plead for mercy".

And so during their meeting during Duterte's working visit in Indonesia last week, it was a focal point of discussion. Duterte's officials have denied the report which quoted the state-run Antara News Agency which quoted Widodo.

On Tuesday, Sept. 13, the president said that asking for clemency would be hypocritical because his administration has been fighting the issue of drugs.

Duterte - who is waging a bloody crackdown on drugs in his country that has claimed almost 3000 lives in just two months - apparently gave Widodo the green light during a bilateral meeting last week in Jakarta.

In a related development, two of Veloso's supposed recruiters have assailed the decision of a Nueva Ecija court to get her deposition in Indonesia.

In 2010, she was arrested in Jogyakarta airport for trying to bring in 5.7 kilograms of heroin, and was given the death sentence later in October.

Veloso says she was duped into smuggling the drugs into Indonesia. "We never mentioned about Veloso".

But Agence France-Presse reported that in Jakarta, Mr Joko told reporters yesterday what Mr Duterte had told him. "This is assuming already that Veloso would have testified", Abella said. I said go ahead and implement the law - I never. Sinabi ko lang, we will respect the judgments of your courts. Widodo declared a "drug emergency" past year, on the grounds that such use reportedly kills around 40-50 people in the country daily.

"I see that President Duterte's consistency in eradicating drugs is really high".

Olalia conceded that Veloso's conviction, temporary reprieve and the appeal for clemency were "matters all within the ambit of Indonesian laws in the same way that the ongoing trial of cases against her recruiters and the plea for clemency are also matters in accordance with the Philippine laws".

"Up 'til now we have not received any word of the latest developments, but as I said, we still await the legal process in the Philippines".

Leftist students trooped to the Mendiola Peace Arch on Tuesday to urge President Duterte to save Veloso from execution in Indonesia.

Duterte declined to discuss specifics of the conversation involving Veloso's case. Indonesia tells us that our President gave the green light for Mary Jane's execution but our Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) tells otherwise.

The stay of execution was the result of a request by the then Philippines president, Benigno Aquino.

Social media posts from Filipinos even seemed to turn the tables on Veloso, saying that, as a drug mule, she deserved her imprisonment and imminent execution.

Senator Leila de Lima, a critic of Duterte, described as "disgusting" the President's statement to Widodo regarding Veloso's execution.

Before he left for the Asean summit in Laos last week, Mr Duterte told reporters he would try to intercede on behalf of Veloso with Mr Joko "in a most respectful and in a very, very courteous way".

Her case attracted huge attention in the Philippines and Indonesia, with rallies of support and world boxing superstar Manny Pacquiao pleading for her life to be spared.

Escudero said Duterte, who has been pushing for the death penalty, has no moral ground to appeal the death penalty imposed on Veloso.

(source: crcconnection.com)

JAPAN:

Death penalty upheld over two murders in Osaka in 2011

The Osaka High Court upheld the death penalty Wednesday for a man convicted of murdering a former corporate executive and a housewife in separate cases in western Japan in late 2011.

The court dismissed an appeal against capital punishment by Munehiro Nishiguchi, 55, whose defense counsel had said he could have been suffering diminished capacity, citing cerebral atrophy the counsel said was recognized in an imaging scan.

The high court said the man was not suffering from an impairment that could have affected his actions.

The defense appealed the high court decision.

According to the high court ruling, Nishiguchi killed Takeko Tamura, a 67-year-old housewife, in November 2011 at a parking lot of a shopping mall in Sakai, Osaka Prefecture, and then stole her money.

In the following month, he choked to death Soshu Ozaki, an 84-year-old former vice president of cooking device maker Zojirushi Corp, at the victim's home in the same city and stole about 800,000 yen.

(source: Japan Today)

VIRGINIA:

Prosecutors to seek death penalty in case of Henrico man accused of murdering parents

Henrico Commonwealth's Attorney Shannon Taylor told a Henrico County judge Wednesday she will pursue the death penalty in the trial of a 23-year-old man accused of killing his parents on Easter Sunday.

William Roy Brissette has been charged with 2 counts of capital murder and 2 counts of use of a firearm in the commission of a felony. If convicted, Brissette could face life in prison or death.

Brissette was arrested after police found his mother Martha B. Brissette, 56, and her husband Henry J. Brissette III, 59, dead from gunshot wounds in their home along the 8300 block of Forge Road around 9:30 p.m. on March 27.

In a letter to the court, the Commonwealth said their decision to seek the death penalty was due to the "Outrageously or wantonly vile" crimes and the probability that the Brissette would continue to be a "serious threat to society."

Neighbors were shocked by the crime describing the Brissettes as hard-working, kind individuals who did their best to provide for their children. Neighbors said William lived at the Forge Road home with his parents.

Brissette's criminal record in Henrico, according to court records, dates back to 2013. He had several charges for marijuana distribution, and one for stalking/fear of death that was nolle prosse.

Prosecutors also said police had been called to the family's Forge Road home on several occasions involving William Brissette.

Since 2006, Henrico Police records show they visited the family's Forge Road home for 30 different calls, including drunk/disorderly, suspicious situation, domestic, mental subject, drugs, animal cruelty/neglect, missing person and, on Easter, a fatal shooting.

Brissette continues to be held without bond at the Henrico Jail. His trial is set for June 5-16, 2017.

(source: WTVR news)

NORTH CAROLINA:

District Attorney: Will seek death penalty after Shelby officer fatally shot

The District Attorney says he plans to seek the death penalty for the man accused of fatally shooting a Shelby Police officer early Saturday morning.

Officer Tim Brackeen was shot early Saturday morning while he was attempting to serve a warrant in the area of Parkview Street. Investigators say he was shot in the torso and passed away Monday morning at Carolinas Medical Center, in Charlotte.

The Mecklenburg County Medical Examiner's Office said Brackeen died after suffering a "lethal gunshot wound to the chest." The report was released Wednesday afternoon after an autopsy was completed.

The man accused in the shooting death, 23-year-old Irving Fenner Jr., was arrested in Providence, Rhode Island early Wednesday morning after being on the run since Saturday morning.

Fenner's arrest in Rhode Island

"It's been a long period of time where the detectives and the FBI agents all cultivating information, pretty good police work tracking [Fenner] here. And they surrounded the house and they talked him out, and he surrendered, he came out peacefully," Rhode Island State Police told WPRI.

According to WPRI, Fenner was taken to the hospital after his capture because he had an injury from a gunshot wound. Investigators said that the injury did not come from his capture in Rhode Island, but believe Fenner was shot in his earlier struggle with Brackeen.

"There is a bullet behind his rib cage and they are going to leave it there for now," State Police Major Joseph Philbin said.

Philbin said he called the Shelby Police Department in the middle of the night to tell them they had captured Fenner.

"[The dispatcher] had to take a breath because she was emotional," Philbin said.

Police from Shelby and the FBI were expected to be in Rhode Island to interview Irving Fenner Jr. by Wednesday afternoon. Fenner will then be arraigned as a fugitive from justice after he is questioned.

When police arrested Fenner his head was shaved, according to WPRI. Police said he had tried to elude capture by altering his appearance. FBI Special Agent Colin Woods said analysis of Fenner's cell phone, which authorities seized shortly after the shooting, led them to Rhode Island.

Other people arrested

Since Tuesday afternoon, six other people have been charged for their alleged involvement in the case, including Fenner's half-sister.

Casey Fenner of New York, Jolisa Peeler of Rhode Island and Deitra Morris of Shelby were each charged Tuesday night with accessory after the fact of 1st- -degree murder, which is a Class C felony.

Fenner's uncle, Corry Peeler and his girlfriend Hope Wyman, are both charged with harboring a criminal.

Police say the charges stem from "aid that they provided the suspect, Irving Lucien Fenner Jr., after the murder of Officer Tim Brackeen."

Ashley Hamrick, the woman WBTV previously interviewed, was charged Tuesday afternoon with felony harboring a fugitive "for giving Fenner aid and comfort while he was subject to outstanding warrants for 1st degree burglary, robbery with dangerous weapon, and 2nd degree kidnapping," according to Shelby police.

Hamrick is accused of harboring Fenner, knowing he was wanted, when officer Brackeen attempted to serve warrants on him early Saturday morning.

During the interview with WBTV Monday evening, Hamrick said, "Irving Fenner if you're watching this you better turn yourself in because it's not gonna end pretty." Hamrick is being held on a $100,00 bond.

Authorities said Casey Fenner and Peeler "will be brought back here {NC} to face charges" but police don't know when because "the extradition process takes different amounts of time based on the state."

Casey Fenner, Irving's half-sister, spoke with WBTV Monday night and claimed she didn't know where her brother was. She said Brackeen shot him and that he could be dead "somewhere in the woods."

Funeral arrangements

Brackeen's body was escorted Tuesday from the Mecklenburg County Medical Examiner's Office in Charlotte to the Cecil Burton Funeral Home in Shelby. The procession, which temporarily shut down part of Interstate 85 southbound, started just after 12:30 p.m. and ended around 2 p.m.

According to Officer Brackeen's pastor, a memorial service will be held Wednesday night at 7 p.m. at Bethel Baptist Church, along South Dekalb Street in Shelby.

A funeral service will be held on Friday, September 17, 2016 at 3:00 pm at Keeter Stadium, 230 E Dixon Blvd, Shelby, NC 28152 with Rev. Stephen Brackeen officiating. Burial will follow at Sunset Cemetery.

In lieu of flowers, Memorials can be made;Shelby Police Department K-9 Unit, PO Box 207, Shelby NC 28151.

A GoFundMe page was set up for Brackeen. The page says "the funds raised will go to help Tim, Tim's wife, and daughter during their time of crisis."

(source: WBTV news)

***************

DA to seek death penalty for Whiteville murder suspect

District Attorney Jon David announced Wednesday his office intends to seek the death penalty for James Edward McKamey, 51, who is accused of stabbing 1 woman to death and another nearly 20 times.

David, along with Whiteville Police Chief Jeff Rosier, Columbus County Sheriff Lewis Hatcher and SBI agent Mac Warner held a news conference Wednesday to talk about McKamey's case.

David said a grand jury indicted McKamey on charges of 1st-degree murder and robbery with a dangerous weapon for the stabbing death of 65-year-old Carol Greer, a retired teacher who had taught music at Whiteville Primary School, as well as attempted murder and assault charges related to the stabbing of Reshonta Love.

According to police, McKamey stabbed Love numerous times in the arms, head and chest in the 300 block of West Nance Street on Aug. 29. Authorities were called to Greer's residence on Smyrna Drive the next day, where they found her dead with multiple stab wounds near a shed behind her home, approximately 100 yards from the location Love was assaulted.

"These were 2 separate, but related incidents that happened mere minutes apart," David explained. "Mrs. Greer's killing was really a crime of opportunity that was transactionally connected to the savage assault of Ms. Love."

McKamey, along with his wife, Carol Smith Greer, were taken into custody on Sept. 1 in Brunswick County in Greer's vehicle, which had been taken from her home. Carol was released without charges.

David said he has filed paperwork with the court expressing his intent to certify this "vicious killing" as a death penalty case, but a hearing will be held to make an official ruling.

In reference to comments that Greer was "in the wrong place at the wrong time," David said he disagreed.

"She was in her driveway in the middle of the day. Who could possibly say that was in the wrong place at the wrong time?" David questioned. "After all, we're dealing with a woman who was in her golden years. She was at a time and place in her life when she should feel most secure. And the fact this incident happened reminds us that evil does exist in the world."

(source: WECT news)

ALABAMA----2 new execution dates set

Fall execution dates set for 2 Alabama death row inmates

The Alabama Supreme Court today set execution dates this fall for death row inmates Tommy Arthur and Ronald Bert Smith Jr.

The court set Arthur's execution for Nov. 3 at Holman Correctional Facility in Atmore and Smith's for Dec. 8.

Arthur

This is the 7th time Arthur has had an execution date set.

The Alabama Attorney General's Office asked the Alabama Supreme Court in July that an execution date be set "as soon as possible" for Arthur, who was convicted in the 1982 contract killing of a Muscle Shoals man.

Arthur had 6 previous execution dates set by the Alabama Supreme Court: 2001, twice in 2007, 2008, 2012 and 2015. Several were stayed within one to 2 days of the execution dates.

If the Alabama Supreme Court agrees to set an execution date, it would the 7th time Tommy Arthur has faced execution.

Arthur was first convicted of capital murder in 1983 in the contract killing death of Troy Wicker of Muscle Shoals. Wicker's wife had claimed she hired Arthur who at the time was serving at a Decatur work release center for a conviction in the 1977 murder of his sister-in-law in Marion County.

The original Wicker conviction and a 2nd conviction were overturned. He was convicted a 3rd time in 1991 and that conviction was upheld. Arthur admits he killed his sister-in-law but maintains he did not kill Wicker.

"For 33 years, since his February 1983 conviction of the capital murder of Troy Wicker, Arthur has engaged in nearly constant litigation in every state and federal court available to him, and he has thoroughly exhausted his appeals at every level," according to the Attorney General request to the Alabama Supreme Court. "6 times, this Court has set Arthur's execution date; six times, he has managed to evade justice. The State requests that this Court issue an expedited 7th execution date so that the State may carry out the sentence that Arthur has so unjustly avoided for so many years."

Smith

Smith, who has been on death row since Oct. 6, 1995, was convicted in Madison County in the November 1994 slaying of Circle C convenience store clerk Casey Wilson during a robbery. A judge overrode a jury recommendation for life without parole and imposed the death penalty.

Smith and 2 others were charged with capital murder in the killing.

One of Smith's co-defendants, Jay Allen Zuercher, was sentenced to life in prison with parole possible in 10 years. The other, Chad Roundtree, accepted a reduced charge in exchange for his testimony. He pleaded guilty to felony murder and was sentenced to 20 years with parole possible in less than 10.

The Alabama Attorney General's Office in February asked the Alabama Supreme Court to set execution dates for Smith and 2 other inmates - Vernon Madison and Bryant Melson.

An execution date was set for Madison but was stayed hours before the execution time.

Execution method

The Alabama Supreme Court's orders setting the dates for Arthur and Smith state that "the Warden of the William C. Holman Unit of the prison system at Atmore in Escambia County, Alabama, execute the order ... by the means provided by law, causing the death of such convict."

The current execution method is lethal injection using a new drug combination. Death row inmates have been challenging the new drug combination, but in January it was used in the execution of inmate Christopher Brooks. The prison system reported no problems with the execution.

Attorneys for Arthur, and other death row inmates who have also sued, don't want their clients executed by any method. But based on a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling in order to prevail on method-of-execution claims of cruel and unusual punishment, the inmates must name an alternative form of execution that is "feasible, readily implemented" and significantly reduces a substantial risk of severe pain.

Arthur's attorneys suggested the firing squad as one alternate method. Other inmates suggested other methods. The attorneys also suggested lethal injection by pentobarbital and sodium thiopental. State officials have argued that the state no longer has a supply of those 2 drugs and that's why they had to find another lethal injection drug combination.

State officials won't reveal where they get their supply of drugs, although the major manufacturers of the drugs have said they won't supply them for executions.

The Attorney General's Office had sought Arthur's execution soon after he lost his federal court challenge on method of execution. Arthur, who claims the lethal injection method could be painful because of his current health condition, has appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

(source: al.com)

CALIFORNIA----new death sentence

Jury recommends death penalty for convicted LA killer

A jury has recommended the death penalty for a man found guilty of arranging the murder of a witness from his jail cell.

City News Service reports Wednesday that sentencing for 50-year-old Michael Thomas was set for Sept. 30. He was convicted Sept. 8 of murder for the killing of 42-year-old Erik Poltorak.

At the beginning of the trial's penalty phase on Monday, Thomas asked his attorneys not to defend him against the death penalty.

Poltorak was shot on his Los Angeles doorstep in 2011.

Poltorak had been expected to testify that Thomas robbed him during a home invasion robbery a year earlier.

(source: Associated Press)

*******************

California Can't Decide Whether to Speed Up Capital Punishment - Or Get Rid of It

The death penalty debate is alive and well in several states this election.

Few states still routinely put criminals to death. "I think the death penalty is fading away," Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg remarked recently, noting a drop in executions nationwide. But the debate over capital punishment is still alive this election season, and in some states, it's as polarizing as ever. In California, a state with more inmates on death row than anywhere else in the country, voters will decide in November whether to approve or reject 2 competing ballot initiatives - one that would put an end to executions in the state, and another that would speed them up.

While the 2 ballot measures are certainly at odds, they're based on the same idea: that the status quo isn't working. Since the death penalty was reinstated in California in 1978, it's cost taxpayers more than $4 billion. During that time, nearly 1,000 criminals have been sentenced to death, but only 13 have been executed. (None have been put to death over the past decade while the state reviews its lethal injection protocol.)

The 1st ballot initiative, Prop. 62, says enough is enoug - it's time to ban executions. Proponents of the measure oppose the death penalty for both financial and moral reasons, noting that the people executed are sometimes innocent. The state would be better off, they say, if it converted all existing death sentences to life in prison without the possibility of parole, requiring inmates to work in detention and pay wages to their victims.

"While many think it is cheaper to execute murderers than to imprison them for life, in fact it is far more expensive," writes actor Mike Farrell, who proposed Prop. 62. An analysis by the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst's Office posits that the ballot initiative would save California taxpayers $150 million annually within a few years, in part because the state wouldn't have to keep paying so much for death penalty legal proceedings.

"Counties are sending more men to death row than the California Supreme Court can find lawyers for."

Rather than abandoning capital punishment, the second ballot initiative, Prop. 66, seeks to make it more efficient. It would try to reduce the huge number of inmates on death row by speeding up the appeals process - limiting the number of petitions a prisoner can file and setting expedited deadlines for legal proceedings. "The solution is to mend, not end, California's death penalty," reads the proposal, submitted by former NFL star Kermit Alexander, whose mother, sister, and two nephews were murdered in 1984. (One of the three killers is still on death row.) In August, a poll by the Institute of Governmental Studies at the University of California-Berkeley found that three-quarters of about 1,500 respondents supported his proposal.

But legal experts are raising alarm, saying the push to speed up executions could actually make the situation worse. Among these critics is Michael Hersek, a former public defender who's now executive director of the Habeas Corpus Resource Center, a state agency that represents inmates in capital cases. He says Prop. 66 does nothing to fix the main problem with California's capital system: a lack of funding for attorneys. Prop. 66's expedited timeline only kicks off after an attorney is appointed to the case, he notes, but on average death row inmates wait a decade for an attorney to be appointed - in part because compensation for private lawyers is too low to encourage more of them to pick up these cases. "I don't believe it will speed up executions," Hersek says of the proposal. "Counties are sending more men to death row than the California Supreme Court can find lawyers for."

And even if a lawyer were appointed quickly, he says, the new deadlines wouldn't be feasible because the proposal requires extra layers of litigation, which would rope in more judges, court clerks, and lawyers. And there's another potential problem, Hersek says: What if speeding up capital cases leads to more mistakes? "Some folks will cut corners - they won't be able to do the comprehensive job they're supposed to do, and innocent people will be at risk of being executed," he says. The Legislative Analyst's Office predicts Prop. 66 would drain tens of millions of dollars annually from the state for several years, thanks to the appeals proceedings - though as the LAO also points out, it could save tens of millions of dollars annually for prisons.

If Prop. 66 passes, "some folks will cut corners - and innocent people will be at risk of being executed," says former public defender Michael Hersek.

The state Legislature has previously considered several similar proposals to speed up executions, Hersek says, and they've been rejected every time. Californians have also previously considered whether to repeal the death penalty: A 2012 ballot initiative that would have done so was narrowly defeated, with 48 % of voters supporting it. (A majority is necessary to approve statewide ballot initiatives.) This time, if both the anti- and pro-death-penalty initiatives secure enough votes for approval, the one with the highest number of affirmative votes will be enforced.

Over the past several years, the United States has seen a sharp decrease in the number of states carrying out executions, in part because of shortages of execution drugs and legal challenges to death sentences. But while only 3 states - Texas, Georgia, and Missouri - still regularly put people to death, capital punishment remains legal in 31 states. California won't be the only one contemplating it on November 8. In Nebraska, voters will consider a ballot initiative that would bring back the death penalty, after a law repealed it last year. And Oklahomans will vote on an initiative that would amend the state constitution to say that all methods of execution are constitutional, and that the death penalty is not cruel and unusual punishment.

Though a majority of Americans approve of the death penalty in cases of murder, overall support for capital punishment is at its lowest level in decades, according to 2015 Pew data. Still, opinions of capital punishment are split largely along partisan lines, with 77 % of Republicans supporting it, compared with just 40 % of Democrats. So while the death penalty may be "fading away," you can bet it won't disappear quietly.

. (source: Mother Jones)

********************

O.C. Sheriff, D.A. argue for proposition speeding up death penalty cases

Orange County's top law enforcement officials Wednesday made another public appeal for voters to approve a ballot initiative they say would reform the death penalty process.

Sheriff Sandra Hutchens and District Attorney Tony Rackauckas also encouraged voters to reject Proposition 62, which would abolish the ultimate punishment in California. Instead, the 2 favor Proposition 66, which would establish changes in the death penalty process that are aimed at speeding up adjudication of cases.

Gary and Collene Campbell, whose son Scott was murdered in 1982, and Raquel and Steve Herr, whose son was killed and later dismembered in Orange County, joined the top officials at the news conference.

Critics have argued that death row inmates languish in prisons for years until they die of natural causes, costing taxpayers additional money as their cases are repeatedly appealed. Under Proposition 62, convicted killers would get life in prison without the possibility of parole instead of death.

Proposition 66 backers say their plan would save money by speeding up the legal process and having death row inmates work while imprisoned and pay restitution to the victims' families.

"Instead of waiting to have some attorney assigned, they do that immediately upon a death penalty judgment," Hutchens told City News Service.

The sheriff said it's "kind of a false argument" to say the death row process is too lengthy and, therefore, too costly.

"This (Proposition 66) is saying, 'Look, we'll make sure someone is assigned right away and the appeals are limited to 5 years.'"

The sheriff added, "The other argument is we have all of these people on death row and it's costing a lot of money. Well, we can reform that. There's another way to house these individuals."

Life in prison without the possibility of parole is no guarantee that a defendant's circumstances couldn't change and eventually allow them to go free, Hutchens said.

Since 1978, 900 convicts have been sentenced to death in California, but 94 of them have died of natural causes in prison and 13 have been executed. The last execution carried out in the state was in 2006.

Executions have been in limbo since a 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling requiring a medical professional to administer lethal injection drugs. Pharmaceutical giant Pfizer announced in May it would work to guarantee none of its chemicals would be used in lethal injections, which has presented another hurdle for pro-death penalty advocates.

"We can come up with something other than the 3-drug cocktail," Hutchens said. "I just don't believe we can't figure this out and do what the voters have asked us to do, what the jurors have asked us to do and what the victims' families have been waiting for."

The sheriff declined to provide alternatives to lethal injection, but said, "We could see what other states are doing. They're still using the death penalty. Let's see what other people are doing."

Another aspect of Proposition 66 that has drawn criticism is having state Superior Court judges handle writs of habeas corpus appeals instead of federal judges. Critics say that won't pass constitutional muster and it would overburden the state trial courts already struggling with a shortage of judges.

Separately Wednesday, California billionaire activist Tom Steyer announced his support of Proposition 62.

"The death penalty is an expensive & failed policy California can no longer afford," Steyer said in a Tweet.

(source: Orange County Register)

*********************

California billionaire Tom Steyer announces support for November ballot measure to abolish death penalty

California billionaire Tom Steyer on Wednesday threw his support behind a November ballot measure that would repeal the death penalty in the state.

Steyer, a potential gubernatorial candidate and the president of NextGen Climate, said California had spent $5 billion to put 13 people to death since 1978 - or $384 million per execution.

"The death penalty is an expensive and failed policy that California can no longer afford," Steyer said in a statement. "Proposition 62 will save Californians $150 million a year, provide victims with swift and certain justice, and make sure no innocent person is mistakenly executed by the state."

Proposition 62 would replace capital punishment in California for 1st-degree murder with life in prison without the possibility of parole. It is 1 of 2 competing measures on the future of the death penalty on the Nov 8 ballot.

(source: Los Angeles Times)

UNITED KINGDOM:

Priti Patel finally changes her mind on the death penalty

5 years ago Priti Patel was a strong supporter of the death penalty, arguing on TV that it would "act as a deterrent". Even if innocent people were killed.

More recently, the Tory MP has wriggled out of saying whether she still wants to see a return to the gallows. In 2015 she ducked the question on Sky News by arguing that "it is not something that is relevant to today's political debate or discourse at all".

But during a grilling by MPs today the new international development secretary insisted she no longer held the highly controversial view.

Patel was being quizzed by the Commons international development committee about her approach to the new job, in which she is responsible for allocation 12billion pounds of taxpayers' cash to foreign countries - including some which still execute criminals.

After repeated attempts to clarify whether she still backed capital punishment, Patel finally gave a straight answer.

"The answer is no, I have made that very clear," she insisted, arguing she had raised human rights issues - including the use of the death penalty - abroad.

Elsewhere during the select committee hearing, Patel also revealed that she no longer believed her department should be abolished.

Back in 2011, Patel clearly supported the death penalty on Question Time - while also acknowledging that innocent people had been killed.

She insisted: "I do think that when we have a criminal justice system that continuously fails in the country and where we have seen murderers and rapists ... reoffend and do those crimes again and again I think that's appalling.

"On that basis alone I would support the reintroduction of capital punishment to serve as a deterrent."

(source: totalpolitics.com)

IRAN----execution

Prisoner Executed on Drug Related Charges

A prisoner who was sentenced to death on drug related charges has been identified. 34-year-old Kamran Maleki was reportedly executed at Saqqez Prison (Kurdistan province, northwestern Iran) on Wednesday July 6, 2016.

A source close to Mr. Maleki, who wanted to be anonymous, told Iran Human Rights: "Prior to his arrest, Kamran was a taxi driver. He was arrested by authorities and interrogated. About a kilogram and 250 grams of crystal meth were found in his car, but he told his interrogators he was not aware that the drugs were in his car. Even Kamran's close friends and relatives testified that Kamran was not involved in the buying and selling of drugs."

Kamran Maleki was sentenced to death by the Saqqez revolutionary court October 10, 2015 and transferred to Sanandaj Prison. He was eventually transferred to Saqqez Prison where he was executed.

Iranian official sources have been silent about Mr. Maleki's execution, and human rights groups just recently discovered his case. Iran Human Rights is concerned about the increase in cases of executions in Iran not announced by Iranian authorities, and is worried that the number of executions is even higher than what has already been confirmed. According to the latest annual death penalty report published by Iran Human Rights, more than 95% of the executions carried out in 2015 in Iran were not announced by official Iranian sources, including the Judiciary and the media.

(source: Iran Human Rights)

SEPTEMBER 14, 2016:

OHIO:

Kasich facing decision

Gov. John Kasich has a decision to make in the relatively near future, and it probably won't be an easy one.

Because in a few months, Ohio is supposed to restart lethal injections down at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville.

And as far as we know, prison officials don't have a supplier for the drugs used in the process.

I say "as far as we know," because trying to get any information about lethal injection drugs from the Department of Rehabilitation and Correction is like shouting into a hole.

Ask a straightforward question like, "Do you have any lethal injection drugs?" and you'll get crickets in response.

The only thing a prison spokesman will offer is, "DRC continues to seek all legal means to obtain the drugs necessary to carry out court ordered executions. This process has included multiple options."

Clear as mud, right? There are more than 2 dozen men who have execution dates scheduled from January 2017 through September 2020.

There have been no executions since January 2014.

While there have been questions about the process - Dennis McGuire's prolonged execution prompted ample debate on how Ohio handles executions - much of the discussion has focused on where to obtain the drugs used in lethal injections, after manufacturers forbade their use in putting people to death.

State law was changed to allow so-called compounding pharmacies to provide supplies without having to disclose their names to the public. But, again, as far as we know, the state hasn't found any pharmacies willing to provide the product.

The same legislation that covered compounding pharmacies created a legislative study committee to consider Ohio's death penalty policies. One of the topics of discussion for that group was whether Ohio should move to a different method of execution.

There's no on-the-move legislation to switch to hanging or nitrogen or the electric chair or any other method.

Lawmakers won't get back to business until after the election, meaning they're not likely to act on such issues until weeks before Ronald Phillips is scheduled to die.

Phillips, who was convicted in the 1993 rape and murder of a 3-year-old girl in Akron, has already had his date postponed several times - notably, Kasich offered a temporary reprieve to allow Phillips time to determine whether he could donate some of his organs to family members.

DRC denied the request after a couple of months, noting that Phillips hadn't moved quickly enough to allow the donation process to proceed.

There are more than 140 people on Ohio's death row. Most are hoping their executions won't be carried out.

There are more than 140 victims of their crimes, and many, many other friends and family members left behind who are waiting for justice to be served. Some have waited decades.

That puts the ball back in Kasich's court.

(source: Marc Kovac, Crescent-News)

****************

UC College Of Law's Center For Race, Gender And Social Justice To Screen "Race To Execution"

UC College of Law's Center for Race, Gender and Social Justice provides experiential learning on issues of race and gender in the law.

University of Cincinnati College of Law's Center for Race, Gender and Social Justice provides experiential learning, research and interdisciplinary inquiry on issues of race and gender in the law. It allows students to form relationships with their communities on a local, national and global scale.

The Center is hosting a screening next Wednesday for the film Race To Execution, which depicts the disturbing link between race and the death penalty in the United States.

Here to talk about the Center for Race, Gender and Social Justice and the film are the center's co-director, Professor Emily Houh, JD; Executive Director of the Ohio Justice and Policy Center, David Singleton; Director of Family and Community Intervention with the YWCA Greater Cincinnati, Erika Yingling; and Race to Execution producer, Rachel Lyon.

(source: WVXU news)

MISSOURI:

Appeals Court to Rehear Missouri Execution Drug Dispute

An appellate panel that ordered Missouri to reveal its supplier of lethal injection drugs is giving the state another chance to make its case to shield that information.

In a federal lawsuit challenging Mississippi's 3-drug execution protocol, two death-row inmates have subpoenaed Missouri for details about the using the single sedative, pentobarbital, in executions. Richard Jordan and Ricky Chase argue that Mississippi's 3-drug protocol is torturous and unconstitutionally cruel.

On Sept. 2, the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis unanimously rejected Missouri's claim that disclosing how it gets pentobarbital could crimp its ability to obtain such chemicals for future executions.

On Tuesday, the court issued a 3-paragraph order granting the rehearing, but did not specify its reasons.

(source: Associated Press)

OKLAHOMA:

Oklahoma puts executions on hold after botched attempts----After years of controversy over lethal injection failures, US state now plans to execute inmates with nitrogen gas.

Oklahoma, a US state with one of the busiest death chambers in the country over the past 3 decades, will have at least a 2-year delay in lethal injections after officials declined to consider new execution procedures.

The state's Board of Corrections did not take up new execution protocols at a regular meeting that Attorney General Scott Pruitt wants in place before executions can resume.

After a botched execution in 2014 and drug mix-ups during the last 2 scheduled lethal injections in 2015, Pruitt said he wouldn't request any execution dates for 5 months after the new protocols are approved and he's confident the death penalty can be carried out without any problems.

"I want to assure the victims' families who continue to await justice that this review process will continue to be both deliberate and empirical," Pruitt said in a statement.

"The protocol is a work in progress," said board spokesman Alex Gerszewski. "There currently is no timeline on when anything will be released."

Meanwhile, 5 Oklahoma death row inmates have exhausted all of their appeals and are awaiting execution dates.

Oklahoma has executed 112 people since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976, the highest per-capita rate in the nation and 2nd overall only to Texas, where 537 inmates have been put to death over the past 40 years, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

Oklahoma was the 1st American state to authorise lethal injection as a method of execution, and capital punishment has strong, bipartisan support in the Oklahoma legislature.

After the botched execution of Clayton Lockett in 2014 - who writhed on the gurney during a lethal injection that prison officials tried unsuccessfully to halt - politicians approved the use of nitrogen gas as an alternative to lethal injection.

The legislature also passed a resolution seeking a public vote on whether to enshrine the death penalty in the state constitution, making it more difficult for future legislators or the courts to end it. That state question will appear on the ballot in November.

In September 2015 the state determined that doctors carrying out executions there are not obliged to minimise suffering as they are not acting in the capacity of a physician.

Representative Mike Christian, a former policeman and staunch advocate for the death penalty who sponsored both measures, said he's disappointed prison officials have taken so long to develop new procedures and wants them to include the use of nitrogen gas as an alternative to lethal injection.

Nitrogen gas has never been used to execute inmates in the US.

"My question is why they don't at least have some kind of protocols established for nitrogen hypoxia," said Christian. "It's 2nd in line behind lethal injection, and I think lethal injection is on its way out the door."

Still, death penalty opponents voiced concern that Oklahoma appears to be moving in the opposite direction of other states, where executions are being reconsidered altogether.

"The last thing the state of Oklahoma needs to do is rush back into the business of executing people," said Ryan Kiesel, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Oklahoma. "We would prefer that the state get out of the business of executing its citizens altogether."

(source: aljazeera.com)

**********************

OUR VIEW: Thinking twice about SQ 776

A group of people unhappy about what they're calling a sneaky attempt to inject the death penalty in the state constitution have created a campaign called ThinkTwiceOK that opposes State Question 776, which will appear on the November ballot.

To be fair, SQ 776 does seem a bit confusing. It creates, Section 9A or Article 2, a portion of which would say "... Any method of execution shall be allowed, unless prohibited by the United States Constitution. Methods of execution may be designated by the Legislature. A sentence of death shall not be reduced on the basis that a method of execution is invalid ... The death penalty provided for under such statutes shall not be deemed to be, or to constitute, the infliction of cruel or unusual punishment ..."

It boils down to creating death penalty language, making sure death sentences are carried out even if one method fails and stating that by no means passed by Legislature is the death penalty cruel or unusual punishment.

In explaining background for the state question, think tank Oklahoma Policy Institute cites the botched executions of Clayton Lockett in 2014 and Charles Warner in 2015, which led to questions and criticism in execution protocol. According to OKPolicy, "Arguing that Oklahoma's right to carry out the death penalty was under threat, lawmakers proposed Senate Joint Resolution 31 in 2015. The Oklahoma Legislature overwhelmingly passed the measure, sending SQ 776 to the ballot."

On the surface, it would appear that supporters of SQ 776 are supporters of the death penalty. The ThinkTwiceOK campaign is, naturally, made up of individuals and organizations that oppose the death penalty.

But this issue should go a little bit deeper. This is yet another attempt of Oklahomans trying to protect Oklahoma from future Oklahomans. That isn't conservatism, that is close-mindedness. If the federal government struck down the death penalty, there would be nothing Oklahoma could do to keep it, so this isn't about outside interference. This is about future interference. This is a legitimate fear of the next generation.

How many times as Oklahomans have we asked the government to stop trying to protect us from ourselves? Aren't we showing the same lack of trust for future Oklahomans?

(source: Opinion, Stillwater News Press)

NEBRASKA:

Sides continue to spar over death penalty cost

Groups on both sides of Nebraska's execution debate continued to spar Wednesday over exactly how much the death penalty costs the state.

Attorney General Doug Peterson pointed to what he called "serious inaccuracies" in a Creighton University economist's analysis showing Nebraska spends about $14.6 million per year on the death penalty.

In a press conference, Peterson stopped short of saying there are no additional costs associated with capital punishment.

But he noted figures in the economic analysis by Ernie Goss would put Nebraska's annual death penalty spending per inmate at 10 times, or even 20 times the costs incurred by other states.

For example, while Goss' report notes California's death penalty costs an estimated $121 million each year, about three times Goss' figure for Nebraska, it doesn't mention that California has some 743 inmates on death row - far more than the 10 people awaiting capital punishment here.

"That simply does not make sense," Peterson said.

State Sen. Kate Bolz of Lincoln, a death penalty opponent, said Goss' study is consistent with others on the subject and that lawmakers have turned to him before for analysis of complex economic issues.

"Dr. Goss has given an exact cost to a system that common sense already tells us is more expensive," she said.

Attorneys who have represented clients on Nebraska's death row identified at least 40 appeals available to only death row defendants, Bolz said. For example, "Carey Dean Moore has been on death row and filing appeals more or less since I was born."

Peterson dismissed the argument capital cases are by nature more expensive than other 1st-degree murder cases.

"The longevity of the trial is not based upon whether the death penalty is being sought," Peterson said. "What really drives the cost of any 1st-degree murder case is based on the complexity of the case."

The Legislature repealed Nebraska's death penalty in 2015. Voters will decide Nov. 8 whether to retain the repeal.

(source: Lincoln Journal Star)

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Nebraska AG reiterates belief that analysis putting death penalty cost at $14 million is inaccurate

Attorney General Doug Peterson reiterated Wednesday that he believes a recent economic analysis estimating the cost of the death penalty in Nebraska is inaccurate.

Peterson held a press conference where he again worked to discredit a recent report by Creighton University economist Ernie Goss that pegged the annual cost of the death penalty in Nebraska at $14.6 million. Peterson is a strong supporter of keeping capital punishment in Nebraska.

On Wednesday, he argued that Goss substantially inflated death penalty defense costs along with the time it takes to seat juries and try death penalty cases. Peterson also argued Goss incorrectly assumed it costs more to house death row inmates in Nebraska than it really does.

In the past, Peterson attacked the study on the ground that it overestimated the cost of prosecuting death penalty cases and defending the state against inmate appeals.

Peterson also argued that death penalty prosecutions in Nebraska are relatively rare compared to other states, and said there are only 10 inmates on death row in Nebraska.

Goss was unavailable for comment Wednesday morning, but he has stood behind his estimate, saying it was derived using justice cost data supplied by the state and counties to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Voters will go to the polls Nov. 8 to decide a referendum on the Nebraska Legislature's 2015 repeal of capital punishment.

(source: Omaha World -Herald)

CALIFORNIA:

Back In The Race: No Bono - Do Not Force Lawyers To Accept Death Penalty Cases

Every so often, I read an article about a need for lawyers to do more pro bono (or reduced fee) work in order to meet the legal needs for low-income people. These articles are usually geared towards solos and small firms since we are the first people they turn to for help. While most lawyers are sympathetic to the plight of the poor, we have our own issues to deal with. For this reason, most lawyers oppose forced pro bono work. Today, I want to discuss a voter initiative that if passed would force potentially unqualified attorneys to represent clients in their greatest time of need and could end up being disastrous for both.

In California, an initiative on the November ballot known as Proposition 66 proposes to speed up capital punishment cases by restructuring how state habeas corpus cases are heard and by setting stricter time limits for submitting appeals once a criminal defendant has been sentenced to death. Currently, death row inmates typically wait at least 20 years before an execution date is even scheduled. Of the 750 inmates currently on death row, only 13 have been executed since the Golden State reinstated the death penalty in 1978.

While I won't discuss how Prop 66 plans to speed up the appeals process nor put in my two cents on the capital punishment debate, I will discuss 1 section of Prop 66 that bothered me. It provides that all qualified appellate attorneys on the California Supreme Court's appointment list must accept death penalty cases as a condition of remaining on the list.

To be fair, Prop 66 states that these appointed attorneys will get paid equivalent to a state public defender with comparable experience. Nevertheless, this creates 2 problems.

The 1st is that it may result in death penalty cases being assigned to unqualified attorneys if the existing veteran death penalty defense attorneys are unable to take new cases. This can result in an increase of Sixth Amendment ineffective assistance of counsel claims, which may ironically add more time to the death penalty appeals process.

But the 2nd problem is that an underpaid (or unpaid) attorney who takes a case by force is less likely to provide the diligence and zealous advocacy that his client deserves. This is very serious, since capital cases are time-consuming, cost a lot of money, and require meticulous review of the file and evidence in order to catch police and prosecutorial errors and misconduct. These cases also require a lot of passion and faith on the part of the attorney who will need to stand up to prosecutors and judges. And because the client's life is on the line, the thought of losing can be emotionally draining.

As a tactical matter, some attorneys may deliberately screw up the appeal in order to allow the client to be eligible for an ineffective assistance of counsel claim (but not so bad as to trigger a disciplinary investigation from the state bar).

At this point, the curmudgeons will stick their noses in and say, "Toughen up, buttercup." They will remind us that lawyers are ethically bound to represent their clients to the best of their ability. Also, even in other professional contexts, we have to accept clients we don't want. Associates have to work on assignments given to them by their boss, even if they don't like it. Even solos and small firms have to take clients they don't want in order to pay for overhead, food, shelter, and student loans.

Of course we have to take clients we don't like. Just like we have to pay bills and do chores when we don't want to. That's part of life. And it's also irrelevant.

What I have an issue with is laws that attempt to force people into doing something they don't want to do by holding their professional licenses hostage. These people usually think that lawyers are rich and can afford to give back in order to address the access-to-justice problem. Most lawyers in private practice tend to not volunteer their time because they are spending it trying to generate business and get work done, and when they have free time, to eat and sleep. Most solo practitioners, while not impoverished, have to work full-time in order to keep their practice profitable.

We already have it bad enough. There is a massive lawyer oversupply in most parts of the country, and law schools are just now trying to correct this issue by reducing their class sizes. Technology is getting rid of the rote tasks that were done in the past by junior associates to gain firsthand experience.

And now a social-justice warrior wants to amend the death penalty appeals process through a voter initiative. A lead proponent of Prop 66, Kermit Alexander, was a former NFL player whose mother, sister, and 2 nephews were brutally murdered in Los Angeles in 1984 - victims of mistaken identity in a gang home invasion. While we all sympathize for Alexander's loss and understand his desire to ensure that other families do not have to go through what he went through, speeding up the process by drafting unwilling attorneys is not the right way to do it. Even proponents of the death penalty would agree that death row inmates deserve due process, which includes being represented by a lawyer who genuinely wants to advocate for him.

Solos and small-firm lawyers have enough to do as it is. We need to be watchful of initiatives like Prop 66 and strongly oppose them. The problem is that a lot of times, the call for mandatory pro bono work doesn't come from the public. The calls come from leaders in the legal profession, and responding to them requires a bit more diplomacy. I have a message for these people, but that will be saved for a future column.

(source: Shannon Achimalbe was a former solo practitioner for 5 years before deciding to sell out and get back on the corporate ladder; abovethelaw.com)

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California Death Row Inmates Weigh In On Vote, Most Conflicted Over To Keep Or Abolish Death Penalty

Voters in California are facing a decision in regards to 2 separate paths the state could take on capital punishment. Either the death penalty will be abolished entirely, or the process will be made speedier to get inmates to the point of execution.

Within the prisons, death row inmates themselves are conflicted with the decision that offers either a one-shot appeal system, mandated lawyer assignments, and a simplified process to execution as a means to rework the system in California that has not seen an execution in a decade, or to simply throw the death penalty out altogether. In the place of the death penalty, the sentence for crimes which would have warranted the sentence, would instead be life without parole.

When the Los Angeles Times interviewed inmates, the response on the issue was, as aforementioned, a conflicted one. Scott Pinholster shares that he is "ready to go." He is 1 out of 12 inmates who has used up all his legal appeals. It was 34 years ago that he stabbed 2 men to death who had arrived on the scene of a burglary in a drug house. His hopes to be set free on legal appeals faded decades ago, and Pinholster shares that he doubts the view on the death penalty has changed since the previous vote in 2012, when the death penalty was upheld by voters.

The publication shares the words of the now-57-year-old inmate, who has been closed off in solitary confinement for over 3 decades.

"If they start up executions, I'll be in line, but it doesn't matter. After 30 years, you don't care one way or the other."

At San Quentin, the San Francisco Bay Area prison which is historic and houses the state's condemned men, the opinion on the issue is varied. During phone interviews and rare tours by the LA Times, inmates both accepted and seemed for the repeal of the death penalty and favored faster appeals process, despite the fact that this would bring quicker executions. Some also shared about their fears should they be lumped in with the regular prison population.

The publication reminds readers of the laws set to be passed which will then result in a vote for a final decision as to the law that stands.

"2 measures on the November ballot propose to fix what proponents contend is a broken capital punishment system. Proposition 62 would convert death sentences to life without parole. Proposition 66 would set time limits on appeals, limit challenges to execution methods and allow the state to house condemned men outside San Quentin. If both measures pass, the one with more votes would become law."

It was as recently as 2012 that voters of California took to the polls to make a decision about Proposition 34, which would have replaced the death penalty with life without parole. The tensions on death row were so high that inmates were put on suicide watch. This time around, the facility workers will also be sure to "address the mental needs" of the condemned as the November vote approaches.

Inmate Clifton Perry, 47, who was condemned in 1995 for shooting a store clerk during a robbery, shared about the anxiety and tension over the issue among inmates.

"There's a lot of anxiety building up. Some of them are scared. Me, I don't know if I can handle a bunkie after 20 years of living by myself."

Many feel that life in prison is worse, as was the case back in 2010 when an inmate hanged himself following a judge converting his death sentence to life.

There are rarely any newcomers and even less departures at San Quentin, with only 16 executions taking place since 1978 and none since 2006.

(source: The Inquisitr)

USA:

The Death Penalty Is Finally Dying. Here's Why.

Today, there was supposed to be an execution in Texas. But it was cancelled. In fact, the last 10 scheduled executions in Texas have been halted - in Texas.

Since the reinstatement of the death penalty in 1976, Texas has had 537 executions - that's over 400 more than any other state. But it has been more than 5 months since Texas has had an execution - 161 days to be exact. And that's a record worthy of news. There's only 1 other time in the past 2 decades that the death chamber has been that quiet in Texas.

But what's happening in Texas reveals something deeper that's happening all over the country. The death penalty is dying.

Once again this year, the number of executions will drop: It's the lowest they have been in 25 years. And death sentences are already the lowest they've been in 40 years. A recent study of "outlier" counties shows that a mere 16 counties (in a country with more than 3,000 counties) are driving the use of the death penalty in America. So while we can debate whether it is "cruel," it is certainly too "unusual" to be fair. A zip code should not determine whether someone lives or dies.

This year there have been 15 executions, and all but 3 of those were in just 2 states (Texas and Georgia). And all 4 of the executions still planned for this year are in Texas. Hopefully, Texas will continue its record and cancel these, too.

A zip code should not determine whether someone lives or dies.

Most of America has moved on from state-sanctioned killing. But we still have some work to do.

In November, the death penalty will be on the ballot in 3 states - California, Nebraska, and Oklahoma. We can vote to make the death penalty history. But we can do other stuff too.

The medical community has been largely responsible for stopping executions in North Carolina by refusing to participate, insisting that it is a violation of their oath to "do no harm." It's going to take all of us to stop the wheels of death.

We can invite influential leaders and celebrities to "GO PUBLIC" against the death penalty - and join folks like Susan Sarandon, Martin Sheen, Danny Glover, and so many others.

And we need more pastors and faith leaders to be a prophetic voice against execution. Just as Mother Teresa, Pope Francis, and Martin Luther King have showed courageous leadership opposing the death penalty, we need a new generation of abolitionist clergy to rise up as we give the death penalty a final blow.

One of the deeply troubling things I discovered writing my newest book Executing Grace is that the death penalty has succeeded in America because of Christians, not in spite of us. 85 % of executions in the past 40 years are happening in the Bible belt, as we can see evidenced in Texas and Georgia leading the way this year.

There are 4 more executions scheduled for 2016, and all of them are in Texas. Let's keep praying and working for all of them to be cancelled - and for an end to the death penalty in America.

Let's all find a way to get in the way of death - and put our voice, our vote, our bodies in the way of the machinery of death until we make the death penalty history, once and for all.

(source: Shane Claiborne, Sojourners)

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Witness lists to be on church shooting jury questionnaire

A federal judge wants the defense and prosecution each to provide a list of potential witnesses as jury screening begins in Dylann Roof's trial stemming from the Charleston church shootings.

In a Tuesday order, U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel said he wants the lists included on a questionnaire to determine if potential jurors know any witnesses. The order says attorneys should make the lists available to the court but do not have to share them with the other side.

The 22-year-old Roof faces the death penalty in his November federal trial on hate crimes and other charges stemming from the June 2015 slayings of nine people at Emanuel AME Church.

A pool of 3,000 potential jurors begins reporting to the courthouse later this month for initial screening.

(source: Associated Press)

PHILIPPINES:

VP, Senators appeal to save Mary Jane Veloso

VICE President Leni Robredo on Wednesday appealed to President Rodrigo Duterte to exhaust all available remedies and steps to save Filipina drug convict Mary Jane Veloso from Indonesian death row.

"Mary Jane's case is emblematic of the hardships faced by millions of our OFWs (Overseas Filipino Workers). We must keep her welfare in mind, along with the welfare of all OFWs, as they remain under our government's protection and support despite working overseas." Robredo said.

Robredo also recounted how the past administration and the Filipino people were able to successfully spare Veloso from her scheduled execution.

"A year ago, the Filipino nation came together in prayer and unity to appeal to the Indonesian government to spare Mary Jane's life. Our prayers were answered when she was given a reprieve, and as 1 nation, we rejoiced." Robredo said.

Meanwhile, some Senators also expressed support for Veloso's plight.

"It should be remembered that she went there with the sole intent of becoming an OFW, and her misfortune is the reason why every year, we set aside funds to help victims like her," Senate Minority Leader Ralph Recto said

Meanwhile, according to Senator Francis Escudero, Duterte was put in a difficult position during his meeting with Indonesia President Joko Widodo.

"I totally disagree that Mary Jane should be put on death row. In fact, we should do everything we can to stop it, delay it. Remember the Flor Contemplacion case? We unrelentingly appealed for her case. But we are in a unique position now because the administration is batting for death penalty for drugs," Escudero added, referring to Duterte's tough war versus illegal drugs.

(source: Sun Star)

TEXAS:

Fifth Circuit Upholds Lethal Injection for Texas Death Row Inmates

Denying 5 death row inmates' bid for a stay of execution, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit recently ruled that Texas' current form of execution by lethal injection does not violate the Eighth Amendment's ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

The 5 condemned Texas prisoners are the latest to challenge the lethal injection form of execution in the United States. Last year, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in Glossip v. Gross that the 3-drug cocktail Oklahoma uses to execute prisoners did not violate their Eighth Amendment rights.

In 2012, Texas adopted its current execution protocol: a single, 5-gram dose of pentobarbital to induce death. The state had previously purchased pentobarbital from a Danish company that later refused to sell the drug to states that execute by lethal injection. In response, Texas began purchasing pentobarbital that is compounded by pharmacies.

Even though 32 people have been executed in the state using compounded pentobarbital without incident, the 5 Texas prisoners requested stays of execution, alleging the compounded drug still posed a risk of unnecessary pain and should be retested before their executions.

In a Sept. 12 decision in Wood v. Collier, Fifth Circuit Judge Patrick Higginbotham noted that when pentobarbital is the sole drug used to execute, unconsciousness precedes death. He also concluded that the 3 prisoners did not have an equal protection right under the U.S. Constitution's Fourteenth Amendment to have the compounded drug retested before its use in their executions.

"However one kneads the protean language of equal protection jurisprudence, the inescapable reality is that these prisoners have not demonstrated that a failure to retest brings the unnecessary pain forbidden by the Eight Amendment," Higginbotham wrote. "Attempting to bridge this shortfall in their submission with equal protection language, while creative, brings an argument that is ultimately no more than word play."

While he denied their stays of execution, Higginbotham did note the 5 prisoners have spent decades residing on death row - something that gives the judge pause.

"Texas has a strong interest in enforcing the judgments of its courts in criminal cases, but the public interest writ large takes no sides here. The finality of a death sentence and, with it, the inherent risk of uncertainty demand diligent effort by all," Higginbotham wrote.

"These prisoners have enjoyed that effort - with 2 of them residing on death row in excess of 20 years. The reality may give pause to the entire enterprise, but does not bespeak neglect of bench and bar," Higginbotham wrote. "To these eyes, a system that leaves persons on death row for over 2 decades more surely taxes the Eighth Amendment's prohibition of undue suffering than does the elusive search for minimum pain for those brief moments of passage across the river."

Texas leads the nation in executions and has put 537 people to death since 1976.

(source: Texas Lawyer)

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Defense wants psychological evaluation in case of Border Patrol agent's shooting

Attorneys for a Mexican national accused of killing an off-duty U.S. Border Patrol agent are asking for psychological evaluation of their client.

In a hearing yesterday, the attorneys requested 43-year-old Ismael Hernandez-Vallejo be tested for "intellectual disability."

He is accused of killing Agent Javier Vega Jr., on Aug. 3, 2014.

He appeared before state District Judge Migdalia Lopez in Brownsville, where several criminal motions were addressed. Vega was shot and killed during an apparent robbery attempt while he and his family were out fishing near Santa Monica. His father, Javier Vega Sr., was shot in the back.

In December 2015, Lopez granted Willacy County District Attorney Bernard Ammerman's request to move the capital murder trial to Cameron County.

Yesterday, both parties expressed concern over the implications that may come with a new district attorney, Annette Hinojosa, having been elected in Willacy County. Considering the psychological evaluation and concerns brought up by the defense about a new DA, the prosecution expressed disapproval for the request because it would stall the trial even further, suggesting someone is "dragging their feet."

"Let's get this clear," state prosecutor Chuck Mattingly said. "I'm here right now today. I'll work this case; I'll try this case whenever they want to try it. I'm just letting the court know that there is going to be a power change ... in Willacy County."

"Secondly, judge, this case is over a year-and-a-half old. And if they don't know whether their client is intellectually disabled, or incompetent or insane, by this time or wasn't insane at the time of the incident, then I would suggest somebody is dragging their feet. Maybe not Mr. (Ed) Stapleton, maybe not Mr. (Abner) Burnett. Maybe the consulate is, maybe their experts are. A year-and-a-half or more is plenty of time to make the decision whether or not he is competent or intellectually disabled," Mattingly added.

Lopez did not issue a ruling.

Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty against Hernandez-Vallejo, as 1 of the charges against him is capital murder by terror threat. He also is charged with attempted capital murder for the shooting of Vega Sr., as well as aggravated robbery.

Also charged in Vega's shooting death is Gustavo Tijerina-Sandoval.

The next status hearing for Hernandez-Vallejo has been set for Jan. 25, 2017, which is one day after Tijerina-Sandoval is scheduled for a status hearing.

(source: The Valley Morning Star)

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State to help Coryell County in capital murder trial set for 2018 ----Chet Shelton, 27, is charged with capital murder in the slaying of 2-year-old Makai Brooks Lamar. A trial is scheduled in August 2018.

The Texas Attorney General's office is providing a prosecutor to assist the Coryell County District Attorney's office with a capital murder case against Chet Michael Shelton, 27, of Gatesville.

However, the trial won't begin until August 2018 - which will be almost 3 years after 2-year-old Makai Brooks Lamar was allegedly beaten, sodomized and killed by Shelton, Coryell County District Attorney Dusty Boyd said Tuesday.

The date was set so far in the future because of the logistics of scheduling 3 different offices in the death penalty case - the attorney general, Boyd's office and Shelton's regional public defender, Anthony Odiorne, located in Burnet, Boyd said.

Odiorne, one of Shelton's attorneys, said Tuesday that the regional public defender's office has a policy of not talking about pending cases.

Regional public defenders, contracted with by individual counties, defend only in death penalty cases and travel a lot. Finding a date without conflicts was a challenge, Boyd said.

Utilizing the services of Lisa Tanner from the attorney general's office will not cost Coryell County taxpayers anything. Tanner will assist Boyd, he said Tuesday.

Boyd requested the assistance because a child's death is a very unique case and Tanner has a lot of experience with those cases and in prosecuting crimes where a baby's death is involved, he said.

Tanner's experience will help the DA's office handle the type of case "we don't necessarily see very often," Boyd said.

Boyd has never prosecuted a case involving a child's death, he said, although he has handled cases involving aggravated sexual assault of a child.

"Anytime a baby dies, it is catastrophic to any community, no matter the community's size," Boyd said. "It's tough for a community to go through."

The district attorney's office will seek the death penalty against Shelton, Boyd said.

Prior criminal history

Boyd said the trial process will help determine whether or not Makai's mother had any previous knowledge of Shelton's criminal history.

Texas Department of Public Safety criminal records showed Shelton was arrested on Dec. 5, 2007, by the Coryell County Sheriff's office and charged with the aggravated sexual assault of a child, a 1st-degree felony.

However, Shelton pleaded guilty to only a 3rd-degree felony charge of injury to a child with intentional bodily injury in that case. He was sentenced to 5 years deferred adjudication probation in the Coryell County 52nd District Court.

Since he pleaded guilty to a lesser felony, Shelton wasn't required to register as a sex offender.

DPS records showed Shelton committed some kind of offense in December 2010 that sent him to the Department of Criminal Justice in Huntsville on Dec. 29, 2010. His sentence was supposed to expire on March 18, 2017, but he was paroled at some point.

Shelton was on parole at the time of his arrest.

The affidavit said Shelton previously was arrested on 3 counts of aggravated sexual assault of a child in May 2007, 4 counts of indecency with a child by sexual contact in May 2007, 3 counts of aggravated sexual assault of a child in December 2007 and 2 counts of aggravated assault causing serious bodily injury in October 2010.

However, not all of the 12 cases ended with indictments, according to information obtained by the Telegram from Coryell County District Clerk Janice Gray.

Shelton was indicted in June 2007 on 2 charges of aggravated sexual assault of a child.

The 1st indictment said Shelton allegedly had sexual intercourse on May 31, 2005, with a girl younger than 14.

The 2nd indictment said that Shelton had sexual intercourse on Aug. 31, 2005, with a girl younger than 14 years of age, but she wasn't the same girl listed in the 1st indictment.

Arrest affidavit details

An autopsy showed that Makai died from blunt force trauma and had many injuries to his head and internal organs. The autopsy results also said that Makai was sodomized, according to an arrest affidavit.

Shelton told a Gatesville Police Department investigator that he was babysitting Makai for his girlfriend, who was Makai's mother. The mother reportedly came home for a short period of time and then went back to finish a double shift at a local restaurant, the affidavit said.

After eating, Makai fell asleep on the couch, Shelton said. He added that he moved Makai to the child's bedroom and went outside to smoke. Shelton said that he came back inside, checked on Makai and found he wasn't breathing, the affidavit said.

Shelton said that he started CPR and it wasn't working, so he carried Makai to a neighbor, a Coryell County deputy sheriff, for help.

EMS reports said that Makai was found naked on the floor. Marks were found on the 2-year-old that weren’t consistent with any emergency treatment. Those injuries were on the head, face and abdomen, and his extremities had various bruises and burns. At least 3 lacerations seemed to indicate Makai was hit multiple times on the right side of the head with an object, the affidavit said.

A quarter-sized stain of blood was found on Makai's pillow and a larger blood stain was found on the comforter.

Shelton admitted to the investigator that he'd used methamphetamine during the 48 hours before he babysat Makai, according to the affidavit.

(source: Temple Daily Telegram)

NORTH CAROLINA:

NC State Bar panel approves rules for evidence of innocence

North Carolina prosecutors would have to reveal evidence of innocence obtained after a person is convicted under a rule that a State Bar approved Tuesday.

Previously, prosecutors only had to reveal the evidence of innocence before a conviction. After agreeing to that rule, the panel went a step further and tentatively signed off on another new rule that requires all attorneys, including criminal defense attorneys, to reveal post-conviction evidence of innocence, provided they're not violating rules including attorney client-privilege.

"A clear decision was made by the subcommittee today that it was not comfortable making years ago," said defense attorney Brad Bannon, referring to a decision several years not to send the prosecutors' rule to the full committee. "We have seen these wrongful conviction cases increase in the years since, and we need to be sure that the people most able to correct that injustice - prosecutors and other lawyers - take steps to do so."

The proposal from the ethics subcommittee now goes to the full ethics committee, which meets in October. If it is approved, it's then sent to attorneys for comment.

The 5-member subcommittee had met several times previously to discuss the rule and discussion Tuesday was brief and mostly concentrated on language to tell prosecutors that they must consider the evidence they receive and not just focus on the credibility of the source.

The American Bar Association says 14 states have a rule about prosecutors and post-conviction evidence of innocence and recommends that each state approve such a rule.

For the proposal involving all attorneys, the subcommittee discussed whether to allow attorneys to ignore attorney-client privilege. Eventually, the panel said the importance of protecting that relationship was greater.

"This is the classic example of a clash of values," said Alice Mine, the State Bar's assistant executive director and ethics counsel. "We've got this value of preventing wrongful convictions. But we also have this value of protecting the interest of our clients. And the duty of confidentiality is really core to the attorney-client relationship."

Advocates cited a Buncombe County murder case as a prime example of why North Carolina needed the rule for prosecutors. 5 innocent men served prison terms in connection with a 2000 home-invasion murder they didn't commit.

Another man confessed in 2003 and implicated an accomplice whose DNA was eventually found on masks and bandanas near the scene. The district attorney said in a deposition that he didn't believe the confession and that he never saw the DNA evidence, although the report from the State Bureau of Investigation showed it was copied to the DA.

The five received a total $8 million for their wrongful convictions. Some of them had pleaded guilty to avoid the threat of the death penalty.

(source: wral.com)

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Father fatally stabbed 6-year-old daughter in front of park rangers, feds say

Federal documents released on Tuesday shed light on the tragic death of a Buncombe County 6-year-old.

On Sep. 9, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, National Parks Service and the Buncombe County Sheriff's Office shut down the Blue Ridge Parkway during the course of a homicide investigation.

FBI agents confirmed Lila Pickering, 6, was stabbed in the heart and killed along the parkway. Her father, Seth Willis Pickering, was identified by the FBI as a murder suspect shortly after her death.

On Tuesday, the Department of Justice released a document detailing the federal complaint against Pickering.

According to the document, Pickering was only allowed to have supervised visits with Lila, who had been placed in temporary custody by the Buncombe County Department of Health and Human Services.

Around 5:20 p.m. on the day of her death, Pickering reportedly took Lila and left her custodian's house without permission. According to court documents, her custodian said, "Seth, please don't do this, they will put you in jail."

The custodian told officials Pickering just shook his head, placed Lila in his vehicle and drove off.

As officers were initiating a missing persons report and BOLO for Lila, National Parks Service rangers observed Pickering's gold Dodge Avenger along the side of the Blue Ridge Parkway near mile marker 393. The vehicle was spotted just before 6 p.m.

According to the federal court documents, rangers spotted Pickering and Lila walking down a steep embankment on the shoulder of the roadway. Pickering was reportedly carrying a large cooler and bags on his back. Rangers watched as he cut underbrush and built a small fire.

The rangers, not yet aware of Lila being reported missing, approached Pickering to investigate the illegal campfire.

When they got within 25 feet of the man and his daughter, Pickering shouted, "Police!" and lunged at Lila without warning, documents state.

One of the rangers reported hearing a thud-like noise and a high-pitched noise from Lila who fell to the ground with a knife protruding from her chest, according to the report.

The medical examiner later determined Lila suffered a stab wound to the heart. EMS personnel tried to resuscitate her but she died at the scene.

When Pickering was secured in handcuffs, rangers said he told them he killed Lila so, "Now they will never be able to take her away from me.. She's happier now.. it's what she wanted."

When interviewed by detectives, documents indicate Pickering told them before rangers arrived, Lila made him promise "that they would never take her away from me again."

According to the court records, Pickering told detectives he stabbed her because, "I reacted the only way I knew that she could go to sleep without having to cry daddy I want to come home... I knew as soon as they showed up they would take her away from me and never let me see her again."

The next day, a search warrant was executed at Pickering's home on Emily Rose Lane in Leicester where investigators reported finding a knife block with a missing knife. The knife recovered from the scene reportedly matched the set.

Pickering is charged with 1st-degree murder. He appeared in bond court on Monday where he was denied bond. He could face the death penalty or life in prison, but prosecutors have said it is too early in the process to determine what sentence they will be pursuing.

According to Lila's grandmother, Pickering was mentally unstable and had been in a psychiatric ward before the stabbing. She said the family believes Pickering was released too early.

Lila's mother reportedly fled to another state in May 2015 to escape an abusive relationship with the murder suspect. She said in the past, Pickering never harmed their daughter.

(source: ABC news)

OHIO:

The Ohio Innocence Project just got a record-breaking $15 million donation

The Ohio Innocence Project, a program that works to free people who have been wrongfully convicted of crimes, just received a $15-million donation - the largest gift received by an innocence program in history. The money will allow the Innocence Project to continue its work "in perpetuity" - i.e.: forever.

The program, a part of the the University of Cincinnati College of Law, was founded in 2003 and to date has freed a total of 24 people who were wrongfully incarcerated, according to a statement from the University.

One of the people freed by the work of the Ohio Innocence Project was Randy Jackson, who was incarcerated at 18 and spent 39 years on death row for a murder he didn't commit.

The $15-million donation was a gift from Ohio philanthropist Richard "Dick" Rosenthal. In a statement, Rosenthal said "the Ohio Innocence Project has a laudable mission: to free every innocent person in Ohio. I'm proud to help ensure its life-saving work continues now and forever ... I'm inspired daily by the students, faculty and staff who work tirelessly in the pursuit of justice."

There are innocence programs similar to the Ohio Innocence Project across the country. These programs sift through old cases and seek to overturn convictions and free people who are incarcerated for crimes they didn't commit; in many cases, they are able to discover improper convictions thanks to advancements in DNA analysis since the original trial.

"The Ohio Innocence Project has quickly become a national model for innocence organizations," Barry Scheck, the co-founder of the New York City-based Innocence Project, said in a statement. "Thank you to Dick Rosenthal for your incredible support of the innocent."

(source: mic.com)

OKLAHOMA:

Oklahoma still mulling execution protocols, ensuring delays

Oklahoma, a state with one of the busiest death chambers in the country over the last 3 decades, will have at least a 2-year delay in lethal injections after the governing board of its prison system declined to consider new execution procedures on Tuesday.

At its regular meeting in Taft, the Board of Corrections did not take up new execution protocols that Attorney General Scott Pruitt wants in place before executions can resume. After a botched execution in 2014 and drug mix-ups during the last 2 scheduled lethal injections in 2015, Pruitt said he won't request any execution dates until five months after the new protocols are approved and he's confident the death penalty can be carried out without any problems.

"I want to assure the victims' families who continue to await justice that this review process will continue to be both deliberate and empirical," Pruitt said in a statement. "I am confident that the Department of Corrections, under the leadership of Director (Joe) Allbaugh, is taking the appropriate time needed to ensure the execution protocols are fully in place and without error in the most efficient way possible."

Allbaugh, tapped to head the state's prison system after its former director resigned amid a grand jury probe into the bungled executions, said Tuesday he was not ready to discuss any details about Oklahoma's execution procedures or changes to the protocols.

"The protocol is a work in progress," said DOC spokesman Alex Gerszewski. "There currently is no timeline on when anything will be released."

Meanwhile, 5 Oklahoma death row inmates have exhausted all of their appeals and are awaiting execution dates.

Oklahoma has executed 112 people since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976, the highest per-capita rate in the nation and 2nd overall only to Texas, where 537 inmates have been put to death over the last 40 years, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

Oklahoma was the 1st state to authorize lethal injection as a method of execution, and capital punishment has strong, bipartisan support in the Oklahoma Legislature. After the botched execution of an inmate in 2014 who writhed on the gurney during a lethal injection that prison officials tried unsuccessfully to halt, lawmakers approved the use of nitrogen gas as an alternative to lethal injection.

The Legislature also passed a resolution seeking a public vote on whether to enshrine the death penalty in the state constitution, making it more difficult for future legislators or the courts to end it. That state question will appear on the ballot in November.

Rep. Mike Christian, a former highway patrolman and staunch advocate for the death penalty who sponsored both measures, said he's disappointed prison officials have taken so long to develop new procedures and wants them to include the use of nitrogen gas as an alternative to lethal injection. Nitrogen gas has never been used to execute inmates in the U.S.

"My question is why they don't at least have some kind of protocols established for nitrogen hypoxia," said Christian, R-Oklahoma City. "It's 2nd in line behind lethal injection, and I think lethal injection is on its way out the door."

Still, death penalty opponents voiced concern that Oklahoma appears to be moving in the opposite direction of other states, where the death penalty is being reconsidered altogether.

"The last thing the state of Oklahoma needs to do is rush back into the business of executing people," said Ryan Kiesel, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Oklahoma. "We would prefer that the state get out of the business of executing its citizens altogether."

(source: Associated Press)

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Group asks voters to 'Think Twice Oklahoma' on death penalty state question

As gray skies opened up a deluge of rain, a coalition of groups stood in front of the Oklahoma Supreme Court and urged voters to "Think Twice" and vote no on State Question 776, which asks voters to amend to change the Oklahoma Constitution to allow for alternate methods of execution not prohibited by the U.S. Constitution.

If passed, the new constitutional language would mean that capital punishment could not be construed as cruel or unusual punishment and that any change in the method of execution would not change the sentences of those awaiting death by any previous procedure.

The question, which Oklahoma citizens will vote on in November, would insert the death penalty into the Oklahoma State Constitution. Representatives of numerous groups spoke in order to highlight the attack by the legislature on the power of the Oklahoma Judiciary to interpret Oklahoma law with respect to capital punishment.

Members of the anti-776 campaign called Think Twice Oklahoma said the state question not only cripples the judicial arm of government, but would cost taxpayers an inordinate amount of money to defend challenges and to carry out executions.

"I think the conservative position is against the death penalty because it costs more than life, more than life without parole, it's not representative of a limited government and it doesn't produce any productive benefits," said Marc Hyden, advocacy coordinator for the National Conservatives Concerned (About the Death Penalty) organization, who spoke at the press event.

"Beyond that, I believe the conservative position would be against this state question because we believe the founding fathers had the foresight to institute checks and balances, and this aims to subvert those checks and balances. There should be three branches of government."

Recent polls also indicate that Oklahomans are becoming wary of capital punishment with more than 53 % of citizens favored looking twice at the death penalty, or using the death penalty only for the worst of the worst.

"Any time you are circumventing the judiciary, it's very concerning," said Hyden. "That's exactly what this is doing."

The state question continues a conversation into Oklahoma's capital punishment record. In 1998, Oklahoma's death row population was 136, but today, 49 offenders sit on death row. However, after the highly-publicized troubled execution of convicted murderer Clayton Lockett in April 2014, the state has been under fire for not being able to put a person to death in a humane or appropriate way.

The latest mishaps of Oklahoma's death row system occurred when the wrong drug combination halted the execution of Richard Glossip and an investigation uncovered that Charles Warner was executed using the same wrong drug combination in January 2015.

"These are not questions about justice, but questions about politics," said Ryan Kiesel, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Oklahoma. "We have a legislature that has for the last several years been unable to come up with a budget. Rural schools are closing to 4 days a week, we have rural hospitals that are closing, we have infrastructure that is crumbling around us ... And yet, our legislators continue to ask us to trust them with the most awesome authority any government in the history of governments has ever exercised, and that's the power to kill its own people.

"If we cannot trust our state government to fund our schools, our hospitals, fund our infrastructure, how in the world can we continue to trust them to strap someone down on a table, put a needle in their arm and fill it full of poison until they're dead. We cannot continue to trust them to do that."

Oklahoma currently has a moratorium on executions while protocol issues are reviewed concerning the lethal injection protocol. Attorney General Scott Pruitt has said no executions would take place until new protocols were approved, but states throughout the nation have had problems procuring the necessary drugs due to embargoes begun by European pharmaceutical companies, which have been taken up by U.S. firms.

State Question 776 was sponsored by 6 Republican legislators in response to changing protocols. In 2016, the legislature approved the use of nitrogen gas for executions, but the state can still allow firing squad or electric chair.

For opponents, removing the language of "cruel and unusual" from law opens up serious concerns.

Marven Goodman, chair of the Oklahoma Republican Liberty Caucus, said his party is pro-life, meaning they support protecting life from conception to death.

"Our state should never enshrine law into the constitution," said Goodman. "Anytime there is a question to put a bridle on the state legislature, which laws they can pass or not pass, then that’s bypassing a constitutional republic. Laws should be able to be changed, but bringing this law into the constitution bypasses the checks and balances."

As part of the Think Twice Oklahoma campaign, others speakers also urged voters to defeat the state question, including Tina Kelly, Oklahoma Libertarian Party chair; Connie Johnson, chair of Say NO to SQ 776 Committee and vice chair of Oklahoma Democratic Party; and other representatives of Think Twice Oklahoma endorsing organizations, including the ACLU, NAACP, Oklahoma Conference of Churches, Catholic Charities, Witness to Innocence and many others.

"This is the 1st time the Oklahoma Conference of Churches has actually taken a stand against a state question," said William Tabbernee, executive director of the Oklahoma Conference of Churches.

"SQ776 is not only about the death penalty as a whole, but about changing the constitution in order to tie the hands of future legislators. We believe what this law tries to do is say any method of execution is alright, even though we have bungled the way we bungled in the past. They can do death penalty by gas chamber or use the electric chair or use the guillotine."

The state question would add Section 9A to Article II, stating: "All statutes of this state requiring, authorizing, imposing or relating to the death penalty are in full force and effect, subject to legislative amendment or repeal by statute, initiative or referendum. Any method of execution shall be allowed, unless prohibited by the United States Constitution. Methods of execution may be designated by the Legislature. A sentence of death shall not be reduced on the basis that a method of execution is invalid.

In any case in which an execution method is declared invalid, the death sentence shall remain in force until the sentence can be lawfully executed by any valid method. The death penalty provided for under such statutes shall not be deemed to be, or to constitute, the infliction of cruel or unusual punishments, nor shall such punishment be deemed to contravene any other provision of this Constitution."

(source: Red Dirt Report)

KANSAS:

The Carr brothers murder case gets trotted out again, this time attacking Kansas judges

Kansas conservatives insist they won’t rest until murderers Jonathan and Reginald Carr are dead and gone.

But how will they live without them?

The Carr brothers, who without doubt committed the most depraved of crimes, have been an invaluable campaigning weapon in Kansas for years. Now they're being wielded against 4 Kansas Supreme Court justices whom conservatives have deemed too liberal.

The 2 men broke into a home in Wichita in December 2000 and sexually tortured 5 people before driving them to a field, shooting them and running them over with a pickup truck. One of the victims, a 25-year-old woman, survived. A cellist with the Wichita Symphony who was shot in an attempted carjacking with the same gun used in the home invasion became the brothers' 5th murder victim when she died a few weeks later.

Jonathan and Reginald Carr were locked up within 24 hours of their spree. Since then, politicians have used the fear and revulsion in the wake of their crimes.

The 1st wave of Carr opportunists tried to link their opponents to a 2000 Kansas law that shortened the supervision time for some parolees. Had that law not been passed, they said, Reginald Carr would have been under state supervision and presumably would not have committed his acts of mayhem. The argument was a stretch, and it fell apart completely once Kansas prison officials fessed up to an employee error that had allowed Reginald Carr to be released from supervision 6 months sooner than he should have been.

That didn't stop Republican Phill Kline from linking his Democratic opponent, Paul Morrison, to the Carrs' crimes during the bitter 2006 race for the attorney general's seat. Morrison had supported the maligned law when he was Johnson County's district attorney. Kansas voters, apparently more worried about Kline's misuse of the attorney general's office to attack abortion providers than they were about some shadowy alleged connection to the Carr brothers, handed Morrison an easy win.

Fast forward to 2014. Gov. Sam Brownback, facing the humiliating prospect of losing to a Democrat in deep-red Kansas, called on the memory of the Carr brothers - who, thanks to the Kansas Supreme Court, had recently been returned to public consciousness.

In July 2014, the justices decided 6-1 that procedural errors during the sentencing phase of the Carr brothers’ trial should invalidate their death sentences (though not their convictions on multiple counts of murder, which will keep both men locked up forever). The ruling reflected the court's position that the state's power to take a life demanded scrupulous standards. But for Kansas Republicans, it was a chance to indulge in some timely fearmongering.

Brownback's opponent, former Kansas House leader Paul Davis, supported the state's nonpartisan method of selecting Supreme Court justices. In the warped logic of the governor's flailing political campaign, this somehow meant that Davis supported leniency for the Carr brothers.

"Paul Davis, endangering the safety of your family," a mailer from the Kansas Republican Party blared. It included graphic details of the murders in Wichita and accused Davis of "voting to protect judges who are handing down such dangerous rulings."

Pat McFerron, a GOP pollster, had encouraged Brownback's campaign to use the Supreme Court's decision to demonize Davis. "Our polling shows that when voters are informed of Davis's relationship with the supreme court justices and reminded of that court's decision to overthrow the conviction and sentencing of the Carr Brothers, they break against Davis by a better than 5-to-1 ration," McFerron wrote in a memo to Brownback's campaign manager.

The matching TV commercial, McFerron added cheerfully, "will cause great consternation and gnashing of teeth in the Davis camp."

It did, but not just for the intended reason. Davis said he had been friendly with one of the Carr brothers' victims, Brad Heyka. Brownback's attempt to exploit the tragedy was "disgraceful," Davis said.

Disgraceful but not ineffective. Brownback narrowly edged out Davis in November 2014. The gruesome mailer and TV ads portraying Davis as a Carr sympathizer probably didn't carry the day, but in a close election they undoubtedly played a role.

Early this year, the U.S. Supreme Court threw more fuel on the fire. In an 8-1 opinion, the nation's highest court ruled that the Kansas court had wrongfully overturned the Carrs' death sentences. Justice Antonin Scalia, writing shortly before his death, speculated that "a retention election ... would not come out favorably for those justices."

Conservative groups needed no such encouragement from on high. Political operatives inside and outside Kansas already wanted to oust justices Lawton Nuss, Marla Luckert, Carol Beier and Dan Beier when they came up for retention this November. (They want to protect a 5th justice, conservative Caleb Stegall.)

These are the jurists who have ruled in favor of adequate financing for Kansas schools and also struck down some of the Legislature's patently unconstitutional laws on abortion, generating scorn from conservatives. But voters might actually agree with the justices on those issues, so Kansans should expect to have their TV screens and their mailboxes bloodied anew with details of the Carr brothers' "Wichita massacre."

Critics can legitimately argue that the Kansas Supreme Court got the Carr brothers case wrong. As the U.S. Supreme Court noted, a couple of technical disagreements in the sentencing phase did not outweigh the fact that the crimes were heinous and the defendants' guilt clear.

But the ruling in the Carr case is just 1 of hundreds issued by the justices up for retention. To focus on a single sensational case - or the handful of other death-penalty cases heard by the court - is to ignore the court's professionalism and the justices' years of expertise in all areas of law.

One person who isn't weighing in on the retention election is Brownback. Keenly aware of his own unpopularity with voters, he's watching from the sidelines. But he has a huge stake in what happens in November. As governor, he would have the final say on a replacement for any justice not retained by voters. He would choose from a pool of candidates selected by a nominating commission, which would be under pressure to recommend conservative candidates.

In that scenario, the Kansas Supreme Court would bear Brownback's imprint long after he leaves public office in 2 years. Exactly as conservatives planned it - with help from a couple of politically useful murderers.

(source: pitch.com)

CALIFORNIA----female may face death penalty

Caregiver pleads not guilty to Desert Hot Springs murder

A caregiver pleaded not guilty to committing a Desert Hot Springs murder that involved circumstances that make her eligible for the death penalty if convicted.

Kelly Lee Phillips, 45, entered her plea during her arraignment Tuesday morning in Riverside County Superior Court at Larson Justice Center in Indio. She's charged with the murder of Chandra Saras, 59, who police found about 10 a.m. Aug. 15 at a home in the 64-100 block of Mount Blanc Court.

Phillips qualifies for the death penalty because her charges include murder during the commission of a felony and murder for financial gain, Riverside County District Attorney's office spokesman John Hall said. He added District Attorney Mike Hestrin will decide at a later date whether or not prosecutors will pursue the death penalty.

"If the DA does not decide to seek death, the defendant's potential sentence would be life in prison without the possibility of parole," Hall said.

Phillips' hearing lasted a matter of seconds and was far shorter than the 90 minutes she waited in the courtroom.

She arrived about 9 a.m. and was directed to the jury box on the right side of the room. She sat silently and mostly stared straight with her hair combed to her left and shielding her face from the crowd. On the rare moments she turned her head, she was expressionless.

Phillips' next court appearance is scheduled for Sept. 22. It will be a routine hearing focused on a case where little information has been released.

In addition to the murder charges, Phillips also is accused of dissuading a witness, burglary, driving without a license, misusing a vending or slot machine and two misdemeanor counts of forgery.

Other homicides Cathedral City woman killed, problem roommate suspected

A criminal complaint indicates Phillips used Saras' name to cash 2 checks for $200 each at a Wells Fargo bank branch. Other specifics haven't been provided and Desert Hot Springs police say they're not releasing additional details on the investigation, including the cause of Saras' death.

Deputy District Attorney Kristi Kirk, who's handling the case, referred all questions to Hall, who reiterated Saras' cause of death is under investigation.

Phillips' attorney, Daniel Yu, also declined to comment to The Desert Sun.

She remains in custody at the Larry D. Smith Correctional Facility in Banning without bail.

This was Desert Hot Springs' 3rd homicide of 2016, according to data maintained by The Desert Sun.

This year, there have been 16 homicides across the Coachella Valley.

There have been 5 homicides in Indio, 3 in Cathedral City, 2 in Coachella and 1 each in Thermal, Whitewater and on Interstate 10.

(source: The Desert Sun)

************

Death Penalty Still Has Plenty Of Bay Area Support, Poll Suggests

New numbers show the push to end the death penalty in California is facing an uphill fight.

Our exclusive KPIX 5 SurveyUSA poll shows that 52 % of statewide voters are opposed to Proposition 62, that's compared to 36 % who favor replacing the death penalty with life in prison. Perhaps even more surprising is that the death penalty still has plenty of bay area support.

Once again the death penalty is on the California ballot. Voters considered whether to abolish it in 1972 and again in 2012. Both times, the death penalty survived.

For a state known for its lefty politics, where Democrats hold every statewide office, Californians have a history of supporting the death penalty when it is on the ballot.

It's easy to forget that Democrats in California are not a majority, Independents are.

Carson Bruno, a research fellow at the Hoover Institute, said, "California is definitely a blue state there's no doubt about that, but we're not a uniformly progressive blue state up and down the state."

San Mateo County District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe said, "When you get into the valley, into Southern California, you realize, the Bay Area's attitude does not cover the whole state in this issue."

Even right here in the Bay Area, the poll showed 47 % of likely voters are in favor of keeping the death penalty. Only 42 % oppose it.

Wagstaffe is opposed to Prop 62. He wants to keep the death penalty. He says his Bay Area constituents want the death penalty to be used sparingly.

"I think they appreciate that we're very, very cautious and limited in our use of this most significant of all punishments in our criminal justice system," Wagstaffe said.

Law Professor Ellen Kreitzberg is in favor of Prop 62. She she's confident that the death penalty will be repealed.

Kreitzberg, law professor and director of the Death Penalty College at Santa Clara University School of Law said, "California voters know that the death penalty is arbitrary and unreliable and dysfunctional system...When the people of California review that, they're going to vote yes on 62 to abolish it."

Kreitzberg says the poll is flawed because it doesn't line up with other polls showing decreased support for the death penalty.

While there are those who think the death penalty it is immoral there are also those who think the system isn't working. On this November's ballot there is also a measure - Prop 66 - which would make changes to the death penalty system. Having that reform option on the ballot may explain why fewer people support repealing the death penalty.

(source: KPIX news)

OREGON:

Pretrial motions delay opening statements in trial of former Gladstone cop accused in wife's death

A judge delayed the opening statements in the trial of a former Gladstone police sergeant accused in the 2011 killing of his wife after defense attorneys presented a series of motions Tuesday.

Clackamas County Circuit Judge Kathie Steele said she will announce a ruling on each issue before opening statements, now set for Wednesday morning.

Lynn Edward Benton, 54, is accused in an alleged $2,000 murder-for-hire plot that led to the death of his wife, Debbie Higbee Benton, 54, in her beauty salon in Gladstone on May 28, 2011.

Prosecutors contend Benton offered the money to his 58-year-old friend, Susan Campbell, and her 36-year-old son, Jason Jaynes. The two also are charged in the death. Benton had tried but failed to kill his wife multiple times before by injecting her with insulin and poisoning her hot chocolate, prosecutors allege.

Benton faces charges of aggravated murder, solicitation to commit aggravated murder, criminal conspiracy to commit aggravated murder and attempted murder. If convicted of aggravated murder, he could face the death penalty.

Benton was a police officer for more than 20 years and spent the majority of his career as a woman. He married Higbee Benton in 2010. That same year, he began transitioning to male and prosecutors say it caused a rift between the couple.

Benton had moved out of their Gladstone home a month before his wife's death. He was fired 6 months after Higbee Benton's death, in December 2011, after supervisors found pornography on his work laptop.

Campbell and Jaynes also face aggravated murder charges. Campbell is the only person who has admitted wrongdoing to police, claiming to have shot Higbee Benton, 54, in the back, court records show. Autopsy results show Higbee Benton was shot, strangled and beaten.

Campbell was arrested nearly a week after Higbee Benton was found dead. Benton and Jaynes were arrested in November 2012 after Campbell testified to a grand jury.

Among the motions made Tuesday, the defense asked the court to dismiss solicitation and conspiracy charges against Benton because prosecutors don't plan to present a theory to the jury that was used to indict Benton.

Defense attorney Laurie Bender said Campbell told the grand jury in 2012 that she received a vial of insulin from Jaynes and gave the vial to Benton, whom she claimed injected the dose into his wife in 2010.

But Bender said prosecutors recently announced that they will present evidence of a different attempt to kill Higbee Benton. The new theory relies on police interviews with Travis Layman, the government's primary witness and an inmate who claims Benton confessed to him that he killed his wife while they were both held at the Multnomah County Jail.

Layman claims Benton said he used fentanyl patches in November 2010 to try to kill his wife. The use of fentanyl wasn't mentioned during the grand jury hearing, Bender said.

"This is a completely new theory, and it's a theory not supported by discovery," Bender said. "Mr. Benton has not had an opportunity to investigate this new theory. We've been preparing and litigating the theory about the insulin for 4 1/2 years."

Clackamas County Senior Deputy District Attorney John Wentworth pointed out that the defense has had access to Layman's interviews since last year. He also said Campbell told the grand jury that Benton tried more than once to kill his wife.

"The grand jury indicts the facts, they don't indict the theories," Wentworth said. "The state has alleged that there were attempts to kill Debbie Higbee. That has been made clear. The defense has chosen to focus exclusively on the insulin, and it's to their detriment, but they've had the evidence for a long time that there was more than one attempt."

Jaynes is scheduled to go on trial in Higbee Benton's death in March. Campbell's trial date hasn't yet been set. Jaynes is being held in prison on an unrelated sex abuse conviction. Campbell is being held in prison on an unrelated drug conviction and tampering with a witness in her son's sex abuse case.

Campbell was the prosecution's star witness in the cases against Benton and Jaynes, but prosecutors revoked her plea agreement last month because she violated the terms at least 3 times.

Prosecutors say during the course of Higbee Benton's death investigation, police uncovered other twists including allegations of domestic violence by Benton against his wife, a 1999 sex abuse coverup by Benton where Jaynes was the suspect and child pornography discovered on Benton's father's laptop and thumb drives.

(source: oregonlive.com)

USA:

Citing 'flawed' process, Dylann Roof lawyers again fight to toss death penalty

In another attack on the death penalty's legality, Dylann Roof's attorneys said this week that capital punishment is so fraught with potential problems that it shouldn't be used in his case.

Roof, 22, has offered to plead guilty and accept a lifetime prison sentence in the June 2015 shooting that killed 9 at Charleston's Emanuel AME Church. But federal prosecutors have pushed forward with the trial, seeking Roof's execution on some of his 33 charges.

But as time passes, court rulings continue to limit how the death penalty can be applied, and further evidence has emerged showing how unfair it can be, Roof's lawyers said Monday in a court document. To support their position, the attorneys included in their filing about 2,200 pages of court transcripts, research, news articles and opinion polls on the death penalty.

It's time to reopen the discussion of whether the punishment is cruel and unusual under the Eighth Amendment, they said.

"The death penalty is unreliable, arbitrary, and so complicated that jurors frequently misapply it," Sarah Gannett, an Arizona public defender on Roof's defense team, said in the filing. "In a prosecution as consequential as this one, the court should not (allow) procedures that are proven to be flawed."

U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel already has reviewed written arguments from prosecutors and defense attorneys on the death penalty's constitutionality. Monday's filing supplemented the defense team's argument. Gergel has not ruled on the issue.

Initial jury selection procedures are scheduled to start Sept. 26 in downtown Charleston. The trial will follow Nov. 7.

Roof, who is white, is charged with hate crimes, religious rights violations and using a firearm in a violent crime. Authorities said he targeted the churchgoers because they were black. He penned manifestos about white supremacy, they said.

He is expected to be convicted when the case is tried, but the most contested portion of the proceeding will come during sentencing. That's when prosecutors will present evidence of aggravation, such as the targeting of multiple vulnerable people or an intent to incite violence among others. Defense attorneys will highlight mitigating factors, such as any mental defects.

Prosecutors have said that detailed instructions can lead a jury to a fair finding. But Roof's lawyers said they are concerned that the jurors will not follow the guidelines for weighing those factors.

"Because it cannot be implemented in a manner that avoids arbitrary, capricious and irrevocable results," Gannett's filing added, "the (federal death penalty) is unconstitutional and must be stricken as a possible penalty in this case."

(source: The Post and Courier)

ZIMBABWE:

Death penalty challenged

People's Democratic Party leader and lawyer Tendai Biti is challenging the constitutionality of capital punishment several months after he appeared before the same court arguing for sentences of death row inmates to be commuted to life in prison.

Biti confirmed that the Constitutional Court will hear the application this month.

"This case is now set down in the Constitutional Court on September 28 and we are demanding an end to the death penalty," Biti said.

Many human rights groups and lawyers, among them Southern Africa Litigation Centre (Salc), were looking forward to the hearing.

"Case coming up arguing death penalty is unconstitutional under new Constitution - irrespective of its prior legality," Salc tweeted.

In January when he appeared before the same court on behalf of 15 inmates on death row at Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison, Biti argued that their sentences be commuted to life in prison.

Some of the inmates have been on death row for the past 18 years. Zimbabwe last executed prisoners in 2005.

Notorious robbers Stephen Chidhumo and Edgar Masendeke were among the last inmates hanged at Chikurubi.

Some in the government, among them Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa, were openly against capital punishment having escaped such a sentence by a whisker during the liberation struggle.

Amnesty International is also on record urging Zimbabwe to completely do away with the death penalty.

Under the new Constitution, the death sentence can be handed down only to male offenders between the ages of 21 and 70 and only in cases of aggravated murder.

Biti has of late been handling human rights cases and recently won an application against child marriages in the Constitutional Court.

(source: Newsday.co.zw)

IRAN:

Call for indictment of all government officials

A group of activist mothers and families of political prisoners and martyrs who lost their lives during 2009 uprising after the sham elections in Iran have announce in a letter that they would indict all government officials for their crimes.

These families and mothers who are known as "Mothers of Laleh Park" in an open letter called for justice for the 1988 massacre of political prisoners in Iran and indictment of all officials of the Iranian regime.

The following is excerpts of their letter:

Mass execution of political prisoners in the summer of 1988 in Iran is a political massacre in which the prisoners who had received prison sentences and were spending their prison terms or had finished their terms were executed by the "Death Commission" following a fatwa or decree [by the Iranian regime's then Supreme Leader Khomeini] and after retrial in closed and unfair courts while their families were unaware of their executions. Nearly 5000 of these Mojahed and Combatant human beings were executed and buried secretly in mass graves in Khavaran, Behesht-e Zahra and some other unknown cemeteries in Tehran alone.

Based on the Statute of the International Tribunal at Nuremberg, the 1988 massacre of political prisoners in Iran can be regarded as "crimes against humanity" or "genocide" and officials of the Islamic Republic as the perpetrators and accomplices of this heinous crime can be brought to justice in international courts, because more than 30,000 political prisoners, who had previously received prison sentences, have been massacred in absolute secrecy and in systematic and planned group executions by the Iranian regime's authorities after torture and rape and after secret and unfair retrials and with government decree.

The regime of Islamic Republic during the past 28 years has remained silent about this crime to avoid disclosure of its secrets. But the mothers and families of the massacred political prisoners and other justice-seeking activists in Iran and abroad in all these years have tried in different ways to stand still and fight against this silence to hold the officials accountable and bring the government to respond. These activities include but not limited to a range of protests and sit-ins in front of Justice Department, writing petitions to the judicial authorities and other official bodies, going to the grave of their loved ones and interviews and writing and posting revealing contents, attending memorial ceremonies at home and in Khavaran cemetery and gathering together inside Iran as well as disclosure of this crime abroad via writing memoirs, books, articles, interviews, holding ceremonies and memorials and participating in various conferences and gatherings, etc., which did not allow the voice of Iranian people and their cry for justice be silenced.

Following disclosure of Mr. Montazeri's audio file [and his speech during a meeting with the officials of "Death Commission" responsible for the 1988 massacre], the issue has become more clear than ever before. The important point in this file is the voice of the members of "Death Commission" admitting the massacre, and no one can deny it anymore. Then, the mass grave of [the massacred political prisoners] in Malek Abad in Mashhad was discovered and revealed. And now no one can deny this crime and the killings and the regime officials have started one by one to take a stance.

Mostafa Pour-Mohammadi, Justice Minister in Rouhani's Cabinet, flagrantly says: "We are proud that we have implemented God's Commandment in this regard."

Hashemi Rafsanjani considers the audio file an insult to and desecration of Khomeini and condemns its disclosure. He says: "I express extreme regret regarding the recent wave of attacks created against Imam [Khomeini] that continues in almost all foreign hostile media. This is tarnishing and damaging Haj Ahmad [Khomeini's son] position and respectable house of Imam in the society and they should not be allowed to reach their goals."

Hassan Khomeini [Ayatollah Khomeini's grandson] says: "The executions were necessary to maintain the Islamic Revolution." Khomeini's other grandsons as well as other mullahs including Mousavi Tabrizi, Mousavi Bojnourdi, and Mohammad Ali Ansari joined the critics of Mr. Montazeri and supported the 1988 massacre.

Ali Falahian, former Minister of Intelligence under Rafsanjani's presidency, regarding the massacre says: "The view of Imam [Khomeini] and all religious scholars is that the sentence for those who rebel against the Islamic rule is execution and there is no doubt about it. Imam said that God's Commandment must be implemented and the history's judgment should be ignored."

Ahmad Khatami: "What the late Imam has done in [the] 1988 [massacre] was according to Quran and religious jurisprudence and a revolutionary act. It was a great service to the Muslim nation of Iran."

Taj-Zadeh talked about reconciliation and said: "Forgive but do not forget."

When and where did the regime officials ask for forgiveness that he (Taj-Zadeh) says this and talks about national reconciliation? Can anybody talk about reconciliation with a ruling government that with utter obscenity considers the mass executions of political prisoners in 1988 legitimate and right and implements the policy of physical elimination, torture and imprisonment or heavy sentences for political and conscience activists in its extrajudicial courts and emphasizes on continuation of this policy? Taj-Zadeh with pragmatism says: "I apologize to the families of those executed in that catastrophe who were not members of the PMOI."...

However, these days Khamenei, Rouhani, Khatami and other officials of the regime and majority of the so-called reformers have remained silent because they have directly or indirectly participated in this crime and have been an accomplice in it and they know that if they say anything, they will be exposed and disgraced more.

During the executions of political prisoners in 1988, Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, who was Deputy Commander-in-Chief of Armed Forces at the time, on 27 July 1988 said: "This is a good opportunity to destroy them (the PMOI) and get rid of them!"

In the early years of the revolution, Hassan Rouhani speaking in the regime's parliament in July 1980 said: "We ask our army and the Revolutionary Court not to rush in the case of the conspirators and do a wide range of investigation to find their roots. I request that the conspirators be hanged in public during Friday Prayers in order to have a greater impact."

We, Mothers of Laleh Park, who also grieve [our martyrs] in Khavaran grave site, call for indictment of all officials of the Iranian regime who have been complicit and had a role in the killings in the 1980s particularly the massacre of 30,000 political prisoners in the summer of 1988 in Iran. We demand removal, trial in courts and punishment of all those criminals who occupy the highest judicial and executive positions and authorities in Iran. Our homeland in the past 37 years has been invaded by those who have brought nothing but evil and enmity of freedom, justice and equality, and their Sharia and civil laws and achievements are also extremely discriminatory and against freedom. They have no respect for human lives and ideas, and the outcome of their existence and their present for us is repression and destruction of humanity. They are the ones who have destroyed thousands and thousands of freedom-loving souls and noble free and dynamic thoughts; but enough is enough and a solution must be found.

We along with mothers and families of Khavaran (mothers and families of the political prisoners who were massacred in 1988 and secretly buried in mass graves in Khavaran cemetery) want to uncover the truth. We demand to know:

1) What was the exact method and process of decision making and implementation of the mass executions of political prisoners and who were the perpetrators of this brutal massacre?

2) On the basis of what law and for what crime, prisoners who were sentenced to prison terms, were retried in closed-door courts and executed?

3) Why was the trial of political prisoners held behind closed doors?

4) Why were the families of political prisoners kept in absolute darkness about the fate of their loved ones nearly 5 months after their executions from the time the meetings were banned to handing over the bags containing their belongings?

5) The exact number and names of the political prisoners who were massacred in the summer of 1988 must be announced;

6) Where and how did they bury those who were executed?

7) Where are the wills and testaments of those who were executed?

8) Why the families [of the executed political prisoners] do not have the right to hold memorial ceremonies freely?

9) Why Khavaran's graveyard doors are closed and the security forces deny access to the families?

10) Why Khavaran and other unnamed graveyards have been turned upside down several times?

We thank Mr. Ahmad Montazeri, for making the audio file available to the public and provided it to people (although with 28 years delay), to help uncover the truth. We call on the regime's officials to stop the pressure and case making against him.

We also call on Mr. Ahmad Montazeri and other officials, who distanced themselves from the regime and claim that the Islamic Republic's officials are criminals and regret their alignment and association with them, to help the families and justice-seekers to uncover the truth and provide them with information and expose the Islamic Republic's secrecy and concealment of their crimes. Of course, we welcome these bold actions which are in the public interests.

The right to know the truth and seek justice is the most obvious right and demand of the families and Justice-Seekers and we follow it relentlessly.

(source: NCR-Iran)

PHILIPPINES:

CBCP to Catholic solons, judges: Oppose death penalty

The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) on Wednesday urged lawmakers and the public to oppose proposals to restore death penalty in the country, saying it transgresses the dignity of the human person.

CBCP President and Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas said there was a "striking and compelling contradiction and irreconcilability" between death sentence and the constitutional prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment.

"For many centuries, the death penalty was unquestionably accepted by most including the Church. However, with time our understanding evolves and we learn to become more human in our behavior according to the dignity bestowed upon us and our moral sense evolves," Villegas said in an ethical guideline released on Wednesday.

"You cannot, without contradiction, insist that the person is secure from cruel punishment and at the same time open the possibility of inflicting upon him or her the most cruel punishment possible: the calculated, planned and deliberate deprivation of life!" he added.

The revival of death penalty, the 1st bill filed in the House of Representatives in the 17th Congress, is one of the main thrusts of the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte.

CBCP's statements came amid confusing accounts on Duterte's supposed "go-ahead" for the execution of Filipina convicted drug courier Mary Jane Veloso, who remains on death row in Indonesia for drug smuggling.

'Legal obligation'

Villegas summarized the Philippine Catholic Church's appeal into 3 points: for Catholic lawmakers to withhold support from any attempt to restore the death penalty; for Catholic jurists to study the issue and to oppose, through proper judicial proceedings, the re-introduction of capital punishment; and for Catholic judges to heed the teaching of the Church and to appreciate every possible attenuating or mitigating circumstance so as not to impose the death penalty.

Citing the Second Optional Protocol to the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which the Philippines ratified, Villegas said the Philippines has an international legal obligation not to restore death penalty. Article 1 of the Protocol states that "no one within the jurisdiction of a State Party to the present Protocol shall be executed," and that "each State Party shall take all necessary measures to abolish death penalty within its jurisdiction."

"Believing that the abolition of the death penalty contributes to the enhancement of human dignity and the progressive development of human rights, convinced that all measures of abolition of the death penalty should be considered as progress in the enjoyment of the right to life, these are some of the premises underlying the obligation of State-parties, among them the Philippines, not to execute anyone and not to restore the death penalty to our statute books," Villegas said. 'Unchristian, primitive'

The CBCP president said favoring the restoration of death penalty is a position "that the Christian cannot and must not maintain," noting that it is equivalent to depriving a person of the right to life.

"When the State kills in the name of justice, it is in fact saying that the condemned person has no right to live, is undeserving of the basic right to life, and that there is no saving quality or attribute in him or her whatsoever," Villegas said.

"The Gospel by which we all live and in which we all find hope is one that proclaims the inestimable value of human life and the inexhaustible love and mercy of God that constantly renews, even when it seems that no renewal is likely or possible!" he added.

Villegas said taking someone's life as punishment for an offense was not "paying back," but "some primitive sense that engenders the discredited 'eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth.'"

"When the State kills, it kills with no less reprehensibility as when a criminal kills, for the same violence is involved, and the result is the same: the curtailment of human life and the violation of its inalienable value and worth," he said. "Not really retribution then but the restoration both of the victim as well as society and the offender to optimal, human, humanizing and just relations! This is the positive moment of justice."

(source: inquirer.net)

TURKEY:

Erdogan: people of Turkey want death penalty back

The people of Turkey demand reinstating the death penalty, the country's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said.

Erdogan said that if the Turkish parliament decides to restore the death penalty, no one has the right to criticize this, since decisions of the parliament reflect the will of people, Trend reports.

Earlier, Turkey's Minister for the EU Affairs Omer Celik said that reinstating the death penalty in Turkey wasn't put up for consideration by the country's parliament.

Turkey cancelled the death penalty in 2001. Reinstating the death penalty was discussed after the military coup attempt in Turkey.

(source: vestnikkavkaza.net)

INDONESIA:

Drug trafficking suspects held at hypermall

Police detained a man and a woman for allegedly trafficking 301.50 grams of syabu at 1Borneo Hypermall here last Friday.

City police chief ACP M Chandra said the foreign suspects, who are related and in their 20s and 30s, were detained by narcotic police at a restaurant in 1Borneo Hypermall around 2.30pm on September 9.

"Police believe that based on initial police investigation, the suspects were waiting for clients when police from the narcotic division approached them as they were acting suspiciously.

"Upon inspection, police found 6 plastic packages containing crystal-like substance believed to be syabu in the woman's handbag.

"The drugs, weighing 301.50 grams with market price at RM42,000, were confiscated and both suspects were taken to the police station for further investigation," he said yesterday.

Chandra added that both suspects would be remanded until Sept 16 to facilitate police investigation.

He said the case would be investigated under section 39B of the Dangerous Drugs Act 1952, which carries the mandatory death penalty if found guilty.

(source: The Borneo Post)

NIGERIA:

Women leader wants death penalty for rape

Coordinator of Global Initiative for Women and Children, Hajia Hafsat Baba has advocated death by hanging for convicted rapists in Kaduna State.

She described as lenient, the life imprisonment for rapists proposed by Kaduna State Governor Nasir el-Rufa'i in the new Child Right Bill forwarded to the State House of Assembly.

Hajia Hafsat, who is also the 3rd Vice President of National Council of Women Society lamented the alarming increase in cases of rape especially rape of minors. She said, there was need for stiffer punishment to serve as deterrent.

"Recently a minor who was a victim of rape was discharged from Barau Dikko hospital, she was so much damaged that she had to go into the emergency to be operated upon twice because she was bleeding profusely," she said.

Hafsat said "I believe and I hope that it should be death by hanging. During my discussion with the governor, he assured us that it is going to be death by hanging and we are actually looking forward to that. We do not want life imprisonment."

(source: dailytrust.com.ng)

INDIA:

Jigisha murder case: Death row convict challenges conviction

1 of the 2 death row convicts in the 2009 Jigisha Ghosh murder case has moved the Delhi High Court challenging his conviction and the sentence awarded to him by the trial court.

Convict Amit Shukla, who along with accused Ravi Kapoor was handed down death penalty has approached the high court, saying the trial court has awarded him the capital punishment by "wrongly holding that the case falls in the category of rarest of rare".

The trial court on July 14 held Kapoor, Shukla and Baljeet Malik guilty on various counts, including the murder of 28-year-old IT executive Jigisha.

The court while sentencing Kapoor and Shukla to death on August 22, had said the girl was killed in a "cold-blooded, inhuman and cruel manner" and "brutally mauled to death".

The 3rd offender Baljeet Malik was given reprieve from the gallows for his good conduct in jail. Malik has already challenged his conviction and sentence of life imprisonment by the trial court before the high court.

While seeking setting aside of his conviction and order on sentence, Shukla through his counsel Amit Kumar said the trial court has committed error by awarding death penalty simply on the basis of biased jail/probation report about his client.

"It has also not been noticed that for the similar offence one of the convict has been sentenced for life imprisonment," the appeal, which would come up for hearing on September 15, said.

Meanwhile, the trial court, which has awarded death to 2 of the accused has sent the case file to the Delhi High Court for confirmation of the capital punishment.

It is mandatory for a trial court to refer a death penalty case to a high court for confirmation of sentence within 30 days of the pronouncement of the verdict.

(source: statetimes.in)

SEPTEMBER 13, 2016:

FLORIDA:

State to seek death penalty on man accused of killing girlfriend, her uncle----2 killed July 7 in Southside mobile home park; suspect arrested in Georgia

A man accused of killing his girlfriend and her uncle on the Southside in July will face the death penalty if convicted.

Thomas Brown, 34, is charged with 2 counts of 1st-degree murder in the deaths of 59-year-old Robert Massey and 32-year-old Amy Lynn Hatfield, who were found in Massey's home.

Detectives say they searched Hatfield's phone and discovered she had recently drove to the area, from Pennsylvania with her boyfriend, "T.J." Brown. Detectives said they were able to track the rental car the 2 drove down to Thomasville, Georgia, through to a GPS tracker. They were able to find Brown at a drug treatment facility not far from there and he was arrested and extradited to Duval County to face the charges.

At a pretrial hearing Tuesday, prosecutors told the judge they indent to seek the death penalty on Brown. The next court date is set for Oct. 11.

(source: WJXTnews)

OHIO:

Death penalty upheld in execution-style killing

The Ohio Supreme Court has upheld the death sentence for a man who was convicted of choking his girlfriend to death and a year later killing a man to prevent his testimony about the strangulation.

Calvin McKelton, 39, was known in Cincinnati as "C-Murder." He was convicted in Butler County of killing Fairfield attorney Margaret "Missy" Allen, who was McKelton's girlfriend, and in the 2009 execution-style shooting of Germaine "Mick" Evans