and Updates (as of 12/22/96)

OCTOBER 31, 2014:


We're Going to Execute a Man Who Subpoenaed Jesus While Representing Himself Wearing a Purple Cowboy Suit; A Supreme Court decision in Scott Panetti's case should've made it harder to kill delusional prisoners - but it won't save him.

4 years before he murdered his in-laws in Texas, Scott Panetti buried some furniture in his yard. The devil, he claimed, was in it. After he was arrested and charged with the killings, Panetti, who has a history of severe mental illness, represented himself at his capital trial wearing a purple cowboy suit. He called himself "Sarge" and subpoenaed Jesus, among other notables. He lost, of course. The jury found him guilty and sentenced him to death.

The case made its way though the appeals courts, eventually reaching the United States Supreme Court, which in 2007 ruled that the state of Texas hadn't adequately evaluated whether Panetti's mental condition allowed him to fully understand the nature of his punishment - a constitutional prerequisite for the death penalty. The court stayed the execution and sent the case back for further proceedings.

Panetti was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, delusions, hallucinations, and manic depression - and hospitalized 14 times.

Seven years later, Panetti's illness hasn't gone away, but the Supreme Court has given Texas the green light to kill him. The court's decision, announced on October 6 without comment, upheld a 5th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that Panetti was sane enough for execution. The appellate court's decision, in turn, was based in part on the opinion of a Florida psychiatrist who has deemed at least 3 Florida death row inmates with long and well-documented histories of mental illness to be sane enough for the needle.

The details in this story, gleaned from hundreds of pages of court documents and other official filings, indicate that Scott Panetti was no malingerer. He began showing signs of serious mental illness in 1981, back when he was still a teenager. By 1992, he had been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, delusions, auditory hallucinations, and manic depression, and had been hospitalized 14 times.

In 1990, for instance, he was involuntarily committed after swinging a cavalry sword at his wife and daughter and threatening to kill his family. He made good on the threat 2 years later, when he shaved his head, donned camo fatigues, broke into his in-laws' house and shot them both at close range in front of his estranged wife and infant daughter. After turning himself in, Panetti blamed the crime on Sarge, one of his recurring hallucinations. God, he said, had ensured that his victims hadn't suffered.

Panetti refused to cooperate with his lawyers, who he claimed were conspiring with the cops. In jail, he went off his meds, apparently convinced, as a Gnostic Nazarene, that he'd found a spiritual cure.

At the trial, serving as his own lawyer, Panetti rambled incoherently through his defense. Among the hundreds of people he sought to subpoena were not only the Messiah, but John F. Kennedy and the Pope as well. Two jurors later told one of Panetti's lawyers that his behavior had so frightened them that they voted for death largely to make sure he'd never get out of prison. (Texas at that time did not offer the option of life without parole.)

2 months after his sentencing, Panetti tried to waive his right to a lawyer for the appeal - a move tantamount to suicide. But this time, a judge refused his request, ruling that he was not mentally competent to make that choice.

Panetti may have been too incompetent to ditch his lawyer, but in 2003 a Texas state court determined, without a hearing, that he was sane enough to kill. His lawyers appealed to the federal district court, and the case ultimately landed before the Supreme Court, where Texas Solicitor General (and now US Senator) Ted Cruz defended the state's right to put Panetti down.

In past rulings, the Supreme Court has banned the execution of juveniles and people with intellectual disabilities. And while the court also has ruled that the Constitution forbids executing the severely mentally ill, the justices have been wary of laying down guidelines to determine, in effect, how crazy is too crazy.

A blanket ban on executing the mentally ill would have the effect of clearing out a big chunk of America's death row: A study published in June in the Hastings Law Journal looked at the 100 most recent executions and found that 18 of the condemned were diagnosed with schizophrenia, PTSD, or bipolar disorder, while 36 more had other serious mental-health problems or chronic drug addiction that in many cases rendered them psychotic.

By failing to offer clear guidance, the court gave psychiatrists great power in deciding who lives and who dies. The legal history isn't pretty. Consider the case of Albert Fish, who was dubbed the "Brooklyn Vampire." In 1935, Fish was convicted and sentenced to death for strangling a 10-year-old girl. Not only did he confess to the killing, he admitted to having cooked the child's body with bacon and vegetables and eaten it over the course of 9 days. He was suspected in at least 5 other murders.

A famous psychiatrist determined that Fish had major psychoses that manifested not just in cannibalism, but a host of other perversions and sadomasochistic behaviors - including eating his own feces and sticking pieces of alcohol-soaked cotton into his anus and setting them on fire. When he was arrested, X-rays showed 29 needles embedded in his groin area.

That psychiatrist testified at trial that Fish was legally insane, but his opinion was lost in a flood of testimony from prosecution doctors who declared Fish entirely competent. One even defended the feces consumption as "socially perfectly all right." Fish was executed in 1936.

In theory at least, the courts have since evolved to take a somewhat dimmer view of killing people whose tenuous grasp on reality makes a mockery of the supposed deterrent effect of capital punishment.

"All you need to know is you're going to be executed and why. You can be quite psychotic and still know those 2 things."

In 1986, in the case of Ford v. Wainright, the Supreme Court first ruled that a very narrowly defined set of inmates with major mental illnesses were ineligible for execution thanks to the Constitution's "cruel and unusual" clause. The 5-4 opinion was the handiwork of Justice Thurgood Marshall, who had spent a good part of his career representing capital defendants.

Yet the high court was conflicted over where to set the limits. Science seems never to have been part of the equation, and the court's opinion is colored by fears that murderers would fake mental illness to escape execution. Marshall sought to exempt from execution any prisoner so profoundly impaired that, as Alvin Ford had been, he was incapable of assisting in his own defense.

Had Marshall prevailed, Panetti surely would not be on death row now. But the legal test ended up being defined more loosely by Justice Louis Powell, the swing vote in Ford's favor. Powell suggested that mentally ill inmates could win a reprieve if they could prove they are "unaware of the punishment they're about to suffer and why they are to suffer it." The court left the states to work out the messy details of what that vague standard should mean in practice. The result has been a steady stream of executions of profoundly mentally ill people, some of whom - like Ricky Ray Rector, an Arkansas man whose execution Bill Clinton left the campaign trail to oversee in 1992 - were literally missing pieces of their brains.

"Competence to be executed is an extremely low standard," explains Phillip Resnick, the director of forensic psychiatry at Case Western Reserve University. "All you need to know is you're going to be executed and why. You can be quite psychotic and still know those 2 things."

The Panetti case seemed poised to change that. When the Supreme Court sent the case back to Texas in 2007, it instructed the lower court to ensure not only that Panetti was aware he was going to be executed, but that he also had a "rational understanding" of the facts of his execution. The landmark ruling was supposed to tighten up the vague standard for competency established in the Ford case. In practice, though, it wasn't much of an improvement.

At the time of the Supreme Court's decision, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, which covers the busy death penalty states of Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi, had never found someone ineligible for execution on the basis of insanity. And so it remains today.

The Panetti case illustrates how such a situation could be. After the Supreme Court punted it back to Texas, state officials subjected Panetti to further evaluation. Among the doctors hired to assess his mental state was Alan Waldman, a forensic psychiatrist and neurologist living in Gainesville, Florida.

Pivotal testimony came from a psychiatrist who purports to be an expert in detecting when a prisoner is faking symptoms of mental illness.

Waldman had spent part of his early career working for the Florida Department of Corrections. In the late 1990s, he worked as a senior physician in a state facility. In 1999, according to court records, he quit that job when he faced the prospect of being terminated. According to court testimony, the state credentialing board was considering revoking his privileges and had questions about his response to a complaint by the spouse of a client.

Waldman refused to answer questions for this story, directing his secretary to tell me that he would not talk to me under any circumstances and "don't call back." But in a court appearance in an unrelated lawsuit, he was questioned about his employment history. He asserted that the credentialing board's investigation of him was based on a frivolous complaint by a "wife beater," and that he had left his job to avoid the hassle of legal proceedings and the risk of a poor outcome when he said he'd done nothing wrong. "This happens when you're a psychiatrist," he testified. "You treat disturbed people and they sometimes make complaints."

Today, Waldman works as an expert witness in civil and criminal cases, mainly in Florida. He holds himself out as an expert in the detection of malingering, or feigning symptoms of mental illness. But during a 2007 hearing in the Panetti case, he admitted that he'd never published anything on the subject in a peer-reviewed journal—the only published work listed in his public CV since 1993 is an article titled "The Misuse of Science," which appeared in the "Domestic Violence and Sex Offender Prosecutor Association Newsletter."

In 3 death penalty cases, Florida governors have appointed Waldman to commissions evaluating the mental competency of the condemned. All of the prisoners, like Panetti, had long histories of mental illness predating their crimes, and in all three cases, Waldman deemed them legally sane. In 2 cases, he concluded that the inmate was faking his symptoms.

An infamous case in point is that of Thomas Provenzano, who became the catalyst for a national effort to beef up courthouse security in more trusting times. Provenzano went around claiming he was Jesus long before he killed anyone. He would sign job applications "Jesus Christ" and show pictures of Jesus to his nephews and nieces, whispering, "That's me." According to his sister, Catherine Forbes, "a 5-year-old kid could tell my brother had mental problems."

In the mid-1970s, Provenzano had checked himself into a mental hospital because he was hearing voices, but he was released. In 1981, his sister pleaded with doctors at the hospital to commit him, but they said they couldn't do anything to help. By 1983, it was clear that Provenzano's mental state was deteriorating. One day, after being reported for behaving erratically in public, he led police on a car chase and was stopped and arrested for disorderly conduct.

After his arrest, Provenzano started hanging out at the courthouse, obsessing over his legal file and the police officers who'd apprehended him. He began dressing like Rambo and, in early 1984, told his nephew he was going to blow up the Orlando police department. Shortly thereafter, he smuggled three guns into the courthouse, where he shot and killed a man and critically injured two other people before a sheriff shot him in the back. In the ambulance en route to the hospital, he yelled, "I am the son of God! You can't kill me."

In 1999, Jeb Bush, then the governor of Florida, signed Provenzano's death warrant and appointed a competency commission that included Waldman. After conducting an evaluation, Waldman reported back that the prisoner was faking his illness.

Police say Alan Waldman confronted a woman with an AK-47 in the wake of a traffic dispute: "He was so close I could feel him spitting at me," the woman recalled.

Forbes, Provenzano's sister, was shocked. She told me tearfully that her brother had spent 17 years on death row sleeping under his cot with a box on his head because he was hearing voices. She doubts any sane person could fake symptoms for so long: "Would you sleep 17 years with a box on your head, or under your cot?"

In May 2000, the Florida Supreme Court sided with the commission. The state executed Provenzano the next month.

About 6 months after the execution, Gainesville police arrested Waldman for aggravated assault. According to the police report, court records, and an interview with the alleged victim, Waldman was engaged in a bit of road rage. He was driving behind a woman who was a teenager at the time. Waldman cut in front of her at a red light, and she believed he'd clipped the front of her purple Saturn. But rather than pull over, she said, he took off when the light changed.

Incensed, she followed him home to try to get his insurance information. According to the police report, Waldman then walked from his front door to the roadside armed with an AK-47 to confront the woman. He pointed the gun at her through her car window, she told me: "He was so close I could feel him spitting at me."

She drove away and called the police, only to discover that Waldman had reported her first and that the police were looking to arrest her. Waldman had told them he was "scared for his life," she said. But after corroborating the gist of her story, the police arrested Waldman instead. She decided not to press charges, but said she's still traumatized by the episode.

Since his arrest, Waldman has continued to serve on mental competency commissions for Florida death row inmates. In 2012, he evaluated John Ferguson, a prisoner with a 40-year history of paranoid schizophrenia who had once been represented pro bono by John Roberts Jr., now chief justice of the US Supreme Court. Ferguson had killed eight people after he was released from a mental institution over the dire warnings of state doctors who said Ferguson was homicidal and "should not be released under any circumstances."

Right up through his execution day in the summer of 2013, Ferguson insisted that he was the "prince of God." Yet after a 90-minute interview, Waldman and his colleagues deemed him sane enough to execute.

Texas paid Waldman $250 an hour to assess Panetti, and $350 an hour for his expert testimony.

Texas paid Waldman $250 an hour for his assessments in the Panetti case and $350 an hour for his testimony. At first, Panetti had refused to talk to Waldman, and when he eventually agreed, he wasn't especially cooperative. For example, Waldman wrote that Panetti insisted on calling him "Dr. Grigson." The late James Grigson was the discredited Texas psychiatrist featured in the Errol Morris film The Thin Blue Line. Known as "Dr. Death," he had a long record of testifying in capital trials, where he invariably argued that the defendant was an incurable sociopath who would certainly kill again if allowed to live.

For much of the evaluation session, Panetti answered Waldman's questions with Bible quotes. He made up stories and claimed that John F. Kennedy had once cleaned his burns. He talked like a cowboy. He said the other inmates hated him because he preaches the Gospel. (Waldman, who had interviewed some of the other death row inmates, informed Panetti that they didn't like him because "he screams and yells and is constantly disturbing the unit by preaching the Gospel.") Panetti also talked about burying the possessed furniture in his yard, and claimed "Sergeant Iron Horse" was his in-laws' real killer.

The interview, Waldman wrote, demonstrated that Panetti has "organized" thoughts, and that he is very coherent most of the time—especially when asked about the Bible. Panetti had hoped to "sabotage" the interview, Waldman noted, and displayed no evidence of mental illness. Waldman also dismissed Panetti's descriptions of his hallucinations and his claims about the furniture, writing, "One also must wonder, what furniture did Mr. Panetti in fact bury, a sofa?" He said the prisoner's repeated references to Dr. Grigson further proved that he was malingering.

By the time defense lawyers got a chance to question Waldman at Panetti's competency hearing, the psychiatrist had run up a $23,000 invoice for the state. (The federal courts, meanwhile, had allotted Panetti just $9,000 for all of his experts.) But the cross-examination revealed crucial gaps in Waldman's knowledge. The furniture incident, for instance, had been well documented by witnesses. Their accounts were in Panetti's medical records and had been introduced as exhibits in court.

On the stand, Waldman conceded that he hadn't given Panetti a single test or standard psychological exam.

In any case, Waldman argued, burying furniture was a "questionable" symptom of mental illness. Furthermore, he suspected that Panetti's mother had coached her son to bring up Grigson - that Panetti had "premeditated" the whole thing as a way to "handle" his examiner. Defense attorney Kathryn Kase informed him, however, that Grigson had in fact testified at Panetti's trial - and Panetti, representing himself, had cross-examined him. He had been obsessed with Grigson ever since. Waldman hadn't known any of this, he admitted.

Waldman also conceded that he hadn't given Panetti a single test or standard psychological exam, even though such things - including a test for malingering schizophrenia - not only exist, but are used regularly in his field.

Kase tried to inquire about the AK-47 incident, and whether Waldman had reported any acts of "moral turpitude" when he applied for the temporary medical license required for him to work for the state of Texas. But the judge cut off that line of inquiry and eventually ruled against Panetti, deeming him eligible for execution.

Panetti's lawyers appealed, arguing that he still hadn't received a fair hearing on his competency as the Supreme Court had ordered 6 years earlier. "Paradoxically," they wrote, "Panetti must invoke the Supreme Court's decision in his own case to vindicate his right - now a 2nd time - to rudimentary due process in an execution competency proceeding."

The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against Panetti anyway, quoting Waldman at length in its August 2013 ruling - even though Waldman was the only expert who testified at the competency hearing that Panetti was not, in fact, sick:

The State's chief expert - Dr. Waldman - doubted that Panetti suffered from any form of mental illness and was "emphatic in his opinion that Panetti has a rational understanding of the...connection between [his] crime and [his] execution."

Last week, the United States Supreme Court agreed.

(source: Mother Jones)


Is The End Of The Death Penalty Near? Just Look At Texas

The State of Texas carried out its 10th death penalty sentence of the year Tuesday night as Miguel Paredes was executed by lethal injection for the murder of 3 men in 2000. There are no other executions planned for the Lone Star State in 2014.

While 10 is almost a rate of 1 per month, Texas has, in the past, used the death penalty on upwards of 30 or more in a year. They executed 40 in the year 2000. Texas is, by far, the state that executes the most criminals. And in 2014, that number is only 10. Why the sudden drop in the number of death penalties carried out?

Lethal injection is now the most used form of execution in America.

Is it the lack of supplies? Texas is a lethal injection state and the drugs used to carry out the death penalty come from overseas suppliers. As explained by the Atlantic, those suppliers have stopped selling the drugs to the U.S., Texas specifically. And states have tried to circumvent the loss of supplies by creating their own concoctions, like this past summer in Arizona, as reported in the Inquisitr, where an inmate suffered for 2 hours after the "new" cocktail of death drugs failed to do its job. The lack of death penalty drugs has led to calls from some states to re-instate the electric chair as a means of execution. More barbaric, other states - including Arizona - have looked at firing squads and even guillotines as instruments of death.

Is finding new and creative ways to execute our convicted criminals the answer? A recent Gallup poll shows that 6 out of 10 Americans support the death penalty. And as long as crimes are committed, punishments must be rendered under our criminal justice system. Critics have long since argued that executions are racially divided, with minorities being put to death in greater numbers than whites. But not in Texas. As shown by a report by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, in 2000, when the state executed 40 inmates, the majority of those executed were white. In 1997, when Texas put 37 inmates to death, 21 of those were white. Since Texas leads the nation in all things death penalty, they too can serve to make a point. And that point is that the number of executions are down to the lowest number since 1996, when Texas executed only three people. Coincidentally, 1996 is also the year that Congress passed legislation restricting federal appeals for death penalties with the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act. After 1996, it became easier for states to execute their convicted criminals and Texas took the point, pushing their number from three in 1996 to 37 in the following year. An article in the Atlantic spells it out clearly.

"Executions in Texas, the most prolific death-penalty state in the country, spiked after Congress restricted federal appeals in death-penalty cases with the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act in 1996."

There are other factors at play in the decline of death penalty cases, as the Atlantic points out. The Supreme Court banned the executions of mentally ill inmates in 2002. In 2005, the highest court in the land barred executions for inmates who committed the crime they were convicted of while being under 18, as it violated the 8th amendment. And in 2008, they outlawed executions for any other crime but 1st degree murder. With legal jurisprudence hindering states from carrying out its executions, only those inmates that "qualify" can be put to death.

Convicted killers sometimes wait decades for their death sentence to be carried out.

After a federal judge ruled that California's death penalty was unconstitutional, as originally reported in the Inquisitr, the death penalty has come under even more scrutiny. Even with the recent Gallup polls' numbers, Americans seem to be divided on the death penalty as a means of punishment. 32 states still have the death penalty, and 18 have bowed out, with Maryland being the last to do so in 2013. The fiscal costs associated with the death penalty far outnumber the costs of life in prison. Automatic appeals tie up the courts and most sentences aren't carried out for decades after final sentencing. Those costs matter in states that are operating in the red. Finances could be the deciding factor that halts the death penalty in America.

The fact that Texas, of all states, is slowing down in the number of executions could very well point to a future where death penalty cases are phased out completely. Recent legislation, coupled with public sentiment, has shined a very bright light on the dark act of execution. And the age of the death penalty could very well be coming to an end.

(source: The Inquisitr)


Midstate DAs: Frein will likely face death penalty, definitely won't get bail

Eric Frein will almost certainly face the death penalty, because of the premeditated nature of the crime, and the fact it involved a police officer, 2 Harrisburg area prosecutors said Thursday night.

"I think it's very likely because this was a premeditated kind of thing that would rise to 1st-degree murder, and you have the aggravating circumstances of killing a police officer and trying to kill a 2nd trooper," said Dauphin County District Attorney Ed Marsico.

David Freed, district attorney in Cumberland County, said, "it has all the hallmarks" of a death penalty case. The decision on whether or not to seek the death penalty will be made by the district attorney in Pike County, who has until the time of Frein's formal arraignment, which could be several weeks away.

Because Frein, 31, has been charged with 1st-degree murder as a result of the Sept. 12 shooting outside a state police barracks in Pike County, there is no chance he will be granted bail, the prosecutors said. Frein is charged in the homicide of Cpl. Bryon Dickson.

The next step in the legal process is a preliminary arraignment, which will likely take place as soon as Thursday night.

Freed expected prosecutors would first attempt to question Frein and obtain a statement. But if he exercises his right to remain silent or to have a lawyer present, he would soon be taken for the preliminary arraignment, which can be carried out without a lawyer for Frein.

If Frein can't afford a lawyer and must rely on a public defender, Marsico said he expects one would be appointed by Friday.

After that, the next legal step is a preliminary hearing, which takes place before a local district magisterial justice, and must be held within 3 to 10 days of arrest. However, the time frame is often extended, often at the request of the defense to allow more time to prepare. Also, defendants frequently waive their preliminary hearing.

If the outcome of the preliminary hearing is that Frein goes to trial, the next step is formal arraignment, which will take place in the Pike County Court of Common Pleas.

Freed said timetables vary by county, but he would expect the trial to take place within about a year.

Meanwhile, Frein will be held in county prison. Freed predicts Frein will be isolated from other prisoners for his safety.

Prosecutors prefer to try cases in their home county. However, Freed said he believes it's likely Frein's lawyer will seek to have the trial moved to a different county, as a result of the impact of the case on the local community and all the publicity it received.

A compromise is to bring in an out-of-county jury; the matter would be settled by a Pike County judge.

On Thursday night, both Freed and Marsico said they were happy Frein was taken alive, so justice can be served.



Judge orders that attorneys for man facing death penalty have access to electronic evidence

A Forsyth County judge ordered that attorneys for a man facing the death penalty in the fatal shooting of an Ardmore woman have access to cellphones and computers that were seized in the criminal investigation.

Anthony Vinh Nguyen, 22, is charged with 1st-degree murder, 1st-degree burglary, 1st-degree kidnapping and armed robbery in the death of Shelia Pace Gooden, 43. Authorities say Nguyen shot Gooden in the head after he and 2 other men - Daniel Aaron Benson, 23, and Steve Gorge Assimos, 22 - broke into Gooden's house at 700 Magnolia St. on Oct. 11, 2013. Authorities say the men held Gooden against her will and stole a flatscreen television valued at $200.

All 3 men are facing 1st-degree murder charges, but Nguyen is the only one facing the death penalty.

David Botchin and John Bryson, attorneys for Nguyen, had filed a motion Monday alleging that Forsyth County prosecutors had failed to provide access to electronic equipment seized during the investigation. Botchin said in the motion that he had made arrangements for an expert to analyze the equipment but had to cancel after Assistant District Attorney Jennifer Martin sent an email saying the attorneys would need a search warrant, a court order or consent of the property owners.

Judge William Z. Wood of Forsyth Superior Court ruled that Bryson and Botchin can examine the electronic equipment. One issue that came up, however, was how to deal with cellphones that were seized but belonged to Benson, Assimos and another person who wasn't charged.

Assistant District Attorney Ben White said that a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling means they have to be careful about searching cellphones and not invading the privacy rights of the co-defendants and anyone else whose property was seized in the course of the criminal investigation. White said prosecutors had no objection to Nguyen's attorneys examining the electronic equipment but that they had to be careful not to unnecessarily violate the co-defendants' privacy rights.

Wood ruled that attorneys for Benson and Assimos be given at least 30 days to object, if they choose to, before their property can be analyzed.

Also at the hearing, Martin withdrew a motion she had filed asking that the State Crime Lab waive its policy restricting items of evidence that can be submitted for analysis. Martin said in court that she and White had talked with officials at the State Crime Lab about the policy. She said she has confidence that some of the items can be analyzed without too much delay in the case.

On Oct. 9, several items - including clothing, shell casings and saliva swabs - were sent to the State Crime Lab. 3 items came back untested, including the steering wheel from Nguyen's car. Martin said prosecutors allege that gunshot residue might be on the steering wheel because Nguyen was the one who shot Gooden and then drove the car away.

Martin also said in court that prosecutors have decided to withdraw a plea offer. Under that plea offer, Nguyen would have been able to plead guilty to 1st-degree murder and receive life in prison without the possibility of parole, instead of the death penalty. Martin said prosecutors would not be offering that plea offer again.

(source: Winston-Salem Journal)

FLORIDA----impending execution

Stay of Execution Denied for Chadwick Banks

The Florida Supreme Court has denied a death row inmate's request for stay of execution.

Chadwick Banks was convicted of murdering his wife, then raping and killing his stepdaughter at their Gadsden County home in 1992.

The Florida Supreme Court ruled banks did not show "substantial grounds" for relief required for a stay.

He is scheduled to be executed by lethal injection on November 13.

(source: WTXL news)


Another Florida Inmate Added to Exoneration List

Carl Dausch, a former death row inmate in Florida, has been added to DPIC's list of exonerations from death row, bringing the national total to 147 and Florida's total to 25, the most of any state in the country. On June 12, 2014, the Florida Supreme Court directed the acquittal of Dausch because there was insufficient evidence of his guilt. The Court stated, "We do not take lightly the result that will flow from our decision today. We have reviewed the entire record in this case with the utmost seriousness and care. Yet, our comprehensive review of this case leaves us with the inescapable conclusion that the evidence is simply insufficient to conclude, beyond a reasonable doubt, that Dausch was the person responsible for murdering Mobley. At best, the evidence presented by the State creates a suspicion of guilt." Dausch's is the 4th death penalty exoneration in 2014. Glenn Ford was exonerated in Louisiana in March, and Henry McCollum and Leon Brown were exonerated in North Carolina in September. All 3 men had been imprisoned for 30 years.

Dausch is serving a 60-year sentence in Indiana for an unrelated conviction. Although he was added to DPIC's list after Brown and McCollum, his exoneration occurred before theirs, and he is listed as #145, with McCollum and Brown being #146 and #147, respectively.

(source: DPIC)


Defense says Akron man's low IQ disallows execution; Judge Tom Parker said Thursday he'd be willing to hold a hearing about the IQ issue.

Attorneys for a northeast Ohio man convicted of killing his girlfriend's parents with a sledgehammer argue their client's low IQ prevents him from receiving the death penalty.

The Akron jury that convicted 20-year-old Shawn Ford Jr., of Akron, of aggravated murder in the slayings of Jeffrey and Margaret Schobert is now hearing evidence about whether to recommend the death penalty or life in prison for him.

A psychiatrist testified that Ford had an IQ of 62 as a 9-year-old.

Other IQ tests resulted in scores of 64, 71 and 80.

The U.S. Supreme Court earlier this year voted to stop the execution of a Florida man with IQ scores between 60 and 80.

Judge Tom Parker said Thursday he'd be willing to hold a hearing about the IQ issue.

(source: WKYC news)


Inmate freed in landmark death-penalty case; A man was freed from prison Thursday after Cook County prosecutors threw out a double murder conviction that is linked to one of Illinois' most pivotal penalty cases.

A prisoner whose confession helped free a death row inmate in a case that was instrumental to ending capital punishment in Illinois was released Thursday after he recanted, and a prosecutor said there was powerful evidence that the other man was responsible.

Alstory Simon's confession gained international attention in 1999, largely because of an investigation by a journalism professor and a team of students from Northwestern University that helped secure Anthony Porter's release just days before he was to be executed. He had spent 16 years on death row for slayings he and his supporters maintained he did not commit.

Because of constitutional protections against double jeopardy, there is no legal way to retry Porter.

Simon, wearing a grey hoodie and jeans, told reporters outside Jacksonville Correctional Center that he was angry.

"I'm not angry at the system. I'm angry at the people who did what they did to me," he said, crying as he told reporters that his mother had died while he was behind bars.

Simon was convicted and sentenced to 37 years in prison. But the Cook County State's Attorney's Office began re-examining his conviction last year after his attorney presented evidence that he had been threatened with the death penalty and coerced into confessing with promises that he would get an early release and share in the profits from book and movie deals. And, said Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez, he was tricked by a private investigator who stormed into his home and showed him a videotape of a man who said he had seen Simon pull the trigger. The man turned out to be an actor.

"In the best interest of justice, we could reach no other conclusion but that the investigation of this case has been so deeply corroded and corrupted that we can no longer maintain the legitimacy of this conviction," Alvarez said.

The Porter case helped lead former Gov. George Ryan to declare a moratorium on executions in 2003, and he cleared death row by commuting the death sentences of more than 150 inmates to life in prison. Gov. Pat Quinn abolished the death penalty in 2011.

Alvarez did not say whether she believed Simon is, in fact, innocent, but she said there were so many problems with the case - including what she called a coerced confession and the deaths of a number of key figures - that it is impossible to determine exactly what happened on the morning of Aug. 15, 1982, when 2 people were shot to death as they sat in a park on Chicago's South Side.

She also said there remains powerful evidence that Porter was the gunman, including several witnesses who still maintain their original statements.

"As I stand here today, I can't definitely tell you it was Porter who did this or Simon who did this," she said.

Alvarez said the "tactics and antics" of the investigator, Paul Ciolino, and former Northwestern journalism professor David Protess could have added up to criminal charges of obstruction of justice and intimidation of a witness at the time, but that it is now impossible to file charges because the statute of limitations has run out.

Protess, who retired from Northwestern in 2011 amid questions about his investigative methods, did not respond to phone calls for comment.

Ciolino, who like Protess has denied acting improperly, released a statement that emphasized that Simon confessed multiple times, including to a TV reporter and his own lawyer.

"You explain that," Ciolino said. Nonetheless, he added, no one should be in prison if the state did not meet its burden of proof.

Thursday's release was just the latest chapter in Porter's long history with the justice system.

According to the Chicago Sun-Times, before he was charged in the 1982 slayings, he was charged in a 1976 shooting that left 1 man dead and another injured, but charges were ultimately dismissed. After his release from prison, he had a number of run-ins with the law, including an arrest in 2011 on a felony theft charge and a 1-year prison sentence the next year after he pleaded guilty, according to the state's attorney's office.

Porter did not have a listed telephone number and could not be reached for comment.

(source: Associated Press)


Death penalty for JCC shooter described as 'appropriate'

The man accused of the Jewish Community Center campus shootings could face the death penalty. It's a decision family members of the victim's described as "appropriate."

Frazier Glen Cross, also known as Glenn Miller, is accused of killing 3 people on April 13, 2014.

Mindy Corporon's son and father were among the victims: 14-year-old Reat Underwood and Dr. William Corporon.

"We're not focusing on the case; we're not focusing on the shooter. We're going to let the justice system go through its course," said Mindy Corporon.

The Johnson County prosecutor is seeking the death penalty for 73-year-old Glenn Miller. He's charged with killing three people in a crime motivated by hate.

Former Johnson County Prosecutor Paul Morrison says the decision to seek the death penalty is not made lightly.

"In terms of heinousness, it's as bad as it gets; in terms of damage done, it's certainly as about as bad as it can get," said Morrison.

Mindy Corporon and her husband, Len Losen, support the decision.

"I think it's the appropriate course of action based on the horrific crimes that he's committed," said Losen.

This week, the couple returned from the 20th annual "Concert Against Hate" in Washington, D.C. The event honors heroes in the fight against intolerance.

Both Mindy Corporon and Losen plan to continue sharing their experience to help others overcome grief, with a powerful yet simple mantra: "Faith Always Wins." It is also the name of an organization they opened after the tragic shooting.

Miller has a motion hearing in a Johnson County courtroom on Thursday.

(source: KSHB news)


Accused Colorado Cinema Gunman's Lawyers Want Second Sanity Exam Barred

Defense lawyers in the Colorado theater massacre case want a 2nd court-ordered sanity examination undergone by accused gunman James Holmes barred from his upcoming murder trial, court documents on Thursday showed.

Public defenders filed "a motion to strike" or limit the opinions and testimony of the psychiatrist who conducted the testing. The disclosure was made in a ruling by the judge that suppressed the full contents of the pleading.

Holmes, 26, has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity to shooting dead 12 moviegoers and wounding dozens in a suburban Denver cinema during a midnight screening of the Batman film "The Dark Knight Rises" in July 2012.

Prosecutors have charged Holmes with multiple counts of 1st-degree murder and attempted murder, and said they will seek the death penalty for the California native if he is convicted.

After invoking the insanity defense, Holmes underwent a mental examination last year, but Arapahoe County District Court Judge Carlos Samour ordered a second evaluation, siding with prosecutors who argued the first report was flawed.

The conclusions reached by both evaluators have not been made public.

While the contents of the latest defense motion are sealed, it suggests that the second evaluator deemed Holmes was sane when he went on the shooting rampage. Defense lawyers have said he was in the grips of a psychotic episode at the time.

Colorado defense lawyer and legal analyst Mark Johnson said since prosecutors rejected the first evaluation and the defense objected to the results of the second examination, it appears there is a split among the professionals about Holmes' sanity.

"It's certainly shaping up as a battle between the court-appointed experts," said Johnson, who is not involved in the case.

In a separate motion that was made public, the defense said statements Holmes made during the second evaluation should be withheld from jurors because they could violate his right against self-incrimination.

Defense lawyers noted in the pleading that prosecutors oppose that motion, although their formal response has not been filed.

Jury selection is set to begin in January, which Samour said last week could take up to 4 months.

Samour also told lawyers for both sides to be prepared to make their opening statements on June 3, and that the trial will last between 4 and 5 months.

(source: Business Insider)


Jodi Arias judge bars public from witness' testimony

The judge in the Jodi Arias sentencing retrial has barred the public from watching the 1st witness called by the convicted murderer in her bid to be spared the death penalty for the brutal 2008 killing of her former boyfriend.

Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Sherry Stephens said Thursday that the witness will not testify unless the hearing was closed to the public.

"This was not an easy decision," said Stephens, who declined to reveal the witness' identity.

The judge said her decision to close the courtroom and seal the witness' testimony until the sentencing trial's conclusion is necessary for "the administration of justice."

The discussion among the attorneys and judge over the issue was conducted in private.

Chris Moeser, an attorney for The Arizona Republic, argued that the First Amendment allows reporters to attend the hearing and unsuccessfully requested that a transcript of the witness' testimony be made available promptly.

Stephens allowed the family of victim Travis Alexander to remain in the courtroom.

Arias was convicted of murder last year in Alexander's death, but jurors deadlocked on whether she should be sentenced to life in prison or death. A new jury has been picked to decide her sentence.

Footage of the first trial drew a global following, but Stephens has barred the broadcast of footage from the sentencing retrial until after a verdict is reached.

Arias' lawyers had argued that daily broadcasts of the trial might lead to defense witnesses backing out for fear of being harassed or threatened.

Prosecutors said Arias attacked Alexander in a jealous rage after he wanted to end their affair and planned a trip to Mexico with another woman. Arias has acknowledged killing Alexander but claimed it was self-defense after he attacked her.

Earlier on Thursday, 2 of Alexander's siblings tearfully described to the jury the devastating effect that their brother's death has had on them.

Steven Alexander described nightmares, ulcers and constant trauma from losing his older brother, including locking the doors when he showers.

"When I lay down at night, all I can think about is my brother's murder," Steven Alexander said as family members could be heard crying in the gallery.

(source: Deseret News)


Bannock County Prosecutor's Say They Are Considering the Death Penalty for Brad Compher

Bannock County prosecutors say they are considering the death penalty for Brad Compher, the man accused of killing Nori Jones back in 2004.

KPVI News 6 learned of the new developments when looking into the Compher case, specifically the length of time he will have been held without bond by the time he gets to his preliminary hearing.

On Wednesday, Compher's defense team asked for a 6 month extension to review evidence and line up expert witnesses.

The judge agreed, pushing the preliminary hearing out to April of 2015.

KPVI News 6 spoke to prosecutors and the defense about the status of the case and if and when Brad Compher might be allowed bond.

Idaho law is specific about when a judge can deny a suspect bond, and in the case of Brad Compher, county prosecutor Steven Herzog says he will likely be allowed bond, but it likely won't be until after April's hearing.

"The court's discretion is driven by a number of factors, you know, one of them is the seriousness of the crime that's been alleged," says Bannock County Prosecutor, Steven Herzog.

Brad Compher has been jailed in the Bannock County Jail since being arrested in early September. He has been charged with murder, a crime that Bannock County Chief Deputy Public Defender David Martinez says can carry the death penalty in Idaho.

"Mr. Compher is charged with a capital case, therefore it's discretionary with the court whether they set a bond or not," says Bannock County Chief Deputy Public Defender, David Martinez.

According to Idaho law, a judge does have to set bond in certain cases, but because there is the option for the death penalty in this case, the judge is not required to set bond.

Under Idaho law, a defendant's preliminary hearing must be scheduled within 14 days of the 1st appearance, but the defendant can waive that time period and that's what happened in the Compher case.

"But because of the nature of this case and how complicated it is, it would not have been possible for us to be ready to go within 14 days," says Martinez.

Martinez said it's not rare for a preliminary hearing to be continued, but due to the fact that it is a 10 year old investigation, it is rare for it to be continued out for a length of time, like 6 months.

County Prosecutor Steven Herzog tells KPVI he understood the request and didn't object.

"We understand the public defender's office needs time to go through all the material we've provided to them, so that's fair that they have more time," says Herzog.

To clarify the story on Wednesday, the prosecution says they can be ready in 30 to 60 days.

Both sides remind the public that little information has been released to the public, and in all cases, people are innocent until proven guilty.

When it comes to the death penalty, Idaho law says prosecutors have 60 days from the arraignment to formally file for the death penalty.

Compher will be arraigned sometime following April's preliminary hearing.

(source: KVPI news)


Oregon's only female death row inmate will remain there, state supreme court says

The Oregon Supreme Court Thursday upheld the conviction and sentence of the state's only woman on death row.

The high court refused to throw out the death-penalty sentence of Angela Darlene McAnulty, who brutally tortured her daughter, Jeanette Maples, until her emaciated, dehydrated and battered body was found in a bathtub in the family's Eugene home in 2009. She was 15.

On the 1st day of trial in 2011, McAnulty pleaded guilty to aggravated murder - and left her punishment up to a Lane County jury. The jury unanimously found that McAnulty acted deliberately in causing her daughter's death, was likely to commit violent acts in the future that would threaten society and should be sentenced to death.

McAnulty is joined by 33 men who are on Oregon's "death row," although she technically lives on a 1-cell "death row" at Coffee Creek Correctional Facility for women in Wilsonville. No one has been executed in Oregon since 1997.

McAnulty, 46, appealed the case to the Oregon Supreme Court, arguing 18 separate points of error. But the high court disagreed on all those points, except for 1, which it found "harmless."

The court found that the Lane County Circuit Court shouldn't have allowed statements made by McAnulty during her 1st interrogation session with police to be used by evidence because she had invoked her right to remain silent three times by saying "I don't want to talk no more" or something similar to that.

But the supreme court found that McAnulty’s statements made after her invocations had no real effect on her conviction, and that incriminating statements that McAnulty made during interrogation sessions later that day with police were made voluntarily.

Jeanette was the 1st of 3 children born to McAnulty. The girl had gained the attention of her Eugene classmates and teachers because she was skinny and always hungry. She later wrote a school official a letter, saying she was denied food at home, forced her to eat chili peppers and ordered sit on her knees for long periods of time as punishment.

The Oregon Department of Human Services investigated by visiting the home, but found it well stocked and closed the case without taking action to protect Jeanette.

McAnulty eventually removed Jeanette from school, and the abuse worsened. Investigators say McAnulty forced Jeanette to sleep on cardboard; withheld food, water and use of the bathroom; regularly beat Jeanette while using a vacuum cleaner to drown out the noise and made her live in a room splattered with her blood. McAnulty did not treat her other two children that way.

Jeanette's stepfather, Richard McAnulty, was sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of release after 25 years. He pled guilty to aggravated murder for his role in the death.

In 2012, the state agreed to pay $1.5 million to settle a wrongful death lawsuit, for DHS's failure to protect his daughter. Most of the settlement when to Jeanette's biological father.

(source: The Oregonian)


Save Asia Bibi from execution in Pakistan

(source: Amnesty International)


Plan to return death row man Mohammad Asghar to UK

An Edinburgh man on death row in Pakistan for blasphemy could be transferred back to the UK, the governor of the state of Punjab has said.

Mohammad Asghar, who suffers from a mental illness, was shot by a prison guard earlier this year and is recovering in hospital.

Mohammad Sarwar, the former Glasgow MP who is now governor of Punjab, said "all necessary measures" were being taken to guarantee Mr Asghar's safety and regretted the ordeal he had suffered.

Mr Sarwar said: "We are trying to find some kind of middle way where we can resolve this situation within the constitution and the laws of this country."

Mr Asghar, 70, suffers from paranoid schizophrenia, and was sentenced to death under Pakistan's strict blasphemy laws after writing letters in which he claimed to be the Prophet Muhammad. He has appealed against his sentence.

Mr Asghar's family have repeatedly called on Prime Minister David Cameron to intervene and bring the grandfather home, including hand-delivering a 70,000-signature petition to Downing Street.

(source: Edinburgh News)


18 suspected ISIL militants indicted in Lebanon

Lebanon has indicted 18 suspected members of the ISIL Takfiri militant group on charges of planning to set up an emirate in the north of the Arab country.

The suspects, who were not identified and whose nationalities remain unknown, are also accused of attacks on Lebanese army soldiers besides plotting to occupy villages in the northern Dinniyeh region to establish an emirate. The charges are punishable by the death penalty.

15 of the individuals are on the run.

Among the suspects is 46-year-old Ahmad Salim Miqati, who is a high-level operative for the ISIL; he goes by the noms de guerre Abu Bakr and Abu al-Hoda.

He is accused of "taking part in operations against the army, inciting the murder of its troops, stirring sectarian strife and possessing arms and explosives."

Miqati's arrest last week sparked 3 days of deadly clashes between Lebanese armed forces and gunmen in Lebanon's northern port city of Tripoli, situated 85 kilometers (53 miles) north of the capital Beirut.

On Wednesday, Lebanese security forces exchanged fire with al-Qaeda-linked militants in the Bekaa Valley near the border with Syria. Local sources said the clashes erupted outside the towns of Deir al-Ghazal and Qusaya on Wednesday when al-Nusra Front militants tried to infiltrate into Lebanon from Syria.

Over the past months, Lebanon has been suffering from terrorist attacks by al-Qaeda-affiliated militants as well as random rocket attacks, which are viewed as a spillover of the conflict in Syria.

Syria has been gripped by deadly violence since 2011 with the ISIL Takfiri terrorists currently controlling parts of it mostly in the east and north.

(source: Press TV)


55 executed in less than 2 weeks

Along with the anti-human crime of throwing acid into the faces of defenseless women in Iran, the wave of executions in the cities across the country has increased.

In the span of 12 days (October 18 to 29) at least 55 prisoners have been executed in Iran. The real figure is much larger as the Iranian regime does not provide information on every execution being carried out in numerous prisons throughout the country.

A group of 17 prisoners were secretly hanged on Monday (October 27, 2014) in city of Taybad in northeastern Iran and 47 others are on death row. These executions followed the hanging of a group of 8 inmates on October 18 in the same prison

10 more prisoners were secretly hanged in the central prison in the western city of Orumiyeh, including Ebrahim Choupani, a severely mentally disturbed prisoner who was hanged on October 29.

4 other prisoners were also hanged early in the morning of October 27 in the same prison after another group of 5 were hanged on October 18 in a different prison in the city known as Darya.

At the insistence of regime's officials, Rayhaneh Jabbari, a 26-year-old student and decorator was executed on October 25 in Gohardasht Prison in the city of Karaj after suffering 7 1/2 years of imprisonment. Mohammad Ghorbanzadeh, a male prisoner, was also hanged along with Rayhaneh.

In Rasht, according to the official website of Gilan's province's judiciary, 9 people were executed between October 18 and 25 in that province, including a citizen of Afghanistan who was hanged on October 18.

A group of 6 prisoners were secretly hanged on October 23 in Adel Abad Prison in the city of Shiraz and 2 prisoners, including Dadkhoda Narouei, were secretly hanged in city of Kerman's Shahab Prison.

On October 19, Fardin Ja'afarian, 18, was hanged in Tabriz. At the time of his arrest and alleged crime he was 14. This unlawful hanging severely violates many international conventions, including the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

On that same day, a group of 8 prisoners were hanged in Ghezel Hessar Prison in Karaj. Also, on October 21, 8 other prisoners were transferred to isolation to await their execution.

The Iranian regime - known by the people as the "Godfather of ISIS" - faced with the people's wrath and revulsion of the intensifying suppression in the country and particularly following the recent wave of throwing acid onto Iranian women and girls, has resorted to a surge in executions to increase intimidation and fear in society

The executions are carried out with the approval and insistence of the most senior officials of this regime.

Reacting to reports by international bodies condemning the violation of human rights in Iran, Sadegh Larijani, the head of the regime's Judiciary, said: "The more they attack us on the issue of human rights, the more resolute we become in carrying out the verdicts," to state-run affiliated to the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) on October 15.

In an interview with CNN, Mohammad Javad Larijani, the head of the regime's Supreme Council for Human Rights, brazenly said: "The report by Ahmed Shaheed [The UN Rapporteur on Situation of Human Rights in Iran] is neither credible nor objective. Yes, we do have executions in Iran, but the majority of them relate to narcotics and all the world, including the United States, and other Western communities, benefit from Iran's combat against narcotics. Therefore, the Western world should appreciate Iran's unilateral unrelenting war with narcotic crimes."

Once again, the Iranian Resistance emphasizes that turning a blind eye to the international community regarding the catastrophic situation of human rights in Iran, will only embolden the criminals ruling that country. The only way to confront this savagery is through the adoption of a firm policy with regard to the religious dictatorship ruling Iran.

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


Iranian official blames Western media for woman's execution

Iranian Human Rights Commissioner Mohammad Javad Larijani named Western media campaigns as one of the chief reasons that the Iranian judiciary failed to obtain consent from the family of the victim in the Reyhaneh Jabbari case.

Larijani, who is in Geneva to attend the Human Rights Council Universal Periodic Review, told CNN on October 30 that Reyhaneh Jabbari's case was investigated for 7 years. The case was brought before several judges who were never convinced by her claim of self defence.

"All the judges that sat on her case in the past 7 years have ruled that she has committed premeditated murder and her claims of self defence were not convincing," Larijani said.

Jabbari was arrested at the age of 19 for the murder of Morteza Abdolali Sarbandi. She was hanged last Saturday after a series of mediation sessions with the family of the victim failed to yield a consent from the deceased's kin to forego their right to Qesas and release her from execution.

Human rights activists had launched a campaign to stop her execution, drawing widespread media attention to Jabbari's case.

(source: Radio Zamaneh)


Fiji to axe death penalty in military

Fiji's Chief Justice says the newly elected government will abolish the death penalty from its military code next year.

Anthony Gates told the United Nations Human Rights Commission in Geneva the punishment has indirectly remained in the military code as a legacy of the country's colonial history under the 1955 United Kingdom Army Act.

He says Fiji the death penalty was abolished in relation to all criminal offences in 2001 and no one had been executed since the country's Independence 44 years ago.

"I am pleased to announce today that in the next session of parliament in the new year the military code will be amended as a matter of priority to remove the reference of death penalty altogether."

(source: Radio New Zealand)


Amnesty International: Overturn Nizami's death penalty

The death penalty is the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment and can never be a way to deliver justice Amnesty International has urged Bangladesh to overturn the death sentence against Jamaat Chief Motiur Rahman Nizami. The UK-based rights group's Bangladesh Researcher Abbas Faiz made the call in a statement published on the organisation's website on Wednesday.

Abbas Faiz said: "Bangladesh must overturn the death sentence against Motiur Rahman Nizami and all others." "The death penalty is the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment and can never be a way to deliver justice."

On Wednesday, the International Crimes Tribunal awarded the death sentence to Jamaat Chief Matiur Rahman Nizami for committing crimes against humanity during the Liberation War in 1971. The statement said: "The crimes committed during the independence war were horrific, and there is no question that victims deserve justice. But the death penalty only perpetuates the cycle of violence." "The death penalty is not only a violation of the right to life, but it is an irreversible punishment, if it leads to execution, and leaves no room to correct any possible judgment errors or fair trial violations from the proceedings."

According to the statement, the verdicts, delivered by the ICT, targeted mainly those linked with the Jamaat-e-Islami, while the trials themselves were observed to be unfair.

"The ICT is a unique opportunity for justice and reconciliation in Bangladesh. But in the face of consistent concerns raised by the defense team about the trials not being fair it will only have the opposite effect and create more resentment," the statement added.

(source: Dhaka Tribune)


Voices against death penalty, from 1931

On October 30, 86 years ago, Lala Lajpat Rai received lethal blows at the hands of the British Police while protesting against the Simon Commission in Lahore.

In less than a month, Rai succumbed to injuries, and the nation plunged into mourning. Some, like Bhagat Singh, vowed to do more than just mourn. To avenge his death, Singh, Rajguru and Sukhdev plotted and killed John Saunders, a British police officer. For this, and other 'acts of terror', the radical patriots were sentenced to death stoking a raging debate back home in Madras.

According to reports in The Hindu, the city’s intelligentsia strongly lobbied against capital punishment, making it one of the few centres which championed this progressive stance so vociferously as far back as 1931.

In a public meeting convened by the Madras Mahajan Sabha (MMS) on February 22, a resolution was passed seeking the commutation of Bhagat Singh's death sentence. More importantly, a plea to abolish judicial executions was put forth by S. Muthulakshmi who was chairing the meeting. She said, "One act of injustice cannot correct another, and (I) consider it a wrong and unjust law that takes away a life of a man because he had taken that of another." S. Narayanaswami Aiyar added "... as a people evolving towards a more humane and civilised state of existence, they must also see the relic of barbarism removed from the statute book."

The reportage of the vernacular press brought up the question of fair trials. The Tamil newspaper Swadesamitran, for instance, wrote, "...the public demand is not without justification. The accused have been convicted by a Special Tribunal on the evidence of the prosecution alone. The accused did not get a chance to defend themselves or cross-examine the prosecution witnesses."

Despite widespread support, Bhagat Singh and his comrades were sent to the gallows on 23 March 1931.

In a public conclave organised on Tilak Ghat (Triplicane beach), Krishna Bai of the MMS underlined that by upholding the death sentence, the British Government was complicit in an act of brutality. "It means that the British Government stands for violence...the government stands self-condemned in this act."

While the anti-death penalty campaign gained momentum in the State in an institutionalised way in the early 1990's (in the aftermath of Rajiv Gandhi's assassination), the precedent had been set much before independence.

(source: The Hindu)


China upholds death penalty for 3 who led mass stabbing in Kunming; Intermediate court rejects appeals by terrorists convicted over railway station incident in which 31 people were killed

A Chinese appeal court has upheld death sentences for 3 people convicted over a mass stabbing this year in which 31 people were killed, say state media.

"The higher people's court of Yunnan province rejected Hasayn Muhammad's appeal and upheld the penalty meted out by the Kunming municipal intermediate people's court last month," Xinhua said in a dispatch from Kunming.

The intermediate court in the south-western Chinese city had convicted and sentenced to death Muhammad and 2 others, Iskandar Ehet and Turgun Tohtunyaz, for "leading a terrorist group" that planned and carried out the attack at the city's railway station on 1 March. Though Xinhua mentioned only Muhammad's appeal, it said the court upheld the sentences of the other 2 men as well.

In a separate report on its website, Xinhua said the court upheld a term of life in prison for a pregnant woman also convicted for taking part in the attack.

The next step in the judicial process is for the death sentences to be reviewed by China's supreme court.

More than 140 people were injured during the incident in Kunming, in the south-western province of Yunnan; state media called it "China's 9/11".

Beijing blamed the mass knifing on "separatists" from the resource-rich far western region of Xinjiang, where at least 200 people have died in attacks and clashes between locals and security forces over the past year. It was the biggest ever violent incident against civilians outside the region. Incidents have grown in scale and sophistication and have spread outside the restive area since late last year.

Rights groups accuse China's government of cultural and religious repression which they say fuels unrest in Xinjiang, bordered with central Asia. China defends its policies, arguing that it has boosted economic development in the area and that it upholds minority and religious rights in a country with 56 recognised ethnic groups.

(source: The Guardian)

OCTOBER 30, 2014:

TEXAS----new 2014 execution date

Texas adds 11th killer to 2014 execution list; Scott Panetti, 56, was condemned for the 1992 murders of his wife's parents. He is set to be executed in December.

The Texas Department of Criminal Justice on Wednesday added an 11th inmate - double killer Scott Panetti - to its roster of 2014 executions.

The addition of the Kerr County killer to the execution list came one day after the execution of San Antonio triple killer Miguel Parades, who was the 10th inmate to be executed this year. 6 other killers with execution dates received stays, although the execution of 1 of them has been reset for next year.

Executions may be scheduled at any time during the year, provided a 30-day period passes between the date the execution was ordered and the date it is carried out. Executions typically are not scheduled around Christmas.

Panetti, 56, was condemned for the 1992 murders of his mother and father-in-law. His execution is set for Dec. 3.

He will become the 519th killer to be executed in Texas since the state began lethal injections in 1982.

(source: Houston Chronicle)


Execution Date Set for 'Delusional' Murderer Scott Panetti in Texas

Texas has set a new execution date for a bible-thumping convicted murderer who, according to his lawyers, is so mentally ill he thinks the devil is orchestrating his death.

Scott Panetti, 56, fatally shot his in-laws in front of his estranged wife and their kids in 1992. Despite a history of schizophrenia, he was deemed competent to stand trial and represented himself, wearing a costume and trying to subpoena a dead president and a movie star.

The U.S. Supreme Court granted Panetti a reprieve in 2007, ordering low courts to take a closer look at whether Panetti has a "rational understanding" of why he is being put to death.

Prosecution experts suggested Panetti was malingering, while defense psychologists said he was delusional. The judge found that while delusions may have fueled Panetti's crimes, he realizes he committed the murders and meets the standard for execution.

Earlier this month, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to review Panetti's appeal and a county judge signed an order for a Dec. 3 execution. His lawyer, Greg Wiercioch, called that "unfortunate" in a statement.

"For more than 3 decades, Mr. Panetti has suffered from severe mental illness," he said.

"He was allowed to represent himself at his capital trial, wearing a make-believe cowboy outfit and attempting to subpoena Jesus Christ and John F. Kennedy. He has a fixed delusion that Satan, working through the State of Texas, is seeking to execute him for preaching the Gospel. His execution would be a miserable spectacle."

(source: NBC news)


Executions under Rick Perry, 2001-present-----279

Executions in Texas: Dec. 7, 1982-present----518

Perry #--------scheduled execution date-----name---------Tx. #

280------------Dec. 3-------------------Scott Panetti---------519

281------------Jan. 14------------------Rodney Reed-----------520

282------------Jan. 15------------------Richard Vasquez-------521

283------------Jan. 21-------------------Arnold Prieto--------522

284------------Jan. 28-------------------Garcia White---------523

285------------Feb. 4--------------------Donald Newbury-------524

286------------Feb. 10-------------------Les Bower, Jr.-------525

287------------Mar. 11-------------------Manuel Vasquez-------526

288------------Mar. 18-------------------Randall Mays---------527

289------------Apr. 15-------------------Manual Garza---------528

(sources: TDCJ & Rick Halperin)


'Greensburg 6' killer wants to appeal her sentence

One of the people convicted in the 2010 torture and killing of a mentally disabled woman in Greensburg was today granted a hearing to appeal her sentence.

Amber Meidinger, who is representing herself, is claiming ineffective legal representation and a conflict of interest, according to paperwork she filed earlier this month with Westmoreland County Common Pleas Court.

Her court filing for reconsideration provided no other details.

Meidinger, 24, who originally faced the death penalty in the slaying of Jennifer Daugherty, testified for the prosecution.

She pleaded guilty to 3rd-degree murder, criminal conspiracy and kidnapping and was sentenced to 40 to 80 years in prison.

Trial Judge Rita Hathaway ruled that the hearing would occur during the next available criminal motions court.

Meidinger was one of the so-called "Greensburg 6," 6 roommates who prosecutors say held Ms. Daugherty captive and abused her for 3 days before killing her in the winter of 2010. They were all convicted.

1 of Meidinger's co-defendants, Melvin Knight, who is on death row for the slaying, appealed his sentence last month.

Among the claims made by Knight's counsel was the argument that the death sentence was unconstitutional because Meidinger did not get the death penalty despite being "equally or more culpable."

(source Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)


Bondi recommends stay of execution be denied for Gadsden County man

Attorney General Pam Bondi replied to a stay of execution motion by a Gadsden County convicted murderer saying he failed "to show substantial grounds for relief required for a stay."

Chadwick Banks' attorney, Tampa based Terri Backhus, submitted the stay to the Florida Supreme Court Wednesday.

Banks, who was convicted in the 1992 slaying of his wife and stepchild in Gadsden County, is scheduled to be executed at Florida State Prison Nov. 13.

Backhus' motion said that Banks' post-conviction legal counsel did not fully represent his client

Bondi cited a several failed appeals by inmates who were executed this year, wherein it found "in order to justify a stay of execution, Banks must demonstrate 'substantial grounds on which relief might be granted.'"

Backhus cited in her appeal Wednesday a 2014 Missouri appeal wherein the U.S. Supreme Court granted a stay based on deficient performance by an inmate's counsel.

Bondi continued that Banks' arguments relate to federal court proceedings, not state appeals and contends there is no constitutional right, or 3rd party right, to post-conviction counsel.

Backhus' involvement in Banks' appeals were also noted by Bondi.

"The State also notes that Ms. Backhus continues to attempt to minimize her historical role as counsel for Banks," it wrote in its reply. "Ms. Backhus was Banks' counsel in federal court for almost the past 10 years ... and, contrary to Ms. Backhus attempting to minimize her role as Banks' counsel in state court, through her successive post-conviction motion filed in 2010 in state circuit court, she appeared in state court and she continued to appear for Banks in state court as she litigated the denial of that motion in this Court," resulting in the 2012 Banks vs. State appeals trial.

"The State respectfully submits that Banks' execution should not be stayed and that the motion for stay of execution should be denied," Bondi concluded.

Banks, now 43, was on probation for two aggravated assault charges when he entered the Gadsden County home of his wife Cassandra Banks around 2:30 a.m. and shot her in the head while she slept.

He then went into the bedroom of his 10-year-old stepdaughter Melody Cooper and raped her before also shooting her in the head.

After pleading no contest to the crimes, Banks was found guilty of 2 counts of 1st-degree murder and 1 count of sexual assault on a victim under 12 years old by a Gadsden County jury in 1994. The jurors voted 9-3 to recommend the death penalty.

His direct appeals have been denied by the Florida Supreme Court. Following the denial of his 1st appeal, the court called the double murders "heinous, atrocious and cruel" enough to warrant death.

"In the early morning hours, Banks sat outside the trailer for several minutes before entering. He then shot his wife as she lay sleeping," said the court in 1997.

He appealed again in 2001, but the high court again denied his request.

If he is executed, Banks would be the 19th Florida death row inmate killed during Scott's 1st term in office, the most of any Florida governor. Banks would be the 89th prisoner executed since 1979 following reinstatement of the death penalty in Florida.

Original story

The attorney of Chadwick Banks, who was scheduled to be executed for the 1992 double murder of his wife and stepchild, submitted a stay of execution to the Florida Supreme Court Wednesday afternoon.

Banks' execution at Florida State Prison was scheduled for Nov. 13.

In the motion, Banks' attorney Terri L. Backhus of Tampa says that his client's post-conviction counsel did not have the resources, staff or experience to take on capital litigation.

"Mr. Banks alleged that his post-conviction counsel, Gary Printy, abandoned him during his post-conviction appeal in this court by not completing briefing or a motion for a rehearing," Backhus wrote in the 7-page motion.

Backhus filed an appeal with the state court last week, which announced Wednesday morning oral arguments on Nov. 4 on the case had been cancelled.

Backhus wrote that Banks' previous attorney failed to obtain his client's public records and uncover details about mental illness and child abuse and missed the deadline to file a federal appeal.

He continues that Printy admitted after Banks' death warrant was signed by Gov. Rick Scott that he was unqualified and his client did not have proper representation until Oct. 1, 10 days after the warrant was signed.

"Our system will be irreparably broken if Mr. Banks is not allowed a remedy for the vested right that Florida created," Backus wrote.

(source: Tallahassee Democrat)


Peace groups, exonerated inmates rally to call for an end to Florida's death penalty

Pope Francis called for an end to capital punishment the day before an Oct. 24 rally that drew those opposed to the death penalty to demonstrate in front of the Old Capitol here. The weekend assembly was sponsored by Pax Christi Florida, Tallahassee Citizens Against the Death Penalty, and Floridians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty (FADP).

At the juncture of 2 of the busiest streets in Tallahassee, loud honks from people in cars who supported those demonstrating cut through the speakers' words, but it was noisy encouragement for those holding signs and banners. Nearly 100 advocates from around the state embraced the pope's words to galvanize their position.

Florida has exonerated the highest number of death row prisoners in the nation. However, FADP director Mark Elliott said the current Florida governor, Rick Scott, "is in a horse race with Texas Gov. Rick Perry to see who wins for the most executions." Texas leads with nine executions so far this year, followed by Missouri with eight and Florida with seven. Chadwick Banks is scheduled to die by lethal injection in Florida on Nov. 13. If it goes through, Banks will become the 20th person to die by lethal injection in Scott's four years, the highest of any Florida governor.

Since Florida reinstituted capital punishment in 1979 after the U.S. Supreme Court lifted the ban against state-sponsored killing, 88 inmates have been executed in the state. There are approximately 400 inmates awaiting execution on Florida's death row. According to FADP, the cost to the state's taxpayers is $1 million a week versus $750,000 for extended life imprisonment.

Three exonerated death row prisoners were among those at the Oct. 24 rally. David Keaton was the first to be found innocent in Florida. Recently exonerated Seth Penalver, who spent 18 years on death row, and Herman Lindsey spoke eloquently and without rancor about their experiences. The men have not had their voting rights restored because of new restrictions under Scott. All 3 are African-American. In Florida, 15 of the 24 death row inmates who have been exonerated since 1973 are black; 4 are Latino.

Democrat state Rep. Michelle Rehwinkel Vasilinda is a vocal opponent of capital punishment. She has introduced legislation to repeal capital punishment for four years in a row, but it has yet to be heard in the Republican-controlled legislature.

Fr. Phil Egitto of Our Lady of Lourdes parish in Ormond Beach, Fla., protests outside the Florida State Prison walls in Starke, Fla., with a group of parishioners each time an execution takes place.

"We are there to pray to change the minds and hearts of people who come from a culture of violence," Egitto said. "Abortion is a person's decision, but when the state kills in our name, it is not our choice."

"Going to ground zero is important," he added. "Bringing the presence of love, we combat violence that begets violence. We stand as the first disciples stood, at the foot of the cross."

Fr. Tim Holeda of Blessed Sacrament Parish in Tallahassee asked those listening to "imagine a world where the death penalty isn't racist or costs anything. It is still unacceptable. Ask your friends, 'When is it acceptable for the state to kill someone?'"

"We need to be a people of love, of peace and mercy," he said.

The Rev. Brant Copeland, pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Tallahassee and a longtime social activist, had a list of why he opposes the death penalty.

"It offends my faith," he said. "It doesn't deter crime, and it puts vengeance ahead of justice. It is an international embarrassment. I don't enjoy sharing the spotlight with human rights abusers like Iraq, Iran, China and Saudi Arabia."

The weekend wrapped up with presentations by two human rights activists. Terry Coonan, director of Florida State University's Center for the Advancement of Human Rights, said, "140 countries have stopped the death penalty. This is a human rights issue and very expensive retribution."

The other activist was former president of the American Bar Association, former state legislator and retired FSU president Sandy D'Alemberte, who founded the Innocence Project of Florida, which works with wrongfully convicted prisoners.

"The way we administer the death penalty in Florida is arbitrary," he said. "People who get the death penalty are not the worst people who commit the worst crimes, but those who get the worst lawyers."

D'Alemberte said he advocates boycotting Florida by European countries that advise tourists to avoid the state.

"If countries treated Florida and the U.S. as they did apartheid in Africa, the death penalty would end," he said.

(source: Catholic Reporter)


Shawn Ford never felt loved, psychiatrist testifies in death penalty phase of sledgehammer murder case

Shawn Ford never felt loved by the family who largely ignored him during his childhood, a psychiatrist testified Wednesday in Ford's capital murder case.

Ford never felt cared for until he started dating Chelsea Schobert in late 2012, according to Dr. Joy Stankowski, months before Ford attacked Schobert and bludgeoned her parents to death with a sledgehammer.

"Shawn told me he never felt loved by his mother or family," said Stankowski, a forensic psychiatrist at Northcoast Behavioral Healthcare. "He said his sister was his mom's favorite and his stepbrothers were his stepfather's favorite."

Stankowski testified for four hours on Wednesday during the death-penalty phase of Ford's trial. A jury previously convicted Ford of several charges, including aggravated murder, that could land him on death row.

Stankowski, a defense witness who is paid $350 per hour, examined Ford in four separate interviews between June and September, she said.

Stankowski testified that Ford suffered from anti-social personality disorder, that he had alcohol and marijuana dependency, that he was neglected and abused by his family and that he had a low IQ.

Defense attorneys and prosecutors argued about the significance of the IQ tests Ford took. Ford scored a 64 on one recent test, which puts him below the threshold of 70 that could prevent Ford from being executed.

Prosecutors argued that Ford purposefully tried for a low IQ score. The test administrator also noted in a report that Ford appeared to be inattentive and impulsive during the test, according to testimony.

Ford scored an 80 on another IQ test given about the same time. Defense attorney Jonathan Sinn asked Summit County Judge Tom Parker to dismiss death penalty specifications because of Ford's low IQ. Parker denied the request but told Sinn he could provide legal briefs arguing his position.

Stankowski also testified that Ford's upbringing had a profound impact on his life. She noted one instance when Ford was 3 and jumped on his father's back in order to stop him from attacking his mom.

"He became quiet after that," Stankowski said.

Ford then went to live with his grandparents, the only time he had two parental figures in his life at the same time, Stankowski said. He went back to live with his mother about age 5 and was so upset he didn't speak for months.

She also noted that Ford's mother said instead she would simply ignore Ford instead of talking to him about issues in his life.

"She coped by ignoring him or telling his sister to talk to him," Stankowski said, adding that Ford learned to fight at an early age because classmates bullied him about his high-pitched "girly" voice.

The only way Ford learned how to make the bullying stop is by fighting classmates, she said.

"He had a lot of disruption in his life at a key time in his development," Stankowski said. "A child at that time needs to feel good about their family instead of being abused. That can have a very serious impact on someone's development."

Assistant Summit County Prosecutor Brian LoPrinzi sought to show Ford purposefully lied to Stankowski and that he faked his IQ tests in order to be spared the death penalty.

He asked Stankowski if Ford may have lied during his interviews with her because it was in his best interest.

"Possibly," Stankowski said.

The death penalty phase of the trial will continue on Thursday. Ford's mother is among two witnesses that are expected to testify. The jury will then begin deliberating to decide whether to recommend death, life in prison or life in prison with parole eligibility in 25 or 30 years.



Ohio Supreme Court upholds conviction, death sentence of man who killed Twinsburg police officer

The Ohio Supreme Court unanimously upheld Ashford Thompson's aggravated murder conviction for the 2008 slaying of a Twinsburg police officer, but split 4-3 in deciding that the death penalty was appropriate.

Thompson's death sentence, according to an entry filed with the high court's 90-page decision, is scheduled to be carried out April 5, 2017.

Thompson, who turned 30 while on death row last month, shot Officer Joshua Miktarian 4 times in the head, at close range, after Thompson had been stopped for playing loud music in his car in the early hours of July 13, 2008.

In the high court's close decision on the death sentence, Justice William M. O'Neill, who wrote one of the dissenting opinions, called the circumstances surrounding the fatal shooting a "routine traffic stop gone tragically wrong."

O'Neill said in his dissent that there were not sufficient aggravating factors to outweigh points of "significant weight" on Thompson's behalf.

"The court's conclusion that Thompson shot Miktarian to avoid being detected, apprehended, or punished," O'Neill wrote, "is pure fiction."

O'Neill used the trial testimony of Thompson's girlfriend, Danielle Roberson, who was in his car and witnessed the shooting, to challenge the majority opinion that Thompson killed the officer to escape responsibility for his actions.

Roberson testified that Miktarian was aggressive toward Thompson, yelled at him from the beginning of their encounter, then "slapped a handcuff on him and threatened to 'let [his] dog out on [Thompson's] ass,'"? only moments after Thompson got out of his car, O'Neill noted.

In his dissent, quoting a passage from Thompson's unsworn testimony to the jury, he also noted that the defendant explained "all of this in his mitigation statement."

The only reasonable explanation for what happened, O'Neill said, "is that Thompson was confused and frightened and mistakenly concluded that Officer Miktarian planned to attack him - either by releasing the police dog or by shooting him."

O'Neill pointed to Thompson's background - as a college graduate, licensed practical nurse with a steady job, church and community involvement and lack of any prior serious offense - as significant in outweighing the aggravating circumstances of his actions.

"This case is not in the same category as the premeditated, intentional taking of the life of another," O'Neill concluded.

Justices Paul E. Pfeifer and Judith Ann Lanzinger concurred with the dissent against death. Pfeifer ended his brief remarks by saying: "I would sentence Thompson to life without parole."

(source: Beacon Journal)


Caudill could face death penalty; prepares for trial next week

1 Perry County attorney was reprimanded in court on Thursday after the judge said he thought the proceedings in a possible death penalty case were not being taken seriously enough.

Billie J. Caudill, 31, of Whick, who is facing charges of DUI 2rd offense, driving on a DUI suspended license, 3 counts of murder, and potential capital punishment, appeared in Perry County Circuit Court Thursday morning.

The Herald reported last year that in July 2013, Caudill was behind the wheel of vehicle that crossed the centerline on Highway 15 and collided with another vehicle, leading to the deaths of William Belcher, his wife Lillie, and Caudill's husband Danny Caudill, who was a passenger in her vehicle.

Commonwealth's Attorney John Hansen told the Herald last year that test results of samples taken after the crash showed that Caudill was intoxicated at the time on the incident.

Earlier this month, Hansen filed a motion to seek the death penalty in the case. With the trial less than a week away, Caudill's attorney, Brent Flowers, spoke about the need for a decision from Judge Bill Engle on the death penalty motion, in a tone of voice that Judge Engle apparently thought implied Flowers' lack of respect for the court.

"These are serious charges and I realize that it's at the last minute just before the trial that you got this [death penalty motion] and I realize that's serious I understand that," Engle addressed Flowers, adding that processes would need to be followed and specific paperwork would still need to be filed despite the time constraints. "You can at least respond in a respectful manner to this court."

"You don't have to like me, you don't have to respect me or have respect for me, but you need to have respect for this court," Engle said. "Acting that way in my court is not only acting disrespectfully, but I think it's acting somewhat childish."

Caudill's trial is still set for Nov. 3.

(source: Hazard Herald)

MISSOURI----new execution date (on Human Rights Day)

Execution set for St. Louis County man who killed woman with hammer

The Missouri Supreme Court on Thursday morning set a December execution date for Paul Goodwin, who sexually assaulted and fatally beat a former neighbor in north St. Louis County in 1998.

Goodwin, 47, is scheduled to die by lethal injection on Dec. 10.

He was convicted of killing Joan Crotts, 63. He sexually assaulted her, then threw her down a flight of stairs and beat her with a hammer.

Goodwin had previously lived next door to Crotts and had confrontations with her. He was subsequently evicted, and prosecutors suggested revenge as his motive for murdering her 18 months later. Goodwin's fingerprints were at the scene. He confessed. And the victim's blood was on his clothes.

His attorney put on an insanity defense, with a psychologist testifying that Goodwin suffered from depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. But a prosecution psychiatrist said Goodwin knew what he was doing and was not mentally ill. A 3rd mental health expert testified in the punishment phase that Goodwin's mental state was impaired when he killed Crotts.

His attorney also argued Goodwin had an intelligence level near the range of mentally retarded.

The Missouri Supreme Court upheld the death sentence in 2006, saying he was intelligent enough to die for his crime.

Crotts had lived alone in a home next to a boarding house in St. Louis County. Goodwin moved into the boarding house in the summer of 1996, and he often would harass Crotts with vulgar insults and threw chicken bones and beer cans into her yard, according to a court summary of the case. When he was kicked out of the boardinghouse, he blamed her. The murder happened about 18 months later.

On March 1, 1998, Crotts was attacked at her home in the 2700 block of Lyndhurst Avenue in north St. Louis County.

Goodwin, of the 3000 block of Lambdin Lane, entered her home through a back door. Authorities at trial said he hid in her basement in the night and attacked her the next morning in the kitchen. He tried to force her to perform oral sex and tried to rape her, authorities said. He shoved Crotts down the basement stairs.

The fall broke several of Crotts' bones and caused severe head trauma. Goodwin then followed her downstairs, found a hammer and hit her several times. He then left her lying at the bottom of the stairs. Family members found her that afternoon. From her hospital bed, she told police what had happened to her. She died later in surgery.

The state of Missouri has already executed 8 men this year.

Earlier this week, the state was scheduled to carry out the year's 9th execution, but it was put on hold indefinitely as the U.S. Supreme Court decides whether to review the case. The convict in that case is Mark Christeson, 35, who killed Susan Brouk, her 12-year-old daughter and her 9-year-old son in Maries County in 1998. Their bodies were found in a pond near their rural Vichy home.

Christeson still could be executed if the justices decide not to hear his appeal. His appeal claims that his attorneys were ineffective and missed a deadline by almost four months for a 2005 appeal with a federal court.

On Tuesday, just hours before Christeson was to be executed, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a stay of execution. The stay remains in place until the court decides whether another review is needed.

Before the stay in the Christeson case, the state of Missouri already had another execution lined up.

A Jackson County man, Leon Taylor, is scheduled to die by lethal injection on Nov. 19. Because Christeson's execution was put on hold, Taylor could then become the 9th person to be executed in Missouri this year. Taylor, 56, was convicted in the 1994 killing of Robert Newton, a gas station attendant in Independence.

(source: St. Louis Today)


Jodi Arias Trial Update News 2014: Jurors Presented With Sex Tape in Death Penalty Trial

During the 5th day of the Jodi Arias sentencing retrial, Arias' defense team presented the jury with sexually explicit evidence of the convicted boyfriend killer's sex life with the victim, Travis Alexander, before he was murdered.

Arias, 34, was convicted of the 1st-degree murder of her ex-boyfriend Travis Alexander in May 2013. According to medical examiners, Arias stabbed him 27 times, primarily in the back, torso and heart in his Phoenix home in 2008. She also slit Alexander's throat from ear to ear, nearly decapitating him, and shot him in the face before she dragged his bloodied corpse to the shower. However, the jurors failed to reach a unanimous decision on her sentencing. As a result, the retrial will determine whether she should be sentenced to death, life in prison or life with a chance of release after serving 25 years.

On Tuesday, Arias' defense attorneys presented the jury with graphic testimony that included pornographic photos that they took of one another, explicit text messages and racy phone conversations. At one point, the defense played a 40 minute phone sex conversation that the lovers shared recorded on Arias' phone, reports USA Today. During the kinky recording, Alexander talked about raping her and tying her to a tree and they both made moaning sounds as if they were having an orgasm.

"The highlight of today was the sex tape between Travis Alexander and Jodi Arias. It's very X-rated," said courtroom blogger Jen Wood to Phoenix TV Station KTVK.

"The jury did a really good job of sitting there, pretty stone-faced, either looking down or looking straight ahead while they had to listen to a very salacious conversation," added Wood.

According to Wood, Arias' defense attorney likely played the tape in hopes of countering the prosecution's claim that Alexander was afraid of Arias.

"I think his goal was to show that Travis was very sexual, that he was very into it," she said.

The defense attorneys will begin to present evidence to the jury when the trial resumes Thursday in effort to persuade them to sentence her to life in prison, rather than capital punishment.

(source: Latin Post)


Arizona Death Penalty Still in Limbo After Botched Execution

After it took 2 hours and 15 doses of lethal-injection drugs for the state to execute convicted murderer Joseph Wood in July, the state's death penalty procedure is still in limbo.

A lawsuit in federal court, filed by both current death-row prisoners and a legal group representing media organizations, challenges various aspects of the state's lethal-injection protocol. At a status conference today, Judge Neil Wake suggested there may be no way right now for the state to execute anyone.

As Wake put it, "There seems to be a great deal of uncertainty, to put it in a great understatement."

When the state executed Wood in July, it was using a new combination of drugs, due to a shortage of the usual lethal drugs.

Federal public defender Dale Baich, who represented Wood, has referred to the execution as "an experiment that failed."

Reporters who witnessed the execution described Wood gasping for air hundreds of times, although Arizona Department of Corrections Director Charles Ryan says Wood was unconscious the entire time and never in pain.

However, as Wood failed to die, his attorneys attempted to get a judge to halt the execution. Wood's condition continued to deteriorate as attorneys were on the phone with the federal judge, and Wood eventually died before the judge made his ruling to let the execution continue.

It wasn't revealed to Baich until later that it had taken 15 doses to kill Wood, and Baich insists that his reading of the execution protocol says that only one additional dose is permitted.

Governor Jan Brewer ordered an independent investigation into the execution, and an assistant Arizona attorney general said today that the report is due in mid-November.

The lethal injection policy could change based on that report, but the assistant AG conceded that no executions will be scheduled until the investigative process is complete.

Although the state has more of the drugs used to kill Wood, Wake found it hard to believe that the state would attempt that type of execution again.

Thus, Wake suggested the state doesn't have a way to execute anyone, even if it wanted to.

Wake voiced reservations about this lawsuit moving forward, but attorneys for the various plaintiffs in the case explained they all have something at stake here, even though there's no imminent execution. The First Amendment Coalition of Arizona, representing media organizations, is seeking the release of information related to the state's executions, while the prisoners want a court-ordered ban on Arizona using its current lethal-injection protocol, among other things.

"Arizona's improvised and unprecedented 2-hour execution of Joseph Wood has laid bare fundamental flaws in Arizona's attempts to implement its lethal injection statute," the complaint states (See the full complaint embedded below.) "Without significant changes, ordered and supervised by this Court, Defendants will continue to abuse its discretion and violate the Constitution, with a substantial risk of imposing more experiments in human execution with similarly ghastly results, and of doing so without outside public knowledge or meaningful media scrutiny."

(source: Phoenix New Times)


US Supreme Court late night rulings on death row fates

In an 11th-hour reprieve, the US Supreme Court put a murderer's execution on hold this week, a rare moment when a defense was able to slow, if only temporarily, the inexorable wheels of justice.

Hundreds of miles from the grim cell blocks of America's death row prisons, the lofty halls of the Washington court conceal a small but efficient bureaucracy of execution.

The court's 9 justices are regularly called upon to make last-ditch life or death decisions, supported by a discreet body of clerks in touch with cases ongoing in states around the country. Danny Bickell is the court's "emergency application clerk" - informally known as the "death clerk" - and handles all Supreme Court business relating to individual executions.

He operates confidentially and does not give interviews but is known to keep tabs on capital cases and to remain in constant touch with defense teams representing death row inmates.

If a last minute appeal is lodged, it is Bickell who is charged with knowing exactly where the 9 justices are at any given time, so that, if necessary, they can order a stay in execution.

This is what happened late Tuesday, when lawyers for Mark Christeson, due to be executed at midnight for the murder of a mother and her 2 children, got in touch.

2 hours before the condemned man was to breathe his last, the judges ordered his execution be postponed, pending a ruling on whether he had received an appropriate defense.

Death penalty lawyer Rob Owen, a professor of law at Northwestern University, told AFP that defense teams do not try to surprise Bickell or the Court on the eve of an execution.

"His role is to have a complete picture of what`s happening, to find out what litigation is going on in the lower courts," he said.

"When it arrives at their door step, I want them to already know," he said.Each of the nine Supreme Court judges has a geographic zone, and his or her office examines any last minute death penalty appeal that originates in a state from this "circuit."

"For each execution, one of the clerks in the relevant circuit was in charge of coordinating the execution," said Jay Wexler, who served as a clerk to Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg from 1998 to 1999.

The clerks would deal with huge case files, often at home late at night, then call the relevant judge on a secure line. The judge could then decide whether to mobilize the court.

"I would say 99.9 % of the time the circuit justice is going to refer the application to the full court, and all 9 justices are going to act," Bickell told lawyers in 2012, according to the New York Times.

William Jay, who clerked for Justice Antonin Scalia on the circuit that includes Texas, the state with the most executions, said the justices usually act quickly and as a body.

"Often the inmate is in the execution chamber, and someone is waiting for a phone call, usually the death clerk to the lawyer of the state," he said.

"The state has the power to proceed if it hasn`t been ordered to stop," he explained, adding that in only very few cases do the judges order a stay of execution."You knew when the execution was scheduled," said Wexler, and as it got closer, "you knew they would increase the frequency of litigations."

Jay said these last minute applications could backfire on a defendant: "After three denied petitions, the State might understandably assume it is a tactic to delay."

But defense lawyer Owen said: "I will plead guilty to the charge that I do everything to save my client's life, that's my duty.

"Some people think that's tactical, but if you're filing at the last minute, you are gambling, you have almost no chance to win.

"It is not to our advantage to surprise the Supreme Court at the eve of an execution."According to the Death Penalty Information Center, a non-profit watchdog, the court might approve three applications for stays each year, out of around a thousand presented.

A very serious complaint, such as of police corruption, defense incompetence or doubts about the legality of the cocktail of drugs in a lethal injection, can delay an execution - but not often.

"It's a very lonely, very long and difficult night," admitted Wexler.

Some judges are more likely to grant a stay than others. Liberal justice Elena Kagan always calls for a delay, while Scalia has done so in only 4 % of cases, according to Bickell in the Times.

5 of 9 judges must vote for a stay for it to pass.

"Most of the time it's bad news," said defense attorney Brian Kammer, whose client Troy Davis was executed on September 21, 2011 in Georgia.

"Giving my clients that news is very difficult, heartbreaking."

(source: Zee News)


Dilemma of being left at death's door

With Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's last days in office passing without an act of presidential clemency, 2 of Australia's "Bali 9" convicted drug smugglers, Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, remain on death row in Indonesia. They are liable to be taken out in the early hours any day to be shot by firing squad.

But even if the new president, Joko Widodo, commutes their sentences, Australia and New Zealand seem likely to remain quite isolated in our region in calling for abolition of the death penalty. So how should this sometimes forlorn argument be carried forward?

Frontal attacks on the "barbarity" of capital punishment only harden attitudes in foreign governments, if the Barlow and Chambers case in Malaysia (1986) and the Nguyen Tuong Van case in Singapore (2005) are a guide.

By contrast, about 35 Australians have faced court in Vietnam since 2001 for serious drug offences and 6 got the death penalty, as the Asian Law Centre's Professor Pip Nicholson told a recent forum held in Melbourne by the anti-capital punishment group Reprieve Australia. All 6 received presidential clemency.

Why did these cases not become a public cause in Australia? Professor Nicholson thinks it's partly due to the absence of Australian media in Vietnam, the closed nature of many trials, and language difficulties. More critically, Vietnam's leaders were given space.

"Those who have been involved in assisting with the defence or working with local lawyers in Vietnam on these cases are anxious to let the clemency process run its course without necessarily seeing that upset by the intrusion of a counter narrative from a Western media source about the inappropriateness of the death penalty," Prof Nicholson said.

"It is very helpful to run a moral narrative about a defendant facing serious charges in the local press," she added. "So, for example, if your defendant has been coerced or manipulated into offending, it is good to get that story out there in the Vietnamese press, but it is unhelpful to have Western media or foreign media 'sandwiching' the leadership which is minded to consider seriously clemency applications from a range of governments."

Lex Lasry, now a judge in the Victorian Supreme Court, acted for Nguyen Tuong Van in 2005. "The reality is, looking back at it, I think Van Nguyen was dead from the time he was arrested," he told the Reprieve gathering.

But there were lessons to be learnt for future cases. "The most counter-productive thing you can do is be insulting," Judge Lasry said. "It really ill behoves Australians to be too insulting about countries that have the death penalty because, after all, until the 1970s we had a mandatory death penalty too."

Another lesson was that there was the start of a debate in Asia which Australia could join.

Several countries have already shifted position. Notably, the Philippines abandoned capital punishment in 2006. Although they retain the penalty in their laws, South Korea has not carried out an execution since 1997, Thailand since 2009. Rather oddly, Myanmar has not carried out a judicial execution since the 1980s, Sri Lanka since 1976; although extra-judicial killings have been rife in both countries.

Perhaps as a delayed effect of its embarrassment in 2005, Singapore modified its law 2 years ago to give judges discretion not to apply the death penalty in cases like Nguyen's.

Indonesia, too, is in a bind. It has nearly 200 citizens facing the death penalty in Saudi Arabia and Malaysia mostly, many of them female domestic workers who struck out against abusive employers.

"The double standard is they defend Indonesian citizens against the death penalty overseas, but at the same time in Indonesia they apply the death penalty," said Todung Mulya Lubis, a leading Jakarta lawyer who tried in 2007 to get capital punishment ruled unconstitutional.

China is, of course, the elephant in the debate, almost too big to grapple with. According to the Dui Hua Foundation, which helps political prisoners, China carried out 2400 executions in 2013. This actually represents a "steep decrease" over the last decade or so, says Elisa Nesossi, an expert on the Chinese judicial system at the Australian National University's College of Asia and the Pacific. In 2002, for example, there were an estimated 12,000 executions, and further back in 1983 in a "Strike Hard" campaign against crime, about 20,000 were put to death.

The drop came after the chief justice of the Supreme People's Court, Xiao Yang, called in 2005 for a "Kill Fewer, Kill Cautiously" approach. In 2007, the state ordered all death sentences to be referred to the apex court by lower courts. "The number of reviews has increased and a lot of cases are sent back to the provinces for review," Ms Nesossi said.

A debate continues with some Chinese legal scholars and non-government groups arguing for a reduction in the number of crimes bringing the death penalty. "But numbers and processes remain opaque," Ms Nesossi said, "with the impact of the current campaigns against corruption and unrest in Xinjiang still unclear."

Criminology is part of the debate. Executions have little correlation to the rate of crimes they are supposed to deter. Drug seizures are rising in Singapore. Hong Kong's murder rate has fallen since it stopped hangings in 1966.

The possibility of wrong conviction is also too high to allow a penalty that cannot be reversed, especially in judicial systems like that of Japan which place a high value on confessions, and allow police to isolate and pressure suspects into making them.

But there's a moral argument that might be hardest to win. In many Asian countries (and the United States), politicians agree with majority public opinion that certain convicts deserve to die.

Pointing to a recent opinion poll showing 85 per cent support for the death penalty, Japan's then justice minister, Midori Matsushima, declared last month: "Japan currently has no intent to change its position on this issue."

Andrew Horvat, of Tokyo's Josai International University, says this stern morality quickly leads to criminals being judged incorrigible. "After that, it is quite easy to accept the idea that there are people who are so thoroughly evil or selfish that they no longer have the right to live," he said.

This also dispatches the idea of redemption, and the lessons it can give. The case of Norio Nagayama, convicted for a series of spree killings, is illustrative.

As a recent documentary film showed, psychiatric evidence about the effects of his abandonment as a child by a mother who was herself abused was kept away from the court by prosecutors. In jail, Nagayama became a noted novelist, came to terms with the gravity of his crimes and regularly wrote to the families of his victims, sending them funds from the royalties for his novels. Nonetheless, he was hanged in 1997.

(source: Hamish McDonald is Journalist-in-Residence at the Australian National University's College of Asia and the Pacific; Canberra Times)


Soldiers jailed over South Korea bullying death Military conscription is compulsory in South Korea for males who are able bodied between 18-35

A military court in South Korea has given prison sentences ranging from 25 to 45 years to 4 soldiers involved in the death of a junior soldier.

Private Yoon Seung-joo, 23, died in April after being beaten and denied food and sleep.

Prosecutors had sought the death penalty for a sergeant accused of being the main offender.

The case caused anger over the treatment of conscripts and led to the resignation of the army chief of staff.

The army said Private Yoon died after being hit in the chest by 6 men while eating a snack. The attack caused a piece of food to obstruct his airway leading to asphyxiation, it said.

He was also repeatedly beaten in the month before his death.

The judge, quoted by Yonhap news agency, said "no signs of remorse" had been found, as the behaviour of the group became "brutal as time went by, and they even tried to conceal their wrongdoing".

2 others were charged with assault.

After the verdict, the victim's relatives reacted angrily to the fact that the most serious verdict of murder was not given to any of those involved.

A panel of 3 military judges sentenced the sergeant, thought to have led the attack, surnamed Lee, to 45 years in prison.

Another sergeant, surnamed Ha, was given 30 years in prison; 2 corporals received 25 years; a staff sergeant 15 years, and a private was given three months.

"It is inevitable to hand them down severe punishments as what they had done constitutes an act similar to homicide," the judge said when delivering the verdict.

The case is among a series of incidents that have highlighted problems of bullying in the military in South Korea, which has conscription under which all young men must serve about 2 years.

In June, a sergeant who said he had been bullied, turned his weapon on his fellow soldiers at a border outpost near North Korea, killing 5 of them.

There have also been a series of suicides in recent months involving young conscripts.

(source: BBC News)


Nigerian child bride accused of murder could receive death penalty

A 14-year-old Nigerian girl accused of murdering her 35-year-old husband by putting rat poison in his food could face the death penalty, Nigerian prosecutors said today.

The trial of Wasila Tasi'u, from a poor northern Nigeria family, has sparked a heated debate on the role of underage marriage in the conservative Muslim region, especially whether an adolescent girl can consent to be a bride.

Prosecutors at the High Court in Gezawa, outside Nigeria's second city of Kano, filed an amended complaint that charged Tasi'u with 1 count of murder over the killing of Umar Sani 2 weeks after their April wedding in the village of Unguwar Yansoro.

Lead prosecutor Lamido Abba Soron-Dinki said that if convicted, the charge is "punishable with death" and indicated the state would seek the maximum penalty.

Nigeria is not known to have executed a juvenile offender since 1997, when the country was ruled by military dictator Sani Abacha, according to Human Rights Watch.

Tasi'u entered the court wearing a cream-coloured hijab and was escorted by 2 policemen.

Her parents, who have condemned their daughter's alleged act, were in the public gallery - the 1st time the 3 were in the same room since Tasi'u's arrest in April, her legal representatives said.

The English-language charge sheet was translated into Hausa for the accused by the court clerk.

Tasi'u refused to answer when asked if she understood the charges.

The case was adjourned for 30 minutes so the charges could be better explained to the defendant, but when the alleged offences were read again Tasi'u stayed silent, turned her head to the wall and broke down in tears.

"The court records (that) she pleads not guilty," Judge Mohammed Yahaya said, apparently regarding her silence as equal to a denial of the charges and adjourned the case until November 26.

Activists, including in Nigeria's mainly Christian south, have called for Tasi'u's immediate release, saying she should be rehabilitated as a victim and noting the prospect that she was raped by the man she married.

But in the north, Islamic law operates alongside the secular criminal code, a hybrid system that has complicated the question of marital consent.

The affected families have denied that Tasi'u was forced into marriage, arguing that girls across the impoverished region marry at 14 and that Tasi'u and Sani followed the traditional system of courtship.

According to Nigeria's marriage act, anyone under 21 can marry provided they have parental consent and so evidence of an agreement between Tasi'u and her father Tasiu Mohammed could undermine claims of a forced union.

But defence lawyer Hussaina Aliyu has insisted the case is not a debate about the role of youth marriage in a Muslim society.

Instead, she has argued that under criminal law a 14-year-old cannot be charged with murder in a high court and has demanded that the case be moved to the juvenile system.

Nigeria defines the age of adulthood as 17 but the situation is less clear in the 12 northern states under Islamic law, where courts theoretically have the right to consider people under 17 as legally responsible.

Guidelines for how courts should blend Islamic and secular legal codes have not been well defined.



Philippine woman's death sentence scrapped in Vietnam, fresh investigation underway

Vietnam's Supreme People's Court ordered a fresh investigation on Wednesday into the conviction of a Philippine woman who was sentenced to death for smuggling 1.5 kilograms of cocaine into the country.

Following her appeals trial held in Ho Chi Minh City, the court annulled the death sentence handed down to Dona Buenagua Mazon, 39, by the HCMC People's Court during her 1st trial on August 13, news website VnExpress reported.

The new investigation will be conducted to determine the exact amount of cocaine that Mazon brought into Vietnam.

According to the indictment handed down by the HCMC People's Court, Mazon was arrested at Tan Son Nhat International Airport at 7:30pm on December 31, 2013 shortly after she arrived.

Vietnamese customs officers found 2 plastic bags containing 1.5 kilograms of cocaine hidden in her hand bag.

Mazon told police she had been hired by an African man known only as Rudica to transport drugs. In December 2013, Rudica paid her US$1,500 and asked her to enter Vietnam.

He then bought her a plane ticket to Brazil, where she received a bag from Rudica's accomplices which she then took to HCMC where customs officials placed her under arrest.

Vietnam has some of the world's toughest drug laws. Those convicted of smuggling more than 600 grams of heroin or more than 2.5 kilograms of methamphetamine face the death penalty.

The production or sale of 100 grams of heroin or 300 grams of other illegal narcotics are also punishable by death.

(source: Thanh Nien News)


Saudi Arabia and its merciless judges----60 people have been executed in Saudi Arabia since the start of 2014. Even religion-related crimes can carry the death penalty, because the kingdom sees itself as the protector of Sunni Islam.

The punishment was harsh, but for some it wasn't harsh enough. Writing on his website "Free Saudi Liberals," Raif Badawi had criticized leading Saudi scholars and the role of Islam in public life in Saudi Arabia. The judge called that "offending faith," and went on to accuse Badawi of ridiculing Islamic dignitaries and crossing "the boundaries of obedience." Later, a charge of apostasy was also added to the list, which carries the death penalty in Saudi Arabia. In July 2013, the sentence was passed - 600 lashes and 7 years in jail. Badawi appealed, and in May this year the judge announced a new sentence: 1,000 lashes and 10 years in jail, plus a fine equal to 195,000 euros ($250,000).

Badawi was sentenced to 1,000 lashes and 10 years in jail

Badawi's fate is no isolated case. In Saudi Arabia, human rights activists and critics of the establishment are regularly sentenced to draconian punishments. In July this year, one court sentenced the activist Walid Abu al-Khair to 15 years in jail. According to an Amnesty International report, the judge found him guilty of "disobedience to the ruler," "attempted questioning of the legitimacy of the king," "damaging the reputation of the state by communicating with international organizations," and the "preparation, possession, and passing on of information that endangered public order." Al-Khair is also a human rights activist who earns a living as a lawyer, and one of his most prominent clients is Raif Badawi.

Flexible law

In his ruling, al-Khair's judge also made use of a new anti-terrorism law, even though that was not in force when al-Khair was charged. The law, which came into force in February 2014, was meant to give the state a weapon against "terrorist crimes," a catch-all term that the legislature used to encapsulate the following crimes: attempts to "disturb public peace," to "destabilize the security of the population of the state," to "threaten national unity," or to "damage the reputation or the image of the state." The Saudi judges are now basing a number of their rulings on these flexible terms.

In the last 2 years in particular, several Saudi human rights activists and bloggers have been sentenced to long jail terms, which has led to a severe limitation of press freedom in the country. Saudi Arabia currently occupies number 164 out of 180 countries in the press freedom index published by Reporters Without Borders.

Meanwhile, the country is close to the top of the table when it comes to capital punishment. According to Amnesty, at least 79 people were executed in the country in 2013, and 60 in 2014 so far.


The death penalty is mainly imposed for murder and drug-dealing, but it can also be imposed for "crimes against religion." The Shia cleric Nimr Bakir al-Nimr was sentenced to death in mid-October for allegedly stirring up violence between faiths and organizing protests, as well as disobedience to the king.

Saudi Arabia sees itself as the protector of Islam's holy sites

The conviction sent out a signal, according to Menno Preuschaft, Islamic studies professor at the University of Münster in Germany. "It demonstrated that they are not willing to tolerate any formof, or tendencies toward, revolution or transition," he told DW.

Preuschaft said it was not surprising that so many rulings are based on religious laws. The ruling family in Saudi Arabia draws its political legitimacy from its role protecting Islam and its holy sites. That role justifies its theological leadership position within Sunni Islam both nationally and internationally. "From the monarchy's point of view, any criticism of religion is a criticism of its own leadership," said Preuschaft. "That's also how it defends its own monopoly on power."

Diplomatic challenge

The disastrous human rights situation in Saudi Arabia represents a diplomatic challenge for German foreign policy. Saudi Arabia is an important international player, both strategically and economically, explains parliamentarian Ralf Mutzenich, who sits on committees on both foreign policy and human rights in the German Bundestag.

That leads to strains in the relationship, because of the human rights situation and the death penalties. "Of course, it raises difficult questions," said Mutzenich. "But we can't ignore those. We have to address them openly."

(source: Deutsche Welle)


5 executions at Uromiyeh Central Prison

During the last 3 days 5 prisoners were hanged at Uromiyeh Central Prison (Darya).

According to the report of Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA), at the early hours of this morning (Wednesday 29 October, 2014) a death row prisoner who was charged with murder and was suffering from serious mental and psychological disorder was hanged at Uromiyeh Central Prison area.

This Prioner who was named "Ibrahim Chopani" was a local from Yousofkand village located at 3 kilometres from Mahabad city.

A well informed source told HRANA Reporter: "Ibrahim Chopani committed homicide in a Tribal brawl. He was carrying a red card and was absolutely insane."

Also at the early hours of Monday 27 October, 2014, 4 other prisoners were hanged at Uromiyeh Central Prison.

These prisoners who were named "Latif Mohammadi", "Salah-o-din Molaee", "Mahmoud Hassan Pour" and "Rashid Alizadeh" were hanged on Narcotics related charges.

(source: Human Rights Activists News Agency)


EU Appeals To Iran To Halt All Executions

The European Union expressed its deepest regret over the execution of the young Iranian woman Rehanna Jabbari and sent its "deepest condolences to Jabbari's family especially her mother". The EU called on Iran to suspend all executions.

The EU's statement went on to explain that Rehanna Jabbari killed Dr Morteza Serbandi (aged 26) after he tried to rape her and expressed its growing sense of concern of the general direction of court trials in Iran.

Catherine Ashton, the EU High Representative of the Union of Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, said in a press statement released on Tuesday, "The European Union deeply regrets the Iranian Judiciary's lack of forgiveness in their trial process despite Ms Jabbari’s insistence that she was merely defending herself in the wake of a sexual assault".

The statement went on to express the EU's, "Sense of concern over the increasing number of executions in Iran despite criticism from the international community and the debate as to whether or not execution is a fair punishment to begin with".

The statement also, "Calls on the Iranian authorities to suspend all executions and to consider banning the death penalty".

The US Department of State also condemned the Iranian authorities' decision to use the death penalty in Rehanna Jabbari's case.

The EU's statement went on to explain that Rehanna Jabbari killed Dr Morteza Serbandi (aged 26) after he tried to rape her and expressed its growing sense of concern of the general direction of court trials in Iran.

The US Department of State emphasised that the Iranian judiciary carried out the death penalty against Ms Jabbari despite the international community's objection to the ruling, as they question whether or not Iran was carrying out a fair trial.

The Iranian Revolutionary Court sentenced Ms Jabbari to death a few days ago after she had been held captive in prison for killing Iranian doctor and former Iranian intelligence employee, Moerteza Serbandi 7 years ago.

Rehanna Jabbari admitted to her crime by saying that she did kill Serbandi out of self-defence after he tried to rape her.

The court ruled Serbandi's murder as a pre-meditated attack based on an email found in Jabbari's inbox where she wrote, "I will kill him tomorrow", in reference to the doctor. The scene of the crime was allegedly open to the public.

It is important to note that Jabbari's case sparked an international outcry from both women's rights and international human rights organisations.

(source: Middle East Monitor)


Yemen launches 1st conference on anti-juvenile death penalty

The 1st national anti-juvenile death penalty conference kicked off Wednesday in Yemen's capital city of Sanaa.

The 2-day conference was organized by the coordinator committee of non-governmental organizations in collaboration with the UNICEF and the European Union.

Participants including Yemeni and UN officials stressed the importance that the authorities and childhood organizations work as a team to protect child rights and address all child issues.

Chief coordinator at the coordinator committee for non-governmental organizations, Abdu Al-Harazi, said Yemen should have more forensic experts including those whose job is to check child age in order to prepare accurate reports to avoid execution of juveniles.

He urged the House of Representatives to finalize debate over all laws that concern juveniles.

In this context, Abdulmalik Al-Wazeer, head of the Sharia legislation committee at the house. at the House, said the juvenile punishment law which is currently discussed by the House addresses all child and juvenile issues.

Secretary General of the High Maternity and Childhood Council Mrs. Lamyaa Al-Eryani called for having child protection laws.

The representatives of the office of UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and UNICEF delivered speeches in which they urged a reconsideration into Yemeni laws in order in include child rights in them.

At the event, 3 papers were delivered on juvenile execution, Yemeni experience in this field, inhumane punishments and anti-juvenile punishment efforts.

(source: Yemen Post)


Retrial may start for man wrongly executed for murder, rape

A court in China's Inner Mongolia may start a retrial for a 19 year-old man who was wrongly executed 18 years ago for murder and rape, according to newspaper Fazhi Wanbao.

In 1996, Qosiletu, a young Mongolian Chinese man, was arrested after reporting to police in Hohhot that he had found a dead body in a public toilet. The police questioned why he was in a woman's toilet to discover a corpse and soon charged him with her rape and murder.

Qosiletu was reported to have told the court that he was drunk at the time and had ended up in the woman's toilet by mistake. Yet his defence was in vain, and he received the death penalty 2 months later.

It took the police 10 years to realise that Qosiletu was wronged. In 2006, they arrested a serial killer and rapist who confessed to murdering a woman in a Hohhot a toilet in 1996 - and gave details of the crime scene that proved him to be the real culprit.

Chinese media reports showed that Qosiletu was arrested amid a nationwide crackdown on crime launched by the government. The guiding principal behind the campaign was to solve criminal cases quickly and punish offenders severely. Thus police involved in Qovsiletu's case did not conduct a thorough investigation and instead rushed to a conclusion.

Qosiletu's family spent years petitioning for their son after the truth came to light, but there has been no formal response from the local government so far.

Qosiletu is 1 of many such cases where innocent people have been executed for crimes they did not commit.

Another notable case was that of Nie Shubin, a young man from Hebei, who was sentenced to death for the murder and rape a year earlier than Qovsiletu.

Despite a man named Wang Shujin admitting to be the real perpetrator in 2005, Hebei's supreme court still upheld their original verdict last year, as it considered Wang's testimony not consistent with findings at the crime scene.

Following a number of well-publicised, wrongful convictions, China's Supreme Court starteted to review capital cases before sentences were carried out in 2007.

Judges and scholars close to the Supreme Court say capital punishments have probabaly been reduced "by more than 1/3" since then, as the Supreme Court is now more inclined to deal with death sentences by offering reprieves, and demanding "clear facts" and "abundant evidence" for capital punishments, according to a recent report by the Southern Weekly.

In June, China's Supreme Court overturned the death sentence of a woman who killed and cooked her husband after suffering years of domestic abuse.

The total number of death penalty cases in China is classified as a state secret. San Francisco-based human rights group Dui Hua Foundation estimates that China executed around 2,400 people last year, based on published sentences.

(source: South China Morning Post)


Disgraced PLA Lt Gen Gu Junshan could face death penalty

Former People's Liberation Army lieutenant general Gu Junshan could be facing the death penalty, reports our Chinese-language sister paper Want Daily.

Political analysts say that Gu, 58, could soon be facing a trial after military prosecutors completed their graft probe into his mentor, ex-PLA general Xu Caihou, who has reportedly confessed to accepting "extremely large" bribes in return for favors and promotions. The case is now being turned over the judicial authorities, according to China's official Xinhua news agency.

Xu's case appears to have been expedited given that he was only placed under investigation in March this year and expelled from the Communist Party in late June. By contrast, Gu, whom Xu supported through his rise through the PLA ranks, was removed from his post in early 2012 but was not formally charged with embezzlement, bribery, misuse of state funds and abuse of power until March 31 this year.

Prosecutors have revealed that Xu, 71, has been under treatment for bladder cancer since last February. Analysts say if Xu is healthy enough, he will likely receive either life imprisonment or a suspended death sentence, typically commuted to a life sentence after 2 years.

As for Gu, the general consensus appears to be that the party will come down hard and that he could very well be sentenced to death.

On Tuesday, less than a week after the "rule of law" themed 4th plenum of 18th Central Committee, the party released a new document signaling plans to step up supervision of the military. The party said it would be laying out stricter supervision of the country's armed forces and pledged to reform its system of military discipline as part of broader efforts to fight corruption in its ranks.

The document said a system of legal advisers would be established and inserted at all levels of the armed forces to advise on important decisions, though few other concrete reform measures were mentioned.

(source: Want China Times)


Human trafficking? American couple in Qatar faces execution over adopted child's death

An American-Asian couple faces a death penalty sentence after a Qatari court alleged they were engaged in human trafficking when their adopted daughter died.

Matt and Grace Huang are scheduled to go to appeals court on November 30 to face a possible death sentence in a case that charges them with murdering their own adopted daughter in order to traffic her organs. The US government has tried to intervene but the Huangs remain under house arrest. They are not allowed to leave Qatar.

With the death penalty on the table, the Huangs believe the US government must act before their sentencing date.

"We want them to get us home before the 30th. On the 30th, we do not know what this court will do," Grace Huang told Katie Couric in an interview for Yahoo Global News.

The Huangs - originally from Los Angeles - moved to Qatar in 2012, when Matt, a Stanford trained engineer, was asked by his employer to oversee a major infrastructure project related to the 2022 World Cup, which will be hosted in Qatar.

The Qatari police suspected foul play, arrested the couple, and put their other children - 2 boys - in an orphanage.

The Huangs were subsequently charged with murdering Gloria and were told the motive was to harvest her organs or to conduct medical experiments on her, according to the California Innocence Project, which is assisting them in their case.

Gloria did have an eating disorder as a result of her childhood in Ghana, the Huangs said. They added that she would on occasion go for days without food, sometimes binging on junk food, rummaging through garbage, or stealing food and hiding it in her room. The defense argued that Grace has struggled with a variety of medical and psychological problems since she was adopted from Ghana at the age of 4. The judge was not swayed.

The Huangs spent a year in jail, going to court multiple times for hearings, and were eventually sentenced to 3 years in prison for undeclared reasons. The court did not find them guilty or not guilty of murder, or any other crimes for that matter.

"We have just been wrongfully convicted, and we feel as if we are being kidnapped by the Qatar judicial system," Matt Huang told reporters after the judge's decision.

(source: RT news)


UN Human Rights: Death penalty: Keep momentum on abolition

The UN Human Rights Committee is calling on States to ratify the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, aiming at the abolition of the death penalty. The use of capital punishment has declined significantly in the 25 years since the Second Optional Protocol was adopted. The Human Rights Committee, which monitors implementation of the Covenant, welcomes this progress but urges all States not merely to halt executions but to actively commit to abolishing this affront to human dignity and the right to life.

"On the 25th anniversary* of the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), aiming at the abolition of the death penalty, the Human Rights Committee, guardian of this treaty, continues to press for abolition.

Since the adoption of the Second Optional Protocol, progress towards the prohibition of executions has accelerated significantly. 81 States have ratified the Optional Protocol, while another 79 States have either abolished the death penalty, or do not practise it. The Committee recognises this international trend towards abolition and welcomes the ratifications this year by El Salvador, Gabon and Poland.

Even as early as 1982, the Committee was of the view that, "all measures of abolition should be considered as progress in the enjoyment of the right to life"**.

While the right to life article of the Covenant (article 6) does allow for the death penalty in certain very restricted cases, the Committee's experience demonstrates that it is extremely rare for any case to comply with the strict provisions of this article. In fact, most death penalty cases have also involved violations of other provisions of the Covenant, notably those relating to due process guarantees as well as torture, cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. This issue is not, as some States persist in asserting, merely one of domestic criminal policy, but goes to the heart of the most fundamental human right: the right to life. That is why the world's abolitionist treaty obligation is contained in a protocol to a human rights treaty.

In its dialogues with States this year, the Committee has continued to encourage abolition and has systematically referred to the 25th anniversary in its Concluding Observations, while encouraging States to ratify the Second Optional Protocol. This includes States which have retained the death penalty in law but have a moratorium on the death penalty or are no longer carrying out executions in practice. Some such States were reviewed by the Committee at its latest session, and one committed to ratifying the Second Optional Protocol soon.

It is important that even States which no longer carry out executions ratify the Second Optional Protocol. This is because the treaty obligation would prevent them from easily restoring the death penalty in the future. It would require a State to withdraw from the Protocol before any reinstatement. Ratification helps it resist any public clamour for a return to this horrific practice.

The Human Rights Committee supports the aim for universal ratification of the Second Optional Protocol and encourages all relevant States to act upon the steady momentum towards abolition. In this context, the Committee decided at this session to adopt its next General Comment on the right to life (article 6)."

(source: Scoop News)


Sri Lanka court awards death penalty to 5 Indian fishermen

5 Indian fishermen, who were arrested by Sri Lankan navy in 2011, have been given the death sentence on Thursday.

The Tamil fishermen have been given until November 14 to appeal before the Sri Lankan Supreme Court.

The 5 fishermen from Rameshwaram set out to sea from Pamban on November 28, 2011. A few hours after they crossed the International Maritime Boundary Line to fish in Sri Lankan waters, they were picked up by the Sri Lankan Navy.

Instead of following the established convention in such cases - as both India and Sri Lanka have been doing in the recent past - the Sri Lankan authorities charged them with smuggling narcotic drugs into the country.

In Sri Lanka, drug use is rampant, and the government has stringent punishment for the offense.

More than 40 Indians are in Sri Lankan jails for trying to smuggle in drugs, and some have already completed over 15 years in prison.



Death row Scot in Pakistan was shot by radicalised prison guard

The Foreign Office has spoken of continuing concerns over the safety of a Scot shot on death row in Pakistan, as an investigation indicates he was attacked by a prison guard who was radicalised by an inmate.

Lawyers acting for Mohammad Asghar have called on Prime Minister David Cameron to act now to bring him home after reports of the official investigation into the shooting appeared in the Pakistani media.

Mr Asghar, from Edinburgh, was sentenced to death in January after being convicted of blasphemy for claiming to be a prophet of Islam.

The 70-year-old, who is said to suffer from paranoid schizophrenia, was shot and injured in Adiala prison in Rawalpindi last month.

Aamer Anwar, the family's solicitor, said repeated demands by the British Government and the British High Commission for the findings of the official inquiry into the shooting have been unsuccessful.

But reports in Pakistan indicate that the prison guard who shot Mr Asghar was incited to do so by Mumtaz Qadri, a policeman facing the death penalty for murdering Punjab governor Salmaan Taseer.

"The accused (the prison guard) was deployed outside the cell of Mumtaz Qadri during the incident and he had confessed to taking religious lessons from him," a jail official said.

The official's account of events was reportedly supported by three other prisoners, who said guards regularly took religious instruction from Qadri.

A Foreign Office spokesman said: "We are deeply concerned about the case of Mr Asghar, who was shot while on detention in prison in Pakistan. Consular officials continue to monitor his situation and are liaising with the hospital and prison authorities.

"We continue to work closely with the Pakistani government on this case. We have raised at the highest levels our desire that Mr Asghar's personal security is safeguarded, and that he is able to access the vital treatment that his medical condition requires, and that there is an urgent investigation into what happened.

"We have previously raised our concerns about his wider case, including through the former Foreign Secretary, and will continue to do so.

"It is crucial that concerns about Mr Asghar's safety and mental health are addressed and also taken into consideration during his appeal, and that his documented history of mental illness is taken into account."

Mr Anwar said: "Every minute that Mr Asghar spends in Pakistan jeopardises his life as well as those seeking his release.

"The PM must act now and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office needs to stop trying to silence the Asghar family and concentrate on bringing Mr Asghar home."

On October 17 Mr Asghar's daughter, Jasmine Rana, travelled from Edinburgh to present a 70,000-signature petition to Downing Street calling for Mr Cameron to intervene in her father's case.

It is understood that Mr Cameron has spoken to his counterpart in Pakistan and raised the issue.

(source: Herald Scotland)


Jamiat to seek penalty for officers for trying to frame 6 Muslims

Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind is preparing to go to the Supreme Court to seek punishment for officers in Gujarat Police and state administration for attempting to frame 6 Muslim men acquitted by the apex court in May in the Akshardham terror attack case.

The Jamiat faction, headed by Maulana Arshad Madani, will also seek compensation for economic losses and personal trauma suffered by the 6 people and their families because of their wrongful imprisonment. 4 of the 6, by the time they were acquitted, had already spent over 10 years in jail. They had been convicted under POTA (and IPC).

"We are preparing to approach the Supreme Court requesting that the people who conspired in the case should be punished. This is not a political battle. It is a battle for justice. We do not know who operated behind the scenes, the faceless politicians. But what is clear from the court's observations is that there were police officers and people in the Gujarat administration who actively hatched a plot to frame these people. They should be punished," Madani told The Indian Express.

Those acquitted include Adambhai Ajmeri, Abdul Qaiyum and Chand Khan, all of whom were serving a death penalty before the SC verdict.

The others were Mohammed Salim Hanif Sheikh, sentenced to life imprisonment, Abdullamiya Yasinmiya, sentenced to 10-year imprisonment and Altaf Malek, who had already served his 5-year term. After being released, all 6 had talked of being tortured to extract confessions. Salim had alleged that police asked him to choose which case he wanted to be charged with - Akshardham, Haren Pandya or Godhra.

'We are all Hindustanis, but not Hindus'

Reacting to a statement from RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat that "all Hindustanis are Hindus", Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind president Arshad Madani said: "How can all of us in Hindustan be called Hindus? We practice different faiths and beliefs. We are all Hindustanis but not Hindus. Can I say that all those in Hindustan are Muslims? Even if we agreed with this definition, the rest of the world would laugh at us."

On the RSS approach towards Muslims, Madani said: "We think all these moves are adding up to take away the space for Muslims and other minorities in our democratic framework. It's not about iqtedaar (power) but wajood (identity). Our lives are about living as Muslims."

(source: Indian Ewpress)


Death for death designer; Nizami nonchalant as tribunal reads out maximum punishment for Al-Badr crimes

He did whatever he could to stop the nation's birth. He led a ruthless militia to massacre unarmed civilians during the 1971 Liberation War.

Motiur Rahman Nizami didn't stop there. Towards the end of the war, he, aided by the Pakistan army, unleashed his force, Al-Badr Bahini, to wipe out the brightest sons and daughters of the soil to cripple the soon-to-be independent Bangladesh.

The Jamaat-e-Islami ameer, now 71, never repented for the cold-blooded savagery. Instead of being punished for the heinous crimes, he was rehabilitated after 1975. Nizami gained immense political clout and went on to become a minister during the BNP-led government's tenure from 2001 to 2006.

43 years later, justice caught up with him as a special tribunal yesterday sentenced him to hang for the crimes. The tribunal found him to have exercised superior responsibility over his subordinates.

"No punishment other than death will be equal to the horrendous crimes for which the accused has been found guilty beyond reasonable doubt," Justice M Enayetur Rahim, chairman of International Crimes Tribunal-1, said in the judgment.

"It is well-proved that the accused being the chief of Islami Chhatra Sangha and Al-Badr Bahini whole-heartedly resisted the War of Liberation and also actively participated in the crimes against humanity in 1971.

"Justice is to make it sure that the perpetrators have to pay for what they have done. Considering the extreme gravity of offences committed, it is indeed indispensable to deliver justice to the relatives of brutally murdered intellectuals, professionals and unarmed civilians," said the judge.

Nizami was found guilty on 8 of the 16 charges brought against him.

4 charges brought him death: he was involved in the killings of intellectuals, murders of 450 civilians and rape in Bausgari and Demra, killings of 52 people in Dhulaura, killings of 10 people and rape of 3 women in Karamja.

Nizami was also sentenced to imprisonment for life on the charges of involvement in the killing of Kasim Uddin, and 2 others, and Sohrab Ali in Pabna, torture and killing at Mohammadpur Physical Training Centre and killing of freedom fighters Rumi, Bodi, Jewel and Azad at Old MP Hostel in Dhaka.

Rumi is son of Shaheed Janani Jahanara Imam who initiated the movement for war crimes trial in independent Bangladesh. He and his fellow freedom fighters Jewel, Azad, Bodi and Jalal were picked up from different places in Dhaka in August 1971.

Pakistan army kept them confined to the Old MP Hostel. Except for Jalal, others were later killed on Nizami's instructions.

The tribunal, however, acquitted Nizami of the other 8 charges, as the prosecution failed to prove his involvement in genocide, killing and incitement.

"We are of the unanimous view that there would be failure of justice in case capital punishment is not awarded for all the murders forming large scale killing as listed in the four charges as the same indubitably trembles the collective conscience of mankind," the chief of the 3-member tribunal said, pronouncing the verdict in a packed courtroom.

With the execution of the death penalty, other sentences will also merge into it.

Nizami, who already got a death sentence in the 10-truck arms haul case, was brought to the court premises in a prison van around 9:15am. He was produced before the tribunal at 11:00am.

Wearing white Panjabi-paijama, a grey waistcoat and a Jinnah cap, Nizami remained calm throughout the 1 1/2-hour court proceedings.

Minutes after getting in the dock, he took off his tupi, kept it on a tray attached to the dock and sat on a chair with his hands crossed on his chest.

At the beginning, he was seen mumbling. Later, he sat through the court proceedings - quiet. Most of the time, he kept his eyes closed, leaning back in the chair. He, however, opened his eyes a few times, rubbed his nose and touched his beard.

Justice Enayetur made introductory remarks before reading out the summary of the 204-page judgment at 11:05am. Tribunal members Justice Jahangir Hossain and Justice Anwarul Haque read out parts of the summary verdict amid tight security on and around the court premises.

Nizami, who became Jamaat ameer in November 2000, was arrested on June 29, 2010 in a lawsuit for hurting religious sentiments. Later, he was shown arrested in a war crimes case. He was given death penalty in the sensational 10-truck arms haul case in January this year.

So far, 6 top Jamaat leaders, including Nizami, have been sentenced for committing crimes in 1971. 3 other top Jamaat leaders are being tried in war crimes tribunals set up in 2010 during the tenure of the Awami League-led government.


As president of Jamaat's then student wing Islami Chhatra Sangha (ICS), Nizami was ex-officio chief of Al-Badr Bahini in 1971 and "a civil superior officer in its true sense", said the tribunal.

Being the chief of both the ICS (from 1966 to at least September 30, 1971) and Al-Badr, he had a superior-subordinate relationship with Al-Badr members.

"It has been proved by both documentary and oral evidence that Al-Badr Bahini was formed by the members of ICS over which the accused [Nizami] had exclusive control but he did not prevent his subordinates from committing atrocities and crimes against humanity during the Liberation War, 1971," it said.

" such, he was aware of consequence of his act and conduct that substantially encouraged, endorsed, approved, provided moral support to the Al-Badr men in committing the killing of intellectuals," the tribunal said.

Nizami's authoritative position in Al-Badr, both as de jure and de facto, is a clear indication that he had "effective control" over the members of Al-Badr, "the action section" of Jamaat.

And thus he cannot be relieved from the responsibility of planned crimes committed by Al-Badr men with whom he had a relationship, said the tribunal chairman.

Al-Badr was formed in Jamalpur immediately after the Pakistani army had entered the sub-division on April 22, 1971.

Towards the end of the war, Al-Badr members picked up noted intellectuals and professionals, who were considered the nation's conscience, from across Dhaka, and killed them. Their bodies were dumped at different places in Rayer Bazar and Mirpur.

As a leader, Nizami not only took part in crimes against humanity but also delivered provocative speeches to incite thousands of his followers to commit similar crimes during the Liberation War.

Though the tribunal didn't find him guilty of incitement, it took his speeches as an aggravating factor in adjudicating punishment.

On the defence's allegations that Nizami was being tried for political reasons, the court said, "We have no hesitation to hold that instant trial of the accused is not being held for political purpose. Rather 'the nation' has been discharging their unfinished task and obligation to millions of martyrs who sacrificed their lives for the Independence of Bangladesh."

The verdict was greeted with cheers by Liberation War veterans outside the court and also by the youths who gathered at Shahbagh under the banner of Gonojagoron Mancha.

It took about 29 months to complete the proceedings in the war crimes case against Nizami.

His defence lawyers denounced the verdict, and said they would appeal against it.

"It is the most 'unhappy judgment'. It will not stand at the Appellate Division," said defence counsel Tajul Islam.

Following the pronouncement of the verdict, Jamaat-Shibir activists clashed with Awami League men and police in several districts, including Sylhet, Chapainawabganj and Rajshahi.

Expressing satisfaction, Law Minister Anisul Huq said the government would take necessary legal steps to have the appeal hearing completed quickly.

"I am satisfied with the verdict, and the government is also pleased with it," the minister told reporters at his Gulshan residence in the capital.

According to the law, a war crimes convict can file appeal with the Supreme Court within 30 days from the date of the verdict's pronouncement.

Nizami was taken to Dhaka Central Jail from the tribunal. He was later shifted to Kashimpur High Security Jail around 9:30pm.


Quasem verdict Sunday----SC judgment on Kamaruzzaman's war crimes appeal likely next week

The International Crimes Tribunal-2 yesterday fixed Sunday for delivering judgment in the war crimes case against Jamaat-e-Islami leader Mir Quasem Ali, around six months after the conclusion of his trial procedures.

Quasem was allegedly the chief of Chittagong Al-Badr, an auxiliary force of Pakistani army, and faces 14 charges, including murder committed in the city between November and December 16, 1971.

The judgment is going to be delivered just 3 days after Motiur Rahman Nizami, the then chief of Al-Badr, was awarded death penalty by the ICT-1 for his crimes against humanity during the Liberation War.

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court may hand down its verdict in the appeal filed by condemned war criminal Muhammad Kamaruzzaman next week, an SC source said yesterday.

The senior assistant secretary general of Jamaat was sentenced to death by ICT-2 in May last year for his wartime offences committed in 1971.


The prosecution sought capital punishment for Mir Quasem, a member of Jamaat's central executive council, claiming that they had been able to prove 12 out of 14 charges. Like always, the defence appealed for his acquittal saying the prosecution couldn't prove any charges.

If convicted, the 62-year-old, considered one of the top financiers of Jamaat, may face the capital punishment. 6 top Jamaat leaders have already been punished for their 1971 crimes and 2 other top notches - Abdus Subhan and ATM Azharul Islam - are being tried in the war crimes tribunals.

On May 4, the ICT-2 concluded hearing the closing arguments in Quasem's case and kept the case awaiting verdict.

Fixing the verdict date yesterday, Justice Md Mozibur Rahman Miah asked the tribunal registrar to issue a warrant so that the jail authority produces Quasem before the court by 10:00am on Sunday.

Another member of the tribunal Justice Md Shahinur Islam was present during the announcement, though its chairman Justice Obaidul Hassan was on leave.

According to the prosecution, Quasem, president of Jamaat's then student wing Islami Chhatra Sangha's (ICS's) Chittagong town unit, colluded with the Pak army, Jamaat, and other anti-liberation forces and formed Al-Badr force there in 1971.

Several Al-Badr camps were set up in Chittagong under Quasem's leadership for torturing and killing pro-liberation people, the prosecution said.

Quasem also had links with the Pak army and was directly involved in crimes like abduction, torture and murder in 1971, it claimed.

The prosecution produced 24 witnesses, mostly victims, and documents to prove the charges. It, however, could not produce any witness in support of 2 charges.

Quasem's counsels said their client was indeed involved with the ICS in 1971 but he had nothing to do with Al-Badr or any torture camp. The defence produced three witnesses to prove their claim.

Mir Quasem was born to Mir Tayeb Ali and Rabeya Begum in Munsidangi Sutalori of Manikganj on December 31, 1952. He joined the ICS in 1967 when he was studying at Chittagong Collegiate School.

Later, he became president of Chittagong College and Chittagong town units of the ICS and on November 6, 1971, he became the general secretary of East Pakistan ICS, according to prosecution documents.

When the ICS re-emerged as Islami Chhatra Shibir in 1977, he became its president and joined Jamaat as an activist in 1980. He now is a member of Jamaat's central executive council, the highest policy-making body of the Islamist party.

According to a defence petition filed on July 19, 2013, Quasem is the chairman of Keari Ltd, a real estate and tourism company; and chairman and director of Diganta Media Corporation Ltd that owns Bangla daily Naya Diganta and now off-air Diganta TV.

He is the director (marketing) of Ibn Sina Pharmaceutical Industries; chairman of Agro Industrial Trust; member secretary of Fouad Al-Khateeb Charity Foundation; and chairman of Association of Multipurpose Welfare Agencies of Bangladesh, an association of Bangladeshi NGOs.

Quasem also holds management positions in a number of other organisations, including Industrialists and Businessmen Welfare Foundation, Allama Iqbal Sangsad, Islamic University of Chittagong, Darul Ihsan University, Centre for Strategy and Peace Studies, the petition mentioned.

He was the member secretary of Islami Bank Foundation, a sister concern of Islami Bank Bangladesh Ltd, it said.

Quasem was arrested on June 17, 2012 following a warrant of the ICT-1.

The tribunal on May 26 took into cognisance the charges pressed by the prosecution and indicted him on 14 charges on September 5, 2013. But on September 30, the case was transferred to ICT-2.

Among the 14 charges, 2 were related to his alleged involvement in the killing of 3 named and several unnamed people in Chittagong while the rest were based on abduction, confinement and torture of at least 27 people in different incidents.

According to the charges, Al-Badr men, accompanied by the Pak army on several occasions, abducted the victims from different places in Chittagong, kept them confined to Al-Badr camps, tortured them and killed many of the abductees before dumping their bodies in the Karnaphuli river.

Mir Quasem Ali abetted and facilitated the commissioning of the crimes either by participating or leading or instancing or planning or instigating the Al-Badr men between November and December 16, the charges said.


The ICT-2 on May 9 last year sentenced Kamaruzzaman, one of the key organisers of the infamous Al-Badr force, to death after it found him guilty of mass killing, murder, abduction, torture, rape, persecution and abetment of torture in the greater Mymensingh district during the country's Liberation War.

Kamaruzzaman submitted his appeal to the apex court on June 6 last year challenging the tribunal judgment and seeking acquittal on the charges brought against him.

On September 17 this year, a 4-member Appellate Division bench led by Justice Surendra Kumar Sinha concluded hearing on the appeal and kept it waiting for verdict.

Justice Md Abdul Wahhab Miah, Justice Hasan Foez Siddique and Justice AHM Shamsuddin Choudhury Manik are the other members of the bench.

Now that the hearing of arguments in the appeal was completed last month, the verdict may be announced anytime next week, according to the highly-placed SC source.

Attorney General Mahbubey Alam and Shishir Monir, Kamaruzzaman's lawyer, however told The Daily Star that they were not entitled to know when the court would deliver the verdict on the appeal.

The SC will register the appeal in its cause-list before the day of announcing the judgment, they said.

During the hearing on the appeal, defence counsel SM Shahjahan told the apex court that the ICT-2 had convicted and sentenced Kamaruzzaman based on false and unfounded documents and evidence, and that he should be acquitted of all charges.

The attorney general vehemently opposed Kamaruzzaman's appeal and prayed to the SC to affirm the tribunal verdict, saying all the charges against the Jamaat leader were proved beyond reasonable doubts.

(source for both: The Daily Star)


Nizami's Death Penalty -- Gonojagoron Mancha wants immediate execution

Minutes after the news of the death penalty given to Motiur Rahman Nizami reached the Shahbagh intersection yesterday, Gonojagoron Mancha activists erupted into exhilarated cheers.

Both factions - one led by Imran H Sarker while another by Kamal Pasha - started gathering at Shahbagh since morning.

Demanding immediate execution of the verdict, the groups staged separate rallies there where they chanted different slogans like "We demand hanging".

Soon after an International Crimes Tribunal sentenced Jamaat chief Nizami to death around 12:30pm for crimes against humanity during the 1971 Liberation War, the protesters hugged each other.

Welcoming the verdict, Imran said, "We are happy... This is a victory for the people... Justice delivered finally."

"But we want immediate execution of the verdict."

Both factions brought out processions that marched to the TSC on Dhaka University campus before returning to Shahbagh intersection.

Kamal Pasha said the judgment reflected the aspirations and hope of the people of the country.

Meanwhile, Gonojagoron Mancha activists in Chittagong hailed the verdict and demanded immediate execution of it.

Following the verdict, the activists brought out a procession from Cheragi Pahar intersection and paraded different thoroughfares in the city.

Coordinator Sharif Chouhan termed the verdict a victory of the Gonojagoran Mancha movement.

(source: The Daily Star)

OCTOBER 29, 2014:


Esty defends her opposition to the death penalty

Congresswoman Elizabeth Esty offered a passionate defense of her opposition to the death penalty Tuesday night, a week before voters will decide whether to re-elect her to a 2nd term representing Connecticut's 5th District.

The last time Esty ran for re-election, as a state representative in 2010, her vote to abolish Connecticut's death penalty, following the Petit family triple murder in the town she represented, helped lead to her defeat.

"I'm a lifelong opponent of the death penalty. It cost me my seat in the state legislature . . . " Esty said at a candidate forum sponsored by the Woodbury Business Association. "I live in Cheshire. Awful, terrible things happened in my community. I remember sitting at my kitchen table and hearing those sirens . . . An evil visited my community, but I do not believe that is made right by the state killing in my children's name."

Mark Greenberg, a Litchfield real estate developer who is challenging her on Nov. 4, has criticized her position on the death penalty, in the past citing the case of alleged Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and on Tuesday invoking the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

"I do believe in the death penalty," he said. "I believe, had Adam Lanza survived, he should have been put to death for the terrible thing he did."

(source: New Haven Register)


Serial killing suspect now cooperating with Ind. judge

Suspected serial killer Darren Vann is now cooperating in judicial proceedings after refusing to even acknowledge his name at an earlier court hearing.

Vann, who police says has confessed to killing seven women in northwest Indiana, was cooperative in his initial hearing, where he was formally read charges for the strangulation deaths and robberies of two women, Afrika Hardy and Anith Jones.

The suspect was upset last week when he appeared before Magistrate Judge Kathleen Sullivan because a jailhouse courtroom was filled with media. He also questioned why the proceeding hadn't taken place at the nearby Lake County courthouse.

Sullivan held Vann in contempt last week.

Wednesday's hearing was held in a packed courtroom at the county courthouse. But this time Vann, who was handcuffed and shackled at his feet, responded to a series of basic questions asked by Sullivan with "Yes ma'am" and "No ma'am."

Hardy's body was found Oct. 17 in a Hammond motel. Jones' body was among six bodies hidden in abandoned houses in Gary that Vann led police to after his arrest for Hardy's killing.

Vann has also suggested to investigators that he killed more women, perhaps in other states. Investigators have not corroborated those claims.

Sullivan entered not guilty pleas on Vann's behalf and informed him that he faces a possible sentence of 45 to 65 years in prison for each murder. He could face the death penalty if prosecutors decide to pursue it.

Authorities have identified 2 other women, Teaira Batey and Kristine Williams, whose bodies were recovered in the abandoned homes.

The Lake County Coroner's office is still trying to identify the 3 other women.

(source: USA Today)


Death penalty to be sought for Frazier Glenn Miller Jr. in Jewish facility killings

Johnson County prosecutors will seek a death sentence for the man charged with killing 3 people outside of Jewish facilities in Overland Park in April, defense attorneys said in court filings.

As a result, the defense is seeking a continuance of the preliminary hearing for Frazier Glenn Miller Jr. that is scheduled to begin Nov. 12 in Johnson County District Court.

Ron Evans of the Kansas Death Penalty Defense Unit said in a motion for a continuance filed Tuesday that District Attorney Steve Howe recently informed him of his decision to seek a death sentence.

That will require a 2nd defense lawyer who will need time to familiarize himself with the case, Evans said.

Howe's office has not responded to the continuance request, but a hearing on the motion is scheduled for Nov. 5 in Johnson County District Court.

Miller, also known as Frazier Glenn Cross Jr., is charged with capital murder in the April shooting deaths of Terri LaManno, 53, William Lewis Corporon, 69, and Reat Griffin Underwood, 14.

At age 73, Miller is believed to be the oldest person ever charged with capital murder in Kansas.

An avowed racist and anti-Semite, Miller allegedly drove from his southern Missouri home to the Jewish Community Center in Overland Park where he allegedly killed Corporan and his grandson in the parking lot. Reat was there to audition for a talent competition.

According to the allegations, Miller then drove to the nearby Village Shalom care center and shot LaManno, who was there to visit her mother.

He is also charged with 3 counts of attempted first-degree murder for allegedly firing shots at 3 other people who were not injured.

Howe was not immediately available for comment Wednesday. Under Kansas law, he is not required to file notice of intent to seek death until after the preliminary hearing.

(source: Kansas City Star)


Prosecutors consider death penalty for pair accused of killing deputies

Authorities in two Northern California counties that each lost a sheriff's deputy during a shooting rampage last week say they will jointly prosecute the husband and wife couple arrested in the killings.

Luis and Janelle Monroy face multiple murder charges after allegedly carrying out the shooting rampage Friday that killed Sacramento County Sheriff's Deputy Daniel Oliver and Placer County Sheriff's Deputy Michael Davis.

Prosecutors say Luis Monroy first shot Oliver in a hotel parking lot and then Davis during the ensuing pursuit that crossed into Placer County. Janelle Monroy also faces murder and attempted murder charges for her alleged role as an accessory in the rampage.

The decision to seek the death penalty against either defendant will be up to prosecutors in both counties, Sacramento County Dist. Atty. Jan Scully said Tuesday.

"We know that both departments have an interest in being a part in seeking justice in this case," she said. "We think it makes perfect sense in our effort to achieve justice for everyone."

Officials hope to try the case in Sacramento County, so Scully swore in 2 Placer County officials Tuesday so they could join the prosecution team.

The 6-hour ordeal began when Oliver, who was on patrol with his partner, stopped to check on a suspicious vehicle in a Motel 6 parking lot. Officials said Luis Monroy fired a 9mm handgun from the car, fatally wounding Oliver, a 47-year-old father of 2.

The couple then tried to carjack a motorist about a mile away, authorities said. When the driver, identified as Anthony Holmes, refused to turn over his keys, he was shot in the head. Holmes remains hospitalized in critical condition.

After failing to commandeer Holmes' vehicle, officials said, the couple stole another car and drove to Auburn, where they were confronted by Davis and his partner. That's when Luis Monroy allegedly shot both lawmen with an AR-15.

Davis, 42, later died, while his partner was hit in the arm. Prosecutors allege the Monroys also stole a Placer County sheriff’s vehicle and shotgun.

Luis Monroy was later arrested in a residence while his wife was still inside the car.

The motive for Friday's shooting remains under investigation, Sacramento County officials said.

In a 14-count charging document, Luis Monroy Bracamonte, 34, also known as Marcelo Marquez, faces 2 counts of murdering a peace officer and 3 counts of attempted murder - including the shooting of the motorist. He was also charged with several carjacking and weapons-related felonies.

Janelle Monroy, 38, is also charged with 1 count of murder and as an accessory with multiple counts of attempted murder and carjacking.

Law enforcement officials said Luis Monroy had a history of run-ins with immigration officials. He had been deported twice and authorities believe he may have had at least three different aliases and used multiple dates of birth to avoid detection from law enforcement. Janelle Monroy is a U.S. citizen.

(source: Los Angeles Times)


Number of Executions in US Reduces Due to Problems With Lethal Injections----The number of people that have been executed throughout the US has fallen to its lowest level in years, due to difficulties with carrying out death penalties in a number of US states and the high cost of prosecution.

The number of executions is likely to total about 35 in the United States this year. The US has executed more people in every year since 1994, when 31 inmates were put to death, according to the Death Penalty Information Center, which monitors capital punishment. There were 39 executions in the country in 2013.

This is partially due to the difficulties with carrying out the death penalty and the high cost of prosecutions, according to the Center.

"The states still have real problems up ahead with lethal injections. The drugs simply are hard to get, and the sources are mysterious, which always raises concern in the courts," said Richard Dieter, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center.

Problems with executions in Oklahoma, Arizona and other states this year forced officials to review new combinations of lethal injection drugs, the Center posted on its official website.

Oklahoma has delayed the rest of its scheduled executions until 2015 "to allow time to obtain necessary drugs."

Meanwhile the US Supreme Court has stayed the execution of Mark Christeson of Missouri, who was convicted of killing a woman and her 2 children in 1998 and was scheduled to die on Wednesday at midnight.

The highest court in the US supported his claims that his previous attorneys were inadequate. Among other things, those attorneys missed a 2005 deadline for a federal court appeal of Christeson's conviction and death sentence.

New date has not been scheduled yet.

On Tuesday evening, a former gang member, Miguel Paredes, was put to death for the fatal shooting of 3 of his rivals in September 2000.

He received a lethal injection at the Texas death chamber in Huntsville.

Paredes was convicted along with 2 co-defendants, who received life sentences.

(source: RIA Novosti)

NORTH KOREA----public execution

North Korean officials 'publicly executed for watching South Korean soap operas'

North Korea has reportedly publicly executed at least 50 people this year, including several party officials for watching soap operas.

According to South Korea's National Intelligence Service (NIS), Pyongyang has purged about 10 officials from Kim Jong-un's Workers' Party for watching South Korean soaps.

The officials, who also faced charges of bribery and womanising, were thought to be close to Kim's executed uncle, Jang Song-thaek, Yonhap news agency reported.

All television and media is under strict state control and access to the internet is limited but despite a harsh crackdown, banned foreign shows and films have been gaining popularity in recent years.

Some are believed to be secretly streamed over the internet, while others are smuggled into the country on DVDs, video cassettes of memory sticks sold on the black market.

A North Korean defector calling himself "Mr Chung" revealed North Korea's preferences in a Channel 4 documentary last year.

He smuggles radios, USB sticks and DVDs of soap operas and entertainment shows into the North, posing as a mushroom importer.

"The men prefer watching action films," he said. "Men love their action films! I sent them Skyfall recently. The women enjoy watching soap operas and dramas.

"The more people are exposed to such media the more likely they are to become disillusioned with the regime and start wanting to live differently."

A group of activists in South Korea led by another defector from the North send satchels containing anti-regime flyers, noodles, $1 bills and USB sticks containing South Korean soap operas over the border attached to balloons.

North Korea forbids its 24 million people from watching foreign broadcasts and videos out of fear outside influence could undermine the dictatorship's ideology.

Anyone caught smuggling them in or distributing illicit material can be executed for crimes against the state and viewers have reportedly been sentenced to years in prison camps or hard labour.

A similar purge was reported last year, when around 80 people were said to be executed for watching South Korean television shows in November.

In the eastern port of Wonsan, the authorities gathered 10,000 people in a sports stadium to watch the execution of 8 people by firing squad, JoongAng Ilbo reported.

It is not known whether the most recent group of officials executed include the 6 reported missing earlier this month.

Kim recently sparked global speculation over power struggles and even a coup by disappearing from public view for 40 days.

South Korean spies have since claimed the leader is recovering following an operation to remove a cyst from his right ankle, although there is a chance the condition could recur because of his weight.

(source: The Independent)


Saudi Arabia is shooting itself in the foot by executing Shiite cleric

The House of Saud's plans to execute a revered Shiite cleric and protest leader reveal the extent to which the regime is vulnerable and desperate to perpetuate itself. Going ahead with the execution would be strategic miscalculation.

Significant political developments have unfolded in Saudi Arabia in recent weeks following a court decision to execute Sheikh Nimr Baqir al-Nimr, a polarizing Shiite cleric and political activist who has campaigned for civil equality, an inclusive socio-political system, women's rights, minority rights, and the release of political prisoners. Prosecutors condemned the cleric to death by beheading as punishment for charges of sedition, though the execution date has not yet been set.

Sheikh Nimr has been the fiercest critic of the Kingdom's absolute Sunni monarchy for the last decade, but gained a considerable public following after leading a series of protests in 2011 in opposition to the Saudi military's violent intervention and suppression of the pro-democracy movement in neighboring Bahrain, a satellite state with a Shiite majority ruled by a heavy-handed Sunni dynasty. His sermons and political activism continually emphasized non-violent resistance.

The Kingdom's decision to sentence Nimr to death has complex implications that will push sectarian tensions to fever pitch inside Saudi Arabia and throughout the region, dangerously sharpening tension with Iran. Prominent clerics in Iran and Bahrain, as well as Shiite militant groups such as Hezbollah of Lebanon and the Houthi movement of Yemen, have all condemned the verdict and warned the Kingdom not to proceed with the execution.

These developments are a symptom of the greater Sunni-Shiite sectarian conflict raging throughout Iraq, Syria and other hotspots across the region, representing the most poignant challenge facing the Muslim world in contemporary times. Western governments and corporations have aided and abetted Saudi Arabia and other wildly repressive theocratic monarchies, which have been given carte blanche to shape and spread radical Sunni Islam. The United States has long tolerated the House of Saud exporting fanatic sectarianism throughout the Islamic world in the interest of furthering its own strategic foreign policy objectives.

Saudi Arabia, a key financier of jihadist groups fighting in Syria and Iraq, has used its vast oil wealth to promote the ideology of ultra-conservative Wahhabism in missionaries throughout the Muslim world over the past 3 decades. It has sought to promote a puritanical and rigidly exclusionist Islam that declares non-Muslims - and Muslims of minority sects - as infidels. The Kingdom is governed by a feudalistic, decadent monarchy bent on entrenching its own power and the uncontested legitimacy of the King as the de facto leader of Sunni Islam.

The rise of the Islamic State organization is the result of reckless Western and Gulf policies that have destabilized both Iraq and Syria. Because this group and their fellow travelers do not recognize the legitimacy of the House of Saud, the Kingdom has constructed a massive fence around its borders, in addition to taking measures to prevent domestic sympathizers from becoming politically active inside the country. Saudi Arabia has recently agreed to an American request that the Kingdom provide a base to train so-called "moderate" Syrian rebel fighters, in the name of fighting extremism.

The execution of Sheikh Nimr, a revered Shiite religious scholar, will be widely read by fanatic Sunni militia groups as a Saudi endorsement of their campaign of sectarian cleansing and bloodletting of Shiites and minorities in Iraq and Syria, in the interest of crushing any political opposition to radical Wahhabism. The notion that a country so demonstrably sectarian and extremist can be entrusted with the task of training "moderates" is appalling.

The House of Saud has promoted the unsubstantiated narrative that Iran is actively plotting to undermine Sunni Islam, characterizing the country's Shiite minority as co-conspirators. The 2 million strong Shiite minorities - who represent some 10 to 15 % of the population - live in the oil-rich eastern province that is strategically vital to the Saudi economy. This blatant manipulation of the sectarianism is aimed at dividing the citizens of Saudi Arabia from forming a unified opposition to the monarchy.

Sheikh Nimr was shot 4 times by police and arrested in February 2012, fueling protests throughout the eastern province, mainly in Qatif and Awamiyah, but also wider unrest in Sunni areas such as Hejaz, Mecca, and the capital, Riyadh. Open dissent is rare in the Kingdom, but it is becoming increasingly common with the rise of the internet. More than half the country is under 18-years-old, while the heirs to the throne are rapidly ageing.

Open-minded sections of society are beginning to come to the realization that Saudi Arabia is a brutally theocratic, opulent gerontocracy utterly dependent on energy exports and Western patronage. The rise of the Islamic State group, whose leadership claims to represent all Muslims, has created a situation where Riyadh must demonstrate its Islamic credentials through its uncompromising implementation of Sharia law, which has led to a recent surge of executions by beheading.

Riyadh's calculation is that executing Sheikh Nimr will help increase support for the monarchy from a society with strong anti-Shiite leanings. It will also polarize the Shiite minority and young cosmopolitan Sunnis, leading to wider unrest and more open displays of dissent against the monarchy. In death, the Saudis would immortalize Sheikh Nimr as a symbol of opposition, thereby shooting themselves in the foot. It would be a major strategic blunder for the House of Saud to give its opponents a martyr.

The Saudi ruling family feels increasingly vulnerable from both internal and external threats, and the pervasive stoking of sectarian tension and anti-Shiite sentiment are an attempt to deflect from other potential forms of dissent, such as the lack of political representation and the dire poverty that many in the Kingdom live under. Sheikh Nimr's call for compassion, social justice and civil equality undeniably claim the moral high ground. The only move Riyadh can make to delegitimize this message is to fuel irrational, unthinking sectarianism.

In any case, the silence from Washington has been deafening. The US has not given any sign that it is opposed to Sheikh Nimr's execution and would not be inclined to take the side of a Shiite cleric that Riyadh accuses of being an agent of Tehran. Washington's missionary democracy promotion is left at the door when dealing with Saudi Arabia, which is far too strategic and beneficial to US military and economic interests to be cut loose as a liability. Sheikh Nimr's only fault is opposing the wrong regime in the wrong country. If he campaigned with the same program against a government that the West regarded with hostility, the world would know his name.

(source: Nile Bowie is a political analyst and photographer currently residing in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia----RTT news)


Bangladesh: Death penalty will not bring justice for crimes during independence war

The death sentence against a leading opposition figure in Bangladesh for war crimes will not bring justice to the millions of victims of the independence war, Amnesty International said.

Additionally, the defence team has consistently raised concerns that trial proceedings have not followed fair trial standards.

Motiur Rahman Nizami, head of Jamaat-e-Islami, the third largest political party in Bangladesh, was sentenced to death for war crimes today by the International Crimes Tribunal (ICT), a Bangladeshi court established to investigate the events of Bangladesh's 1971 independence war.

"Bangladesh must overturn the death sentence against Motiur Rahman Nizami and all others. The death penalty is the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment and can never be a way to deliver justice," said Abbas Faiz, Amnesty International's Bangladesh Researcher.

"The crimes committed during the independence war were horrific, and there is no question that victims deserve justice. But the death penalty only perpetuates the cycle of violence."

"The death penalty is not only a violation of the right to life, but it is an irreversible punishment if it leads to execution, and leaves no room to correct any possible judgment errors or fair trial violations from the proceedings."

All verdicts so far have come against individuals associated with the opposition Jamaat-e-Islami party. The ICT has faced allegations of unfair trials from rights groups since it was established - complaints echoed by Nizami's defence team during the trial.

"The ICT is a unique opportunity for justice and reconciliation in Bangladesh. But in the face of consistent concerns raised by the defence team about the trials not being fair it will only have the opposite effect and create more resentment," said Abbas Faiz.

Previous death sentences handed down by the ICT have led to large-scale street protests, and Jamaat-e-Islami have already called for a 3-day national strike (hartal) to protest today's verdict.

"The political situation in Bangladesh is extremely tense, and there is a real risk that any street demonstrations could erupt into violence. It is crucial that security forces ensure that people's right to demonstrate peacefully is respected, and that leaders on all sides urge their supporters to not commit abuses," said Abbas Faiz.

As of today, 140 countries have abolished the death penalty in law or practice. Bangladesh was 1 of only 9 countries that carried out executions every year between 2009 and 2013.

Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all cases without exception, regardless of the nature or circumstances of the crime; guilt, innocence or other characteristics of the individual; or the method used by the state to carry out the execution. The organization calls on the Bangladeshi authorities to immediately establish a moratorium on executions as a first step towards abolition and commute all death sentences.

(source: Amnesty International)


Report: Abolition Of Death Penalty In Ghana



The Embassy of France in Ghana and Amnesty International, Ghana organized a workshop in Accra to discuss the abolition of the death penalty in Ghana. The event which took place on 9th October, 2014 was organized to mark the 12th UN International Day Against Death Penalty. The aim of this workshop was to enable the participants to discuss the way-forward for abolition of the death penalty in Ghana as the country prepares for a possible referendum on whether the death penalty should be abolished in Ghana or not.

The Embassy of France in Ghana funded the workshop.


There were about 80 people who attended the workshop. The participants were made up of about 40 media men & women and about 40 people drawn from CSOs, government institutions, and para-statal institutions.

Facilitator & Presenters

The France Embassy invited Anne Souleliac, an Expert from the World Coalition on Abolition of the Death Penalty based in Paris, France to make presentations and also facilitate the workshop. Justice Emile Short, a former Commissioner of the Commission for Human Rights and Administrative Justice, Ghana (CHRAJ), chaired the occasion. There were various national expert and stakeholder presenters including the France Ambassador to Ghana, the Director of Amnesty International Ghana, the Director of Human Right Advocacy Centre (HRAC), a Chaplain at the Ghana National Catholic Secretariat and two (2) Human Right Activists - Mr. George Aggrey of the Ghana Education Service and Dr. Vincent Adzahlie-Mensah of the University of Education, Winneba.

Mode of the Workshop

Various experts and stakeholders made presentations at the workshop. The presentations were then followed by an open forum for brainstorming and discussions by the participants. The discussions were moderated by Anne Souleliac, the Visiting Expert, Mr. Pierre-Yves, Kervennal, Democracy & Governance Advisor of the France Embassy in Ghana and Lawrence Amesu, Director of Amnesty International, Ghana.

The deliberations at the workshop focused mainly on the strategies that Ghana might adopt to ensure that the death penalty clause would be expunged from the country's 1992 Constitution which is currently under review. Various suggestions and recommendations were made for discussions and the following were the agreed action plan and conclusions.


-- A Coalition of organizations including CSOs and other related institutions was formed. Related institutions (e.g. National Commission for Civic Education (NCCE), which were not present at the workshop should be encouraged to join the Coalition.

-- The Coalition will have a mandate to carry out country wide advocacy and human right education for the abolition of the death penalty in Ghana.

-- Amnesty International, Ghana will host the Coalition.

-- Media men and women should be engaged to give public education on the need to abolish the death penalty.

-- There should be a call for a de jury moratorium by the President - the Coalition should take this recommendation forward.

-- Amnesty International Ghana should create a link at her website solely for social media interaction and information dissemination on issues regarding abolition of death penalty in Ghana.

-- The Coalition will submit its action plan/proposal to the Embassy of France and other interested Embassies for consideration of funding support.

-- The Coalition should react (e.g. press release, press conference etc) immediately to every death sentence that may be passed by any Court in the country.

Media Coverage

The Ghanaian media (both print and electronic) covered and reported extensively on the proceedings at the workshop. Three national TV stations (Metro TV, Multi-TV and TV3) telecast their report during their main evening news broadcast to nation in the evening of 9th October. See enclosed a copy of Ghana Daily Graphic report of 10th October, 2014 titled "Expunge death penalty from Constitution - Panelists" Also enclosed is a list of links to social media reports on the event.

Also, on 6th October 2014, prior to the workshop, media men from Ghana's TV3 station visited the office of Amnesty International, Ghana and interviewed the Director of the Section on the purpose and the intended objectives of the 9th October planned workshop. The interview was telecast at the evening news on the same day (6th October 2014). The Ghana Television Station-24 (GTV24) also hosted a 2-man live television panel discussion on the topic "Abolition Death Penalty in Ghana - the Wayforward". The 2 panelists were the Director of Amnesty International, Ghana who presented the issues from the perspectives of abolitionists and a Ghanaian Social Commentator, who presented the issues from the views of retentionists. There were also phone-ins from the Ghanaian public. While some of them (phone-in callers) called for the abolition of the death penalty others called for its retention in the Ghana's Constitution. Preceding Activities

A) France Ambassador's Lunch Meeting - 8th October, 2014

Prior to the workshop, the France Ambassador to Ghana, hosted a lunch meeting at his residence on 8th October 2014. This lunch meeting was held for 14 selected individuals with interest in the issue of abolition of the death penalty in Ghana to discuss the issue and make suggestions which would feed into the workshop on 9th October. These individuals were made up of heads and/or representatives of selected CSOs (e.g. AI Ghana, HRAC, Ghana UPR Coalition) and other institutions including the Commissioner of CHRAJ, The President of Ghana Bar Association, the Deputy Chairman of the Constitutional, Parliamentary and Legal Select Committee of the Ghana Parliament, the Chairman of Ghana Constitutional Review Implementation Committee and representatives of selected Embassies.

The main outcomes of the lunch meeting include:

-- Confirmation that there was no other alternative legal means to abolition the death penalty in Ghana other than going to referendum for the people of Ghana to make the decision. It was also confirmed that this decision must be made by at least 40% of Ghanaian voting population voting at the referendum and 75% of this voting population must vote "Yes" for abolition of the death penalty in Ghana for the DP clause to be removed from the 1992 Constitution which is currently under review.

-- Confirmation that the Constitutional Review Implementation Committee's on-going Regional Consultative process has been suspended because the issue of whether the Committee has a mandate to continue the consultative process was pending at the Supreme Court of Ghana.

-- It was expected that the Courts will be able to make a decision by end of December 2014. It was also confirmed that if the Courts decided that the Constitutional Review process should go ahead, it would take at least six (6) months of consultations before a referendum could be conducted to decide on the entrenched constitutional issues including the abolition of the death penalty in Ghana.

-- It was recommended that strategic and mass education of Ghanaians was necessary to ensure that the abolition of the death penalty would receive 75% "Yes" votes at a referendum.

B) Meeting with Representatives of Selected Institutions

As part of the event/workshop to mark the 12th International Day Against the Death Penalty, the France Embassy and Amnesty International, Ghana organized a series of meetings with selected organizations on 8th October 2014. These meetings were arranged to enable the visiting Expert from the World Coalition Against Death Penalty, Anne Souleliac to interact and share ideas with representatives of CSOs and other institutions that are campaigning for abolition of death penalty in Ghana. Pierre-Yves Kervennal, the Development & Governance Advisor of the France Embassy and Lawrence Amesu, Director of Amnesty International, Ghana, accompanied Anne Souleliac to these meetings. The team met with the representative of the following organizations/institutions:

-- the Executive Director of Human Right Advocacy Centre,

-- representatives of the Executive Director, Human Development Department of the National Catholic Secretariat, Ghana

-- the President, Ghana Bar Association

-- the Deputy Commissioners, Commissioner on Human Rights and Administrative Justice, Ghana

The discussions and suggestions at these meetings were also fed into the deliberations at the workshop on the following day - 9th October.

Report Compiled by: Lawrence Amesu, Director, Amnesty International, Ghana



Asia Bibi's death penalty: A test case for human rights in Pakistan

The lawyers of Asia Bibi, a Pakistani Christian woman convicted of blasphemy, are set to appeal against her death penalty in the Supreme Court. Activists say the case will serve as a test for human rights in Pakistan.

Asia Bibi has been languishing in prison for more than five years. The 49-year-old mother of 5 was arrested in June, 2009 after her neighbors complained that she had made derogatory remarks about Islam's Prophet Mohammed. A year later, Bibi was sentenced to death under the Islamic Republic's controversial blasphemy law despite strong opposition from the national and international human rights groups.

The slim hope that the Pakistani judiciary might pardon Bibi and eventually release her was dashed earlier this month when the Lahore High Court (LHC) ruled to uphold her 2010 death sentence.

"We are utterly disappointed, but we will file a review petition against the LHC decision in the Supreme Court," Asia Bibi's lawyer Naeem Shakir told reporters after the October 16 verdict. Shakir is still hopeful that the country's highest court will grant Bibi amnesty.

Bibi's family members are hoping for a presidential pardon

Others are not so hopeful.

Imran Nafees Siddiqui, an Islamabad-based civil society activist, says that the South Asian country's civil society should keep building pressure on the government and the courts irrespective of the legal outcome.

"[The blasphemy law] is a man-made doctrine and not a divine revelation. The rights group should continue to demand Bibi's freedom. The media should also play an active role," Siddiqui told DW. "The public opinion carries a lot of weight and can also influence courts' decisions. We have to create an alternative narrative to defeat the extremist discourse in the country. It is a test case for the rights of minorities in Pakistan," he added.

International condemnation

The Geneva-based World Council of Churches (WCC) has also come out in Bibi's defense. On Monday, October 27, the WCC's general secretary Rev. Olav Fykse Tveit issued a statement expressing his concern over the rejection of Bibi's appeal against the capital punishment.

"The alleged circumstances of the incident which led to the blasphemy charges against Asia Bibi are highly questionable, and the imposition of the death penalty in this case is totally inappropriate," said Tveit, adding that apart from the issues of religious freedom, the charges, ongoing imprisonment and threat of execution seemed to have infringed Bibi's basic human rights.

The leaders of Pakistan's Christian community have also expressed alarm and sorrow over the LHC ruling.

There have been demonstrations for Asia Bibi all over the world, including in Pakistan

But all this condemnation is not sufficient to convince the supporters of the blasphemy law. Fareed Ahmad Pracha, a leader of Pakistan's right-wing political party, the Jamaat-i-Islami, disagrees with the critics of the legislation and says the actual problem is not with the law but with its interpretation.

"We just want to say that the law should be enforced properly, there should not be any change made into the blasphemy law. We will not tolerate or accept this. If you make way even for a single change in the law, then there will be a number of changes, whereas there has never been a case where anyone has been punished," he emphasized.

Call for repeal of the law

There is evidence to support Pracha's claim. Although hundreds have been convicted of blasphemy, nobody in Pakistan has ever been executed for the offense. Most convictions are retracted after the accused makes an appeal. However, angry mobs have killed people accused of desecrating the Koran or Islam.

Controversial blasphemy laws in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, where 97 percent of the population is Muslim, were introduced by the military dictator General Zia-ul-Haq in the 1980s. Activists say they are often implemented in cases which have little to do with blasphemy however. They are used to settle petty disputes and personal vendettas. Christians, Hindus and Ahmadis are often victimized as a result.

Mumtaz Qadri said he 'punished' Taseer for insulting Islam

A few months after Bibi's conviction, Salman Taseer, a former governor of the central Punjab province, was murdered by his bodyguard, Mumtaz Qadri. Qadri said he had killed Taseer for speaking out against the blasphemy laws and in support of Bibi.

In March 2011, Shahbaz Bhatti, Pakistan's former minister for minority affairs, was assassinated by a religious fanatic for the same reason.

Farzana Bari, director of Center for Women's Studies at Islamabad's Quaid-i-Azam University, believes discrimination will persist unless there is radical change. "It is high time that the government reform the blasphemy law," she said to DW. "These laws are against the spirit of Islam and are a cause of notoriety for the country."

Religious discrimination in Pakistan is not a new occurrence but it has increased considerably in recent years. Pakistan's liberal sections are alarmed by the growing influence of religious extremists in their country. Rights activists complain that the Islamists enjoy state patronage, while on the other hand liberal and progressive voices have to face the wrath of the country's security agencies.

(source: Deutsche Welle)


In Texas, the Death Penalty is Slowly Dying Out----The Lone Star State carried out its fewest executions since 1996 this year.

On Tuesday night, the state of Texas executed Miguel Paredes by lethal injection for murdering a woman and her 2 children 16 years ago. With no executions scheduled by the state department of criminal justice for November or December, Paredes' death marks the 10th and final execution for Texas this year - the fewest in almost 2 decades.

2014 wasn't anomalous either. Executions in Texas, the most prolific death-penalty state in the country, spiked after Congress restricted federal appeals in death-penalty cases with the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act in 1996. Since then, however, the death penalty has been in overall decline both in Texas and nationwide. 30 people have been executed so far this year in the entire United States, whereas Texas alone executed 40 people at its peak in 2000.

What's driving the decline? Since executions peaked nationally in the late 1990s, multiple Supreme Court rulings have limited the death penalty's scope and application. The justices barred executions of the mentally disabled in Atkins v. Virginia in 2002, for example, and eliminated the death penalty for individual crimes other than 1st-degree murder in their 2008 decision in Kennedy v. Louisiana. (In the latter case, the court expressly left the death penalty intact for so-called crimes against the state - treason, espionage, terrorism, and "drug kingpin activity" - without ruling on the constitutionality thereof.) This resulted in fewer cases with which the death penalty could be applied, while also imposing new legal hurdles before it could be carried out.

But for Texas, the greatest shift came in 2005. First, the Supreme Court ruled in Roper v. Simmons that executing defendants who were minors when they committed the crime violated the Eighth Amendment. Texas had led the nation in imposing the death penalty on under-18 defendants prior to Roper; 29 inmates had their sentences reduced accordingly after the ruling. More inmates left Texas' death row alive than dead that year for the 1st time since 1989. At the same time, legislators gave Texas juries the option to sentence murder defendants to life without parole, thereby lowering the number of new death-penalty convictions.

Other extrajudicial factors are also slowing down the death penalty in Texas and around the United States. Thanks to a European Union embargo that bars the sale of lethal-injection drugs to the U.S., executions nationwide have slowed precipitously as states scramble to find replacements and substitutes. The few companies willing to provide the drugs are also feeling the impact: After Mylan provided Alabama with the paralytic drug rercuronium bromide, a German investment firm divested $70 million from the U.S. drug manufacturer earlier this month.

This doesn't mean executions will completely halt any time soon in Texas. State officials say they have a sufficient supply of pentobarbital for upcoming executions thanks to a secret supplier they refuse to name through 2015. 6 in 10 Americans still support the death penalty according to a recent Gallup poll, and Greg Abbott, who will likely be elected governor of Texas next week, is also a staunch proponent.

Reversing the overall downward trend, however, would require either a drastic shift in the Supreme Court's jurisprudence or a complete overhaul of Texas sentencing law. Neither are imminent.

(source: The Atlantic)


Houston protest: 'Death row must go!'

The 15th annual march in Houston to abolish the death penalty brought together 200 people on Oct. 25. The families and friends of loved ones on Texas death row, which has the highest number of inmates of any state in the U.S., were joined by political activists, many of them young, from around the state. Harris County, where Houston is located, sends more people to death row than any other U.S. county.

The protest was organized by the Texas Death Penalty Abolition Movement.

The protesters gathered at the infamous 400-year "Old Hanging Tree" in Tranquility Park, where speakers made the links between the lynchings of Black people during slavery and Jim Crow and today when executions of mainly Black and Brown people take place in the death house in Huntsville, Texas. The march was followed by an outdoor rally at the Multicultural Education and Counseling through the Arts center.

Numerous signs showed the faces and names of those on death row, some of whom are facing execution dates as soon as Oct. 29. Many signs featured Texas Gov. Rick Perry, with "serial killer" written under his name and headshots of the hundreds of prisoners who have been executed under his watch.

Activists called for the abolishment of the death penalty as a cruel weapon targeting the poor, people of color and those who have legally proved their innocence.

Endorsers of the march included S.H.A.P.E. (Self-Help for African People through Education) Community Center, Houston Anarchist Black Cross; death row exoneree Clarence Brandley; Campaign to End the Death Penalty, Austin; Minister Don Muhammad, Nation of Islam; Workers World Party, Houston; Kids Against the Death Penalty; End Mass Incarceration, Houston; New Black Panther Party, Houston; and Texas Moratorium Network.

Pam Africa, a leader of International Concerned Family and Friends of Mumia Abu-Jamal, was the keynote speaker.

(source: Workers World)


Jury recommends death penalty for man convicted of killing wife in Seminole County; Dwayne White convicted of first-degree murder last week

A jury recommend the death penalty Tuesday afternoon for a man convicted of killing his wife.

Dwayne White was convicted last week of 1st-degree murder in the 2011 stabbing death of his estranged wife, Sarah Rucker, outside a Miami Subs shop in Longwood.

The testimony in the penalty phase took just a couple of hours. The prosecution had a victim's advocate read a letter written by Rucker and White's oldest daughter who is in pharmacy school.

"How are my siblings going to go through life without her? How are they going to wake up every day knowing my mother was killed by their father, who for some reason they also loved?" read Pamela Theiss, victim's advocate.

White chose not to take the stand.

During closing statements, the defense played an excerpt from a 911 call Rucker had made during an earlier confrontation with White on the day she was killed. The defense suggested to jurors they remember those screams when they consider the suffering Rucker endured.

"Do you think he was smiling as he was cutting her throat and reaching around time after time pulling that knife from her left throat over to his right side?" said Jeffy Dowdy, defense attorney.

Ultimately the decision will be made by Judge Kenneth Lester. It is unclear when Lester will give his ruling.

(source: WESH news)


Dead Man Walking's Sister Helen Prejean to Lead Anti-Death Penalty Event in Fort Lauderdale, November 8th ---- An all-star lineup of local and national death penalty activists will convene at 6 pm, Saturday, November 8th at The Sanctuary Church in Fort Lauderdale to demand a repeal of Florida's capital punishment law. Speakers include "Dead Man Walking" author Sister Helen Prejean, Broward Public Defender Howard Finkelstein, Florida death row survivor Herman Lindsey, and many more.

Is the death penalty immoral? Is there a legitimate, rational justification for maintaining the death penalty in a modern, civilized society? These are just a few of the questions that will be addressed Saturday, November 8th at 6:00 pm when top national and local anti-death penalty activists convene at The Sanctuary Church in Fort Lauderdale (located at 1400 N. Federal Hwy) to demand an end to Florida's capital punishment law. The event, called "Thou Shall Not Kill," is expected to bring in over 700 participants who will also be signing a petition to repeal Florida's death penalty law.

Headlining the November 8th event is Sister Helen Prejean, a leading American advocate for the abolition of the death penalty. Best known as the author of "Dead Man Walking," which was turned into an award-winning film starring Susan Sarandon and Sean Penn, Prejean has served as a spiritual counselor to death row inmates for over 30 years.

"As a Christian church, we think it's time to ask ourselves, our community and our government, is there ever a moral justification for murdering another human being?" said Dwayne Black, pastor of The Sanctuary Church and organizer of the November 8th event. "The purpose of this event is to refocus the public's attention on a fundamentally important issue in our society. There is no asterisk after 'Thou shall not kill.' Murder, whether it's committed in a back alley or in Florida's execution chamber, should be equally offensive to people's moral sensibilities. There is no moral, legal or practical justification for putting another human being to death, aside from the political points it may gain certain elected officials who claim to be 'tough on crime,' despite the fact that executions have no meaningful deterrent effect."

In addition to Sister Prejean, the November 8th anti-death penalty event will include a number of other prominent officials and activists:

-- Broward Public Defender Howard Finkelstein

-- Death row survivor Herman Lindsey, who spent 3 years on Florida's death row before being acquitted in 2009

-- Ron McAndrew, former warden, Florida State Prison and writer

-- Melisa McNeill and Betsy Benson, Assistant Public Defenders, Homicide Division

-- Terry Lenamon, founder and former executive director of the Florida Capital Resource Center, a non-profit organization that provides support to Florida's death penalty attorneys

-- Other prominent organizations also participating include The Innocence Project, Floridians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, and Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty

Founded in 1961, The Sanctuary Church of Fort Lauderdale is an active member in a number of social causes, including prison ministry, substance abuse, racial justice, homelessness and more. The Sanctuary recently served as the funeral site for Fort Lauderdale Fire Lt. Kevin Johns, who was killed September 30th while changing a flat tire on I-95.

For more information about the November 8th "Thou Shall Not Kill" event, please visit or contact Pastor Dwayne Black at 954-564-7600, dwayne(at)sanctuarychurchftl(dot)org.

(source: PR Web)


Death penalty phase of sledgehammer murder case enters 2nd day

A jury that convicted a 20-year-old man of bludgeoning a New Franklin Township couple to death in April 2013 will continue hearing testimony on Wednesday in the death penalty phase of the case.

Defense attorneys Donald Hicks and Jonathan Sinn began presenting evidence Monday in to convince a jury to spare Shawn Ford from being put on death row.

The jury can recommend death, life in prison, life in prison with no parole eligibility or life in prison with parole eligibility in 25 or 30 years.

Ford was convicted of killing his ex-girlfriend's parents, Jeffrey and Margaret Schobert, and attacking his then-girlfriend, Chelsea Schobert a month earlier.

The jury convicted him of 5 counts of aggravated murder, 2 counts of aggravated robbery, and 1 count each of petty theft, grand theft, aggravated burglary and felonious assault.



Court: Conviction, death penalty upheld in Twinsburg officer's death; The court unanimously affirmed Thompson's convictions but split 4-3 on imposing a sentence of death.

The Ohio Supreme Court has ruled in the case of Ashford L. Thompson, convicted in 2010 for the murder of Twinsburg police officer Joshua Miktarian during a traffic stop.

In an opinion written by Justice Judith L. French, the court unanimously affirmed Thompson's convictions for the murder and other crimes. However, the court split 4-3 on imposing a sentence of death.

In July 2008, Thompson picked up his girlfriend after midnight, and they went to a bar. An hour or two later, Officer Miktarian started following Thompson's car because of loud music coming from the vehicle.

Thompson turned into his driveway, and the officer called dispatch to report that he was making a traffic stop and pulled in behind Thompson.

The officer's police dog Bagio was in the cruiser. A few minutes later, Miktarian requested backup. A dispatcher relayed that Thompson had a license to carry a concealed handgun, but Miktarian never responded.

Witnesses reported yelling and popping sounds. When additional officers arrived at the scene, Miktarian was found on the ground next to his cruiser, and no other vehicles were in the driveway. Thompson's driver's license and insurance card were in Miktarian's front shirt pocket. Miktarian had been shot four times in the head.

Soon after, police went looking for Thompson at a prior address - his sister's house in Bedford Heights. When an officer stepped into the house, he found Thompson with a pair of handcuffs dangling from 1 wrist. The handcuffs were later determined to belong to Miktarian. Thompson struggled with the officer but was eventually arrested. A handgun found on the stove was also seized.

A jury convicted Thompson of aggravated murder with specifications that carried the death penalty, including purposely killing a police officer. He was also found guilty of escape, resisting arrest, tampering with evidence, and carrying a concealed weapon. The jury recommended a death sentence, and the court agreed.

Thompson appealed the conviction and death sentence directly to the Ohio Supreme Court. He presented 18 claims of errors during his trial.

One issue raised was a mistake in the trial court's June 23, 2010, sentencing opinion. The opinion merged 2 felony escape charges, even though one of the charges had already been dismissed. The opinion then claimed to sentence Thompson on the dismissed escape offense, which carried a longer prison term.

However, in the trial court's journal entry the next day, the court correctly sentenced Thompson on only the single felony escape offense for which he was found guilty. The entry eliminated any reference to the dismissed escape charge and the incorrect prison sentence.

Justice French explained that the Supreme Court may consider both the trial court's sentencing opinion and the subsequent journal entry to determine whether it has jurisdiction to consider Thompson's appeal. Together, the documents met the necessary requirements for a final appealable order.

Thompson also made several claims of prosecutorial misconduct, which he argued deprived him of due process and a fair trial. Justice French concluded that some statements made by the prosecutor were inappropriate.

In closing arguments during the trial phase, the prosecutor asked, "How much more do you think the Defense is willing to deceive you to find out - find the defendant not guilty?" Justice French noted that the state may not suggest that the defense's case was dishonest. The prosecution also improperly suggested that Thompson had pressured his girlfriend to lie in the trial with no evidence to support the claim and that Thompson was "obsessing and controlling," implying negative conclusions about Thompson's character, Justice French added.

While these comments were not acceptable, none were so substantial that they changed the outcome of Thompson's trial, Justice French reasoned.

The court rejected Thompson's numerous other charges of misconduct by the prosecution. Thompson's other arguments - related to the selection and dismissal of some jurors, pretrial publicity concerning Thompson's original guilty plea that was withdrawn, and comments by a bar patron - also lacked merit, Justice French wrote.

The court concluded that the evidence supported the jury's finding of 2 aggravating circumstances - that Thompson murdered an on-duty law enforcement officer and that he committed the murder to escape detection for another offense, such as resisting arrest or carrying a concealed weapon.

The court reviewed factors that might lessen Thompson's punishment. Thompson was a licensed practical nurse who assisted patients who lived in difficult neighborhoods. As a result, he obtained a license to carry a concealed weapon to protect himself. He had a stable upbringing and was close to his family. He did not have a significant criminal history, and he expressed remorse for the murder.

However, the court found that the aggravating circumstances outweighed the mitigating factors, and the death penalty in this case was proportionate to death sentences imposed in other similar cases.

Joining the 4-justice majority opinion affirming the death sentence were Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor and Justices Terrence O'Donnell and Sharon L. Kennedy.

Justice Paul E. Pfeifer, in an opinion joined by Justice Judith Ann Lanzinger, concurred with the majority in affirming Thompson's convictions but dissented on the death sentence. He concluded that Thompson's history, character, and background were sufficient to outweigh the aggravating circumstances in the case, so he would have sentenced Thompson to life without parole.

In a separate opinion, Justice William M. O'Neill also concurred in the convictions but dissented on the death penalty. He took issue with contention that Thompson killed the officer to escape detection or punishment for another offense. While the record showed that Thompson did violate a noise ordinance and resisted arrest, the testimony of Thompson and his girlfriend refuted the theory that Thompson was trying to avoid responsibility, Justice O'Neill wrote.

Instead, he added, the evidence indicated that Thompson was confused and frightened and incorrectly thought that Miktarian was going to release his police dog or shoot him. Justice O'Neill concluded that the allegation that Thompson killed the officer to escape detection or punishment was not proven beyond a reasonable doubt.

Justice O'Neill expressed gratitude and sympathy for the officer's family. However, he reasoned that the only aggravating factor remaining for Thompson - killing a police officer - did not outweigh the mitigating factors in the case to justify imposition of the death penalty.

"[T]he evidence in this record establishes that this was a routine traffic stop gone tragically wrong," he wrote. "This case is not in the same category as the premeditated intentional taking of the life of another."

(source: WKYC news)

MISSOURI----stay of execution

Mark Christeson granted stay of execution in Missouri; Concerns raised in court that convicted triple murderer has not received adequate legal representation

The US supreme court has halted the execution of a Missouri man who killed a woman and her 2 children, with judges citing concerns that his legal counsel was ineffective.

Mark Christeson, 35, had been scheduled to die by lethal injection at 12.01am on Wednesday at the state prison in Bonne Terre before the late stay of execution was issued. Missouri corrections department spokesman Mike O'Connell said the next move would be decided in court.

Jennifer Merrigan, one of Christeson's attorneys, declined comment.

The appeal to the supreme court raised several concerns about legal counsel Christeson has received over the years, including the failure of some of his attorneys to meet a 2005 deadline to file for an appeal hearing before a federal court. It is uncommon for someone to be executed without a federal court appeal hearing.

The high court denied a 2nd appeal challenging the state's planned use of a made-to-order execution drug produced by an unidentified compounding pharmacy.

Christeson would have been the 9th man executed in Missouri this year, matching an all-time high for the state set in 1999.

When he was 18, Christeson and his 17-year-old cousin, Jesse Carter, came up with a plan to run away from the home outside Vichy where they were living with a relative. A plot to steal a Ford Bronco escalated into the rape and murder of its owner, Susan Brouk, 36, and the murder of her 12-year-old daughter Adrian and nine-year-old son Kyle.

Christeson and Carter drove to California, selling household items stolen from Brouk along the way. They were eventually arrested eight days after the killings.

Carter was sentenced to life in prison without parole after agreeing to testify against Christeson.

(source: The Guardian)


Arkansas Attorney General Candidates Talk Death Penalty

The Arkansas Attorney General race has been a heated one, fueled by political ends in the final weeks of campaign season.

The candidates for the position, Republican Leslie Rutledge, Democrat Nate Steel, and Libertarian Aaron Cash, held a forum at the Fayetteville Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday (Oct. 28), where they answered questions from the public.

One of the topics brought up during the forum was death penalty laws in Arkansas.

Cash said he was opposed to the death penalty.

"Life in prison is definitely an adequate punishment, it keeps society safe," Cash said.

The other 2 candidates said there needs to be reform in the way the death penalty is administered.

"Right now the statute is not the problem, ascertaining the drugs is the problem," Steel said.

"It is a matter of obtaining the drugs," Rutledge said. "But, it is also a matter of writing the statutes, so that way we can enforce the statutes."

The questions at the forum were not planned, but there was a moderator. Each candidate had 2 minutes to answer each question and 30 seconds for rebuttal.

Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 4.

(soruce: KFSM news)


Jodi Arias trial shown intimate photos of her that boyfriend took hours before murder - as she fights to avoid execution; Arias, 34, was convicted of murder last year but the first jury was deadlocked on whether to give her the death penalty or life in prison

A jury has been shown intimate photographs of murderer Jodi Arias that were taken by Travis Alexander in the hours leading up to his death.

While prosecutors have now closed their case in the sentencing retrial of Arias - convicted of murdering her ex-boyfriend - their evidence required jurors to sit through several days of lurid evidence involving intimate photos and phone-sex recordings.

Arias was convicted of the murder of her ex-boyfriend last year, but a retrial was ordered after the jury was deadlocked on whether to give her the death penalty or life in prison.

Following a prosecution claim that Alexander was afraid of 'stalker' Arias, defence attorney Kirk Nurmi responded by displaying to jurors pornographic images of Arias' private parts, AZ Central reported.

The photos were taken by Alexander in the hours leading up to his death - Mr Nurmi then asked the jury if they suggested Alexander was afraid of Arias as the prosecution had claimed.

Mr Nurmi then spent time going through photos showing Alexander in the shower - before replaying in full a 40-minute long phone sex conversation in which the 2 moan as if they were having orgasms.

The retrial opened a week ago with prosecutors telling jurors the Arizona murderer deserves the harshest sentence of them all.

'The only just punishment in this case is death,' Juan Martinez told the Maricopa County Superior Court.

Arias had her hair cut to shoulder-length for her return to the courtroom and appeared to have it dyed darker.

She has also been wearing a new pair of nude-framed glasses - perhaps because earlier this month, a Phoenix food bank auctioned off the glasses she wore at the original trial and raised close to $1,000 for charity.

Last week defense lawyer Kirk Nurmi began opening statements, telling jurors it was up to them to write the final chapter to the story.

The jury had been warned that it would see graphic evidence about the killing and relationship between Arias and victim Travis Alexander - but he said she should not be executed because she is mentally ill.

Prosecutor Martinez proved his point by showing jurors a picture of Arias' victim, ex-boyfriend Travis Alexander, with his throat slit.

'This is how much she loved him,' Martinez told the jury, according to ABC.

The victims' siblings were in court today along with Arias' parents and brother.

Arias was convicted of murder last year but the 1st jury was deadlocked on whether to give her the death penalty or life in prison.

That required a new jury and trial to decide her punishment.

A new jury that was picked over the past several weeks will listen as the former waitress tries to make another case that her life should be spared.

400 people were called as prospective jurors. Many of them were cut after they said they either made up their minds about the case or knew too much to be impartial. Some jurors cited their objection to the death penalty.

They won't consider whether or not she's guilty - that's already been decided.

The retrial is expected to last into December.

Arias stabbed and slashed Alexander nearly 30 times, slit his throat so deeply she nearly decapitated him and shot him in the forehead.

She left his body in his shower where friends found him about 5 days later at his suburban Phoenix home.

She acknowledged she killed Alexander, but claimed it was self-defense after he attacked her.

Prosecutors said it was premeditated murder carried out in a jealous rage after the victim wanted to end their affair and planned a trip to Mexico with another woman.

Weeks after Arias was convicted, the jury failed to reach a unanimous decision on her punishment.

Her attorneys have since sought, unsuccessfully, to dismiss the death penalty as an option.

If another deadlock occurs, the death penalty would automatically be removed as an option, leaving a judge to sentence Arias to 1 of 2 options: life in prison or life in prison with the possibility of release after 25 years.

The sentencing retrial will be a mini-trial of sorts to get a fresh jury - of 12 women and 6 men, including 6 alternates - up to speed on the case.

At her last trial, she testified for 18 days, describing for jurors an abusive childhood, cheating boyfriends, dead-end jobs, a shocking sexual relationship with Alexander, and her contention that he was physically abusive.

Her 1st trial drew a global following and inspired spectators to wait in line in the middle of the night to get a coveted seat in the courtroom.

This time around, the judge has ruled that cameras can record the proceedings, but nothing can be broadcast until after the verdict.

Judge Sherry Stephens has shut the media and public out of nearly every hearing in the case and drawn complaints from First Amendment lawyers that she has gone too far.

Judge Stephens said the hearing closures are intended to protect Arias' right to an impartial jury.

Attorney David Bodney, who represents several media outlets fighting for transparency in the case, said there have been repeated violations of the public's constitutional right to attend proceedings in the case.

The costs of defending Arias have topped $2.5 million and will mount during a 2nd penalty phase. Prosecutors have declined to provide their costs to try the case.

(source: Daily Mail)


Moral Disengagement and the Death Penalty

One of the overlooked aspects of the death penalty is what it does to those who inflict it. Combox executioners, who so easily thirst for the blood of others and whose overriding question is "When do we *get* to kill?" are, like warmongering chickenhawks and torture defenders, never the people who have to do the dirty work. That's for little people to do. The Combox Death Eaters are the Big Picture Thinkers, the geniuses who are smarter than the Magisterium and who leave others to suffer the damages they rationalize.

But, in fact, killing people does something to the killer. The killer has to break something in himself to find a way to morally disengage from the fact that he is taking a human life. And very similar breakage goes on whether the killer is an abortionist, a soldier, an executioner, or somebody administering euthanasia. Sometimes the killer may learn to *like* the damage killing does to himself (one thinks of a monster like Jack Kevorkian). Most times, the killing creates a kind of interior void where the victim has to be turned into something other than a person in order to kill a "blob", "the enemy", "a life unworthy of being lived", "a criminal". But that distance is always a move in the opposite direction from the gospel which insists that the person about to be killed is the image and likeness of God and one for whom Christ died.

This, ultimately is what governs the Church's teaching, not only about the death penalty, but about all questions of life and death. It's why the Church's approach, even with guilty human life, is always "How can we preserve human life, even guilty human life, unless it is absolutely necessary to harm or kill?" I call this the "preferential option for life". And it's why all reactionary dissent on war, torture, gun rights, and the death penalty is fundamentally tin-eared to that question since it, just as much as pro-abortion reasoning, always begins, not with "When might we tragically have to kill?" but with the question "When do we get kill?". Reactionary dissent, like progressive dissent on abortion, spends its energies eagerly searching for a rationale to slake its thirst for human blood. It, like proabortion reasoning, lacks the fundamental reluctance to kill a sought-after victim that marks Catholic thinking on all life issues. And it gives no consideration at all to the effects on the people tasked with the job of doing the killing.

(source: Mark Shea;


Unsolved Murder Case Tied To Short North Posse, According To U.S. Prosecutors ---- The unsolved murder of Quincy Battle has weighed on his family for years, now that investigators have filed charges in the case, his brother says his family is beginning to feel peace again

"It's been closure. We've been waiting for this for four years. We needed closure on this," says brother Ricky Battle.

Battle was an imposing figure, but despite his size, his brother says he was a big softy. "He was like big teddy bear. The kids would jump on him like big pillow."

Christopher Wharton, Jonathan Holt and Lance Reynolds were named in a federal indictment in the murder of Battle. Prosecutors say all of them were part of the Short North Posse.

A gang the U.S. attorney's office says operated as one of the largest criminal enterprises in the state. "Murders, attempted murders, robberies and breaking and entering's," says Assistant US Attorney David Devillers.

A federal grand jury indicted 3 more people in connection with a series of violent crimes including 13 unsolved murders as well as other attempted murders, drug trafficking, weapons trafficking, extortion and robbery. The addition to the indictment includes an additional 23 felonies, including 1 murder and 9 attempted murders.

17 individuals were indicted in the racketeering case in July. All of the defendants are accused of being an organized criminal enterprise known as the Short North Posse. 11 defendants could face the death penalty if convicted of the crimes in the indictment.

Andre M. Brown, aka 'Paco', 33, of Columbus; Jonathan Holt, aka 'Dough Boy', 22, of Columbus and Christopher V. Wharton, 25, of Columbus were added to the indictment. Previous defendant Lance Reynolds, 31, of Columbus, was also charged with 1 count of racketeering conspiracy in the superseding indictment.

The indictment charges one or more of the defendants with 13 unsolved homicides, 33 attempted homicides, 56 violent felonies and 73 weapons offenses. The crimes occurred in Canal Winchester, Chillicothe, Columbus, Pataskala, Pickerington, and Zanesville, between 2005 and 2012.

For the family of Quincy Battle, they say their son was never in a gang, and they never knew why someone targeted their son. "I think he just got around with the wrong crowd," says Battle

Prosecutors his killers robbed him of cash and drugs.

The family says over the years, they heard whispers about who may be behind the murder of the 32-year old, but kept it quiet.

"We heard names, but we just kept it to ourselves. The detectives, we spoke to them, but they told us to keep everything quiet," Battle explains.

Now that his brother's murder is no longer an unsolved case, he says it's hard to put into words what he would say to those responsible. "I just don't know what to say. Pray we got this far."



The Rare Psychological Disorder That Only Affects Death Row Inmates

Imagine being told you are going to die in a month. Then it's a few hours. Then another month. You may be set free or you may be killed, and it all depends on events that are completely out of your control. How long could you stand it?

The poem, "O Death, rock me asleep," is rumored to have been written by Anne Boleyn in her cell as she awaited execution. While in prison, Anne was reported to have fallen into laughing spells and claimed that it would not rain until she was released or that doom would befall the kingdom seven years after she was executed. One morning, believing she was to be executed that day, she burst into tears upon being informed that her execution was delayed. She declared that she had hoped to be "past her pain" by the end of the day. A few years later Anne's sister-in-law, Jane Rochford, also went insane awaiting execution.

Regardless of the legality or morality of the death penalty, the process of sitting on death row, waiting to be executed, is incredibly painful. Some now argue that the protracted uncertainty, the rapidly changing execution dates, and the terrible isolation of death row, induces a form of insanity. People lose their minds, they commit suicide, and most importantly, they stop using the legal system to appeal their executions. It's called death row syndrome.

Mock Executions and Delayed Executions

Mock executions, procedures that cause people to think they are about to be executed, have long been established as a means of psychological torture. Victims are prepared for an execution, sometimes blindfolded or made to kneel, but the execution is not carried out. The procedure not only terrifies people, but makes them feel tortured hope should time come for their real execution. They lose all control, even the control of knowing when they are about to be executed.

No execution proceeding on death row is a mock execution. That would require deceitful intent on the part of those conducting it. Still, death row prisoners have been made to expect imminent death, only for the execution to be delayed. It's not unusual for people to come within 24 hours of their official time of execution only for the executions to be delayed. One man, Warren Hill, was strapped to a gurney, sedated, and thirty minutes away from being executed, when he was granted a stay of execution. People spend years thinking they're going to be executed in a few months, or a few days. They spend the last few minutes before their execution believing there might be a reprieve.

Appalling Conditions

Death row syndrome is not just the result of the appeals process, but the life that people lead while they appeal. Though conditions vary widely, most death row cells are small. Many of them are roughly the size of parking spaces, and depending on the country, they can have multiple people inside them. Although some death rows are rows of open cells, allowing inmates to see and hear each other, others are a series of steel containers, so the inmates see no one.

Inmates rarely leave their cells. Most inmates are in their cells 22 to 23 hours a day. If they leave, they don't go outside. They have no contact with anyone except, occasionally, their legal representatives. Guards slide food to them through a slot.

No Way Out

It's not surprising that these conditions take a toll on people's minds. Death row prisoners, and prisoners who have been exonerated, often describe the way that their fellow death row inmates deteriorate over time. They describe some prisoners smearing feces on the wall and having psychotic delusions. Other prisoners hold long conversations with themselves. Many attempt suicide. Others simply sleep 20 hours a day.

Still others attempt suicide through legal means. It's not unusual for prisoners on death row to give up making appeals, and cooperate as much as they can with the execution process. One inmate's own lawyer, who had represented him for months on the understanding that the inmate would drop all appeals out of respect for the victims' families, stopped the process 75 minutes before the man was to be executed. The lawyer stated that he no longer believed his client was competent. The man had claimed that he wished to spare the victim's families any more pain. After spending time with the man, the lawyer unearthed letters in which the man confessed that he now knew why people on death row chose to embrace the idea of execution as escape, and that he could no longer stand the isolation and the cycle of appeals.

It's this wide range of responses that keeps death row syndrome from being recognized as a psychiatric disorder. Many argue, quite reasonably, that it can't be an actual mental illness if the expression of it varies so widely. Death row prisoners also don't make an easy group to study, as most of them are severely disturbed before they go on death row.

The Soering Case

Conditions on death row are not just a moral problem. They're a diplomatic problem as well. In the 1985, a young German man named Jens Soering was accused, along with his girlfriend, of murdering the girlfriend's parents. The murder was committed in Virginia, where Soering was studying. The pair fled to the United Kingdom, where they were caught. The United Kingdom was ready to send Soering back to the United States, when Soering appealed. His lawyers argued, in front of the European Court of Human Rights, that conditions on Virginia's death row were so harsh, and the delays so long, that a stay on death row was "inhuman or degrading treatment." Soering was extradited, on the understanding that the state of Virginia would not seek the death penalty. It wasn't the death penalty itself that was the human rights violation. It was the experience of being on death row.

Over the years, other courts have decided that long stays on death row constitute inhumane punishment. Kenya, Uganda, and Zimbabwe have all passed laws, or made court decisions, that limited time on death row. (Many of those laws have been subsequently overturned because of political shifts or changes to the countries' constitutions.) In countries that have abolished the death penalty the point is moot. The United States supreme court has, so far, refused to hear cases which might limit the time allowed between the pronouncement of a death sentence and its execution.

In the end, the problem with death row syndrome is not just that it indicates inhumane treatment. The problem is that the very process that's meant to save people from unjust execution is so painful that it causes those people to seek their own execution. The check on the system, which people should use to fight injustice, has become a tool to break down resistance to the system.



Public consultation on Kiribati death penalty bill

A public consultation on the proposed death penalty has begun in Kiribati.

President Anote Tong has set up a Commission of Inquiry to consult with the public before the 2nd reading of the Bill is heard in parliament in December.

Mr Tong has said the law would be a deterrent for deliberate killings in the country, after five women lost their lives at the hands of their husbands or former partners.

The consultation has started on several outer islands, and last week it was held in the capital Tarawa.

Members of the Commission are Catholic Bishop Paul Mea and Kiribati Uniting Church Moderator Reirei Kourabi, assisted by 2 other members also appointed by President Tong.

The 2 heads of churches earlier rejected the Bill.

(source: Radio New Zealand)


Bangladesh Tribunal Gives Death Penalty to Islamist Leader for War Crimes

Bangladesh's war tribunal has sentenced the Islamist leader Motiur Rahman Nizami to death under charges of genocide, murder, torture and rape during the country's 1971 war of independence.

The 71-year-old leader of Jamaat-e-Islami - who is accused of having led Pakistani army's vigilante militia group known as al-Badr during Bangladesh's independence war four decades ago - was given the death sentence by a special court presided by a three-judge panel.

The judges announced the unanimous verdict in a packed courtroom in capital Dhaka after he was found guilty of eight of the 16 charges levelled against him.

"Considering the gravity of the crimes, the tribunal punished him with the death sentence," state prosecutor Mohammad Ali told reporters.

The charges include mass killing, execution of intellectuals and rape during the nine-month-long bloodshed in 1971.

The Jamaat has called for a nation-wide shutdown shortly after the tribunal's verdict.

"We are very unhappy with the judgment and the tribunal's observation," defence prosecutor Tajul Islam said of the outcome, adding that they would appeal against it.

The government has been accused of using the tribunal to settle scores with its political opponents.

Security was beefed up ahead of the verdict in Dhaka with scores of police personnel deployed to prevent clashes.

(source: International Business Times)


3 Kurds and an Iranian executed in Urmia

3 Kurds and an Iranian citizen have been executed in the Urmia city of East Kurdistan.

The 4 people who were accused of drug sale were hanged yesterday evening. The 2 Kurds punished with death were identified as Resid Elizade (55) and Selahedin Melayi (37), while the name of another 44-year-old prisoner couldn't be learned. The other is reported to be an Iranian citizen from the town of Kerece.

Last Saturday, Reyhaneh Jabbari, 26, was hanged in a Tehran prison in Iran after being found guilty of murdering an older man in what she says was self defense. The man is said to have been trying to sexually abuse her.

An international campaign urging a reprieve has brought a temporary stay in execution, which was due to be carried out on 30 September but was postponed for 10 days, but failed to prevent the implementation of the death sentence for the young woman who -Human rights group Amnesty International said - was convicted after a deeply flawed investigation.

(source: Firat news)


EU urges stay on executions

The European Union has once again urged Pakistan to abolish death penalty by retaining a moratorium on the capital punishment. It has also asked the country to review its blasphemy laws.

During a meeting with a group of Pakistani lawmakers at the Parliament House on Tuesday, an EU delegation expressed hope that Pakistan by continuing the moratorium on execution and reviewing blasphemy laws could get free access to European markets.

"The delegation said if Pakistan reviews its blasphemy laws and keeps the moratorium intact, the EU will consider Pakistan for duty-free access under its Generalized System for Preferences (GSP) Plus program," a senior lawmaker who attended the meeting told The Express Tribune. "We, however, said Pakistan cannot abolish the death penalty following its Islamic and constitutional rules," he added.

Continuing the ban on the capital punishment imposed by the previous government in 2008, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif directed the interior ministry last year to halt executions till further orders.

Since 2008, Pakistan executed only a couple of prisoners while more than 8,000 prisoners are on death row in more than 5 dozen jails of the country. The foreign affairs ministry has also recommended the government avail the GSP-Plus by extending the moratorium.

EU Special Representative to Pakistan for Human Rights Stavros Lambrinidis also expressed deep concerns over growing violence against minorities in Pakistan.

Senator Farhatullah Babar informed the observers that Pakistan was a signatory to different human rights conventions. "We may not be a champion of human rights but, yes we have made extraordinary progress by introducing forcing fresh legislation into practice in Pakistan," he added.

Senator Mushahid Hussain Sayed urged the EU to extend its maximum support to Pakistan for acquiring status of the GSP Plus. Issues of human rights are high on our agenda and the government is making all-out efforts to address them, he added.

"Pakistan is the freest Muslim democracy in the Muslim world," Mushahid remarked, adding that smooth transition of power from one elected government to the other was a manifestation of the fact that Pakistan strongly believes in democracy and rule of law. Pakistani lawmakers also urged the EU to take notice of human rights violations in Indian-administered Kashmir. Senator Mushahid, who chaired the meeting, also asked the visiting guests to take strong notice of the gross violations of human rights and atrocities of the Indian forces in Indian-administered Kashmir.

Senator Babar pointed out that violation of rights by Indian forces in the disputed Himalayan state needed to be looked into immediately.

Senator Mushahid said negative narrative against Islam and racism in the West was creating inconvenience for Muslims in Pakistan. However, he expressed his satisfaction over collaboration between Pakistan and the EU on different issues and expressed hope that bilateral relations between the 2 would grow further in future.

Stavros Lambrinidis also conveyed his felicitations to the government and people of Pakistan for Malala Yousafzai on wining the Nobel Peace Prize. The EU delegation also included Ambassador and Head of Delegation of the European Union to Pakistan Lars-Gunnar Wigemark.

(source: The Express Tribune)


World church body troubled at death sentence against Pakistan's Asia Bibi

World Council of Churches secretary Rev. Olav Fykse Tveit is deeply concerned over the rejection of an appeal against the death sentence for Asia Bibi, convicted under Pakistan's blasphemy law.

To promote tolerance, religious harmony and protection of the rights of religious minorities, Tveit said it is important that justice is ensured in cases like that of Asia Bibi.

"The alleged circumstances of the incident which led to the blasphemy charges against Ms Bibi are highly questionable, and the imposition of the death penalty in this case is totally inappropriate," said Tveit.

"Apart from the issues of religious freedom, the charges, on-going imprisonment and threat of execution seem to have infringed Ms Bibi's basic human rights," Tveit said in a statement issued from the WCC headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland on 27 October.

The American Center for Law and Justice has started a petition asking the U.S. government to stop sending foreign aid to Pakistan, the country that recently upheld the death sentence for Christian mother Asia Bibi for blasphemy.

Figures have shown that the United States sent close to $8 billion to Pakistan in the past 5 years while Bibi has been imprisoned, Christian Post reported.

Calling the blasphemy law prone to abuse, Tveit expressed his hope that the Pakistan Supreme Court will reverse the decision from the lower court in Bibi's case.

"I look forward to encouraging people of good will, both in Pakistan and in the wider world, to work together to encourage the amendment in the blasphemy law under which such charges have been made The Asia Bibi," Tveit said.

The WCC head noted, "The protection of the rights of all citizens regardless of their religious affiliation is a responsibility of the Pakistani government, as is putting an end to human rights violations and extra-judicial killings associated with the blasphemy law."

The WCC over a number of years has expressed concern on the abuse of Pakistan's blasphemy law along with its member churches in the country.

In 2009, the Central Committee, the main governing body of the WCC, issued a statement on the misuse of the blasphemy law and the security of religious minorities in Pakistan.

(source: Ecumenical News)


China's death penalty reform

The death penalty has long been a feature of China's justice system, but recent news suggests it might become less common in the future. On Monday, Chinese State media reported that a draft amendment to the Criminal Law had been submitted to the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC). The proposal would abolish capital punishment for nine categories of crime, including smuggling weapons, ammunition, nuclear materials and counterfeit currency; counterfeiting currency; raising funds by means of fraud; arranging for or forcing another person to engage in prostitution; obstructing a commander or a person on duty from performing his duties and fabricating rumors to mislead others during wartime.

The last time that China amended the Criminal Law to restrict the use of capital punishment was in 2011, when the government scrapped 13 cases in which such a measure could be adopted.

On Tuesday, China Daily reported the opinion of Zhao Bingzhi, a Professor of Criminal Law at Beijing Normal University. Bingzhi said that the aim of the amendment is to protect human rights, something that, as the paper remarked, is also "the requirement of ongoing judicial reform."

Currently, it is possible to incur capital punishment for 55 crimes, but the actual number of people executed is not public. It is, in fact, considered a state secret. Estimates are left to the care of independent organizations, which regularly point out that the Chinese justice system is the biggest executioner in the world.

An article published this year by Amnesty International stated that, in 2013, executions were recorded in 22 countries and that the overall number of reported executions worldwide had increased by almost 15% since 2012. However, the organization cautioned that "As in previous years, this figure does not include the thousands of people executed in China; with the death penalty treated as a state secret, the lack of reliable data does not allow Amnesty International to publish credible minimum figures for China."

The reform would fit a recent trend which has seen a steady decrease in the number of people executed by Chinese authorities. According to the Dui Hua Foundation, a US-based human rights organization, China executed about 2,400 people in 2013: a gigantic figure, accounting for more than the rest of the world put together, but much lower than the numbers reported in previous years. To make a comparison, according to Dui Hua, China executed 12,000 people in 2002 and another 3,000 in 2013.

The organization, whose data are extrapolated partly from China's Southern Weekly and partly from confidential sources, pointed out that a major turning point was reached in 2007, when authorities decided that all death penalty sentences have to be reviewed by the Supreme People's Court (SPC). Dui Hua stated on its website that according to the Southern Weekly, "the number of executions nationwide may have dropped by more than 1/3 with declines of nearly 50 % in some locales."

The case of Wu Ying, a wealthy businesswoman arrested for illegally raising funds, spotlighted the importance of the 2007 decision. She was condemned to death in 2009 by a court in Zhejiang Province, but the verdict was rejected by the Supreme Court in 2012 after anger spread among the public. (source: Asian Correspondent)


Decks cleared for Nithari killer's execution

The Supreme Court on Tuesday cleared the decks for the execution of Nithari serial killer Surinder Koli after it dismissed his plea seeking review of the judgment upholding death penalty.

A Bench of Chief Justice H.L. Dattu and Justices Madan B. Lokur and A.K. Sikri dismissed the review petition after hearing Ram Jethmalani, who argued that there was gross miscarriage of justice as Koli had been falsely implicated in the case.

Mr. Jethmalani argued that Koli was convicted only on the basis of his own confession, which could not be relied upon.

"1 innocent life is more important than anything else. I am shocked that such a thing can happen in the judiciary as the prosecution had completely suppressed a vital document, viz. the autopsy report of a surgeon, which is a piece of evidence to prove Koli's innocence," he said.

Counsel pointed out that the surgeon, who performed the autopsy, was not examined during the trial.

He said it could be a case of organ trade and handiwork of a doctor, but an innocent person was being sent to the gallows.

The Chief Justice made it clear to counsel, "You are introducing new facts for the 1st time which is not permissible under the rules. We can't entertain this review petition and we dismiss it."

On September 8, the apex court stayed Koli's execution pending disposal of the review petition in an open court. On September 12, the stay was extended till Tuesday. With the dismissal of the petition, it is now open to the jail authorities to execute the death sentence.

(source: The Hindu)


India Court Refuses To Review Death Penalty For Serial Killer

India's Supreme Court on Tuesday rejected a plea by a serial killer seeking review of the death sentence handed over to him.

Surender Koli, 42, was convicted of rapes and murders of young women and children at his employer's house in Delhi's Noida suburb in 2005 to 2006.

A 3-judge bench led by Chief Justice HL Dattu upheld Koli's death sentence saying they were "fully satisfied" that the supreme court had not committed any error that might persuade it to re-examine its order.

Report says Koli's last legal recourse is that of filing a curative petition, seeking a review by a larger judicial panel.

"Unless the court puts a fresh stay on his execution following the plea, Koli is likely to be hanged," it said.

Meanwhile, Koli has been sentenced to death in 5 of the 16 cases lodged against him so far.

It added that the Supreme Court, had in February, confirmed death sentence, saying "no mercy" should be shown to Koli.

President Pranab Mukherjee had also rejected his mercy plea.

(source: Leadership Nigeria)

OCTOBER 28, 2014:


Texas executes ex-gang member for the 2000 shooting deaths of 3 rivals in San Antonio

A former gang member was put to death Tuesday evening for the fatal shootings of 3 rivals 14 years ago in San Antonio.

Miguel Paredes, 32, was convicted along with 2 other men in the September 2000 slayings of three people with ties to the Mexican Mafia. The victims' bodies were rolled up in a carpet, driven about 50 miles southwest, dumped and set on fire. A farmer investigating a grass fire found the remains.

Paredes was pronounced dead at 6:54 p.m. CDT, 22 minutes after being injected with a lethal dose of the sedative pentobarbital. The execution was delayed slightly to ensure the IV lines were functioning properly, said Department of Criminal Justice spokesman Jason Clark. The procedure calls for 2 working lines.

Normally needles are placed in the crease of an inmate's arms near the elbows, but in Paredes' case, prison officials inserted IV lines into his hands.

As witnesses entered the death chamber in Huntsville, Paredes smiled and mouthed several kisses to 4 friends watching through a window and repeatedly told them he loved them. He told everyone gathered that he hoped his victims' family members would "let go of all of the hate because of all my actions."M

"I came in as a lion and I come as peaceful as a lamb," Paredes said. "I'm at peace. I hope society sees who else they are hurting with this."

As the drugs began taking effect, he took several deep breaths while praying. He started to snore and eventually stopped.

The execution was carried out after the U.S. Supreme Court turned down a last-day appeal from attorneys who contended Paredes was mentally impaired and his previous lawyers were deficient for not investigating his mental history.

Prosecutors said Paredes was the most aggressive shooter when Nelly Bravo and Shawn Michael Cain, both 23, and Adrian Torres, 27, showed up to collect drug money at the home of John Anthony Saenz, a leader in Paredes' gang.

Defense attorneys argued that Paredes, who turned 18 6 weeks before the slayings, grew up in a neighborhood where the only way to survive was to join a gang.

No friends or relatives of the victims attended Paredes' execution. Cain's family said in a statement afterward that Cain was "no longer with us for no other reason than being in the wrong place at the wrong time."

"Our family has waited 14 years for justice to finally be served," the statement said.

Paperwork carrying Saenz's name was found in the debris with the victims' bodies and helped police solve the case. Saenz, 32, claimed self-defense and avoided the death penalty when jurors sentenced him to life. The 3rd man convicted in the killings, Greg Alvarado, 35, pleaded guilty and also is serving life in prison.

Paredes becomes the 10th condemned inmate to be put to death this year in Texas, and the 518th overall since the state resumed capital punishment on December 7, 1982. Paredes becomes the 279th condemned inmate to be put to death in Texas since Rick Perry became governor in 2001. With no other lethal injections scheduled this year, the annual total will be the lowest since 3 were carried out in 1996. But at least 9 are scheduled for early 2015, including 4 in January.

Paredes becomes the 31st condemned inmate to be put to death this year in the USA and the 1390th overall since the nation resumed executions on January 17, 1977.

(sources: Associated Press & Rick Halperin)


Executions under Rick Perry, 2001-present-----279

Executions in Texas: Dec. 7, 1982-present----518

Perry #--------scheduled execution date-----name---------Tx. #

280------------Jan. 14------------------Rodney Reed-----------519

281------------Jan. 15------------------Richard Vasquez-------520

282------------Jan. 21-------------------Arnold Prieto--------521

283------------Jan. 28-------------------Garcia White---------522

284------------Feb. 4--------------------Donald Newbury-------523

285------------Feb. 10-------------------Les Bower, Jr.-------524

286------------Mar. 11-------------------Manuel Vasquez-------525

287------------Mar. 18-------------------Randall Mays---------526

288------------Apr. 15-------------------Manual Garza---------527

(sources: TDCJ & Rick Halperin)

OKLAHOMA----new execution date

Cole's execution set for March 5

A 4th death row inmate has a scheduled execution date at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester.

A court set Benjamin Robert Cole Jr.'s execution date for March 5, 2015, in the 2002 slaying of Cole's 9-month daughter, Brianna, in Claremore. Cole killed the baby because her crying interupted his video game playing.

"As Cole has exhausted his appeals and no stay of execution is in place, this court is required to set an execution date," 4 judges wrote in an opinion issued by the Court of Criminal Appeals of the state of Oklahoma.

The court on Friday also rescheduled execution dates for three other death row prisoners. Those inmates are Charles Warner, Jan. 15; Richard Eugene Glossip, Jan. 29 and John Marion Grant, Feb. 19. The men previously had their execution dates delayed in the aftermath of the botched April execution of Clayton Lockett at OSP in April.

It took nearly 40 minutes for the convicted killer to die and a state investigation determined an intrevaneous line delivering drugs to Lockett's system shifted. The state said it has since revised its execution protocol but Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt recently filed court paperwork seeking to delay the executions so the state can secure the drugs necessary and carry out additional training for Department of Corrections personnel and medical professionals.

Dale Baich is an assistant federal public defender who represents death row inmate Tremane Wood. He told the News-Capital in an interview Tuesday a complaint was filed recently in the federal courts of the Western District of Oklahoma on behalf of 21 inmates - including Warner, Glossip, Grant and Cole - seeking more information on what went wrong with Lockett's execution. He said a full report from the state on Lockett's execution hasn't been released publicly.

"During the discovery process in the federal proceedings, we hope to be able to depose a number of individuals from the Department of Corrections, people and others who participated in the execution to try and get to the bottom of what really happened," Baich said.

Cole confessed to attacking Brianna Cole at the family home in Claremore. The child's back was broken and her aorta ruptured when Cole deliberately bent the child backwards and in half. Cole had a prior conviction in California for felony child abuse against another child.

Warner is scheduled to die for raping and killing an 11-month-old in 1997. Glossip was convicted of orchestrating the murder of a motel owner who was preparing to question Glossip about money missing from the property. Grant killed corrections worker Gay Carter by stabbing her 16 times in the chest at a correctional facility in Hominy.

(source: Edmond Sun)

TEXAS----imminent execution

US Supreme Court denies last appeal from ex-gang member facing execution for 2000 deaths

The U.S. Supreme Court denied the last-chance appeal of a former gang member scheduled for execution Tuesday evening after his defense attorneys argued that the man, who was convicted of killing rival gang members 14 years ago in Texas, is mentally impaired.

The court denied a stay for Miguel Paredes in a brief order released Tuesday. Paredes, 32, was among three men convicted in the September 2000 shooting deaths of three people with ties to the Mexican Mafia at a home in San Antonio. The victims' bodies were rolled up in a carpet, driven about 50 miles southwest, then dumped and set on fire. A farmer investigating a grass fire found the remains.

Prosecutors alleged that Paredes, who turned 18 6 weeks before the slaying, was the most aggressive shooter when the 3 victims showed up to collect drug money.

Paredes' execution would be the 10th this year in Texas, the nation's most active death-penalty state. With no other lethal injections scheduled this year, the annual total would be the lowest since 3 were carried out in 1996. But at least 9 are scheduled for early 2015, including 4 in January.

Paredes' attorney, David Dow, said the execution should be stopped because Paredes had "a significant mental disease" that may have affected his judgment when he told his previous lawyer 10 years ago not to investigate his family background. Dow also told the Supreme Court that Paredes' previous lawyer was deficient for not investigating the inmate's medical history.

In a response filed Tuesday morning, state lawyers said Paredes "presented no evidence that he is or ever has been mentally ill or incompetent," and that his earlier attorney couldn't be considered deficient when he "abided by Paredes' explicit instructions." Lower courts have sided with the state, which also noted that the latest appeal was filed after a deadline.

Dow and the Texas Attorney General's Office didn't immediately return messages seeking comment Tuesday.

Prosecutors told jurors that Paredes was suspected in several other crimes, including other killings and drive-by shootings. Defense attorneys argued that he grew up in a gang-infested neighborhood, and the only way to survive was to join a gang.

Paredes was convicted of fatally shooting Nelly Bravo and Shawn Michael Cain, both 23, and Adrian Torres, 27. Prosecutors said the 3 were shot when they tried to collect drug money at the home of John Anthony Saenz, a leader in Paredes' gang.

"Evidence showed Miguel seemed to be the most aggressive and an active shooter," said Mary Green, the Bexar County district attorney who prosecuted Paredes.

Police got a break in the case when paperwork carrying Saenz's name was found in the debris with the three burning bodies.

Saenz, 32, claimed self-defense at his trial and avoided the death penalty when jurors sentenced him to life. The third suspect, Greg Alvarado, 35, pleaded guilty and also is serving life in prison.

(source: Associated Press)


Group to honor men for opposing death penalty

2 Durham political leaders will be honored in November for their work against the death penalty.

State Sen. Floyd McKissick Jr. and former Durham Mayor Pro Tem Howard Clement III will receive leadership awards from People of Faith Against the Death Penalty.

The awards will be made at the group's 20th anniversary banquet, starting at 6 p.m. Nov. 14 at the Friday Center at UNC in Chapel Hill. McKissick will be honored for sponsoring the N.C. Racial Justice Act of 2009 in the N.C. Senate.

Clement successfully championed the group's 1999 resolution for a moratorium on executions, making Durham the 1st major city in the state and 1 of the 1st in the nation to call for a suspension of executions. In 2012, with Clement's support, Durham became the 1st major city in North Carolina to pass a resolution calling for repealing the death penalty.

A banquet reception at 6 p.m. will be followed by dinner and the program starting at 7:15 p.m. Tickets and sponsorship information are available at

People of Faith Against the Death Penalty was founded as an interfaith nonprofit organization in 1994. It became a national organization in 2004.

(source: The Herald-Sun)


Jury recommends death penalty for man convicted of killing wife in Seminole County; Dwayne White convicted of 1st-degree murder last week

A jury recommend the death penalty Tuesday afternoon for a man convicted of killing his wife.

Dwayne White was convicted last week of 1st-degree murder in the 2011 stabbing death of his estranged wife, Sarah Rucker, outside a Miami Subs shop in Longwood.

The testimony in the penalty phase took just a couple of hours. The prosecution had a victim's advocate read a letter written by Rucker and White's oldest daughter who is in pharmacy school.

"How are my siblings going to go through life without her? How are they going to wake up every day knowing my mother was killed by their father, who for some reason they also loved?" read Pamela Theiss, victim's advocate.

White chose not to take the stand.

During closing statements, the defense played an excerpt from a 911 call Rucker had made during an earlier confrontation with White on the day she was killed. The defense suggested to jurors they remember those screams when they consider the suffering Rucker endured.

"Do you think he was smiling as he was cutting her throat and reaching around time after time pulling that knife from her left throat over to his right side?" said Jeffy Dowdy, defense attorney.

Ultimately the decision will be made by Judge Kenneth Lester. It is unclear when Lester will give his ruling.

(source: WESH news)

MISSOURI----impending execution

Missouri prepares for 9th execution of 2014

Missouri officials were preparing on Tuesday to execute a man who wasn't able to appeal his conviction in federal court because his attorneys missed a filing deadline.

Mark Christeson was scheduled to die at 12:01 a.m. CDT Wednesday for the killing of a woman and her 2 children in 1998.

Christeson had 2 appeals pending with the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday. One challenges the state's planned use of a made-to-order execution drug produced by an unidentified compounding pharmacy. The other argues that he deserves the chance to appeal his case in federal courts, which is the norm for inmates sentenced to death.

Christeson would be the ninth person executed by Missouri this year, which would equal the state record set in 1999. That could be exceeded next month, as Leon Taylor is scheduled for execution Nov. 19 for killing a gas station attendant in suburban Kansas City 20 years ago.

In addition to the court appeals, Gov. Jay Nixon was weighing a clemency request.

In Maries County, a south-central Missouri county with just 9,000 residents, there is little argument with the death sentence, prosecutor Terry Daley Schwartze said.

"No matter how anybody feels about the death penalty, you can't find a person around here who doesn't feel it's the right result for this case," Schwartze said. "It's so very awful."

When he was 18, Christeson and his 17-year-old cousin, Jesse Carter, came up with a plan to run away from the home outside Vichy where they were living with a relative.

On Feb. 1, 1998, Christeson and Carter took shotguns and went to a home about a half-mile away where Susan Brouk, 36, lived with her 12-year-old daughter, Adrian, and 9-year-old son, Kyle. They planned to steal Brouk's Ford Bronco, Schwartze said.

The cousins tied the hands of the children with shoelaces. Christeson forced Brouk into a bedroom and raped her. When they went back into the living room, Adrian recognized Carter and said his name.

"We've got to get rid of 'em," Christeson told Carter.

Court records show that Christeson and Carter forced Brouk and the children into her Bronco and took electronics and other items. They drove to a pond.

After kicking Brouk in the ribs, Christeson cut her throat, then cut Kyle's throat and held him under the water until he drowned. Carter held Adrian while Christeson pressed on her throat until she suffocated. Carter pushed her body into the pond. With Brouk struggling to stay alive, the men tossed her into the pond, where she drowned.

Brouk's sisters discovered a few days later that Brouk and the children were missing. A Missouri State Highway Patrol helicopter spotted one of the bodies in the pond, leading to a search that found all 3.

Meanwhile, Christeson and Carter drove to California, selling Brouk's household items along the way. A detective in Riverside County, California, recognized Christeson and Carter from photos police had circulated, and the men were arrested 8 days after the killings.

Carter was sentenced to life in prison without parole after agreeing to testify against Christeson.

(source: Associated Press)


Death Row Inmate Waits to Know if Request for a Stay Will Be Granted

A Missouri death row inmate is waiting to find out if he'll get an 11th-hour reprieve.

Lawyers for Mark Christeson say his execution - set to take place at one minute past midnight Wednesday morning - should be postponed due to mistakes made by Christeson's previous team of attorneys nearly a decade ago.

They've filed a request with the U.S. Supreme Court for a stay, citing the original attorneys' failure to place a timely request for a federal review, which is standard procedure in death penalty cases.

The original petition was denied by the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals, prompting the request to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Several former judges are backing the appeal.

Christeson was convicted of breaking into a southern Missouri woman's home in early 1998, raping her, then killing her and her 12-year-old daughter and 9-year-old son.

He was 18 at the time.

His cousin and co-defendent is serving life in prison for the crime.

Legal experts say it's rare for anyone to face execution without having their case appealed in federal court.

(source: KMOX news)


Missouri death row inmate bids to change lawyers hours before execution

A death row inmate in Missouri is struggling to change his lawyers just hours before he is set to be executed, in a last-ditch effort to persuade the US supreme court to postpone the judicial killing on grounds that his previous attorneys were incompetent.

In a highly unusual 11th-hour exchange of briefs before the nation's highest court, Mark Christeson, 35, has presented documents to the justices that suggest he wants to take on new legal representation and ditch his previous lawyers. The state of Missouri is resisting the move.

If the attempt fails, Christeson will almost certainly be put to death by lethal injection at 1 minute past midnight in 1 of 2 executions scheduled to take place in the US on Tuesday night. He was put on death row for the January 1998 murders of Susan Brouk, 36, her daughter, Adrian, 12, and her son, Kyle, 9. He was 18 at the time of the crimes.

In its final hours and minutes, the case is coming down to claims that Christeson was grossly let down and abandoned by his existing court-appointed lawyers who have represented him since 2004. Legal documents lodged with state and federal courts show that the two Missouri-based lawyers, Eric Butts and Philip Horwitz, failed to meet a crucial deadline for filing a petition that would have secured Christeson a federal review of his conviction.

As a result, Christeson was denied the review - and with it his final substantive hope of avoiding death - on grounds that his request had been "untimely".

In recent days, 15 former federal and state judges have submitted a joint brief organised by the Constitution Project in which they say that Butts and Horwitz were "not up to the task before them" and accuse the lawyers of "apparent abandonment and misconduct".

Horwitz and Butts have yet to respond to specific questions from the Guardian. Horwitz said that he was unable to answer as the case was still in litigation.

The record shows that Christeson has been trying to switch his legal representation from Butts and Horwitz to 2 new out-of-state lawyers, Joseph Perkovich and Jennifer Merrigan, who have been advising him on the case. But so far all courts that have dealt with the case have refused to allow Perkovich and Merrigan to officially take over as Christeson's counsel.

As a result, Christeson has been left in a state of apparent legal limbo in which he is still represented by lawyers who allegedly failed him at a crucial stage in his case, setting up a conflict of interest in which all parties are trapped. In their submission the former judges wrote that "Cases, including this one are falling through the cracks of the system."

On Tuesday morning Justice Samuel Alito of the US supreme court ordered both sides in the case to present briefs regarding whether or not Merrigan and Perkovich should be allowed to step in at this late stage as Christeson's official lawyers. In their brief, Merrigan and Perkovich reproduce a letter typed for Christeson in prison by a fellow inmate in June.

In it Christeson related how his existing lawyers, Horowitz and Butt, apparently tried to persuade him that the new lawyers "did not have my best interest in mind and that I would be better off with attorneys from Missouri".

But Christeson went on to say, "I respectfully disagree. I personally feel that attorneys Joe Perkovich and Jennifer Merrigan should be allowed to represent me. I truly believe that they do have my best interest in mind and more so then [sic] Horowitz and Butts."

In another hand-written letter to Merrigan he said: "I really believe you and Joe were meant to represent me."

In its brief, the state argues that there is no evidence that Christeson wishes to change lawyers. No retention letter authorising the appointment of the out-of-state attorneys had been put into the record.

Unless the supreme court allows the change of lawyers to go ahead, Christeson will have no chance of arguing before the justices that his incompetent legal representation denied him the right to a federal review. And without that, his chances of avoiding lethal injection are minutely slim.

(source: The Guardian)


Death penalty option for decaptitation cases

A state senator said Monday he's pursuing legislation to ensure that anyone convicted of beheading a victim could be sentenced to death or life without parole.

A case in Oklahoma inspired Sen. Brent Steele, R-Bedford, to check Indiana law to see if decapitation would be an aggravating circumstance that could lead to the death penalty. Steele said he learned it would not.

"One of the most horrendous crimes one can think of would be to have your spouse or child beheaded," Steele said in an email to constituents on Monday.

"Decapitation with a hunting knife wouldn't lend itself to even having an open casket," he said. "All human decency is stripped from that violent act, whether it is motivated in a jealous rage of a mad spouse or inspired by some religious fanaticism, which our government is at a loss to call it what it is."

In the Oklahoma case, prosecutors are seeking the death penalty against Alton Alexander Nolen, 30, who has been charged with 1st-degree murder in the death a 54-year-old woman at the plant where he'd been fired. Nolen is accused of stabbing the woman and then beheading her.

Police said Nolen is a practicing Muslim who had been trying to convert co-workers to the religion, something Steele appeared to seize on.

"As a society, we cannot prevent a person from being mean to the core or committing atrocities in the name of religion, but we can up the cost for unspeakable behavior such as beheading," he said.

In Indiana, prosecutors can seek the death penalty or life without parole in a murder case if they can prove one of 16 aggravating circumstances. The most common is the commission of another serious felony, such as rape or attempted murder, at the time of the original offense.

Other aggravating circumstances include burning, torturing or mutilating a victim before killing them and dismemberment after death. Steele, an attorney, authored the bill in 1995 that added those circumstances to the law.

But Steele said the nonpartisan Legislative Services Agency told him that "decapitation technically isn't mutilation and it isn't dismemberment after death" and therefore the death penalty might not be an option. So Steele said he asked LSA to draft legislation to add decapitation or an attempted decapitation to the list of crimes punishable by life without parole or the death penalty.

The bill can be considered when lawmakers return in January to the Statehouse for the 2015 legislative session.



Death penalty 'in limbo' for now----Officals say other crises have 'diverted' state from resolving lethal injection program's problems

Attorney General Jon Bruning expects that another year will pass before Nebraska can be ready again to carry out its death penalty.

The state's top justice official blames the delay on the shortage of execution drugs, the state prison sentencing fiasco and the November elections.

The 3 events combined to leave Nebraska without a means of executing the 11 men now on death row, he said.

They also have put efforts to find an alternative on hold.

"Death row is sort of in limbo today," Bruning said. "I wish we had been prepared to try to provide the answer this summer and fall, but we ended up being diverted."

He commented on the status of Nebraska's death penalty in an interview last week.

The state lost its ability to carry out an execution earlier this year, when its supply of sodium thiopental expired.

Nebraska's execution protocol calls for sodium thiopental to be the 1st of 3 drugs administered to kill condemned prisoners.

Until 2009, the 3-drug combination was the most common method of carrying out lethal injection around the country. It has never been put to use in Nebraska.

The state has not executed anyone since 1997, before it switched methods from the electric chair to lethal injection.

Supplies of sodium thiopental dried up after an American drugmaker stopped manufacturing it and the European Union, urged on by anti-death-penalty activists, banned its export for executions.

Nebraska bought its last supply of the drug from a broker in India.

Bruning said there are several alternatives Nebraska could pursue to overcome execution barriers. But state officials may not have an easy road to that end.

State Sen. Ernie Chambers of Omaha, an adamant opponent of the death penalty, said he will fight every attempt to make executions possible again.

"I would fight tooth and nail, or fang and claw, against what Bruning is talking about," he said. "It's not going to be an easy thing for anything to be done that will facilitate carrying out judicial executions."

1 option would be sticking with the 3-drug method and having sodium thiopental made at a compounding pharmacy.

Nebraska could buy from a private pharmacy, hire someone to compound it or join with a consortium of other states to have it compounded, Bruning said.

Another option would be switching to a different execution drug or combination of drugs, as have many other death penalty states.

Before making such a switch, state officials would have to change the Department of Correctional Services' rules and regulations. Those rules currently spell out the 3-drug protocol.

Bruning said he would recommend broader rules that would not specify what drug or drugs are to be used and would leave that decision up to the Corrections director for each execution.

"The advantage to that is, when you pick one option, like Nebraska has, then the anti-death penalty litigation machine lines up against whatever the scarcest of those (drugs) is," he said. "They can create a bottleneck."

But Chambers said the Corrections director should not be allowed to make that kind of life-and-death decision, considering the numerous Corrections Department failures that have come to light this year.

"That kind of authority cannot be entrusted to a slipshod, slapdash, incompetent operation such as that," he said.

Chambers also wondered whether current law gives too much policy-making authority to Corrections officials. By law, the department chooses the execution drugs, then spells out its method in rules.

Bruning said a rules change would be "very doable." It could be completed within 90 days and would not need legislative approval, he said.

The state could have been well on its way to rewriting the rules and deciding what execution drug or drugs to use if the prison sentencing problems had not intervened, Bruning said.

The World-Herald revealed in June that state Corrections officials were not properly calculating mandatory minimum sentences and, as a consequence, were letting inmates out early.

The department's top 2 attorneys retired after being blamed for the problem. The 2 ignored 2 Nebraska Supreme Court rulings on the sentencing issue.

Other department officials have been busy dealing with fallout from the revelation, including a legislative investigation into the miscalculations, Bruning said.

Now, with barely 2 months left in his term of office, he said it will fall to the new governor and attorney general to decide "if and when" they want to address the state's death penalty.

Bruning did not seek re-election this year, choosing to run for governor instead. He was defeated in the GOP primary.

James Foster, a Corrections spokesman, said Director Mike Kenney plans to work with the new administration on identifying the steps needed to prepare for carrying out an execution.

He did not say whether the department is looking at any changes in the current protocol, which follows the injection of sodium thiopental with one of pancuronium bromide, which causes paralysis, and finally potassium chloride, which stops the heart.

According to the Death Penalty Information Center, the most common alternative drug is pentobarbital, which has been used in 14 states.

A sedative, pentobarbital is often used to euthanize animals. But supply problems cropped up last year after the drug's Danish manufacturing company refused to sell it for executions.

Other states have tried combinations of midazolam, hydromorphone and other drugs. 3 such executions have gone awry, with the inmates taking a prolonged time to die.

(source: Omaha World-Herald)


Charleston murder suspect 'death penalty-eligible'

A Charleston man could face the death penalty after a federal grand jury indicted him Tuesday on a murder charge in the death of a police informant.

Federal authorities haven't said if they will pursue the death penalty for Marlon Dewayne "Ice" Dixon, 38.

Dixon is accused of killing Branda Mae Delight Basham, 21, in retaliation for her cooperation with police. Basham's body was found on railroad tracks on the West Side in July.

Dixon shot and killed Basham to prevent her from testifying or continuing to provide information against him, according to federal prosecutors.

"We rely on witnesses and confidential informants to be able to get to the root of this drug trade," U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin said.

His office also took the case because of its focus on eradicating the heroin epidemic in Southern West Virginia, Goodwin said.

Dixon faces up to life in prison or the death penalty, but Goodwin said it will be up to the U.S. Department of Justice as to which of those to pursue.

"It has not yet been determined, but the charges are, as we would say, death penalty-eligible. It's ultimately the [U.S.] attorney general's call as to whether we seek the death penalty.

"There is a review process within the DOJ that looks at a number of factors under the indictment," Goodwin said.

West Virginia abolished capital punishment at the state level in 1965, but the federal government can still ask for it. The last time federal prosecutors in West Virginia sought the death penalty was in 2010, when Mingo County drug dealer George "Porgy" Lecco was convicted of ordering the killing of a federal drug informant, Carla Collins. A jury decided not to give Lecco the death penalty, and a federal judge sentenced him to life in prison instead.

The 7-count indictment charges Dixon with murder, 3 counts of distributing heroin, 2 counts of tampering with a witness by killing her, and being a felon in possession of a firearm. An indictment means that a grand jury has determined that enough evidence exists to warrant a jury trial.Dixon has a lengthy criminal history. According to the indictment, Dixon was convicted in federal court of distributing cocaine in 1999 and again in 2006. He was convicted in 2007 of malicious wounding in Kanawha Circuit Court.

Basham was shot 3 times July 12. Her body was found near Breece and Madison streets on Charleston's West Side.Dixon was arrested about a month later. He was charged with 1st-degree murder in Kanawha County and has been held without bond in South Central Regional Jail ever since.

According to a criminal complaint on file in Kanawha Magistrate Court, Dixon can be seen on surveillance footage wiping down the front door knob and door at a woman’s home on the day Basham was shot.

A witness told police, according to the complaint, that Dixon showed up that night and asked her to wash his clothes, which she did.

She also said she received a phone call from Dixon after the police executed a search warrant and Dixon asked if the police got his shoes.

She said Dixon started yelling at her and said, "There is probably blood on them!"

After obtaining a search warrant, Charleston detectives found blood on both the door and a pair of Dixon's athletic shoes, they wrote in the complaint.

The same witness said Dixon was carrying a black pistol in his waistband the night of the slaying and also told her Basham was killed because she wore a wire and was working as an informant for the police, the complaint states.

Phone records allegedly show Dixon was the last person to communicate with Basham.

After the shooting, while police were searching for Dixon, he allegedly posted to Facebook and sent text messages to the police department.

(source: Charleston Gazette)


Why Most Americans Say They Still Favor The Death Penalty

Most Americans favor the death penalty, citing as justification proper punishment and saved taxpayer dollars in a new Gallup poll.

A strong majority - 63 % - of those Americans polled said they favor the death penalty in cases of murder. Asked to state why in their own words, 35 % cited the biblical concept of an "eye for an eye," 14 % said the penalty "saves taxpayers money" and 14 % said "They deserve it."

Others said they support it because it's a deterrent for future crime or will prevent that person from committing the crime again, or that it helps the families of the victims. 3 % of those polled simply said they "believe in the death penalty."

Gallup conducted this same poll in 1991, 2001 and 2003. In 1991, 1/2 of Americans who support the death penalty cited "eye for an eye" as justification, 13 % cited taxpayer savings and no one said "they deserve it."

That year the 2nd most popular reason for support of the penalty was deterrence, with 19 % saying "They will repeat the crime." This year just 7 % referred to the concept.

Of Americans who oppose the death penalty, 40 % said it's "wrong to take a life." Other popular justifications involved religious beliefs and wrongful convictions.

(source: Daily Caller)


Tension ahead of verdict on Bangla cleric today

Bangladesh's war crimes court is set to deliver a long-awaited verdict on the leader of the largest Islamist party, the prosecutor said on Tuesday, amid fears it will trigger violence from supporters.

Motiur Rahman Nizami, 71, could face the death penalty if convicted on Wednesday of 16 charges including genocide, rape and arson allegedly carried out during the 1971 war of independence.

The verdict, originally scheduled for June, was postponed at the 11th hour because of a sudden deterioration in Nizami's health.

"We are finally going to get the long-waited verdict on Wednesday," prosecutor Tureen Afroz told reporters. "We hope he will be sentenced to death for his crimes during the war."

Nizami is suspected of leading one of the war's most notorious militias, which allegedly killed top intellectuals as it became clear the new nation of Bangladesh would emerge from what was then East Pakistan.

Deputy commissioner of Dhaka police Abdul Baten told reporters security has been tightened in the capital with extra police deployed.

Authorities fear a death sentence could trigger violent protests by Nizami's Jamaat-e-Islami party, which has hundreds of thousands of activists and other supporters.

"We won't tolerate any attempt to create instability or chaos," junior home minister Asaduzzaman Khan told reporters.

Other verdicts as well as the execution of a senior Jamaat leader last year plunged the country into one of its worst crises as Islamists battled security forces, leaving around 200 people dead.

(source: Agence France-Presse)


UN Seriously Concerned about Iran's Death Penalty Record

International reactions towards the execution of Reyhaneh Jabbari are continuing. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights issued the following statement today expressing grave concern about Iran's use of the death penalty:

Iran execution

We are shocked and saddened by the execution on 25 October of Ms. Reyhaneh Jabbari, who was sentenced to death for the alleged murder of Morteza Abdolali Sarbandi, a former employee of the Iranian Intelligence Ministry. The execution of Ms Jabbari was carried out on Saturday despite repeated calls on the authorities by various United Nations human rights mechanisms not to execute her.

Serious concerns were raised about due process in connection with Ms. Jabbari's case - in particular the allegation that her conviction was based on confessions made under duress. The court also apparently failed to take all relevant circumstantial evidence into account.

On 7 July 2007, Ms. Jabbari reportedly stabbed Mr. Sarbandi in the shoulder after he offered to hire her to redesign his office and then took her to a residence, where, according to her, he attempted to sexually assault her. Ms. Jabbari maintained that her actions were taken in self-defence, in order to prevent a serious assault on her person.

The Iranian authorities apparently did make attempts to prevent the execution, which was stayed at least twice, in April and September, in order to enable the 2 families to reach a settlement. However, it is the Government's responsibility to prevent execution, especially when there is so much uncertainty about the events surrounding the killing, and concerns over due process.

We are very concerned about the increased use of the death penalty in Iran, as highlighted in the report of the Special Rapporteur on Iran which is being presented to the General Assembly later today. Iran is scheduled to appear before the Human Rights Council under the Universal Periodic Review this Friday (31 October), and we call on the Iranian authorities to make an explicit commitment to immediately institute a moratorium on the death penalty, particularly in light of the high number of executions and the continuing serious concerns about fair trial and due process.

(source: Iran Human Righs)


Malaysian man escapes death penalty under amended Singapore drug laws

A 29-year-old Malaysian condemned to hang in 2009 for drug trafficking had his sentence commuted to life imprisonment as he was intellectually challenged and suffering from depression at the time.

Wilkinson Primus, who looked relaxed in court, was spared the gallows under amended laws that give judges the discretion to impose life terms on drug traffickers who suffer from an "abnormality of mind" that substantially reduce their mental responsibility for their acts.

He was riding a motorcycle into Singapore on Nov 3, 2008 when he was arrested at the Woodlands Checkpoint. A bundle in the basket of the motorcycle was later analysed to contain 35.66g of heroin.

Wilkinson was given the then-mandatory death penalty in 2009 after he was convicted of drug trafficking

(source: The Straits Times)

SAUDI ARABIA----execution

Saudi Arabia Carries Out 61st Execution Of 2014; Rape, murder, apostasy, armed robbery and drug trafficking are all punishable by death under Saudi Arabia's strict version of Islamic sharia law.

Saudi Arabia beheaded a Pakistani convicted of heroin smuggling Tuesday, the interior ministry said, bringing the number executed in 2 weeks to 4.

It said a Saudi national was also executed in a separate case, raising to 61 the number of death sentences carried out in the kingdom this year, according to an AFP tally.

Mohammed Gul Rahma of Pakistan was executed in Qatif in the kingdom's oil-rich Eastern Province, the official Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported, citing the interior ministry.

Rahma "was caught smuggling a large quantity of heroin," SPA said.

3 other Pakistanis found guilty of heroin smuggling have also been beheaded this month, 2 of them in the Eastern Province.

Also on Tuesday, Mohammed bin Noun bin Nasser Al-Dhufairi of Saudi Arabia was executed in northern Jawf region for smuggling amphetamines pills, SPA said.

The interior ministry says the government "is keen on combating narcotics due to their great harm to individuals and society."

A United Nations independent expert called in September for an immediate moratorium on the death penalty in Saudi Arabia.

Christof Heyns, the UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, said trials "are by all accounts grossly unfair" and defendants are often not allowed a lawyer.

He said confessions were obtained under torture.

Rape, murder, apostasy, armed robbery and drug trafficking are all punishable by death under Saudi Arabia's strict version of Islamic sharia law.

Human Rights Watch expressed alarm in August at a surge in executions, which saw 19 people beheaded between in 16 days.

HRW said a number of those executed had been convicted of non-violent offenses such as drug trafficking and "sorcery," and described the use of the death penalty in their cases as "particularly egregious."

Moreover, Saudi judges have this year passed death sentences on 5 members of the country's Shia Muslim minority for their part in pro-democracy protests.

(source: Mint Press News)

TEXAS----impending execution

San Antonio Man Set to Be Executed Tuesday

A former San Antonio gang member is scheduled for execution Tuesday evening for his part in a 2002 triple slaying.

Miguel Angel Paredes, 32, was convicted for the shooting deaths of Adrian Torres, 27; his 23-year-old girlfriend, Nelly Bravo; and Shawn Michael Cain, 23. Their burned bodies were found in nearby Frio County.

Paredes would become the 10th person put to death this year in Texas, and the 518th since the state resumed executions in 1982.

2 co-defendants, John Anthony Saenz and Greg Alvarado, were also convicted in the deaths. Bexar County prosecutors claimed the 3 were settling a drug debt with Torres when the murders occurred.

Paredes told the San Antonio Express-News he and his fellow Hermanos Pistoleros Latinos associates met up with Torres, a member of a rival gang, the Mexican Mafia, to confront him about threats he had made.

Paredes, who was 18 at the time of the murders, was the only 1 of the 3 defendants sentenced to death. Saenz was found guilty of capital murder but sentenced to life in prison. Alvarado pleaded guilty and is serving a life sentence.

On Monday, Paredes' lawyer, David Dow of Houston, asked the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans to stay the execution while it considers an appeal Dow also filed on Monday.

In the appeal, Dow argues that another appellate attorney failed to investigate whether Paredes was taking psychiatric medication when he waived his right to challenge his sentence based on ineffective trial counsel.

(source: Texas Tribune)


Inside the mind of a San Antonio man on death row: Condemned man finds art as release

Miguel Angel Paredes, who is set to be executed Tuesday for a gang-sanctioned triple slaying in San Antonio, said during a death row interview with the Express-News last week that he has turned to artwork over the past 13 years while waiting for his sentence to be carried out.

He has created sketches ranging from portraits of lions, puppies and dolphins to more haunting imagery, such as a man strapped to a death chamber gurney - arms outstretched, the IV line in place, with an angel in 1 witness box and the devil in the other.

Each drawing is posted at and can be seen in the gallery above.

Paredes, now 32, was convicted in 2001 of the capital murders a year earlier of Nelly Esmerelda Bravo, 23, her boyfriend and Texas Mexican Mafia member Adrian Torres, 27, and Shawn Michael Cain, 32. Paredes leveled a handgun to the head of Bravo as she begged for her life, ignoring her pleas, according to witness testimony at his trial.

When the shot to her head wasn't fatal, Paredes fired a shotgun at her chest. Co-defendants Greg Alvarado and John Anthony Saenz - who, like Paredes, were members of the Hermanos de Pistoleros Latinos prison gang - are both serving life sentences.

Paredes said he is remorseful for the slayings.

"All that gang life folklore, the romanticism, it's crap," he said. "As long as one kid sees beyond all that crap because of my situation, that's fine."


Parades was 18 at the time of the killings and was jailed as a minor for murder. His co-defendants received life sentences.

Paredes told the San Antonio Express-News he was ready to die for his crimes.

"For me, what matters is that people really get to see the reality of the death penalty, that it's affecting people that are invisible, like my son, my loved ones, my family. They're the ones really carrying that burden," he told the paper in an interview published over the weekend.

(sources: & Reuters)


San Antonio gang member faces execution

A former San Antonio gang member set to die tonight in Huntsville for a triple slaying 14 years ago has lost a federal court appeal.

Miguel Paredes was 18 when he was arrested 2 days after a farmer investigating a grass fire on a remote stretch of road near his South Texas home discovered the bodies of 2 men and a woman from San Antonio. The 3 had been shot, bound and wrapped in carpet that was set ablaze and dumped in Frio County.

Paredes, now 32, is set for lethal injection Tuesday evening.

Prosecutors say the slayings were the result of a drug dispute involving rival gangs.

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has rejected an appeal to halt the punishment, the 10th this year in Texas.

(source: KSAT news)


Appeals court upholds Ohio killer's death sentence

A federal appeals court has upheld the death sentence for the condemned killer of a Toledo woman, rejecting arguments that he is mentally disabled and received poor legal assistance.

The 6th Circuit Court of Appeals also rejected a claim by death row inmate James Frazier that the death penalty amounts to unconstitutionally cruel and unusual punishment.

The court's ruling Monday involved the death sentence given Frazier for the 2004 slaying of 49-year-old Mary Stevenson in her apartment, in the same building where Frazier lived.

The court said a lower court had properly determined that the 73-year-old Frazier failed to present enough evidence of being mentally disabled and thus ineligible for the death penalty.

Frazier's attorney, David Doughten, says he will appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

(source: Associated Press)


250 people possible jurors in Lima death penalty case

Questionnaires will go out to 250 prospective jurors next week to decide whether a convicted killer should get the death penalty for 2 more deaths he admitted to causing.

Those 250 people will have until Nov. 24 to answer the questions and return the forms. They will not have to answer numerous questions on their views on the death penalty, yet. Judge Jeffrey Reed rule that will be done in person during individual questioning, should they make it that far.

Church is charged with 2 counts of aggravated murder and aggravated arson from a 2009 fire that killed Massie "Tina" Flint, 45, and her boyfriend, Rex Hall, 54. The fire was at a home at 262 S. Pine St.

The crime surfaced when Church told his cellmate about the crime while he was serving a life sentence for murdering a woman in 2010.


MISSOURI----impending execution and new execution date

Calls mount for Missouri to stay execution of inmate 'abandoned' by lawyers

15 former federal and state judges have called for a stay of execution for Mark Christeson, a Missouri death row inmate who is set to be executed on Wednesday, arguing that the prisoner has in effect been abandoned by his own court-appointed lawyers.

Christeson, 35, will be judicially killed by lethal injection at 12.01am on Wednesday, barring a last-minute stay of execution. He is the only death row inmate in Missouri to have been denied a habeas review of his case - a crucial stage in the legal process that allows a prisoner to challenge his death sentence in the federal courts.

The legal record shows that the two public defense lawyers who have represented Christeson at the federal review stage missed a key deadline to file his petition. As a result, the prisoner was told he was not entitled to have his case looked at again because his request had been made in an "untimely" manner - thus destroying his last major hope of having his sentence overturned before execution.

The spotlight is now falling on his 2 Missouri-based lawyers, Eric Butts from St Louis and Philip Horwitz from Chesterfield. Not only did they file the petition 117 days late, they only met the prisoner for the 1st time more than a month after the April 2005 deadline had passed.

In a brief filed with the US eighth circuit appeals court, the judges, who come from 10 different states including Missouri, accuse Butts and Horwitz of "apparent abandonment and misconduct". They say the lawyers were "clearly not up to the task before them" and compounded their mistake by refusing to withdraw as Christeson's attorneys.

"Counsel appear never to have entertained the possibility that by confessing their malpractice, they might have aided their client's case," the judges argue. As a result, the judges go on, the 2 lawyers, who remain Christeson's official legal representatives to this day, have put themselves in a conflict of interest whereby they cannot argue that the prisoner should be given a new federal review because to do so would implicitly involve an admission of their own misconduct.

The judges are scathing about the decision, upheld by several courts, to refuse to grant Christeson a habeas review, despite evidence that his legal representation was seriously flawed. "Cases, including this one," the judges write, "are falling through the cracks of the system. And when the stakes are this high, such failures unacceptably threaten the very legitimacy of the judicial process."

In a separate report lodged with the federal district court for the western district of Missouri in June, Lawrence Fox, who teaches legal ethics at Yale law school, goes even further. He studied the case and concluded that "the conduct of Messrs Butts and Horwitz fell far beneath the bare minimum standard of care, let alone the standard applicable in a capital case; that they not only committed malpractice and breached multiple fiduciary duties, but also appear to have abandoned their client long before they did anything meaningful pursuant to their appointment by this court". Fox adds that the duo should have withdrawn from representing Christeson "years ago to avoid perpetuating an unwaivable conflict of interest".

The claim of conflict of interest has been raised by two outside lawyers who became involved in the Christeson case earlier this year, paradoxically at the invitation of Butts and Horwitz. When the outside attorneys, Joseph Perkovich from New York and Jennifer Merrigan from Pennsylvania, began looking into the case, they quickly became alarmed by what they found.

"We saw from the record that Christeson's appointed lawyers didn't meet him until 6 weeks after the [habeas] deadline had passed. There was no sign of any legal activity indicating that anything was going on up to and beyond the deadline," said Perkovich, a capital punishment specialist who jointly leads a death penalty clinic at Saint Louis University law school.

Perkovich added that he and Merrigan had asked Butts and Horwitz repeatedly to hand over their files on the case. But even now, hours before the scheduled execution, the lawyers have shown nothing.

Christeson was put on death row for the January 1998 murders of Susan Brouk, 36, her daughter, Adrian, 12, and her son, Kyle, 9. He was 18 at the time of the crimes. His cousin Jessie Carter, then 17, was also implicated in the murders but was spared the death sentence after he agreed to give evidence for the prosecution against his relative.

The Guardian asked Butts and Horwitz to respond to the allegation that they abandoned their client and put themselves in a position of conflict of interest by refusing to withdraw from the case in which their own conduct had become a key issue. Butts did not immediately reply but Horwitz told the Guardian that "we were the ones who asked the outside attorneys to come in and take over the case, but the courts have denied that. The district court and 8th circuit appeals court are aware of all the facts and of our position in this case, and have decided not to allow the other attorneys to come in."

Horwitz said he could not comment on any specific allegations about his or Butts' conduct as "this is still in litigation". In court submissions, the 2 lawyers have made no attempt to defend their late filing of the habeas petition, but have claimed that there was a difference of opinion about the date on which the deadline fell. "While counsel does not defend the late filing, counsel believes they had a legal basis and rationale for the calculation of the filing date. Counsel believed that they timely filed Mr Christeson's petition for writ of habeas corpus."

Perkovich and Merrigan on Monday made a last-ditch appeal to the US supreme court asking for a stay of execution on grounds that Christeson had suffered abandonment by his own court-appointed lawyers. Perkovich said that were the supreme court to agree that the prisoner was entitled to a proper federal review of the case even at this late hour that would allow the prisoner's "unspeakable" personal history to be properly considered. "His brutal story of victimization and mental illness has never been meaningfully presented to any court and it would have made strong grounds to mitigate his death sentence."

He added that "the tragedy is that the dismissal of the federal review occurred seven years ago and all this could have been avoided if the appointed lawyers who failed Mr Christeson had turned the case over. He has been denied his federal day in court."

(source: The Guardian)


Missouri inmate to be put to death as overall U.S. executions drop

In Missouri, Mark Christeson, 35, is scheduled to die by lethal injection early on Wednesday. He was convicted of killing a woman and her 2 children 16 years ago.

The number of executions is likely to total about 35 in the United States this year, which would be the lowest number since 31 inmates were put to death in 1994, according to the Death Penalty Information Center, which monitors capital punishment.

There were 39 executions in the United States last year.

The yearly number of executions since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976 peaked at 98 in 1999.

Difficulties with carrying out the death penalty and the high cost of prosecutions have helped drive the numbers lower in recent years, analysts have said.

Troubled executions in Oklahoma, Arizona and other states this year forced officials to review new combinations of lethal injection drugs and caused lawyers representing death row inmates to question whether the new mixes violated U.S. constitutional protections against cruel and unusual punishment.

Oklahoma has delayed until 2015 3 executions planned for this year to implement new death penalty protocols following errors in an April execution.

Christeson was convicted of killing Susan Brouk, her 9-year-old son and her 12-year-old daughter in 1998 near her home in southern Missouri.

Christeson and his cousin broke into the home and raped Brouk, according to court documents. They then took the Brouks to a pond where Christeson cut the throats of the mother and son and threw them into the water. They suffocated the daughter and threw her into the pond.

Christeson's attorneys argued in an appeal to the Supreme Court on Monday that his court-appointed attorneys had abandoned him and failed to meet deadlines for appeals.

17 former judges have filed a brief with the Supreme Court supporting a stay of execution based on problems with Christeson's court-appointed attorneys.

(source: Reuters)


Missouri Prepares for November 19, 2014, Execution of Leon Taylor

Leon Taylor's execution is scheduled for 12:01 am CST, on Wednesday, November 19, 2014, at the Eastern Reception, Diagnostic, and Corrections Center in Bonne Terre, Missouri. 56-year-old Leon was convicted of the murder of 53-year-old Robert Newton in Independence, Missouri on April 14, 1994. Leon has spent the last 20 years on Missouri's death row.

Leon was scheduled to be executed earlier this year, on September 10, 2014. That execution date was withdrawn by the Missouri Supreme Court. The Missouri Supreme Court has not announced its reason for withdrawing Leon's execution date, the decision to do so came days after Leon's attorneys filed documents stating that the would not have enough time to work on the case prior to the execution.

Leon's mother was an alcoholic who drank while she was pregnant. She also gave alcohol to Leon to drink as a child and abused him. Leon alleged that he was sexually abused until the age of 5 and never taught right from wrong. As a teenager, Leon suffered from depression.

Leon Taylor and his half siblings, Willie and Tina Owens, were driving in Tina's car discussing robbery possibilities. Taylor suggested the gas station in Independence, Missouri because only 1 person would be working. Upon arriving at the station, they discovered that the gas station manager, Robert Newton had his daughter, 8-year-old Sarah Yates, with him that day. Tina no longer wanted to rob the store.

The trio bought gas and left the station, only to return minutes later because the oil light had come on. Willie entered the store and asked for some oil. Taylor then entered and drew a pistol. He pointed it at Robert and said he would shoot him unless he gave them his money. Robert handed over approximately $400 to Willie, who then left the store.

Taylor forced Robert and Sarah into a back room, where he shot Robert in the head. Taylor attempted to shoot Sarah but the gun jammed. Taylor locked Sarah in the back room and returned to the vehicle, telling Willie and Tina what had happened. Robert wanted to return and kill the girl, however Willie and Tina wanted to leave, so all 3 left.

(source: The Forgiveness Fuondation)


Hickenlooper's attorneys warn TV stations that death penalty attack ad is "false;" RGA disputes claim

Gov. John Hickenlooper's campaign lawyers are asking TV stations to refuse to air a death penalty ad attacking him, saying it falsely states the "governor is threatening to set a mass murderer free."

The last frame of the ad states: "Now John Hickenlooper is threatening a 'full clemency' for Nathan Dunlap that could set him free." The ad cites an Aug. 25 story in The Denver Post, but the article never mentions the governor setting Dunlap free. And the governor's attorneys said that's not possible.

"The statement in the ad is flagrantly false, misleading and factually inaccurate," Hickenlooper's attorneys said in their cease-and-desist letters.

The ad is from the Republican Governors Association, which was asked by The Post earlier today about claims the ad was inaccurate.

"There is not an error in the RGA ad. In fact, if the Hickenlooper folks want to have a conversation about what clemency means­ they should ask Governor Hickenlooper," said Gail Gitcho of the RGA. "This is HIS problem, his lack of and failure of leadership. We are happy to have this conversation."

Hickenlooper faces former Congressman Bob Beauprez, a Republican, on Nov. 4.

Last year, as Dunlap's execution date neared, Hickenlooper granted the death row inmate an "indefinite reprieve," which Hickenlooper's attorneys referred to in their cease-and-desist letters.

"The temporary reprieve of the governor's executive order leaves only 2 possible outcomes with respect to Mr. Dunlap's sentence, neither of which includes setting him free: (1) full clemency with life in prison and no possiblity for parole or (2) execution," the attorneys wrote.

But Gitcho noted that Merriam-Webster defines clemency as "a disposition to be merciful and especially to moderate the severity of punishment due and an act or instance of leniency." As defined, she said, clemency does not necessarily mean that someone would be set free, but it does not rule that out either. She cited instances where that has happened and she noted legal definitions.

The ad features a heartbroken Dennis O'Connor, whose 17-year-old daughter Colleen was 1 of 4 people killed at an Aurora pizzeria in 1993 by Dunlap, a disgruntled former employee. O'Connor said he waited 20 years for justice to be done, but Hickenlooper "robbed" the victims with his decision to indefinitely delay the execution.

"He's a coward who doesn't deserve to be in office," O'Connor says.

The video of Dennis O'Connor was shot by A Better Colorado Future, a political group run by Republican operatives Kelly Maher and Andy George. Last week, the group released 13 painful minutes of O'Connor describing his ordeal.

O'Connor is divorced and Colleen's mother Jodie McNally-Damore, has a different opinion of Hickenlooper's decision. Dunlap, she told CNN, "deserves to stay exactly in the hole that he's in ... let him rot."

And Colleen's cousin, Gillian McNally, told Colorado Public Radio that she "fully supports" Gov. Hickenlooper's decision. "I actually thought it was very brave," McNally said.

McNally issued a statement today:

Our family has patiently sat by waiting for the election season to conclude so that we could turn on our televisions and not be reminded that my cousin, Colleen O'Conner, was murdered in 1993 in an Aurora Chuck E. Cheese. We have sat by as you have used our loss for your own political gain. We can sit by no longer. Please do not use the tragic loss of our loved one for your political ad.

Contrary to what your ad claims (From the ad copy: Now John Hickenlooper is threatening a "Full Clemency" for Nathan Dunlap that could set him free), Nathan Dunlap will never be free, and will die in prison one way or another in payment for his crimes - to perpetuate this lie that he will be set free is outrageous.

To the Republican Governors Association, please take down this untruthful ad.

To Former Congressman Beauprez, please respect our family and our grief and ask the RGA to take this ad down and do not continue to use our tragedy on the campaign trail.

To the media, please do not air this ad or write stories about it, allow us our privacy.

Our family deserves to process our continuing grief in private and we request that you let us do so. The death penalty is a personal issue that requires deep reflection. It is not a political issue that should be used to win votes, but rather an issue that deserves serious contemplation, not 30-second sound bites.

(source: Denver Post)


Start of Aurora theater shooting trial pushed back to January; In a ruling handed down Monday, Samour said he still plans for opening arguments to start in June. Samour added, however, that he said he might grant a short delay.

The judge in the Aurora theater shooting case has pushed the start of jury selection from early December to late January, partially granting a request from the defense.

In a ruling handed down Monday, Samour said he still plans for opening arguments to start in June. Samour added, however, that he said he might grant a short delay.

Lawyers for accused shooter James Holmes asked for the delay after a 2nd doctor's psychiatric evaluation of Holmes was completed earlier this month. Prosecutors didn't object to a short delay, and said some victims preferred jury selection start after the holidays.

Samour said the delay will mean the defense will have had about 3 months to study the second evaluation before jury selection begins, which he said should be more than enough time.

Prosecutors asked for the 2nd evaluation last year and Samour granted it over the defense's objections.

After the second evaluation was complete, the defense asked for a longer delay, but didn't specify how long of a delay they needed. Instead they asked for a status conference in January for the 2 sides to discuss scheduling. But Samour - who has been adamant about keeping to a tight schedule and has scolded the defense for seeking delays - said further delay was unnecessary. He also said the defense has adequate resources to prepare for trial.

"The defendant has multiple experienced attorneys working on this case, and his counsel's office has devoted seemingly unlimited resources, including considerable manpower, to this litigation," he wrote.

Holmes is accused of killing 12 and injuring dozens more during a July 20, 2012, shooting rampage at an Aurora movie theater. He has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.

(source: Aurora Sentinal)


Death row inmates ask NM Supreme Court for life in prison

New Mexico's last 2 death row inmates want off the list and their attorneys plead their case in front of the state Supreme Court Monday morning.

However, some of the family members of the victims say this latest court battle is like reliving the nightmare of their death.

Attorneys for Timothy Allen and Robert Fry argue their death sentences are now unconstitutional since the state repealed the death penalty in 2009. But some of the victim's families believe the fate of the two men has been sealed by a jury.

No one in the courtroom Monday was arguing the innocence of convicted killers and death row inmates Robert Fry and Timothy Allen. However, whether or not the 2 men should be put to death is now the question for the New Mexico Supreme Court.

"We are here asking this court to find that the execution of Mr. Fry and Mr. Allen violate our state constitution," said Kathleen McGarry, attorney for Robert Fry.

Fry and Allen's attorneys argued Monday that putting the 2 to death would be "cruel and unusual punishment," since the New Mexico Legislature repealed death penalty and executions in 2009.

The attorneys also argue that killing Allen and Fry would violate equal protection for the men because the Legislature because of the Legislature's decision to establish a specific date when people could not be executed.

"Somebody with the identical characteristics who committed the identical crime 1 minute after midnight, or July 1, 2009, would not receive the death penalty," said Melissa Hill, attorney for Timothy Allen.

Allen killed 17-year old Sandra Phillips in 1994 after kidnapping her and trying to rape her.

Robert Fry was convicted of killing a mother of five in 2000. He also murdered 3 other people in the '90s.

However, the state disagrees.

"This is a heavy burden (to prove,") said Victoria Wilson, an assistant attorney general for New Mexico.

The state Attorney General's Office says the constitution allows for criminals to be sentenced under law that existed at the time they were convicted.

"This court does not sit as super legislature with the power to uphold or strike down the laws of the state based on the court's own judgment as to the wisdom and propriety of such laws," said Wilson.

Darlene Phillips doesn't feel that the latest appeal should be happening though.

"The most beautiful little red head you've ever seen in your life," said Phillips while looking at a photo of her daughter Sandra.

Sandra was killed by Allen in 1994 after he kidnapped and tried to rape her.

"You know the court of law has already decided this, why do they get another chance to over and over again," said Phillips.

Justices will take the next several months to make a decision. Sandra hopes it will finally be the end.

"He murdered my daughter. I gave my...that's my baby," said Phillips.

The state Supreme Court justices have not set a time table on when they'll make a decision. If the death penalty is overturned, both would get life in prison.

Since 1976, when the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty, New Mexico has only put 1 person to death. That was Terry Clark, who was executed in 2001.

(source: KRQE news)


Jodi Arias Trial: Attorney Describes Arias as 'Mentally Ill Young Girl' in Leniency Argument

The defense attorneys for Jodi Arias are arguing that the abuse the convicted killer suffered at an early age greatly impacted her, and that she should be shown leniency.

The sentencing phase for Arias, who was convicted last year of killing former boyfriend Travis Alexander, started recently.

In his opening arguments, Arias' attorney Kirk Nurmi told jurors that they need to understand the people involved in the case before making a decision.

Nurmi described Arias' alleged abuse at the hands of both of her parents, noting that the defense will present experts to discuss how abuse at an early age can affect someone and that will play a substantial role in the defense's call for leniency, reported HLN-TV.

"Using the state's own expert to make his point, Nurmi told the packed courtroom that Dr. Janeen DeMarte diagnosed Arias with Borderline Personality Disorder and this 'mentally ill young girl' then met her victim, Alexander," the broadcaster said in its recap of the 1st week of the trial.

"In keeping with the strategy during the 1st trial, Nurmi attacked the 'beloved Travis' for causing Arias to suffer extreme emotional distress. Nurmi claimed Arias was the girl behind closed doors in Alexander's bedroom engaging in sexual acts but not the girl being taken out on dates, alleging that is emotional abuse and Arias was simply being used for sex.

"Nurmi, who told the jury they would hear from Arias herself, cited the 27 stab wounds to Alexander as proof of Arias' extreme emotional distress in the relationship, and he told the jury the only appropriate sentence was life in prison."

Prosecutor Juan Martinez said that Arias was more jilted than disturbed, and described how Arias planned ahead of time to kill Alexander. He said that the diagnosis of PTSD was given only because Arias lied in a psychological test, and also said that the Borderline Personality Disorder doesn’t make Arias mentally ill.

Martinez said that he hopes the jury will sentence Arias to death for the murder.

Meanwhile, Arias is desperately trying to raise money to fund appeals that she will utilize if she is sentenced to death.

Insiders told the National Enquirer tabloid that Arias has already raised $30,000 but that she wants to raise $250,000 to pay "a retainer for an attorney for her appeals," a source said.

Arias is going to keep selling her artwork along with "whatever else she can find to raise money."

(source: The Epoch Times)


News Organizations Sue Arizona Over Secrecy of Death Penalty Drugs

Several local and international news organizations are suing to force Arizona to reveal information about the drugs it uses for the death penalty.

The lawsuit argues that by refusing to disclose the source of its lethal injection drugs, the state is violating the public's First Amendment right to know how the death penalty is being carried out in its name.

European pharmaceutical companies have stopped supplying the U.S. with drugs used to execute prisoners. The boycott has forced Arizona to find different sources for the cocktail of drugs used in lethal injections.

This suit comes after Arizona's execution of convicted murderer Joseph Wood earlier this summer.

Wood was injected with 15 dosages of drugs that took nearly 2 hours to kill him. The state has refused to reveal the source of the drugs it used it used.

The Arizona Daily Star and 5 other news organizations filed the suit against Attorney General Tom Horne and the state Department of Corrections.

Arizona Daily Star editor Bobbie Jo Buel said a government's most serious action is to carry out a death sentence.

...If ever there is a reason that the government should be transparent about how it does its work, it seems it should be in the case where it is killing someone," she said.

Neither the Department of Corrections nor the Attorney General's Office would comment.



What Archbishop Chaput should have said about the death penalty

A few of my conservative Catholic readers have been provoked by my post about Pope Francis versus Archbishop Chaput on the death penalty to suggest a little intemperately that I don't know what I'm talking about. The Catechism permits the death penalty, they write. And anyway, His Holiness was not articulating doctrine ex cathedra (i.e. speaking infallibly) when he called on "all Christians and people of good will" to struggle for its abolition; i.e. he's entitled to his opinion but Catholics don't have to pay attention to it.

Well, I never claimed that Francis was making a doctrinal statement, only that what he had to say can be seen as a rebuttal to what Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput allegedly told Colorado GOP gubernatorial candidate and death penalty supporter Bob Beauprez:

He said, "Bob, you pray on it, sleep on it, reach the conclusion that is right for your soul." And he said, "I'll back you up, because church doctrine is not anti-death penalty." I want to be very clear about that.

So here's what the Catechism has to say about the death penalty:

If, however, non-lethal means are sufficient to defend and protect people's safety from the aggressor, authority will limit itself to such means, as these are more in keeping with the concrete conditions of the common good and more in conformity with the dignity of the human person.

Today, in fact, as a consequence of the possibilities which the state has for effectively preventing crime, by rendering one who has committed an offense incapable of doing harm - without definitively taking away from him the possibility of redeeming himself - the cases in which the execution of the offender is an absolute necessity "are very rare, if not practically non-existent."

(That last quote, by the way, is from John Paul II's 1995 encyclical Evangelium vitae.)

To conclude from this that church doctrine is (in Chaput's alleged words) "not anti-death penalty" is ridiculous. It would be like saying someone is not anti-abortion if he or she would allow abortions "only in the very rare cases where it was absolutely necessary to save the life of the mother."

Moreover, the catechetical position is not that a Catholic gets to decide whether his or position on the death penalty is "right for your soul." It's that an objective determination needs to be made as to the state's ability to protect people from a convicted murderer by non-lethal means. In other words, what Chaput should have told Beauprez was: "According to church doctrine, you can't continue to support the death penalty in Colorado if it's possible to keep people safely locked up."

In this respect, it's important to bear in mind that Beauprez has been attacking his opponent, Gov. John Hickenlooper for granting convicted murderer Nathan Dunlap a temporary reprieve from the death penalty, and has promised to commute Dunlap's death sentence if he is defeated for reelection. "You know," Hickenlooper told CNN, Nathan Dunlap's gonna die in prison, one way or the other."

Hickenlooper, who is not a Catholic, has in recent years changed his position on the death penalty. There's no question that he's on track with Catholic doctrine. Beauprez and, apparently, Chaput - not so much.

(source: Mark Silk;


CBCP opposes revival of death penalty

Citing Jesus as an example, the Catholic Church said society should finally learn the lesson that the innocent could lose their lives to the death penalty, stressing that its revival is unjustified.

"The stance against the death penalty is in no way a posture to let criminal offenders go scot-free. The CBCP-ECPPC believes in Justice and it is ranked high in its hierarchy of values. Those who have transgressed the laws of the land should be held answerable and accountable after a fair trial; otherwise, they become effective endorsers of crime and criminal actions, and strong parody for the ethical adage that 'crime does not pay'," the CBCP Episcopal Commission on Prison Pastoral Care (ECPPC) said in a statement.

The ECPPC reiterated its opposition to the re-imposition of death penalty during the 27th Prison Awareness Week observed last Oct. 20 to 26.

"Taking away the life of someone, whom we have condemned, immobilized and rendered helpless with contraptions of death is a horrible lesson to teach our children, that human life is as disposable as any contraptions and trimmings of postmodern life," the Episcopal Commission added.

Death penalty - whether on the cross, at the gallows, in the gas chamber or on the electric chair - has also failed to deter others from committing even the most heinous of crimes, according to the ECPPC.

The Commission then called on supporters of the death penalty to consider alternatives to capital punishment.

"Rather than take away precious human life, the Church wants to explore alternatives to mete out justice. For one, it seriously considers - and vigorously advocates - a shift in the paradigm of justice: from litigation to mediation; prosecution to healing; punishment to reform and rehabilitation: from the retributive to the restorative," the ECPPC added.

For his part, ECPPC chairman Bishop Leopoldo Tumulak urged the faithful to love the least, the last and the lost - the prisoners.

"As we celebrate the 27th Prison Awareness Week, the Church urges us to look at the prisoners as our neighbors. We are challenge to show them mercy and love them so that they may become whole again. Let us pray that we may say YES to this challenge," Tumulak said.

(source: CBCP News)


.. Aquino gov't remains opposed to death penalty

The government under President Aquino remains opposed to the imposition of the death penalty, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said yesterday.

"The government opposes it on constitutional, philosophical, spiritual and pragmatic grounds. We subscribe to the human rights discourse that the methods of the death penalty equate to cruel and inhumane punishment," De Lima said.

"Our government believes that criminality will not magically dissipate just because the state allows for capital punishment. The leader of our republic is firmly entrenched in his belief that the antidote to criminality rests on a skilled and trusted law enforcement, an effective prosecutorial service, an independent and knowledgeable judiciary, a sound economy and an empowered citizenry," she added.

De Lima made the statement in her keynote speech at the opening of the 2-day 1st Asia Pacific Dialogue on Human Rights and Respect for the Dignity of Life at the EDSA Shangri-La hotel in Mandaluyong City.

The 2-day conference brings together ministers of justice, public officials, religious representatives and human rights advocates from Asian countries and European Union countries to offer a platform of dialogue to those countries who have initiated a path towards a moratorium on executions in order to open a dialogue to a renovation of justice, with priority to human rights and values.

De Lima told the conference delegates that even if there is a current clamor to bring back the death penalty in the Philippines, the government remains opposed to it.

She noted that the death penalty has failed to show its effectiveness as a crime deterrent and capital punishment only equates to inhumane punishment.

"The issue of death penalty affects us all. It sheds light on the kind of society that we wish to build, the kind of justice that we choose to uphold and the kind of people that we aspire to be," De Lima said.

"Thus even as we fought for the legality of the reproductive health law and while we recognized the right to health of women, we never once wavered in our conviction about the sanctity of human life. Much has our own President," she explained.

The death penalty was 1st abolished in 1986. It was restored in 1993 during the term of then President Fidel Ramos. In 1999, during the term of then President Joseph Estrada, the Philippines held its 1st execution with the death of convicted child rapist Leo Echegaray by lethal injection.

The death penalty was suspended by former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo with the signing of Republic Act 9346 on June 24, 2006. Capital punishment was replaced by life imprisonment or an imprisonment of at least 30 years.

(source: Philippine Star)


South Korean prosecutor asks for death penalty for Sewol ferry captain

South Korean prosecutors called Monday for the death penalty for a ferry captain facing murder charges after abandoning his capsized ship and leaving hundreds of schoolchildren behind as it sank.

Capital punishment is rarely imposed in South Korea - no one has been put to death in almost 2 decades - but the sentencing recommendation underlines the raw wounds that the April 16 disaster left in this country.

The capsizing of the Sewol, the result of the boat being dangerously overloaded, killed 304 people, the vast majority of them students from a single high school. Ten bodies have not been recovered.

Lee Joon-seok, the 68-year-old captain of the Sewol, has been charged with "homicide through willful negligence" for abandoning the ferry as it went down in choppy waters off the southern coast of South Korea en route to the vacation island of Jeju.

Prosecutors also asked the judge to hand down life sentences to three crew members facing the same charges, if they are found guilty, the Yonhap News Agency reported. Varying prison terms are being sought for other crew members charged with abandoning their duties.

The court is expected to issue its verdict and sentences for the 15 crew members on Nov. 11.

"The accused are guilty of willful negligent murder," the prosecution said in Gwangju district court Monday. "They put saving their lives before helping the passengers to survive, violating their duties."

Appearing calm as he read a prepared statement in court, Lee said he had not intended for the accident to happen. But he said he deserved to die.

Prosecutors said testimony and evidence showed that the crew members understood the situation clearly.

"The passengers inside the ship could not be saved unless they made their way to the decks," prosecutors told the court. "Passengers were not notified about the condition of the ship tilting and sinking. The coast guards were arriving in a few minutes, but the crew didn't make a slightest effort to get the passengers ready for the escape."

Even after their escape, no crew member notified the coast guard about the trapped passengers, the prosecutors said. All the passengers could have been saved within six minutes, they said, based on a simulation they had done.

Bereaved families attending the court proceedings were not satisfied with only 1 death penalty recommendation, with many saying more of the crew deserved "the maximum possible penalty."

But the defense contended that the ship was a ticking time bomb, doomed to sink because of its load.

The case has gripped South Korea, partly because of the scale of the tragedy and the youth of its victims, but also because of the bizarre details that have emerged about the ferry company's owner.

The 73-year-old billionaire who founded the company, Yoo Byung-un, turned out to be the leader of a religious cult and had enriched himself by squeezing money out of his businesses, including ordering modifications to the Sewol to conceal the fact that it was carrying much more than the allowed weight.

Yoo went on the run after the sinking, and his badly decomposed body was found in June.

The Sewol disaster also has divided the nation.

Scores of representatives of victims' families have camped out in a plaza in central Seoul, going on hunger strikes and calling for President Park Geun-hye's administration to establish an independent probe into the ferry sinking. Banners and floral tributes still festoon city hall.

(source: Washington Post)

Just across the road, another group of protesters has set up tents and is calling on the victims’ families to end their vigil, saying the mourning has gone on long enough.


Police Arrest 7 Iranian Nationals, Seize Syabu Worth RM1.1 Mln

Police believe they have crippled an international drug syndicate with the arrest of 7 Iranian nationals and 1 local woman in 5 locations around the city last Thursday.

Syabu weighing 7.4kg worth RM1.1 million was seized.

Bukit Aman Narcotic Crimes Investigation Department director Datuk Seri Noor Rashid Ibrahim said among those arrested was the leader of the syndicate, known as the 'Drug Kingpin'.

He said acting on public tip-off and police intelligence, the 1st Iranian man was detained in a car stopped at the Penchala Link Expressway, initially to facilitate investigation of a drug trafficking case.

The information provided by the man led to the arrest of 2 other Iranian men and a local woman, believed to be connected with the syndicate, at a luxury condominium in Desa Sri Hartamas, he said.

With more information, he said 3 other Iranian nationals, including 2 women, were picked up at condominium in Mount Kiara.

"Police then raided another condominium in Jalan Kuching where another Iranian man was arrested. Following a search, police also found 7.4kg of syabu worth over RM1 million," Noor Rashid said.

Also seized from the suspects were 7 luxury cars, including of Mercedes Benz, Volvo, Volkswagen and Mazda, cash of RM33,332 and some foreign currencies.

He said all of the Iranian nationals, aged between 22 and 46, had entered Malaysia as students and workers, while the local woman worked at an information technology company.

They have been remanded for seven days to facilitate further investigation under Section 39(B) of the Dangerous Drugs Act 1952, which carries a mandatory death penalty upon conviction, he said.

Meanwhile, Noor Rashid said a 60-year-old man from South Africa, believed to be a drug muse, was arrested at the KL International Airport last Saturday.

"Police found 2.1kg of syabu worth RM200,000 hidden in a biscuit box carried by the man," he said, adding that the man had also been remanded for 7 days to facilitate further investigation.

(source: Bernama)


SC rejects Nithari killer Surinder Koli's plea to review death penalty

The Supreme Court on Tuesday rejected the plea by Nithari killer Surinder Koli seeking recall of the judgment upholding his death sentence in Rimpa Haldar murder case.

The apex court bench of Chief Justice HL Dattu, Justice Anil R Dave and Justice SA Bobde, in the 1st open court hearing of the review petition of death sentence cases, said: "we are fully satisfied that this court has not committed any error that may persuade us to review the order," upholding Koli's death sentence.

Referring to the argument by senior counsel Ram Jethmalani that Surinder Koli was not given a proper legal assistance to defend his case, the court directed that in future the trial court will ensure that the accused in other cases be given proper legal assistance by a lawyer of expertise and who can devote time.

Jethmalani said the entire evidence relied upon by the trial court in convicting and sentencing Koli to death clearly shows that he was tormented by the police to give evidence against himself and autopsy report shows that the murder of 14 children was done by medical expert precision with the objective of trading in organs.

Previously, the SC had extended its order putting his execution on hold till 29 October.

Koli is presently in a high-security barrack in the Meerut jail given he's a special category prisoner. So far, Koli has not reportedly intimated the authorities about his last wish. Koli will be the 18th criminal to be hanged in the Meerut jail.

A warrant was issued on 3 September by Ghaziabad's Additional sessions Judge Atul Kumar Gupta in the name of 42-year-old Koli stating that he should be hanged to death after he had exhausted all his legal remedies in this case.

Koli has been sentenced to death in connection with the killing of Rimpa Halder and in 4 other cases. Koli was awarded the death sentence by a lower court, which was upheld by the Allahabad High Court and confirmed by the Supreme Court on 15 February, 2011 for the murder of Rimpa Halter in 2005.

Holding that Koli "appears to be the serial killer", the court had said "No mercy can be shown to him."

A total of 16 cases were registered against Koli. His employer Moninder Singh Pandher, who was also sentenced to death in Rimpa Halder case, was acquitted by the Allahabad High Court. Out of 16 cases filed against Koli, he has been awarded death sentence in five of them so far and others are still under trial.

(source: First Post)


Citing 'surge' in executions, UN expert voices deep concern about right to life in Iran

The human rights situation in Iran remains of deep concern, an independent United Nations expert said today, flagging issues related to the right to life, the judicial system, religious persecution, and discrimination against women.

Ahmed Shaheed, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran, spoke to reporters in New York ahead of the presentation of his latest report to the General Assembly committee dealing with human rights issues (Third Committee) tomorrow.

"The main concerns in my report deal with issues of right to life," he stated, adding that he has observed a "surge" in executions in the country in the past 12 to 15 months.

At least 852 individuals were reportedly executed between July 2013 and June 2014, representing an "alarming" increase in the number of executions in relation to the already-high rates of previous years, he wrote in his report.

"The Government also continues to execute juvenile offenders," he added. "In 2014 alone, eight individuals believed to be under 18 years of age at the time of their alleged crimes were reportedly executed."

Mr. Shaheed also noted a "widening of the range of offenses" for which people are put to death, including economic crimes and what are clearly political activities.

As pointed out in the report, the new Islamic Penal Code that entered into force in 2013 now omits references to apostasy, witchcraft and heresy, but continues to allow for juvenile executions and retains the death penalty for activities that do not constitute most serious crimes in line with the safeguards guaranteeing protection of the rights of those facing the death penalty such as adultery, repeated alcohol use, and drug possession and trafficking.

The expert said he was "shocked" by the execution over the weekend of Reyhaneh Jabbari, a young woman who was hanged in a Tehran prison for killing a man she said was trying to sexually abuse her.

Mr. Shaheed had raised his concerns about Ms. Jabbari's trial with the Government on several occasions but had not received satisfactory replies.

He also cited concerns about the rights of lawyers; the right to expression, association and assembly; and extensive measures taken by the Government to restrict access to information.

Religious persecution also remains a concern, he said, noting that there are at least 300 people in detention for their religious practices.

"Of increasing concern to me is the worsening situation of women in the country," Mr. Shaheed added, noting that, among other things, the number of women enrolled in university has decreased from 62 % to 48 % over a 2-year period. Other concerns include the lack of opportunities for women in the workplace, as well as wage disparities.

Early and forced marriages are another major concern, the expert said. The legal age of marriage for girls in the country is 13 years, but girls as young as 9 years of age may be married with permission from a court.

According to the report, at least 48,580 girls between 10 and 14 years of age were married in 2011, 48,567 of whom were reported to have had at least one child before they reached 15 years of age.

Some 40,635 marriages of girls under 15 years of age were also registered between March 2012 and March 2013, of which more than 8,000 involved men who were at least 10 years older. Furthermore, at least 1,537 marriages of girls under 10 years of age were registered in 2012, which is a significant increase compared with the 716 registered between March 2010 and March 2011.

The number of registered divorces for girls under 15 years of age has also consistently increased since 2010, the report added. The Government has responded by stating that the law prohibits forced marriage, meaning that all marriages in the country are consensual.

Independent experts or special rapporteurs are appointed by the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council to examine and report back on a country situation or a specific human rights theme. The positions are honorary and the experts are not UN staff, nor are they paid for their work.

Mr. Shaheed has not been allowed entry into Iran since he took up his post in 2011. He has prepared his reports based on numerous official Government sources, interviews with Iranians both inside and outside the country and reports sent to him by credible human rights organizations.

(source: UN News Centre)


Qatari prosecutor declines to seek tougher sentence in murder case

The family of a British teacher murdered in Qatar have expressed disappointment that the prosecutor has declined to appeal the 3-year sentence handed to an accomplice who helped to burn the woman's body.

The prosecutor also asked the Qatari appeals court to uphold the death sentence for Badr Hashim Khamis Abdallah Al Jabar, who was convicted of the murder of Lauren Patterson in Doha a year ago, Doha News reported.

Mohamed Abdallah Hassan Abdul Aziz was sentenced in March to 3 years' jail for helping Al Jabar burn Patterson's body, as well as damaging and erasing evidence.

If Al Jabar's sentence is carried out it will reportedly be the 1st execution in Qatar in more than a decade. Although the death penalty has been issued it has not been enforced.

Patterson, 24, went missing after a night out in Doha in October, last year. The court heard she was last seen alive in a car with Al Jabar and Abdul Aziz.

Her burnt body was found a day later dumped in a pit at a farm in the desert village of Al Kharrara, near Wakrah.

A forensic expert told the court a knife had been found stuck in "what appeared to be" her rib cage.

The prosecutor said she had been sexually assaulted and stabbed twice.

During the trial, defence lawyers claimed that her death was an accident and that both men had been forced into confessing to the crime.

A lawyer representing Patterson's family had said he hoped the prosecutor would seek a harsher penalty for Abdul Aziz.

Following the trial, Patterson's mother Alison Patterson told the media that "justice was served" in the case of Al Jabar, but that she was deeply upset with Abdul Aziz's lighter sentence.

"At no time did he choose to help my daughter or report the murder. In fact he did the contrary; he helped (Al Jabar) dispose of Lauren's body in the most callous and barbaric way," she was quoted as saying at the time.

Alison Patterson, who does not live in Qatar but flew to the Gulf state to attend the appeals court hearing on Sunday told Doha News she was disappointed the judge did not make a ruling on whether to uphold the sentences.

"I am disappointed that we have got to come back on November 23," she was quoted as saying.

"We had hopes as a family that today's hearing would bring some kind of closure for us all. Everyone is still struggling to come to terms with what has happened to Lauren."

The hearing came a few days after the one-year anniversary of Lauren's death.

Her family and friends marked the occasion at a church in her hometown of West Malling in the UK. Following a service, a single white dove was released in memory of the young woman.

A tree also was planted outside a school in Luxembourg where Lauren used to work.

In Doha, Lauren's friends released several sky lanterns into the sky.

(source: Arabian Business)


Death penalty for apostasy not justifiable in Islam: Somali scholar

Somali author Abdisaid Abdi Ismail has come under intense scrutiny after publishing a Somali language book titled "The Rule of Apostasy in Islam: Is it True?" in which he argues that there is no religious justification for killing people for apostasy.

The book sparked mixed reactions among the Somali community in Kenya and Somalia following its launch in Nairobi on September 14th.

After some clerics called for the book to be banned and burned, most Somali bookstores in Eastleigh stopped selling it, and it is now being sold "discreetly" in a few bookstores in Garissa and Nairobi as well as online, Ismail said.

Ismail, a 50-year-old Galkayo native, was received a scholarship from Umm al-Qura University in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, where he studied sharia law and advocacy, graduating in 2002 with a master's degree in Islamic economics. Since then, Ismail has written two books in Arabic, "Muslim Countries' Expanding Debt Dilemma" and "Globalisation in the Muslim World: Facts and Figures", and two other books in Somali, "How to Eradicate Poverty" and "Introduction to Islamic Economics".

Ismail, a father of three, has taught economics at East Africa University in Bosaso since 2009, but says he cannot go back to Somalia now due to death threats he has received since publishing his latest book in Nairobi.

In an exclusive interview with Sabahi, Ismail talks about why it is important to discuss the subject of apostasy in Islam, his research on the topic, and the need to promote and tolerate a healthy debate on diverse ideas among Somalis.

Sabahi: Tell us more about your book and why you wrote it.

Abdisaid Abdi Ismail: The main thesis of this book is about apostasy in Islam, but I also talked about several other issues such as state and religion, gender equality in terms of blood money, death by stoning of adulterers and adulteresses, et cetera.

I wrote this book for the Somali community to let them know some of the big issues in their religion that involve their life in this world and hereafter, which some Somali clerics continuously explain in a way that does not match the real meaning of the Islamic teachings.

I hope that the people who read this book will realise what Islam says about the issues covered by the book, but the core message is that Islam is the religion of humanity and mercy, and it values above all the life of human beings.

Sabahi: You made the issue of apostasy your main focus. Why do you think it is so relevant now and important for Somalis to understand?

Ismail: It is a very important issue in [Muslim] society today because extremist groups are using the apostasy issue as a tool to justify their heinous and brutal killing against those who oppose their erroneous interpretation of Islam or even their political agenda.

This issue is very important for the Muslim community in general, but especially for the Somali community, because their blood is being shed on a daily basis using apostasy as a tool to justify it.

I believe the topic deserves to be discussed in a broader way in the current situation of the Muslim world. I would have liked if someone else could have written about it, but unfortunately no one has written about it and that has forced me to do it now, and I chose the Somali language so as to be able to reach Somali speaking peoples in East Africa and throughout the world at large.

Sabahi: Is death an adequate punishment for apostasy and in line with Islamic teachings?

Ismail: I have been researching the issue of apostasy for a while, comparing the various perspectives and the evidences that each extremist group is using and what the Qur'an and the teachings of the prophet said about it.

What my findings led me to conclude is that the death penalty for apostasy does not have any valid argument in Islam even though it has been used for centuries for political purposes by ruling elites in successive historical Muslim regimes as a form of treason for Muslims who left the religion, because religion was an all-encompassing identity for people at the time.

Sabahi: What does your research say is the correct punishment for apostasy according to Islam?

Ismail: Based on scholarly review of the religious teachings, my view regarding apostasy is that there is no punishment for apostasy in this world. The punishment is in the hereafter and it is between the individual and God.

Freedom of religion and beliefs are some of the basic human rights and no one has a right to interfere with what others believe. Diversity and different ideas and opinions are very crucial for co-existence, coherence and development of any society.

Sabahi: Why should Muslims read this book?

Ismail: They should read it because they need to know the lack of authentic justification for apostasy punishment in Islam, which I am satisfied that there is no valid support to back up the death penalty for apostasy in Islam.

The book will clarify for readers many other issues directly or indirectly related to the issue of apostasy and will hopefully dissuade groups from using [this issue] to kill people [based] on false justification.

I am hopeful that as [the number of] people reading the book increases, the madness sweeping in my country will ease a little bit and youths will eventually realise they are being used against their people under an un-Islamic pretext.

Sabahi: What is lacking in the conversation among Somalis when debating these issues and ideas?

Ismail: Several points are lacking in this matter, such as critical thinking and new scholars who can interpret the Qur'an and the hadith (the teachings of Prophet Mohammed) according to its original context without the interest of specific groups who want to hijack Islam for their own benefits.

There has to be an open and free dialogue among scholars and the masses as to how to interpret Islamic sources in a way that can help Muslims live a civilised and tolerant way of life as they should, so that it can lead them to live in peace among themselves and with others in this global world of ours.

Sabahi: What is the source of al-Shabaab's ideology?

Ismail: I believe that al-Shabaab and other similar groups are just implementing the teachings and understanding of some hardline Islamic scholars who interpret some Islamic scriptures according to their agenda.

To get rid of al-Shabaab and other extremists, first we need to explain the Qur'an and hadith and other Islamic sources of knowledge according to their original context. The war against al-Shabaab and other fundamentalists is a war for the hearts and minds of Muslim society and to win that war we have to reveal the real nature of Islam which is peaceful, tolerant, moderate and democratic.

Sabahi: Groups such as al-Shabaab argue they are trying to recreate society exactly as it was at the time of the Prophet Mohammed. What is wrong with that?

Ismail: There is nothing wrong with that, but who is presenting that? My argument is that we need to understand the real Islam, not the politicised Islam.

On the other hand, we have to take into consideration the difference between the time that the Prophet Mohammed, peace be upon him, and his companions lived, and our world, in the 21st century, when the circumstance of life are completely different.

Sabahi: Did you expect such a negative reaction to your book?

Ismail: Frankly, I was expecting the book to create academic debate among scholars, but I never expected that someone would call for the burning of the book and declare the author an apostate.

That is the very thing that the book was trying to address and it seems those who are critical of it have not actually understood the main message of the book, which is [to promote] dialogue and discussion.

However, there have been positive responses from various quarters who say the time was right to raise the issue.

Sabahi: How are you doing and what is next for you?

Ismail: I came to Nairobi from Somalia in August this year for the sole purpose of publishing this book since there are no publishers in Somalia. If there were any publishers in Somalia, they would not have been willing to publish the book anyway.

Now I am just trying to save myself from some of those extremists and their supporters who have not hidden their intentions to harm me after my book. My movements are discreet and restricted, most of the time I am indoors.

At the same time, I am working on how the peaceful Islam can be spread among Somali society. I will never be stopped or intimidated from speaking and discussing issues that I feel are important to bringing the correct and real Islam to my society. I will continue to reveal the truth about the correct stance of the religion regarding several issues that I addressed in this book and other [issues].


OCTOBER 27, 2014:

TEXAS----impending execution

Texas Prepares for Miguel Paredes' Execution Scheduled for October 28, 2014

Miguel Angel Paredes is scheduled to be executed at 6 pm CST, on Tuesday, October 28, 2014, at the Walls Unit of the Huntsville State Penitentiary in Huntsville, Texas. 32-year-old Miguel is convicted of murdering 23-year-old Nelly Bravo, 23-year-old Shawn Michael Caine, and 37-year-old Adrian Torres on September 17, 2000, in San Antonio, Texas. Miguel has spent the last 13 years on Texas' death row.

Miguel is 1 of 20 children, although 7 of his siblings died before he was born. Miguel was born in Chicago, Illinois to Mexican immigrant parents. Miguel's parents eventually moved the family to San Antonio, Texas, where Miguel eventually fell in with the violent Hermanos de Pistoleros Latinos gang. Miguel claimed he joined the gang thinking he had found loyalty and love. By the age of 15, Miguel had a pregnant girlfriend and a criminal record.

Early in September of 2000, Adrian Torres, a member of the Mexican Mafia, had given John Anthony Saenz over $800 worth of cocaine. Shortly thereafter, he began calling Saenz's house seeking repayment. On September 17, 2000, Saenz told his wife to leave because Adrian was coming over and he was "going to take care of business." Saenz called and asked Greg Alvarado and Miguel Paredes to come over with weapons for back up.

Adrian brought Nelly Bravo and Shawn Caine along with him. The 3 were ambushed by Saenz, Alvarado and Paredes. After Adrian, Nelly, and Shawn were killed, they were wrapped in carpet and placed in the back of a pick-up truck. After driving for a while, they pulled over on a dirt road and burned the carpets and the bodies.

Saenz and Alvarado each received a life sentence. Paredes was sentenced to death.

(source: The Forgiveness Foundation)


U.S. appeals court upholds death penalty for convicted Toledo murderer

A federal appeals court today rejected the argument from convicted murderer James Frazier that he is mentally retarded and exempt from Ohio's death penalty.

Frazier, 73, on death row at Chillicothe Correctional Institution, was convicted of robbing and killing Mary Stevenson, a disabled woman at Northgate Apartments in Toledo where Frazier was attending a crack cocaine party late on the night March 1, 2004, or early the next morning. Frazier apparently robbed Ms. Stevenson for money when the party ran short of drugs.

IQ tests conducted before Frazier's trial in Lucas County Common Pleas Court found his score to be slightly above 70, the threshold above which the law presumes someone is not mentally retarded. The court noted that the expert hired by the defense found he was not retarded, prompting his attorneys to drop that line of strategy at trial.

Among other things, the latest appeal argues that his defense was ineffective in not continuing to pursue that plan. But the Cincinnati-based U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals said that decision was not out of line given the facts the defense had at the time.

The court said Frazier failed to meet the higher burden of proving he is actually innocent of the death penalty because of his mental capacity.

"In Frazier's favor are the facts that he attended special-education classes, that he never progressed beyond the 10th grade, that he earned 2 Cs, 21 Ds, and 1 F in high school, and that he was labeled a "slow learner..." wrote Judge Karen Nelson Moore. "However, being placed in special-education classes does not necessarily render someone mentally retarded. And failing to complete high school does not necessarily result from subaverage intellectual functioning....

"If Frazier needed to prove his limitations only by a preponderance of the evidence, we might be inclined to agree with him," Judge Moore wrote. "However, at this stage of the litigation, Frazier's proof must be clear and convincing. The limited and muddled academic records make this impossible."

Frazier was convicted of aggravated murder, aggravated robbery, and aggravated burglary. Ms. Stevenson, who suffered from cerebral palsy, was strangled and her throat slit as Frazier made away with 1 of her purses.

(source: Toledo Blade)


Death penalty phase begins in sledgehammer killing of New Franklin Township couple

A jury will now consider whether to recommend the death penalty for a 20-year-old man accused of bludgeoning a New Franklin Township couple to death with a sledgehammer.

The Summit County jury on Wednesday found Shawn Ford, 20, guilty of attacking his ex-girlfriend and later killing her parents, Jeffrey and Margaret Schobert in April 2013.

The jury convicted him of 5 counts of aggravated murder, 2 counts of aggravated robbery, and 1 count each of petty theft, grand theft, aggravated burglary and felonious assault.

(source: Northeast Ohio Media Group)


Parents of Myanmar Suspects Petition Thai Prosecutor

The parents of the Myanmar suspects charged in the murder of 2 British tourists on the Thai island of Koh Tao have petitioned the Koh Samui prosecutor asking for reconsideration and justice over their sons' arrest and incarceration, according to migrant activist Mr Andy Hall.

3 parents and an uncle of Myanmar suspects Ko Zaw Lin Oo and Win Zaw Tun made the plea after arriving on Samui Island on 24th October and travelling to the island's prison where they had a meeting with the 2 men.

The parents emerged from Koh Samui prison "delighted to have seen their boys in good health, having heard the guys saying they are innocent of any crimes," reports Mr Hall, who has been following the case closely and tweeting developments.

The parents of the 2 suspects, both 21, had flown to Thailand with the help of the Myanmar embassy in Bangkok and the Thai authorities.

The suspects were arrested on 3rd October over the murders of British tourists Ms Hannah Witheridge, 23, and Mr David Miller, 24, on Koh Tao on 15th September. They are charged with conspiracy to murder and rape, plus robbery, and could face the death penalty if found guilty.

The murder case and how the Thai authorities have been handling it have grown into an embarrassment for the Thai military junta that grabbed power in a coup in May. Some rights groups question whether the two men have been made scapegoats as the Thai authorities have come under pressure to find the murderers.

(source: Mizzima News)


Nigeria releases man who barely escaped the gallows after 19 years on death row

The release of a man who spent 19 years on death row in Nigeria and was seconds away from execution last year painfully illustrates the inherent brutality and unfairness of the death penalty, said Amnesty International today.

ThankGod Ebhos was released under an order issued by the governor of Kaduna State. He had been tried and sentenced to death by a military tribunal in Nigeria at the time.

Amnesty International raised questions about the fairness of military tribunals in Nigeria at the time.

"The release of ThankGod Ebhos brings great hope to the many hundreds who are languishing on death row across Nigeria," said Netsanet Belay, Amnesty International’s Africa Director, Research and Advocacy.

"Nigeria must build on the positive step taken, immediately halt plans to carry out any more executions and move towards abolishing the death penalty once and for all. Killing inmates is not an effective way to deal with crime."

In 24 June 2013, ThankGod was seconds away from execution, when officers at Benin Prison took him to the gallows, forced him to watch 4 men being hanged and told him he was next.

The execution was halted when prison authorities realized that his death sentence required it to be carried out by firing squad, which the prison was not prepared for.

The other 4 men were executed despite an appeal pending on their cases.

"ThankGod's long ordeal shows that the death penalty has no place in the 21st century," said Netsanet Belay.

In June 2014, the Economic Community Of West African States (ECOWAS) court upheld its earlier decision to grant an injunction to restrain the government from executing Thankgod.

"The release of Thankgod in the aftermath of the decision of the ECOWAS Court on June 2014 shows the impact such a ruling can have on the desperate situation of an inmate on death row for more than 19 years and encourages litigation of such critical cases before regional courts" Jean-Sebastien Mariez, attorney at Avocats Sans Frontieres France.

In 2013, 4 men were hanged in Nigeria - the 1st executions in more than 7 years.

Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all cases without exception, regardless of the nature or circumstances of the crime; guilt, innocence or other characteristics of the individual; or the method used by the state to carry out the execution. The death penalty violates the right to life and is the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment.

Amnesty International calls on Nigeria to immediately establish an official moratorium on executions with a view to abolishing the death penalty.

(source: Amnesty International)

TEXAS----impending execution

Convicted Murderer to be Executed Tuesday

A San Antonio man is set to be executed this week for the murder of 3 people in 2000.

32-year-old Miguel Angel Paredes will be executed by lethal injection Tuesday. He's a member of a Texas prison gang.Paredes, along with 2 fellow gang members, shot and killed 3 people in Bexar County during a meeting with a member of the Texas Mexican Mafia.They burned the bodies, rolled them up in a carpet and tossed it in a Frio County field near a peanut farm.

Paredes' co-defendants are serving life terms.

(source: Time Warner Cable news)


Court in Va. examines death row isolation policy

Virginia's practice of automatically holding death row inmates in solitary confinement will be reviewed by a federal appeals court in a case that experts say could have repercussions beyond the state's borders.

U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema in Alexandria ruled last year that around-the-clock isolation of condemned inmates is so onerous that the Virginia Department of Corrections must assess its necessity on a case-by-case basis. Failure to do so, she said, violates the inmates' due process rights.

The state appealed, arguing that the courts should defer to the judgment of prison officials on safety issues. A three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals will hear arguments Tuesday.

The lawsuit was filed by Alfredo Prieto, who was on California's death row for raping and murdering a 15-year-old girl when a DNA sample connected him to the 1988 slayings of George Washington University students Rachel Raver and Warren Fulton III in Reston. He also was sentenced to death in Virginia, where he has spent most of the last six years alone in a 71-square-foot cell at the Sussex I State Prison.

Some capital punishment experts say a victory by Prieto could prompt similar lawsuits by death row inmates elsewhere.

"It gives them a road map," said northern Virginia defense attorney Jonathan Sheldon, who noted that the due process claim succeeded where allegations of cruel and unusual punishment have routinely failed. "It's not that common to challenge conditions of confinement on due process grounds."

Even the state says in court papers that Brinkema's ruling "would do away with death row as it is currently operated in Virginia and numerous other states."

Andrea Lyon, a death penalty lawyer and dean of the Valparaiso University Law School in Indiana, agreed that the case could have a ripple effect nationally but said prisons would not become more dangerous as a result.

"This is not stepping on the right of prisons to make their own determination of whether or not someone needs this level of confinement," she said. "Just don't do it if there's no reason."

Lyon, who has represented 138 murder defendants, co-authored a 2005 report on Missouri's policy of "mainstreaming" death row inmates into the general prison population. She said a study of 11 years of data from that state's prison system disproves the "mythology" that death row inmates are more dangerous than other prisoners.

But where Lyon sees mythology, Virginia prison officials see sound judgment rooted in common sense and years of experience dealing with death row inmates.

"They're segregated because we see those individuals as potentially the most desperate of all offenders," state prisons chief Harold C. Clarke said in a deposition in the Prieto lawsuit. "Again, they have been sentenced to die. They have nothing to lose."

He pointed to the 1984 escape by six death row inmates who had been allowed to congregate at the since-closed maximum security prison in Mecklenburg, saying the jailbreak "could have been catastrophic" had the convicted killers not been quickly apprehended. Virginia was not automatically isolating death row inmates at the time.

Prieto is not arguing that solitary confinement should be abolished - just that the decision should be based on the same risk factors that are used to determine the security classification for the approximately 39,000 prisoners who are not facing execution. His lawyers say Prieto "likely would be assigned to less harsh conditions" if death row inmates were assessed in the same manner as other prisoners.

Under the current policy, death row inmates are allowed to leave their tiny cell only three times a week for 10-minute showers and five times a week for an hour of solitary exercise in a separate and slightly larger cell, devoid of workout equipment, that prisoners call "the dog cage." They eat every meal alone, are not eligible for work or education programs or congregational religious services, and are allowed strictly limited visitation. The inmates are allowed to purchase a small television and CD player for their cell.

Sheldon, who represents three of Prieto's fellow death row inmates, said prison officials have made some modest adjustments to Prieto's visitation and exercise privileges in response to Brinkema's ruling.

Department of Corrections spokeswoman Lisa Kinney said prison officials have "taken steps in cooperation with the plaintiff's counsel to address the judge's order, pending appeal," but she declined to provide specifics. Prieto's lawyers declined to comment.

(source: Associated Press)


Ohio prosecutors argue to stay on slayings case

Prosecutors in northeast Ohio are arguing to remain on the case of a man accused of killing 3 women.

Attorneys for convicted sex offender Michael Madison want the Cuyahoga County prosecutor's office off the case. The defense wants special prosecutors to handle the potential death penalty case.

The Cleveland Plain Dealer reports that in a new court filing, prosecutors say they should remain on the case. They dismiss the attempt as a legal ploy meant to criticize their office and prolong the case.

The 37-year-old Madison is accused of killing 3 women and leaving their bodies in trash bags in a rundown East Cleveland neighborhood where they were found last year. He pleaded not guilty to aggravated murder and other charges.

(source: Associated Press)

MISSOURI----impending execution

Lawyers, judges seek stay for Missouri inmate Christenson

A national group that says it tries to reach consensus on difficult constituional issues, and a numberr of former state and appellate judges warn that the execution of Mark Christensen tomorrow night would "cast a pall" over the judicial process. They claim Christenson has been denied his legal rights.

Mark Christenson was 18 when he and a 17 year old cousin murdered a woman and her 2 children and threw their bodies into a pond near Vichy in 1998. He is the only condemned Missouri prisoner whose case has not been reviewed at the federal level.

The judges and the Constitution Project are asking the Eighth District federal appeals court to stay the execution and to throw Christenson's attorneys off the case.

Constitution Project counsel Sarah Turberville says Christenson's lawyers missed the deadline by 117 days for filing a federal appeal and that's why they should no longer represent him. She says it's a conflict of interest for his attorneys to represent him because they have "blown any attempt he would have at federal review."

Turberville says the issue is not whether Christenson should be executed - an issue the lawyers, judges, and the Constitution Project does not address She says it's about whether he is being denied his constitutional rights of federal review of his death sentence.

Christenson is to executed just after midnight tomorrow night.

The Christenson case file:



Vigils Planned in Several Mo. Cities Protesting Execution

Missourians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty will be having a Vigil for Life at 10 cities around Missouri in protest to the execution of Mark Christeson, who faces death by lethal injection Oct. 29.

Mark Christeson is scheduled to die by lethal injection early on the morning of Oct. 29 at the prison in Bonne Terre and the MADP will be holding a Vigil for Life in Bonne Terre, Jefferson City, Columbia, Kansas City, Joplin, Kirksville, St. Joseph, St. Louis, St. Peters, and Springfield, Mo. on Oct. 28 at 12 p.m. at the Park Central Square.

Christeson, 35, was sentenced to death in 1999 for the murders of Susan Brouk and her children, 9-year-old Kyle and 12-year-old Adrian, at the Brouk's home near Vichy.

If the execution takes place this will be the 9th execution in the state of Missouri in 2014.

(source: KOLR news)


1st man freed by using DNA speaking at USF

32 states in the country have the death penalty -- South Dakota is one of them.

Our state's Attorney General Marty Jackely said it is reserved for the most heinous and serious crimes.

"We are very conservative and cautious when we prosecutors in South Dakota look to the death penalty as an option of last resort in order to protect the public and other inmates, correction officers and medical personnel," said Jackley.

Kirk Bloodsworth is visiting South Dakota this week, he is trying to eliminate capital punishment all over the country because he was wrongly convicted of a crime.

He said if it can happen to him, it can happen to anyone.

He was the 1st person in the United States to use DNA evidence to overturn a wrongful murder conviction in the early 80's.

Now he's telling his story to help himself find peace.

"8 years, 10 months and 19 days. 2 years on death row. I was 23 years old when I was arrested and I was in my early 30s when I got out," said Bloodsworth.

He lost nearly a decade of his life after being wrongfully convicted of murdering a 9-year-old girl in Maryland.

He said he was an honorably discharged Marine with no criminal record or criminal history.

Bloodsworth explained police and prosecutors used a witness description to convict him of the murder.

"I guess another way to describe it is instead of eating bubble gum, chew on a pack of razor blades. That's about how my life felt," he said.

He was freed in 1993 after he learned of Genetic Fingerprinting.

He was the 1st person in the United States to use DNA to clear his name.

"You just keep hoping and praying that something good is going to happen and in my case that was DNA," he said.

He's already helped eliminate the death penalty in Maryland and Connecticut, and now he's working to get rid of it across the country.

I want to kill the thing that almost killed me. The death penalty is a failed policy and practice and it's had its time and it needs to be abolished," said Bloodsworth.

He said his biggest fear is that a person has already been executed for a crime they didn't commit because it almost happened to him.

"Some of these people, you might humanely believe that they deserve to die and maybe they do, but people like me do not and you can't walk over us to kill the guilty," said Bloodsworth.

Bloodsworth will be speaking in the Jeschke Auditorium at the University of Sioux Falls Monday night at 7.

(source: KSFY News)


New Mexico court to hear death sentence appeals

New Mexico's only inmates facing possible execution want the state Supreme Court to declare their death sentences unconstitutional because capital punishment was abolished after their convictions.

The court is to hear arguments from lawyers on Monday but the justices aren't expected to issue a ruling until months later.

New Mexico repealed the death penalty in 2009 for future murders but left it in place for Timothy Allen and Robert Fry, who were sentenced to die years before the Legislature and then Gov. Bill Richardson agreed to end capital punishment.

No execution has been scheduled for either Fry or Allen, who contend their death sentences violate constitutional provisions against cruel and unusual punishment and equal-protection guarantees.

The attorney general's office disagrees and says their death sentences should remain in place.

(source: Associated Press)


News outlets sue for lethal injection information

Several news outlets are suing to gain information on the procedures and sources of drugs used to carry out lethal injections for death row inmates, The Arizona Republic reported ( Saturday.

The newspaper has joined other news organizations in a federal lawsuit against the Arizona Department of Corrections and Attorney General Tom Horne. Other media organizations acting as plaintiffs include Guardian News and Media and the Arizona Daily Star.

According to the complaint, the media outlets argue that withholding information about executions is unconstitutional. They argue that executions are public events. As a result, denying information about how they are carried out violates freedom of the press and equal protection under the law.

The lawsuit follows the July 23 execution of inmate Joseph Rudolph Wood. It took Wood nearly 2 hours and 15 dosages of lethal injection drugs before he died.

His attorneys say the execution was botched, a claim the Department of Corrections denies. Wood's defense team and attorneys for other death row inmates filed a lawsuit seeking to know which drugs will be used in executions, where they come from and who will administer them. The First Amendment Coalition of Arizona joined that suit in September.

The standard drug used in executions in Arizona since the 1970s became unavailable in 2010. The Republic reported that the Arizona Department of Corrections used a law guaranteeing confidentiality of executioners' identities to conceal it was illegally getting the drug from Great Britain. As a result, the U.S. Justice Department prohibited the use of imported drugs for executions in the U.S. Since then, Arizona has switched to a two-drug combination already used in Ohio.

The execution brought new attention to the death penalty debate in the U.S. as opponents said it was proof that lethal injection is cruel and unusual punishment.

(source: Associated Press)


Survey Reveals How Asian Americans Feel About Death Penalty

In a recent survey of California registered voters, the National Asian American Survey found that like most Californians, Asian/Pacific Islander Americans were in favor of keeping the death penalty, with 47.1 % in favor. Overall, 55.9 % of Californians were in favor, with 57.3 % of non-Hispanic whites, 57.5 percent of Latinos, and 46.4 % of African Americans in favor of keeping the death penalty.

However, when asked about a federal ruling that California's death penalty law is unconstitutional because it takes so long for the state to carry out, answers were more ambivalent, with 43.8 % of Asian/Pacific Islander Americans in favor of speeding up the process and 39.4 % in favor of replacing the death penalty with life in prison.

"More AANHPIs [Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders] are undecided about the death penalty," said Paul Jung, a Law Fellow at Asian Americans Advancing Justice, "indicating that we need more community education on criminal justice issues and particularly in Asian languages."

Latinos were similarly ambivalent. Overall, 51.9 % of respondents were in favor of speeding up the process and 39.6 % were in favor of replacing with life in prison.

This issue is of historic importance to the Asian/Pacific Islander American community. "One of the first national pan-Asian movements was the campaign to free Mr. Chol Soo Lee who was wrongly convicted of a killing in 1973," said Jung. "Due to the investigative reporting by K.W. Lee and Asian-American organizing that led to the Free Chol Soo Lee Defense Committee, Mr. Lee was freed from death row in 1983."

(source: NBC news)


More Ghanaians opposed to death penalty - Survey

A recent survey on "Public Support for the Death Penalty in Ghana" has shown that more people (48. 3 %) are opposed to the death penalty than those who support it (40.7 %).

It indicated that 60.9 % of the respondents supported the abolition of the death penalty for treason while 53.9 % supported it for murder, with 53 % supporting it for genocide.

The survey showed that among those who supported the abolition of the death penalty for murder, the 2 most important reasons cited were the sacredness of life (33 %) and the fear that innocent people might be executed (32 %).

"On this evidence, opposition to the death penalty in Ghana would seem stronger than what currently pertains in the United Kingdom (UK), where a recent YouGov Poll shows 39 % opposition," it indicated.

The study involved a face-to-face survey of 2,460 people randomly selected from four communities in Accra, namely, Chorkor, Nima, Teshie-Nungua Estate and the East Legon Residential Area.

The fieldwork was conducted in April and May 2014.

It was conducted by the Centre for Criminology and Criminal Justice, with Dr Peter Atupare Atudiwe of the Faculty of Law, University of Ghana, Legon; Dr Kofi E. Boakye and Dr Justice Tankebe, both of the University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK, as the researchers.

The study was conducted against the backdrop that Ghana is among the countries that still retain the death penalty, with 138 convicts presently on death row for three main types of offences - murder, genocide and treason.

However, no executions have taken place since 1993.

In June 2012, the government published a White Paper in which it accepted the recommendations of the Constitutional Review Commission (CRC) to abolish the death penalty and replace it with imprisonment for life without parole.

The study, therefore, sought to provide baseline data on public attitudes to the death penalty, the sources and nature of resistance to abolition and backlash effects.

The overall aim of the researchers was twofold: First, to provide research evidence that contributed to public discourse on the death penalty as Ghana prepared to vote on the relevant constitutional amendments.

Second, to provide baseline data that would allow the tracking of trends in public attitudes over the next several decades.

The survey indicated that males were more likely than females to favour the death penalty.

It, however, showed that there was no difference in attitudes between victims and non-victims of violent crime.

It indicated that the most preferred replacement for the death penalty was life imprisonment without parole.

"Approximately 71 % of the people interviewed chose life imprisonment without parole as the alternative to the death penalty in the case of those convicted of genocide, 66 % for murder and 65 % for treason convicts," it stated.

The survey showed very little evidence of potential backlash in the form of support for vigilante violence or lynching, with only 26 % of the respondents indicating they would take the law into their own hands if the death penalty was abolished.

"Interestingly, they believed approximately 87 % of people will not resort to vigilante violence," it added.

The survey recommended that advocates of the abolition of the death penalty should make greater efforts in that respect.

It also recommended that public engagement programmes on the abolition of the death penalty should move away from a human rights argument to a focus on the sacredness of life and uncertainties in establishing the guilt of suspects which might result in wrongful executions.

It further stressed the need for investments in systematic studies that tracked changes in public attitudes and the conditions associated with those changes in order to preempt a return to the death penalty after it had been abolished.

(source: GhanaWeb)


Afghan soldier loses final appeal against death penalty for murdering 3 Australian troops

An Afghan soldier who murdered three Australian troops has lost his final appeal against the death penalty.

The fate of the remorseless killer, Sgt Hekmatullah, now rests in the hands of the families of those he killed and the Afghanistan's recently-elected president.

The secret judgment against Hekmatullah, which the country's Supreme Court has consistently refused to discuss, was confirmed by diplomatic and prison sources in Kabul and also by the killer himself during a jailhouse interview this month as part of a Four Corners investigation into the incident.

Hekmatullah was convicted and sentenced to death, which in Afghanistan is usually by hanging, of the murders of Lance Corporal 'Rick' Milosevic, Sapper James Martin and Private Robbie Poate as they were relaxing on a remote patrol base in Uruzgan province in late August 2012.

2 other Diggers were wounded.

The case has recently been examined in a coronial inquest in Brisbane, the 1st of its type involving the death of the 41 Australian soldiers killed in Afghanistan.

Evidence was heard about a failure to communicate a heightened risk of insider attacks, in which local forces turn their weapons against foreign mentors, to the slain men's platoon.

The finding of the inquest will be handed down at a later date.

The killer, Hekmatullah, evaded attempts to be captured after the shooting, fleeing the base and ultimately being secreted by the Taliban across the border to Pakistan. He was arrested in February 2013 and after months of interrogation, during which he said he was blindfolded and could hear English-speaking voices while being tortured, he confessed to the murders.

In December last year, he was sentenced to death, a verdict upheld later in an appeal court.

His final chance of overturning or having the sentence commuted to a lengthy prison term, was refused by the Supreme Court in a hearing some months ago.

He is imprisoned in the high-security wing of Kabul's Pul-e Charkhi jail, sharing a block with former Australian soldier, Robert Langdon, who was sentenced to 20-years jail for murdering an Afghan colleague while working as a private security guard.

Langdon, like Hekmatullah, had been sentenced to death but under a provision under Afghan law, paid his victim's family US$100,000 to offer forgiveness, which allowed the Supreme Court to commute the sentence to a prison term.

Hekmatullah has requested the families forgive him but has also vowed to kill again, saying he was inspired to kill after watching a Taliban propaganda video that showed foreign soldiers desecrating the Koran.

The relatives of Hekmatullah's victims, however, appear uninterested in any mercy.

"He showed absolutely no mercy to our boys," Pte Poate's father, Hugh told Four Corners.

"He killed them in the prime of their lives. They had done nothing to him other than befriend him and he turned around and just killed them in premeditated cold-blooded murder, so I'm rather hoping that the sentence will be carried out."

All decisions on the enforcement of the death penalty are made by Afghanistan's president, Ashraf Ghani.

Diplomats in Kabul had believed Mr Ghani is unlikely to order the execution of any of the prisoners on death row but that view has softened in recent weeks.

Mr Ghani, to the surprise and disappointment of many of his western backers, did not intervene after his predecessor, Hamid Karzai, signed off on his last day in office on the execution of 5 men convicted of gang rape and another, of unrelated kidnapping charges.

All 6 men were hanged on October 8.

(source: The News)


China Mulls Scrapping Death Penalty for 9 Crimes

Chinese lawmakers are considering removing the death penalty as punishment for 9 crimes, including smuggling weapons and nuclear materials.

The draft amendment to Criminal Law was submitted on Monday to the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC) for a 1st reading during the legislature's bi-monthly session, which runs from Monday to Saturday.

According to the draft amendment, the nine crimes include smuggling weapons, ammunition, nuclear materials or counterfeit currency; counterfeiting currency; raising funds by means of fraud; arranging for or forcing another person to engage in prostitution; obstructing a commander or a person on duty from performing his duties; and fabricating rumors to mislead others during wartime.

After removing the death penalty for these crimes, those convicted will face a maximum sentence of life imprisonment, according to the draft.

The draft amendment is another move by China to limit the use of the death penalty following a decision at a key meeting of the Communist Party of China last year to gradually reduce the number of crimes subject to the death penalty, said Li Shishi, director of the Legislative Affairs Commission of the NPC Standing Committee.

Li said removal of death penalty for these crimes does not mean the overall punishment would be lessened.

Authorities will strengthen law enforcement and give severe punishment for those who deserve it so as to ensure the general situation of public security, Li said.

The draft amendment also provides stricter rules for the execution of convicts who have been sentenced to death with reprieve.

If the proposal is adopted, it will be the 2nd time the People's Republic of China has reduced the number of crimes punishable by death since the Criminal Law took effect in 1979.

In 2011, the NPC Standing Committee dropped the death penalty for 13 economic-related non-violent crimes including smuggling cultural relics, gold and silver; carrying out fraud related to financial bills; forging or selling forged exclusive value-added tax invoices; teaching criminal methods; and robbing ancient cultural ruins.

Exempting the 13 crimes from the death penalty has not caused negative effects for public security, and the social response toward reducing the number of crimes subject to the death penalty has been positive, Li said.

Under the current Criminal Law, the number of crimes punishable by death is 55.

China has kept the death penalty while strictly controlling and prudently applying capital punishment. The country has made various efforts to limit use of the death penalty in recent years.

On Jan. 1, 2007, the Supreme People's Court resumed reviewing death penalty cases before approval to make sure decisions by lower courts are accurate.

The draft amendment did not remove capital punishment for corruption crimes. Instead, lawmakers are considering imposing harsher punishment on those committing crimes of embezzlement and bribery.

Those involved in such crimes with "especially huge amounts of money and causing especially huge loss to the interest of the country and people" could be sentenced to death, according to the draft amendment.

The draft also added crimes regarding cyber security, enhancing protection of citizens' personal information and ascertaining responsibilities for Internet service providers failing to fulfill duties of network security management.

In its stipulations against terrorism, the draft added several items to the current law to crack down more heavily on terrorism.

Those promoting terrorism and extremism by producing and distributing related materials, releasing information, instructing in person or through audio, video or information networks will face more than 5 years in prison in serious cases. Those who instigate violent terror activities will also face the same punishment, according to the draft amendment.

Those who instigate or force people to damage legal systems including marriage, justice, education and social management will be sentenced to more than seven years in prison in extremely serious cases, according to the draft.

To safeguard social principles of good faith, the draft proposed that those counterfeiting passports, social security cards and driving licenses will also face punishment.

Organizing cheating in examinations and bringing civil litigations based on fabricated facts to pursue illegitimate interests are also listed as crimes that are punishable to imprisonment up to 7 years and 3 years respectively.

(source: English People's Daily)


South Korea ferry disaster: prosecutors seek death penalty for captain; Prosecution tells court Lee Joon-seok should be sentenced to death after more than 300 killed in capsized ferry

South Korean prosecutors have sought the death penalty for the captain of a ferry that capsized in April, leaving 304 people, most of them schoolchildren, dead or missing in a trial of 15 crew who escaped the vessel before it sank.

Lee Joon-seok, 68, who has been charged with homicide, should be sentenced to death for failing to carry out his duty, the prosecution told the court, resting its case in a trial that has taken place amid intense public anger towards the crew.

Lee was among 15 accused of abandoning the sharply listing ferry after telling the passengers to stay put in their cabins. Four, including the captain, face homicide charges.

The rest face lesser charges, including negligence. A 3-judge panel is expected to announce its verdicts in November. No formal pleas have been made but Lee has denied intent to kill.

Several defendants have been sentenced to death in South Korea in recent years but there have been no executions since 1997.

"Lee supplied the cause of the sinking of the Sewol ... he has the heaviest responsibility for the accident," the lead prosecutor in the case, Park Jae-eok, said. "We ask that the court sentence him to death."

The prosecutors sought life sentences for the other 3 charged with homicide, and prison terms varying from 15 to 30 years for the rest.

The Sewol capsized and sank on a routine voyage on 16 April, triggering an outpouring of nationwide grief and sharp criticism of the government of President Park Geun-hye for its handling of the rescue operation.

The crew members on trial have said they thought it was the coastguard's job to evacuate passengers. Video footage of their escape triggered outrage, especially after survivors testified they repeatedly told passengers to stay put.

(source: The Guardian)


Prosecution weighs Sewol captain's penalty

The prosecution is scheduled to unveil its criminal action against 15 crew members of the capsized ferry Sewol on Monday.

A key issue is whether the prosecution will seek capital punishment for the ferry's caption Lee Joon-seok, 69, during the trial at the Gwangju District Court. He has been charged with homicide through willful negligence.

Apart from the possibility of a death penalty, the prosecution could choose to call for life imprisonment for the indicted Sewol captain.

On April 16, Lee and other crew members escaped from the sinking vessel, reportedly without taking any appropriate measures to evacuate passengers. Investigators had vowed to prove the charges that the sailors' practices were intentional and that their behavior caused the deaths of those on board.

Some families of the victims have recently asked the prosecution to seek the maximum sentence (or death penalty) allowed by law for Lee.

Aside from Lee, 3 other crewmen were indicted in May on charges of manslaughter due to willful negligence.

While 11 other crewmen were also indicted for neglecting their duties during the accident, which left more than 300 people dead or missing, prosecutors only lodged homicide charges against the 4 key suspects: Lee and the 3 crewmen.

If the crewmen had taken steps to evacuate the passengers, they may have been able to save all of them or at least minimized the death toll, a prosecutor said during the former trial hearing.

He said that "students (on a school excursion) in cabins on the 4th floor could have escaped just by walking several meters. But they became trapped due to an announcement by senior crewmen to stay in their cabins."

(source: The Korea Herald)


2 women on death row seek reprieve

The Constitutional Court last Wednesday heard a case in which 2 women who are on death row were seeking reprieve.

The application was filed by the Zimbabwe Women Lawyers Association (ZWLA) two weeks ago.

ZWLA official, Chiedza Simbo, said the application was a test of the country's compliance with the supreme law which was voted by Zimbabweans in a referendum last year.

"We are pleading for the removal of these 2 female inmates from the death roll in accordance with the provisions of the new constitution," Simbo said a day before the matter was heard in court.

"It is our plea that the Constitutional Court gives them another sentence which is appropriate since the new charter prohibits executions of females."

Advocate Fadzai Mahere was the attorney who represented the ZWLA.

Simbo said they are against the continued existence of the death penalty in the country's statutes despite the exclusion of females from executions.

"The law as it stands is discriminatory and gender biased. We are saying the law should be applied indiscriminately to everyone and in this case the death penalty should be scrapped completely from the country's statutes if the country is to move in line with the progressive world," Mahere said.

Mahere was speaking at a belated World Against Death Penalty Day held last Tuesday.

There are 77 inmates in Zimbabwe's jails who are facing the gallows.

Since the attainment of independence in 1980, at least 78 people have been executed for committing various crimes.

Notorious criminals Stephen Chidhumo, Elias Chauke, William Mukurugunye and John Nyamazana were the last inmates to be hanged in 2003. The country's constitution which was adopted last year retains the death penalty but prohibits executions of women and males under the age of 21 or over the age of 70.

(source: New Zimbabwe)


5 Prisoners Hanged in Northern Iran for Drug-Related Charges

5 prisoners were hanged in the prison of Rasht (Northern Iran) Saturday October 25, reported the official website of the Iranian Judiciary in Gilan Province.

The prisoners who were all men were identified as "M.P." (40) charged with possession and trafficking of 31 kilograms of opium, "S.A." (43) for possession and trafficking of 14 kilograms and buying 17 kilograms of opium, "R.T." (42)for possession of 3310 grams of heroin, "M.S." (27) for possession of 3984 grams of heroin and "A.R." (50) for participation in trafficking of 3 kilograms of heroin. said the report.

Last week 4 other prisoners were hanged in the prison of Rasht convicted of drug related charges.

(source: Iran Human Rights)


A prisoner hanged in Rajai Shahr Prison in Karaj

A man with charge of murder was hanged the same day that Reyhaneh Jabbari was executed.

According to the report of Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA), in the morning of Saturday, 25th October, a prisoner charged with murder was executed along with Reyhaneh Jabbari by hanging in Rajai Shahr prison of Karaj.

This prisoner from ward 1 in Rajai Shahr prison whose name is Mohammad Ghorbanzadeh, was transferred to solitary confinement on Thursday 23rd October

Also on Saturday morning, another prisoner from ward 2 in Rajai Shahr prison, named Davood Gandomi, on charge of "rape" was taken to the gallows, for execution but due to a defect in his case the execution has been postponed.

(source: Human Rights Activists News Agency)


After Reyhaneh Jabbari execution UK urges Iran to end death penalty

Following the execution of Reyhaneh Jabbari, British Foreign Office Minister, Tobias Ellwood, on Saturday called on Iran to end the use of the death penalty.

Tobias Ellwood, the British Foreign Office Minister for the Middle East, said in as statement: "The UK strongly opposes the use of the death penalty. I am very concerned and saddened that it has been used in the case of Reyhaneh Jabbari where there have been questions around due process."

"The UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in Iran, Dr Ahmed Shaheed, noted that her conviction was allegedly based on confessions made while under threat, and the court failed to take into account all evidence into its judgment. Actions like these do not help Iran build confidence or trust with the international community. I urge Iran to put a moratorium on all executions."

Morteza Abdulali Sarbandi, an agent of the Iranian regime's notorious Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS) was killed as he intended to assault Reyhaneh Jabbari.

A UN human rights monitor said the killing came in self-defense after Sarbandi tried to sexually abuse Jabbari, and that the condemned woman's trial in 2009 had been deeply flawed.

ll evidence indicate that the criminal execution of Ms. Rayhaneh Jabbari after 7 1/2 years incarceration and torture that took place despite widespread protests and international calls had political reasons and motives and that this execution was unlawful even in the framework of mullahs' medieval laws.


Canada: Condemns Execution of Reyhaneh Jabbari by "Murderous regime" in Iran

The government of Canada condemned "in the strongest possible terms" the execution of Reyhaneh Jabbari the "latest victim of a murderous regime."

The Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird released the following statement on Saturday:

"Canada condemns in the strongest possible terms Iran's execution of Reyhaneh Jabbari, a 26-year old interior designer and the latest victim of a murderous regime.

"In 2009, Ms. Jabbari was convicted after a deeply flawed trial process of killing a man she claims was trying to sexually assault her. Today, Iran executed her despite international efforts to see a fair trial and justice properly served. "The execution of Ms. Jabbari is another truly tragic example of Iran’s contempt for due process and of systemic flaws within Iran's judicial system.

"Canada strongly believes that due process and the rule of law are fundamental to ensuring human rights and dignity. By failing to accord Ms. Jabbari due process, Iran has once again cynically demonstrated its unwillingness to live up to international human rights obligations and to respect the dignity and rights of its people. The people of Iran, and on this day particularly the family of Reyhaneh Jabbari, deserve better."


Maryam Rajavi calls for int’l probe into Reyhaneh Jabbari's execution in Iran; The current session of the UN General Assembly should refer Iran's dossier of human rights violations to the Security Council----Conducting negotiations and dealing with a bloodthirsty regime that honors no pact or agreement is a dagger in the heart of human rights

All evidence indicate that the criminal execution of Ms. Rayhaneh Jabbari after 7 1/2 years incarceration and torture that took place despite widespread protests and international calls had political reasons and motives and that this execution was unlawful even in the framework of mullahs' medieval laws.

Because Ms. Jabbari was arrested for defending herself against the aggression of a mullahs' intelligence agent, henchmen did not observe the minimum legal process of even their own system during the investigations and her trial as they were afraid of the disclosure of the secrets of the Mafia of murder, assassination and corruption of the clerical regime; i.e. the Ministry of Intelligence. Amnesty International declared that "the execution of Iranian Reyhaneh Jabbari who was convicted after a deeply flawed investigation and trial is an affront to justice...This is another bloody stain on Iran's human rights record".

On the other hand, Mrs. Jabbari's resistance and refusal to give in to the pressures of the suppressive agents and her refusal to succumb to their dictated demands had doubled the mullahs' regime anger towards her. In a voice recording on April 1, 2014 addressing her mother she said: "...the court charged me with being coldblooded in the murder and of being a cruel criminal. I shed no tears, did not beg, and did not cry out loud since I believed in the support of the law... how naive were we that we expected justice from the judges. I embrace death because in the court of God I charge the investigative officers, I charge the interrogator, I charge the judge of the Supreme Court of the country, those who severely beat me... In the court of the creator of the world I charge... all those who inattentively, falsely or out of fear wronged me."

Mrs. Maryam Rajavi, President-elect of the Iranian Resistance, hailed the perseverance of Reyhaneh Jabbari and offered her sympathy to her bereaved family. She called on the Iranian people, especially the women and the youth, to express their solidarity with Reyhaneh's family and to protest and resist the criminal death sentences and the savage suppression of women, such as the acid attacks.

Mrs. Rajavi called for an independent international probe into the execution of Reyhaneh Jabbari as an example of arbitrary, extrajudicial and criminal death sentences that have taken on added dimensions since Rouhani's tenure.

At a time that the mullahs' regime has ridiculed all international conventions and laws and despite 60 UN resolutions continues with its crimes and the spilling of blood, Mrs. Rajavi called on the current UN General Assembly session to refer the dossier of the systematic violation of human rights in Iran, the collective and arbitrary executions, and the heinous crimes such as splashing of acid on women to the UN Security Council so that through binding decisions it would confront this medieval and in particular misogynic barbarism. She added that conducting negotiations and dealing with a bloodthirsty regime that honors no pact or agreement is a dagger in the heart of human rights and a betrayal of values and goals that the United Nations has been founded upon.

(source for 3 above: Secretariat of the National Council of Resistance of Iran)

OCTOBER 26, 2014:


Execution delay inspired Sheldon to run

George Sheldon says he was persuaded by the actions of 1 person to run for attorney general: Pam Bondi, the incumbent Republican. Last September, Bondi caused the delay of an execution that was scheduled for the same evening as her re-election kickoff fundraiser in Tampa.

Gov. Rick Scott postponed the state-imposed death of convicted murderer Marshall Lee Gore at Bondi's request, moving it from Sept. 10 to Oct. 1. Bondi since has apologized.

At the time, Sheldon, a Democrat, was acting assistant secretary for children and families in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services under President Barack Obama.

"No matter how you feel about the death penalty, there's no more serious, solemn responsibility than to take a human life," said Sheldon, who also served as deputy to former Florida Attorney General Bob Butterworth.

"To do that without thinking about the victim, without thinking about the message you were sending, ... that was the crowning blow," Sheldon said. "Look, I had a pretty good job in Washington."

Sheldon has a long resume as a public servant: An aide to Democratic Sen. Reubin Askew, who later became Florida's governor; a state representative from Tampa in the 1970s; the secretary of the Department of Children & Families under then-GOP Gov. Charlie Crist.

He was born in Wildwood, New Jersey, but grew up in Plant City, eventually getting his undergraduate and law degrees from Florida State University.

His platform is to make the office even more of a champion for consumers and to take politics out of the decision-making - as he puts it, "to be the lawyer of all the people." He disagrees with Bondi's active opposition to the Affordable Care Act and medical marijuana, for instance.

"Having been deputy attorney general, I know what that office can do," Sheldon said. "While I was in Washington, we dealt with a lot of different issues, like children coming across our southern border. I traveled around the country a lot and saw states and the federal government working together.

"We worked with conservative governors who accepted Medicaid expansion because it was the right thing for their states," he said. "I looked at my home state and I saw this failure to recognize that 90 % of government is making the trains run on time and how to find common ground.

"I was fundamentally disagreeing with where Scott and Bondi were taking Florida," said Sheldon, the last of 6 children and the only one to attend college.

In the latter half of the 20th century, "so many things were put in place, like growth management, the Sunshine Amendment, financial disclosure, ensuring the independence of the judiciary - and then really seeing all of that unwoven," he said. "There's a certain idealism about government that we need to get back to."

This month, Sheldon sued Scott over his personal finances, saying the governor should "fully disclose all his assets and investments" instead of using a blind trust, as allowed under state law. That suit is pending.

Another Askew confidante, former chief of staff Jim Apthorp, lost a legal challenge to the blind trust law but is appealing.

Sheldon also was the target of a recent lawsuit.

A Miami lawyer challenged his qualifications to seek the office of attorney general, saying that because Sheldon lived and worked in Washington for 2 years, he didn't meet the state constitutional requirement of 7 years' residency before election.

A Tallahassee judge ruled that Sheldon's D.C. sojourn for work didn't disqualify him, finding that he never gave up his legal residency here and continued to own a home in the state.

On other issues, Sheldon doesn't buy Bondi's statement that she's simply following her oath of office in her defense of the state's same-sex marriage ban.

"She's trying to have it both ways," he said. "If you read her initial draft, it was so rhetorical. ... It articulated a philosophy about the dangers of gay marriage to our society.

"She says she's only doing her duty, that she's not going to be intimidated by the press," he said. "To say she has gay friends, I heard that in the '60s and '70s, except it was, 'I have black friends.'"

Sheldon says he's "under no illusions" about the race; Bondi is beating him handily in the polls and at fundraising. But he recalls a piece of advice from Gov. Askew, given to him decades ago.

"He told me, 'George, just remember the right thing to do is also the politically right thing to do.' I believe that to this day."

(source: Tampa Bay Online)


Trial date set for men charged in slaying of Lexington man

2 men are scheduled to stand trial next year in the death of a Lexington man whose body was found in a barrel on the banks of the Kentucky River.

Media reports say Robert Markham Taylor and Timothy Curtis Ballard will face a jury trial starting Oct. 5, 2015, in the beating death of Alex Johnson.

Taylor is charged with murder, kidnapping and tampering with physical evidence.

Ballard is charged with kidnapping, tampering with evidence and being a persistent felon.

Taylor's attorney asked for at least a year to prepare for the trial, because Taylor could get the death penalty if convicted.

Johnson, a chef at the University of Kentucky, went missing Dec. 20, 2013, soon after hanging up the phone with his girlfriend when he heard a knock at the door.

(source: Associated Press)


Fort Smith Historic Site takes nooses off gallows

The thick rope nooses no longer swing from the gallows near downtown Fort Smith, yet they still play a role in area history.

Officials with the Fort Smith National Historic Site no longer display the ropes similar to the ones used by Judge Isaac C. Parker's court to hang convicted criminals for anniversary programs at the park's gallows. Instead, Fort Smith National Historic Site park rangers are using the nooses as interpretive and educational props during visitor programs inside Parker's courtroom, 301 Parker Ave., the Times Record reported ( ).

"Before, we would have the nooses displayed (at the gallows), but only on anniversary programs of executions," said Michael L. Groomer, chief of Interpretation and Resource Management for the Fort Smith National Historic Site. "It would be at 2 p.m. in July back then, and the noose would be hanging there, almost staring at the visitors. Suddenly, the noose became something that overshadowed the program.

"It was almost as if it didn't matter what the ranger said, because people would only focus on the noose," he added. "But the story is so much bigger than the noose. Yes, the noose was one of the tools with Judge Parker's courtroom, but not everything ended with a noose."

Groomer said the plan to stop displaying the nooses at the gallows for anniversary programs wasn't based on a safety concern.

"Since the nooses were only displayed for anniversary programs, and not all of the time, there wasn't the thought that the nooses were a safety concern," he said.

Visitors both from the area and from other states and countries often are surprised to learn that of the 13,000 cases Parker presided over, only 116 of those cases resulted in a sentence that called for hanging, Groomer said.

"And of those 116 cases, only 79 were actually hanged," he said. "And contrary to what some people believe, none of those hanged were women or children."

Though 4 women were sentenced to hanging, none was executed. Two had their sentences commuted to life in prison by the president; 1 had her sentence commuted by the Supreme Court; and one received a new trial and was acquitted, information on the national park website states.

By showcasing the nooses inside the court for visitors, officials at the Fort Smith historic site hope to shift much of the public's attention to the trials, as well as the stories behind those trials. Lisa Confrad Frost, Fort Smith National Historic Site superintendent, said this shift in visual presentation will present a more accurate - and ultimately more satisfying - experience for those who attend the park, which sees about 87,000 visitors annually.

"The stories about and behind the executions hold such a deep meaning," she said. "The nooses are a part of that, but we want the tools to help people make a deeper connection with the great history we have here."

The plan to stop showcasing the nooses at the gallows for anniversary programs stemmed in part from some of the public's comments, Groomer said.

Parker was against the death penalty, a fact that also comes as news to many park visitors, Groomer said.

"Judge Parker only let the hangings be carried out because it was the law," he said. "There were only 2 reasons why someone was hanged - for murder and for rape, or what we say are crimes against women when we have school groups here."

School groups and other visitors are first taken into the courtroom, where they "learn the whole story" behind the trials, convictions and executions, Groomer said.

"They learn about the families involved and much more; it's the full context of the story," he said. "The noose still is important - we let people see it, and they can touch it here in the courtroom - but there's much more."

Groomer said he, Frost and their co-workers undergo a "facilitated dialogue"-type interaction with visitors.

"With that, we ask people, 'What are your thoughts on the trial?'" he said. "We encourage people to ask questions because people have different ideas about the judicial system."

By demonstrating the nooses only in the courtroom, Fort Smith National Historic Site officials also hope to dispel myths that surround the park and Fort Smith, Groomer said.

"I once heard a man say, 'I heard that Judge Parker hanged a child for stealing a loaf of bread,' but that isn't true," he said. "And there's the rumor that Judge Parker would watch the hangings from his office window, but that simply isn't true. Judge Parker's office window was completely on the opposite side of the grounds, facing (north), and he didn't watch the executions."

Pat Schmidt, a park ranger at the Fort Smith National Historic Site, said she hopes visitors learn how Parker's rulings and beliefs continue to shape many areas of the judicial system. Some of those cases involved claims and rulings of self-defense, which inspired lawmakers and prosecutors to re-evaluate the realms of self-defense and other areas, she said.

"Judge Parker's influence continues today, and it's exciting to see people today make that connection," Schmidt said.

Frost said by giving more focus to Parker's cases and less focus on the actual noose ropes, the park's programs can continue to grow and help attract more individuals, families and groups to the park.

"We want people to say, 'I went to Fort Smith, and now I know why Congress set that place aside as a special place,'" she said.

Groomer nodded in agreement.

"Yes, absolutely," he said. "May they never say, 'I went to Fort Smith, and all I saw was a noose.'"

(source: Associated Press)


Holmes' attorney says he could've done more to keep convict off death row in other case

The lawyer who defended Sir Mario Owens says he could've done more to keep him off death row in Colorado.

The same lawyer is now the lead attorney for James Holmes, who is also facing the death penalty.

Dan King's surprising testimony took place Friday.

Owens is on death row and out of legal appeals. He was convicted, along with Robert Ray, for the double murders of Javad Marshal Fields and Fields' fiancee Vivian Wolfe in 2005.

Owens public defenders are now trying to convince a judge the convict had inadequate defense counsel at his original trial.

Owens' lead attorney in 2008 was Dan King, chief trial deputy for the state public defenders' office. "Dan King is looking back on his trial and he's saying 'yes, I made mistakes,'" says criminal defense attorney David Beller.

King is lead attorney for Aurora Theater shooting suspect James Holmes.

King testified Friday that he was not properly qualified to defend Owens, blaming mistakes in judgment, strategy and lack of experience. He says he was given inadequate time, resources and personnel form the office of public defender to mount an effective defense. "When you are looking at the execution of your former client the defense attorneys are willing to blame themselves to avert that," says criminal defense attorney Christopher Decker.

"The judge has to look at Dan King's testimony and either decide that Dan King did not make any mistakes of if he did make mistakes that those mistakes would have led to a different trial ruling," David Beller says.

Decker adds that King's team is trying to get a new trial for Owens. "I think it unveils some of the realities that are occurring in each and every one of the Holmes proceedings because every time the defense says we need more time to review materials we need more resources to get experts."

They're already laying the foundations for a Holmes appeal.

The Aurora theater shooting trial is tentatively scheduled to begin in late January and those same questions about a lack of resources and time for the public defenders' office will almost certainly be brought up again by the man leading his defense.

(source: KDVR news)


Students to explore, debate death penalty issues----DA to speak at open forum Nov. 5

One of the goals of Northeastern Junior College's new criminal justice coordinator, Dante Penington, had when he first came to campus was to bring real world experiences to the classroom. With that in mind the college's Criminal Justice Club will be a sponsoring a, "Death Penalty, Exploring the Issues," open forum event Wednesday, Nov. 5.

Open to the public, the open forum will start at 2 p.m., in the Hays Student Center Ballroom, which is located on the second floor of the building. It will follow a death penalty debate between the Criminal Justice Club and Philotopia, the college's philosophy club, 4 p.m., Monday, Nov. 3, in the Tennant Art Gallery at Hays Student Center. That event is also open to the public.

During the open forum, District Attorney Birttny Lewton will discuss the death penalty and the issues surrounding it.

Born in Denver, Lewton was raised by her mother and grandparents after her father passed away when she was a toddler. After graduating from Colorado State University, she moved to Laramie, Wyo., where she received her Juris Doctor from the University of Wyoming School of Law.

Lewton worked as a prosecution intern in the Cheyenne District Attorney's Office and the Albany County Attorney's Office. She began her career with the 13th Judicial District Attorney's Office as an intern and was hired full-time in 2005.

Over the next 8 years, she served as lead drug and sexual assault prosecutor before being promoted, first to Chief Deputy and then to Assistant District Attorney.

Lewton was elected District Attorney in November 2012, in an uncontested race as a republican. At this time, she is the 2nd youngest District Attorney statewide and the first female to serve as District Attorney in the 13th Judicial District.

When not at the office, she spends her time with her husband, Brian, and their 2 children. Although Brian is the farmer of the family, Brittny has been known to run a combine from time to time.

As this will be an open forum event, audience members are invited to bring any questions they may have about the death penalty.

November will be a very busy month for the criminal justice students. In addition to the debate and open forum, on Friday, Nov. 7, at 10 a.m. the Sterling Police Department will present a demosntration on how police dogs work, in the Hays Student Center Ballroom. The public may come and observe this presentation.

Additionally, on Nov. 12, Sterling Correctional Deparment officer Jeff Quinlin will be speaking to the Intro to Criminal Justice Class. Students in the program will travel to Canon City to do a prison tour on Nov. 18.

Last but not least, a mock trial will be held on Thursday, Nov. 20, at 6 p.m., n the Hays Student Center, Room 230. This event will be open to the public. More details will be forthcoming between now and then.

For more information about these events, or the criminal justice program at NJC, contact Penington at 970-521-6704.

(source: Journal-Advocate)


Suspect in California shootings that left 2 deputies dead previously deported twice

A Utah man was charged with carrying out a crime spree in Sacramento that killed 2 California sheriff's deputies and wounded a 3rd, law enforcement officials said on Saturday.

A 4th victim, a motorist who was shot in the head, remained hospitalized Saturday, officials said.

Marcelo Marquez, 34, of Salt Lake City, was booked into Sacramento County Jail early Saturday and faces 2 counts of murder, 2 counts attempted murder and carjacking charges, a sheriff's spokesman said.

The suspect's female companion, Janelle Marquez Monroy, was also arrested and charged with attempted murder and carjacking, according to online jail records.

Marquez had twice been deported to Mexico, in 1997 for a narcotics charge and in 2001 for an unspecified charge, according to Virginia Kice, spokeswoman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Federal officials on Saturday issued an immigration detainer, asking that Marquez be transferred to their custody when he is released by local authorities "so ICE can pursue removal."

Marquez was accused of staging a crime spree Friday that stretched from Sacramento to the town of Auburn about 35 miles away, prompting a massive, multi-agency police response and forcing the lockdown of schools and businesses.

The incident began in the parking lot of a Motel 6, when veteran Sacramento Deputy Danny Oliver, 47, approached a vehicle considered to be suspicious, said Sacramento County Sheriff Lieutenant R.L. Davis.

Someone inside the car fired multiple rounds at Oliver, who was struck in the chest. He was pronounced dead at the University of California, Davis, Medical Center in Sacramento.

After shooting Oliver, Marquez, accompanied by his female associate, carjacked a motorist, shooting him in the head when he resisted, authorities said. The victim, Anthony Holmes, 38, was recovering at U.C. Davis Medical Center, the Sacramento Bee reported.

The pair then stole a 3rd vehicle, a 2002 red Ford F-150 pickup truck, and are believed to have crossed into neighboring Placer County, shooting 2 sheriff's deputies there, Davis said.

1 of the deputies, 42-year-old Michael David Davis Jr., later died, the sheriff's office said.

A somber procession on Saturday transported Davis' body to a funeral home, according to the department's official Facebook page.

Davis was a 15-year veteran with the department and died 26 years to the day after his father and namesake, Michael David Davis, was killed while on duty as a sheriff's deputy in southern California, officials said.

A 3rd law enforcement officer, Placer Deputy Jeff Davis, was shot in the arm and treated at a local hospital, the department said.

Marquez surrendered around 4 p.m. local time after holing up in a house, the Sacramento sheriff's department said.

Both suspects were to be arraigned this week, Sacramento and Placer officials said.

(source: Reuters)


Poll: Republican Support for Death Penalty Drops 9 Points

Since Gallup first started asking about people's views on the death penalty in 1937, Americans have on all but one occasion favored the practice. Nonetheless, it has been a controversial issue in society, with the divide especially pronounced between Democrats and Republicans. The former have tended to oppose the practice, while the latter, for the most part, have supported it.

Increasingly, however, we're seeing a growing divide on the Right over capital punishment - a debate that intensified after the botched execution of Clayton Lockett in Oklahoma earlier this year.

While 63 % of Americans still favor the practice, according to a new Gallup poll, Republican support for the practice is down nine points from when the organization asked the same question 20 years ago.

More interesting though is the fact that support among Republicans dropped 5 percentage points in just 1 year.

"I personally favored the death penalty until I took a closer look and realized it simply could not coexist with my conservative values," Marc Hyden, national coordinator for Conservatives Concerned about the Death Penalty, said in a statement. "I have traveled across the country talking to thousands of conservatives over the last year. Many of them have changed their views and many more are voicing strong concerns."

18 states, plus the District of Columbia, have abolished the death penalty, while 32 states, the federal government, and the U.S. military allow the practice.



A prisoner hanged in Amol

A 35-year-old man, from Amol city, who had been charged with murder, was hanged on Friday October 24th.

According to HRANA report quoted Roozeno, (H. S.), 35 years old from Amol city, accused with murder was hanged in A'mol prison's yard on Friday morning.

H. S. was charged in 2008 of killing his friend (D. R.) due to some moral issues.

Ali Talebi General and Islamic Revolution persecutor of A'mol city confirmed the news and said the warrant was executed on Friday morning.

(source: Human Rights Activists News Agency)


Iran Capital Punishment Still A Major Controversy

In a world where many types of capital punishment are considered wrong, Iran's capital punishment continues to hit an all time high with people everywhere as it causes major controversy, and is still something people continue to fight against. The most recent hanging of a woman who claimed self defense has aggravated Iranian residents, human rights groups, and many citizens of other countries. As the capital punishment of hanging has been around in Iran for a long time, the way that the country goes about it seems to be a bit lenient.

On Saturday in Tehran a woman named Reyhaneh Jabbari was executed after trial for killing a man in self defense. She claimed that the man, a doctor and former intelligence agent, was trying to rape her when she attacked and killed him. Though the court stated that the evidence proved that Jabbari had planned to kill the man, as she stabbed him in the back after buying a knife two days earlier. She was sentenced to be hanged but the issue raised much concern, pulling in governments of other countries such as Germany, the United States, Britain and other European countries, who ordered the Iranian government to stop the execution as they worked to prove that the trial against the woman was fair. However, despite negations from these countries, as well as human rights groups, the Iranian government executed Jabbari by hanging.

As hanging is the form of capital punishment in the country, it has always received disapproval from other countries and human rights groups. Though hanging has previously been a form of punishment for crimes in the countries who object, such as the United States and Britain, the trials were almost always considered fair and the executions considered quick and painless. However, in Iran many executions seem to come after unfair trials, with bias, and public condemnation. The most recent sentencing of Jabbari for hanging, disgruntled human rights groups because they called it injustice to women, which Iranians have been accused of many times before. The most recent sentencing also caused quite an uproar of international complaint, as well as nationally among residents. Though the country's executions have always had a tendency to do that.

The capital punishment there still causes a major controversy because most others, who are not involved in the Iranian government, see the executions as unjust. The country has a reputation for hanging those who are innocent, have killed in self defense, or have simply angered the government though no actual crime was committed. While these rumors are speculation, as some who have been executed may have actually committed the crimes they were accused of, it always seems that when someone in Iran in sentenced to execution, residents, rights groups, and other countries start crying injustice.

Perhaps it is because they are the second leading country in the number of executions (though they may have moved up to first now with the number of executions they have been performing just in the year 2014). At any given time someone could be roaming around Iranian cities and see dead bodies hanging off the backs of cranes. These bodies, many of them, are simply executed for crimes against the government. In addition, it has been said that Iran does not often hang just 1 body at a time. Human rights groups have also had a field day with the rumors that Iran hangs men just for being gay, something that came about when 2 men were hung together, as residents claimed that they had been convicted of sodomy. A riot in the country has also broke out many times as victims scream of their innocence before their executions, leaving many residents to protest.

These images just do not paint a "just" picture and with all of the rumors that go around about the reasons why Iranians are hung, it is no wonder why people question the capital punishment there. Many say the form of punishment just seems to be a grim way for Iran to unfairly accuse and execute whoever they want. The hangings may be justified, but if they continue adding to the numbers of execution that seem to be just putting themselves in the spotlight, over their form of capital punishment, the major controversy may just continue.



US Condemns Iranian Woman's Execution

The United States has condemned Iran for executing a woman convicted of killing a man to defend herself from an alleged sexual assault.

The 26-year-old woman, Reyhaneh Jabbari, was hanged Saturday morning. The death penalty went ahead after the family of her alleged assailant, a former Iranian intelligence agent, refused to pardon her or accept financial compensation.

At the U.S. State Department, spokeswoman Jen Psaki said there were "serious concerns with the fairness" of the case, including reports that confessions were "made under severe duress."

Psaki said the United States condemns Iran for killing Jabbari "despite pleas from Iranian human-rights activists and an international outcry."

Jabbari said Morteza Abdolali Sarbandi was trying to rape her. She said she acted in self-defense when she stabbed him, but prosecutors said the attack was premeditated, and noted the dead man had been stabbed in the back.

The stabbing occurred in 2007. Jabbari was sentenced to death in 2009 under the Islamic principle of "an eye for an eye."

During the trial, Iran's official IRNA news agency said, there was testimony that Jabbari told a friend in a text message that she intended to kill Sarbandi, as well as alleged evidence that she purchased the knife involved only 2 days before putting it to use.

In a statement before the woman was hanged, Amnesty International said the "deeply flawed" prosecution did not appear "to have ever properly investigated" Jabbari's statement that another man present at the time of the stabbing was Sarbandi's killer.

The U.S. State Department spokeswoman said the United States joins "with those who call on Iran to respect the fair-trial guarantees afforded to its people under Iran's own laws and its international obligations."

(source: Voice of America News)


Social Media Couldn't Save Reyhaneh Jabbari----A campaign to halt an Iranian woman's execution was ultimately unsuccessful.

On Saturday, Iran hanged a woman convicted of murdering a former intelligence officer she claimed had attempted to rape her - a defense the court and the man's family ultimately rejected.

IRNA, Iran's official news agency, says 27-year-old Reyhaneh Jabbari was hanged at dawn Saturday for the 2007 murder. The court ruling dismissed Jabbari's claim of attempted rape, saying all evidence proved she had planned to kill Morteza Abdolali Sarbandi, a former intelligence agent, after having purchased a knife 2 days earlier. However, the United Nations called on Iran for a retrial, saying the incident never received a full investigation and that she was denied a fair trial.

A robust campaign led by human-rights groups and prominent Iranians, which was amplified through social media, appeared to be gaining traction and it seemed for a short time that the sentence would be commuted. However, the execution was carried out after Sarbandi's family refused to pardon Jabbari or accept blood money - a possible provision under Sharia law.

"The shocking news that Reyhaneh Jabbari has been executed is deeply disappointing in the extreme," said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Amnesty International's Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa Program, in a statement. "This is another bloody stain on Iran’s human rights record."

"Once again Iran has insisted on applying the death penalty despite serious concerns over the fairness of the trial," said Sahraoui.

In the U.S., the State Department took to Twitter to condemn the execution.

(source: The Atlantic)


Man sentenced to death

A local court on Saturday awarded death penalty and imposed a fine of Rs50,000 on a murder convict.

Additional district and sessions judge Ms Anbreen Naveed found Mustaqeem Khan guilty of killing his neighbour, Jawad, over a monetary dispute.

The convict has also remained in prison for 7 years with a fine of Rs50,000 in another case.

Court officials said that the convict remained absconder for about 10 years after committing the murder on October 25, 2003, and was arrested on March 4, 2013.

The court order stated that the man had the right to appeal in high court against the judgment of the sessions court.

(source: Dawn)


The death penalty in India

The fate of 2 criminals is in the news. One is the convicted Gujarat minister, Mayaben Kodnani, who was sentenced to 28 years for her part in the 2002 massacres. She was given bail on health grounds and is out of jail. This month, the Gujarat government said it would side with her and against the special prosecuting body, which wanted her in jail.

The other is Surinder Koli, convicted of one of the most horrific crimes we have heard of in India in recent years. Describing his acts, Harsh Mander wrote in The Hindu that Koli, who was then 33, was "convicted of killing at least 16 children, raping them dead or alive, chopping them into pieces and eating their flesh".

The Indian Supreme Court has stayed Koli's execution till October 29, but the fact is that India's state has been executing people at a high rate under the current president, Pranab Mukherjee. The president is the final arbiter in death penalty cases and his rejection of appeals means that the convict is killed. He rejected Koli's plea in July and next week's hearing is probably the last chance Koli's lawyers have to stop the state from executing their client.

The Times of India reported on February 11, 2013, that Mukherjee had sent more people to the hangman in his 1st 7 months in office than in the previous 15 years.

Koli's lawyers say that his confession was taken through torture and that even if true, it shows a man who is disturbed.

Mander wrote: "does even such a man merit any kindness? Is this not one case in which the world is better off without him? But his case - gruesome as it is - only reinforces my resolute opposition to the death penalty ... If a crime results from a psychological disorder then, however gruesome and abhorrent the transgression, surely the humane, civilised, socially decent and constitutionally valid recourse would be to treat the problem, not eradicate the victim. What Koli needs desperately is clearly a doctor, not a hangman."

I agree with Mander and don’t think hanging people solves anything. I would also say that Kodnani, who is in her sixties, being given bail is not a bad thing. I've written about this before and in India, the demand for death to convicts ensues from a desire for vengeance, not justice. This is a sign of a primitive society and we must accept that even educated Indians are not exempt from the feeling. It would not be incorrect to say that some of the more savage solutions for curbing crime originate from them.

In our parts, public lynching is not uncommon and, like the awful incidents with blacks in the US a century ago, it is acceptable by the public to wound or kill those who offend by stealing or by misbehaviour. This is also a product of that same desire for vengeance, and the emotion is felt strongly and collectively.

The crowd takes offence even when it is not the victim, and feels entitled to join in handing out punishment. Mobs form dangerously quickly on the subcontinent and carry with them a primitive like-mindedness, which makes them lethal.

In 2012, Frontline magazine reported that 14 judges sent an appeal to the president seeking his intervention to commute the death sentences of 13 convicts in various jails. The report said that the judges "have appealed to the president because these 13 convicts were erroneously sentenced to death according to the Supreme Court's own admission".

The president was also told that two men had, in fact, been wrongly killed. Ravji Rao and Surja Ram, both from Rajasthan, had been executed on May 4, 1996 and April 7, 1997 after flawed judgments. Given this, it is remarkable that Indian politicians and media should be clamouring, as is obvious to any observer, not for clemency, but for execution.

After the conviction of those accused in the infamous case of rape and murder of a young woman on a bus in Delhi, CNN reported: "The same crowd outside the courthouse that cheered Friday's death sentence for the 4 adults turned their ire on the juvenile. The crowd chanted, 'Hang the juvenile'."

It is incumbent on the state and the media to calm passions in a nation where this sort of thing happens. I would like to end by quoting from Shakespeare. We were taught to memorise these lines from Portia in "Merchant of Venice" without thinking in school. They make more sense to me as an adult.

"The quality of mercy is not strained/It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven/Upon the place beneath/It is twice blessed/It blesseth him that gives and him that takes."

(source: Express Tribune)

OCTOBER 25, 2014:


Federal judge again rules man competent to stand trial in 2007 Bessemer bank robbery and teller deaths

A man charged in the 2007 shooting deaths of 2 tellers during a Bessemer bank robbery is competent to stand trial, a federal judge ruled Friday.

The trial of William Merriweather Jr., who could face the death penalty if convicted, has been delayed more than 7 years as he was evaluated by federal prison doctors and his defense attorneys argued he was incompetent to stand trial. The delays have frustrated families of the 2 tellers and 2 other tellers who were wounded.

U.S. District Judge David Proctor had ruled in February 2013 that Merriweather was competent to stand trial. The judge set a trial date, which was then delayed twice as Merriweather's attorneys argued that previously undisclosed nurses notes from his mental evaluation at a federal prison plus a doctors' new concerns deserved new look at competency.

Proctor held a second competency hearing this summer, a decision he explained in Friday's ruling. "In light of the belated disclosure of the nurses' notes, (federal prison) Dr. (Christine) Pietz's concerns about Merriweather's mental state, and the fact that this is a capital case, the court found that a supplemental hearing was warranted," he stated.

On Friday the judge issued his 124-page ruling denying defense attorney's renewed quest to have Merriweather ruled incompetent.

Proctor denied the request, stating: "The record makes it clear that Merriweather has a comprehensive understanding of the criminal trial proceedings: he understands the charges against him; he has the ability to discuss his various options with his lawyers; he can consider options available to him; and he suffers no memory impairment that would make him unable to assist in his defense."

A new trial date will be set, Proctor stated in a Friday order.

Merriweather ruling

Merriweather is charged with 1 count of killing during the commission of a bank robbery and 2 counts of use of a firearm during a crime of violence related to the May 14, 2007 bank robbery.

According to prosecutors, Merriweather was wearing a green baseball-style cap, white shirt, tie, and slacks and shoes partially wrapped in electrical tape, when he walked into the Wachovia Bank branch on Ninth Avenue in Bessemer.

Minutes later, Merriweather walked out of the bank with $11,255 cash and the bank manager in tow as a hostage. Inside, bank tellers Eva Lovelady Hudson and Sheila McWaine Prevo lay dead and two others, Anita Gordon, Latoya Shaniece Freeman, were seriously wounded.

Merriweather didn't make it out of the parking lot after being wounded by a sheriff's deputy.



Jefferson Parish sheriff asks federal judge to toss out former death row inmate's lawsuit

The Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office has asked a federal judge to dismiss a lawsuit filed by Damon Thibodeaux, the former Marrero resident who accuses the detectives of violating his constitutional rights by coercing his false confession that landed him on Louisiana's death row.

Thibodeaux, 40, who now lives in Minnesota, spent 15 years under threat of execution for his 1st-degree murder conviction in the death of Crystal Champagne. The 14-year-old Westwego girl was strangled with a wire and severely beaten during an attempted rape along the Mississippi River batture in Bridge City on July 19, 1996.

Thibodeaux confessed to Sheriff's Office detectives after a 9-hour interrogation that culminated with his 4:20 a.m., statement on July 21, 1996, to then-Sgt. Dennis Thornton. Then 22 and a river boat deck hand, Thibodeaux said that Champagne, his cousin, wanted to have sex with him and that he drove her to the river. During the sex, she said it hurt, and she fought back before he strangled with his hands and finishing her off using a wire he retrieved from his car.

"Did it make you mad that she was still moving?" Thornton asked. "I would say that I got scared, so I killed her," Thibodeaux responded.

Primary evidence

That confession was the primary evidence the Sheriff's Office obtained in leading to Thibodeaux's conviction and death sentence in 1997. Thibodeaux recanted three days after he gave it and asserted his innocence ever since. The Louisiana Supreme Court rejected the coerced confession argument in affirming his conviction and death sentence.

But following a 5-year investigation with Innocence Project attorneys that began in 2007, Jefferson Parish District Attorney Paul Connick Jr., concluded he could not have confidence in the confession and volunteered to have Thibodeaux's conviction vacated.

Thibodeaux was released from the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola on Sept. 28, 2012. Last year, he sued Sheriff Newell Normand, 6 detectives and the Sheriff's Office's insurer in U.S. District Court in New Orleans. His attorneys assert he was intellectually vulnerable and that detectives violated several of his constitutional rights in forcing and tricking him to falsely confess.

Thibodeaux seeks unspecified monetary damages. The case is pending before Judge Jay Zainey.

'He was there'

Despite Connick's stance, the Sheriff's Office is standing by its investigation and detectives. In fact, the Sheriff's Office does not concede that Thibodeaux was not somehow involved with the crime.

During the 1997 trial, Thibodeaux's attorneys argued the confession was coerced. They said nothing about it being false, Sheriff's office attorney Danny Martiny wrote in his request last month to have the lawsuit dismissed.

During a deposition he gave July 22 in the federal case, Thibodeaux "admits that this 'false confession' notion was the brainchild of his post-conviction capital defense attorney and came about only as a last resort after the Louisiana Supreme Court affirmed his conviction," Martiny wrote. "This is precisely because his confession is not false."

Thibodeaux's deposition testimony contradicts his long-held claims that the detectives fed him details that he "parroted" back in his confession, such as where and how she was killed, Martiny says. Yet, according to the Sheriff's Office, he accurately described those details in his 1996 confession.

"Most telling, if not chilling, is that (Thibodeaux) was not 'fed' the information concerning the ligature used to strangle Crystal; rather, (Thibodeaux) was able to accurately state that she was strangled with a wire because there was a wire 'in [his] car,'" Martiny wrote.

"No one 'fed' (Thibodeaux) the fact that the ligature was wrapped twice around Crystal's neck and the knot tied on the left side and yet (Thibodeaux) described it perfectly," the sheriff's attorney wrote. "The only conclusion to draw is the obvious one; (Thibodeaux) knew all of these things because he was there."

Conflicting views

In an Aug. 5 affidavit he provided to the Sheriff's Office, Connick said he concluded following a lengthy investigation that Thibodeaux's confession is "unreliable." But he said he does not blame the Sheriff's Office.

"I am of the opinion that Thibodeaux was not illegally coerced or mistreated during his interrogation on July 20-21, 1996, and that the statements he made were freely and voluntarily given," Connick said in the affidavit. "Be that as it may, I concluded that without his confession, the conviction of Thibodeaux could not stand and that, therefore, in the interest of justice, it should be vacated."

He said his decision "was based upon my assessment of the state's ability to prove beyond a reasonable doubt every element of the offense charged."

The conflict among Jefferson Parish's law enforcement officials appears to underlie the state's ongoing opposition to Thibodeaux's attempts to get money through Louisiana's wrongful conviction compensation fund. He says he's entitled to the maximum $250,000 the state pays to wrongfully convicted people.

Attorney General James "Buddy" Caldwell's office, which responds to all compensation requests, has argued in state court in Jefferson Parish that Thibodeaux must prove he is "factually innocent." Otherwise, the assistant attorneys general argue, Thibodeaux is not entitled to compensation.

Thibodeaux's attorneys, Herbert Lawson and Sarah Johnson, argue that Connick and a state court judge would not have set a guilty man free. They say Thibodeaux is entitled to compensation. That request is pending in the 24th Judicial District Court.

Confession obtained illegally

Those attorneys also filed the federal lawsuit. They have not filed their response to the Sheriffs Office's request to have the lawsuit dismissed.

In Thibodeaux's lawsuit, the attorneys say the Sheriff's Office knew details in his confession did not match the crime scene. As such, the detectives should have known the confession was false, his attorneys say.

During the investigation that began in 2007 and culminated with Thibodeaux's release from prison, attorneys established that the confession was obtained through "means that were unconstitutional and illegal."

They point out that there's no physical evidence that links Thibodeaux to the crime, and that experts have concluded that Champagne had not had sex on the day she died. That evidence, they say, debunks Thibodeaux's confession that he not only had intercourse with her before killing her, but that he ejaculated, too. No evidence of semen was found at the scene. A detective speculated that maggots might have eaten it.

Martiny, the sheriff's attorney who also is a state senator, argues that the detectives who obtained Thibodeaux's confession followed proper procedure. While he was under questioning, Champagne's battered and mostly nude body was discovered on a concrete slab beside the river under the Huey P. Long Bridge. Detectives continued interrogating Thibodeaux in what had become a murder investigation.

'If I gave them something'

In his July 22 deposition, Thibodeaux denies detectives fed him certain details. But he said he felt threatened because he would not give the deputies what they wanted: A confession. "I was not allowed to sleep," he testified "I was not allowed to eat. I was not allowed to leave."

And so said he he lied to the detectives. He said he made up a story about having a dream about a black man raping and killing a young girl next to the river. Walter Gorman, then a major who has since retired, "made it pretty clear that I'm, if I didn't (give) him what he wanted, something was going to happen," Thibodeaux testified. Gorman "sat next to me, put his arm around my chair and called me a son of a bitch," Thibodeaux testified.

He says the detectives tricked him, saying they had "compelling evidence" proving that he raped and killed the teenager, when, in fact, there was no such evidence other than his false confession.

He was told he flunked a polygraph, he testified. He was told the media would not be sympathetic toward him, and that inmates in jail aren't kind to people who rape and kill children, he said.

He said Thornton told him that if he did not confess, he'd get the death penalty. And, Thibodeaux testified, the detective described to him how executions are carried out: "They lay you on a table, stick a needle in your, and they give you 3 drugs. One numbs, you, the other one paralyzes you, and the other one stops your organs."

He said he confessed. "I thought if I gave them something they'd let me go," Thibodeaux testified.

(source: The Times-Picayune)


Prison reform on Green agenda

Anita Rios says running as a 3rd-party candidate for governor comes with a freedom not available to her mainstream rivals.

The 60-year-old Green Party candidate from Toledo is using that freedom to do some unconventional things, such as standing up for Siddique Abdullah Hasan and other inmates convicted for their roles in the deadly 1993 Lucasville prison riot.

Hasan, sentenced to death as one of the Lucasville 5, will participate by telephone from death row in a campaign event with Rios in Cleveland today, focusing on Ohio's criminal-justice system and what the Greens believe are inherent problems with the death penalty.

Of the Lucasville 5, Rios said, "The trial failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt their guilt. I think that's absolutely a fact." She praises Hasan and the others for showing leadership in quelling a potentially even more violent situation.

The 11-day rebellion was the longest deadly prison riot in U.S. history, leaving 10 people dead, including a prison guard.

(source: Associated Press)


Officer quits over destroyed items in slaying

A federal judge is weighing whether to dismiss murder charges against 2 men accused of killing a federal informant after a Kentucky state trooper mishandled and destroyed evidence. The trooper has since resigned after admitting he didn't have authorization to dispose of the evidence.

U.S. District Judge Amul Thapar has scheduled a hearing on Nov. 3 in Lexington to review the actions of former detective Jeff Senters.

The hearing comes in the case of Jimmy D. Benge and Gerald Lee Sizemore. Prosecutors are weighing whether to seek a death sentence for the men if they are convicted of conspiring to kill Eli "Big Eli" Marcum in December 2012.

Prosecutors say the pair killed Marcum in Clay County because he gave information to federal investigators about a drug pipeline from Florida.


Believing authorities already had the knife used to kill a federal informant, Kentucky State Police Detective Jeff Senters threw out a different knife and a burned phone cable found near the stabbed and torched body of Eli "Big Eli" Marcum. No one witnessed the disposal of the items, and no one authorized it.

Senters' actions prompted the former Trooper of the Year to resign and drew the attention of a federal judge, who is considering dismissing charges against three men in a possible death penalty case because potentially exculpatory evidence isn't available for testing.

U.S. District Judge Amul Thapar scheduled a Nov. 3 hearing to review Senters' actions and determine if the case should be dismissed.

Records obtained by The Associated Press detail how Senters helped gather evidence on a rural ATV trail in southern Kentucky, where he found a knife and a yellow cord near Marcum's remains in December 2012. The records also show, and Senters said, he returned to a witness a cellphone used by Marcum the day of his death without checking the calls made on it, violating state police policy that would require keeping it until the case was over.

2 men, Jimmy D. Benge and Gerald Lee Sizemore, face a possible death sentence if convicted on federal charges of conspiring to kill Marcum because he gave the Drug Enforcement Administration information about a pill pipeline running from Florida to Clay County in the drug-riddled Appalachian area of Kentucky. A 3rd man, Vernon "Red" Delph, pleaded guilty on Oct. 17 to his role in the death and helping dispose of Marcum's remains.

Benge is charged with paying Sizemore an undisclosed sum to kill Marcum. Senters, the state trooper, resigned Aug. 16. His phone number could not be found and he did not respond to two letters mailed to his address seeking comment.

Marcum went missing in early December 2012. As part of a plea agreement, Delph told prosecutors that Sizemore stabbed and choked Marcum before the 2 men took the body to a rural area and lit it on fire. After family members found Marcum's remains along a dirt road in rural Clay County on Dec. 8, police recovered items at the scene, including a small knife a 1/4-mile from the remains and a partially burnt telephone cord 1 yard from Marcum's head.

At an evidentiary hearing in federal court in Lexington in July before he resigned, Senters said the knife and cord were tossed out because they didn't appear to have any connection to Marcum's slaying and he consulted with both the Clay County coroner and the state police DNA analyst before destroying the items on Oct. 1, 2013. Senters said the knife used to kill Marcum appeared to be larger given Marcum's 6-inch puncture wound and the blade found at the scene was small.

"And once I called about the cord and what the lab had told me, no, I didn't think that the knife, nor the cord, were valuable - or was valuable in this case," Senters said.

In Kentucky, it is a felony to destroy evidence that may be used at trial without a judge's order. At the time Senters destroyed the knife and cord, a Clay County judge had also issued an order requiring the preservation of any evidence in a state case brought against Delph.

Defense attorney Kent Wicker said the destroyed evidence could have been used for DNA testing and fingerprinting to explore whether anyone else may have been involved in Marcum's death. Wicker said the phone could have shown who Marcum spoke with in the hours before his disappearance.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Jason Parman wrote in court briefs that the items were of little to no evidentiary value and their disposal shouldn't impact the outcome of the case.

In an interview in February, a defense investigator asked Kentucky Medical Examiner Dr. John Hunsaker whether, in his opinion, one of 4 knives, including the one Senters identified as the murder weapon, was used to kill Marcum. Hunsaker answered "no."

Senters said he didn't know agency policy on getting rid of items collected at a crime scene and thus didn't intend to destroy potentially exculpatory evidence.

(source: Associated Press)

MISSOURI----impending execution

Mark Christeson's Oct. 29th execution scheduled despite grave errors by his former attorneys and severe mental impairment; Activists to hold 11 vigils around the state

Missourians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty is asking Governor Nixon to halt the upcoming scheduled execution of Mark Christeson because his federally appointed counsel abandoned him - missing a key filing deadline that forfeited federal review of his case - and then deceived him about the status of his case.

Further, MADP is concerned about Christeson's mental competency. Christeson's cognitive struggles are documented from his earliest days in school and include consistent placement in special education, IQ tests in the mid-80's and school achievement tests in the 1st to 3rd percentile. His intellectual impairment no doubt contributed to his inability to protect his rights.

Christeson was convicted of the rape and murder of Susan Brouk and her 2 children, Adrian and Kyle. MADP deplores the crimes he is convicted of and the senseless loss of life they represent. We mourn with the family of the victims and remember them in thought and prayer at 11 vigils around the state.

Christeson's childhood was marked by violence and sexual abuse in his family home. At age 11 he was removed from his mother's custody and placed in the foster care of his cousin. The family compound on which he lived was notorious for violent fights, drug trafficking, extreme poverty and incest - including sexual abuse of Mark by the man the state entrusted to care for him. Numerous times Christeson attempted to flee his troubled surroundings by running away.

"Mark's case is a tragic story on all sides. Our conscience is shocked by his violent acts and the senseless loss of life. But a further look reveals Christeson had been a victim his entire life - surrounded by violence, scarred by sexual abuse and too mentally impaired to understand how he might get out of that life" said Rita Linhardt, Chair of the Board for Missourians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty. "As a society, we failed to protect Mark in his most vulnerable years. Now society wants to fail Christeson again by exacting the ultimate revenge on him. This is not justice for anyone."

Missourians will gather around the state for eleven vigils to remember victims of violence and urge the state to not commit another act of violence in their names.

(source: Missourians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty)


Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals postpones all Oklahoma executions----The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals has granted the state's request to postpone all 3 scheduled state executions. The stays push each date back 60 days, putting 2 in January and a 3rd in February.

All 3 of the state's scheduled executions have been stayed until 2015, the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals decided Friday.

In an Oct. 13 motion, Attorney General Scott Pruitt asked the court to push the executions of Charles Frederick Warner and Richard Eugene Glossip to January in order to give the state Corrections Department time to implement new execution protocol and secure the necessary drugs and medical staff. The motion also asked for a 3rd execution, that of John Marion Grant, to be postponed until February.

The court decision places Warner's execution Jan. 15, Glossip's on Jan. 29, and Grant's on Feb. 19.

Despite an earlier confirmation from Corrections Department employees that they were prepared to proceed with the executions - the earliest of which was scheduled to take place Nov. 13 - department Director Robert Patton has praised the move.

In a news release issued when the Attorney General's office asked for the stay, Patton said: "While we continue to work diligently to meet the mandates of the training required in the protocol, we feel we should not rush the training."

State Corrections Department spokesman Jerry Massie declined to comment on the status of any training execution staff are undergoing or whether the state has successfully acquired the necessary drugs and medical staff.

Warner originally was scheduled for lethal injection April 29, the same night as Clayton Derrell Lockett. Warner's execution was stayed by Gov. Mary Fallin after problems occurred during Lockett's execution, which lasted 43 minutes and garnered international attention.

After Lockett's execution, Fallin ordered the state Public Safety Department to conduct an investigation. The report from that investigation, released in September, found a lack of proper training and back-up planning created a recipe for disaster. The lethal cocktail administered to Lockett collected in muscle tissue in his groin, largely due to an improperly placed IV in his femoral vein.

Guided by the state's investigation, the Corrections Department revised its execution protocol, adding contingency plans and training for staff. Some members of the execution team now are required to recieve several weeks of training leading up to each lethal injection, and additional medical equipment to assist in the placement and integrity of the IV and drug lines were added to the execution room.

In September, a federal judge questioned whether the state could implement the new protocol and training in time for the executions of Warner and Glossip.

"The steps that need to be taken can hardly be completed by (Nov. 13)," U.S. District Judge Stephen Friot said at the time.

Friot made the comment during a hearing for a case where 21 death row inmates are seeking to stop the state from executing them in the same manner as Lockett. Dale Baich, 1 of the attorneys representing the inmates, said in an emailed statement the postponements will give them the time necessary to properly litigate the case.

"This process will take time, and it is entirely appropriate that the state has proposed to reschedule the execution dates while more information is gathered and improvements to Oklahoma's lethal injection system can be made, in an open atmosphere with public oversight," Baich wrote.

Renovations also were made to the state's death chamber in McAlester, by widening the "chemical room," where executioners administer the drugs, and reducing the number of seats for media witnesses from 12 to 5.

In a separate court action, the Court of Criminal Appeals on Friday set another execution date.

The court ordered Benjamin Robert Cole Sr. to be put to death March 5.

Cole was convicted in 2004 of 1st-degree murder for the death of his 9-month-old daughter, Brianna Cole.

Claremore police said Cole was playing video games and was distracted by Brianna's crying. Cole flipped the infant over by her legs, tearing her aorta.

(source: The Oklahoman)


Court allows Oklahoma to delay executions due to lack of drugs

An Oklahoma court accepted a motion from the state on Friday to delay 3 planned executions so prison authorities can obtain a fresh batch of lethal injection drugs and implement new protocols drawn up after a troubled execution this year.

The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals rescheduled the executions of death row inmates Charles Warner, Richard Glossip and John Grant, which were planned for this year. They were delayed by about 2 months each.

In September, Oklahoma said it would put in place new execution protocols after a doctor and a paramedic failed nearly a dozen times to place an IV during the April execution of convicted murderer Clayton Lockett.

His execution was halted about 15 minutes after it started due to the IV problems, which caused lethal injection drugs to leak into the death chamber. Lockett, who witnesses said was twisting in pain on the gurney, eventually died from drugs that has been absorbed into his tissue.

"Given that the torturous execution of Clayton Lockett followed a rush to execute, Oklahoma officials must now take all necessary steps and precautions to ensure that they will be capable of completing a lethal injection execution in a humane and legal manner before any executions may proceed," said Madeline Cohen, an attorney for Warner.

(source: Reuters)


Oklahoma death row inmate denied clemency

A state board voted unanimously on Friday not to recommend sparing the life of a former Oklahoma City motel manager who is scheduled to die for the 1997 beating death of the motel's owner.

The Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board voted against recommending the governor grant clemency for 51-year-old Richard Glossip, who spoke to the board via a video link from death row at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester.

Glossip was convicted of 1st-degree murder in the death of Barry Alan Van Treese of Lawton at a west Oklahoma City motel. A co-defendant confessed to beating Van Treese, but said he did so at Glossip's direction.

Glossip has maintained his innocence and his attorneys argue that he's been a model prisoner for 17 years.

"There's no question that my client never killed anybody," said Glossip's attorney, Mark Henricksen. "He's been a good prisoner, and his life has value. That's why we're asking for clemency."

Glossip had been scheduled to die by lethal injection on Nov. 20, but the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals on Friday reset the execution dates of Glossip and two other death row inmates after the state said it needed more time to secure the necessary drugs and train the execution team on new protocols.

The court reset Glossip's execution date for Jan. 29. Charles Warner's execution was set for Jan. 15, and John Marion Grant's execution was moved to Feb. 9.

Oklahoma has not carried out an execution since the April 29 lethal injection of Clayton Lockett, who writhed and moaned on the gurney before being declared dead 43 minutes after the procedure began. His problematic execution prompted state officials to renovate the death chamber, install new medical equipment and develop new execution protocols.

Glossip is among 21 death row inmates who have sued the state seeking to block their executions, arguing that by tinkering with the lethal injection chemicals, the state is experimenting on death row inmates and violating the U.S. Constitution's ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

(source: Associated Press)


Lethal injections under ethical, legal scrutiny at UR symposium

Panelists at a University of Richmond Law Review symposium Friday criticized lethal injection as a flawed and sometimes inhumane death penalty method plagued by transparency issues.

They discussed how the frequently used 3-drug combination for lethal injection paralyzes the muscles so those being put to death can't express pain they feel when the drugs are administered improperly.

Joel Zivot, a professor of anesthesiology at Emory University School of Medicine, explained that drugs are not made for killing, and that effective drugs are made through testing and patient feedback.

"The dead inmates can't complain ... there's no verification process," said Zivot, explaining why lethal injection will always be a flawed method for capital punishment.

He said medicine and doctors need to be removed from the death penalty. "I am not an expert in killing," he said.

Currently, 32 states, including Virginia, have the death penalty, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. Lethal injection is the primary method of execution in every state.

Other panelists echoed Zivot's concerns about lethal injection. The panelists all raised the issue of a lack of government transparency in the lethal injection process.

Eric Berger, a professor at the University of Nebraska College of Law, said many states withhold information about the lethal injection process, which he argued infringes on the inmates' Eighth Amendment right to legally fight against "cruel and unusual punishment."

"Secrecy is proven to be a successful litigation strategy," Berger said.

Panelist Deborah W. Denno, a law professor at Fordham University's School of Law, said she believes death by firing squad is more humane than lethal injection. Berger suggested that supporters of the death penalty support lethal injection because it appears to be a bloodless and humane method. Zivot echoed that argument.

"The cruelty of it all has been hidden from you, but I assure you the cruelty is there," Zivot said.

The event at the University of Richmond also included discussions about the politics and future of the death penalty. Among the panelists was Frank Green, a reporter for the Richmond Times-Dispatch, who has witnessed about a dozen executions as a media representative. Former Virginia Attorney General Mark L. Earley said his perspective on criminal justice changed from punitive to rehabilitative after working with prisoners as the president of the Prison Fellowship. As a state senator, Earley said he fought for tougher sentencing, abolishing parole and lowering the age of juveniles who are tried as adults. Now, he supports diverting nonviolent offenders and people with drug problems to rehabilitation programs. "I see the 2nd half of my life as correcting what I did with the 1st half of my life," said Earley, a panelist for Friday's discussion on the politics of the death penalty.

He said many prisoners he met in crowded prisons had mental health or substance abuse problems. He recalled one visit in western Michigan, when he saw a whole wing of the prison dedicated to heavily medicated prisoners with visible mental health problems. He said he thought at the time, "This is not the place for them."

(source: Richmond Times-Dispatch)


In abuse case, death penalty is requested

Military prosecutors yesterday sought the death sentence for an Army sergeant, only identified as Lee, 26, who is charged with leading a group of soldiers in the systematic abuse of a young conscript that ultimately resulted in his death. Prosecutors also requested life sentences for 3 of his accomplices.

"Given the combination of evidence, we have concluded that the convict [Lee] can be charged with murder," the prosecution stated yesterday at the military court in Gyeonggi.

4 soldiders in the Army's 28th Infantry Division were charged on Sept. 2 for murder after it was discovered in July that they had attempted to cover up the details of the private's death. The young conscript, surnamed Yun, died April 6 after enduring extreme physical and sexual abuse by his superiors.

Investigators concluded last month that his death was caused primarily by crush syndrome, which results from major trauma to skeletal muscle, and secondary shock from prolonged violence.

(source: Korea Joongang Daily)


Petition to overturn Asia Bibi's death penalty surpasses 200,000 signatures

A petition on appealing for Asia Bibi's death sentence to be overturned has attracted more 230,000 signatures.

Bibi's death sentence for blasphemy was upheld by a court in Pakistan last week, prompting outcry from the country's persecuted Christian minority.

She was sentenced to death in 2010 under Pakistan's draconian blasphemy laws after colleagues accused her of insulting the Prophet Muhammad during an argument.

Bibi's lawyers have said they will appeal the ruling and it will be down to the Supreme Court to decide if she will be executed or not. So far, no one sentenced to death for blasphemy in Pakistan has had their sentence carried out.

The #SaveAsiaBibi petition was started by Emily Clarke, the same person who started the #SaveMeriam petition on in support of Sudanese Christian Meriam Ibrahim which gained over a million signatures.

The Daily Mail reported this week that Bibi's 2 young daughters, Esham and Esha Masih, were abused by the same religious fanatics who led the charge against their mother.

They told the paper that when the allegations were first brought against Bibi, angry villagers turned up at their house and beat members of the family, even tearing off Bibi's dress.

Esham, now 14, told the Daily Mail: "I still dream of the day she was tortured and arrested. I could not sleep properly. The angry men came back and started torturing us both and tore down her clothes again."

She added: "They dragged her to the centre of the village. We both were crying but there was nobody to listen to us.

"After half an hour or so, the police came and my mother asked me to go and find my father, who was hiding at my uncle's house. But he was too terrified to leave. I ran back and by that time police had taken my mother away."

The situation for Christians in Pakistan is precarious because of the blasphemy laws. Human rights groups say they are frequently misapplied to persecute Christians, settle personal vendettas or seize their property. When a Christian is accused of blasphemy, their families often have to go into hiding because of the threat of violent mobs. Even Christians who are acquitted of all charges in the courts have to go into hiding straight after their release from prison because of the threat to their lives.

2 high profile politicians who spoke up in defence of Asia Bibi were both assassinated in 2011. Salman Taseer, the Governor of Punjab, was killed by his own bodyguard, and Minorities Minister Shahbaz Bhatti was killed by members of the Pakistani Taliban.

Last month, a police officer shot and killed Christian pastor Zafar Bhatti in a Rawalpindi prison where he was being held on a blasphemy charge.

Bhatti was accused in 2012 of sending insulting remarks about the Prophet Muhammad's mother in text messages, but family members said the police investigations showed the phone to be registered to someone else.

Muhammad Asghar, a 70-year-old from Edinburgh sentenced to death in January for blasphemy, was injured in the attack.

(source: Christian Today)

IRAN----female execution

Reyhaneh Jabbari was Hanged this Morning----Despite several months of international calls for halting Reyhaneh's death sentence, Iranian authorities executed Reyhaneh Jabbari early this morning. Iran Human Rights strongly condemns Reyhaneh Jabbari's execution.

The 26 year old Iranian woman, Reyhaneh Jabbari was hanged in the Rajaishahr prison of Karaj early this morning, reported the Iranian state media. She was sentenced to "qesas" (retribution in kind) for murdering "Morteza Abdolali Sarbandi" in 2007, reported the state run Fars news agency. Reyhaneh had claimed that she stubbed Mr. Sarbandi in self defence. In the past months Iran Human Rights (IHR) together many other human rights groups and the UN Special Rapporteur Ahmed Shaheed had called for a halt of the execution and providing her a fair trial.

IHR strongly condemns Reyhaneh Jabbari's execution. Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam, the spokesperson of IHR said: "We send our condolences to Reyhaneh's family and everyone who made an attempt to stop this execution. Like many others who are executed in Iran, Reyhaneh was not subjected to a fair trial and due process. Through the inhumane "qesas" law, the Iranian authorities try to put the responsibility of the execution on the family of the murder victim, but it is the Iranian Supreme leader Ali Khamenei and the Judiciary who are responsible and must be held accountable for the execution of Reyhaneh and hundreds of other executions every year".

Background: Reyhaneh Jabbari, aged 26, was arrested in 2007 for the murder of Morteza Abdolali Sarbandi, a former employee of Iran's Ministry of Intelligence. Following her arrest, Reyhaneh Jabbari was held in solitary confinement for 2 months in Tehran's Evin Prison, where she did not have access to a lawyer or her family. Reyhaneh confessed that to the murder immediately after her arrest, though she did not have a lawyer present at the time she made her confession. She stated that the murder took place in self-defence.

Reyhaneh Jabbari was sentenced to death under qesas ("retribution-in-kind") by a criminal court in Tehran in 2009. The death sentence was upheld by the Supreme Court the same year. Reyhaneh's case has attracted much attention inside and outside Iran and her scheduled execution has been postponed twice on April 15 and September 29.

(source: Iran Human Rights)


Text of Reyhaneh Jabbari's will in a voice message to her mother

Reyhaneh Jabbari, the Iranian woman who was hanged today by the Iranian regime's henchman after 7 years imprisonment had released her will in a voice message.

In a heart-rending message to her family in April - beginning with her mother Sholeh - 26-year-old Reyhaneh Jabbari tells how she trusted the law, but has faced death for the crime of defending herself against an agent of Iranian regime's intelligence who tried to abuse her.

English translation of Reyhaneh Jabbari's will

Dear Sholeh, today I learned that it is now my turn to face Qisas (the Iranian regime's law of retribution). I am hurt as to why you did not let me know yourself that I have reached the last page of the book of my life. Don't you think that I should know? You know how ashamed I am that you are sad. Why did you not take the chance for me to kiss your hand and that of dad?

The world allowed me to live for 19 years. That ominous night it was I that should have been killed. My body would have been thrown in some corner of the city, and after a few days, the police would have taken you to the coroner's office to identify my body and there you would also learn that I had been raped as well. The murderer would have never been found since we don't have their wealth and their power. Then you would have continued your life suffering and ashamed, and a few years later you would have died of this suffering and that would have been that.

However, with that cursed blow the story changed. My body was not thrown aside, but into the grave of Evin Prison and its solitary wards, and now the grave-like prison of Shahr-e Ray. But give in to the fate and don't complain. You know better that death is not the end of life.

You taught me that one comes to this world to gain an experience and learn a lesson and with each birth a responsibility is put on one's shoulder. I learned that sometimes one has to fight. I do remember when you told me that the carriage man protested the man who was flogging me, but the flogger hit the lash on his head and face that ultimately led to his death. You told me that for creating a value one should persevere even if one dies.

You taught us that as we go to school one should be a lady in face of the quarrels and complaints. Do you remember how much you underlined the way we behave? Your experience was incorrect. When this incident happened, my teachings did not help me. Being presented in court made me appear as a cold-blooded murderer and a ruthless criminal. I shed no tears. I did not beg. I did not cry my head off since I trusted the law.

But I was charged with being indifferent in face of a crime. You see, I didn't even kill the mosquitoes and I threw away the cockroaches by taking them by their antennas. Now I have become a premeditated murderer. My treatment of the animals was interpreted as being inclined to be a boy and the judge didn't even trouble himself to look at the fact that at the time of the incident I had long and polished nails.

How optimistic was he who expected justice from the judges! He never questioned the fact that my hands are not coarse like those of a sportswoman, especially a boxer. And this country that you planted its love in me never wanted me and no one supported me when under the blows of the interrogator I was crying out and I was hearing the most vulgar terms. When I shed the last sign of beauty from myself by shaving my hair I was rewarded: 11 days in solitary.

Dear Sholeh, don't cry for what you are hearing. On the first day that in the police office an old unmarried agent hurt me for my nails I understood that beauty is not looked for in this era. The beauty of looks, beauty of thoughts and wishes, a beautiful handwriting, beauty of the eyes and vision, and even beauty of a nice voice.

My dear mother, my ideology has changed and you are not responsible for it. My words are unending and I gave it all to someone so that when I am executed without your presence and knowledge, it would be given to you. I left you much handwritten material as my heritage.

However, before my death I want something from you, that you have to provide for me with all your might and in any way that you can. In fact this is the only thing I want from this world, this country and you. I know you need time for this. Therefore, I am telling you part of my will sooner. Please don't cry and listen. I want you to go to the court and tell them my request. I cannot write such a letter from inside the prison that would be approved by the head of prison; so once again you have to suffer because of me. It is the only thing that if even you beg for it I would not become upset although I have told you many times not to beg to save me from being executed.

My kind mother, dear Sholeh, the one more dear to me than my life, I don't want to rot under the soil. I don't want my eye or my young heart to turn into dust. Beg so that it is arranged that as soon as I am hanged my heart, kidney, eye, bones and anything that can be transplanted be taken away from my body and given to someone who needs them as a gift. I don't want the recipient know my name, buy me a bouquet, or even pray for me. I am telling you from the bottom of my heart that I don't want to have a grave for you to come and mourn there and suffer. I don't want you to wear black clothing for me. Do your best to forget my difficult days. Give me to the wind to take away. The world did not love us. It did not want my fate. And now I am giving in to it and embrace the death. Because in the court of God I will charge the inspectors, I will charge inspector Shamlou, I will charge judge, and the judges of country's Supreme Court that beat me up when I was awake and did not refrain from harassing me. In the court of the creator I will charge Dr. Farvandi, I will charge Qassem Shabani and all those that out of ignorance or with their lies wronged me and trampled on my rights and didn't pay heed to the fact that sometimes what appears as reality is different from it.

Dear soft-hearted Sholeh, in the other world it is you and me who are the accusers and others who are the accused. Let's see what God wants. I wanted to embrace you until I die. I love you.


April 1, 2014

(source: NCR-Iran)


Execution of young woman a bloody stain on Iran's human rights record

The execution of Iranian Reyhaneh Jabbari who was convicted after a deeply flawed investigation and trial is an affront to justice, said Amnesty International today.

Reyhaneh Jabbari, 26, was executed in a Tehran prison this morning. She had been convicted of killing of a man whom she said tried to sexually abuse her.

"The shocking news that Reyhaneh Jabbari has been executed is deeply disappointing in the extreme. This is another bloody stain on Iran's human rights record," said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Amnesty International's Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa Programme.

"Tragically, this case is far from uncommon. Once again Iran has insisted on applying the death penalty despite serious concerns over the fairness of the trial."

Amnesty International believes that the death penalty is an abhorrent form of punishment and should never be used under any circumstances.

More information:

Next week Iran will hear recommendations from UN member states during it's UN Universal Periodic Review. Amnesty International is calling on states to use this opportunity to strongly condemn Iran's use of the death penalty.

(source: Amnesty International)


Iran executes Reyhaneh Jabbari despite international opposition

Iran has executed a woman despite an international campaign to halt her hanging. In a trial termed as a flawed and unfair, Reyhaneh Jabbari was convicted of murdering a man who attempted to rape her.

26-year-old Reyhaneh Jabbari was hanged at dawn, according to IRNA, Tehran's official news agency which quoted the prosecutor's office. A Facebook page dedicated to campaigning for Jabbari posted the message "Rest in Peace," following the execution of the sentence.

Tehran was due to execute Jabbari on September 30, but postponed carrying out the death penalty for some days. Reyhaneh Jabbari's mother visited her daughter in prison on Friday, October 24. This is a customary practice which precedes executions in Iran, Amnesty International said, on Friday, again calling on Iran to reverse the sentence and give her a retrial.

Reyhaneh Jabbari, an interior designer by profession, was arrested in 2007 following the stabbing of Morteza Abdolali Sarbandi. Jabbari says she acted in self defense and that the victim, a Ministry of Intelligence employee Morteza Abdolali Sarbandi, had tried to sexually assault her.

Ahmed Shaheed, the UN's human rights rapporteur in Iran confirmed earlier this year that Sarbandi had hired Jabbari to redesign his office, but took her to an apartment instead and sexually abused her. The victim's family, however, insists that Jabbari had planned the murder; while on trial, she confessed to buying a knife 2 days before the killing.

Unfair trial

Following her arrest, Jabbari was held in solitary confinement and had no access to her lawyer or her family for 2 months. She was allegedly tortured during this period, according to a statement by Amnesty International. She was convicted of murder by a criminal court in Tehran in 2009. Her lawyer sought a review of her sentence in the Supreme Court, which upheld her execution in 2014.

The sentence was then passed on to the Office of Implementation of Sentences in Tehran which allowed the family of the victim to request her execution any time. The UN and other international rights groups insisted that Jabbari's confessions were obtained after pressure and threats from Iranian prosecutors and that she had had no chance of a fair trial.

In its statement, Amnesty said that Sarbandi's connections with the Ministry of Intelligence may have been a reason for authorities to avoid a just investigation into the murder. The authorities allegedly told Jabbari that she would be awarded clemency if she agreed to replace her lawyer with someone introduced to her by the authorities.

Efforts to grant Reyhaneh Jabbari a pardon had intensified in the last couple of days. The United States and European Union leaders demanded a repeal of her sentence, to no avail.

(source: Deutsche Welle)


Thousands of Bahrainis protest Saudi death sentence against Sheikh Nimr

Demonstrators in Bahrain have taken to the streets in support of prominent Saudi Shia cleric Sheikh Nimr Baqir al-Nimr, who has been sentenced to death by Riyadh.

On Friday, protesters in the coastal village of Malikiyah and on the island of Sitra condemned Saudi Arabia for sentencing the dissident cleric to death and demanded his release.

On October 15, a Saudi court handed down the death penalty to Sheikh Nimr after convicting him of sedition.

The cleric was attacked and arrested in July 2012, accused of delivering anti-regime speeches and defending political prisoners.

In reaction to the sentence, people took to streets in the Saudi city of Qatif to condemn the move. There have also been demonstrations in other countries.

On Friday, a senior Iranian cleric warned Saudi Arabia against executing the death sentence.

"We warn Saudi Arabia...that this government will pay a heavy price for a [possible] execution of a Shia cleric," Ayatollah Mohammad Ali Movahhedi Kermani told worshippers at the weekly Friday prayers in Tehran.

Human rights activists say the sentence issued for Sheikh Nimr was politically motivated.

Amnesty International has denounced the verdict, calling it "appalling".

Rights groups say Bahrain and Saudi Arabia are committing systematic human rights abuses.

(source: Ahlul Bayt News Agency)

OCTOBER 24, 2014:

TEXAS----new execution date:

Manuel Garza has been given an execution date for April 15 (2015); it should be considered serious.


Executions under Rick Perry, 2001-present-----278

Executions in Texas: Dec. 7, 1982-present----517

Perry #--------scheduled execution date-----name---------Tx. #

279------------Oct. 28------------------Miguel Paredes--------518

280------------Jan. 14------------------Rodney Reed-----------519

281------------Jan. 15------------------Richard Vasquez-------520

282------------Jan. 21-------------------Arnold Prieto--------521

283------------Jan. 28-------------------Garcia White---------522

284------------Feb. 4--------------------Donald Newbury-------523

285------------Feb. 10-------------------Les Bower, Jr.-------524

286------------Mar. 11-------------------Manuel Vasquez-------525

287------------Mar. 18-------------------Randall Mays---------526

288------------Apr. 15-------------------Manuel Garza---------527

(sources: Texas Department of Criminal Justice & Rick Halperin)


Jury finds Seminole man guilty of 1st-degree murder in killing of estranged wife----Dwayne White, 44, on trial for 1st-degree murder

A Seminole County man accused of murdering his estranged wife was found guilty of 1st-degree murder on Thursday.

A Seminole County man accused of murdering his estranged wife testified in his own defense on Thursday.

Dwayne White, 44, for on trial for the Aug. 29, 2011 stabbing death of 42-year-old Sarah Rucker.

Once the state rested its case on Thursday, White's defense team asked the judge to toss out the case. The judge denied the request and the defense then asked for the case to be declared a mistrial because of an evidence gathering issue. The judge also denied that request.

Prosecutors said there are bloody hand print matches and cellphone pings that prove White slashed Rucker's throat with a pocket knife.

The state said Rucker can be heard on a 911 call begging her husband to stop beating her not long before her death.

White has continuously denied killing Rucker but admitted to fighting with her a few hours before she was discovered face-down in a pool of blood outside a Longwood sandwich shop.

White had previously claimed he was nowhere near the sub shop, but testified on Thursday that he did go to the sub shop. He admitted he found Rucker's dead body, but didn't call police. He said he panicked and went home.

In the recorded statement, White repeatedly indicated that it was unfair how focused law enforcement authorities were on him.

When investigators asked White how they were going to resolve the path to the truth he said, "The resolution is to go find who did it, and stop saying I did it."

Investigators said there is a documented history of domestic violence between the separated couple.

A jury came back with the guilty verdict only a few hours after starting deliberations. The state is seeking the death penalty in this case. The jury will be back in court Tuesday for a hearing on the death penalty portion.

(source: WESH news)


Surviving victim of Carr brothers speaks out against court ruling

My name is Andy Schreiber. I am 1 of 2 surviving victims of the Carr brothers' December 2000 murderous crime spree in Wichita. I've sat silently for more than 12 years, but I'm now breaking that silence to share my thoughts on the recent Kansas Supreme Court ruling vacating the death sentences for both brothers (July 26 Eagle). This decision left me no choice but to speak out.

The death penalty is a legally acceptable penalty: It is not murder. It is a valid and legal form of punishment that was voted on and enacted by the Kansas Legislature. What the Supreme Court has done - not only in the Carr brothers' case, but in all other capital murder cases since the death penalty was re-enacted in 1994 - is effectively eliminate the death penalty by judicial edict. A majority of the Supreme Court justices have allowed their personal political views of the death penalty to cloud their impartiality in these cases. The reason the U.S. Supreme Court has reinstated several of the death sentences vacated by the Kansas Supreme Court is because these decisions were legally flawed.

Everyone is entitled to a fair trial, not a perfect trial. I challenge anyone to find a perfect capital murder trial where no errors were made, especially a case as complicated as this one. However, in a case like this one where evidence of guilt is so overwhelming and where any error, when weighed against the totality of the evidence presented against each defendant, could not possibly have resulted in a different verdict had it not occurred, the case should be affirmed. That was basically then-Justice Nancy Moritz's dissenting opinion in this 6-1 decision to vacate both death sentences.

Any retrial or resentencing is an enormous waste of time and taxpayer money, not to mention the anguish it will cause the victims and our families, as we're forced to relive each and every horrifying detail of the crimes all over again - twice - because of the separate penalty trials ordered by the state Supreme Court.

In the 14 years since these vicious crimes were committed, those of us affected by these 2 animals have picked up the pieces and carried on with our lives. We've started families and careers, though all the while haunted by the possibility of having to do this all over again.

Eric Rosen and Lee Johnson are 2 of the justices who voted to vacate the death sentences in this case. Appointed Supreme Court justices must face a retention vote every 6 years, and both Rosen and Johnson will be on the Nov. 4 ballot. I urge you to speak out, just as I have here, and vote "no" to remove Rosen and Johnson from the bench.

(source: Opinion,

MISSOURI----impending execution

Religious leaders ask Governor to stop execution

Religious leaders from around Missouri are calling on Gov. Jay Nixon to call off the scheduled execution of Missouri death row inmate Mark Christeson.

Christeson is scheduled to die by lethal injection on Wednesday. He was convicted of killing a mother and her 2 children near Vichy in February 1998. A jury in Nevada convicted Mark Christeson in 1999 of 3 counts of 1st-degree murder and recommended a death penalty.

The letter, signed by several religious leaders including Bishop James Johnston of the Catholic Diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau, asks the governor to grant Christeson clemency based on allegations of attorney incompetence and questions about Christeson's mental competence. The letter calls out the federally appointed defense counsel for "egregious actions" in missing deadlines for federal review of the case.

The letter also points out that Christeson was enrolled in special education classes when he was in school, was 18 at the time of the murders, had low performance in school and suffered several head injuries that resulted in him losing consciousness. It also notes Christeson's family had a history of mental illness, chaos, violence and pedophilia.

The signers also argue that the death penalty does not protect or heal communities, but promotes vengeance and the perpetuation of violence.

(source: KSPR news)


Arizona challenged to abandon secrecy on death penalty drugs

The secrecy imposed by Arizona on the source and quality of the lethal injection drugs it uses to kill death row inmates has been challenged in a new lawsuit brought by the Guardian and other media organizations.

In the lawsuit, filed with a federal court in Phoenix, the Guardian together with the Associated Press and four of Arizona's largest news outlets argue that the state's refusal to disclose any information about its lethal injection drugs is a breach of the public's 1st amendment right to know about how the death penalty is being carried out in its name. It follows a groundbreaking first amendment case brought by the Guardian and others in Missouri in May.

In tune with many other death penalty states, Arizona has gone to great lengths to hide the provenance and nature of the medical drugs it uses to execute prisoners. Supplies of the medicines have run low in the wake of a worldwide boycott of US executions, and as a result the department of corrections has had to resort to increasingly imaginative sources which it has shrouded in secrecy in an effort to keep supply lines open.

But recent botched executions have highlighted the problematic nature of such creative sourcing and secrecy, and the heat has been turned up on death penalty states to subject themselves to more accountability. In Arizona, it took Joseph Wood almost took hours to die from an experimental concoction of midazolam and hydromorphone.

Eyewitnesses reported the prisoner gulping more than 600 times. It was later revealed that Wood had been injected with 15 doses of the 2-drug cocktail out of the view of public witnesses to the execution.

Use of midazolam in executions in recent months has proved particularly problematic and contentious. It has been associated with gruesome and prolonged deaths in Florida, Ohio and Oklahoma.

The Arizona complaint has been joined, in addition to the Guardian and the Associated Press, by 2 of the state's most important newspapers, the Arizona Republic and the Arizona Daily Star. 2 major television channels, KPNX-TV Channel 12 and KPHO Broadcasting Corporation, are also party to the suit.

The action is lodged in the US district court in Arizona and is directed against Charles Ryan, director of the department of corrections, and the state's attorney general, Thomas Horne, both in their official roles. The Guardian and fellow plaintiffs are represented by the Media Freedom and Information Access Clinic at Yale law school, with the assistance of Ballard Spahr LLP in Phoenix.

Unlike most other lawsuits that have been brought relating to the creeping secrecy that surrounds lethal injection drugs - which have argued the prisoners' constitutional rights have been violated - the Arizona lawsuit starts with the principle that the public has a right to know how capital punishment is being carried out.

The complaint argues that "the public cannot meaningfully debate the propriety of lethal injection executions if it is denied access to this essential information about how individuals are being put to death by the state." It says that the established constitutional right of public access to aspects of government procedures means that the state should be obliged to reveal "the source, composition, and quality of drugs, as well as the protocols, that have been or will be used in lethal injection executions and to view the entirety of anexecution".

This is the 4th lawsuit that the Guardian has launched against various manifestations of secrecy in the US death penalty. As well as the actions in Arizona and Missouri, there are ongoing legal complaints currently before the courts in Pennsylvania and in Oklahoma, where the state is being challenged for having drawn the curtain halfway through the botched execution of Clayton Lockett in April.

(source: The Guardian)


Pakistani beheaded in Saudi for smuggling heroin

Saudi Arabia today beheaded a Pakistani man convicted of smuggling heroin into the ultra-conservative Muslim kingdom, the interior ministry said.

Butha Mushtaq was the third Pakistan executed on drug charges in Saudi Arabia since October 15.

He was found guilty of smuggling heroin concealed in capsules which he had swallowed, and executed in the capital Riyadh, the ministry said in a statement carried by the official SPA news agency.

His execution brings to 59 the number of people beheaded in Saudi Arabia this year.

Last year, 78 people of various nationalities were executed in the Gulf Arab state.

Rape, murder, apostasy, armed robbery and drug trafficking are all punishable by death under Saudi Arabia's strict version of Islamic sharia law.

In September, a United Nations independent expert called for moratorium on the death penalty in Saudi Arabia, which has faced harsh criticism from human rights group for carrying out executions.


Protests in Saudi after Shia death sentences

More than 100 people protested in eastern Saudi Arabia on Friday to oppose death sentences against a Shia religious leader and seven others convicted after earlier demonstrations, an activist said.

Following Friday prayers they marched in the community of Awamiya to oppose "all harsh sentences and the death penalty against eight people," the activist told AFP.

On Tuesday a Saudi court sentenced to death 2 people "as a deterrent to others" in connection with protests by members of the minority Shia community that began 3 years ago.

They were tried on charges including "participating in marches and rallies that caused riots" in Awamiya, the official Saudi Press Agency reported without identifying the accused.

The activist said those sentenced to death were teenagers at the time of their arrest, and are among a total of eight who have received the death sentence.

Among them is Shia cleric Nimr al-Nimr, a driving force behind the demonstrations, who was sentenced last week.

The activist said protesters also gathered on Thursday night in the Saudi Gulf coastal community of Qatif to oppose the death penalty and support Nimr.

"The people here are very angry but they are also afraid," the activist said, asking for anonymity.

Several other accused have received multi-year jail sentences.

Following Nimr's conviction Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, Deputy Foreign Minister of Shiite-majority Iran, said "such measures do not contribute to the restoration of peace and calm in the region."

(source for both Agence France-Presse)


8 prisoners hanged in Kerman and Shiraz

6 prisoners in Adelabad, Shiraz prison, and 2 prisoners in Shahab, Kerman prison were executed by hanging on 23rd October.

According to the report of Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA), at dawn of 23rd October, 6 inmates in Adelabad, Shiraz prison, were executed by hanging.

These 6 inmates that 3 of them were charged with drug trafficking and the other 3 were charged with armed robbery, were taken to solitary confinement the day before execution.

Also, 2 prisoners who were sentenced with drug related charges were executed in Kerman prison, Shahab.

Another prisoner named Saeed Ashayeri, was taken to solitary confinement along with these 2 inmates the day before of execution, but his execution sentence was delayed for unknown reasons

(source: Human Rights Activists News Agency)


Reyhaneh Jabbari at Imminent Danger of Execution----Shole Pakravan, Reyhaneh's mother, has been told to visit her daughter for the last time before the execution. Iran Human Rights urges the international community to react before it is too late.

"They called from the prison office now. Told me to go to an address they gave me for the last visit. She (Reyhaneh) will be transferred tonight. Tomorrow is set for her execution". Shole Pakravan, Reyhaneh Jabbari's mother, wrote these phrases on her Facebook page at about 4 pm Tehran time.

The 26 year old Iranian woman Reyhaneh Jabbari was sentenced to "qesas" (retribution in kind) for allegedly subbing a former intelligence officer, Morteza Sarbandi, seven years ago. Reyhaneh has later said that she stubbed him in self defence. Reyhaneh was scheduled to be executed on September 29, but her execution was postponed.

IHR urges the international community to react to stop Reyhaneh's execution. Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam said: "Rehyaneh Jabbari has been subjected to unfair trial and her execution is against Iran's international obligations and must be stopped. We ask the UN, EU and all countries with diplomatic relations with Iran to use all their channels to stop Reyhaneh's execution".

Reyhaneh Jabbari, aged 26, was arrested in 2007 for the murder of Morteza Abdolali Sarbandi, a former employee of Iran's Ministry of Intelligence. Following her arrest, Reyhaneh Jabbari was held in solitary confinement for 2 months in Tehran's Evin Prison, where she did not have access to a lawyer or her family. Reyhaneh confessed that to the murder immediately after her arrest, though she did not have a lawyer present at the time she made her confession. She stated that the murder took place in self-defence.

Reyhaneh Jabbari was sentenced to death under qesas ("retribution-in-kind") by a criminal court in Tehran in 2009. The death sentence was upheld by the Supreme Court the same year. Reyhaneh's case has attracted much attention inside and outside Iran and her scheduled execution has been postponed twice on April 15 and September 29.

(source: Iran Human Rights)


Halt execution of woman set to be hanged at dawn

The Iranian authorities must stop the execution of a woman due to be hanged tomorrow morning after being convicted for the killing of a man whom she said tried to sexually abuse her, said Amnesty International.

Reyhaneh Jabbari was sentenced to death in 2009 after a deeply flawed investigation and trial. Her execution was due to be carried out on 30 September but was postponed for 10 days.

"Time is running out for Reyhaneh Jabbari, the authorities must act now to stop her execution," said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Amnesty International's Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa Programme.

"The death penalty is a despicable punishment that is both cruel and inhumane. Applying such a punishment in any circumstances is an affront to justice, but doing so after a flawed trial that leaves huge questions hanging over the case only makes it more tragic."

Reyhaneh Jabbari, 26, was arrested in 2007 for the murder of Morteza Abdolali Sarbandi, a former employee of Iran's Ministry of Intelligence. She was placed in solitary confinement for 2 months and was denied access to a lawyer or her family. She was sentenced to death by a criminal court in Tehran in 2009.

Reyhaneh Jabbari apparently admitted to stabbing in the back Morteza Abdolali Sarbandi, whom she said had tried to sexually assault her. However, she said that another man who was also in the house at the time killed him. Her claims do not appear to have ever been properly investigated.

Iran's judicial authorities are also reported to have pressured Reyhaneh Jabbari to replace her lawyer, Mohammad Ali Jedari Foroughi, for a more inexperienced one, in an apparent attempt to prevent an investigation of her claims.

Reyhaneh Jabbari's execution has been deferred a number of times, including in the last month.

"Instead of repeatedly rescheduling Reyhaneh Jabbari's execution date, the Iranian judiciary should order a re-trial that complies with international standards for fair trial without recourse to the death penalty," said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui.

Reyhaneh's mother told Amnesty International that she met her daughter for 1 hour today, but prison officials refused to give the family any details of Reyhaneh's imminent transfer to a place of execution.

(source: Amnesty International)


Stop Woman's Execution ---- Legal Process Plagued With Irregularities

Iran's judiciary should vacate the death sentence of Reyhaneh Jabbari and ensure that she receives a fair trial. She was convicted of murdering an older man in what she says was self defense. On September 29, 2014, prison authorities transferred Jabbari to a prison west of Tehran without explanation, raising fears that her execution was imminent, but then returned her to her original prison cell overnight.

Jabbari was arrested in 2007 and sentenced to death in 2009 by a Tehran criminal court for the murder of Morteza Abdolali Sarbandi, a doctor and a former Intelligence Ministry employee. Later that year the Supreme Court affirmed the death sentence. Jabbari admitted stabbing Sarbandi in the neck, but says that he attempted to sexually assault her. She also said that a 3rd person in the room may have caused Sarbandi's death. Jabbari's lawyers contend that the judiciary did not properly investigate the cause of death and deprived their client of a fair trial. Tehran's prosecutor's office had been reviewing the case.

"In light of the serious substantive and procedural questions raised in this case, and the fact that it's still under review, officials risk being complicit in irreversible harm if they execute Jabbari," said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch. "Iran's judiciary should immediately reverse its death sentence and allow her a fair retrial."

Sholeh Pakravan, Jabbari's mother, told Human Rights Watch that on September 28, 2014, prison authorities allowed her and Jabbari's lawyer to meet with her. They met in Gharchak prison, also known as Shahr-e Rey prison, in Varamin, 55 kilometers south of Tehran. Pakravan said that a day later she learned that prison authorities had transferred her daughter to Rajai Shahr prison in Karaj, and that they planned to execute her early on September 30. Pakravan said sources inside both prisons, including employees of the prisons, informed her of her daughter's impending execution.

Pakravan told Human Rights Watch that the Tehran prosecutor's office had been reviewing her daughter's case file, and that the authorities had not informed her or the lawyer that they planned to execute Jabbari. Iranian law requires judiciary authorities to inform lawyers and family members in advance of an execution.

Pakravan said she and others then traveled to Rajai Shahr prison to learn more about Jabbari's whereabouts and condition. Official and semi-official news outlets said, however, that unnamed "informed judicial sources" denied that officials had transferred Jabbari to Rajai Shahr prison, or that they planned to execute her.

A source familiar with the case told Human Rights Watch on the morning of September 30 that Jabbari had contacted her mother a few hours earlier from Gharchak prison to tell her that she was alright, and that plans to execute her had been halted for the time being. Another informed source said that authorities presented documents to the family showing they had transferred Jabbari back to Gharchak prison on September 29.

Pakravan said that no official has informed her or her family that the execution order has been halted, and she believes her daughter's life is still in imminent danger. Iran's judiciary previously halted Jabbari's execution in April 2014 to review the conviction and death sentence.

Mohamed Ali Jedari Foroughi, Jabbari's lawyer until recently, told Human Rights Watch that during the 6 months he was in charge of Jabbari's case, prison authorities only allowed him to visit her twice. He said judiciary officials prevented him from examining Jabbari's case file while Tehran prosecutor's office was reviewing it despite the serious questions and ambiguities about Sarbandi's cause of death. According to other reports, officials placed Jabbari in solitary confinement immediately after her arrest for 2 months and denied her access to a lawyer or her family.

Under Iranian law, in murder cases, the victim's survivors retain the right to claim retribution in kind, to pardon the alleged killer, or to accept compensation in exchange for giving up the right to claim retribution. Sarbandi's family has refused to pardon Jabbari. In 2014, Iran's judiciary has executed at least 500 prisoners, many of them on murder charges, according to rights groups.

Human Rights Watch has called on Iran's judiciary to impose a moratorium on all executions in the country due to serious concerns regarding substantive and due process violations leading to Iran's implementation of the death penalty. Human Rights Watch opposes the death penalty in all circumstances because it is an inherently irreversible, inhumane punishment.

"It is unconscionable that in addition to enduring the pain of having their daughter on death row, Jabbari's parents must also deal with a judiciary that refuses to play by its own rules and fails to provide them with sufficient and clear information regarding her condition," Stork said.

(sourcve: Human Rights Watch)


'I was tortured by the men who sentenced my Christian mother to death for blasphemy': Daughter of Asia Bibi on death row in Pakistan reveals her hell at hands of religious fanatics----Asia Bibi was accused of making disparaging remarks about Mohammed

2 young daughters of a Pakistani Christian woman on death row for 'blasphemy' today told how they were tortured by a mob of religious fanatics because of their mother's alleged comments.

Asia Bibi has been sentenced to hang in Pakistan after she was accused of making disparaging remarks about the prophet Mohammed during an argument.

While working as a berry picker in 2009, the 46-year-old got into a dispute with a group of Muslim women who objected to her drinking their water because, as a Christian, she was considered 'unclean'.

As a result of the initial allegations, the family were savagely beaten by angry villagers at their house and forced to go into hiding after receiving death threats.

Now, as the family launches a second court appeal against Ms Bibi's death sentence, her husband and two daughters have spoken exclusively to MailOnline about their horrendous ordeal and their lingering hope that she will be released in time for Christmas.

Her oldest daughter, Esham Masih, who was 9 years old when the family came under attack, told how she came back from school one day to find her mother being abused by a gang of men.

'My friends told me that people were torturing my mother at the fields where she used to work,' she said.

'I rushed to the spot and found that she was being abused and tortured by men. They had even torn her clothes.'

Esham, now 14, ran back home to get her mother a new dress, but when she came back the gang had returned.

'I still dream of the day she was tortured and arrested. I could not sleep properly.

'The angry men came back and started torturing us both and tore down her clothes again.

Asham said the gang called her offensive Punjabi terms that translate roughly 'mother f*****' and 'sister f*****'.

When she asked one of her attackers for water, they instead smashed the glass against the wall to torment her.

'They dragged her to the centre of the village. We both were crying but there was nobody to listen to us.

'After half an hour or so, the police came and my mother asked me to go and find my father, who was hiding at my uncle's house.

'But he was too terrified to leave. I ran back and by that time police had taken my mother away.'

Ms Bibi's husband, Ashiq Masih, said his other daughter, 15-year-old Esha who has special needs, had also been abused.

'All those people who abused and tortured my wife knew me very well, but they did not respect anything,' he told MailOnline at his house in a Christian district of Lahore.

'They became so cruel. They even didn't spare my daughters and tortured them.

Bowing his head in shame, Mr Masih said: 'I was so afraid that day.

'I do not think it could have helped her or our family if I had tried to save her that day.

'I might also have ended up in jail as a blasphemy-accused and there would be no one to help my daughters.'

Mr Masih, who used to work at brick kiln as a labourer in his village, said their lives have been destroyed.

'I was born in that village. I spent almost 45 years of my life in that village. I had so many friends in that village but I do not want to go back there.'

'I have restricted my movement. I am afraid of being recognised as Asia's husband in public.

'I have almost stopped communicating with Muslims. I am afraid they could recognise me. Just imagine how tough it will be for my wife to live in prison.'

In November 2010 Ms Bibi was sentenced to death by a lower court, becoming the first woman in Pakistan's history to be given the death penalty for blasphemy.

Over the past 4 years Ms Bibi has languished in the high-security District Jail Seikhupura, 22 miles north-west of Lahore, before being moved to a more remote prison.

The shocking case hit global headlines after 2 prominent politicians who tried to help Ms Bibi were assassinated, 1 by his own bodyguard.

Lawyers showered the killer with rose petals when he appeared in court and the judge who convicted him of murder had to flee the country.

Ms Bibi's lawyer, Naeem Shakir, said her accusers have contradicted themselves many times since first raising their complaint.

2 witnesses allegedly involved in the incident did not appear in court, he said.

A Muslim prayer leader did appear, saying he did not witness the original altercation, but that Ms Bibi had confessed to the supposed crime in front of him.

Last week, despite international outrage and hundreds of thousands of people signing a petition for her release, Ms Bibi lost an appeal to have her sentence overturned, meaning she now faces death by hanging.

The decision of the Lahore High Court has thrust the family back into public spotlight, placing their safety in jeopardy once again.

'This is too dangerous for all of us', said Mr Masih. 'We have changed 5 residences during the last 5 years. The blasphemy accusation on my wife has ruined our family.

'I could not sleep properly after the decision of The Lahore High Court. We could be attacked or framed in similar kind of case.'

Human rights groups say Pakistan's blasphemy law is increasingly exploited by religious extremists as well as ordinary Pakistanis to settle personal scores.

The law does not define blasphemy and evidence might not be reproduced in court for fear of committing a fresh offence. There are also no penalties for false accusations.

Those accused are sometimes lynched on the spot. If they are arrested, police and the courts often allow trials to drag on for years, as in the case of Ms Bibi.

The delays tend to be caused because officials are afraid of being physically attacked if they release anyone they feel had been wrongly accused of blasphemy.

Only 1 person has been executed since Pakistan imposed a de facto moratorium on executions in 2008.

This year has seen a record number of blasphemy cases as well as increasing violence against the accused.

The crime of blasphemy was sealed into Pakistani law under British rule but strengthened during the years of military dictator Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq, who died in a plane crash in 1988.

In recent years, however, the country - which is 96 % Muslim - has seen a surge in accusations of insulting Islam, says Islamabad-based think-tank, the Center for Research and Security Studies.

But many analysts see the claims as score-settling or a front for property grabs, and in fact have nothing to do with Islam.

If found guilty, defendants can expect the death penalty.

The charges are hard to fight because the law does not define blasphemy so presenting the evidence can sometimes itself be considered a fresh infringement.

It can also be very difficult to find a lawyer willing to defend those accused of the crime.

Blasphemy carries the death penalty in Pakistan but the accused are often lynched or languish for years in jail without trial because lawyers are too afraid to defend them.

Judges have previously been attacked in Pakistan for acquitting blasphemy defendants and two politicians who discussed reforming the law were shot dead.

Ms Bibi - a farm worker from rural Punjab - released a memoir called 'Blasphemy' last year, in which she described her torment at not knowing how long she has left to live.

Talking about how she ended up being accused of blasphemy, she says: 'I drank water from a well belonging to Muslim women, using 'their' cup, in the burning heat of the midday sun.

Mr Masih believes his wife has been falsely accused simply because of her religion.

'My wife was framed in the charge of blasphemy only because of her faith.

'The day our house was attacked by an angry mob at our village, she was offered to convert to Islam to get out of trouble but she denied as she has not committed any crime.

'There is no pressure on her in jail to convert to Islam. Authorities, in fact, are somewhat helpful,' he said that he was hopeful to get justice from the Supreme Court of Pakistan.

He has called on the Pope and President Barack Obama to help secure the release of his wife.

'We need help from all quarters. Barack Obama should play a positive role and convince Pakistani government to ensure justice in Asia's case.'

The family have struggled to look after Esha, who has difficulties with her speech and walking, after her mother's arrest.

Speaking in broken words, Esha said: 'I miss my mother too much.'

Both sisters go to a private school being run by Joseph Nadeem, executive director Renaissance Education Foundation, a Christian educationist who has been helping the family since December 2010.

'Esham is a brilliant student, but she goes through spells of depression regularly,' said Mr Nadeem.

Esham, who visits her mother once a month in prison, said: 'It is tough living without her. I hope she would soon be released and would celebrate Christmas with us.

'I love my mother and miss her a lot. I request everybody to pray for her.'

(source: Daily Mail)




Pakistani Christian Asia Bibi, sentenced to death for blasphemy in 2010, has had her appeal rejected by the Lahore High Court of Appeal.

View the full Urgent Action, including case information, addresses and sample messages, here.

On 16 October the Lahore High Court rejected the appeal against the death sentence of Asia Bibi, a Christian woman convicted on blasphemy charges. Asia Bibi, who is 45 years old and has 5 children, was initially found guilty of blasphemy on 8 November 2010 and sentenced to death under Section 295C of Pakistan's Penal Code for allegedly insulting the Prophet Muhammad during an argument with a Muslim woman.

There are serious fair trial concerns. Asia Bibi claims the evidence of her alleged blasphemy, which has been accepted by successive courts, was fabricated, and that she did not have access to a lawyer during her detention and the final day of her trial in 2010. Asia Bibi's lawyer has maintained that the case against her is based on hearsay. Human rights activists have voiced concerns that judges of the Lahore High Court may have rejected the appeal out of fear for their safety. Religious groups demanding her execution were present in court.

Asia Bibi has been kept in almost total isolation for her own protection since she was first arrested in 2009. Her mental and physical health have reportedly deteriorated during her time in detention including on death row, and her family and lawyers continue to fear for her safety. In December 2010, a prominent Islamic cleric offered half a million Pakistani rupees (about US$5,000) to anyone who killed Asia Bibi.

Asia Bibi should never have been imprisoned, as the blasphemy laws are inconsistent with Pakistan's international human rights obligations to ensure the rights to freedom of expression and freedom of thought, conscience and religion. The laws are often used to settle personal disputes, and those accused of blasphemy often become targets of violence. International law allows for the imposition of the death penalty only for the "most serious crimes", which has been interpreted to refer to intentional killing only. While no one has ever been executed for blasphemy in Pakistan, since the blasphemy laws in their current form entered into force in the 1980s dozens of people from different religious communities, including Muslims, have been attacked and killed by private individuals following blasphemy accusations, including while in detention.


Asia Bibi, a farm laborer from Ittanwali village in Pakistan's Punjab province, was first arrested in June 2009 following accusations of blasphemy. Although the exact details are contested, according to her family and lawyers, some of her Muslim co-workers refused to share water with her because she is Christian. An argument then ensued after which the co-workers allegedly told a local cleric that Asia Bibi had made derogatory remarks about the Prophet Muhammad.

The cleric informed local police who arrested and charged her with blasphemy. Asia Bibi denies the allegations and her husband, Ashiq Masih, claims her conviction was based on "false accusations". However the trial judge "totally ruled out" the possibility of false charges and said that there were "no mitigating circumstances”. She was sentenced to death by a court in Nankana, Punjab on 8 November 2010. 

View the full Urgent Action here.

Name: Asia Bibi (f)

Issues: Death penalty, Freedom of expression, Unfair trial

UA: 266/14

  Issue Date: 24 October 2014

Country: Pakistan

Please let us know if you took action so that we can track our impact!

EITHER send a short email to with "UA 266/14" in the subject line and include in the body of the email the number of letters and/or emails you sent.

OR fill out this short online form to let us know how you took action.

Thank you for taking action! Please check with the AIUSA Urgent Action Office if sending appeals after the below date. If you receive a response from a government official, please forward it to us at or to the Urgent Action Office address below.


Please write immediately in English, Urdu or your own language:

* Calling on the authorities to release Asia Bibi immediately and unconditionally, and take effective steps to guarantee her safety and that of her family;

* Pressing them to reform the blasphemy laws as a matter of urgency and to provide effective safeguards against their abuse, with a view to eventual repeal of the laws;

* Calling on them to establish an immediate moratorium on all executions and commute all death sentences with a view to abolishing the death penalty, emphasizing that the death penalty is a violation of the right to life and the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment.


Prime Minister

Nawaz Sharif

Prime Minister House, Pakistan

Secretariat, Constitution Avenue

Islamabad, Pakistan

Fax: 011 92 51 9220404


Salutation: Dear Prime Minister

And copies to:

Minister of Law, Justice and Human Rights

Pervaiz Rashid

Room 305, S Block, Pakistan Secretariat Islamabad, Pakistan

Fax: 011 92 51 9210062


Chief Minister, Punjab Province

Mian Mohammad Shahbaz Sharif

Chief Minister's Office

7, Club Road, GOR I

Lahore, Pakistan

Fax: 011 92 42 99204301

Twitter: @CMShehbaz

Salutation: Dear Chief Minister

Also send copies to:

H.E. Ambassador Jalil Abbas Jilani, Embassy of The Islamic Republic of Pakistan

3517 International Ct NW, Washington DC 20008

Fax: 1 202 686 1534

Phone: 1 202 243 6500


Please share widely with your networks:

UA Network Office AIUSA -- 600 Pennsylvania Ave SE, Washington DC 20003

T. 202.509.8193 -- F. 202.509.8193 -- E. --

(source: Amnesty International)


David Cameron writes to Ethiopian PM on behalf of British political dissident on death row

The Prime Minister has personally intervened in the case of a British father-of-3 facing the death sentence in Ethiopia, after the man's children appealed for his help.

David Cameron wrote to the Ethiopian Prime Minister in a bid to save the life of Andargachew "Andy" Tsege, 59, whose plight was revealed by The Independent last Friday.

His actions were in response to what he described as "very touching messages" from Mr Tsege's children, who are calling for the Prime Minister to help get their father home.

Mr Tsege, who came to Britain as a political refugee in 1979, was arrested at an airport in Yemen in June and promptly vanished. 2 weeks later it emerged he had been sent to Ethiopia, where he has been imprisoned ever since. The Briton, a prominent opponent of the Ethiopian regime, is facing a death sentence imposed 5 years ago at a trial held in his absence.

Menabe, his 7-year-old daughter, recently wrote to Mr Cameron asking him to help get her "kind, loving and caring dad" out of prison. Her twin brother, 7-year-old Yilak, simply asked: "What are you doing to get my dad out of jail?" Mr Tsege's 15-year-old daughter, Helawit, summed up the mood of the family in her letter: "Please, please, please (!) bring him back soon. We miss him so much."

The 59-year-old sought asylum in Britain in 1979 after being threatened by Ethiopian authorities over his political beliefs (Reprieve) Responding to the children's appeals, the Prime Minister claimed the government is taking the case "very seriously". In the letter to Yemi Hailemariam, Mr Tsege's partner and mother of their children, Mr Cameron admitted "Ethiopian authorities have resisted pressure" from British officials to have regular "access" to Mr Tsege.

"As a result of the lack of progress to date I have now written personally to Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn to request regular consular access and his assurance that the death penalty (which the British Government opposes in all circumstances) will not be imposed," he added. "I very much hope that there will be further progress to report in response to my letter," he concluded.

Responding to the news, Maya Foa, head of the death penalty team at legal charity Reprieve, commented: "The Prime Minister says he is 'concerned' - but where is the outrage at this flagrant breach of international law, and the ongoing abuse of a British citizen?"

She added: "Andy's small children are terrified of losing their father, his partner is desperate with worry, and we are no closer to seeing Andy released and returned to safety. Enough delays - we need firm action now to bring him home to London."

Reprieve has begun legal moves which could result in a judicial review to force Foreign Office officials to press for Mr Tsege's immediate release and return to Britain - something which the Government has resisted to date. A letter to Treasury Solicitors, sent last week by lawyers acting for the charity, argues: "Far from not being 'entitled' to request his return, the UK Government has every reason to do so and we urge you to exercise that power as a matter of urgency."

Meanwhile, Mr Tsege's family remain in limbo. The past 4 months have been "agonising" said Ms Hailemariam. "Waking up every day not knowing where Andy is or how he's being treated is taking a terrible toll on my children and myself." She added: "The Prime Minister has told our family that he is taking action, but it seems like next to nothing is being done to get Andy back. The children and I need him here with us in London. The Government must demand his return, before it's too late."

(source: The Independent)


Experts: Texas Slowly Moving Away From Executions

For years Texas has executed more prison inmates than any other state, but some believe that trend is coming to an end.

Kristin Houle, executive director of the Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, says Texas is joining the rest of the nation in slowly moving away from executions.

"One of the main factors driving this movement away from the death penalty, in Texas and nationally, is the rate or the incidents of wrongful convictions," Houle explained.

According to Houle, there has also been an ongoing decline in the number of people sentenced to death row. In Texas, she says, the number of new death sentences has dropped about 75 % in the last decade.

So far this year, Texas has carried out nine executions and Miguel Angel Paredes is scheduled to be put to death on October 28.

Even with the expected death of Paredes, Houle says, "We will have carried out the fewest executions in Texas, this year, since 1996."

In addition to fewer death sentences, Houle said the lower number of executions is directly related to recent revelations about wrongful convictions.

Some activists are even taking to the streets to demand the death penalty be abolished. Rallies are planned across the state before the end of the year, and kick off this weekend in Houston with the 15th Annual March to Abolish the Death Penalty.

(source: CBS news)


After 2 years on the run, Mission capital murder fugitive captured

Police nabbed a 23-year-old man wanted for a 2012 fatal shooting and armed kidnapping.

Carlos Olvera stood Thursday in Mission Municipal Court to face charges of capital murder and aggravated kidnapping after more than 2 years on the run.

Police said Olvera was believed to have been hiding in Mexico after Rigoberto Olivarez's shooting death in December 2012.

U.S. Border Patrol agents caught Olvera, of Diaz Ordaz, Tamps., trying to illegally enter the U.S. near Sullivan City on Tuesday. A check of Olvera's fingerprints linked him to the outstanding warrant for the Mission capital murder case.

Olvera is 1 of 4 suspects investigators say participated in a home invasion and botched kidnapping in the 1200 block of West 24th Place that left Olivarez fatally shot.

"I did not shoot," Olvera told Mission Municipal Judge Jonathan Wehrmeister in Spanish during his arraignment. "I did not have a weapon."

Wehrmeister ordered Olvera, a Mexican national, to be held without bond ahead of his trial. If convicted of capital murder, he faces life in prison without parole or the death penalty.

Olvera provided investigators with a statement of accused - considered a form of a confession - following his arrest, Mission police Det. Eduardo Hernandez Jr. said. He identified Jorge Ruiz, Eric Gomez Torres, and Ramon Nevarez as fellow participants in the fatal shooting and kidnapping.

The other suspects may still be in Mexico, where they fled after the 2012 crime, police said.

Investigators believe the 2012 home invasion stemmed from drug trafficking and that Olivarez knew Olvera and the other suspects.

Police have said Olvera and 2 married couples, including Olivarez and his wife, were at a small party Dec. 22, 2012.

Ruiz and Torres kicked in the door, ordering the 2 couples to lay down on the ground, police said following the incident.

Witnesses told investigators that both men wore black masks during the attack.

Ruiz carried a .223-caliber assault rifle later recovered after an 8-hour manhunt where the suspects escaped a high-speed chase with police. That rifle was later identified as the one that killed Olivarez, whose body was found in the kitchen of the house. He suffered 14 gunshot wounds in the attack.

(source: The Monitior)


Does the death penalty or life in prison cost more for taxpayers?

Does sentencing someone to death, really cost less? Or is it more cost effective to keep someone alive in prison?

The whole conversation sparked from a story we posted about a Lauderdale couple, Patricia and Matthew Ayers, being sentenced to 2,000 years in prison for sexual abuse of a child.

Many people took to Facebook to voice their concerns, saying things like: "Death penalty, cause I don't want my tax dollars feeding them!"

"Electric chair is cheaper, the way it is now, we have to pay for them as long as they live."

But, is that really the case?

"If you'd asked me, which is cheaper, my answer to you is, for my purposes, it doesn't matter," Broussard says.

The Vera Institute of Justice estimated in 2010 it cost around $17,000 to house an inmate for a year.

Assuming Patricia and Matthew Ayers live to 75, the average life expectancy in Alabama, that's between $570,405 and $708,685 in costs to the taxpayers to keep them in prison.

That may be a lot, but when you compare it to the costs associated with the death penalty, we're looking at possibly an even bigger number.

A study by the Urban Institute in Maryland found that it cost about $37.2 million for each of Maryland's 5 executions since the state re-enacted the death penalty in 1978.

"In court-appointed cases, and most capital murder cases are handled by an attorney who is appointed to represent a client on that case, which means the state as a practical matter, is going to pay that fee," says attorney Russell Crumbley.

According to, the average inmate spends a decade on death row.

"The whole appellate process is exhaustive and it is for the purpose, ultimately, of making sure that the person really is guilty. That is the ultimate punishment in our system," says Crumbley.

According to the Alabama Department of Corrections, there are 193 inmates currently on death row.

Arthur Lee Giles has been on death row for 35 years.

"Probably, in my career, me personally, I've had 6 people on death row, and I've been here 25 years," says Broussard.

And he says the punishment fits the crime.

"I'm sure there's a lot of debate about what's the cheaper way to go, but of something of this magnitude, I have no interest in how those numbers fall," Broussard says.

Since the death penalty was enacted in 1983, Alabama has executed 56 people.

(source: WAAY TV news)


Gov. Brownback speaks out against justices who overturned Carr death penalty

The state's high court is getting a lot of attention after Gov. Sam Brownback came out Thursday against the justices who overturned the death penalty ruling for the infamous Carr brothers. The move comes after his campaign drew criticism for releasing an ad linking his Democratic challenger, Paul Davis, to the Kansas Supreme Court's ruling.

"Remember the Carr brothers? Five savage murders. Caught. Prosecuted. Death row. Then, liberal judges in Topeka changed that," the ad says. It then goes on to say Kansans could expect similar rulings because, as governor, Paul Davis would have the power to appoint justices.

The ad has since been criticized by Davis, the former DA who prosecuted the Carrs, Nola Foulston, and by the families of the brothers' victims. But Gov. Brownback defended the ad.

"Paul Davis wants to continue to appoint liberal judges to that court," Brownback said in a debate Tuesday in Topeka. "I want to appoint judges who will interpret the law, not rewrite it as they choose to see it to be."

And on Thursday, Brownback went further and endorsed the removal of 2 state supreme court justices, Lee Johnson and Eric Rosen, both of whom are up for a retention vote in November.

But, legal experts say the justices ruled according to the law.

"The trial judge failed to give each Carr brother a separate trial during the death penalty phase," said Dan Monnat, of Monnat & Spurrier. "Since when is it only a liberal idea to follow fundamental constitutional principle? Since when is it only a liberal idea to give an accused person a fair trial?"

Kansans for Justice, an organization comprised of the Carr brothers' victims' family members and friends shares the governor's view that the justices should not be retained in November, but say they are not interested in making the issue about politics.

"We are saddened the case becomes about politics and not about our loved ones who we've lost," said Amy James, the media spokesperson for Kansans for Justice.

Jonathan and Reginald Carr killed 5 people and a dog in a gruesome crime spree in December of 2000.



Death penalty in the Colorado gubernatorial race

Over the past few election cycles, Colorado has become an important "battleground state" and a bellwether for larger electoral trends. Featuring contested races for both a Senate seat and the Governor's mansion, it is arguably the most important site of the upcoming midterm elections. The gubernatorial contest has Bob Beauprez, an established figure in the Colorado Republican party, attempting to unseat (the previously very popular) Gov. Hickenlooper.

Social issues have entered the 2 campaigns in some expected ways - abortion, health care coverage, gun safety laws, and marijuana legalization. But during these gubernatorial debates, the issue of the death penalty has also briefly held the spotlight.

Back in May, Beauprez made a campaign promise that surprised many, since he presents himself as a faithful Roman Catholic. "When I'm governor," he said during a GOP debate, "Nathan Dunlap will be executed." Or, in a headline offered by Mother Jones, "Elect Me, and I'll Kill that Guy."

No one would deny that Dunlap, whose death sentence has been stayed by Hickenlooper, was convicted of absolutely horrific crimes. And supporters of Hickenlooper also admit that the Governor did not handle his own decision to stay the execution very well.

But the Catholic Church's position on the death penalty in modern societies is very well-known, despite these facts. No. 2267 of the Catechism reads: "Today, in fact, as a consequence of the possibilities which the state has for effectively preventing crime, by rendering one who has committed an offense incapable of doing harm - without definitely taking away from him the possibility of redeeming himself - the cases in which the execution of the offender is an absolute necessity 'are very rare, if not practically nonexistent.'"

The official document for forming consciences of Catholic voters in the United States, "Faithful Citizenship," inveighs against the death penalty in 5 different sections, saying "continued reliance on the death penalty cannot be justified" and "the USCCB supports efforts to end the use of the death penalty." To these ideas we can add recent realities: the exoneration of North Carolina's longest-incarcerated member of "death row," or the frightful, bungled executions that have taken place in recent years.

So how can Beauprez defend his explicit campaign promise to order an execution? On October 9, during a general election debate, he did so by reference to a private conversation with former Archbishop of Denver, Charles Chaput.

Here's the Denver Catholic Register's write-up of the Q & A:

The comment came in response to a question asked by Kyle Clark of 9News who asked: "Mister Beauprez, you have said that your opposition to abortion is rooted in your strong Catholic faith. You have called elected pro-choice Catholic Democrats 'heretics.' I'm curious how you came to decide that your church is right on sanctity of life for the unborn, but wrong on sanctity of life as it applies to the death penalty, which you support."

Beauprez responded: "Because I've talked to, let me quote him, Archbishop Charles Chaput. And people are very confused about this and that's why I went to him, as, I think, a credible source on what Church doctrine is. Many Catholic clergy believe, as the governor now says he does, that they're anti-death penalty. But the archbishop made it very clear to me. He said, 'Bob, you pray on it, sleep on it, reach the conclusion that is right for your soul and, he said, I'll back you up, because Church doctrine is not anti-death penalty.' I want to be very clear about that."

Clark followed up: "Pope Francis recently said that the death penalty should not be used, even in the case of a terrible crime, but you feel that the archbishop told you otherwise?"

Beauprez answered: "Yes ... the archbishop was very clear on that. He said there are many in the clergy that have a policy position and that's the difference between that and Church doctrine. A policy position that is opposed to the death penalty. And that's fine. I'll just stipulate: There's moral reasons to be anti-death penalty."

In terms of rhetoric, Beauprez's defense was sound: when he was running for office in the past, he consulted with the highest Catholic official in his jurisdiction, and was told to follow his conscience. But the resurfacing of this anecdote invited questions about what Archibishop Chaput had actually said. His new archdiocese has offered a short statement:

The Archdiocese of Philadelphia said through a spokesman that Archbishop Chaput would be unable to comment on a private conversation between himself and the gubernatorial candidate.

However, they added that "Scripture and long Church teaching uphold the basic legitimacy of the death penalty. But, the Church also teaches that in the developed world, the circumstances requiring the death penalty for the purposes of justice and public safety rarely exist. Therefore the death penalty should not be used."

As in the Catechism, the death penalty has a "legitimacy" in theory but "should not be used." Some have asked whether this statement gives "wiggle room" for Catholic candidates for office, but Chaput's record elsewhere would seem not to grant any.

In 2002 Archbishop Chaput criticized Catholic Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia for supporting the death penalty, calling it "cafeteria Catholicism." Scalia's is only 1 voice - albeit an influential one - without any power to carry out capital punishment. Beapurez, on the other hand, promises to disregard church teaching precisely as one who has executive authority - the power to execute.

We should not miss that peculiar feature of the situation in Colorado: this Catholic candidate for office has made an explicit campaign promise to contravene a clear and weighty doctrine of Catholic moral teaching - and to do it himself. There is hardly a "degree of cooperation" argument in this case, as we have with other moral reasoning about democratic elections and candidates' values.

With most other issues, a politician's platform indicates aspirations to certain goals, which sometimes include indirectly facilitating an immoral practice, usually one that is already readily available to the electorate. But in this case, Beauprez promises that his election will directly lead to Dunlap's execution. The causal link between the stroke of his pen and the sting of a needle is beyond doubt.

It's a macabre campaign promise for anyone to make, but especially for a Catholic.

(source: Commonweal)


Colorado Considered Giving Death Row Inmates More 'Leisure Time' Outside Cells

Colorado's Department of Corrections considered allowing death row inmates, who are normally confined to their cells, to have 4 hours per day of "leisure time" in which they can walk around inside and outside the facility.

Details of this idea were spelled out in an internal email in March, which was recently obtained by the website Complete Colorado.

"We allow offenders with a sentence of life without the possibility of parole to walk around our medium and close custody facilities, who pose no different risk than those with sentences of the death penalty," wrote DOC employee Kellie Wasko. "So are we really managing those offenders whose sentence is different - however, the same - effectively and equally? We believe that we can do better!"

She goes on to describe a new policy that would allow death row prisoners to be allowed out of their cells for 4 hours, together, without staff members present in a communal area called a "dayhall." Prisoners can also spend time outdoors or in shower areas, she wrote.

"[W]e decided that while they are out in the dayhalls, and we are assessing how this will work, we would consider this dayhall a 'NO STAFF ZONE' at this time," Wasko wrote. "So that means that while the offenders are out in their dayhall for their out-of-cell time, staff will not enter into that dayhall for any reason while we assess how this will work for our organization."

In an article on its website, Complete Colorado wrote that it's unknown whether the Department of Corrections actually implemented the new policy, but an unidentified staffer said it's troubling the idea was even proposed.

"Just the mere fact they would even put it out department-wide that they were looking to implement something like that had so many staff shaking their heads," the employee told the site, noting the employee does not work on death row.

The changes were proposed as Colorado began an overhaul of its policies on solitary confinement, known as administrative segregation. Last year, an inmate who'd spent much of his time in solitary murdered corrections chief Tom Clements and a pizza delivery man while on parole. Clements' successor, Rick Raemisch, spent 20 hours in solitary as an experiment, leaving with what he described as an "urgency for reform" in an article he wrote about the experience in the New York Times.

Colorado has three inmates on death row: Richard Ray, convicted of ordering a hit on witnesses set to testify against him on another murder charge; Sir Mario Owens, the man who pulled the trigger in the witness killings; and Nathan Dunlap, who killed 4 people in a holdup at a Chuck E. Cheese restaurant.

Although Wasko said in her email that the inmates have no history of behavioral problems in their current confinement to solitary, and should therefore be allowed out of their cells from time to time, District Attorney George Brauchler, whose office prosecuted Dunlap, said a change in policy makes no sense.

"The reason for Administrative Segregation is pretty obvious," he told Complete Colorado, "which is, once you've told someone, 'We're going to leave you in prison until we have the ability to kill you, until we have the ability to take your life,' they are a much bigger risk than others."

(source: Daily Caller)


2nd Juror Dismissed From Death Penalty Trial After Talking to Reporter

Things aren't looking good in the Jodi Arias sentencing retrial now that 2 jurors have already been dismissed from the case just 2 days into the trial.

The penalty phase of the Jodi Arias retrial started on Tuesday as prosecutors presented their opening arguments to persuade the jury into sentencing the convicted boyfriend killer to the death penalty.

However, one of the 12 jurors was let go due to an ongoing family emergency on the 1st day of the retrial. The next day, a 2nd was let go for talking to a reporter that she thought was HLN talk show host Nancy Grace.

Altogether 12 jurors and 6 alternates were selected from a pool of hundreds of people earlier this month. However, there will be a mistrial if there are less than 12 jurors to serve on the panel.

Juror No. 9 was dismissed Wednesday after she asked a freelance TV journalist if she was Nancy Grace, a nationally renowned television personality and a vocal opponent to Arias, reports AZ Central.

The incident took place during a morning break as Beth Karas, a former on-camera reporter and commentator for HLN, was being interviewed by 12 News about the case.

Although Karas says she realized that a juror was standing nearby, she assumed that she couldn't hear the interview. Once she returned inside of the courthouse, a woman approached asked if she was Nancy Grace. In response, Karas told her that she used to work with Grace and then reported the incident to the court.

As a result, Juror No. 9 was dropped from the case and Maricopa County Judge Sherry Stephens reiterated to the remaining 16 jurors that they are prohibited from discussing the case, watching TV, consuming news media and using social media, reports USA Today.

Arias, 34, was convicted of the 1st-degree murder of her ex-boyfriend Travis Alexander in May 2013. According to medical examiners, Arias stabbed him 27 times, primarily in the back, torso and heart in his Phoenix home in 2008. She also slit Alexander's throat from ear to ear, nearly decapitating him, and shot him in the face before she dragged his bloodied corpse to the shower.

Although the aspiring photographer was found guilty in the case, the jurors failed to reach a unanimous decision on her sentencing. As a result, the retrial will determine whether she should be sentenced to death, life in prison or life with a chance of release after serving 25 years.

(source: Latin Post)


Terror suspects linked to Al Shabaab further remanded

Police are yet to conclude investigations in a case involving 10 terror suspects linked to Al Shabaab arrested last month from Kisenyi in Kampala.

State prosecutor, Edward Muhumuza, on Thursday told Buganda Road Court that Police were yet to conclude investigations.

Grade One Magistrate Simon Zirintuusa remanded the suspects to Luzira Prison until November 7. They are battling charges of aiding and abetting terrorism contrary to Section 8 of the Anti-Terrorism Act. On conviction, the penalty is death.

Additionally, they are charged with the offence of belonging to a terrorist organisation contrary to Section 11(1) of the Anti-Terrorism Act.

Procedurally on completion of the probe, the Police informs the Directorate of Public Prosecutions, which notifies court of the development by formulating an indictment.

The committal papers containing the indictment are then forwarded to the High Court, which has jurisdiction to try the capital offence of terrorism.

Lawyers David Mushabe, Richard Rugambwa, Andrew Manzi, and Noah Sekabojja, represented the suspects.

They are Mohamed Abdulkdir Hirsi alias Mohamed Abdul Aziz Adan, ,31, businessman; Somali national resident of Katwe-Kibirige House, Makindye division, Abdi Abdullahi Bootan, 26, driver; Somali refugee resident of Kisenyi opposite Delta Petrol station Rubaga division.

Others are Hassan Abduwali Mohamoud, 25, Somali refugee, resident of Kisenyi, Rubaga division,Mohammed Ahmed Gele, 28, driver Somali refugee, resident of Lubaga Road, Rubaga division.

Also included are Yasimin Abdullahi Aden, 20, a housewife, Somali refugee, resident of Kisenyi, Rubaga division, Hodan Ahmed Dahir, 23, unemployed Somali national, resident of Kisenyi, Mengo Yusufu Osman Hussein, 29, businessman, Somali refugee, resident of Namalwa I zone, Bukesa, Rubaga division Abdi Mohamed, 29, Somali refugee, resident of Namalwa I zone, Bukesa, Rubaga division, and Abdul Kadir, 24, unemployed Somali refugee, resident of Mengo Kisenyi opposite Missionary Poor School, Rubaga division.

The Kenyan national is Mohamed Yusuf Farah, 31, a manager at Hauliers Transport, resident of Bulange, Mengo, Rubaga division.

(source: New Vision)


Parents of Myanmar Murder Suspects Arrive in Bangkok

The parents of the 2 Myanmar suspects charged with killing 2 British tourists on Koh Tao island arrived at Bangkok's Don Muang airport 22nd October to be met by a throng of reporters.

3 parents and 1 uncle of the accused have flown in with the help of the Myanmar government and the Thai authorities and will be briefed by the Myanmar embassy before heading south to Samui Island where the suspects are being held, according to local Thai media.

They arrived at the airport carrying photos of Thailand's King Bhumibol and were clearly distraught as they talked with reporters.

After hours of discussion with lawyers from the Lawyers' Council of Thailand, the 2 men have recanted their confessions.

Ko Zaw Lin Oo and Ko Win Zaw Tun have said in a statement to prosecutors that they confessed to the murders of Ms Hannah Witheridge, 23, and Mr David Miller, 24, on 15th September under duress or violence and now fully retract their confession.

The 2 Myanmar migrant workers are charged with conspiracy to murder and rape, plus robbery, and could face the death penalty if found guilty.

(source: Burma News International)


Koh Tao murder suspects to meet parents tomorrow

The parents of the 2 young Myanmar workers facing the death penalty in Thailand for allegedly murdering 2 British tourists on a resort island last month met with Thailand's Human Rights Commission, the Lawyers Council of Thailand and Myanmar's ambassador to Thailand yesterday to discuss the controversial case.

"Their parents arrived here today. They met with Myanmar's ambassador to Thailand, Thailand's Human Rights Commission and the Lawyers Council of Thailand also joined the meeting," lawyer Aung Myo Than from the Myanmar Embassy said yesterday.

A press conference was held after the meetings, Aung Mo said. "Thai media were supportive of the parents ... They said all Thai people want to know the truth about the case," he added.

The 2 accused workers have retracted their confessions. Their lawyers said they were tortured and forced into making them.

They have been jailed as they face court proceedings over the killing of Hannah Witheridge and David Miller, whose battered bodies were found on Koh Tao (Turtle Island) on September 15.

Their parents, along with the special envoy from Myanmar observing the case, will visit the pair at a prison on Samui Island on October 24.

Thai police have come under intense criticism for repeated mistakes in their investigation into the murders, and it has been widely alleged that the 2 21-year-old Myanmar migrants were used as scapegoats in what has turned out to be an alleged bungled effort to protect that country's carefully crafted image as safe haven for tourists.

Thai authorities have strongly denied allegations that the pair are scapegoats, insisting the case is built on solid evidence, which includes DNA samples of the accused that matches samples taken from the body of Witheridge, who was also raped.

Thailand's foremost forensic scientists, however, has cast doubt on this, saying the crime scene had not been sealed and protected and that no forensics expert had been called in to assist in the investigation.

Prosecutors confirmed they received a letter from the defence team saying the suspects had withdrawn their confessions and alleged that they had been tortured.

The murders on the rowdy island - which is well-known among backpackers for its beach parties, cheap alcohol and easily available drugs - have raised questions about Thailand's reputation as a tourist destination globally, while in the country fresh questions about the reliability and trustworthiness of the country's notoriously corrupt police force have been raised.

Thai authorities have agreed to allow British police to observe their investigation.



The uncomfortable truth about executions

After a leaked report revealed China executes 3 times more people than the world combined, here are the facts about capital punishment across the globe

This week the Dui Hua Foundation exposed the shocking number of executions that took place in China in 2013.

According to the US-based pressure group, China executed 2,400 people.

The number, which is troubling in itself, is even more disturbing when put into a global context - as it reveals last year China executed 3 times more people than the world combined.

The total number of executions for the rest of the world was 778 people in 2013, according to Amnesty International.

The next highest execution rate was Iran is the next biggest executor with at least 369, followed byIraq with at least with at least 169.

Other uncomfortable facts have come out of the latest round of statistics - for example, Belarus remains the only European country to still have the death penalty.

Meanwhile in Japan, India, Malaysia and South Sudan, prisoners were not told they were to be executed - and neither were their lawyers or even their family.

Amnesty International say that despite these shocking numbers the global trend remains towards abolition - with 173 of 193 members of the United Nations execution-free.

(source: The Telegraph)


UK 'aid for executions' in spotlight as Pakistan set to restart hangings

More than 100 prisoners apprehended in UK-funded drug arrests are now facing execution in Pakistan, after a judge scheduled a hanging that would end the country's 2-year death penalty moratorium.

A 1-month stay of execution granted to Pakistani prisoner Shoaib Sarwar expires next Monday (27th October), leaving Mr Sarwar at imminent risk of death. The hanging, if it takes place, would be Pakistan's 1st execution since 2012, and would throw into question the lives of at least 112 drug offenders currently on Pakistan's death row - including a number of British nationals, who were sentenced to death in trials falling short of international standards.

While the UK government's Strategy for the Abolition of the Death Penalty lists Pakistan as a 'priority country', the UK has given more than 12 million pounds to support anti-drug operations in Pakistan, where drug possession can carry a death sentence. UK funding has covered training for officers in Pakistan's Anti-Narcotics Force as well as intelligence and equipment, while ministers have failed to take steps to prevent the aid leading to death sentences. Last week, Denmark announced it would reconsider similar aid in light of the moratorium's possible collapse.

Pakistan's specialist drug courts maintain a conviction rate of more than 92 per cent, and can hand down a death sentence to anyone convicted of possession of more than 1kg of drugs. The Pakistani Anti-Narcotics Force lists death sentences on its website as "Prosecution Achievements."

In correspondence with legal charity Reprieve, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has confirmed that the UK has ended counter-narcotics funding to Iran due to "the exact same concerns" as Denmark; the latter country redirected funding in 2013 after concluding donations were "leading to executions". On Pakistan, however, Mr Clegg said the UK would continue its funding, despite being "acutely aware that this assistance must not compromise our clear opposition to the use of capital punishment in all circumstances, including for drug offences".

Asked what Britain's aid stance would be if Pakistan's moratorium collapses, Mr Clegg promised that the Government would "urge the Pakistan authorities to abolish the death penalty", but failed to address the issue of the 100+ death row prisoners whose arrests were funded by the UK.

Reprieve has asked the British Government to make its aid conditional on an end to the death penalty for drug offences - consistent with its position on similar aid to Iran - and to accept responsibility for the link between its support for drug operations and the application of the death penalty, including for British nationals.

Reprieve's Death Penalty Team Director Maya Foa said: "Despite calling Pakistan a "priority country" in its strategy to abolish the death penalty worldwide, Britain has sent millions of pounds to help Pakistani forces arrest and sentence people to death for alleged drug offences. The people whose death sentences British aid has supported are hardly the barons or kingpins of the international drug trade - they are innocent scapegoats or vulnerable mules, often targeted by notoriously corrupt police forces eager to meet 'quotas'. British aid for executions breaches the Government's own human rights rules and makes a mockery of its commitment to fight capital punishment abroad."



Wife could face death penalty

The Perth-based sons of a man murdered in Bali arrived on the island yesterday as police revealed their mother, who allegedly ordered the killing, could face the death penalty.

Noer Ellis remains in police custody after allegedly confessing to arranging hit men to kill her husband, British-Australian expatriate Robert Kevin Ellis, whose body was found wrapped in plastic and dumped in a ditch in a rice field this week.

Police said Mr Ellis was set upon in the kitchen of the couple's villa in Sanur by 5 killers who slashed his throat.

Police will allege Mrs Ellis paid her maid's boyfriend $14,000 to kill Mr Ellis, most of it to be paid after the crime.

Police spokesman Hery Wiyanto said the pair and a second maid would also be charged.

He said 2 charges were being weighed up - murder, carrying up to 15 years jail, and premeditated murder, which carries a maximum penalty of death.

4 others were still wanted for involvement in the crime.

"Some have fled Bali and some are still hiding in Bali," Mr Hery said. "We urge them to surrender.

"Wherever they are, we will hunt them down."

The couple's sons, Jon, 23, and Peter, 19, arrived in Bali yesterday and were still coming to terms with the tragedy, according to long-time family friend Ross Taylor.

Mr Taylor, president of the Indonesia Institute, said the sons were yet to decide whether to visit their mother in custody.

"There needs to be a discussion as to where they proceed from here," Mr Taylor said.

"There are issues regarding meeting their mother, how that will be dealt with, and it's extremely complex and emotionally charged."

Their uncle, Mr Ellis' brother, was in Bali providing support.

The brothers, who went to Wesley College and studied at Edith Cowan University, released a statement on Wednesday. It said they were devastated by their father's death.

"Dad has been such a vital part of our lives," they said.

Mr Taylor said business and financial concerns had led to "tension" between Mr Ellis and his wife in the past year.

He said Mr Ellis was a successful, well-liked businessman who had lived in Indonesia for many years.

(source: The West Australian)


5 Prisoners Hanged in Northern Iran----4 prisoners, among them 1 Afghan citizen, sentenced to death for drug-related charges and 1 prisoner charged for murder were hanged in 2 different prisons in northern Iran.

4 prisoners were hanged for drug-related charges in the prison of Rasht (Northern Iran) on Saturday October 18, reported the official website of the Iranian Judiciary in Gilan Province. 1 of the prisoners identified as "A. M." (32 year old, name of father Gholam Rasoul) was an Afghan citizen and was sentenced to death for possession of 1995 grams of heroin. The other prisoners were identified as "M.H." (46) charged for participation in buying, possession and trafficking of 27 kilograms of opium; "M.A." (44; son of Ismaeil) for one kilogram of Crystal and 330 grams of heroin; "M.A." (34, son of Tavakol) for buying 2200 grams of Crystal said the report.

According to the state run Iranian news agency Fars, a 35 year old man was hanged in the prison of Amol (Northern Iran) yesterday morning, Wednesday October 22. The prisoner was sentenced to "Qisas" (retribution in kind) for murdering 1 of his friends in 2008, said the report.

(source: Iran Human Rights)

OCTOBER 23, 2014:


Death Penalty for PA Prisoner Thrown Out

Blocking the execution of a Pennsylvania prisoner, a federal judge cited lapses by defense counsel with respect to evidence of childhood abuse and medical history.

Darrick Hall was 1 of 3 men convicted for the Dec. 18, 1993, armed robbery of a Chester County laundromat, and Hall was convicted for murdering the laundromat attendant. Prosecutors showed that while Hall and his 2 accomplices were changing clothes after the shooting, they joked about the guns they had used.

Though the Pennsylvania Supreme Court affirmed the death penalty for Hall, U.S. District Judge James Gardner found Wednesday that habeas relief is required because of deficiencies by Hall's trial attorney.

Even a basic investigation into Hall's life would have unearthed evidence of extreme childhood abuse and a history of significant head traumas and seizures, according to the 180-page ruling.

While the two witnesses Hall's attorney called, Hall's former girlfriend and his mother, provided brief testimony on Hall's overall character, evidence that his father regularly raped and beat his mother, pulled knives on her and threatened to kill her fell through the cracks because of defense counsel's research lapses, Gardner found.

Hall has since submitted an affidavit from his mother that Hall's father once kept her "in the house and repeatedly raped and beat her until friends were able to free her." Four affidavits also show that Hall witnessed his father breaking his mother's arm.

Hall's father took money allotted for food and household expenses and used them for drugs, the affidavits showed. When Hall was 5, his father was arrested and his mother began a relationship with another man who beat Hall. Around this time, his mother "began drinking as a way to cope with the abuse," the court found, citing the affidavits.

Hall's medical history meanwhile includes seizures and a bicycle accident when he was 8 years old that resulted in the loss of consciousness, according to the ruling. A psychological evaluation when Hall was a child revealed an IQ score of 73, significantly below average.

Applying the holding of the 1984 Supreme Court case Strickland v. Washington, Gardner said that the outcome of Hall's trial may have been different but for the failure by his attorney to introduce evidence of Hall's extreme emotional or mental disturbance and inability to fully appreciate the criminality of his conduct.

"Because trial defense counsel's inadequate investigation and presentation of mitigating evidence at the penalty phase of petitioner's trial fell below an objective standard of reasonableness, and because petitioner suffered prejudice as a result of trial defense counsel's deficient performance, I conclude that petitioner is entitled to relief from his death sentence," the opinion states.

A new sentencing hearing will take place in the next 180 days.

Pennsylvania prison records show that Hall, 43, is being held at Graterford.

(source: Courthouse News)


Prosecutors accept proposed trial delay for Colorado cinema gunman

Prosecutors in the Colorado theater massacre case do not oppose a defense request to delay the murder trial of accused gunman James Holmes until early next year, court papers showed on Thursday.

A ruling by the judge on whether to postpone the trial is pending.

Earlier this week, public defenders asked Arapahoe County District Court Judge Carlos Samour to postpone the trial, which is set to begin in December, because they needed more time to review results of a 2nd sanity examination.

Holmes, 26, has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity to shooting dead 12 moviegoers and wounding dozens more during a midnight screening of Batman film "The Dark Knight Rises" in July 2012.

His lawyers have conceded Holmes was the lone shooter, but said he was undergoing a psychotic episode.

Prosecutors have charged Holmes with multiple counts of 1st-degree murder and attempted murder stemming from the shooting spree, and said they will seek the death penalty for the California native if he is convicted.

The onetime neuroscience doctoral candidate has undergone two mental examinations since invoking the insanity defense.

Samour ordered a 2nd psychiatric evaluation after agreeing with prosecutors the 1st evaluation, conducted last year, was deficient. The 2nd sanity exam involved 22 hours of videotaped interviews with Holmes, according to court papers.

The results of neither examination has been made public.

In their motion to continue the trial, defense lawyers said the second examination, which was completed last week, "raises significant new issues" that will require "extensive litigation."

In their written response, prosecutors said the defense request is "reasonable" and suggested a trial date for the third week of January. Under Colorado law, prosecutors must prove a defendant was not insane at the time of the crime.

Both prosecutors and defense lawyers said they have not received from a state mental hospital that oversaw the testing all the underlying documentation surrounding the latest evaluation. Samour on Thursday ordered the hospital to produce the materials by next week, or explain why they might not be able to provide that information by that deadline.

(source: Reuters)


Where Does California's Death Penalty Stand?

The acceptance of a San Diego case for review by the U.S. Supreme Court has inadvertently put the spotlight once again on the death penalty in California. The high court will review a ruling by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals that overturned the conviction of Hector Ayala. He was found guilty of a 1985 triple murder in San Diego and sentenced to death. The appeals court said the absence of black and Hispanic jurors was possibly race-based.

And the larger issue of the legality of California's death penalty is also in litigation. California's attorney general, Kamala Harris, is appealing a ruling that found that long delays make the state's capital punishment law unconstitutional.

(soruce: KPBS news)


California prison system agrees to end racial segregation

An agreement reached this week in California will see that prison officials are no longer allowed to segregate inmates by race in the event of lockdowns at facilities across the state.

The Los Angeles Times on Wednesday published a stipulated settlement reached between the state's prison system and a group of inmates that should once and for all resolve a long-standing class action suit filed High Desert State Prison inmate Robert Mitchell in 2008.

According to the Times, Mitchell claimed in a 2008 filing that it was the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation's policy that "when there is an incident involving any race, all inmates of that race are locked up." The instance that spawned the suit, an inmate-on-guard attack in 2006 at High Desert, left all black detainees confined to an African American-only wing of the facility for 14 months, solely because of race, which prison officials argued was necessary to control violent prison gangs that are often ethnicity-exclusive. Once the agreement posted by the paper this week becomes official, then that will change.

"The parties have conducted extensive negotiations over several months to resolve Plaintiffs' demands that CDCR change its statewide policies and practices concerning modified programs and lockdowns," the settlement reads in part. "Those negotiations have been undertaken at arm's length and in good faith between Plaintiffs' counsel and high-ranking state officials and their counsel. The parties have reached agreement on statewide policies and practices that CDCR has already begun to implement to settle Plaintiffs' claims for declaratory and injunctive relief. The parties freely, voluntarily, and knowingly, with the advice of counsel, enter into this Stipulation for that purpose."

Specifically, the settlement says the CDCR will no longer implement race-based modified programs or lockdowns, and that, instead, security measures taken to control inmates in certain circumstances will be imposed based on individualized threat assessments.

"CDCR will only place an inmate on a modified program that impacts a security threat group if an individualized review of that inmate's central file indicates an affiliation, based on sufficiently reliable and current information, with the security-threat group impacted by the modified program," it reads.

Additionally, the settlement stipulates that inmates subjected to any sort of lockdown must be allowed to partake in outdoor activity time if the duration of the period exceeds 14 days: a major change given that, according to the Associated Press, prison officials in the Golden State impose more than 600 lockdowns in an average year.

"The prisons will still be able to maintain security, while prisoners will no longer be targeted for lengthy lockdowns just because of their race or ethnicity," Rebekah Evenson, an attorney for the prisoners, said of the agreement in a statement to Reuters.

"We see this as a tremendous result," Evenson told the Times.

A federal judge is expected to next review the agreement at an upcoming hearing, Reuters reported, and will then likely approve it.

(source: RTT news)





Pope: no to death penalty and to inhuman prison conditions

Pope Francis on Thursday called on all men and women of good will to fight for the abolishment of the death penalty in "all of its forms" and for the improvement of prison conditions.

The Pope was addressing a group of members of the International Association of Criminal Law whom he received in the Vatican.

In his discourse the Pope also addressed the need to combat the phenomena of human trafficking and of corruption.

And he stressed that the fact that the enforcement of legal penalties must always respect human dignity.

In a dense and impassioned discourse to the Jurists assembled in the Vatican for a private audience, Pope Francis said that the "life sentence" is really a "concealed death sentence", and that is why - he explained - he had it annulled in the Vatican Penal Code.

Many of the off-the-cuff comments during the Pope's speech shone the light on how politics and media all too often act as triggers enflaming "violence and private and public acts of vengeance" that are always in search of a scape-goat.

Recalling the words of Saint John Paul II who condemned the death penalty as does the Catechism, Francis decried the practice and denounced "so-called extrajudicial or extralegal executions" calling them "deliberate homicides" committed by public officials behind the screen of the Law:

"All Christians and people of goodwill are called today to fight not only for the abolition of the death penalty be it legal or illegal, in all of its forms, but also for the improvement of prison conditions in the respect of the human dignity of those who have been deprived of freedom. I link this to the death sentence. In the Penal Code of the Vatican, the sanction of life sentence is no more. A life sentence is a death sentence which is concealed".

And Pope Francis had words of harsh criticism for all forms of criminality which undermine human dignity, there are forms of his - he said - even within the criminal law system which too often does not respect that dignity when criminal law is applied.

"In the last decades" - the Pope said - "there has been a growing conviction that through public punishment it is possible to solve different and disparate social problems, as if for different diseases one could prescribe the same medicine."

He said this conviction has pushed the criminal law system beyond its sanctioning boundaries, and into the "realm of freedom and the rights of persons" without real effectiveness.

"There is the risk of losing sight of the proportionality of penalties that historically reflect the scale of values upheld by the State. The very conception of criminal law and the enforcement of sanctions as an 'ultima ratio' in the cases of serious offenses against individual and collective interests have weakened. As has the debate regarding the use of alternative penal sanctions to be used instead of imprisonment".

Pope Francis speaks of remand or detention of a suspect as a "contemporary form of illicit hidden punishment" concealed by a "patina of legality", as it enforces "an anticipation of punishment" upon a suspect who has not been convicted. From this - the Pope points out - derives the risk of multiplying the number of detainees still awaiting trial, who are thus convicted without benefiting from the protective rules of a trial. In some countries - he says - this happens in some 50% of all cases with the trickledown effect of terribly overcrowded detention centers:

"The deplorable conditions of detention that take place in different parts of the world are an authentic inhuman and degrading trait, often caused by deficiencies of criminal law, or by a lack of infrastructures and good planning. In many cases they are the result of an arbitrary and merciless exercise of power over persons who have been deprived of freedom."

Pope Francis also speaks of what he calls "cruel, inhuman and degrading punishments and sanctions," and compares detention in maximum-security prisons to a "form of torture". The isolation imposed in these places - he says - causes "mental and physical" suffering that result in an "increased tendency towards suicide". Torture - the Pope points out - is used not only as a means to obtain "confession or information":

"It is an authentic 'surplus' of pain that is added to the woes of detention. In this way torture is used not only in illegal centers of detention or in modern concentration camps, but also in prisons, in rehabilitation centers for minors, in psychiatric hospitals, in police stations and in other institutions for detention or punishment".

And Pope Francis said children must be spared the harshness of imprisonment - as must, at least in a limited way - older people, sick people, pregnant women, disabled people as well as parents if they are the sole guardians of minors or persons with disabilities.

The Pope also highlighted one of the criminal phenomena he has always spoken out against vehemently: human trafficking which - he says - is the result of that "cycle of dire poverty" that traps "a billion people" and forces at least 45 million to flee from conflict:

"Based on the fact that it is impossible to commit such a complex crime as is the trafficking of persons without the complicity, be it active or of omission of action of the State, it is evident that, when the efforts to prevent and combat this phenomenon are not sufficient, we find ourselves before a crime against humanity. This is even truer if those who are responsible for the protection of persons and the safeguard of their freedom become an accomplice of those who trade in human beings; in those cases the State is responsible before its citizens and before the international community".

Pope Francis dedicates an ample part of his discourse to corruption. The corrupt person - according to the Pope - is a person who takes the "short-cuts of opportunism" that lead him to think of himself as a "winner" who insults and persecutes whoever contradicts him. "Corruption" - the Pope says "is a greater evil than sin", and more than "be forgiven, must be cured".

"The criminal sanction is selective. It is like a net that captures only the small fish leaving the big fish to swim free in the ocean. The forms of corruption that must be persecuted with greatest severity are those that cause grave social damage, both in economic and social questions - for example grave fraud against public administration or the dishonest use of administration".

Concluding, Pope Francis exhorted the jurists to use the criteria of "cautiousness" in the enforcement of criminal sanctions. This - he affirmed - must be the principle that upholds criminal law:

"The respect for human dignity must operate not only to limit the arbitrariness and the excesses of State officials, but as a criteria of orientation for the persecution and the repression of those behaviors that represent grave attacks against the dignity and the integrity of the human person".

(source: Vatican Radio)


Pope Francis blasts life sentences as 'hidden death penalty'----Pontiff slates countries facilitating torture and says using prisons to fix social problems is like treating all diseases with 1 drug

Pope Francis has branded life-long prison terms "a hidden death sentence" in an attack on "penal populism" that included severe criticism of countries that facilitate torture.

In a wide-ranging speech to a delegation from the International Association of Penal Law, the pontiff said believers should oppose life-long incarceration as strongly as the use of capital punishment.

"All Christians and men of good faith are therefore called upon today to fight, not only for the abolition of the death penalty - whether it is legal or illegal and in all its forms - but also to improve the conditions of incarceration to ensure that the human dignity of those deprived of their freedom is respected.

"And this, for me, is linked to life sentences. For a short time now, these no longer exist in the Vatican penal code. A sentence of life (without parole) is a hidden death penalty."

In comments likely to enhance his reputation as one of the most liberal of popes, Francis went on to slam the risk of sentencing becoming disproportionately severe.

"In recent decades a belief has spread that through public punishment the most diverse social problems can be resolved, as if different diseases could all be cured by the same medicine."

Reiterating Catholic teaching that capital punishment is a sin, the pope also made what appeared to be a thinly veiled attack on the European countries which have facilitated US demands for extraordinary rendition of terror suspects to detention centres in parts of the world where they can be tortured with impunity.

"These abuses will only stop if the international community firmly commits to recognising ... the principle of placing human dignity above all else."

(source: The Guardian)


Pope Francis Defends Prisoners' Rights, Calls For Abolition Of Death Penalty

Pope Francis is speaking up for some of the most outcast members of society - the prisoners.

The pontiff issued a call for the abolition of the death penalty on Thursday, harshly criticizing prison systems around the world for overstepping boundaries, mistreating inmates, and failing to recognize the sanctity of human life.

"All Christians and men of good will are called today to fight not just for the abolition of the death penalty in all its forms, whether it be legal or illegal, but also the goal of improving prison conditions, out of respect of the human dignity of people deprived of their freedom," the pope said during a meeting with the International Association of Penal Law.

Francis added that locking people up for life amounts to a "hidden death penalty," noting that Vatican City has removed the life sentence from its criminal code, ANSA reports.

The pontiff also lashed out against the use of torture and the criminal punishment of children. He urged for the "special treatment" of elderly prisoners.

Francis' speech reaffirmed the Catholic church's long-held position on the death penalty.

In America, support for the death penalty has dipped as low as 42% in 1966 and reached as high as 80% in 1994, according to Gallup. Since the peak in the mid-1980s, public support for the death penalty has dropped to 63% and has remained relatively stable since 2008.

According to Gallup, "These trends toward diminished support seem to be reflected in state death penalty laws, as six U.S. states have abolished the death penalty since 2007, and no new states have adopted it."

(source: Carol Kuruvilla; Huffington Post)


3 Afghan nationals executed for drug trafficking

At least 3 Afghans were hanged to death in Iran over drugs smuggling charges, Afghan officials said.

The officials further added that the deceased individuals were originally residents of northeastern Takhar province.

Provincial governor spokesman for Takhar province, Sanatullah Temori, said the dead bodies were handed over to their families and buried in Kalafgan district.

(source: Khaama Press)


Pakistan Supreme Court Could Overturn Christian Mother Asia Bibi's Death Sentence Despite Radical Pressure, Says International Christian Concern

International Christian Concern has expressed hopes that Christian mother of five Asia Bibi could see her death sentence overturned by Pakistan's Supreme Court, despite pressure on judges from radical groups that are determined to see her executed.

"I think the chances of the Supreme Court overturning the death sentence are much greater than that of the High Court. In many cases, especially blasphemy cases, court decisions are influenced, either by ideology or threats, by local radical groups. Generally, the High Court is more insulated from this influence," William Stark, ICC's Regional Manager for South Asia, told The Christian Post in an email on Wednesday.

"Unfortunately, in Asia's case, she is very high profile and the radical groups tracking her case and advocating for her death have already shown what they are willing to do to keep Asia's death sentence confirmed. Shabaz Bhatti, a federal government minister, and Salmaan Taseer, the governor of Punjab, were murdered for speaking out against the blasphemy charge against Asia," Stark continued.

"I am just speculating, but I am sure that the Justices deciding Asia's case at the Lahore High Court were thinking about Bhatti and Taseer and their own personal safety when they made their decision to confirm the death sentence."

Bibi, who was first sentenced to death in 2010, saw her punishment upheld by the Lahore court last week. The mother was accused of blaspheming against Islam following an argument with Muslim women during an incident in 2009. Several human rights and persecution watchdog groups have pointed out, however, that blasphemy laws are often used to settle personal scores and persecute religious minorities in the heavily Islamic country.

Stark said that raising awareness is a very important step in affecting change in situations like Bibi's case.

"If Asia is a household name for Christians around the world and people are paying attention to her case, Pakistan and the justices ruling on her case will know that whatever decision they make will be seen and will be scrutinized. In some cases, just knowing that 'the world is watching' can affect the decisions of cases like this," Stark told CP.

"The blasphemy charge against Rimsha Masih in 2012 is a great example of this. After Rimsha, a young Christian girl, was accused of blasphemy in Pakistan, there was an international outcry that ultimately led to her being released and resettled in a safe country."

Christian leaders in Pakistan have been calling out for Pakistani authorities to reverse Bibi's sentence, while a group working to protect Christians from blasphemy laws urged international pressure on Pakistan.

Haroon Barkat, director of the Masihi Foundation, said earlier this week that "international pressures and mobilization can be useful" in influencing the case. He said that above all, "the political will of the government and of the highest authorities in Pakistan is needed" to put an end to the many false blasphemy cases in the country.

Stark agreed that it could help if the U.S. applies pressure on the situation, especially since Pakistan remains one of the U.S.'s top recipients of international aid.

"Having the U.S. government call on Pakistan to uphold international human rights standards as part of receiving aid shouldn't be that far-fetched," he said.

When asked about how Bibi's case compares to the one of Christian mother Meriam Ibrahim of Sudan from earlier this year, Stark said that in some ways the cases are similar, but also different.

"In both cases, these women are Christians and have been sentenced to death for crimes against Islam in countries that promote Islam as the state sponsored religion. Both women also come from countries where Christians are in the minority and are heavily persecuted. Obviously, both of these cases bring up religious freedom issues for minority populations living in the Muslim world," ICC's Regional Manager for South Asia said.

Ibrahim was initially facing the death penalty in Sudan for refusing to identify as a Muslim and for marrying her Christian husband Daniel Wani. Following a large international campaign, Sudan decided to release her, allowing her eventually to leave the country and come to the U.S., where Wani is a citizen.

Stark pointed out that Wani's American citizenship is a major difference between the cases, as it makes Ibrahim's two young children Americans as well.

"I believe this benefited Miriam greatly when it came to spurring NGOs, the U.S. government and U.S. citizens to action, ultimately leading to her release and resettlement in the U.S. That connection doesn't exist for Asia, making her easier to forget about and harder to push for action on," he said.

As Bibi's defense team prepares an appeal to the Supreme Court, other Christian groups are calling on people to offer prayers for the mother.

Open Doors noted that Bibi has spent much of the past five years in solitary confinement to protect her from other inmates, while the high-profile nature of the case has forced her family to go into hiding.

"Even her legal team face threats to their careers, families, and lives. Please pray for Asia, her family, her legal team, and the judge who will hear her appeal, and ask your church to do the same," the group said.

Open Doors added that it is contacting diplomats from around the world to raise awareness for Asia's case.

(source: Christian Post)


Somalia Islamist Militants Stone 18-Year-Old to Death for Rape

Al-Shabaab militants in southern Somalia publicly stoned an 18-year-old boy to death after he was accused of rape, the al-Qaeda-linked group and witnesses said.

The teenager, named as Hassan Ahmed Ali, was accused of raping a 28-year-old woman at gunpoint and sentenced to death by a local judge, al-Shabaab's Radio Andalus reported. About 100 people witnessed the killing yesterday afternoon in the main square of Dharuuro, a village in Somalia's Lower Shabelle region, Mohamed Dhubow, a resident, said by phone.

"Dozens of masked fighters" threw stones at the teenager, who'd been buried up to his neck, Dhubow said. "No one could help him."

Al-Shabaab have been fighting Somalia's government since at least 2006 in their campaign to establish an Islamic state. Somali government forces, backed by African Union soldiers, have made gains against al-Shabaab since forcing the Islamist fighters to withdraw from the capital, Mogadishu, 3 years ago.

Somalia's government expects to liberate areas still controlled by the militants within the next 6 months after capturing the insurgents' coastal stronghold of Barawe in early October.

(source: Bloomberg News)


Death Watch: San Antonio Gun Brother----Appeals denied for Paredes and 2 others

Ultimately, it mattered not whom Miguel Paredes killed but rather if his trial jury could determine that he assisted in or enforced the deaths of 2 of 3 individuals who lost their lives in September 2000. Paredes was only 18 at the time and affiliated with San Antonio's Hermanos de Pistoleros Latinos. His boss, John Saenz, had gotten mixed up in a bad drug deal with Adrian Torres, gang leader of SA's Mexican Mafia. Saenz brought Torres to his house one Sunday afternoon while Paredes and an accomplice, Greg Alvarado, were waiting respectively in the garage and an adjacent bedroom.

Torres didn't leave alive; neither did Shawn Cain and Nelly Bravo, who rode with Torres to Saenz's house. Paredes and Alvarado came out of their respective hiding spaces after the Mafia members entered; with Saenz, they shot and killed all 3 visitors. Their bodies were found a few days later in Frio County, southwest of San Antonio, where they'd been bound and burned and left by Paredes and other Pistoleros. All involved parties were arrested 2 days later, Sept. 19, 2000, except for Alvarado, who was caught several days later.

Testimonies from Saenz's neighbor as well as his brother Eric, a member of the Pistoleros who doubled as an informant for the San Antonio office of the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, linked Paredes to the murders. Eric's testimony, which detailed both onsite realizations after the shootings, as well as information gleaned from a conversation he had with his brother, revealed Paredes to have said that Eric "should have been there, that I would have had some fun." He further testified against Paredes by saying the 18-year-old, known as "Fat Boy" within HPL circles, "didn't look like [the murders] fazed him," while John "looked like he was not in his right mind" during the period of time in which gang members rid Saenz's house of the bodies.

Paredes was found guilty of capital murder and, after being painted as a young gang member with an already established history of crime violence (including murder, kidnapping, and the burning of a woman's body after she'd overdosed on drugs), sentenced to death on Nov. 9, 2001. His primary accomplices - Alvarado, who pleaded guilty, and Saenz, who claimed self-defense - were both handed life sentences.

In November 2003, Paredes began a series of applications for habeas corpus relief that largely hung on 5 grounds. Beginning with a state effort and concluding with a federal appeal, he argued that he'd been made subject to a grand jury that, at 8% Hispanic, wasn't "a fair cross section" of the community (at the time, Bexar County was 34% Hispanic); that he received ineffective trial counsel; that the trial court erred in allowing the jury to conclude that Paredes killed or intended to kill any 2 of the 3 victims (and not specifically pin 2 exact murders on him); that the Texas capital sentencing statute is "arbitrary and capricious and violates the Eighth Amendment because it contains vague and undefined terms for aggravating factors"; and that the trial judge "uncritically and unconditionally accepted the prosecutor's findings without any judicial guidance."

Each effort for relief was eventually denied. Some - such as Paredes' claims against proper representation on the jury and against the effectiveness of his trial counsel - were procedurally barred from review. An Aug. 2010 appeal to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals was refused on many of the same grounds. 5 months later, in January 2011, the U.S. Supreme Court refused Paredes' writ of certiorari.

Paredes is set to be executed on Tuesday, Oct. 28. He'll be the 11th inmate executed this year, and 519th since the reinstatement of Texas' death penalty in 1976.


Earlier this month in unrelated cases, the U.S. Supreme Court refused an appeal from 32-year-old Derrick Dewayne Charles, a Houston native who'd been sentenced to death in 2003 after being found guilty of strangling his 15-year-old girlfriend Myiesha Bennett, raping and strangling her 44-year-old mother Brenda Bennett, and fatally beating his girlfriend's 77-year-old grandfather Obie Lee Bennett. And last Tuesday, the 5th Circuit refused an appeal from Raphael Holiday, convicted of killing his 18-month-old daughter and her 2 half-sisters when he set their Madison County house on fire in September 2000. Neither of the 2 have yet to receive their execution dates.

(source: Austin Chronicle)


Let an innocent man spend his last days at home

Max Soffar, an innocent man on death row in Texas, has just a few months to live.

He's dying of liver cancer, and his last wish is to hold his wife, Anita, in his arms.

His lawyers continue to present evidence of his innocence to the courts. But a false confession Soffar signed 34 years ago, as a drug-addled and brain-damaged youth, will likely keep him locked away - unless Gov. Rick Perry intervenes.

Soffar is spending his last days locked in a cell the size of a small bathroom for 23 hours per day. His only breaks are for brief showers and recreation in a cage. Aside from the guards who shackle him and the medical staff who care for him, he has no human contact. Soffar sees his wife and others allowed to visit him but, separated from them by glass, can't touch them. He sits on a metal stool bolted to the floor, peering through the window, straining to position his cancer-ravaged body comfortably.

Soffar's case is like others I've seen in my years with the Innocence Project. He signed a police statement confessing to involvement in a notorious Houston triple murder, but the 3 days of interrogation weren't recorded. No other evidence inculpates him - no fingerprints, no witness identification and no forensic evidence. And like the recent exoneration of our death row client Damon Thibodeaux, Soffar’s confession doesn't match the facts. An appellate judge found that Soffar's statement "appears to be a tale told by one who heard about the robbery-murders rather than by one who committed them."

Indeed, nearly 30 % of DNA exonerations (including death penalty cases) involve false confessions. Again and again, our clients have described an overwhelming pressure to confess, even when their statements are false, when police isolate them from the world for hours or days, tell them they're lying, cut them off at every turn and threaten devastating consequences if they don't concede.

Proving that a confession in a death penalty case was false can be extremely difficult. For Soffar, whose case doesn't have DNA evidence to support his innocence, this has meant decades of legal work - efforts that still need more time. Time that he no longer has. For Soffar and so many others, I wish DNA evidence were as easy to come by as TV shows and movies suggest. In truth, fewer than 10 percent of crime scenes contain DNA that could identify the true perpetrator. The coffee cup, the cigarette butt - these are lucky breaks, not the norm.

Take the recent exonerations of Henry McCollum and Leon Brown in North Carolina. Like Soffar, they were youths (ages 19 and 15) and intellectually disabled when they falsely confessed to murder and rape. Like Soffar, they were sent to death row based only on statements the police wrote and asked them to sign; no other evidence linked them to the crime. Like Soffar, their interrogations weren't recorded. And just like in Soffar's case, the jury never heard about a far more plausible suspect in the crime. For McCollum and Brown, there was a key difference: The crime's perpetrator left his DNA at the scene on a cigarette butt.

The DNA revolution has freed many innocents. But the lesson we should learn is that the practices leading to wrongful convictions - including coercive and manipulative interrogations - occur throughout the criminal justice system. And they occur whether or not DNA evidence exists that proves innocence. One simple fix, already required in 24 states, 850 other jurisdictions and recently adopted by the FBI, is to videotape interrogations from Miranda warnings forward. This reform, recommended years ago by Texas' Timothy Cole Advisory Panel on Wrongful Convictions, should be at the top of the Texas Legislature's list when it convenes next year.

But Soffar's only hope to die at home lies with the governor. The Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles recently denied Soffar's petition for clemency. Citing the absence of an execution date for him, the board said, "It has been determined that Mr. Soffar's request will not be considered by the Board at this time." But nothing in Texas law requires Perry to accept the board's absurd refusal to decide this issue now, before Soffar dies. The governor can and should order a more comprehensive review.

Governor Perry, this isn't a question of politics, of being for or against capital punishment, or even of whether Max Soffar is guilty or innocent. It's a humanitarian appeal - an issue of mercy, compassion and human decency.

Please allow Max to die in peace, close to his loved ones who have suffered greatly for so long.

(source: Barry Scheck,


Accused murderer one step closer to Delaware trial----Mathew Burton could face death penalty in death of Nicole Bennett----Matthew Burton is 1 step closer to being extradited to Delaware to face trial for the 2012 death of Nicole Bennett. Burton has been fighting extradition in order to have his trial in Maryland, where he would not face the death penalty.

Matthew Burton is 1 step closer to being extradited to Delaware to face 1st-degree murder charges in the 2012 death of Nicole Bennett.

The Maryland Court of Special Appeals upheld a decision by the Circuit Court of Worcester County Sept. 30 to deny a writ of habeas corpus, filed by Burton to block his extradition to Delaware. While the writ was denied, Burton's extradition was stayed until the end of his Maryland appeals.

David Paulson, spokesman for the Maryland Attorney General's Office, said Burton's appeals window is still open until the Court of Special Appeals issues a mandate on the case, expected within the next 30 days.

Meanwhile, Delaware prosecutors await the end of Burton's appeals in Maryland, so he can be returned to Sussex County for trial.

"Mr. Burton is 1 step closer to facing justice in Delaware," Delaware Department of Justice spokesman Jason Miller said.

Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley had signed Burton's extradition back to Delaware in Oct. 2013, according to court documents, but under Maryland law, Burton had the right of appeal to the Maryland Court of Special Appeals.

Burton wants to keep the case in Maryland, according to the Court of Special Appeals opinion, because in Maryland, Burton would not face the death penalty; O'Malley signed a repeal of the state's death penalty in May 2013. In Delaware, Burton could receive the death penalty if convicted of 1st-degree murder.

Maryland has withdrawn charges against Burton, who will be charged in Delaware with 1st-degree murder, 1st-degree murder during the commission of a felony and 1st-degree rape.

Jurisdiction in the case became an issue because Bennett's body was found off a rural road in Worcester County, Md., but Delaware and Maryland State Police say the crime took place in Sussex County.

A passer-by found Bennett's body on an embankment off of Swamp Road, Worcester County, on June 15, 2012. An autopsy by the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Baltimore determined she had been asphyxiated. Her husband, Kevin, reported her missing when she did not come home from Bay Shore Community Church in Gumboro, where she had worked late the evening of June 14, 2012. Burton worked as custodian at the church. The Bennett family has filed a wrongful death suit against the church for employing Burton, who had a history as a sex offender.

Police found Bennett's car parked at the church, locked with her personal belongings inside; police later learned Burton, the church custodian, was also at the church while she was there. Bennett's body was found 6 miles from the church. DNA evidence gathered by Maryland State forensic technicians connected Burton to the crime. A U.S. Marshal's Task Force arrested Burton July 6, 2012, following a traffic stop on Route 1 near Rehoboth Beach.



Delaware board nixes commutation for killer

Delaware's Board of Pardons has refused to hear a commutation request from a killer whose sentencing led to changes in Delaware's death penalty law.

James Llewellyn Jr. is 1 of 4 men convicted of robbing and murdering 2 armored car guards in December 1990. The defendants all received life sentences after jurors could not unanimously agree on the death penalty.

The killings so outraged the public that legislators held a special session in 1991 to change the law, giving judges the final say on whether to impose the death penalty after considering a jury's recommendation.

After reviewing a recent petition by Llewellyn, pardons board members agreed that they would not recommend commutation of Llewellyn's sentence, and that there was no reason to hear from him when they meet Thursday.

(source: Associated Press)


NCCU program focuses on exoneration of brothers

The exoneration of two half-brothers who falsely admitted to murdering an 11-year-old girl shows that confessions aren't always true, according to an attorney for one of the men.

"The only evidence that linked these two young boys to the crime was their confessions, which later turned out to be false," attorney W. James Payne said Tuesday. "A key learning point is that just because individuals may confess to crimes doesn't mean that they actually did them."

Payne spoke Tuesday at the N.C. Central University School of Law about the September exonerations of Henry McCollum and Leon Brown after they served 30 years in prison. Payne was Brown's lawyer.

The men were freed after a presentation in Robeson County Superior Court by the North Carolina Innocence Inquiry Commission showed that DNA evidence linked another man to the 1983 crime.

Payne said police got confessions from the men, who were mentally handicapped. At the time they were arrested, McCollum was 19 and Brown was 15.

They were accused of a grisly slaying. An autopsy showed that the girl, Sabrina Buie, died from suffocation after a stick was used to push panties down her throat. She was raped and her nude body found in a field in the small Robeson County town of Red Springs.

A story told by a high school student led police to McCollum and Brown, who were interrogated for more than four hours by three officers.

Payne said there were "huge" inconsistencies in the stories they told police - "big, fat inconsistencies." But they signed confessions and were charged with murder and convicted. McCollum, now 50, ended up on death row before he walked out of Central Prison in Raleigh last month.

Brown walked out of Maury Correctional Institution in Greene County the same day.

Both men initially got death sentences, which were overturned. At a second trial, McCollum was sent to death row again, and Brown was convicted of rape and sentenced to life in prison.

Superior Court Judge Douglas Sasser last month overturned the convictions, saying the fact that another man's DNA was found on a cigarette butt near the girl's body contradicted the case presented by prosecutors.

A man who is in prison for committing a similar murder in Red Springs less than month after Sabrina was killed is being investigated for possible connection to the girl's death. But so far, he has not been charged.

Also speaking at the program was Sharon Stellato, associate director of the North Carolina Innocence Inquiry Commission, a state agency that looks into claims of false convictions. The commission's work helped bring about the men's exoneration.

Stellato said no DNA was ever found that linked McCollum or Brown to the crime.

Since the commission began its work in 2007, it has helped exonerate seven people in North Carolina.

"What many people don't know about the commission is that we often confirm guilt," she said. "We're a neutral fact-finding agency, out there seeking the truth."

Tuesday's event was sponsored by the NCCU Law Innocence Project and the Death Penalty Project.

(source: The Herald-Sun)

FLORIDA----impending execution

Gadsden County murderer files appeal weeks before execution

Gadsden County man Chadwick Banks, who was convicted of the double murder in the 1992 slaying of his wife and stepchild, filed an appeal with the Florida Supreme Court Tuesday.

Banks was scheduled to be executed by lethal injection Nov. 13.

A letter submitted to the court by Banks' attorney Terri L. Backhus of Tampa appeals the denial of a Oct. 15 motion to vacate judgement.

Banks, now 43, was on probation for 2 aggravated assault charges when he entered the Gadsden County home of his wife Cassandra Banks around 2:30 a.m. and shot her in the head while she slept.

He then went into the bedroom of his 10-year-old stepdaughter Melody Cooper and raped her before also shooting her in the head.

After pleading no contest to the crimes, Banks was found guilty of 2 counts of 1st-degree murder and one count of sexual assault on a victim under 12 years old by a Gadsden County jury in 1994. The jurors voted 9-3 to recommend the death penalty.

His direct appeals have been denied by the Florida Supreme Court. Following the denial of his 1st appeal, the court called the double murders "heinous, atrocious and cruel" enough to warrant death.

"In the early morning hours, Banks sat outside the trailer for several minutes before entering. He then shot his wife as she lay sleeping," said the court in 1997.

He appealed again in 2001, but the high court again denied his request.

If he is executed, Banks would be the 19th Florida death row inmate killed during Scott's 1st term in office, the most of any Florida governor. Banks would be the 89th prisoner executed since 1979 following reinstatement of the death penalty in Florida.

(source: Tallahassee Democrat)


Florida debate turns bitter over executions

The 3rd and final debate between Florida Republican Gov. Rick Scott and Democratic challenger Charlie Crist was dominated by personal attacks in one of the closest governors races in the country.

In the debate, hosted by CNN and affiliate WJXT in Jacksonville, the two candidates took aim at each other in a showdown that covered a wide range of topics, including economic policies, the death penalty, and voting rights for felons.

Death penalty

A heated moment came when Crist accused Scott of delaying an execution so that his attorney general could attend a political fundraiser.

"She asked me to delay it because it didn't work on the dates that she thought it was going to be on," Scott said in response. "She apologized."

In September 2013, Pam Bondi apologized for delaying the planned execution of Marshall Lee Gore, a notorious rapist and murderer, because it conflicted with a fundraiser.

Scott denied at the time that he knew the reason for the delay.

"Did you know it was for a political fundraiser?" Crist pressed.

"What would you like her to do?" Scott asked.

Crist went on to blast Scott for not answering questions.

The night got off to a breezy start, this time with no fan on stage for Crist and no protest from Scott.

"Everybody's comfortable here?" asked CNN's Jake Tapper, who co-moderated the debate with WJXT's Kent Justice. His question was a subtle reference to last week's seven minute standoff.

The debate quickly transitioned into a testy exchange with personal attacks over wealth.

Scott blamed Crist for the loss of more than 800,000 jobs while he was governor from 2007-2011, saying Crist is out of touch with average Florida voters because he grew up with wealth.

"I grew up with families that struggled. I don't know my natural father. I lived in public housing. I have an adopted dad," Scott said. "I didn't grow up with money. You did. You grew up with plenty of money. Charlie, you lost more jobs than any state but one."

Hammering back, Crist argued he was not responsible for the "economic meltdown" that occurred nationally during his tenure. He returned the attack against wealth, blasting Scott for being the one who's out of touch.

"You don't know me and you can't tell my story," Crist said. "But I know you are worth about $100 million or $200 million today and God bless you for that wealth, but the way you got it was pretty unsavory."

Scott, a former health care CEO, ran into controversy when his company, Columbia/HCA, was fined $1.7 billion for alleged Medicare fraud last decade.

Restoring rights for felons

Scott took a jab at Crist for bringing voting rights back to felons who had completed their sentences for nonviolent convictions.

"Here is Charlie's plan: You commit a heinous crime, as soon as you get out of jail, you get to vote. Stalk, you get to vote. You have intentional permanent disfigurement of a child and you walk out of jail and you get to vote," Scott said. Crist fired back, accusing Scott of "lying" and saying the restoration law only applied to nonviolent criminals.

(source: CNN)


Rick Scott Refuses To Say If He Knowingly Delayed An Execution For A Political Fundraiser

Gov. Rick Scott (R-FL) refused to say if he had knowingly granted a request to delay an execution so that Attorney General Pam Bondi (R) could hold a political fundraiser, repeatedly saying "she apologized" instead.

During a debate Tuesday night, the moderator asked Democratic nominee Charlie Crist if he believed that Scott did not take executions seriously. Crist hit Scott on the delay, saying, "Just this past year, an execution here in Florida was delayed by the governor so the attorney general could go forward and have a political me and my way of thinking, that doesn't sound like someone is taking that solemn duty as seriously as they should."

Scott shot back, arguing that Crist "doesn't know all the facts." Crist, however, did not let it go, asking Scott repeatedly to explain what happened. "I asked him a simple question. Did the Attorney General ask you to delay the execution so she could go forward with her political fundraiser?" he asked.

"She asked me to delay it because it didn't work on the dates that she thought it was going to be on," Scott said. When Crist continued to push, Scott repeated "she apologized" 4 times, asking Crist "What would you like her to do?"

The execution in question was that of Marshall Lee Gore, who was sentenced for the murder of 2 women in the 1980s. Gore's execution, which was delayed several times due to questions about his sanity, was scheduled for September 10, the same day as Bondi's "hometown campaign kickoff." According to The Tampa Bay Times, Bondi's office asked for a delay, which Scott granted. Gore was executed on October 1st.

The sheriff who investigated one of the killings called the decision to delay the execution "a slap in the face, not only for the law enforcement officers involved but for the families who have waited 25 long years." Gore's lawyer said that when he asked for why the execution was delayed, the governor's office would only say that it was a request by the attorney general. Bondi later apologized, saying, "We absolutely should not have requested that the date of the execution be moved."

Since coming to office in 2011, Scott and Bondi have overseen over 18 executions; Crist oversaw 5 during his term as governor. Scott has been criticized of his support for the 2013 Timely Justice Act, which reduced delays in the death penalty by reducing the amount of time between when the clemency process was exhausted and when the execution was carried out.



Attorneys for accused serial killer Michael Madison seek special prosecutor for death-penalty case

Defense attorneys for accused serial killer Michael Madison want a judge to throw Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy McGinty's office off the case and appoint a special prosecutor.

McGinty on Wednesday blasted the move, calling it a delay tactic.

"This is why death-penalty cases take 15 to 20 years and cost millions of dollars: The defense will do anything to avoid trial, truth and accountability," McGinty said. "They believe they alone are doing God's work as they attempt to frustrate justice in these mass-murder cases."

Madison's attorneys John Greene, Christine Julian and David Grant filed a document in Common Pleas Court this week that indicates the request to remove McGinty stems from a controversial psychiatric examination of Madison, who is charged in the slayings of three women in 2013.

His trial is slated to begin Nov. 3 before Judge Nancy McDonnell, but that date is highly unlikely. If he is convicted, he could face the death penalty.

The case has stalled because of the evaluation, as the Ohio 8th District Court of Appeals and the Ohio Supreme Court are examining whether it was appropriate. On June 2, McDonnell ruled that prosecutors could have an expert interview Madison.

McGinty argued that Madison's attorneys had retained psychological experts, and prosecutors should be allowed to have their own expert.

Defense attorneys, however, said they will not make an issue of Madison's mental health at the trial, and they said the examination could violate Madison's right against self-incrimination, as he would be forced to answer questions.

Just days after McDonnell's decision, Madison's attorneys appealed to the Ohio 8th District Court of Appeals. But the expert, Dr. Steven Pitt, already had begun examining Madison, and he was forced to stop after 3 hours.

In a hearing with attorneys in McDonnell's chambers, prosecutors said the notes and recordings of Pitt's evaluation had been placed "in a secure location where no one - including them or their staff - had access," according to the filing by Madison's lawyers.

But defense attorneys said that they have since learned "that some members of the prosecution team, including Prosecutor McGinty, have communicated with Dr. Pitt concerning what he learned during the Madison evaluation," the defense filing said. "Accordingly, the information provided about the accessibility of Mr. Madison's evaluation at that in-chambers conference was not accurate.

"In light of this development, Mr. Madison's defense team has serious concerns about the whereabouts and security of the data Dr. Pitt did obtain and his conclusions based thereon," the filing said.

The document said that if an appellate ruling indicates McDonnell was incorrect in ordering the examination, "the harm stemming from that decision is incurable, unless this prosecutor's office is removed from Mr. Madison's case and replaced by a special prosecutor."

Defense attorneys said McGinty has the "duty to prosecute crimes zealously. The public expects no less. What the public neither needs nor wants nor should expect is a prosecutor's office that oversteps its role and violates its obligation to do justice rather than seek victory - all at the expense of a defendant's right to a fair and reliable trial and sentencing."

A spokesman for McGinty's office, Joe Frolik, said the office will respond to the motion with its own filing. McDonnell will have a hearing on the issue Oct. 27. Frolik said the office "refutes any idea that we have had access to the walled off information from Dr. Pitt."

McGinty, in his statement, ripped the request.

"Defense stalling tactics already have dragged this case out for 15 months," McGinty said. "Now they are shooting for nothing short of endless delay with yet another frivolous motion. They aren't even waiting for decisions on their previous motions, which they know will be dismissed soon. Instead they file this, using a false premise to ask for our office's removal from the case.

"They purposefully avoided proper procedure that required them to have the court psychiatric clinic examine the defendant first. They don't want a neutral professional examination. Instead they want a hired-gun shrink who is biased by his or her own moral opposition to the death penalty and who will find mental illness where a neutral professional would not. Then they refuse to cooperate with the court or any other psychiatrist so the jury hears only their tainted report."

Madison, 37, is charged with aggravated murder, kidnapping and rape. He is accused of killing Angela H. Deskins, 38; Shirellda Terry, 18; and Shetisha Sheeley, 28. Their bodies were found last July near his apartment off Hayden Avenue in East Cleveland.

In an interview with police, Madison admitted that he killed Sheeley, who had been missing since September 2012, according to court documents.

He told police that he did not remember killing Terry or Deskins, blaming his lack of memory on drinking and drugs.



Inmates in Tennessee sue state to uncover execution methods

The 1st of 11 death-row inmates with scheduled execution dates in Tennessee did not meet the executioner as planned on Oct. 7. The Tennessee Supreme Court ruled

Sept. 25 to postpone Billy Ray Irick's execution, as he and the other 10 death-row inmates with scheduled execution dates are in the middle of a complex lawsuit against the state.

In granting Irick's motion to postpone his execution, the Tennessee Supreme Court laid out strict rules concerning time limits for appeals and motions going forward to expedite court proceedings in Davidson County Chancery Court. Irick had his execution postponed once in light of the pending lawsuit.

He was convicted of raping and murdering a 7-year-old Knoxville girl he was babysitting in 1985. As of press time, the court had not yet set another date for Irick.

The inmates scheduled for execution through 2016 are suing the state of Tennessee over a few fundamental questions: What are the identities of the execution team? What method will the state use to execute them? What drugs will be used? Who manufactures them? And have they been adequately tested?

Attorneys for the inmates also challenge the state's alternative form of execution: the electric chair. The inmates and their lawyers are calling both methods "cruel and unusual."

On Aug. 22, attorneys for the inmates changed the scope of the lawsuit because of the new Tennessee law signed by Gov. Bill Haslam that allows the state to use the electric chair as a backup if the necessary drugs for lethal injection are unavailable. On Sept. 17, Davidson County Chancellor Claudia Bonnyman accepted an amendment to the lawsuit including objections to the constitutionality of using the electric chair.

Several pharmaceutical companies recently refused to sell their products, proven successful for use in executions in the past, if they were to be used in future executions.

Because of those refusals, Tennessee switched from using sodium thiopental - a deadly combo of 3 drugs - to just using pentobarbital. Before the court postponed Irick’s execution, the Tennessee Department of Corrections (TDOC) said it had enough pentobarbital on hand to carry out the execution via lethal injection.

"We are confident that we will have the necessary chemicals when needed," said Neysa Taylor, a spokesperson for TDOC.

By ushering in the return of the electric chair, Haslam made Tennessee 1 of only 8 states that remain in favor of using the device.

"Prior to the new law, an inmate was only subject to the electric chair in Tennessee if they chose to be," said Kelley Henry, federal public defender in Nashville.

Lethal injection is the primary method of execution in the 32 states that still have capital punishment, but some states allow inmates the option of electrocution, hanging, firing squad or the gas chamber.

Henry said that with the change Tennessee now "stands alone as the only jurisdiction in the world to involuntarily impose the electric chair on its condemned citizens."

The lawsuit also comes as botched lethal injections across the country have at times left inmates conscious, even sometimes gasping for air for several minutes after the procedure has been performed.

Daryl Holton, who was electrocuted in Tennessee in 2007 for murdering his 3 sons and a stepdaughter in 1997, showed signs of being conscious after the 1st surge of electricity went through his body.

When Tennessee passed the law earlier this year to bring back the chair, Richard Dieter, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, said courts should anticipate some challenges as inmates got closer to their execution dates.

"There certainly have been some gruesome electrocutions in the past, and that would weigh on courts' minds," Dieter said.

The next hearing in the Davidson County Chancery Court remains to be decided, but officials said it would likely be mid-October before the next round of motions are heard.



Man accused of kidnapping, killing man could face death penalty----Elizabethtown murder suspect faces death penalty

A man accused of kidnapping and killing a man in Munfordville could face the death penalty if convicted.

Hardin County prosecutors plan to seek the death penalty for Octavio Correa.

Correa is now charged with capital murder.

Police said Correa and Tiffany Hodges kidnapped Saul Flores in July.

Hodges is charged with complicity to murder.

Investigators say Hodges told them she saw Correa shoot Flores in the head.

Correa and Hodges are being held at the Hardin County Detention Center in lieu of a $1 million cash bond.

Prosecutors did not say whether they would seek the death penalty against Hodges.

(source: WHAS news)


Former DA Foulston: Brownback's Carr brothers ad 'beyond disgraceful'

The former district attorney who prosecuted the Carr brothers murder case said Wednesday she thinks it's "reprehensible" for Gov. Sam Brownback to use the case as fodder in a re-election campaign ad.

"This case has devastated our community for almost 14 years," former Sedgwick County District Attorney Nola Foulston said in a statement sent to Kansas news media. "It is beyond disgraceful that Sam Brownback would exploit this tragedy and make the victims' families relive that horrific crime every time they turn on their television just for the sake of getting re-elected."

Foulston, who retired last year as district attorney, is the most recent Democrat to hold a countywide elected office in Sedgwick County.

In a statement issued by his campaign staff, Brownback, a Republican, said he appreciated Foulston's service in prosecuting the Carr brothers, but he reiterated that he thinks his opponent, House Minority Leader Paul Davis, would appoint judges who are more liberal than those Brownback would select.

At issue is a Brownback campaign ad that attempts to link Davis to a controversial decision by the Kansas Supreme Court to vacate the death sentences of Jonathan and Reginald Carr. The brothers were convicted of murdering 5 people, including a brutal execution-style quadruple murder, during a weeklong crime spree of killing, rape and robbery in Wichita in December 2000.

"Brownback panders to the emotions of citizens to suggest that in some way Paul Davis caused or created the Kansas Supreme Court's ruling in the Carr cases," Foulston said. "I am very disappointed that the governor, who is also an attorney bound by the Rules of Professional Responsibility, has forgotten his legal obligations in a political last ditch effort to recklessly undercut the qualifications and integrity of the Kansas Supreme Court and Paul Davis."

Davis, a lawyer, had no role in the original case or the appeal.

In setting aside the Carrs' death sentences, the Supreme Court ruled that the trial judge, the late Sedgwick County District Court Judge Paul Clark, erred by refusing to hold separate sentencing proceedings for the 2 brothers. Their lawyers had argued that trying the brothers in the same penalty phase forced them to damage each others' defenses.

The Supreme Court also found that jurors had not been properly instructed in the required standards of proof for a death sentence and that the Carrs' rights were violated by admission of hearsay evidence during the penalty phase.

The state Supreme Court upheld their convictions on 1 count of capital murder and they remain in prison.

Foulston, who is now in private practice, said she was disappointed in the state Supreme Court decision and noted it has already been appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. "There will ultimately be justice for the victims and their families," she said.

Brownback said during and after a debate Tuesday that he thinks it's justified to link Davis to the Supreme Court decision because Davis would appoint judges who are more liberal than those Brownback would pick.

Davis also opposes Brownback-proposed legislation to expand the governor's power in appointing Supreme Court justices.

"The Kansas Supreme Court is a very liberal court," Brownback said Tuesday. "Paul Davis wants to continue to appoint liberal judges to that court. I want to appoint judges who will interpret the law, not rewrite it as they choose to see it."

Foulston said: "If Sam Brownback wants to have a debate about judicial selection or the death penalty, that is an appropriate discussion to have. But to try to exploit this (Carr) case and reopen the wounds and pain experienced by the families and this community for political gain is reprehensible."



Nun discusses death-row visits----Author talks to students about capital punishment

Sister Helen Prejean, one of the nation's most ardent advocates against the death penalty, held the rapt attention of Animas High School students Wednesday with an interactive presentation.

Prejean, in town to discuss her book, Dead Man Walking, the Common Reading Experience for incoming freshmen at Fort Lewis College, squeezed in an hour with AHS students in a seemingly perpetual-motion schedule.

Prejean, 75, walked students through what can go wrong with all the delivery systems used in capital punishment in the United States - hanging, firing squad, electric chair and lethal injection.

Students in Matt Dooley's humanities class who are spending the week addressing issues on capital punishment were able to answer some of the questions Prejean posed.

Prejean, who has accompanied 6 inmates to their execution, then related her experience with Elmo Patrick Sonnier, the title character in Dead Man Walking.

She established a pen pal relationship with Sonnier, who with brother, Eddie, executed David LeBlanc, 16, and Loretta Bourque, 18, with 3 shots each in the back of the head. She ended up as his spiritual advisor.

Brother Eddie, who drew 2 life sentences, died in prison in January 2014.

Prjean recounted the apprehension that gripped her as she heard gates clang behind her on her 1st visit to Sonnier on death row.

But through the wire mesh screen in the holding pen where Sonnier sat, "his face was human," Prejean said.

After writing the draft of Dead Man Walking, Prejean met the parents and family members of the young victims.

Prejean used numbers to make some points.

California has 744 people on death row.

On average, Texas has double the number of murders compared with states that don't have the death penalty.

Prejean urged her listeners to sort out their feelings on capital punishment.

"I ask you," Prejean said, "how are we going to respond to society's need to make ourselves feel safe?"

(source: Durango Herald)


Jury to weigh death penalty in 1983 Garden Grove killing

More than 30 years after raping a woman and stabbing her to death in a desolate alley behind a Garden Grove bar, a convicted killer once again faces the possibility of returning to death row.

Jurors will decide whether Richard Raymond Ramirez should spend the rest of his life in prison or be sentenced to death for the rape and murder of 22-year-old Kimberly Gonzalez in November 1983.

Ramirez met Gonzalez at Mr. Barry's Bar on Westminster Avenue, played pool and danced with her, kissed her and then walked with her to an alley behind the business, where he attacked her and stabbed her more than 20 times.

"As she fought for her life, that man raped her, stabbed her and killed her," Deputy District Attorney Larry Yellin told a jury Wednesday in the Santa Ana courthouse. "For that he deserves the ultimate penalty."

Prints on a beer bottle found near her body led police to Ramirez, and DNA evidence processed years later tied him to the rape.

Ramirez's attorney acknowledged that his client killed Gonzalez, warning the jury that facts that will arise during the ongoing trial will only worsen their view of Ramirez. The attorney asked the jurors to try to understand the trauma that shaped Ramirez's life in deciding whether to sentence him to death, however.

"He has spent the last 31 years in prison, every single hour, every single day. We are not asking that he be anywhere else," Deputy Public Defender Mick Hill told the jury. "He deserves to spend the rest of his life in prison. He just doesn't deserve the death penalty."

Ramirez grew up in a home dominated by his alcoholic and abusive father, a man left permanently damaged by his time in the Korean War, Hill said. His mother, who endured constant beatings and at times rapes during her relationship with Ramirez's father, ultimately escaped the relationship, only to leave her children to fend on their own as she tried to enjoy her newfound freedom, the attorney added.

Hill acknowledged that Ramirez had been tried as a juvenile for the rape of another woman. The rape and killing of Gonzalez occurred shortly after Ramirez was released from the California Youth Authority.

A jury in 1985 convicted Ramirez of rape, sodomy and murder, and he was sent to San Quentin. The conviction was overturned in 2008, however, when a federal judge determined that the jury foreman had lied about his job status, not telling the court that he was a candidate for a job with the FBI, a position he later attained.

Prosecutors decided to re-try the case. Ramirez was convicted for a 2nd time in 2013. But a jury that same year deadlocked on whether he should receive the death penalty, leading the judge to declare a mistrial.

(source: Orange County Register)


4th penalty phase underway in 1983 killing

A prosecutor on Wednesday portrayed a convicted rapist and killer as a knife-wielding misogynist who deserves the death penalty.

A defense lawyer countered during opening statements at the sentencing retrial of Richard Raymond Ramirez that his life should be spared due to a dysfunctional childhood with an alcoholic father.

Ramirez was first convicted of the rape and murder of Gonzalez in March 1985. The current proceedings mark the fourth time a jury will try to decide his punishment in the attack on 22-year-old Kim Gonzalez in an alley behind a Garden Grove bar in 1983.

City News Service said Senior Deputy District Attorney Larry Yellin told jurors in a Santa Ana courtroom that the 55-year-old Ramirez loathed women, having raped another victim in 1977.

In November 1983, Ramirez danced, played pool and kissed Gonzalez at the bar before leaving with her. Hours later, her body and a beer bottle with Ramirez's fingerprints were found outside.

"She's nearly naked, bloody and dead," Yellin told the jury.

The 1st jury could not reach agreement on a verdict; a 2nd jury recommended he receive a death sentence.

The case took an unusual turn 6 years ago when a federal judge overturned Ramirez's initial conviction after finding a juror had failed to disclose that he was applying to become an FBI agent.

Last year, Ramirez was convicted again of the crimes, and this time, DNA linked him to Gonzalez. But again, jurors could not agree on what penalty he should face.

Defense attorney Mick Hill said there was no excuse for the crimes his client committed but asked jurors to consider Ramirez's childhood with an alcoholic father who subjected him and his brother to "human cockfighting" with other neighborhood children.

"He's spent the past 31 years in a jail cell," Hill said of his client. "We're not telling you he deserves to be anywhere else."

(source: Associated Press)


Testimony: Mom planned murder of children with Cobb ties

Disturbing new details emerged last week in a California court in the year-old case of a mother charged with killing her son and daughter just days after her ex-husband was granted full custody of the children in Cobb County.

Marilyn Kay Edge was arrested in September 2013, and charged with 2 counts of murder after 13-year-old Jaelen and his 10-year-old sister, Faith, were found dead in a motel room in Santa Ana, Calif.

Police allege that Edge poisoned, then suffocated and drowned the children, who were both found in the bathtub of the motel room.

The Orange County Register reported this week that according to Orange County Grand Jury testimony made public last week, Edge methodically planned the murders as she drove her children from Cobb County to Arizona - where she had moved a year earlier after her ex-husband was granted visitation rights - and on to the California coast.

"She wanted the children to have a nice day, a nice time," Santa Ana police Det. Eddie Nunez told the grand jury. "They liked the beach, so she took them to Huntington Beach. And then she was going to take them to dinner and then she was going to kill the children."

According to the Register, a Cobb judge ordered Edge to turn the children over to their father 3 days before they were killed.

Instead, she "left the courthouse in a car that she borrowed from her parents and drove toward Arizona," Orange County Deputy District Attorney Larry Yellin told the grand jury. "She decided that rather than do what the court had ordered, she was going to kill her children and herself."

Yellin told the grand jury that on the way back to Arizona, Edge bought packets of over-the-counter sleeping pills at different stores, and shopped for more medicine in Arizona before traveling on to California.

But Edge had a hard time getting the children to take the sleeping pills when the 3 got back to the Santa Ana Hampton Inn & Suites after a day at the beach and dinner.

"She had crushed them up and put them in liquid," Yellin told the grand jury, according to the Register. "It was juice or soda or something like that, but it had made the taste unappealing and so the children were resistant to drinking it.

"But ultimately, she was able to get enough of it in them to where they lost control of their abilities to fight what was coming."

Yellin said Edge then decided to drown the children, and put them in a tub full of water.

Nunez, the Santa Ana police detective, told the grand jury that Edge told him Jaelen stayed in the tub, but Faith got out and laid down on the couch, according to the Register.

Nunez said Edge grabbed a pillow, "put it over Jaelen's face and held him under the water until he stopped kicking and he was dead."

Edge then gave Faith more of the medicine, according to Nunez.

"She tried to get her back in the bathtub, and what she did is she lied to her and told her there was a fire in the building and that they needed to go and get in the bathtub and get under the water for safety reasons," Nunez testified. "But that didn't work. She ends up getting the pillow that was in the bathtub and puts the pillow over Faith. When she was on the couch, she smothered her."

As previously reported by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Edge then attempted to commit suicide, crashing her car into an electrical box outside a shopping center, and trying to choke herself with a belt or rope as rescuers worked to free her from the car.

Edge is being held in the Orange County Jail without bond. The charges carry a maximum penalty of death, but prosecutors have not said if they will seek the death penalty.

(source: Atlanta Jounral-Constitution)


Americans' Support for Death Penalty Stable

6 in 10 Americans favor the death penalty for convicted murderers, generally consistent with attitudes since 2008. Since 1937, support has been as low as 42% in 1966 and as high as 80% in 1994.

Americans' support for the death penalty has varied over time, but apart from a single reading in 1966, the public has consistently favored it. Support ebbed from the 1960s to the mid-1970s, when the application of the death penalty was questioned and ultimately led to the Supreme Court's invalidating state death penalty laws. Subsequent to that, newly written laws passed constitutional muster and states began to use the death penalty again in the late 1970s, with support among Americans increasing to 70% or more in the mid-1980s to the late 1990s.

The broader trend over the last 2 decades has been diminished support for the death penalty, including a 60% reading last year, the lowest since 1972.

Over the last 2 decades, Democrats' support for the death penalty has dropped significantly, from 75% to 49%. Now, Democrats are divided on whether it should be administered to convicted murderers. Republicans' and independents' support is also lower now - down 9 and 18 % points, respectively - though both groups still solidly favor the death penalty.

Americans Tilt in Favor of Death Penalty Over Life Imprisonment

Gallup's long-standing question asks about basic support for the death penalty, but does not explicitly mention an alternative punishment for murderers. Gallup separately asks Americans to choose between the death penalty and "life imprisonment with absolutely no possibility of parole" as the better punishment for murder. Support for the death penalty has been significantly lower using this approach, but Americans still tilt in favor of it by 50% to 45%. These attitudes are similar to recent years, but show reduced support for the death penalty from the 1980s and 1990s.

Democrats' opinions have also shifted markedly on the death penalty vs. life imprisonment question. 2 decades ago, Democrats preferred the death penalty by a wide margin, but they now prefer life imprisonment by nearly the same margin. Independents' and Republicans' views have changed less, although both show increases in support for life imprisonment.


The death penalty has always been controversial, and this year, the issue made headlines again amid a botched execution attempt in Oklahoma.

Americans' support for the death penalty has stabilized at a lower level than was the case prior to 2008, and is well below the highs from the mid-1980s to mid-1990s. And in recent years the public has shown only a slight preference for the death penalty over life imprisonment as the better penalty for murder. These trends toward diminished support seem to be reflected in state death penalty laws, as 6 U.S. states have abolished the death penalty since 2007, and no new states have adopted it.

Democrats are mostly responsible for this shift in attitudes, and thus it is not surprising that most of the states that have abolished the death penalty in recent years are Democratic leaning. The death penalty is another example of how Democrats' and Republicans' opinions on political matters have become increasingly divergent compared with recent decades, including their views of the job the president is doing and on issues such as global warming and labor unions.

Survey Methods

Results for this Gallup poll are based on 1,017 telephone interviews conducted Oct. 12-15, 2014 (for the favor/not in favor question), and 1,252 telephone interviews conducted Sept. 25-30, 2014 (for the death penalty vs. life imprisonment question). Each is based on a random sample of adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.

For results based on the total sample of national adults, the margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points at the 95% confidence level.

Each sample of national adults includes a minimum quota of 50% cellphone respondents and 50% landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas by time zone within region. Landline and cellular telephone numbers are selected using random-digit-dial methods.



Death penalty urged for Blackwater guards

4 former Blackwater guards found guilty for their role in the 2007 massacre of at least 14 civilians in Baghdad's busy Nisur Square should be executed, relatives of victims say.

Their convictions followed a 2-month trial that heard how they opened fire with sniper rifles, machine guns and grenade launchers in Baghdad's bustling Nisur Square as they escorted a diplomatic convoy.

The shooting exacerbated Iraqi resentment toward Americans and exemplified the impunity enjoyed by private security firms on the US payroll in Iraq.

"They should be executed in the same place in Nisur Square where they committed the crime," Hussein Ali Abbas, the brother of one of the victims said on Thursday.

His brother Saadi was on the way to visit a friend when the shooting occurred, and tried to flee but was gunned down anyway, Abbas said.

"The conviction is not enough," he said. "Justice was not achieved."

Khaled Walid, whose father was among those killed, agreed: "Everyone said they should be sentenced to death."

"I demand the harshest sentence," said Saddam Jawad, whose mother was killed. "If there is the death penalty in America, we demand the death penalty."

But the death penalty is not on the table for any of them.

1 guard, Nicholas Slatten, was convicted of 1st-degree murder, which carries a potential life sentence. The others were found guilty of voluntary manslaughter and will be jailed for at least 15 years for each killing.

Before the incident, Slatten allegedly told acquaintances he wanted to "kill as many Iraqis as he could as payback for 9/11," court documents showed.

Iraqi officials say 17 civilians were killed, while US investigators recorded 14 deaths. A further 18 Iraqis were wounded.

In the aftermath of the killings, Blackwater was forced to cease operating in the country.

But a US diplomatic cable released by whistleblower website WikiLeaks said hundreds of former Blackwater guards kept working in Iraq for other companies.

(source: Agence France-Presse)


Statement of Richard Dieter, Executive Director of the Death Penalty Information Center, on Today's Gallup Poll

"Within the margin of error, the Gallup Poll continues to register historic lows in support for the death penalty. Support has dropped over 15 % points since its high of 80% in 1994. This overall decline in public support is also reflected in the decrease in executions, death sentences, and the number of states carrying out the death penalty. The recent exonerations from death row and the botched executions earlier this year have likely contributed to the public's growing dissatisfaction with a flawed system. Other recent polls have indicated that when given a choice between a sentence of life without parole and the death penalty, the life sentence is the public's first choice.

(source: Death Penalty Information Ceneter)


Better reason to oppose death penalty

I found the Oct. 21 Commentary piece by Meg Penrose ("Implementing the death penalty has become too costly") very disturbing because she suggested that execution should be decided on economic grounds.

I believe the death penalty must be eliminated entirely. No, I do not feel compassion for some of the most despicable humans who commit the most heinous crimes. Such people should be incarcerated for their rest of their lives.

The real problem with the death penalty is that a jury might be wrong. If a jury became infallible, I'd have no problem with the death penalty.

Harvey Waxman

North Kingstown

(source: Letter to the Editor, Providence Journal)


Pope Francis calls for abolition of death penalty

Today, the Holy Father received delegates from the International Association of Penal Law (AIDP), addressing them with a speech focusing on the issues in their subject area that have recourse to the Church in her mission of evangelization and the promotion of the human person.

The Pope began by recalling the need for legal and political methods that are not characterized by the mythological "scapegoat" logic, that is, of an individual unjustly accused of the misfortunes that befall a community and then chosen to be sacrificed. It is also necessary to refute the belief that legal sanctions carry benefit, which requires the implementation of inclusive economic and social policies.

He reiterated the primacy of the life and dignity of the human person, reaffirming the absolute condemnation of the death penalty, the use of which is rejected by Christians. In this context he also talked about the so-called extrajudicial executions, that is, the deliberated killing of individuals by some states or their agents that are presented as the unintended consequence of the reasonable, necessary, and proportionate use of force to implement the law. He emphasized that the death penalty is used in totalitarian regimes as "an instrument of suppression of political dissent or of persecution of religious or cultural minorities".

He then spoke of the conditions of prisoners, including prisoners who have not been convicted and those convicted without a trial, stating that pretrial detention, when used improperly, is another modern form of unlawful punishment that is hidden behind legality. He also referred to the deplorable prison condition in much of the world, sometimes due to lack of infrastructure while other instances are the result of "the arbitrary exercise of ruthless power over detainees". Pope Francis also spoke about torture and other inhuman and degrading treatment, stating that, in the world today, torture is used not only as a means to achieve a particular purpose, such as a confession or an accusation - practices that are characteristic of a doctrine of national security - but also adds to the evil of detention. Criminal code itself bears responsibility for having allowed, in certain cases, the legitimacy of torture under certain conditions, opening the way for further abuse.

The Pope did not forget the application of criminal sanctions against children and the elderly, condemning its use in both cases. He also recalled some forms of crime that seriously damage the dignity of the human person as well as the common good, including human trafficking, slavery - recognized as a crime against humanity as well as a war crime in both international law and under many nations' laws - the abject poverty in which more than a billion people live, and corruption. "The scandalous accumulation of global wealth is possible because of the connivance of those with strong powers who are responsible for public affairs. Corruption is a process of death ... more evil than sin. An evil that, instead of being forgiven, must be cured."

"Caution in the application of penal codes," he concluded, "must be the overarching principle of legal systems ... and respect for human dignity must not only act to limit the arbitrariness and excesses of government agents but as the guiding criterion for prosecuting and punishing behaviors that represent the most serious attacks on the dignity and integrity of the human person."



Kabwe man sentenced to death for killing wife

A 40-year-old man of Kabwe has been sentenced to death by hanging by the Kabwe High Court after it convicted him of killing his wife.

This was in a matter in which Vincent Macheleta was charged with the murder of Lidia Nkoshi.

Kabwe High Court judge Elita Mwikisa convicted and imposed the death penalty on Macheleta on Tuesday, this week.

"Having found you guilty of this charge, I sentence you to death by hanging," Ms Justice Mwikisa said.

The convict, on unknown dates but between February 17 and 18, last year, in Kabwe, is alleged to have murdered his wife, Nkonshi.

In delivering judgment, Ms Justice Mwikisa told Macheleta that the court had found him guilty as charged.

During trial, the court heard that Macheleta and Nkonshi had gone drinking at a local pub in Katondo township on the material day.

Ireen Mwape, 29, sister of the deceased, testified that she found the couple enjoying themselves at the named pub.

Mwape told the court that Macheleta indicated to her that his wife was behaving strangely and that he would kill her (jokingly).

Mwape said she was surprised to be informed the following day that her sister was dead.

She told the court that the body of the deceased was found 5 metres from her matrimonial home.

And arresting office Evans Mushanga, 25, from Chowa police station testified that he received a report from William Mubanga, 33.

(source: The Daily Mail)


Saudi convicts 27 for plotting attack on US forces

A court in Saudi Arabia sentenced 27 people to prison for planning a series of attacks against U.S. forces in Qatar and Kuwait, with more than half of the defendants charged on Wednesday with also trying to join forces with a group in Syria to smuggle fighters to Iraq, official media reports said.

The same court also sentenced on Tuesday 2 Saudi citizens to death and a 3rd to 12 years in prison for taking part in violent protests in the eastern town of al-Awamiya, a Shiite stronghold where protests erupted in 2011 demanding greater rights from the Sunni-led monarchy.

The verdicts were announced by the official Saudi Press Agency. The state media reports did not say when the al-Qaida-linked attacks were planned, and did not name the Syrian group with which 14 of the defendants allegedly tried to form an alliance.

The al-Qaida-linked members on trial included 25 Saudis, a Qatari and an Afghan national. They were given varying sentences of between 6 months to 30 years in prison. The state news agency said the group planned to attack U.S. troops in Qatar with grenades, rockets and mortar fire.

The U.S. conducts missions over Iraq from al-Udeid air base in Qatar. It also has bases in Kuwait.

The cell is comprised of 41 members, 38 of which are Saudi nationals. The remaining 3 are from Qatar, Afghanistan and Yemen.

Verdicts for 13 people were handed down late Tuesday and another 14 were sentenced on Wednesday.

The Specialized Criminal Court in Riyadh, created to try terrorism cases, found members of the group guilty of planning to send someone to Iraq for training on how to make car bombs to target foreign troops in Qatar and Kuwait. They were also found guilty of planning to carry out directives from al-Qaida's branch in Iraq.

One of the group's alleged leaders, a Qatari national, received a 30-year prison sentence. Another alleged cell leader, a Saudi national, was sentenced to 25 years in prison, the SPA reported. The Afghani was sentenced to 3 years in prison and ordered deported upon his release on charges he helped raise money for fighters in his home country.

In the case of the 3 Shiite Saudi nationals, the Specialized Criminal Court said the men were guilty of chanting hostile slogans to destabilize the country, using violence during protests and helping provide cover for someone opening firing at police.

Protests briefly broke out in al-Awamiya in the Eastern Province last week after revered Saudi Shiite cleric Sheik Nimr al-Nimr was sentenced to death for a number of charges that largely related to his support for anti-government protests.

Human rights activists in Saudi Arabia have long complained that the courts often give protesters harsher sentences than those handed down to extremist fighters.



Ghulam Azam's appeals case deferred

The Supreme Court yesterday fixed December 2 to begin hearing of 2 appeals filed by convicted war criminal Ghulam Azam, and the government challenging the tribunal verdict upon a defence plea.

Arguing on behalf of the Jamaat guru, Khandaker Mahbub Hossain said there was no hurry to begin the case since the convict had been ill and the court had many important pending cases to deal with.

"If the court starts hearing in this case, it will take a long time. There is no need to start the hearing so quickly," said Mahbub, also an adviser to the BNP chairperson.

"Ghulam Azam is 92 years old and got 90 years' imprisonment. He is now dying at the CCU of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University (BSMMU)," he added.

On the other hand, Attorney General Mahbubey Alam said: "If the hearing is deferred, the other appeals cases will also be delayed."

Suffering from diabetes and lung complications, the former Jamaat chief has been treated at BSMMU's cardiac ICU since October 9.

The same bench has so far disposed off appeals cases of Kamaruzzaman, Delawar Hossain Sayedee and Abdul Quader Molla. Of these, the case against death row convict Kamaruzzaman, a senior Jamaat leader, is awaiting verdict.

Ghulam Azam was sentenced to 90 years' jail term on July 15 last year by the International Crimes Tribunal 1 on charges of committing crimes against humanity during the 1971 Liberation War.

On August 5, the Jamaat supremo filed an appeal against the verdict seeking acquittal while the government challenged the verdict on August 12 pleading for death penalty and a ban on the anti-liberation political party, Jamaat-e-Islami.

After the hearing, the attorney general told reporters: "Though Ghulam Azam's counsel filed the appeal first, the government will begin their hearing first.

"During the hearing, we will place arguments to award him capital punishment."

(source: Dhaka Tribune)


Egypt court gives death penalty to 7 jihadis

An Egyptian military court has sentenced to death 7 members of the Islamist militant group Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis and 2 to life in prison on charges of planning and executing attacks on the military, media reported.

The attacks, known as the Arab Sharkas case, led to the death of 2 military officers.

The condemned were charged with planning terrorist operations, shooting at security forces and attacking military facilities. The ruling has been approved by Egypt's grand mufti, a necessary procedure in Egyptian law.

This is the 1st trial against the Sinai-based jihadi group, which claims to support the Islamic State (IS), the Sunni radical group operating in Syria and Iraq, Xinhua reported citing state-run media Ahram Online.

Terrorist attacks have been on the rise since the ousting of former Islamist president Mohamed Morsi by the army last July, and the massive security crackdown on his supporters left about 1,000 dead while thousands were arrested.

The attacks targeted security men and their premises in the restive Sinai Peninsula and then extended to hit the capital and provinces across the country.

A recent official report said the toll from such attacks has reached nearly 500, most of whom were soldiers and policemen. The Al Qaeda-inspired Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis group has claimed responsibility for most of the attacks.

(source: IANS)


Death sentence commuted

A Lahore High Court division bench on Wednesday converted the death penalty handed down to 2 convicts in Maulana Azam Tariq murder-attempt case into life imprisonment.

Ghulam Raza Naqvi and Zaheer Ahmad filed an appeal against their conviction, saying the trial court handed down the death penalty ignoring many grave facts of the case. They said the trial court relied on the witnesses of the prosecution only and there was no independent witness against them. The appellants asked the court to set aside their conviction and order their acquittal.

An anti-terrorism court of Sargodha had awarded death sentence to the convicts on 2 counts - under Section 302 of the PPC and Section 7 of the ATA.

The bench set aside the death penalty handed down to the convicts under ATA and converted the other one given under PPC into life term.

The prosecution accused the convicts of carrying out an attack on the convoy of Maulana Azam Tariq in 1994. 2 guards of the Maulana were killed in the attack.

(source: Dawn)


Asia Bibi's Husband Expresses Distress Over Death Sentence

Asia Bibi has been on death row for several years, and after the Lahore High Court (LHC) rejected her last appeal, Bibi's husband has become distraught over the sentence.

"This appeal was [a] ray of hope but the rejection of the appeal has shattered my confidence in the Pakistani legal system," Bibi's husband Ashiq Masih said to the British Pakistani Christian Association according to Christian Today.

Shamim Masih of the British Pakistani Christian Association said that Ashiq was "weeping bitterly" over the result of his wife's death sentence.

"I have not told my children about the court decision. How can I? I am too scared of their reaction - they are already very depressed. We all were expecting her to come home and now this happens," Ashiq said.

Bibi, a Christian mother of five, was sentenced in 2010 under Pakistan's blasphemy laws. Her lawyers have 30 days to file an appeal to Pakistan's Supreme Court in Islamabad. This is a long process that could take additional years of waiting, which could pose a problem as Bibi's health conditions worsen.

"How can I tell my children their mother is not free? This will kill them," Ashiq said.

In Muslim-majority Pakistan, blasphemy laws are upheld in the strictest form, and these charges can lead to the death penalty. Many reports have claimed these laws are sometimes used to settle personal scores. Belder believes that the Lahore High Court rejected Bibi's appeal under pressure by Islamists in the region.

Bibi's case drew international attention when 2 politicians who defended her - Punjab governor Salman Taseer and minorities minister Shahbaz Bhatt - were assassinated in 2011 after they spoke out for reforms on the blasphemy laws in the country.

Other Christian leaders in Iran have spoken out against the ruling. Bishop Rufin Anthony called for a "Day of Prayer" for Bibi as the court's decision was "heart breaking," according to BosNewsLife. In addition, Bishop Thomas Dabre of neighboring India called Bibi's death sentence "an affront to the dignity of us all."

Samira Shackle wrote in the Guardian that change will not come to the blasphemy laws because extremist groups have power in Pakistan due to the majority of the public sharing their ideologies.

"The targeting of anyone who speaks out about blasphemy laws has had a chilling effect, and even outspoken liberal voices are reluctant to make the case for reform publicly," she said.

"While this self-censorship is entirely understandable in a country where the authorities provide little protection, it gives extremist ideas the space to flourish and grow. Without people in the halls of power willing to stand up and call for change, there is little hope for Bibi."

2 European Parliament legislators, Peter van Dalen and Bas Belder, have said that they plan to make an official appeal to Parliament on this case, according to BosNewsLife. They also plan on requesting the European parliament's president, the European Union's foreign policy chief, the European Commission president, and the Pope to act now to free Bibi.

"I am saddened and condemn this cowardly decision by Pakistani judges," Van Dalen said. "It's terrible that they did not find courage to acquit this young wife and mother of five children. Asia Bibi is innocent. She is already spending 5 years on death row, and must be freed now."

Bibi was 1st arrested in 2009 she got into an argument with Muslim women regarding sharing the same drinking water. This resulted in the Muslim women filing blasphemy charges against her for insulting the prophet Mohammed. If the death sentence remains upheld, Bibi will be the 1st woman in history to be legally executed under Pakistan's blasphemy laws.

(source: Christian Daily)


David Cameron pledge over death penalty Leith man

The Prime Minister has pledged his support to resolve the "appalling" case of an elderly Edinburgh man who faces the death penalty for blasphemy in Pakistan - but has come under fire for getting details wrong.

Mohammed Asghar, who suffers from severe paranoid schizophrenia, was sentenced to death in January after penning a series of letters where he claimed to be the Prophet Mohammed.

The 70-year-old grandfather - a former grocer from Leith - is currently in hospital in Rawalpindi after he was shot by a policeman in Adiyala Jail last month.

His devastated family have called on the British Government to intervene as they believe Mr Asghar, who was sectioned briefly in Edinburgh in 2010, is not receiving the specialist care he needs behind bars.

Speaking during Prime Ministers Questions yesterday, David Cameron said he had raised the case personally at the highest levels in Pakistan.

In response to a question by Edinburgh East MP Sheila Gilmore, Mr Cameron said: "It's appalling the way this man has been treated and it is particularly appalling that he was actually shot while in prison, supposedly being protected by the Pakistani authorities.

"We have raised this case and I have raised this case personally with the leaders of Pakistan.

"We obviously are looking at the case for a prisoner transfer, but they had to be suspended in recent years because Pakistan released prisoners that we returned to them - so there is a problem there. But we take this case very, very seriously and we are raising it at every level in Pakistan."

But lawyer Aamer Anwer, who represents Mr Asghar's family, told reporters afterwards that such transfers had not been suspended and could be used to return Mr Asghar to Scotland.

He said: "The Asghar family are deeply alarmed that the PM has got it so completely and utterly wrong on the question of the prisoner transfer agreement."

Mr Anwer said he had been advised by Scottish Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill and First Minister Alex Salmond that a prisoner transfer agreement was an option for his client. He said: "Scotland of course has its own legal jurisdiction and the Scottish Prison Authority would deal with any prisoner transfer rather than England.

"The Foreign and Commonwealth Office confirmed this afternoon to the Scottish Government following a request from myself for clarification that the PTA is not suspended," Mr Anwer added.

Mr Asghar's daughter, Jasmine Rana, 40, presented a petition to the Prime Minister last week which was signed by 70,000 people including comedian Frankie Boyle and actor David Morrissey.

The family have also met with Mr Salmond who called for Mr Asghar to be transferred to a Scottish prison.

(source: Edinburgh News)


Britain urged to suspend aid to Pakistan as hangings loom----Campaigners call for British aid to Pakistan to be halted as Pakistan prepares to hang 1st prisoner in 6 years

Britain is under pressure to suspend aid to Pakistan as the country prepares to resume executions.

Shoaib Sarwar, a convicted murderer, is scheduled to be hanged on Monday, ending a 6-year moratorium on the death penalty and opening the door to the executions of thousands more on death row.

Britain will this year spend 446 million pounds in Pakistan, making it the largest recipient of overseas aid in the world.

It includes millions of pounds to support anti-drug trafficking operations by the Anti-Narcotics Force (ANF), under a United Nations scheme to halt the flow of drugs from Afghanistan.

British aid has provided extensive training, as well as bullet-proof vests, night vision goggles, vehicles, body scanners and paid for the maintenance of helicopters.

Drug possession is a capital offence, and 111 drug offenders are on Pakistan's death row, including British nationals who were convicted in trials which critics argue fell short of international standards.

Reprieve, the charity that campaigns against the death penalty, said Britain risks being "complicit in a gross human rights abuse" if drug mules caught by a force trained and equipped by Britain are executed.

The ANF prides itself on securing a conviction rate of more than 92 %. Its annual report notes the organisation's "thirst" for guilty sentences, adding: "Fear of having 92 % chances of being convicted would surely forbid a sane man from falling prey into the hands of drug traffickers". There are widespread allegations of police corruption and fabricated evidence in trials.

British aid in Pakistan is frequently judged on its success in increasing the number of arrests and successful prosecutions.

Britain and Denmark suspended funding for a similar UN anti-drugs programme in Iran because the Tehran regime was using the death penalty for drug offences.

Sarwar, 1 of 8,000 people on death row, was due to be hanged on September 18. The execution was postponed twice until Monday.

Maya Foa, the director of Reprieve's death penalty team, said continued British aid for the program must be made conditional on Pakistan abolishing the death penalty for drug offences.

"The people whose death sentences British aid has supported are hardly the barons or kingpins of the international drug trade; rather, they are innocent scapegoats or vulnerable mules, often targeted by notoriously corrupt police forces eager to meet quotas," she said.

"British aid for executions breaches the Government's own human rights rules and makes a mockery of its commitment to fight capital punishment abroad."

A spokesman for the Department for International Development said: "Our aid relationship with any government is based on an assessment of commitment to our partnership principles, including to human rights."

A Foreign Office spokesman added: "We are concerned by any suggestion that executions might resume in Pakistan. The UK opposes the death penalty in all circumstances and continues to urge the Government of Pakistan to abolish the death penalty, and as a minimum to maintain its de facto moratorium on executions."

The Coalition has committed to spending 0.7 % of GDP on overseas aid. MPs on the International Development Select Committee have called for aid to Pakistan to be cut, arguing that it is a middle income country whose leaders failed to collect and pay taxes.

(source: The Telegraph)


Australian's wife could face death penalty----Accused of arranging the murder of her Australian husband, Indonesian woman Noor Ellis could face the death penalty in Bali.

A woman accused of arranging the murder of her Australian businessman husband in Bali could face charges carrying the death penalty.

The development in the case comes as the couple's Perth-based sons arrive in Bali to mourn their father, Robert Ellis, 60.

Mr Ellis was found dead in a watery ditch alongside a lonely rice field on Tuesday.

He was set upon in his own Bali kitchen by 5 killers who slashed his throat "like killing a pig", police say.

His wife of around 20 years, Indonesian Julaikah Noor Aini, known as Noor Ellis, is accused of ordering the crime while furious over money and infidelity.

Police will allege she paid Arli, the boyfriend of her maid known as "F", $14,000 to kill Mr Ellis, most of it to be paid after the crime.

Police spokesman Hery Wiyanto says the wife, Arli, "F" and a 2nd maid known as "Y" will be charged.

F is accused of "lifting and dumping" Mr Ellis' body, while Y apparently cleaned up the bloody kitchen.

Mr Hery said 2 charges were being weighed - murder, carrying up to 15 years jail, and premeditated murder - which carries a maximum penalty of death.

4 others were still wanted for assisting Arli, he said.

"Some have fled out of Bali and some are still hiding in Bali," he said.

"We urge them to surrender. Wherever they are, we will hunt them down."

The couple's sons Jon and Peter Ellis, both Perth-based students, arrived in Bali on Thursday.

They released a statement on Wednesday saying their father was a huge influence in their lives.

They were "completely devastated" by his death, they said.

Police say the roles each of the accused played in the crime are still being established, with another re-enactment to be staged for investigators on Friday.

(source: AAP)


Prisoner hanged after 6 years on death row

The authorities in a prison in a northern city of Iran hanged a young man after he had been on death row for 6 years.

The 35-year-old prisoner was executed on Wednesday (October 22, 2014) in a prison in Amol - a city in the northern Mazandaran province.

The head of the regime's judiciary identified the prisoner by his initials - H.S., reported state-run Fars news agency.

Meanwhile, on the same day 10 other inmates have been transferred to isolation to await their execution in 3 prisons across the country.

3 prisoners were transferred to solitary confinement in a prison in the southern city of Kerman.

In Adel-Abad prison in the southern city of Shiraz 6 inmates who have been sentenced to death were transferred to isolation to be executed in coming days.

3 of the inmates had been arrested on drug related charges.

A truck driver who had been sentenced to death for drugs being found on his truck without his knowledge has been transferred to await his execution in city of Zahadan, southeastern Iran.

In Iran, under the rule of mullahs and under Hassan Rouhani, the death penalty is being widely used.

Since August 2013 when Hassan Rouhani took office as a 'moderate' president, over 1000 - mostly officially announced - executions have been carried out in Iran.

At least 27 women and more than a dozen prisoners who were juveniles at the time of their arrest, together with 20 political prisoners, are amongst those hanged, many publicly.

(source: NCR-Iran)


300 People in Kurdistan Region Waiting Execution

The number of people in Kurdistan Region who are waiting to be executed increases with each passing day, even though the capital punishment has not been implemented in the region for almost 15 years.

However, some experts believe that death penalty is necessary to be implemented in Kurdistan Region, due to the current situation since Kurdistan is in fight with the Islamic State (IS) militants.

According to information obtained by BasNews that currently in all Kurdistan region prisons, about 300 people are waiting to be executed, even though the sentence has not implemented in Kurdistan region in the last decade.

A source from one of the Kurdistan Region prisons who spoke on condition of anonymity said that the cost of each of these prisoners who's their fate have been decided by the court is waiting execution almost US $8 per day, on the Kurdistan government.

The head of Law Committee in Kurdistan Parliament, Valla Farid told BasNews that the implementation of death penalty has been stopped in the Kurdistan Region. There is no draft law in the parliament to review the case of those people that have been decided by court to be executed.

She believes that there should be more clarity on capital punishment law and there must be a decision made on weather the death penalty to be implemented or stopped permanently.

Member of the Law Committee in Kurdistan Parliament Goran Azad told BasNews and stated, "The final decision must be made on death penalty, either to carry out the punishment or cancel it because it has caused many problems that these people who are sentenced to death and they are counted as died people while they are still alive."

"A number of Kurdistan judges came to Parliament and talked about this issue. They stated that there are some criminals that should be executed because of the extent of their crimes," added Azad.

He also mentioned that there is some crimes in Kurdistan Region that is way worse than the crimes of Islamic State (IS) militants.

"Therefore, we can't say that this law is only for terror crimes not other ones. Kurdistan Parliament and other governmental establishments must seriously discuss this issue law, and they have to make a decision and decide that is should be implemented or removed completely," explained Azad.

Social Expert, Salih Rahman told BasNews that, "It is better to have a serious discussion about this law as well as holding a session in the parliament about it because the destiny of those people is between death and life, and I am sure that they will prefer death instead of that."

Rahman noted that perhaps this punishment has its importance now in time of war in order to protect the life of other people in general.

(source: Bas News)

OCTOBER 22, 2014:

TEXAS----impending execution




Cargill appeals capital murder conviction, seeks to dodge death penalty with new evidence

A convicted murderer from Whitehouse wants a 2nd chance. At least 1 medical expert now backs up the story Kimberly Cargill has been telling for the last 4 years.

Cargill famously admitted in 2012 to having burned the dead body of Cherry Walker. She has steadfastly maintained her innocence as far as actually killing Walker.

Cargill has always said she burned the body because she was scared due to Walker having been subpoenaed to testify against her in a child custody case. She told jurors during her trial that she was worried the perceived motive would cause people to assume she had murdered Walker if she had simply gone to a hospital.

An application for a Writ of Habeas Corpus filed by Cargill's attorneys seeks to vindicate Cargill's claims.

"What was remarkable about Kim's case was that there was no cause of death identified by the medical examiner," attorney Derek VerHagen with the Office of Capital Writs said. "Yet she was still tried and convicted of capital murder."

"I'm telling you the truth here today," Cargill told jurors in 2012. "She started to have a seizure."

The writ is similar to an appeal. In this case it's focused on new evidence from a Epilepsy specialist - a Dr. Samden Lhatoo -who believes Cargill's story lines up exactly with a rare phenomenon called Sudden Unexpected Death Epilepsypsy (SUDEP).

"Through vigorous cross-examination for over a couple of days, she stuck to her guns about what happened and we have a nationally renowned expert saying 'Yes, that is supportable,'" Brad Levenson with the Office of Capital Writs said.

Levenson and attorney Derek VerHagen want Dr. Lhatoo to testify in the same court where the trial happened, in front of the same judge. The crux of their argument is that Cargill's original defense attorneys knew about Dr. Lhatoo from the beginning and should have put him on the stand back then.

"They put their client, Ms. Cargill, on the stand and didn't support it with an expert who could have, in our opinion, convinced a jury, at least 1 juror, that Ms. Cargill was innocent," Levenson said.

"It feels good to her to actually be, you know, believed by someone," VerHagen said. "And to have someone validate what she's always maintained to be the truth."

Prosecutors argue that Smith County's 241st District Court isn't the appropriate place for such testimony at this point. They believe rulings from the state's top criminal court have already made it clear that new evidence belongs in an appeals court (as opposed to a trial court).

The District Attorney's office filed a response with the court asking Judge Jack Skeen Junior to limit his fact-finding to affidavits filed by the original trial attorneys. And that's what the judge ordered.

Smith County District Attorney Matt Bingham, who tried the case and continues to hold office, issued the following statement:

"Kim Cargill was convicted by a Smith County jury of Capital Murder and sentenced to death based on the overwhelming evidence, including DNA evidence, as well as her own admissions regarding her dumping and setting the body of the mentally retarded victim on fire in order to destroy evidence.

"Cargill has been afforded every right under the law to which she is entitled, during the trial of the case and the during the appellate process. Judge Skeen carefully followed the law, during not only the trial of the case, but also in his consideration of the 11.071 writ filed by the defense.

"The facts at trial showed the extreme brutally and heinous nature of this crime and what Kim Cargill is capable of doing to another human being. At all times, during the trial of the case and now, the parties involved and the Court, want to insure that Cargill is afforded all the rights she is entitled to under the law in the prosecution of this case."

"This is a very strong case."

Levenson and VerHagen believe the new evidence goes hand in hand with any argument about ineffective trial attorneys, and they want it heard in court.

"It would seem a no-brainer that the state would want to entertain the evidence to make sure they got that convenience right and that an innocent person is not put to death by the state," Levenson said.

Levenson and VerHagen said they plan to keep fighting to have the new evidence heard. If not, they've at least established their efforts as part of the case's record in case a higher court is more sympathetic.

(source: CBS news)


State To Seek Death Penalty For Parents Charged With Toddler's Death

State Attorney Bill Eddins said Tuesday that the State intends to seek the death penalty against against Christopher L. Redd and Jennifer Gail Perry for 1st degree murder in the death of their 2-year old child.

Pensacola Police said Redd and Perry failed to seek medical treatment for their son after he was severely burned by boiling water. He suffered 2nd and 3rd degree burns over more than 40 % of his body.

The parents told police that the child, Bryson, managed to spill boiling water that was on the stove. They said Bryson acted like a typical two-year old and they did not seek medical treatment until until days later. In the meantime, they had searched burn treatments on the internet and had applied products purchased at local retailers, according to an arrest report. Additional, Perry had received prescription medication for a burn she suffered on her finger, and she said she applied the leftovers to the child.

Bryson died after being taken to Baptist Hospital.

Both told police they delayed medical treatment because they would not know what story to tell the hospital about the burns, and they were concerned Bryson and their two other children would be removed from the home by the Department of Children and Families.



Lucas County prosecutor seeks dates for executions

The Lucas County prosecutor's office asked the Ohio Supreme Court on Tuesday to set execution dates for 2 former Toledo men convicted of burying a man alive in 1993 and leaving him to die.

Archie J. Dixon, 41, and Timothy Hoffner, 42, are both on death row at Chillicothe Correctional Institution for aggravated murder. They were also convicted of kidnapping, aggravated robbery, and forgery.

"Since his conviction and sentence, Hoffner and his attorneys have pursued all available avenues of appeal afforded under both Ohio and federal law," reads a motion filed with the high court on behalf of Prosecutor Julia Bates. "Every court that has examined Hoffner's claims has upheld his murder conviction and his death sentence."

A similar motion was filed in Dixon's case.

The U.S. Supreme Court last year reinstated Dixon's conviction and death sentence after the Cincinnati-based 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned them on the grounds that his conviction had been tainted.

The body of Christopher Hammer, 22, was found in a shallow Sylvania Township grave. Hoffner, Dixon's accomplice, had led police to the body. Hoffner and Dixon reportedly led Mr. Hammer to the wooded area, let him smoke a cigarette and say a prayer, and then buried him alive.

Kristen Wilkerson, Dixon's girlfriend, was convicted of kidnapping but was released from prison after she cooperated with police.

A federal judge has issued a moratorium against carrying out Ohio's death penalty as he explores changes the state has made in its process after problems experienced in an execution early this year. The moratorium is set to expire in February.

Should the state Supreme Court grant the motions, the executions will likely not occur for 2 more years.

The court already has set dates for executions through Sept. 21, 2016.

(source: Toledo Blade)


Death penalty considered for Hammond murder suspect: Prosecutor

Lake County Prosecutor Bernard Carter said Tuesday he and his staff have begun a review to determine whether they will file the death penalty against suspected serial killer Darren Deon Vann.

Although charges have been filed in only 1 of the 7 homicides that Vann is suspected of committing, Carter said Tuesday he has already considered whether Vann, 43, might qualify under Indiana law for the death penalty.

Vann is expected to make his initial court appearance Wednesday in Crown Point.

On Monday, Vann was charged with murder, murder in perpetration of robbery and robbery resulting in serious bodily injury in the death of 19-year-old Africa Hardy.

Carter said the other cases for which charges are expected involving 6 other victims, 4 of whom are still unidentified, are being carefully prepared with an eye toward factors that could be used to aggravate the penalty to death.

"We take each case separately," Carter said, who plans to personally prosecute Vann. "There is no reason for urgency. He's being held on the 1 murder. He's not going anywhere."

The review process includes Carter assembling about a dozen of his staff members and police detectives to weigh the strength of the case. If the staff agrees that it should be pursued as a capital case, Carter and his top 2 deputies would travel to the Indiana Prosecuting Attorneys Association death penalty review board to present the case there.

The board meets quarterly and last met in September.

"Once they give me the thumbs up or thumbs down, then we will decide," Carter said.

In an interview with police after Hardy was found dead in the bathtub at Motel 6 in Hammond, Vann said he made contact with an escort service and arranged to meet Hardy at the motel, court records state. Hardy sent one of her associates a text that Vann, who used the name "Big Boy Appetite," had arrived at the room at 5:13 p.m. Friday. After more time passed than would be normal for that type of appointment, the woman called up Hardy's cell phone from 5 to 8 but got no response. She then sent text messages to Hardy's phone and received a response that didn't make sense, prompting her to eventually go to the room with a friend, where they discovered Hardy's body.

Vann told police that Hardy began fighting with him when the sex got rough and he strangled her first with his hands and then with an extension cord, court records state.

(source: Gary Post-Tribune)


May 2015 Execution Requested For Rodney Berget

The South Dakota Attorney General's Office has asked that the Department of Corrections set the execution date for Rodney Berget sometime during the week of May 3-9, 2015.

The announcement was made Tuesday morning after Attorney General Marty Jackley said the South Dakota Supreme Court denied Berget's request to have a new death penalty hearing.

Berget was sentenced to death in February of 2012 for his role in an attempted prison escape that resulted in the murder of Correctional Officer Ron 'RJ' Johnson.

Berget had asked for a new sentencing hearing after discovering he has a newfound son and grandkids. Berget had asked that the new evidence should be presented at a new death penalty hearing.

Jackley's request for a new sentencing hearing has been filed in Minnehaha County.


The Crime That Put Berget On Death Row

Rodney Berget was sentenced to death in February of 2012 for his role in an attempted prison escape that resulted in the murder of Correctional Officer Ron 'R.J.' Johnson.

In April of 2011, 48-year-old Rodney Berget and 48-year-old Eric Robert devised what they thought was a crafty plan to break out of prison.

Security video shows Robert wearing correctional officer Ron Johnson's uniform and pushing a cart with a box to the west gate of the prison.

Inside the box was another inmate, Rodney Berget.

When Robert was confronted about not swiping his card at the gate, Robert and Berget started attacking the officers. That's when they called for back-up. Numerous correctional officers took Robert and Berget back into custody.

Robert and Berget both pleaded guilty to the crime and were sentenced to die by lethal injection.

Robert was executed in October of 2012 for his role in the murder.

But in January of 2013, the South Dakota Supreme Court reversed the death sentence for Berget after his lawyer appealed on the grounds that Berget's rights of self-incrimination were violated.

1 month later, Berget's attorney asked for a new sentencing hearing in front of a jury, because Berget recently discovered he had a son and grandchildren.

But the judge in the case said Berget wouldn't get to use that new relationship as evidence to argue against the death penalty.

Berget was scheduled to die by lethal injection in January of this year, but before that could happen the Supreme Court ordered a delay when Berget's attorney again filed another appeal.

But the Supreme Court denied the new hearing and upheld Berget's death sentence.

Berget's defense lawyer Jeff Larson says he'll likely request a stay of the date if it's granted.

(source for both: Keloland)


Political ad critical of governor's stance on death penalty----Republicans release emotional video relating to 1993 pizza shop murders

The father of a victim in the 1993 murders of four people at a Chuck E. Cheese restaurant in Aurora criticizes Gov. John Hickenlooper for sparing the killer from execution.

Dennis O'Connor speaks in a 13-minute, emotionally intense political video posted Sunday on YouTube by the Denver-based "A Better Colorado Future" and supervised by Republicans Andy George and Kelly Maher.

Here's the link to the video:

O'Connor's daughter, Colleen, 17, was killed in the December 1993 shootings. A 5th person who was shot, survived.

Nathan Dunlap, 40, was convicted of the murders in 1996 and sentenced to death. However, in May 2013, Hickenlooper granted Dunlap a temporary reprieve.

Political analysts believe the Dunlap case will be a key factor in Hickenlooper's bid for a 2nd term.

(source: KRDO news)


James Holmes interviewed for 22 hours in sanity exam for Aurora movie theater shooting trial

The doctor whose sanity examination could prove to be the key piece of evidence in the upcoming Aurora movie theater shooting trial interviewed the gunman for 22 hours to compile his report, according to a new court filing.

The report of the exam - the 2nd of James Holmes conducted by a court-appointed psychiatrist - was filed last week. The name of the doctor who performed the evaluation, his conclusions and many other details about the exam are sealed.

But, in a court filing Monday that was made public Tuesday, defense attorneys say the "video recording of the second sanity examiner's interview with the defendant" spans 22 hours.

That's significant, the defense argued, because it meant they had too much work to do reviewing the video to meet a key Monday deadline.

Under Colorado court rules, the defense must turn over to prosecutors a list of evidence they plan to introduce during a death-penalty sentencing hearing and the names of witnesses they expect to call. The defense argues that disclosure of some of that information violates self-incrimination protections, and Monday was the deadline for the defense to give that contested material to the judge so he can decide if it must be shared.



Nun, author addresses death penalty from different sides----FLC Common Reading Experience writer all over town

Nov. 4 is the anniversary, and it weighs heavily on Sister Helen Prejean.

Sister Helen Prejean discusses the upcoming reading play "Dead Man Walking" on Tuesday with Fort Lewis College students who will be acting in it at 4 and 7 p.m. today in Roshong Recital Hall.

Nov. 4 is the day Elmo Patrick Sonnier and his brother, Eddie, killed Loretta Ann Bourque, 18, and her boyfriend, David LeBlanc.

That murder led to a lifetime mission of advocating against the death penalty for the 75-year-old nun, who has been in town this week to talk about her book, Dead Man Walking, the Common Reading Experience assignment for incoming freshmen this year at Fort Lewis College.

Bridget Irish, coordinator of the program, said the book is selected a year out, so it's just happenstance that America has been engaged in a death-penalty conversation after several botched executions this year.

On Monday, Prejean shared the spiritual side of her journey in a talk called "Christian Faith & Catholic Social Justice" with an audience of about 120 at St. Columba Catholic Church. On Tuesday, she addressed an audience of about 850 at FLC's Whalen Gym.

"The death-penalty discussion is a journey," she said. "Of course, you have to feel outrage when an innocent life is horribly taken. Of course, you think that the person who did something so horrible should die. But integrity can be maintained even when we're swept away on a river of anger."

Prejean began her advocacy after seeing her 1st execution, that of Patrick Sonnier, whom she had served as a spiritual adviser.

"The American people are never going to get close to this; it's a secret ritual," she remembers thinking afterward. "My job is to get out there and tell them. April 5, 1984, that "when my mission was born."

But first, she had to experience the pain of victims' families, and she said Lloyd LeBlanc, David LeBlanc's father, is the hero of Dead Man Walking because he taught her about the grace of forgiveness, that forgiving is strength, not weakness.

The flaws in the American justice system add power to Prejean's stance.

"We're up to 144 and counting of people wrongfully convicted, and it's not just DNA, which applies in 1 case out of 4," Prejean said. "About 90 % are related to prosecutorial misconduct. When I started, I thought it would be a fluke to wrongfully convict someone, but I've learned that in all these appeals, if the attorney didn't make a formal objection in the original trial, the appeals court won't listen."

Prejean shared other statistics: About 98 % of people sentenced to death are poor; 8 out of 10 are there because they killed a white person, even though more than 50 % of murder victims are people of color; about 90 % were violated as children.

"Catholics pride themselves on being for life," she said. "To render a man defenseless and take his life, where's the dignity in that?"

Prejean worked with Pope John Paul II to strengthen the church's position against execution, but not all Catholics agree.

"Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia knows he's part of the death process and said he doesn't lose any sleep over this," she said about 1 of the 5 Catholic justices sitting on the highest court in the land. "He says we still have the death penalty here even though it's been abolished in Europe because we have more Christians in this country, and Europe follows Freud instead of Jesus."

People who saw the movie got the message, too, she said.

"I know authors complain about how a movie ruins their book, but it wasn't that way for me," she said. "I worked hand-in-hand with Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon, and they were determined to stay true to the book. Tim asked an important question: 'Everybody knows we shouldn't execute the innocent, but what about the guilty?'"

(source: Durango Herald)


'The only just punishment in this case is death': Prosecution insists Jodi Arias should be executed for killing her ex-boyfriend and shows grisly new crime scene pictures

Prosecutors in the sentencing retrial of the lurid case of Jodi Arias finished his opening statements Tuesday by telling jurors the Arizona murderer deserves the harshest sentence of them all.

'The only just punishment in this case is death,' Juan Martinez told the Maricopa County Superior Court.

The sentencing retrial of Arias, 34, started with a new jury and opening statements by lawyers to decide whether the convicted murderer should live or die after the brutal killing of her ex-boyfriend.

Arias had her hair cut to shoulder-length for her return to the courtroom and appeared to have it dyed darker. She was wearing a new pair of nude-framed glasses - perhaps because earlier this month, a Phoenix food bank auctioned off the glasses she wore at the original trial and raised close to $1,000 for charity.

Also on Tuesday, defense lawyer Kirk Nurmi began opening statements, telling jurors it was up to them to write the final chapter to the story.

He warned the jury that it will see graphic evidence about the killing and relationship between Arias and victim Travis Alexander - but said she should not be executed because she is mentally ill.

Prosecutor Martinez proved his point by showing jurors a picture of Arias' victim, ex-boyfriend Travis Alexander, with his throat slit.

'This is how much she loved him,' Martinez told the jury, according to ABC.

The victims' siblings were in court today along with Arias' parents and brother.

Arias was convicted of murder last year but the first jury was deadlocked on whether to give her the death penalty or life in prison.

That required a new jury and trial to decide her punishment.

A new jury that was picked over the past several weeks will listen as the former waitress tries to make another case that her life should be spared.

400 people were called as prospective jurors. Many of them were cut after they said they either made up their minds about the case or knew too much to be impartial. Some jurors cited their objection to the death penalty.

They won't consider whether or not she's guilty - that's already been decided.

The retrial is expected to last into December.

Arias stabbed and slashed Alexander nearly 30 times, slit his throat so deeply she nearly decapitated him and shot him in the forehead.

Arias was found guilty of 1st degree murder in the death of former boyfriend Travis Alexander, but the jury deadlocked on whether to give her the death penalty or life in prison. Now defense attorney Kirk Numi (pictured) is facing off against prosecutors in a battle where Arias' life, and fate, hang in the balance

She left his body in his shower where friends found him about 5 days later at his suburban Phoenix home.

She acknowledged she killed Alexander, but claimed it was self-defense after he attacked her.

Prosecutors said it was premeditated murder carried out in a jealous rage after the victim wanted to end their affair and planned a trip to Mexico with another woman.

Weeks after Arias was convicted, the jury failed to reach a unanimous decision on her punishment.

Her attorneys have since sought, unsuccessfully, to dismiss the death penalty as an option.

If another deadlock occurs, the death penalty would automatically be removed as an option, leaving a judge to sentence Arias to 1 of 2 options: life in prison or life in prison with the possibility of release after 25 years.

The sentencing retrial will be a mini-trial of sorts to get a fresh jury - of 12 women and 6 men, including 6 alternates - up to speed on the case.

At her last trial, she testified for 18 days, describing for jurors an abusive childhood, cheating boyfriends, dead-end jobs, a shocking sexual relationship with Alexander, and her contention that he was physically abusive.

Her 1st trial drew a global following and inspired spectators to wait in line in the middle of the night to get a coveted seat in the courtroom.

This time around, the judge has ruled that cameras can record the proceedings, but nothing can be broadcast until after the verdict.

Judge Sherry Stephens has shut the media and public out of nearly every hearing in the case and drawn complaints from First Amendment lawyers that she has gone too far.

Judge Stephens said the hearing closures are intended to protect Arias' right to an impartial jury.

Attorney David Bodney, who represents several media outlets fighting for transparency in the case, said there have been repeated violations of the public's constitutional right to attend proceedings in the case.

The costs of defending Arias have topped $2.5 million and will mount during a 2nd penalty phase. Prosecutors have declined to provide their costs to try the case.

(source: Daily Mail)


4th penalty phase underway for 1983 killer

Richard Raymond Ramirez has been convicted twice of the 1983 rape and murder of a woman in an alley behind an Orange County bar.

Now, lawyers will argue before a jury whether the 55-year-old killer should be sentenced to death or finish his life in prison.

Opening statements are expected Wednesday in the 4th penalty phase Ramirez will face for raping and stabbing to death 22-year-old Kim Gonzalez in Garden Grove.

The case took an unusual turn six years ago when a federal judge overturned Ramirez's initial conviction after finding a juror at his 1985 trial failed to disclose he was applying to be an FBI agent.

Last year, Ramirez was convicted again of the crimes, but jurors could not agree on what penalty he should face.

"The hurdle to prove is that the crime and everything he had done when he was out was so horrific it still, even after all this time, warrants the death penalty," said Larry Yellin, senior deputy district attorney for Orange County. He said Ramirez denied killing Gonzalez at his earlier trial before DNA evidence linked him to the crime.

A message was left for Ramirez's attorney, Mick Hill.

Ramirez was convicted of the rape and murder of Gonzalez in March 1985. A 1st jury could not reach agreement on a verdict; a 2nd jury recommended he receive a death sentence.

Prosecutors say Ramirez and Gonzalez left the bar together about 1 a.m. on Nov. 21, 1983. They say Gonzalez's half-naked body was found later that morning, and nearby, a long-necked beer bottle with Ramirez's fingerprints.

(source: Associated Press)


U.S. Supreme Court To Decide San Diego Man's Death Sentence

The U.S. Supreme Court said this week it will consider reinstating the death sentence of a San Diego man who was found guilty of killing 3 people in a drug robbery in San Diego.

Hector Ayala was convicted and sentenced to death in 1980, but the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco said in 2012 that Ayala was denied a fair trial because prosecutors excused all 7 black and Hispanic jurors who might have served.

California appealed the 9th circuit's decision and asked that Ayala's death penalty sentence be reinstated.

Steve Semeraro, a professor at the Thomas Jefferson School of Law, said it's been common in recent years for the Supreme Court to consider cases where the 9th Circuit has overturned a sentence.

In Ayala's case, Semeraro said, "The defense attorney objected because the prosecutor was striking all of the black and Hispanic jurors from the jury pool. The judge said, 'OK I'll hear that objection, but I'm going to exclude the defense attorney from the argument.' Pretty much everyone agrees you can't do that."

The Supreme Court, without commenting on the case, agreed on Monday to consider the appeal, which will determine the constitutionality of dismissing minority jurors.

The case will be argued this winter.

"There's a chance that the Supreme Court might affirm. And when you have a situation like this case, where every single juror of color was removed from the jury, that raises a lot of red flags," Semeraro said.

(source: Associated Press)


Should Arbitrary Factors Mitigate Punishment? In capital cases, justice requires that the death penalty apply to all or to none.

On October 2, the day after a Chester County, Pennsylvania jury convicted Duron Peoples of 1st-degree murder in the contract killing of barbershop owner Jonas "Sonny" Suber, the jury unanimously informed Judge David Bortner that the appropriate sentence would be life without parole, and not death.

The jurors decided that mitigating factors cited by the defense - Peoples' upbringing in poor socio-economic circumstances, his self-described "addiction" to the life of a drug dealer, and the circumstantial nature of the prosecution's case - outweighed the prosecution's plea that the "murder for hire" deserved a sentence of death.

The local newspaper commended County jurors and prosecutors for their reluctance to impose the death penalty upon convicted murderers. In the editorialists' opinion, that only four defendants convicted of murder in the county are on death row demonstrates the district attorney's "wisdom" to withdraw the death penalty when it "serves the interest of justice."

Which begs the question: does withdrawing the death penalty in light of mitigating factors serve the interests of justice? Or does the practice promulgate greater injustice by allowing a lucky few to avoid their due?

In short, why should a few arbitrary factors mitigate the punishment for cold-blooded murder?

So what if Mr. Peoples was raised in poor socio-economic circumstances? Countless children are bought up in poor socio-economic circumstances, but they do not become murderers. Should an accident of birth determine the severity of punishment for a heinous crime?

So-called "mitigating" factors also marginalize men and women from similar backgrounds who choose to live law-abiding lives rather than blaming a life of crime on difficult circumstances.

Consideration of the circumstantial nature of the prosecution's case hints that a murderer need only hire a trigger man to do his dirty work and absent himself from the scene to insulate him from culpability. Even so, the prosecution's so-called "circumstantial" case convinced the jury that Peoples was guilty of 1st degree murder.

The kicker is Peoples' self-described "addiction" to the life of a drug dealer. The selfish, self-centered, violent life to which Peoples was "addicted" should properly be an aggravating circumstance.

"Mitigating factors" also create a invidious, constitutionally suspect double standard by arbitrarily holding members of a certain class to a higher standard of conduct than members of a favored class.

And with fewer "mitigating factors" in their background, it follows that those subject to this stricter standard theoretically are more deserving of capital punishment for similar crimes than the Peoples of the world. Where is the justice (or logic) in that?

A 1st-degree murder verdict establishes beyond reasonable doubt a defendant's degree of culpability. Once degree is established, it is past time for excuses and justification.

Sentencing is the time when justice is done.

In capital cases, justice requires that the death penalty apply to all or to none.

(source: Opinion,


Drug Maker Mylan Takes $70 Million Hit in Battle Over Lethal Injection

Alabama's plan to use a new drug to execute death-row prisoners is causing headaches for the pharmaceutical company that makes the chemical.

An anti-death penalty organization convinced a German financial firm to pull a $70 million investment in Mylan, the manufacturer of rocuronium bromide, a paralytic that is part of the state's untested 3-drug lethal injection.

Jens Erhardt, managing director of asset manager DJE Kapital, told NBC News that his firm sold all its Mylan shares about a month ago because the drug giant would not guarantee its products won't wind up in executioners' syringes.

"We don't want to support this," Erhardt said. "If clients find out we have shares in companies that supply that drug, we have problems with our clients."

DJE was tipped off to the situation by Reprieve, a London-based activist group pushing Mylan to take steps to prevent rocuronium bromide from being used to kill inmates.

Under pressure, other pharmaceutical companies have barred their distributors from selling medicine to correction departments - causing shortages that have left death-penalty states scrambling for new sources and new drug combinations.

But Reprieve said Mylan, the Pennsylvania-based pharmaceutical company that is one of the biggest generic drug makers, has refused to go that far.

"There are simple and effective steps pharmaceutical companies can take to protect their medicines from being sold for use in lethal injections, and over a dozen companies - the vast majority of affected companies - have taken exactly these steps," said Maya Foa, head of Reprieve's death penalty team.

"To date, Mylan has not taken steps to protect its medicines from being sold for use in executions, and this is a matter of concern to responsible investors."

A spokeswoman for Mylan declined to say whether Alabama had obtained its product for upcoming executions and refused to answer questions beyond a written statement:

"Mylan is committed to setting new standards in healthcare and providing access to affordable medicines for the world's 7 billion people. We are dedicated to upholding the highest standards of quality and integrity in everything we do. We only distribute our products through legally compliant channels, intended for prescription by healthcare providers consistent with approved labeling or applicable standard(s) of care."

Alabama adopted a new 3-drug combination last month after it ran out of pentobarbital - its previous lethal-injection agent - because the manufacturers have banned it from executions.

The new protocol includes the sedative midazolam hydrochloride, rocuronium bromide to arrest breathing, and potassium chloride to stop the heart. No other state has used the exact combination, though Florida's protocol is very similar.

The campaign to dry up supplies of rocuronium bromide, which was first reported by the Financial Times, comes as states struggle to obtain drugs for lethal injections and cope with the fallout from a trio of botched or troubled executions.

The common drug in those three cases was midazolam, which some experts say is not a strong enough anesthetic to stop an inmate from experiencing a harrowing death. Reprieve and other execution opponents charge that rocuronium bromide and other paralytics mask a prisoner's pain and distress.

Alabama has asked a court to set execution dates for nine inmates, but correction officials have not said whether they have an adequate supply of drugs for those or where they obtained the chemicals. The state attorney general declined to comment.

(source: NBC news)


George W. Bush's Revenge: A Federal Appeals Court Goes on the Rampage

A court dominated by Bush appointees issues extreme opinions on abortion, voter ID, and the death penalty.

When George W. Bush departed the White House, he left behind a giant deficit and expanded government spending for Medicare drug benefits that caused conservatives to grumble. But he did make a mark that right-wingers can cheer - by shaping the federal courts for years, perhaps decades.

As Bush has retreated to painting, federal judges he placed on the bench have been implementing a conservative vision in some of the most contentious areas of federal law. The best example of this is a string of recent decisions on hot-button issues from the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, which the ABA Journal has dubbed "the nation's most divisive, controversial and conservative appeals court."

The 5th Circuit handles appeals from federal courts in Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi, and it has become increasingly powerful as the Supreme Court has been hearing fewer and fewer cases. This month, the court - which has 6 George W. Bush appointees out of 15 judges - infuriated civil rights and pro-choice groups with 2 decisions overturning lower court rulings in Texas.

In 1 case, the 5th Circuit cleared the way for a new Texas voter ID law to take effect just days before early voting begins, even though a lower court judge had found, after a long trial, that the law amounted to a poll tax and unconstitutional suppression of voting, particularly by minorities. (The Supreme Court upheld the circuit court's ruling on Saturday.) In the other case, the court ruled that Texas could implement a new restrictive abortion law that would effectively shutter many of the state's remaining abortion clinics. (The Supreme Court has temporarily blocked this abortion law.)

The 5th Circuit has been consistently hostile toward abortion rights. Prior to this recent decision, it had already okayed most of Texas' new restrictive law that has led to the closing of 28 clinics. The law requires abortion providers to seek admitting privileges to nearby hospitals and forces clinics to spend millions of dollars to upgrade their facilities to meet the standards of an outpatient surgical center.

The appellate court did strike down an identical law in Mississippi in July, but only because it would have caused the closing of the state's sole abortion clinic, effectively banning a constitutionally protected procedure in the state. Mississippi had argued that women could still obtain abortions in Tennessee. In the Texas case, the 5th Circuit found that under the contested law, even though women would have to trek hundreds of miles to terminate a pregnancy, they would still be inside Texas, making the restrictions acceptable.

Last year, the 5th Circuit ruled that Scott Panetti, a profoundly mentally ill Texas man who represented himself at trial wearing a purple cowboy suit and referred to himself as "Sarge," was sane enough for execution. (Earlier this month, the Supreme Court upheld the death sentence for Panetti.) This court has never found anyone too mentally ill for execution.

After nearly 6 years of the Obama presidency, only 4 of the 13 federal appellate courts now have a majority of GOP appointees, and the 5th Circuit is 1 of them. 23 judges currently sit on the 5th Circuit, including 8 senior judges who are semiretired but can and do still hear cases. 15 of those are GOP nominees. And of the 15 full-time judges, 10 are Republican appointees, including George W. Bush's 6. Ronald Reagan picked 4 of the full-time judges. As for the 5 active Democratic appointees, Barack Obama selected 3, and Bill Clinton nominated 2. There are 2 vacancies on the court.

Several of the 5th Circuit's loudest voices are luminaries of the right-wing legal movement and are regular speakers at conferences hosted by the Federalist Society, the conservative legal affairs outfit. They have been prominent in the recent hot-button cases. Among them is Bush appointee Priscilla Owen, a former Texas Supreme Court justice. Owen made a name for herself on the Texas high court by opposing requests from minor girls to obtain abortions without their parents' permission.

Last year, Owen voted to execute Panetti, the mentally ill man from Texas. She has also been a key player in earlier 5th Circuit decisions approving restrictive Texas abortion laws. In 2013, Planned Parenthood filed suit to block the Texas law that required abortion providers to obtain admitting privileges at a nearby hospital. A lower-court judge ruled part of that law unconstitutional, finding that its only purpose was to drive abortion providers out of business. He blocked that provision from taking effect. Owen wrote the opinion for a 5th Circuit panel of 3 judges that overturned that ruling and allowed the law to take effect. This decision resulted in the almost immediate closing of 14 of the state's 36 abortion clinics.

In 2010, Owen was part of a three-judge panel that threw out a lawsuit filed by a high school cheerleader who had been kicked off the squad for refusing to cheer for a basketball player she said had raped her. (The athlete ultimately pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor assault charge.) These judges ordered the cheerleader's family to pay the school district $45,000 for filing a frivolous lawsuit.

Joining Owen in the infamous cheerleader decision was another high-profile George W. Bush appointee, Edith Brown Clement. She is one of the judges who recently signed off on Texas' controversial voter ID law, and she's been a vociferous defender of BP in litigation over damages from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

In 2012, to avoid a trial, BP signed a settlement agreement with lawyers representing people and businesses injured by the spill. In the agreement, BP promised to compensate the victims. But after the claims started rolling in and created a much higher tab than BP expected, the company tried to convince the 5th Circuit to let it out of the settlement agreement. The court's judges have been unsympathetic to the arguments - except Clement, who in May, wrote a dissent that Bloomberg Businessweek described as sending a "distress signal to the Supreme Court," in an effort to get the high court to step in on BP's behalf.

Last year Clement and another Bush appointee on this court, Catharina Haynes, dominated a 3-judge panel that upheld a Louisiana statute that allows a woman who has an abortion to sue the provider at any point in the following 10 years, even if she signed a risk waiver. The law also prevents abortion doctors from accessing a state-run fund that helps cover malpractice verdicts and settlements. Abortion providers had argued that the law was illegal because it treated them differently than other doctors and placed an undue burden on the right to an abortion by making it difficult for doctors to practice in the state. A lower-court judge agreed, but Clement and Haynes overturned that decision.

Prior to the George W. Bush years, the 5th Circuit was already famous as a home for judges with reputations as conservative ideologues. This includes Edith Jones. A Reagan appointee, Jones in 2006, made the Texas Observer's list of worst judges in the state for, among other rulings, her decision upholding the execution of a man whose lawyer had slept through his trial. Jones hasn't been part of any of this month's controversial decisions, but in 2012, she was on a 3-judge panel that upheld another Texas abortion law - a mandatory sonogram law that forced doctors to give women seeking an abortion medically unnecessary information designed to persuade women to change their minds.

Jones was frequently considered on George W. Bush's short list as a potential Supreme Court nominee, but critics suggested that she'd never get confirmed after members of Congress learned about her performance on a sexual-harassment case. "After hearing testimony that a woman had endured, among other things, a co-worker pinching her breast at work, Jones retorted, 'Well, he apologized,'" wrote the Observer.

Last week, the Judicial Council of the DC Circuit concluded an investigation into a misconduct complaint filed against Jones regarding a speech she gave at a Federalist Society event in 2012 at the University of Pennsylvania law school. In her comments, Jones allegedly made a host of inflammatory and racist statements, including remarks about pending cases.

According to affidavits filed with the complaint, Jones said that the death penalty provided a "positive service" to defendants because they are "likely to make peace with God only in the moment before imminent execution." She also allegedly suggested that "African Americans and Hispanics are predisposed to crime," are "prone to commit acts of violence," and become involved in more violent and "heinous" crimes than people of other ethnic backgrounds. The judicial council ended its inquiry without issuing any firm finding because, it said, it could not find a recording of Jones' remarks.

The 5th Circuit hasn't always been a conservative bulwark. In the 1950s, it played a pivotal role in integrating the South after the Supreme Court's landmark decision in Brown v. Board of Education. But in the past half century, it's been dominated by ultraconservative GOP appointees who tend to be sympathetic toward the gas and oil corporations that frequently appear before the court. The 5th Circuit will likely remain in the hot seat, given that it fields litigation involving contentious redistricting fights in Texas, the BP oil spill, additional reproductive rights restrictions, and more death penalty cases.

Obama has done little to restore balance on this court. He floated the names of a couple of potential candidates almost a year ago, but he has not nominated anyone to fill the 2 vacancies, 1 of which is 2 years old. The delay is not just his fault. The vacancies are reserved for nominees from Texas, and usually such judicial appointments need some support from the home-state senators. But Texas' 2 senators, Ted Cruz and John Cornyn, Republicans eager to oppose the president, have not been working with Obama to fill the 2 positions. Obama could nominate candidates without the backing of Cruz and Cornyn, but doing so would likely spark a partisan fight. Liberal judicial activists have criticized the president for being too deferential to Cruz and Cornyn. But whether that charge is true or not, Obama may end up not getting the chance to add any more judges to the 5th Circuit - especially if Republicans assume control of the Senate after

(source: Mother Jones)


Man, woman stoned to death for adultery in Syria: monitor

A man and a woman have been stoned to death for adultery in separate executions in jihadist-controlled areas of Syria, a monitoring group reported on Tuesday.

The man was executed in Idlib province in an area controlled by Islamist groups including the Nusra Front, al Qaeda's official affiliate in Syria, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which tracks violence on all sides of Syria's civil war.

It is the 1st documented case of a man being stoned to death for adultery since Syria descended into civil war in 2011 and hardline Islamic groups emerged as powerful players in areas that slipped from government control, the Observatory said.

The woman was executed in Hama province in an area controlled by Islamic State, an al Qaeda offshoot that has seized swathes of Syria and Iraq and is being targeted by U.S.-led air strikes, the Observatory said.

A video posted online appeared to show her execution. A bearded fighter is shown passing down the sentence in the presence of other gunmen and her father, who appears to approve of her execution.

Her hands and feet are then tied with a rope and she is forced to kneel in a pit. Covered head to toe, she begins to pray out loud as large rocks are seen striking her body. The video shows the logo of Islamic State.

The 2 incidents, which Reuters could not independently verify, appear to be unrelated.

The woman's execution was the 3rd of its kind in Islamic State-run territories in Syria, according to the Observatory.

Islamic State controls around a third of Syria and Iraq after having acquired new territory with lightening speed earlier this year. It quickly established a fierce reputation by crucifying, beheading and carrying out public executions of anyone deemed a threat to its rule.

Islamic State routinely carries out sentences of lashing against men in territories it rules for offences that range from adultery and subversion to blasphemy and missing prayer time.

In July, Islamic State stoned 2 women to death under similar circumstances to the Hama stoning. One was of a 26-year-old widow, according to the Observatory.

Syrian society is unaccustomed to sentences like stoning and lashing. For decades, the country was ruled by a government that implemented a mixture of Islamic and secular laws. Offences such as adultery were rarely prosecuted.

The fighter overseeing the woman's execution appears to lay the blame for her crime on her husband, suggesting he had been absent. He urges "all men to treat women well" before the stoning begins.

"Do not leave women. Do not be absent from them for longer than the time period permitted (by Islamic law). Return to God, brothers. And take good care of women," he says.

At one point he addresses the woman as "honorable sister", and asks her for final words. "I advise every woman to protect her honor more than her life," she says. And I ask every man, before he marries off his daughter, to scrutinize her new marital environment. That’s all," she says in a faint voice.

It is not clear exactly when the video was shot, or how the woman was found guilty of adultery - a conviction that would require at least 4 witnesses according to Islamic law.

(source: Reuters)


In China, legal reforms fail to reach Uyghurs on death row----While death sentences decrease across the country, punishment grows tougher for minority Muslims in Xinjiang

When Husanjan Wuxur, Yusup Umarniyaz and Yusup Ahmat faced trial on terrorism charges in a Xinjiang court on June 16, their fate was all but certain.

Maintaining China's 99.9-% conviction rate, the judge found all 3 Uyghur men guilty of a deadly attack in Beijing's Tiananmen Square last October and sentenced them to death. No independent media or international observers were permitted inside the Urumqi courthouse.

On August 23, Wuxur, Umarniyaz and Ahmat were executed.

Lawyers and rights groups say they are concerned that the recent spate of Xinjiang-related executions and death sentences undermines recent legal reforms that had prompted a sharp decline in executions recently in China.

On Monday, China advocacy group Dui Hua estimated another reduction last year. About 2,400 people were in 2013 put to death, the US-based organization said. The figure is still more than 3 times the total number in the rest of the world combined but represents a significant decline on the estimated 7,000 executions in China in 2006, the year before a number of legal reforms were introduced.

Meanwhile, less than 5 months after Chinese President Xi Jinping announced a 'strike hard' campaign against terrorism in restive Xinjiang, China has handed down death sentences on close to 40 Uyghurs and executed at least 20, according to state media. Hundreds of civilians, police and government officials have died in separatist attacks this year, which Beijing blames on growing Islamic extremism in China's northwestern-most region.

"For sure what we've seen in regards to terrorism is that [the number of] people receiving the death penalty has increased dramatically," said William Nee, a Hong Kong-based China researcher for Amnesty International, which runs a worldwide campaign against capital punishment.

"We're very worried about this from multiple angles," he added.

The week after Xi's promise in May to use "extremely tough measures and extraordinary methods", China held 2 mass trials for the 1st time since the 1990s. The 2nd, on May 27, handed down at least 3 death sentences on charges including "violent terrorism", according to state news agency Xinhua. Altogether 55 people were tried and found guilty - most on lesser charges - as 7,000 people watched at the stadium in Yining City, Xinjiang.

Amnesty International and Chinese lawyers interviewed by said the return of mass trials is part of a wider recent decline in legal standards.

"As far as we know, the Uyghurs who were given death sentences had their lawyers appointed by the local legal department, no independent lawyers are allowed to defend them," said rights lawyer Li Fangping, who has defended Uyghurs on lesser charges. "Not only were independent lawyers not allowed to engage in the death sentence cases in Xinjiang, but also independent media were not allowed to report the cases. The authorities want to control this information."

Trials like that of Wuxur, Umarniyaz and Ahmat have been broadcast live on state-run CCTV across China. But independent media and international observers have been banned from courtrooms hearing Xinjiang-related terrorism cases.

Nee says he believes mass trials and convictions of Xinjiang terrorism suspects beamed live across the country serve a double purpose for the Chinese Communist Party.

"On the one hand, it's a message to the Han community, and then it's also meant to be a threat or a message of intimidation towards people who are considered to be terrorists. It's very much for public consumption," he said.

In early January, Uyghur scholar Ilham Tohti gave an interview to Australia's ABC television in which he challenged Beijing's official version of events during the Tiananmen Square attack - among other criticisms of the government - and was detained 12 days later. Last month, the same Urumqi court that sentenced Wuxur, Umarniyaz and Ahmat to death for the attack condemned Tohti to life in prison on charges of separatism.

"Almost all of the human rights lawyers I have spoken with now have a negative opinion of the legal system, they say it is going backwards," said Mo Shaoping, a commercial and human rights lawyer who runs a law firm in Beijing.

Otherwise, progress on legal reforms - particularly on use of the death penalty - has been significant in recent years, he added.

Amid growing criticism outside the country, China ceased removing internal organs from executed prisoners for donation in May, 2007. Since then, in theory, written consent is required from the prisoner and their family before execution.

In August 2010, China reduced the number of categories that incur the death penalty from 68 to 55 and there is speculation this will be reduced again in the near future.

This has been viewed as something of a symbolic gesture given only a handful of these categories - particularly murder, terrorism and drug-dealing - have resulted in death sentences in recent years.

The key reform has been a review process which means the Supreme People's Court in Beijing reviews every death penalty handed down in provincial court, prompting restraint in lower courts and a dramatic estimated decline in executions - the actual number remains a state secret in China.

"The recent attitude when it comes to handing down sentences is: 'be cautious'," said Mo.

Since January 2007, the Supreme People's Court has built up a team of more than 400 judges at 5 new attached courts whose sole task is to review death sentences.

During the review process, special judges will often interview the defense lawyer and the convicted prisoner, sometimes by live camera feed from the prisoner's holding cell, said Mo.

Last year, the Supreme People's Court overturned a death sentence handed down on a woman found guilty of murdering her abusive husband in Sichuan province in November, 2010.

Typically reviews take 6 months, or as long as 2 years in complicated cases.

Wuxur, Umarniyaz and Ahmat were executed just 68 days after they were sentenced to death for the attack on Tiananmen Square, and Chinese state media has rarely mentioned a standard review of other similar cases.

Last month, the Supreme People's Court Vice President Shen Deyong urged courts in Xinjiang to "speed up" trials of terror suspects while maintaining that cases involving ethnic minorities in China should be handled "no differently" from any other, according to Xinhua.

"The process has definitely been sped up," said Amnesty's Nee. "With the 'strike hard' campaign in Xinjiang, that would be the huge anomaly, in a way, where the oversight that seems to be getting better in China in general seems to be absent here."

As Xi's administration fights an expanding, violent separatist campaign in Xinjiang, the primary drag on the legal system remains the same old problem, said lawyer Mo: political interference.

"The judicial system is not independent from the leadership of the party. So therefore we have to look at everything in the justice based on this reality," he said.

While it remains a topic of debate as to why the government has recently refined its legal system - commentators say a combination of international pressure and efforts by Chinese lawyers have helped - there is wide agreement that Xinjiang remains among the toughest issues to address with Beijing. Few channels for dialogue exist.

Among them is Dui Hua, which has helped free hundreds of political prisoners by communicating directly with officials in Beijing.

"I have raised the names of Uyghurs detained for 'splittism' (the Chinese government's term for separatism) but have not specifically raised executions in Xinjiang," Dui Hua's founder John Kamm said by email.

European countries including France and Germany have a regular rights dialogue with China, but results have been "limited", particularly on the most sensitive issues, said Markus Loening, Germany's Human Rights Commissioner until the end of last year.

"The death penalty has been a major issue at each of these dialogues," he said. "We have been urging the Chinese government to abolish and restrict the use of it as much as possible until abolishment. We also made the case that defendants must have a fair trial."

Uyghur activists outside of China say that recent Xinjiang-related trials have been anything but.

Rather than contain the problem, China's manipulation of the judiciary is making things worse, said Alim Seytoff, director of the Uyghur Human Rights Project based in Washington DC.

"The increased use of the death penalty by the Chinese government will not deter the Uyghur people's yearning for freedom and democracy," he said. "As the PRC's founder Mao Zedong once said: "Where there is repression, there is resistance.' It is a vicious cycle."



Iranian regime executed a man in Marivan

An Iranian man has been hanged secretly in the main prison in the city of Marivan after he had been held 8 years in jail.

Haydar Masror was hanged last Thursday. The Iranian regime's judiciary has not announced his execution.

Previous reports have indicated that the Iranian regime's henchmen hanged at least 13 prisoners on Sunday October 19, 2014 in Ghezel-Hessar Karaj Prison, Tabriz Central Prison and Rasht Central Prison.

18-year-old Fardin Jaafarian was hanged in Tabriz prison for allegedly committing a crime when he was 14.

A group of 8 inmates hanged in Ghezel-Hessar prison while another group of four executed in Rasht prison.

Meanwhile, at least 6 inmates lost their lives due to the excruciating conditions at a death camp and inhumane pressures by henchmen.

The men arrested in city of Bandar Abbas as a part of mass arrests carried out in the city October 12-17 under the pretext of fighting against drugs. They were all imprisoned in Camp Jabal-Bor in Bissim area of the city.

(source: NCR-Iran)


Woman, daughter arrested in Vietnam for using kindergarten as meth store

Police in Da Nang have arrested a kindergarten manager for concealing at her school more than 2 kilograms of meth for her drug trafficker mother.

Investigators said Tuesday they had taken in Pham Thi Bich Phuong, 22, after arresting her mother Pham Thi Nga, 43, Sunday and making the biggest drug haul ever in the central city.

The police caught Nga at a bus station with more than 2,340 ecstasy pills.

They then found 140 grams of methamphetamine at the Honey Hotel she was running in the city and more than 2 kilograms of meth at the Sao Sang nursery she opened.

At the nursery, the meth was hidden in 14 milk bottles in the teachers' room.

Phuong told the police her mother opened the school to serve as a drug haven and told her to manage it since she is studying to be a teacher herself.

Pham Thi Nga, 43, has been arrested in Da Nang City for running a meth and ecstasy business that used a kindergarten as a meth store.

She said they believed hiding the meth at the school would help evade police detection.

The police said the duo moved to Da Nang from Lang Son Province on the China border in 2011 to establish a drug business supplied from China.

She spent hundreds of thousands of dollars opening the hotel and kindergarten and investing in real estate to cover up her drug business.

She used the hotel as a supply point for her mules, most of them ex-convicts, rather than to let out rooms.

The police also found 7 machetes and a gun she used to arm her staff at her house and hotel.

Nga was divorced in 2013 and is living with a Da Nang ex-convict.

Anyone convicted for possessing more than 600 grams of heroin or more than 2.5 kilograms of meth faces the death penalty in Vietnam, which has some of the world’s toughest drug laws.

(source: Thanh Nien News)


Fate of Pakistani woman rests with country's supreme court

Organizations are watching and waiting for Pakistan's supreme court to take up the case of Asia Bibi.

Attorneys for Bibi say they plan to appeal her death sentence for blasphemy. A court upheld that penalty last week, ending speculation as to how the court might rule.

Bibi is a Christian wife and mother who is accused by her Muslim co-workers of blasphemy.

Todd Nettleton with Voice of the Martyrs says the decision has disappointed the ministry and Bibi's family.

"I think they had a lot of hope that the court would do the just and right thing, and that she even this week might be back home with her husband and back home with her daughters," Nettleton tells OneNewsNow.

Nettleton points out that the charge against Bibi was not brought for several days after her alleged blasphemous comments.

"The other thing is that the person who reported it to the police, or actually filed the initial report, was a man who wasn't even there when she allegedly made these comments," says Nettleton. "It's not like he was an eye witness."

Attorneys for Bibi raised those issues in court.

Nettleton offers this possible reason for the verdict: "There was 25 mullahs in the courtroom observing and our contacts in Pakistan say around 2,000 Muslims gathered outside the courthouse just to remind the judges, Hey, we're watching what you do on this case and you better do it the way that we think you should."

Assuming Bibi's attorneys do appeal and Pakistan's supreme court agrees to hear the case, Nettleton says it's not known when arguments will be made in the courtroom.



Death Penalty Upheld; Battle Not Over for Asia Bibi

The family of Asia Bibi, the Pakistani woman imprisoned on charges of blasphemy, is still praying she'll be spared from death.

Late last week, a high court upheld a previous decision to execute her, but the battle is far from over. She has one remaining chance to be acquitted.

When CBN News met with Bibi's family in late summer 2011, they were hoping and praying she would return home by Christmas. That was more than three years ago.

Now comes news the Pakistani High Court upheld her conviction and death sentence for alleged blasphemy against the Muslim prophet Mohammed.

And that has her family very upset.

Todd Nettleton with the Voice of the Martyrs said it was a very difficult day for Bibi, her husband and daughters.

"When this hearing was finally held, I think their hopes were 'Finally, there's going to be justice,'" Nettleton told CBN News. "I think of Asia's daughters in particular [thinking] 'Finally, our mom's going to be free. She's going to come home to us,' and all of those hopes were dashed. This was a very difficult day for Asia, her husband, Ashiq, and for their daughters."

Asia's husband, Ashiq, he told CBN News he was very proud of his wife.

"Asia never left her faith. She's faithful and she never denied her faith," he said.

Nettleton says the evidence against her was tenuous. He believes the high court judges did not overturn her conviction because they were likely threatened by militant Islamists.

"There were about 25 mullahs that attended the hearing - that were sitting in the courtroom - and about 2,000 outside the courthouse bringing the message to bear to the judges, 'Hey, we're watching how you'll rule on this case. We know who you are. We know where you live - that we know where you live [means] you're not out of our reach,' and I think that pressure was reflected in the fact that the verdict was upheld," Nettleton said.

Ashiq said his wife's imprisonment and conviction came as no surprise because Christians are a small, persecuted minority in Pakistan's Muslim-dominated society.

"It's written in the Bible, 'In My name you will face persecution and people will blame you and curse you,' and we are facing that," he said.

Asia has 1 more chance for acquittal. Her case is now on appeal to the Pakistan Supreme Court.

Nettleton says even if the court eventually frees her from prison, her life will still be in danger.

"She's not safe there," he said. "There is a mullah who has already issued a death reward for killing her. She will need at the very minimum to relocate to a safe place within Pakistan and more likely she and her family will have to leave the country for their safety."

So for now, there's 1 last chance, but the final Supreme Court decision could take months if not years.

And just like they did 3 years ago, her daughters remain faithful to the Lord no matter what the eventual outcome.

"We know God is alive. We know He is with us. He will be with us forever!" her daughter said.

(source: CBN News)


Ghulam Azam Verdict----SC hearing on appeals likely today

The Supreme Court is going to start hearing 2 appeals filed by convicted war criminal Ghulam Azam and the government against his verdict and a judgement as well as seeking a ban on Jamaat respectively.

The former Jamaat-e-Islami ameer's appeal against his 90-year jail sentence has been enlisted on today's list of the Appellate Division for fixing a date for hearing.

A 5-member bench of the apex court headed by Chief Justice Md Muzammel Hossain is set to fix the date.

The International Crimes Tribunal-1 in its verdict on July 15 last year jailed Ghulam Azam for 90 years for masterminding crimes against humanity and genocide during the Liberation War in 1971.

The tribunal in the verdict said Ghulam Azam, now 92, deserved capital punishment but was given jail terms due to his old age and poor health.

Later on August 5 last year, Ghulam Azam filed an appeal with the SC seeking an overturn of his conviction and the jail sentence claiming the judgement was not a verdict at all in the eye of law, as the charges brought against him had nothing related to offences or crimes against humanity and genocide.

On the other side, the government on August 12 last year submitted a separate appeal to the apex court seeking death penalty for Ghulam Azam and a ban on the anti-liberation political party Jamaat-e-Islami.

In the appeal, the government said Jamaat had committed crimes against humanity and atrocities during the war and the party had not changed its anti-liberation stance since independence.

The party has not even apologised for its criminal and anti-liberation activities, the appeal petition said, adding that Jamaat was termed a criminal organisation by one of the international crimes tribunals.

2 other appeals filed by former Jamaat's Secretary General Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mojaheed and BNP leader Salauddin Quader Chowdhury are also in the pipeline for hearing.

Mojaheed and Salauddin have been convicted and sentenced for atrocities and crimes against humanity they committed in 1971.

(source: Daily Star)

OCTOBER 21, 2014:


Sentenced to death, inmate now faces new penalties

The Georgia Supreme Court says that the death penalty is not enough punishment for a Walker County killer.

In an opinion released Monday morning, the justices unanimously ruled that the sentence was "favorable to the defendant" in the case of Donnie Allen Hulett. In April 2004, a jury convicted Hulett of murdering 2 brothers, and Superior Court Judge Jon "Bo" Wood sentenced him to death.

The top court's decision could delay Hulett's execution in a case that has dragged on for 10 years. A month after his conviction in 2004, attorneys for Hulett asked for a new trial, as often happens after a guilty verdict in a criminal case.

But the appeal lingered for 9 years. Wood did not deny Hulett's request for a new trial until 2013. And because Wood did not deny the motion until last year, Hulett's attorney did not appeal it further up the judicial chain until this year.

Now, because of an error 10 years ago, Hulett is due to return to Walker County Superior Court for a new sentencing hearing. The Supreme Court said Wood was too soft.

In all, the jury convicted Hulett in 2004 of 17 different crimes. Those crimes included 2 counts of malice murder.

When Wood sentenced Hulett, he gave him the death penalty for malice murder and "merged" all the other charges. But the Supreme Court justices say Wood should not have done that. They ruled that Wood should have punished Hulett separately for a couple of his crimes: robbery and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.

The Supreme Court says that those crimes were committed separately from the murder.

The court's reasoning? If Hulett had not been found guilty of murder, he would have still been guilty of robbery. And if Hulett had not been found guilty of robbery or murder, he would have still been found guilty of carrying a firearm when he was not allowed to have one.

The Supreme Court found that Wood was unfair to prosecutors, though prosecutors asked Wood to "merge" the charges when he sentenced Hulett. No prosecutor has objected to that since the sentencing.

Supreme Court Justice Carol Hunstein wrote, "if we notice a merger issue in a direct appeal, as we have here, we regularly resolve that issue, even where (it) was not raised in the trial court and is not enumerated as error on the appeal."

Lookout Mountain Judicial Circuit District Attorney Herbert "Buzz" Franklin said the Supreme Court's ruling surprised him. 10 years ago, he asked Wood to "merge" the charges because he thought that would reduce Hulett's chances of winning an appeal down the line.

"We try to err on the side of caution," he said.

(source: TimesFreePress)


Parents face death penalty in toddler's death

2 Pensacola parents who failed to seek treatment for their severely burned toddler have been charged with murder and are facing the death penalty, according to the State Attorney's Office.

Christopher Redd, 39 and Jennifer Gail Perry, 29, were both charged with 1st-degree felony murder in the death of their 2-year-old son Bryson.

According to the couple's July arrest report, Perry told the Pensacola police that boiling water from the stove fell onto the child. According to the PPD, he had second and third degree burns over 35 % of his body.

The report said the family waited approximately 2 weeks before calling 911 because they had been previously investigated by the Department of Children and Families and didn't know how what to say about Bryson's injuries.

Both are being held in Escambia County Jail without bond, and their next scheduled court date is Dec. 16.

(source: Pensacola News Journal)


Florida quadruple-murder suspect faces death penalty after leaving bodies to rot on hill ---- Adam Matos, 28, allegedly lived with the bodies for a week as the decomposed in a field a short distance from the Hudson, Fla., home. He's accused of killing his ex-girlfriend, Megan Brown, her new boyfriend and her parents, then fleeing the scene with his 4-year-old autistic son.

A callous Florida killer who cops say lived beside the rotting bodies of his ex-girlfriend and her 3 family members for a week after killing them now faces the death penalty in the heinous quadruple murder.

Adam Matos, 28, was busted the day after authorities found the four bodies stacked up on a hill Sept. 4 in Hudson, a waterfront town 45 miles north of Tampa.

Matos shot dead ex Megan Brown, 27, bludgeoned her new boyfriend, 37-year-old Nicholas Leonard, to death, before shooting and beating the woman's parents, Gregory and Margaret Brown, both 52, to death.

Margaret Brown had a plastic bag pulled over her head, while Gregory Brown had been shot in the chest.

Between the killings and his arrest, Matos cared for his autistic son, Ismael "Tristan" Santisteban while covering up his crimes, police said. According to court documents, he told neighbors the family was on vacation and used Margaret Brown's debit card to buy pizza for the 4-year-old and a shovel for the burials.

Matos, 28, has been in police custody since Sept. 5, when a SWAT team cornered him in a downtown Tampa hotel. Ismael was with him, unharmed.

The arrest ended a frantic 12-hour Amber Alert search for the boy. Police began hunting for the father-son duo on Sept. 4 when they found the 4 bodies and no trace of Matos and Tristan.

Police believe Matos killed the 4 on Aug. 28 and then lived at the home with the bodies nearby for a week, the Tampa Tribune reported.

That was the last day anyone saw the family alive, and was the same day Megan Brown called police to report Matos had held a knife to her throat and threatened to kill her, the Tribune reported.

He fled before cops arrived, but neighbors spotted Matos at the house later that afternoon, sweaty and out of breath, according to police records.

Matos had lived in the home with the Browns since July, when he moved with them from Pennsylvania to Florida - and stayed even after Megan Brown broke up with him. Days later, when the Browns' next-door neighbors, Ryan McCann, asked where Megan and her parents were, Matos told him the three had taken a trip to West Virginia.

Meanwhile, Matos sold 6 of the family's dogs through listings, earning $50 for each pup the family had bred. He used Margaret Brown's debit card to buy a shovel from Walmart - which he likely used to bury his victim's bodies near the house, police said. He also used the card to order Papa John's.

Police visited the house on Sept. 4 after a worried friend couldn't get in touch with any of the Browns. When officers saw birds circling the air, they discovered the maggot-covered, decomposing bodies.

Inside the home, cops found weapons, as well as blood-soaked sheets and rugs and blood and maggots inside a minivan in the home's garage, the Tampa Bay Times reported.

Matos faces 4 1st-degree murder charges and pleaded not guilty. He is next due in court Dec. 9. During a jailhouse interview last month, the accused killer proclaimed his innocence - though he admitted the evidence pointed at him.

(source: New York Daily News)


Alleged Ohio highway shooter faces death penalty

A man accused of kidnapping his estranged girlfriend from her Kentucky home and fatally shooting her on Interstate 75 in Ohio faces 5 charges and the death penalty.

A Warren County, Ohio, grand jury indicted Terry Froman on Monday on 2 counts of aggravated murder, 2 counts of kidnapping and 1 charge of discharging a firearm on I-75 in the Sept. 12 death of Kim Thomas, of Mayfield, Ky.

Froman, 41, of Illinois, is scheduled to be arraigned on the charges Wednesday in Warren County Common Pleas Court.

He also faces capital charges in Kentucky in the shooting death of Thomas' 17-year-old son, Michael "Eli" Mohney. Authorities say Froman executed Mohney as he tried to defend his mother from the kidnapping at their home.

Warren County Prosecutor David Fornshell said Warren County will prosecute Froman first before he is transferred to Kentucky.

Thomas was found dead, shot multiple times, across the back seat of Froman's white 2004 GMC Yukon after Froman, with police on his tail, stopped the SUV on the berm of I-75 in Turtlecreek Township. He allegedly shot Thomas, then shot himself in the chest. A spokesman for the Ohio State Highway Patrol had said Froman tried to commit suicide, but his injuries were not life-threatening.

The incident shut down I-75 for about6 hours.

"There is evil in the world and I think what we believe happened in this particular case is evidence of that."

A multistate search for Froman began early Sept. 12 after Thomas' co-workers at a Mayfield, Ky., nursing home went to her nearby residence to check on her when Thomas did not show up for work.

Authorities in Graves County, Ky., said Froman is accused of fatally shooting Mohney, in the residence before abducting Thomas. A bloodied Thomas tried to flee at a Food Mart in Paducah, Ky., on the morning of Sept. 12, but Froman caught her, put her in the vehicle and took off.

Froman then stopped at his mother's home in Paducah covered in blood. His mother called police after he left, Graves County Commonwealth Attorney David Hargrove said earlier.

"This is a case that has rocked that community of Graves County, Ky.," Fornshell said.

Froman and Thomas had lived together but broke up in late August or early September, Fornshell said.

Fornshell said he called Thomas' family and spoke with her father Monday morning before holding a news conference to announce the indictment.

"I could tell he was choked up about the fact that at least the 1st step of justice had started," Fornshell said. "There is evil in the world and I think what we believe happened in this particular case is evidence of that."

(source: USA Today)


Dunlap death row decision by Gov. John Hickenlooper haunts victim's father but not other family members

The father of slain 17-year-old talks about Gov. John Hickenlooper's decision to grant the killer an indefinite reprieve.

A heartbroken father whose daughter was killed during a rampage at a suburban Chuck E. Cheese blistered Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper for granting an indefinite reprieve to death row inmate Nathan Dunlap.

Dennis O'Connor called Hickenlooper a "coward" in a tough-to-watch 13-minute video released Monday by A Better Colorado Future, a political 527 overseen by Republican political operatives Andy George and Kelly Maher. His daughter, Colleen, was 17.

"He took the coward's way out at the expense of my daughter," O'Connor said. "He's a coward who doesn't deserve to be in office. If you can do anything, Coloradans, get this guy out of here before he screws everything up."

Hickenlooper, a Democrat, faces a challenge from former Congressman Bob Beauprez, a Republican.

O'Connor's former wife, Jodie McNally-Damore, has a different opinion of Hickenlooper's decision. Dunlap, she told CNN, "deserves to stay exactly in the hole that he's in -- let him rot."

And Colleen's cousin, Gillian McNally, told Colorado Public Radio that she "fully supports" Gov. Hickenlooper's decision. "I actually thought it was very brave," McNally said.

Maher said her organization has cut a 30-second and a one-minute campaign ad from the video, but still is making a decision on how to proceed.

Colleen was shot at the Aurora pizzeria where Dunlap he used to work at before being fired. He killed four people and severely injured a 5th. Dunlap was scheduled to be executed last year and some thought the Democratic governor might commute the killer's sentence to life in prison, instead, but the governor chose an indefinite reprieve. Hickenlooper said 3 jurors have said if they knew Dunlap was bi-polar they wouldn't have voted to give him the death penalty.

"This is an awful tragedy and Nathan Dunlap will die in prison," the governor's campaign manager, Brad Komar, said when asked about the video. "The governor's decision was based in his opposition to the death penalty while respecting that others disagree. It is a legitimate question whether the state should take a life."

(source: Denver Post)


Arizona jury to consider death penalty for murderer Jodi Arias

An Arizona jury will be sworn in on Tuesday to decide whether 34-year-old convicted murderer Jodi Arias will be executed for the 2008 slaying of Travis Alexander, court officials said.

After months of delays, a 12-member jury is set to be impaneled in Maricopa County Superior Court in downtown Phoenix in the penalty phase retrial of the former California waitress.

Arias was found guilty of 1st-degree murder in May 2013 for killing Alexander, 30, in his Mesa, Arizona, home. Alexander was found slumped in his shower after being stabbed 27 times, having his throat slashed and being shot in the face.

Arias testified for 18 days, claiming she acted in self-defense, while prosecutors said she murdered Alexander in a jealous rage.

The jury found her guilty and quickly decided that she was eligible for the death penalty. But they deadlocked on what her punishment should be, prompting Judge Sherry Stephens to declare a mistrial.

The 5-month trial featured lurid testimony and grim crime-scene photographs, drawing many U.S. television and Internet viewers with the aid of live-streamed broadcasts. The penalty phase retrial, however, will not be broadcast live.

It took roughly 3 weeks to seat the new jury, from a pool of roughly 400 people. If that jury deadlocks, the death penalty will be off the table, and Stephens will decide if Arias gets life in prison, or life without the possibility of parole for 25 years.

(source: Reuters)


Church to appeal Asia Bibi death penalty

Catholic leaders in Pakistan will appeal to their country's Supreme Court after a lower court upheld the death penalty for a blasphemy ruling against a Christian mother of 5 children.

"Like it or not, we have to accept the court order," Father Emmanuel Yousaf Mani, director of the National (Catholic) Commission for Justice and Peace, told Catholic News Service.

4 days earlier, the Lahore High Court upheld the death sentence handed to Asia Bibi in 2010. "The only option before us now is to appeal against the verdict. We have applied for a certified copy of the verdict. We will appeal against it in the Supreme Court," Father Mani said, adding Christians were praying for an acquittal.

A statement from the Cecil & Iris Chaudhry Foundation, a Catholic group named for a critic of Pakistan's blasphemy law, expressed disappointment in the ruling.

"Bibi has wrongly been convicted of blasphemy. We remain optimistic that the rule of law will prevail and justice will be done (when the appeal is heard in the Supreme Court). For now that is our only hope," said the statement by the Catholic advocacy group.

Bibi, an "untouchable" low caste, was accused of blasphemy after an argument with her Muslim neighbour over a drinking glass in the fruit field where they worked together. She was the 1st Christian woman convicted under the blasphemy law that provides for mandatory death sentence even for unintentional acts or words of blasphemy.

2 prominent critics of the blasphemy law lost their lives in their bid to get Bibi released on bail following her conviction.

Salman Taseer, a Muslim and governor of Punjab province, was shot dead on January 4, 2011, by his Muslim body guard after he initiated a clemency petition.

Shahbaz Bhatti, a 42-year old Catholic and federal minister for religious minorities who closely worked with Taseer with the clemency petition, was killed 2 months later in Islamabad.

More than 96 % of Pakistan's population of more than 180 million people are Muslims. While Christians and Hindus account for over 1.5 % each, Ahmadis, Sikhs, and tribals account for the remaining 1 %.

(source: Catholic Herald)


Diplomatic talks continue concerning the fate of 3 Seychellois nationals on death row in Egypt

All diplomatic avenues are being engaged in an attempt to save the lives of 3 Seychellois nationals whose time is running out after having been sentenced to death in Egypt for drug trafficking, says the Seychelles government.

The Seychelles President James Michel this morning conveyed a letter addressed to his Egyptian counterpart, Abdel Fattah El-Sisi pleading for clemency for the 3 men.

The letter was handed to the new Egyptian Ambassador to Seychelles Mahmoud Ali Talaat after he presented his credentials to the Seychellois Head of State this morning.

The matter relating to the death penalty imposed on the 3 Seychellois men was the main topic of discussion.

Talaat told journalists in an interview at State House that the Seychelles President had expressed the grief that the people of Seychelles and the families of the 3 men are currently going through.

"The President (James Michel) expressed how important it is to the Seychellois people and for the families of the 3 who are sentenced to death," he said adding that he will convey the message to Cairo as soon as he arrives in Nairobi where he is based.

"I will convey his message to his excellency the President of Egypt and to the government. I'm not a law expert so I do not know what could be done about it but I will convey the message...Let's hope for the best. As I said I have to convey the message to my president and we will see from there, but normally the Egyptian government never gets involved in the judiciary."

The Seychelles Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Barry Faure is currently in Cairo where he yesterday discussed the matter with the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

It was on Wednesday last week that it was confirmed that the Egyptian Court of Cessation had upheld the death penalty imposed on Ronny Norman Jean, Yvon John Vinda and Dean Dominic Loze, rejecting their appeal.

The 3 men were sentenced to death by execution on April 7, 2013 and the sentence was confirmed on June 3, 2013.

They men were arrested on April 22, 2011 by the Egyptian police onboard a boat near the Red Sea coastal town of Marsa Alam. They were together with a British national identified as Charles Raymond Ferndale, who is said to be the owner of the vessel and another Pakistani national.

They were accused and charged for attempting to smuggle 3 tonnes of cannabis packed in 118 bags into Egypt.

The Seychelles Foreign Affairs Minister Jean-Paul Adam who was also present at the State House meeting, said Seychelles has made several diplomatic representations since the 3 men were sentenced to death on April 7, 2013.

He said the 1st was to the former Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi after they were sentenced. Morsi was ousted by the military in July 2013.

Adam noted that another appeal was also made after the death sentences were upheld by the Egyptian Court of Appeal.

Then there was the final appeal to the Court of Cassation, which is the last legal recourse. Now that the court has pronounced itself and upheld the death penalty the Egyptian president has 1 month during which he may intervene on the matter.

Nevertheless Adam said it is a very difficult situation as questions may be asked to the Egyptian authorities as to "why this case and not others" while adding that "if the appeals are unsuccessful, we must prepare ourselves for what can happen."

"....Egypt has shown that it is very open to listen to Seychelles and I think this is the mark of the strength between the 2 countries. But we are also conscious that like in Seychelles the executive cannot interfere in the judiciary," said Adam.

"Because Seychelles is not a country that applies the death penalty we are appealing for clemency in that their sentence could be reduced to life imprisonment....but it will be a question for the Egyptian legal authorities to look at. We hope for a positive answer but we have to be respectful of the Egyptian justice system."

The Seychelles Foreign Affairs Minister said his ministry is in contact with the families of the condemned men adding that "the 3 are in a very difficult and emotional situation."

Adam also told journalists that a possible execution date has not yet been confirmed and that they await to hear from the lawyers on the matter.

He also said that negotiations for clemency are being coordinated with the UK Government since a Briton was also arrested together with the 3 Seychellois and subsequently sentenced to death for drug trafficking.

The Seychellois public have also expressed concern about the fate of the 3 Seychellois nationals in Egypt while several efforts are ongoing to plead for mercy on social media sites and newspapers.

The former Seychelles President James Mancham has also added his voice to the plea for clemency for the three Seychellois men. Mancham has also sent a letter to the Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi calling on him to show mercy on them.

Seychelles and Egypt established diplomatic ties in 1976.

While the situation of the 3 men on death row dominated discussions during talks between the newly accredited ambassador and Michel the possibility to enhance cooperation between the two countries were also highlighted.

"We discussed different matters in the trade field, how trade could be doubled or even tripled or quadrupled, we should make more efforts in that respect using what we have now which is the COMESA. There are lots of agreements that could be signed between both countries. Egypt can supply various experts in different fields especially in the health field," said Talaat.

Apart from increasing trade and cooperation in the health sector, tourism is another area which the two sides feel can be explored further.

(source: Seychelles News Agency)


Egypt court upholds death penalty for militant----Ansar Bait Al Maqdis have claimed responsibility for a number of attacks

An Egyptian military court on Tuesday confirmed death sentences against 7 Islamist militants convicted of attacking and killing army officers, the semi-official newspaper Al Ahram reported online.

The confirmation was made after the tribunal received a report from the country's chief legal Islamic authority, the Grand Mufti, on an initial ruling issued by the court in August, according to the paper.

Under Egypt's criminal law, civil and military courts have to refer preliminary death sentences to the Grand Mufti for an advisory opinion.

The military court also handed down life imprisonment to 2 defendants in the same case related to the killing of 2 army officers during a security crackdown on an arms cache manned by suspected Islamist insurgents in the province of Qaliubia earlier this year.

The defendants are members of Ansar Bait Al Maqdis, a Sinai-based militant group that has claimed a series of deadly attacks against Egyptian security forces since the army deposed Islamist president Mohammad Mursi in mid-2013.

(source: Gulf News)


Yero Removes Ebhos From Death Row

The governor of Kaduna State, Alhaji Ramalan Yero has signed a release order for Thankgod Ebhos, an inmate on death row in Benin City prison after 19 years on death row.

The governor signed the release in exercise of his power of Prerogative of Mercy as outlined under section 212 of the Nigerian constitution.

The long winding road to Thankgod Ebhos' release began with the intervention of the international human rights organisation, Avocats Sans Frontieres France (ASF France) on the platform of their death penalty project, Saving Lives (SALI). The pro bono team of SALI lawyers forestalled further threat of execution by immediately filing for an injunction at the ECOWAS community court of justice.

In a statement by Miss Esther Akpa, Avocats Sans Frontieres (ASF) France, Mr Ebhos is one of nine prisoners whose release order was approved to commemorate Nigeria’s 54th Independence Day celebration.

According to the statement, Mr Ebhos came into the limelight in June 2013 when he narrowly escaped execution alongside the famous four inmates of Benin prison after their death sentence warrants were signed by the Edo State government. Thankgod, the 5th inmate, was actually taken to the gallows but was not hanged unlike the four who did not escape the hangman's noose.

"In February this year the ECOWAS court ruled in Thankgod's favour by granting the injunction and ordering the federal government to remove his name from the death row list. The final judgment from the same court on the 10th of June, 2014, reiterated the order to take off Thankgod's name from death row.

(source: Leadership Nigeria)


Reprieve for Death Row Inmates in Kaduna

In an unprecedented turn of events, reprieve has eventually come the way of Thankgod Ebhos and Sunday Eze Onyeabor, 2 death row inmates formerly in Benin prison, following the signing of their release order by the governor of Kaduna State, Ramalan Yero.

The governor signed their release in exercise of his power of Prerogative of Mercy as outlined under Section 212 of the Nigerian Constitution. Ebhos is one of the nine prisoners whose release order was approved to commemorate Nigeria's 54th Independence Day celebration.

Onyeabor was sentenced to death in 1994 and had been on death row for 20 years, while Ebhos was sentenced to death by a military tribunal in 1995 and has been on death row for 19 years.

The duo, who have appeals pending at the Court of Appeal are beneficiaries of Avocats Sans Frontieres France's Saving Lives (SALI) project initiated in 2011, which has since recorded the release of 48 inmates from prison.

Ebhos came into the limelight in June 2013 when he narrowly escaped execution alongside the famous 4 inmates of Benin prison after their death sentence warrants were signed by the Edo state government.

Ebhos, the 5th inmate, was actually taken to the gallows but was not hanged unlike the 4 who did not escape the hangman's noose.

The long winding road to Ebhos release, however, began with the intervention of the international human rights Organization, Avocats Sans Frontieres France (ASF France) on the platform of their death penalty project, Saving Lives (SALI).

The pro bono team of SALI lawyers forestalled further threat of execution by immediately filing for an injunction at the ECOWAS community court of justice.

In February this year the ECOWAS court ruled in Ebhos' favour by granting the injunction and ordering the federal government to remove his name from the death row list.

The final judgment came from the same court on June 10, 2014, which reiterated the order to take off Ebhos' name from death row.

The court at that time stressed that any attempt to execute Ebhos, while his appeal was still pending at the Court of Appeal, would be a gross violation of his right to appeal as contained in section 6(4) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).

Ebhos' son, Ebhodaghe Solomon, who spoke to ASF France about the challenges he went through in the process of appealing for help with his father's case, expressed joy at the news of his release.

"It has been a very long process,' he said. "Some lawyers and organizations that I took my father's case to promised to help and nothing came out of it even after they had collected money. ASF France handled my father's case like it was a family matter. The way someone would fight for their family, that is the way they took my father's case."

Also Oneyeabor's niece, Arinze Georgina, who was appreciative of the governor's gesture, commended ASF France's effort in handling her uncle's case.

Meanwhile, Avocats Sans Frontieres France has commended the governor of Kaduna State, Ramalan Yero for this gesture and urged the Katsina State government to consider following suit in the case of Maimuna Abdulmumini, who was sentenced to death as a minor.

According to ASF France Head of Office, Angela Uwandu, "The death penalty is absolutist in nature, and should be totally expunged from our laws."

"Thankgod's release today underscores the impact that the decision of the ECOWAS court could have on the status of death row inmates. If Thankgod Ebhos had been executed prior to the judgment of the ECOWAS court, his execution would have been irrevocable and the chance to experience this freedom would have been lost," she added.

(source: The Guardian)


13 executed in a day, 6 inmates die in a prison due to dire conditions

The Iranian regime's henchmen hanged at least 13 prisoners on Sunday October 19, 2014 in Ghezel-Hessar Karaj Prison, Tabriz Central Prison and Rasht Central Prison.

18-year-old Fardin Jaafarian was hanged in Tabriz prison for allegedly committing a crime when he was 14.

A group of 8 inmates hanged in Ghezel-Hessar prison while another group of 4 executed in Rasht prison.

Meanwhile, at least 6 inmates lost their lives due to the excruciating conditions at a death camp and inhumane pressures by henchmen.

The men arrested in city of Bandar Abbas as a part of mass arrests carried out in the city October 12-17 under the pretext of fighting against drugs. They were all imprisoned in Camp Jabal-Bor in Bissim area of the city,

Also at least 5 death row prisoners in Urumyeh Central Prison have been transferred to solitary confinement since October 18 to await their execution.

Meanwhile, Iranian regime officials continue to pledge to continue on violations of human rights in Iran.

Commenting on the latest reports by international bodies on the violation of human rights in Iran, Sadegh Larijani, the head of the mullah's Judiciary, said on October 15: "The more they attack us on the issue of human rights, the more we become determined to carry out sentences," IRGC affiliated YJC website reported.

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


High Court grants Humam a month to appoint lawyer in death penalty appeal

The High Court has granted a man convicted of killing MP Dr Afrashim Ali one month to appoint a lawyer.

Hussein Humam had requested the period at the first hearing of the appeal at the High Court this morning.

The Criminal Court sentenced Human to death on January 16, finding him guilty of intentional murder, stating Humam had assaulted the ruling Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) MP with a sharp object and intentionally killed him.

Dr Afrasheem was found brutally murdered in the stairwell of his apartment building on October 1, 2012.

Humam gave contradictory statements in court regarding his involvement in the crime. Although he initially confessed to the crime, he later retracted his statement claiming the statement had been given under duress.

He appealed the death sentence in May, just before the 90 day appeal period for lower court rulings was about to expire.

Death penalty

Shortly after the Criminal Court sentenced Humam to death, Minister of Home Affairs Umar Naseer announced plans to implement the death penalty ending an unofficial sixty year moratorium on the practice.

Speaking on a show on state broadcaster TVM on Sunday night, Naseer said the incumbent government will not "shy away" from implementing the death penalty despite pressure from foreign countries and human rights organizations.

"We are not one to shy away from implementing the death penalty by showing various excuses. Nothing will stop us from implementing the death penalty as planned," Naseer said.

He said that while he respected the views of European countries which are calling on the government to continue with the moratorium on the death penalty, he believed that the decision lies solely with the Maldivian government.

"While European countries are speaking against the death penalty based on their set of principles, the US, Indonesia, China are not, even though they are by far the more populated countries. Each country has a separate viewpoint on it, and I understand and respect that. However, I believe there is a need for the death penalty to be implemented here, and come what may, we will implement it".

The decision to reintroduce implementation of the death penalty has given rise to public debate.

While Islamic groups have said that capital punishment is a crucial aspect of the Islamic Shari'ah, Mauhadini Sanawi and Azhar University graduate Scholar Al Usthaz Abdul Mueed Hassan previously told Minivan News that Islam is a religion of forgiveness first, and called on the state to abolish the death penalty.

"In taking qisaas, it is prescribed that it must be done in the manner that the crime was committed. Like the metaphor an eye for an eye. Taken in the exact same manner. How can this be done in cases of murder? How can the life of the murderer be taken in the same manner as that of the murdered? This is prescribed so as to discourage the taking of qisaas," Mueed said at the time.

The government has previously announced that lethal injection is the state's preferred method of implementing capital punishment.

(source: Minivan News)


High Court Rules Out Capital Punishment

The High Court cannot impose the death penalty on murderers in Zimbabwe until the legislature enacts a law spelling out the circumstances under which one can be hanged, Justice Charles Hungwe has said.

The landmark ruling spared Jonathan Mutsinze of the Jerusalem Church of Marondera the hangman's noose for killing a policeman and a security guard in the course of an armed robbery.

Justice Hungwe said there was no law defining "aggravated circumstances," a condition for one to be hanged.

In the absence of the Act, Justice Hungwe said, the courts cannot impose capital punishment.

He said life imprisonment was appropriate in Mutsinze's case.

Justice Hungwe ruled that the new Constitution under Section 48(2) stated that death penalty could only be imposed on a person who commits murder under "aggravated circumstances" but there was no Act defining the aggravated circumstances or setting out the conditions under which capital punishment can be imposed.

Justice Hungwe said before the introduction of the new Constitution, the death penalty would be imposed after the court found no extenuating circumstances and the extenuating circumstances were well-defined.

"Section 48 of the new Constitution brings in a new legal terrain, which recognises everyone's right to life including prisoners.

"Section 48 (2) of the Constitution permits death penalty to be imposed on a person convicted of murder committed with aggravated circumstances and that the law must allow the court a discretion on whether or not to impose the penalty.

"In my view what the Constitution has done is to unfetter the exercise of the discretion which was previously fettered under Section 337 of the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act.

"The omission of reference to extenuating circumstances and the introduction of aggravated circumstances, in my view, must be interpreted to mean that what is envisaged in an Act of Parliament, will define the term (aggravated circumstances) or set out conditions on which the court will impose death penalty," he said.

"Alternatively, and in any event, the absence of the definition of the term or what constitutes aggravated circumstances, must mean that they were to be defined in the envisaged law."

Justice Hungwe interpreted the situation to mean that Zimbabwe was moving away from the death penalty.

"I interpret the legal position to be that in keeping with its international obligations and best practices, Zimbabwe intends to move away from death penalty," he said.

Justice Hungwe's ruling confirms an argument by prominent Harare lawyer Advocate Thabani Mpofu in a separate case in which the National Prosecuting Authority was seeking an order barring the High Court from imposing the death penalty on Zimbabwean murder suspects extradited from countries that do not recognise death sentence.

Countries like South Africa are holding on to murder suspects for fear they will be executed when extradited to Zimbabwe.

When Adv Mpofu was asked to give his own analysis of the law as a friend of the court, he said while the old Constitution specifically made provisions for the death penalty, the new order left that decision to the legislature.

Mutsinze, who had been in remand prison for 10 years awaiting sentence, was finally sentenced after the Constitutional Court dismissed his application for stay of prosecution.

He was convicted of murder with actual intent, which usually attracts the death penalty, but the loophole saved him and he was slapped with a life sentence.

(source: The Herald)

OCTOBER 20, 2014:


Texas death penalty too easily doled

On Oct. 8, a 49-year-old man who was looking death in the eyes was able to walk away a free man.

According to the Houston Chronicle, in 2005, Manuel Velez was charged in the death of his girlfriend's son, Angel - who passed away a day before his 1st birthday.

The Huffington Post said Velez was with the boy when he started struggling to breathe and sought help, but ultimately the child could not be saved. It was only a few weeks after the death that Velez became a person of interest, despite not having a history of violence, and he was sentenced to death row at the age of 40.

Angel's mother - and Velez's girlfriend - Acela Moreno was also found guilty of the child's death and charged with capital murder; however, she agreed to a plea deal and was only required to serve 5 years of a 10-year sentence before being sent to Mexico.

Back in August, a judge granted credit to Velez for the 9 years he served on death row and gave him the ability to be eligible for mandatory supervision. And on Oct. 8, Velez walked out.

One of Velez's lawyers, Brian Stull from the American Civil Union's Capital Punishment Project, strongly believed that Velez never committed the crime he was imprisoned for, said The Huffington Post.

"Manuel never belonged in prison, let alone on death row waiting to be executed," Stull said. "He is indisputably innocent."

Stull also went on to say that he believed the child's mother played the upper hand in his death.

According to the Houston Chronicle, Moreno had a history of being abusive to her children, and Stull said he believed she should have been regarded as the main suspect to the tragedy.

"This is the story of an innocent man who went to death row because the entire system failed," Stull said to the Huffington Post.

The death penalty isn't black and white; it's difficult to say death penalty should be legalized all over the country.

According to the Texas Death Penalty Law, capital punishment is legal in the state of Texas should the suspect have caused the death of another individual. However, the entire institution of capital punishment goes a lot deeper. Rather than generalizing every murderer as simply being deserving of the penalty, it should be required to take each case as it comes.

"I always find myself torn on whether the death penalty should be allowed," said journalism senior Nikki Nduukwe.

"I think it's hard for me to wrap my mind around taking someone's life as a punishment for a crime, but then I think of the people who have done horrible, disgusting things. So when it comes to the death penalty I think the issue is so complex that it is hard to say yes or no."

In Texas, the death penalty is reserved for those who have caused another's death. If the system and the victim's family want the perpetrator to suffer the consequences for the act he committed, the death penalty would not fulfill this.

"I think the death penalty is too easy of a way out for a criminal crime," said accounting junior Christina Nguyen. "A life sentence in jail allows criminals to think upon their actions."

Once the criminal is dead, he's gone. It would be more beneficial to have him serve out a life sentence and, therefore, be properly punished for his crime.

However, there are a number of individuals who are beyond help and the death penalty may be the only course of action for them. This can be said for individuals who have repeatedly committed the same crime or who are becoming an increasing danger to society.

Each case must be taken on its own, but with some individuals it's easy to see that they have no chance in redeeming themselves and it would be better to put them out of their misery. Psychology junior Emma Coronado said she believes the system can remove the blood from its hands by keeping criminals locked up.

"There are people who are too evil to live," Coronado said. "They're dangerous and have insatiable lusts that are impossible for them or anyone else to control. That being said, I do believe in a higher power and that fate will take its course; whether it be during their lifetime or after it. I think they belong in high security places where there is no danger of escape."

Velez was extremely lucky to walk away from capital punishment, which cannot be said for a number of individuals.

The death penalty is the most inhumane form of punishment, and the system does not have the right to decide whether or not a person should live. Despite being a highly controversial topic, the death penalty is not spoken about as much as other topics - which needs to change.

(source: Opinion columnist Trishna Buch is a print journalism senior; The (Univ. Houston) Daily Cougar)

DELAWARE----new execution date//NOT serious

Bonistall killer's execution date set

In a brief proceeding on Monday, James Cooke was informed that he is to be put to death on Dec. 4 for the 2005 rape and murder of Lindsey Bonistall.

However, all sides expect this new execution date to be stayed as Cooke pursues appellate options.

Cooke, 43, who was notorious for his outbursts during his 1st trial and re-trial, remained quiet through the 6-minute proceeding before Superior Court Judge William C. Carpenter Jr., who took over the case after Superior Court Judge Charles Toliver IV retired earlier this year.

Carpenter read a brief statement informing Cooke that since the Delaware Supreme Court had upheld Cooke's conviction and death sentence, the court was required to re-impose the sentence and set an execution date.

Cooke, who was dressed in an orange prison jumpsuit, was then taken out of the courtroom once Carpenter finished re-reading the sentence that was imposed by Toliver in September 2012.

Outside court, Cooke attorney Anthony Figliola said he expects that Cooke will file a motion claiming his trial counsel was ineffective, and at that point, he, along with co-counsel Peter Veith, will file a motion to stay the execution and withdraw from the case. Figliola said he expects Cooke to file his motion in the next couple of weeks, and at that point, the Federal Public Defender's Office will take over representation of Cooke through the appeals process.

Deputy Attorney General Steve Wood said while he does not expect Cooke to be executed in December, due to appeals, he nonetheless said Carpenter's ruling on Monday is "an important step down a long road" to Cooke's eventual execution.

Appeals in a death penalty case can take as long as 15 years before an execution is carried out.


Eden Park slaying trial opens

In opening statements Monday, prosecutor Ipek Medford told a jury that Jeffrey Phillips and Otis Phillips walked up to Herman "Ninja" Curry as he stood on the sidelines of an afternoon soccer tournament on July 8, 2012 and tapped him on the shoulder.

"Ninja, you will die," a witness heard Otis Phillips say and he pulled out a gun and fired repeatedly. Curry, 47, tried to get away but soon fell to the ground after being hit three times at point blank range, she said.

According to witnesses, Medford said Otis Phillips and Jeffrey Phillips then turned to the massive crowd of people including women and children and families enjoying the tournament and a day at the park, and sprayed the crowd with gunfire. And a witness saw 16-year-old Alexander Kamara Jr., who was waiting for his turn to play in the tournament, drop to the ground.

This trial, Medford told the jury, is about revenge, retaliation and elimination.

Medford said Otis and Jeffrey Phillips, who are not related, were seeking revenge and looking to retaliate for a slaying of one of their friends, Kirt Williams, hours earlier at a party on King Street.

Jeffrey Phillips had been at that party with Williams and others and told to leave just before the shooting started.

But Medford said Otis Phillips was also seeking to eliminate Curry, who was witness to a slaying at a different party in January 2008 where Otis Phillips was the main suspect based on Curry's description to police.

Medford also said that both Otis Phillips and Jeffrey Phillips were members of violent, drug-dealing street gang, the Sure Shots, and the gang wanted to "go to war" after the slaying of Williams.

Defense attorneys, meanwhile, stressed the poverty-stricken upbringing of their clients and reminded the jury that both men were innocent until proven guilty.

Attorney Kevin O'Connell, representing Jeffrey Phillips, said his client was not a gang member but hung out with some because they had a studio and he liked to make music with them. Attorney Michael Heyden also denied that his client, Otis Phillips, was a member of the Sure Shots.

Jeffrey Phillips is facing 12 charges, including first-degree murder for the death of Kamara and Curry. Otis Phillips is facing 15 charges, including murder the 2008 slaying of Christopher Palmer, the murder Curry witnessed.

Both men face a possible death sentence if convicted.

The trial, overseen by Superior Court Judge Calvin Scott, is expected to last more than a month.

(source for both:


Trial to start soon for man accused of stabbing wife to death in parking lot

A 44-year-old Central Florida man faces the death penalty if he is convicted of killing his wife outside of a local sub shop.

Dwayne White is standing trial on 1st-degree murder charges. He is accused of slashing his estranged wife to death in a Seminole County parking lot. Prosecutors allege that it was White who killed 42-year-old Sarah Rucker in August 2011.

The state is seeking the death penalty. On Monday, potential jurors were asked in detail what they think of the that possible punishment.

The potential jurors were told White has not been convicted of anything at this point. His trial has yet to start.

"Pushed me down and hit my head, but I'm fine," Rucker said on a 911 call hours before her death, which will be played during the trial.

Rucker said an argument at her home in Deltona got physical. She said she was going to get the phone she claimed White took from her.

"I'm on call tonight and I just need my phone," she told the 911 operator.

3 hours later, the local hospital worker was found stabbed and slashed. Her body was found in a sub shop parking lot at State Road 434 and Interstate 4 in Longwood.

The state said scientific evidence at that scene points to White.

12 jurors are needed in this case, and usually 2 alternates are also part of the panel. The case could start as early as Tuesday morning and is expected to last a week.

(source: WESH news)


Murder charges filed----Long Beach Man Could Face Death Penalty After Being Charged With Murder of CSUN Student

A Long Beach man is eligible to receive the death penalty after he was charged today in the death of a Cal State Northridge student last month, the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office (LADA) announced.

Agustin Rosendo Fernandez, 28, of Long Beach, was charged with 1 count of murder, with the special circumstances of murder during a robbery and murder during a carjacking. The complaint also alleges personal use of a knife as a deadly weapon.

The LADA said Fernandez met victim Abdullah Alkadi through a social media website after Alkadi posted his car for sale, said Deputy District Attorney Cynthia Barnes, who is prosecuting the case.

The body of Alkadi, an engineering student, was discovered last week near Palm Springs off the 10 Freeway. Prior to that, he was last seen near his Northridge home on September 17.

Because of the special circumstance allegations, Fernandez is eligible for the death penalty, the LADA said. Prosecutors will decide later whether to seek the death penalty or life in state prison without the possibility of parole.

Fernandez is scheduled to be arraigned today at the Los Angeles Superior Court in San Fernando, Department S. Prosecutors are expected to ask that he be held without bail.

(source: Long Beach Post)


China Executed 2,400 People in 2013, Dui Hua

The Dui Hua Foundation estimates that China executed approximately 2,400 people in 2013 and will execute roughly the same number of people in 2014. Annual declines in executions recorded in recent years are likely to be offset in 2014 by the use of capital punishment in anti-terrorism campaigns in Xinjiang and the anti-corruption campaign nationwide.

Dui Hua bases its 2013 estimate on data points published in Southern Weekly that are consistent with information provided to Dui Hua by a judicial official earlier this year.

The mainland magazine reported that a former senior judge of the Supreme People's Court (SPC) stated at a seminar in July that the number of executions had reached 1/10 of the highest number recorded since 1979. In 1983 - the 1st year of the Strike Hard campaign during which the power to approve capital punishment was given to provincial high courts - 24,000 people were sentenced to death, according to a report by citing The Communist Party of China: 40 Years in Power (Zhongguo gongchandang zhizheng sishi nian). The book called the 1st year of the Strike Hard campaign the largest centralized attack since the campaign to suppress counterrevolutionaries in 1950.

A judicial official with access to the number of executions carried out each year, which is a state secret, told Dui Hua Executive Director John Kamm in early 2014 that the number of executions dropped by around 20 % in 2013 compared to the previous year. Dui Hua previously estimated that China executed 3,000 people in 2012.

China currently executes more people every year than the rest of the world combined, but it has executed far fewer people since the power of final review of death sentences was returned to the SPC in 2007. Since then, the number of executions nationwide may have dropped by more than 1/3 with declines of nearly 50 % in some locales, Southern Weekly reported citing an expert familiar with the court system. Other experts have said that the national figure dropped by 50 % 4 years after 2007.

In 2013, 39 percent of all death penalty cases reviewed by the SPC were sent back to provincial high courts for additional evidence, Southern Weekly reported citing an SPC official speaking at a legal seminar. Domestic violence survivor Li Yan was among the defendants whose cases lacked sufficient evidence; the verdict against her was ultimately overturned.

The SPC currently overturns fewer than 10 % of death penalty verdicts, a former SPC senior judge told Southern Weekly. In the years immediately after 2007, the rate was about 15 %. (This percentage varies considerably by province.)

Between July 2, 2013, and September 30, 2014, the SPC published 152 death penalty review decisions online, Southern Weekly reported in a separate article. The 152 decisions involved 129 murder cases and 17 drug cases. Only 5 verdicts were fully or partially overturned, and defense lawyers participated in just 13 % of death penalty reviews. Amendments to Article 240 of the Criminal Procedure Law, effective January 1, 2013, state that if the defense attorney requests, the SPC shall listen to the opinion of the defense attorney during its review.

Provinces with the most review decisions were Yunnan (14), Xinjiang (13), Zhejiang (11), Guangdong (8), and Henan (8). The average time for reviewing a death penalty verdict was 6 months, with 2 years as the longest period.



Rais, we need you here -- We need people like Rais Bhuiyan right here in Bangladesh in order to spread the message of love, forgiveness, friendliness, kindness, and empathy

Rais Bhuiyan was an ordinary dreamer when he left Bangladesh for America at the age of 27. He went there when the US government was offering immigrant visas to foreign citizens. He was trained both in a cadet college and in the air force. However, he wanted to be an IT professional in the land of possibilities. First, he went to Manhattan, and then he ended up in Texas. Rais started working at a gas station as well as in a mini-mart. Things were pretty much okay on the way to his dreams.

But things didn't exactly go as he wished. 9/11 attacks changed America and some of its people for good. After the attacks, a day labourer named Mark Anthony Stroman went on a killing spree against people who he viewed as Arab. His intention was to seek revenge for the attacks. On September 15, 2001, he killed Pakistani immigrant Waqar Hasan inside a Dallas grocery store.

On September 21, he walked into the mini-mart where Rais was working. Rais thought he was a simple robber, and was ready to hand over all the money that was in his counter. But Stroman asked: "Where are you from?" Before Rais could answer, Stroman shot him in the face. Stroman left thinking that he was dead. Rais, bleeding from his head, ran to the barbershop next door, and a man in the shop called 911.

During the police investigation, Stroman shot another man named Vasudev Patel on October 4. Stroman was arrested soon, but he called American TV stations from his jail cell and talked about how proud he was for killing those men. He thought he was the most patriotic American and started calling himself "the Arab Slayer."

Rais had to go through several surgeries, and finally the doctor could save his eye, but the vision was gone. He was carrying more than 35 pellets on the right side of his face. It took several years to go through all these painful surgeries, one after the other.

This is when Rais showed the most amazing gesture that any human can ever show. He forgave his shooter and took up the cause of preventing Stroman's execution. Rais organised the Muslim community behind his cause. And that changed the psychology of Stroman. He said in an interview with the New York Times: "I have the Islamic community joining in [my legal defence] ... spearheaded by one very remarkable man named Rais Bhuiyan, who is a survivor of my hate. His deep Islamic beliefs have given him the strength to forgive the unforgiveable ... that is truly inspiring to me, and should be an example for us all. The hate has to stop, we are all in this world together."

Rais reconciled with Stroman before his death. A few hours before Stroman's execution, Rais spoke to Stroman over the phone, saying: "I forgive you, and I do not hate you." Stroman responded: "Thank you from my heart! I love you, bro ... You touched my heart. I would have never expected this." Rais replied: "You touched mine too." Stroman was executed on July 20, 2011. On that day, Rais's lawyers had lost a final appeal in federal court to stop Stroman's execution.

Now, what else could be the best example of forgiveness in the present-day tumultuous world? Isn't it amazing that a person forgave another person who wanted to kill him? Indeed, this is remarkable.

Later on, Rais formed an organisation named World Without Hate and is presently running a USA-wide campaign against hatred. Anand Giridharadas wrote Rais's story in his work The True American: Murder and Mercy in Texas, which is now to become a Hollywood movie.

The reason I focus on Rais Bhuiyan is because he became an extraordinary dreamer from an ordinary one. We, as a Bengali nation, have much to learn from our own countryman who, after suffering the severest blow, could turn around and forgive his aggressor. The extent of hatred that is currently being practised in our socio-political life is phenomenal.

Our hatred towards one another, to my mind, seems to be the only stumbling block on the way to our true future. We need people like Rais Bhuiyan right here in Bangladesh in order to spread the message of love, forgiveness, friendliness, kindness, and empathy.

Come home and do something, Rais Bhuiyan.

(source: Ekram Kabir, Dhaka Tribune)


End futility of death penalty system

If there's one thing for which Pennsylvanians can thank confessed double murderer William Parrish, it's pointing out the mirage of the state's capital punishment law.

"Mirage" is no mere opinion. It reflects reality. Pennsylvania has imposed the death penalty 412 times since 1978, when capital punishment was reinstated, but only 3 people have been executed - and they essentially committed legal suicide, by declining to appeal. The last prisoner executed against his will was put to death in 1962, more than 50 years ago.

Parrish is not one of the few going quietly. He pleaded guilty in 2010 to shooting to death his wife and and baby son, but withdrew the pleas and stood trial, then was convicted. In August, the Governor's Office signed an execution warrant, but Monroe County President Judge Margherita Patti Worthington signed a stay in September.

Parrish's case resembles that of hundreds of other convicted individuals, all entitled to pursue appeals. It's a costly, lengthy but necessary process that has given rise to a boutique industry of lawyers who argue both sides. This life-and-death tug of war involves prosecutors, plaintiff's lawyers and judges, including federal judges from the Supreme Court on down. All these people recognize the gravity of their work. No one wants to see an innocent person killed by government. Besides costing tens of millions of dollars, the appeals process renders the "deterrence" argument toothless.

So, what's the point of Pennsylvania's death penalty, if nobody gets killed?

A 2011 Morning Call article reported that the death penalty costs an additional $2.27 million every year, even though, as Parrish's recent stay shows, executions do not occur.

Death penalty advocates and death penalty opponents alike should agree that the system is broken. For all intents and purposes, it's mere smoke and mirrors. All the death penalty is doing is bleeding Pennsylvania taxpayers.

(source: Editorial, Pocono Record)


2 charged in shooting death to have pre-trial hearing

Carl Leonard Varner and Jason C. Shauf are scheduled to have a pre-trial conference as co-defendants on Wednesday, for the 1st-degree murder and robbery charges they are facing in the death of Victor Hugo Campos-Olguin.

According to court documents, Varner, 56, and Shauf, 40, allegedly burglarized and robbed 310 E. King St., on Oct. 22, 2012 at 10:06 p.m., and killed Campos-Olguin during the incident.

At the time of the home invasion, there were 6 people at the scene. Varner and Shauf allegedly went into the home, demanding money and personal property, according to court documents. One of the men allegedly discharged a long barreled firearm into the ceiling of a bedroom during the incident. The 2nd allegedly used a black revolver to shoot Campos-Olguin, who fell into a nearby bathroom.

The 2 men then allegedly fled the area. In an investigation by Chambersburg Police, Shauf was identified as a suspect, according to court documents. On Oct. 23, 2012, Shauf was identified by a witness as being the man who shot into the bedroom ceiling during the incident.

In an interview with police, Varner denied involvement in the incident. He claimed that Shauf was "setting him up," according to court documents. During the interview, Police recovered a small single-shot .410 shotgun and a .22 caliber Mag revolver from his residence, 238 E. McKinley St., Chambersburg. Both weapons were found to be consistent with evidence documented at the murder scene.

Varner was facing the death penalty in the incident until this March, when the District Attorney's Office withdrew the Notice of Aggravating Circumstances, preventing them from pursuing the death penalty. The District Attorney's office discovered evidence concerning Varner's "mental health history, which would certainly allow a jury to find evidence of a 'mitigating factor,'" according to court documents. After finding that, the death penalty was "no longer tenable."

Varner is facing 23 charges, including of 1st-degree murder, robbery, burglary, conspiracy to commit murder, robbery and burglary, kidnaping and unlawful restraint charges. Shauf is facing nearly all the same charges, with 28 counts of robbery, burlgary and conspiracy to commit charges, however the 1st-degree murder charge against him has been dropped, according to court documents.

The trial is currently scheduled for Dec. 8 through Dec. 12, and Dec. 15 through Dec. 19. On Wednesday, attorneys are expecting to resolve any pre-trial motions left prior to the trial.

Both men are in Franklin County Jail, after bail was denied.



Adam Matos pleads not guilty; prosecutors to seek death penalty

Adam Matos, charged with murdering four people in Hudson last month, entered a not guilty plea in court Monday morning, while prosecutors announced they will seek the death penalty.

Standing in a red prison jumpsuit before Circuit Court Judge William Webb, Matos confirmed he will waive his right to a speedy trial. Via his public defender, Dean Livermore, Matos pleaded not guilty to 4 counts of 1st-degree murder, 1 count of aggravated assault, and 1 count of being a fugitive from justice.

Matos will next appear in court Dec. 9 for a pretrial hearing.

Early last month, investigators discovered four bodies stacked on a hill in Hudson. They were identified as Matos' ex-girlfriend Megan Brown, 27, the mother of his 4-year-old son; her parents Margaret and Greg Brown, both 52; and Nicholas Leonard, 37, whom Megan Brown had recently begun dating.

Deputies had visited the Browns' home, which Matos shared, in early September after receiving a tip that no one could be reached at the home. When a Pasco County sheriff's deputy entered, he found large amounts of blood and a strong odor.

From there, deputies tracked down the bodies, decomposing in the heat less than a mile away.

Arrest reports detail the way the victims died: Megan Brown was shot in the head. Margaret Brown was found with a plastic bag over her head, which had been bashed in. Her husband had been shot in the torso. Leonard died of blunt force trauma to the head.

Deputies found Matos a day later at a Tampa hotel, where he had checked in under his own name with the 4-year-old son he fathered with Megan Brown. The child, severely autistic, was unharmed and taken into protective custody.

Authorities have found weapons inside and surrounding the Browns' Hudson home, including crossbows, rifles and knives. They have also found blood-soaked rugs and sheets, as well as blood and maggots on the floor of a Dodge Caravan in the home's garage, court documents show.

Matos is being held without bail in the Pasco County jail.

(source: Tampa Bay Times)


Attorney for man charged in Pelham triple-homicide claims self-defense; prosecutors say victims were 'executed'

Prosecutors say Jon Ingram Staggs Jr. "executed" 3 people inside a Pelham home, 1-by-1, because he was angry over a drug debt. His attorney says the shootings were in self-defense, a "fight-or-flight" response to a struggle with one of the men.

On Sept. 9, 2012, Casey Lee Cumberland, 22; Joshua Adam Smith, 22; and Simeon Gilmore, 19, were found dead inside a home in the Chandalar subdivision in Pelham. All three men were shot with a .45 caliber Glock.

Staggs was taken into custody that afternoon after telling his mother and stepfather that he shot three people who tried to rob him.

The 22-year-old faces 5 counts of capital murder. His trial began 2 weeks ago before Shelby County Circuit Judge Dan Reeves.

Herbie Brewer and Lisa M. Ivey are representing Staggs. Shelby County District Attorney Jill Hall Lee and Assistant District Attorneys Roger Hepburn, Alan Miller and Jeff Bradley are prosecuting the case. They are seeking the death penalty.

Reeves will give an explanation of charges to the jury Monday morning, and jurors will begin deliberations. Attorneys delivered closing statements Friday afternoon.

Throughout the trial, they have offered different descriptions of the events leading up the shootings.

The night started at Club NV in downtown Birmingham. The 3 victims, Staggs and a man named Jeremiah Mullins planned to meet at the Chandalar house after leaving the club.

Staggs gave Gilmore some marijuana in exchange for a promise he would pay $40 for it later.

Mullins testified on Oct. 15 that Staggs showed him the Glock and a shotgun while they were in his truck.

They arrived first and grew impatient waiting for the others. Staggs walked around the home and broke a window. He took a television and a video game system and brought the items to a friend's house, Mullins said.

He testified that Staggs planned to return to the house alone later that morning.

Brewer said the shootings happened after an argument and a struggle between Gilmore and Staggs, who then acted "in the heat of passion, without time to think or cool off."

"We might take 2 weeks in court but this young man made a decision in the blink of an eye," he said in his closing statement.

Miller said Staggs was more calculating that night, particularly when he decided to bring his gun inside to ask for his money.

Prosecutors say that no struggle took place in the house that night. Several facts support their contention, Bradley said: Only a single, small drop of blood was found on Staggs' shorts. A couch cushion was found on top of Gilmore's body. Drawers removed haphazardly from a dresser were piled on top of Cumberland's shoes.

A Pelham police sergeant who collected evidence at the home testified that the scene "looked more like a ransacking" than a struggle.

Gilmore was shot 1st. He was found face down in a pool of blood in the living room, where furniture was overturned and cushions strewn around the room.

Staggs has repeatedly told friends, his family and investigators that he was defending himself.

In a Sept. 9, 2012, interview with investigators, Staggs' statements are sometimes indiscernible.

In that statement, Bradley says, Staggs is "evasive, mumbles and looks down" but still "confesses to each and every element" of the charges against him.

Staggs told investigators that he returned to get his money and a conversation with Gilmore turned quickly into a confrontation. He said Gilmore "jumped up and started running" at him, and he fired 3 times.

Staggs said he heard Cumberland yelling from the other room. He said they struggled in the hallway before he fired several shots.

Cumberland was found on the floor in the hallway outside a bedroom, where the drawers had been pulled out of a dresser and thrown on the floor.

Prosecutors contend that Cumberland was in bed when he was shot the 1st time.

"The only way out was past the guy with the gun who had just executed his friend," Bradley said.

Then Staggs went downstairs to leave through the basement door, through a room where Smith was asleep on a couch.

Smith "threatened to get a gun" and, in a kneejerk reaction, Staggs shot him, Brewer said.

Bradley said that claim is "preposterous," and prosecutors believe no such conversation happened. Smith, who was drunk earlier in the night, was passed out with his face on his arms.

"The only thing that explains that position is defendant went down there and in cold blood he executed Josh Smith," Bradley said.

Brewer said Staggs never denied shooting the men, but that the deaths of Gilmore and Cumberland were not intentional.



Austin Myers moved to death row

The teen sentenced to death for the murder of 18-year-old Justin Back in Warren County has been transferred to the Chillicothe Correctional Institution.

That's where male inmates on Ohio's death row are housed.

According to the website for the Ohio Department of Correction and Rehabilitation, Austin Myers, 19, was admitted on Friday, one day after a judge handed down a death sentence.

Myers and Timothy Mosley, 20, were convicted of robbing and killing Back in his Wayne Township Home. Back was choked, stabbed and shot. The pair dumped Back's body in Preble County.

Mosley testified against Myers in accordance with a plea deal he made with prosecutors to avoid the death penalty. Mosley faces life in prison without the possibility of parole at his sentencing in a few weeks.

Myers is now the youngest inmate on death row in Ohio. An execution date has not been set.

Executions in Ohio are on hold until February 2015 while the state reviews its lethal injection method.


Prosecutors seek death penalty in I-75 slaying

The man who sparked a 2 state manhunt faces the death penalty in Ohio and Kentucky.

Terry Froman, 41, now faces 2 counts of aggravated murder and 2 counts of kidnapping. He is accused of killing a teenager in Kentucky, then killing the teen's mother, Kim Thomas, 34, along Interstate 75 in Warren County.

Police found Thomas in Froman's car on I-75 near Monroe on September 12. The prosecutor says forensics show that Thomas was alive when they entered Ohio that day. She was shot multiple times and killed in Warren County. They say Froman also shot himself, but was not seriously hurt.

Thomas's family was there when the announcement was made. They say they are appreciative of the speed to prosecute the case.

Warren County Prosecutor David Fornshell says he will face charges first in Kentucky, then in Ohio.

Froman is being held in jail on a $1-million bond.

(source for both: WDTN news)


Suspect Held In 7 Murders In Northwest Indiana

A man was in custody in northwest Indiana, after the bodies of 7 women were found in the area this weekend.

A 43-year-old convicted sex offender was being held in Hammond, Indiana, where at least one of the victims was found Saturday night.

Police suspect the man is a serial killer who might be responsible for at least 7 murders.

A source tells CBS 2's Brad Edwards that the suspect has indicated that there may be many other victims, including those in other states. So far, he has only told investigators where to find the bodies of the 7 from Indiana.

He apparently only wanted to discuss the Indiana cases because the state has the death penalty and he wants to be executed for his crimes, the sources told Edwards.

The suspect has lived in Northwest Indiana since 2004, mostly recently in Gary, according to Gary Police Corporal Gabrielle King.

He was 1st arrested in connection with the slaying of 19-year-old Afrika Hardy, who was found dead inside a Motel 6 in Hammond.

While he was being questioned about Hardy's death, he allegedly told police about 3 other bodies. Investigators followed up on that information, and found 3 bodies in abandoned homes in Gary, Indiana.

"Once we received the information, of course we sent uniformed officers to the scene," Gary Police Cpl. Gabrielle King said.

One of those women has been identified as 35-year-old Anith Jones, who had been missing for a week before her body was found in Gary.

"We believe this may be the work of one or more persons, but again the investigation is ongoing," Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson said.

Early Monday, the Lake County Coroner's office confirmed three more women's bodies had been found, but have yet to provide any details on any of the murders.

Hardy and at least 1 other victim were strangled. Autopsies were pending for the other 5.

5 victims remained Jane Does as of early Monday.

"We're going through our missing persons reports at this time, to see if anything is connected," Gary Police Chief Larry McKinley said. Police in Hammond and Gary were conducting a joint investigation.

Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr. took to Facebook to defend his police department, in the wake of the apparent serial killings, as well as unrelated allegations of police brutality and racial profiling.

"Charges of racism, brutality, etc. against the Hammond PD are being encouraged and solicited around many parts of our city at this very moment. All in an attempt to destroy the Hammond PD’s credibility as a fine policedepartment, as I KNOW it to be," he wrote.

"As you hear the details of this grisly murder in Hammond motel room, and discover how this murder was solved by our police, it will make you proud of the Hammond PD. They captured a murderer, from Gary, that is a suspect in many murders, spanning many years, in NWI. Hammond, and NWI, are safer today because this murder case was solved. Our condolences and prayers go out to the victims, and to the families of the victims."

(source: CBS News)

TENNESSEE----death row inmate dies

Tennessee death row inmate dies of natural causes

Tennessee officials say a death row inmate convicted of a 1988 murder in Campbell County has died of natural causes.

Department of Correction spokeswoman Neysa E. Taylor says Olen E. Hutchison, 61, was pronounced dead at 8:55 a.m. Sunday at Riverbend Maximum Security Institution in Nashville.

Hutchison was convicted in 1991 in the drowning death of Hugh L. Huddleston, 46, of Knoxville.

Huddleston was lured to Norris Lake under the guise of going fishing.

Hutchison's case became the focus of demonstrations and forums on disparities in the state's death sentences.

Hutchinson was 1 of 7 men accused of plotting to kill Huddleston in an insurance fraud scheme. Hutchison was the only person sentenced to death.

The man convicted of pushing Huddleston into the lake received a life sentence.

(source: Associated Press)


Fleisher, Norma Jean Bodenhamer CPA

Norma Jean Bodenhamer Fleisher CPA, quietly slipped into the arms of her Savior on Thursday, October 16, 2014, in Lincoln. Norma was born October 21, 1926, in Grand Island, Neb. to Duward Arthur Bodenhamer and Myrtle May Bouchard. Norma was 1 of 4 children. She was united in marriage to Emmett Cleo Fleisher on October 19, 1957. While working full time and raising a family, Norma taught herself accounting via correspondence course and at age 40 became a CPA, her proudest accomplishment. She later served on The American Institute for Certified Public Accountants Minority Small Business Development Committee and traveled to New York and other cities giving seminars assisting minorities develop small businesses. She also volunteered with VITA assisting low-income individuals complete their tax returns. After her retirement from Lincoln Telephone, she was commissioned as a United Methodist missionary and assigned to Scarritt-Bennett Center in Nashville, Tenn. for nearly eight years prior to returning to Lincoln. While at Scarritt-Bennett, she volunteered with "Nashville Cares" supporting people living with AIDS by serving on a hot line for 5 years. While in Nashville and also after returning to Lincoln, she visited prisoners on death row, some of whom she continued to correspond with until the time of her passing. She traveled to Guatemala to volunteer with Habitat For Humanity where she helped to prepare a building site. She was a member of TCASK (Tennessee Coalition Against State Killing) and was involved in peaceful public demonstrations in Nashville, which she continued when returning to Lincoln, each Monday noon outside the Governor's mansion across from the Capitol. In 2011 at the age of 84, she drove her 19-year-old car to all 93 county seats in the State of Nebraska spreading the word against the death penalty. She was a member of Nebraskans For Alternatives to the Death Penalty.

Norma fostered many children in her later years and each held a special place in her heart. She was formerly a member of Grace United Methodist Church in Lincoln, until the time of its dissolution where she served on the board of directors of "Released and Restored," a program for ex-convicts. At the time of her passing, she was a member of New Hope United Methodist Church in Lincoln. Her final gift was to donate her body to the University of Nebraska Medical Center for research. She will be remembered for her selfless, servant's heart and her exquisite homegrown tomatoes of which she was quite boastful.

Norma is survived by 4 children: daughters, Nancy Kail (Charles), Johnston, Iowa, Janet Powell, Lincoln, Laura Offermann (Fred), Council Bluffs, Iowa; son, Bill Fleisher (Kristin), Lincoln; step-daughter, Norma Jean White (Mickey), Vinton, Va.; 9 grandchildren, Mick Shepard (Brenda), Milford, Angela Shepard and Lewis Fleisher, Lincoln, Amanda Cox and Jessica Turner, Council Bluffs, Brendan Fleisher (Toni), Bellevue, Ethan Fleisher, Bellevue, Michael White, Roanoke, Va., Cindy Hodges (Clay), Roanoke; two grand-dogs, Laska and Rocky Kail; 14 great-grandchildren, Tyler and Austin Shepard, Jayden and Julyan Zamora, Aidan and Asher Cox, Elizabeth Perez (Cristian), Megan Lopez (Geronimo), Trevor Case, Declan, Kassady and Gunner Fleisher, Austin and Michael White, Jr.; 9 great-great grandchildren, Leynah, Tatiana, Gabryella and DJ Perez; Angelica, Anastasia, Alexis and Emilio Lopez, Lilly Case; one brother, Robert Long (Donna), Clay Center, Kan.; and a plethora of nieces, nephews, foster children, and dear friends. Preceded in death by her parents, Myrtle & Duward Bodenhamer; husband, Emmett Fleisher; sisters, Dorothy Knox and Margaret McGinnis; Brothers-in-law, Ronald Knox and Stephen McGinnis; Nephews, Tom McGinnis, Neil Knox and Rob Long; great-granddaughter, Anna Reese Cox; and a great-great grandson, Cristian Josue Perez.

A celebration of her life will be held Sunday, October 26, at 3 p.m. at New Hope United Methodist Church, 1205 N. 45th St, Lincoln, NE 68503, with The Reverend Dr. Anne Kiome officiating. Memorials may be made to New Hope United Methodist Church.

(source: Lincoln Journal Star)


He Wanted 'the Best Life Has to Offer' and Killed His Family to Get It

Alan Hruby is a young man who was, in his own words, "striving for the best life has to offer" and decided, at some point, that killing his family was the quickest way to get it. He was a student of political science who liked to travel and liked to spend money; mostly, his parents' money and when they finally turned off the tap, he killed them, along with his younger sister.

Hruby, 19, was the eldest child of John and Tinker Hruby, who lived in Duncan, Oklahoma and were respected members of the community. John, 50, was the owner and publisher of a local newspaper, the Marlow Review. Alan Hruby had a sister, Katherine, who was 2 years his junior.

Alan did not outwardly appear troubled in any way, but he seemed driven by material things; to the point of having a shopping addiction and owing money to a loan shark. On his Facebook page, he described himself as "an up and comer from Oklahoma. Striving for the best life has to offer." He also posted statements that might have betrayed narcissistic tendencies, but could be chalked up to the exuberance and indomitable spirit of youth: "If you are tired of your dreams you simply are not dreaming big enough," he posted on April 25 and, on Jun 4, he wrote "Life is all about taking chances. Live a life full of positive chances, don't be the person to look back 10 years later regretting a decision."

In July, 2013, Alan Hruby took a vacation to Europe, visiting London, Paris and Rome. He reportedly obtained an American Express credit card, in his grandmother's name. After returning to the United States, he was charged with fraud after his father brought the matter of the credit card to the attention of police. Whilst in Europe, he had run up charges on the card, totaling more than $4,800. Hruby's spending continued to be a cause of some concern to his parents.

Last week, Hruby planned to travel to Dallas, Texas to watch Oklahoma University's football team play Texas. His parents refused to give him any more money for the trip. The teenager also owed $3,000 to a Oklahoma loan-shark. He had already decided, at some point, that the answer to his money problems was to kill his family and inherit his parents' estate. On Thursday, October 9, Hruby walked out to his dad's truck and retrieved a 9mm pistol. He went back into the house and waited for his family. When Tinker Hruby, 48, came into the house, her son shot her twice, killing her with the 2nd shot. A short time later, his sister, Katherine, walked inside and was killed with 1 shot. Alan Hruby then waited for his father to return. After about an hour, John Hruby came back to the house and Alan shot him twice.

Within hours, Alan Hruby had checked into the Ritz Carlton hotel in Dallas and was hanging out with a friend from OU. Andrew Bormann, who had driven down to Dallas with Alan's ticket for the game, said later "There was nothing I could detect that was wrong with him," in reference to their meeting in Hruby's hotel room. "...I was with him alone in his room, less than 24 hours after he shot his family and that I could tell nothing was wrong, that he was completely normal, is also terrifying." Bormann added.

On the morning of Monday 13, the Hrubys' housekeeper arrived at the house and discovered the three bodies. The following day, Alan Hruby was detained by police on a parole violation. He initially appeared distraught at the news of his family's slaying but, when his account of his own activities did not appear to add up, police decided to hold him for further questioning and, by that evening, he had confessed to the killings.

Speaking with a local news channel, Stephens County District Attorney Jason Hicks described Hruby's demeanor as unrepentant. "The only remorse we've seen is because he got caught," Hicks said.

The communities of Marlow and Duncan are still in shock over the killings. The Hruby's were, seemingly, well-liked and appeared almost to fit that 'perfect family' image. Alan Hruby, however, was a young man who appears to have felt that he was entitled to the "best life has to offer" and, in order to get it, he killed his parents and sister in cold blood. Hicks could seek the death penalty for Alan Hruby but has not revealed his intention to do so. With regard to the killer's disposition - and his fate - Hicks said the only remorse shown by Hruby was "crocodile tears." "It wasn't remorse because 'I've lost my mom, my dad and my sister,' it's remorse because he knows that his life is basically over."



Faces Death Penalty Because Travis Alexander Murder Was 'Especially Heinous'

Jodi Arias faces the death penalty in her trial because the original jury decided that she killed her former boyfriend Travis Alexander in an especially cruel manner.

Despite the conviction last year of the 2008 murder, the jury couldn't come to a unanimous decision, leading to the current situation of a new jury being chosen.

The new jury "will decide only if there are mitigators that outweigh the cruelty," explained AZ Central.

"The aggravator is called F(6) in the statutes, 'especially heinous, cruel or depraved.' In Arias' case, the trial judge would only allow for cruelty. All murder could be deemed cruel, but 'excessive cruelty' is supposed to refer to great physical suffering and mental anguish before death."

But the report notes that it's almost impossible to draw a line between murders that should get punished by death and those that don't.

The prosecutors choose which ones should. Juan Martinez in this case.

"The only narrowing function is prosecutorial discretion," defense attorney Eric Crocker said. "You're at the whim of the prosecutor's office to determine which cases are capital and which are not."

Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery feels that prosecutor discretion is necessary because each murder case is different. "You can't have a formula if you look at each one on its merit," he said.

Now that the new jury has been chosen, the actual retrial will start on Tuesday. Live video will not be allowed - in fact, no video will be allowed until the trial is completely over.

The jury will be sworn in as prosecutors seek the death sentence.

While Arias' murder conviction stands, prosecutors have one more shot at securing a death sentence with the new jury. Otherwise, Arias faces life in prison. Judge Sherry Stephens would then decide whether Arias could eventually get paroled or not.

A judge announced Thursday that the new jury will be seated on Tuesday. However, additional arguments are planned for Monday.

Arias acknowledged killing Alexander, but she said it was self-defense. Prosecutors argued the killing was carried out in a jealous rage after Alexander wanted to end their affair.

The retrial is expected to last into December.

(source: The Epoch Times)


High Court to Review California Death Penalty Case

The Supreme Court will consider reinstating the conviction and death sentence for a California man in a 29-year-old triple murder in San Diego.

The justices said Monday they will hear California's appeal of a federal appeals court ruling that overturned the conviction and sentence for Hector Ayala.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco said Ayala was denied a fair trial because prosecutors excused all seven black and Hispanic jurors who might have served.

The jury convicted Ayala of killing 3 people during a drug robbery at a San Diego garage in 1985.

The case will be argued in the winter.

The case is Chappell v. Ayala, 13-1428.

(source: Associated Press)


Benghazi suspect pleads not guilty to new murder charges

Ahmed Abu Khatallah, a suspect in the September 2012 attack on a U.S. facility in Benghazi, pleaded not guilty to new murder charges and the government declined to say Monday whether anyone else will be charged in this case.

CBS News' Paula Reid reports that Khattalah, the suspected leader of the attack against the U.S. diplomatic compound, appeared Monday morning in federal court. He entered the courtroom wearing a green jumpsuit, no handcuffs or restraints, and he was escorted by 3 U.S. Marshals.

Khatallah appeared before Judge Christopher R. Cooper in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to be arraigned on 17 additional charges which carry a possible death sentence if convicted. Through his lawyer, he entered a plea of not guilty and requested a speedy trial. Khatallah did not utter a single word during the hearing. He listened to the proceedings on a headset with help of a translator.

The next hearing is scheduled for December 9.

Khattalah, 43, the first militant to be prosecuted for the Benghazi violence, had initially been charged with conspiracy to provide support to terrorists, resulting in death. U.S. officials had described that initial, 1-count indictment as a placeholder to allow for him to be brought into court and for a grand jury to hear more evidence.

The new indictment does not add to the public account of how the attacks unfolded but it does include multiple counts that make Khattalah eligible for the death penalty if convicted, including murder of an internationally protected person and killing a person during an armed attack on a federal facility. It also accuses him, among other charges, of providing material support to terrorists, malicious destruction of property and attempted murder of an officer and employee of the U.S.

Reid reports that after the arraignment, the parties had a status hearing where both sides, once again, fought about the amount of discovery that the defense has received.

Khatallah's federal public defender argued that she has only received a "small amount" of discovery. She said that the new death penalty eligible charges broaden the scope of what information the government should provide to her.

The government said that it has passed along about 60 to 80 p% of its evidence and is moving as fast as they can. The judge asked whether this will remain a one defendant case and the government would only say "the investigation is ongoing."

After his capture during a nighttime raid, Khattalah was brought to the U.S. aboard a Navy boat where he was interrogated by federal agents. He remains in custody at a detention facility in Alexandria, Virginia. Khattalah earlier pleaded not guilty to the terrorism conspiracy charge.

One of his public defenders, Michelle Peterson, said last summer that prosecutors had not presented evidence tying him to the attacks.

"It is important to remember that an indictment is merely a set of allegations or charges, it is not evidence," she said Tuesday evening. "We will vigorously defend Mr. Abu Khatallah in court where the government will be forced to prove his guilt, based upon actual evidence."

Federal prosecutors have long accused Khattalah of being a ringleader of the Sept. 11, 2012, attacks that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and 3 other Americans. Attorney General Eric Holder said the new indictment reflects Abu Khattala's "integral role" in the attacks.

The superseding indictment alleges that Abu Khattala was involved in two different attacks, hours apart, on the diplomatic compound. The violence, which quickly emerged as a flashpoint in American political discourse, was aimed at killing American personnel at the compound and looting the buildings of documents, maps and computers, the Justice Department says.

In the 1st burst of violence on the night of Sept. 11, prosecutors allege, Abu Khattala drove to the diplomatic mission with other militants and a group of about 20 breached the main gate and later launched an attack with assault rifles, grenades and other weapons. That initial attack killed Stevens and communications specialist Sean Smith and set the mission ablaze.

Prosecutors say Khattala supervised the plunder of sensitive information from that building, then returned to a camp in Benghazi where a large group began assembling for an attack on a second building known as the annex. The attack on that facility, including a precision mortar barrage, resulted in the deaths of security officers Tyrone Snowden Woods and Glen Anthony Doherty, authorities say.

(source: CBS news)


The Death Penalty: Justice in Peril

On a Friday evening in 1944, in a small South Carolina town, George Junius Stinney Jr. was on his way to the execution chamber with a bible tucked under his arm. Even after using the book as a booster seat, the boy - who stood just over 5 feet tall and weighed 95 pounds - did not fit in the electric chair. The adult-sized facemask dangled loosely on his face. At 14 years of age, this black child became the youngest person to be legally executed by an American state since the 1800s.

Recently unearthed evidence suggests that Stinney was innocent. This evidence has come 70 years too late.

The tragic, legal lynching of George Stinney, Jr., illustrates how government-sanctioned death is morally incompatible with our less-than-perfect justice system.

The advent of DNA evidence gave way to a series of exonerations for wrongful convictions, beginning in 1989. Since that time, there have been 1,408 total exonerations for wrongly convicted persons, including 106 exonerations of individuals sentenced to death. Kirk Bloodsworth was the 1st death-row inmate to be exonerated by DNA evidence in the United States. He had been accused and convicted of a rape-murder he did not commit. Glenn Ford spent 30 years in prison for a murder he did not commit before DNA evidence made him the most recent death-row inmate to be exonerated in the United States.

If there is anything to learn from these heartbreaking stories of wrongful convictions, it is that an imperfect justice system makes capital punishment impossible to justify. Those 106 exonerated death row inmates were fortunate to have had science on their side and diligent defense attorneys and judges willing to reopen their cases to find the truth. For every Bloodsworth and Ford who now walks the streets, there are untold numbers of innocent others who remain on death row - or worse, who are dead because the death penalty is still constitutional in the United States.

The death penalty is a vestige of an ugly past that says the harshest penalty is ultimately what deters crime, even though current evidence about its effectiveness as a deterrent is inconclusive at best.

Yes, the death penalty is reserved for the most serious of crimes. And yes, it takes many years for a death sentence to be carried out, after the entire appeals process has been exhausted. But that doesn't resolve the most serious concern that government-approved death raises. Unlike a life sentence, where the opportunity for that individual to prove his or her own innocence still exists even after the last appeal, death is final. To sentence someone to death is to say that this individual no longer has the right to prove his or her innocence. For such a practice to have democratic legitimacy, the legal system must be able to determine guilt with absolute precision.

Our legal system does not fit the bill. It is too often inaccurate and unfair. Too many individuals have already been exonerated from sentences that carried capital punishment and too many people of color have been treated unequally at every step of the legal process for us as a country to rest easy as states around the country continue to carry out executions.

The United States is the only country in the Western Hemisphere that still permits capital punishment. The 43 executions that were carried out in the U.S. in 2012 puts us in a company that is only surpassed by China, Iraq, Iran, and Saudi Arabia. These are facts that should frighten us all. If we wish to consider our country the leader of the free world, then it is imperative that we reexamine our practices at home. As long as the death penalty remains constitutional in the United States, justice will remain in peril.

(source: Opinion; Dennis O. Ojogho '16, a Crimson editorial writer, is a government concentrator in Winthrop House----The Harvard Crimson)


Saudi Arabia steps up beheadings; some see political message

Immediately after his sword falls, the Saudi Arabian executioner steps backwards to avoid soiling his clothes with the blood of the condemned man, whose headless body can be seen slumping over backwards in the shaky online film.

After perfunctorily checking the white folds of his robe for flecks of red, the executioner wipes his blade with a tissue, which he drops onto the corpse and walks away.

A sudden surge in public executions in Saudi Arabia in the last 2 months has coincided with a U.S.-led bombing campaign against Islamic State. This has led to inevitable comparisons in Western media between Islamic State's beheadings and those practiced in Saudi Arabia.

Defenders of the Saudi death penalty say beheadings, usually with a single sword stroke, are at least as humane as lethal injections in the United States. They deplore any comparison between the kingdom's execution of convicted criminals and Islamic State's extra-judicial killing of innocent hostages.

But rights activists say they are more concerned by the justice system behind the death penalty in the kingdom than by its particular method of execution. And critics of the Al Saud ruling family say the latest wave of executions may have a political message, with Riyadh determined to demonstrate its toughness at a moment of regional turmoil.

Saudi Arabia beheaded 26 people in August, more than in the first 7 months of the year combined. The total for the year now stands at 59, compared to 69 for all of last year, according to Human Rights Watch.

"It's possible the executions were used as intimidation and flexing of muscles. It's a very volatile time and executions do serve a purpose when they're done en masse," said Madawi al-Rasheed, visiting professor at the Middle East Centre of the London School of Economics.

"There's uncertainty around Saudi Arabia from the north and from the south and inside they are taking aggressive action alongside the U.S. against Islamic State, and all that is creating some kind of upheaval, which the death penalty tries to keep a lid on."

A spokesman for Saudi Arabia's Justice Ministry was not immediately available to explain the upsurge in executions in August, or to answer other questions about the kingdom's use of the death penalty.


Whatever the reason for the timing, the wave of executions at the same time as jihadis in Iraq and Syria were beheading captives has brought new scrutiny to the practices of a country whose values are so different from those of its Western allies.

While Saudi Arabia has joined U.S.-led air strikes against Islamic State in Syria and has deployed its senior clergy to denounce militant ideology, its public beheading of convicts, particularly for non-violent or victimless crimes like adultery, apostasy and witchcraft, is anathema to Western allies.

"Any execution is appalling, but executions for crimes such as drug smuggling or sorcery that result in no loss of life are particularly egregious," said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director for Human Rights Watch.

Some diplomats have said the increase may be only a quirk of timing, as the appointment of more judges has allowed courts to clear a backlog of appeal cases, and as the rise began after the end of Ramadan, when fewer executions traditionally occur.

But the interpretation of it as a show of strength appeared to be reinforced last week by the sentencing to death of Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, a member of the Sunni-ruled kingdom's Shi'ite minority who had backed protests in 2011.

2 other men, 1 of whom was younger than 18 at the time of the protests, have also been sentenced for their part in the demonstrations and were convicted of having thrown petrol bombs.

"If you look at the definition of what Nimr was sentenced for, instigating sedition, it shows they want to make sure they stop any form of activism," said Mai Yamani, a Saudi-born political analyst in London.

More than a dozen people convicted of terrorism or Sunni Islamist militancy have also been sentenced to death this year.


Under the Saudi Sharia legal system it can actually be harder to avert execution for crimes without a specific victim, like drug smuggling, than for murder.

Of the 59 people executed by Oct. 16, 22 had been convicted for smuggling drugs, according to figures compiled by Human Rights Watch from Saudi media reports.

One Saudi man, Mohammed Bakr al-Alaawi, was put to death for sorcery so far this year, the third such case since 2011. Although such cases are even rarer, judges can also demand execution for adulterers or Muslims who abandon their faith.

In Saudi Islamic law, charges of violent crimes like murder are usually brought under the system of "qisas": retaliation on the principle of an eye for an eye.

While a murderer would normally be sentenced to death, the victim's family is permitted to accept "diyya", or blood money, instead of execution. The lives of women are worth half those of men, and non-Muslims a fraction of the value of Muslims.

Convicts from less wealthy backgrounds, or without tribal connections who might intercede with the family or tribe of the victim, are more likely to die because it is harder for them to arrange a blood money payment.

For other crimes, the punishment is usually up to the judge, employing his own interpretation of ancient Muslim texts. When there is no victim, there is no victim's family to offer mercy at a price. Saudi Arabia has no civil penal code that sets out sentencing rules, and no system of judicial precedent that would make the outcome of cases predictable based on past practice.

Bassim Alim, who defended 17 men who were sentenced to up to 30 years jail in 2011 for sedition and other crimes in a high profile political case, said judges saw no need for many protections seen as fundamental in the west, like ensuring defendants had legal representation.

"The judge actually told one of the accused to my face: 'Why do you need a lawyer? You don't need a lawyer'," he said.

Alim said capital convictions were often based on no evidence other than a confession, with judges under no obligation to consider mitigating circumstances, psychological factors or the possibility that a confession was coerced.


King Abdullah announced plans for legal reform in 2007, but judges, drawn from the traditionally conservative clergy, have so far succeeded is putting off meaningful change.

In 2009 Abdullah replaced the long-serving, conservative justice minister with a younger scholar, Mohammed al-Issa. His attempts to introduce more modern training for judges and a system of precedent to make sentencing more predictable have so far been blocked by strenuous opposition from conservatives.

Even Saudis who want reform generally do not oppose the use of the death penalty by public beheading. Khalid al-Dakheel, a political sociology professor in Riyadh, said the turbulence in the region meant people wanted the justice system to be tough.

"You don't want to have a dictatorship similar to that of Bashar al-Assad in Syria or (former Iraqi leader) Saddam Hussein. But at the same time you don't want to have a government which is weak, especially in such a region and at such a time," he said.

In the most extreme version of the Saudi death penalty, known by the Arabic word for "crucifixion" and reserved for crimes that outrage Saudi society, the corpse is publicly hanged in a harness from a metal gibbet as a warning to others.

An online film dated April 2012 on the LiveLeaks website shows a man being executed and then "crucified" in this manner, reportedly for robbing a house and killing its occupants. A group of 5 men suffered this fate in May last year in the southern province of Jizan for a series of robberies.

The reformist Jeddah lawyer, Alim, said he supported capital punishment in Saudi Arabia but that the legal system needed to be strengthened to ensure verdicts were just.

"I'm not someone who shies away from it. It's part of Sharia. But it has to be handled with extreme sensitivity and care. At the moment it can be done on the basis of no other evidence if the accused confesses," he said.

(source: Reuters)


UK Islamic Organizations Issued a Joint Statement Regarding the Death Sentence Against Ayatullah al-Nimr

The World Federation of Khoja Shias along with other Muslim bodies, groups and organisations have issued a joint statement denouncing the death sentence passed on Wednesday 15th October by the Saudi Arabian government against Ayatullah Nimr Baqir al-Nimr.

The World Federation of Khoja Shias along with other Muslim bodies, groups and organisations have issued a joint statement denouncing the death sentence passed on Wednesday 15th October by the Saudi Arabian government against Ayatullah Nimr Baqir al-Nimr.

The statement reads as follows:

We are extremely alarmed about the recent death sentence which has been passed against Ayatollah Nimr Baqir Al-nimr as reported by the media for "sowing discord" and "undermining national unity". Ayatollah al-Nimr is a respected Muslim figure in Saudi Arabia. He is a faith leader, reformist and human rights activist, who has long campaigned for an end to discriminatory laws against the Shia minority population of the country. This sentence follows a lengthy 2 year detention in a Saudi prison, which has sparked outrage, not only from the Muslim community but also from the international human rights organisations. We strongly believe that the sentencing of Ayatollah Nimr as a leader of the minority Shia community will further inflame sectarian tensions and provide encouragement to extremist groups such as ISIS to continue their persecution of religious minorities.

Therefore, we strongly expect the government of Saudi Arabia to act with responsibility and refrain from implementing the death sentence of Ayatollah al-Nimr. We ask the government of Saudi Arabia to consider the negative and detrimental impact that any sentence of Ayatollah al-Nimr will have to their national image and demand that Ayatollah al-Nimr is released. We implore the government of Saudi Arabia to behave as a responsible role model to both Muslims and Muslim governments around the world.

Signed by:

Al-Khoei Foundation

AlulBayt Foundation

British Muslim Forum

Council of European Jamaats


Islamic Centre of England

London Fatwa Council

Majlis-e-ulama Shia

Mecca Mosque Leeds

Radical Middle Way

World Federation of Khoja Shia Ithna-Asheri Muslim Communities

Saudi Arabia is facing an international outcry and accusations of promoting sectarian hatred after a Shia Muslim religious leader from the country's volatile eastern province was sentenced to death.

Sheikh Nimr Baqir al-Nimr, who led protests in Qatif at the height of the Arab spring in 2011, was convicted on Wednesday of sedition and other charges in a case that has been followed closely by Shias in the kingdom and neighbouring Bahrain.

Shia Muslims make up 10%-15% of the population of Sunni-ruled Saudi Arabia, which bills itself as playing a lead role in the fight against the jihadis of Islamic State (Isis) in Syria and Iraq. Riyadh has supported Sunni groups fighting to overthrow Bashar al-Assad but denies backing Isis.

In Iran, Saudi Arabia's chief regional rival and the political centre of the Shia world, the foreign ministry warned on Thursday that execution would have "dire consequences".

In London the Foreign Office stated that it was aware of the sentencing, adding: "The UK opposes the death penalty as a matter of principle."

The Saudi authorities have portrayed the cleric as an "instigator of discord and rioting". But Nimr's supporters and family have denied that he incited violence.

In a BBC interview, Nimr said he backed "the roar of the word against authorities rather than weapons". The arrest of his brother and other relatives after sentencing has fuelled anger that is being ventilated on Twitter and other social media.

"Saudi Arabia's harsh treatment of a prominent Shia cleric is only adding to existing sectarian discord and unrest," said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. "Saudi Arabia's path to stability in the eastern province lies in ending systematic discrimination against Shia citizens, not in death sentences."

Amnesty International described Nimr's sentencing as part of a wider Saudi government crackdown on dissent.

Shia and Sunni groups said they were extremely alarmed by the sentence. "Ayatollah al-Nimr is a respected Muslim figure in Saudi Arabia," 10 organisations said in statement. "He is a faith leader, reformist and human rights activist, who has campaigned for an end to discriminatory laws against the Shia minority. The sentencing will further inflame sectarian tensions and provide encouragement to extremist groups such as Isis to continue their persecution of religious minorities."

Toby Matthiesen, a Cambridge expert on Saudi Arabia, said: "In the last 2 years Nimr has become known by Shia across the world. For many Salafis and Sunnis with anti-Shia leanings he has become a real hate figure. In the context of Isis, the Saudi royal family is trying to legitimise itself in the eyes of Sunnis by being tough. Nimr was a revolutionary who called for non-violent protests and the downfall of the Al Saud, but also for Assad to go. He wasn't sectarian."

Yusif al-Khoei, of the London-based Al-Khoei Foundation, said he was "appalled" by the news and with others was considering boycotting a Saudi-organised conference on inter-religious dialogue in Vienna.

(source: AhlulBayt News Agency)


Petition for abolition of death penalty admissible: SC

Chairman of Watan Party barrister Zafarrullah has filed a petition in Supreme Court of Pakistan on Monday, which stated that the law of execution should be abolished in Pakistan.

The registrar of Supreme Court had objected to the petition earlier. However, today Justice Jawad S. Khawaja, during the hearing of petition in his Chamber rejected the objections by registrar office and ordered for the further hearing of petition.

The process of law requires that any person tried for a crime should have the right to full legal defense. The death penalty continues to be recognized as a form of punishment in Pakistan's judicial system. The hearing of removal of execution law can only be treated through constitutional petition.

During 2007, the UN General Assembly suggested governments who didn't abolish death penalty should suspend their execution process.

(source: Dunya News)


EU Disappointed By Pakistan Court's Decision To Uphold Blasphemy Death Sentence

The European Union has expressed sadness and concerns over the recent decision of a Pakistani court to uphold the death sentence handed down to a Christian woman convicted on blasphemy charges.

On Thursday, The Lahore High Court had rejected the appeal against the death sentence handed to Asia Bibi in 2010 for making derogatory remarks about Prophet Muhammad during an argument with a Muslim woman.

Soon after the court made its ruling, Asia Bibi's lawyer indicated that he will soon file an appeal with the Supreme Court.

"The EU considers the death penalty a cruel and inhumane punishment. We hope that the verdict will be appealed to the Supreme Court and struck down swiftly," the 28-member bloc said in a statement.

"We call on Pakistan to ensure for all its citizens full respect of human rights as guaranteed by international conventions to which it is party," the statement added.

(source: RTT news)


Presidential Clemency ---- Law minister for changes to constitution

Law Minister Anisul Huq yesterday underscored the need for an amendment to the Constitution so that convicted war criminals cannot get presidential clemency.

"It is no possible for us to accept in future that a president of Bangladesh pardons a convict of the 1971 crimes against humanity exercising article 49 of the Constitution," he said while talking to reporters after inaugurating a training course of the joint district judges at BIAM auditorium in the capital.

The article 49 of the Constitution says: "The President shall have power to grant pardons, reprieves and respites and to remit, suspend or commute any sentence passed by any court, tribunal or other authority."

The law minister told The Daily Star that it could not be ensured that the convicted war criminals would not get presidential mercy in future.

"I will raise the issue before the policymakers of the government and discuss with them how a provision can be incorporated in the Constitution prohibiting president's mercy for convicted war criminals," he said.

The minister apprehends that someone like former president Abdur Rahman Biswas might pardon war crimes convicts such as Jamaat-e-Islami leader Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mojaheed.

He said the draft amendment to the International Crimes Tribunal (ICT) Act might be placed for approval before the cabinet at its November 3 meeting with a new provision to try and punish war criminal organisations.

The move comes in light of making Jamaat, an organisation the International Crimes Tribunal has termed guilty of crimes committed during the Liberation War, face trial for its role in 1971.

In response to a query, the minister said the government would take a decision to file a review plea on the life imprisonment of Jamaat leader Delawar Hossain Sayedee after obtaining the full verdict of the review of the death penalty of Abdul Quader Molla.

The government would also move to ensure that the war criminals did not get presidential mercy in future, he added.

He has hinted at amending the Constitution to that end, if need be.

A faction of Ganajagaran Mancha submitted a memorandum to the minister on Sunday demanding scrapping the provision for presidential clemency for war criminals.

It also demanded filing a review petition of war crimes convict Delawar Hossain Sayedee's life-in-jail term and trying Jamaat-e-Islami as a party for its role in the war.

The secular platform seeks maximum penalty for convicted war criminals.

The minister said the very thought of Bangladesh's president letting off people convicted of crimes against humanity gave him a shiver.

"But we've seen that [war criminal Ali Ahsan Mohammad] Mojaheed and [war crimes accused Jamaat chief Motiur Rahman] Nizami had become ministers.

"The entire process of war crimes trial will be destroyed if any president shows the courage to forgive any war criminal in future.

"There can be no compromise over this process [war crimes trial]. We must ensure punishment for the 1971 atrocities. We have to ensure that the war criminals do not get off the hook by any means," the minister added.

(source: The Daily Star)


Executions Could Be Iraq's Real Challenge to Unity

On Saturday, Iraq formed a new unity government: Parliament approved Mohammed Salem al-Ghabban, a Shiite, for the role of interior minister, and Khaled al-Obeidi, a Sunni, as defense minister. But one day later, the United Nations published a report saying that the extreme use of the death penalty and "irreversible miscarriages of justice" in the country are fueling sectarian conflict.

The report, which came from the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, said the sharp increase has translated into 177 executions in 2013, with as many as 34 in a single day. This year, 80 executions - mostly hangings - have been carried out; another 1,724 prisoners were on death row as of August.

"The large numbers of people who are sentenced to death in Iraq is alarming, especially since many of these convictions are based on questionable evidence and systemic failures in the administration of justice," said Nickolay Mladenov, the UN's envoy to Iraq.

The report said that most defendants appear in court unrepresented or with court-appointed lawyers who are ill-prepared; in half the trials the UN monitored, judges ignored claims that defendants had been tortured until they provided a confession. According to Amnesty International, China, Saudi Arabia, and Iran are the only countries that have executed more of their citizens than Iraq since 2007.

"Given the weaknesses of the criminal justice system in Iraq, executing individuals whose guilt may be questionable merely compounds the sense of injustice and alienation among certain sectors of the population," said UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein. He added that this dynamic "serves as one of the contributing factors that is exploited by extremists to fuel the violence," referring to the belief of some officials and strategists that the influence of ISIS can by curbed by building a more inclusive government.

The death penalty, which was used as a way of governing under the brutal dictatorship of Saddam Hussein, was suspended in 2003 while Iraq was governed by the Coalition Provisional Authority. It was reinstated in 2005.

(source: Yahoo News)


Death penalty fuels violence in Iraq, says U.N. report -- 60 people were hanged in Iraq by the end of August this year, and although that is fewer than the 177 who were executed in 2013, 1,724 people remained on death row.

Iraq should stop its widespread use of the death penalty, which is unjust, flawed and only fuels the violence it purports to deter, the United Nations said in a report on Sunday.

60 people were hanged in Iraq by the end of August this year, and although that is fewer than the 177 who were executed in 2013, 1,724 people remained on death row.

Iraq tends to carry out the sentence in batches because President Jalal Talabani opposes the death penalty so a vice president orders executions when he is out of the country, said the report, published jointly by the U.N. Mission in Iraq and the U.N. Human Rights Office.

Judges often pass death sentences based on evidence from disputed confessions or secret informants, condemning suspects who are unaware of their rights, may have been tortured and have no defence attorney until they arrive in court, the report said.

"Far from providing justice to the victims of acts of violence and terrorism and their families, miscarriages of justice merely compound the effects of the crime by potentially claiming the life of another innocent person and by undermining any real justice that the victims and families might have received," the report said.

Some convicts' relatives said they had been offered a chance to avoid the death penalty by hiring a particular lawyer for $100,000, while many women detainees said they had been detained in place of a male relative, the report said.

U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein and U.N. Special Representative for Iraq Nickolay Mladenov said Iraq should impose a moratorium on the death penalty.

The report said the Iraqi government's view that the death penalty deterred violence "appears not to be valid given the deteriorating security situation over the past years" and said the executions appeared to be merely a reaction to the violence.

It added that the death penalty would not deter extremists who were prepared to die to achieve their objectives.

The report also rejected the government's claim that its use of the death penalty enjoyed popular support in Iraq.

"Once informed of the facts, including that it has no deterrent effect whatsoever on levels of violence and the risks of serious and irreversible miscarriages of justice, it is unlikely that the death penalty would continue to enjoy the public support that it now allegedly receives," it said.

It also called on the autonomous Kurdistan Region, which has a de facto moratorium on the death penalty, to abolish it permanently.

(source: World Bulletin News)


Vietnam cops bust largest-ever ecstasy, meth racket in central city

Police in Da Nang on Sunday seized thousands of ecstasy pills and more than two kilograms of meth in what they called the biggest drug haul ever in the central hub.

Lieutenant Colonel Tran Phuoc Huong, spokesman of the Da Nang police force, said they caught Pham Thi Nga, 43, at a bus station in the morning with more than 2,340 ecstasy pills.

The police then raided Honey hotel that the migrant from the northern mountainous province of Lang Son, which borders China, was running in the city. They found 140 grams of methamphetamine there.

Another more than 2 kilograms of meth showed up at the Sao Sang kindergarten managed by Nga's daughter. The meth was hidden in formula cans and estimated to value VND4-5 billion (US$188,480-235,600), according to the police.

The police also found records documenting drug and weapon transactions at the family's establishment in the city.

Any one convicted of smuggling more than 600 grams of heroin or more than 2.5 kilograms of meth faces the death penalty in Vietnam, which is said to have some of the world's toughest drug laws.

Firearm trade is also illegal in the country where the military is the only unit entitled to own and maintain arsenals.

The manufacture and transportation of military-grade weapons is punishable by between one year and life in prison.

(source: Thanh Nien News)


A Juvenile executed at Tabriz Central Prison

"Fardin Jafarian" who was charged with murder at the age of 14 was executed yesterday morning at Tabriz Central Prison.

According to the report of Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA), "Fardin Jafarian" who was charged with murder was executed by hanging yesterday morning at Tabriz Central Prison’s enclosure.

A close relative who preferred to remain anonymous told HRANA's reporter: "This teenager murdered his friend at the age of 14 with no intention and due to carelessness."

This source continued: "At the early hours of yesterday morning and at the age of 18, he was executed at Tabriz Central Prison's enclosure after the family of the victim refused to forgive him."

It is important to say that on 05 September, 1991, Iranian government have singed the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC). This international convention was also approved by the Islamic Consultative Assembly on 20 February, 1994, and was legislated a domestic law in Iran. According to the article 37 of this treaty, death penalty, long term or life imprisonment sentences without the right to parole for under 18s are banned.

(source: Human Rights Activists News Agency)


Human Rights: Juvenile offender executed in Tabriz

The Iranian regime's henchmen hanged a juvenile offender who allegedly had committed a crime 4 years ago when he was 14.

The victim, Fardin Jaffarian was hanged early morning on Saturday, October 18, in the city's main prison.

Since Hassan Rouhani has become the president of the regime over 1000 prisoners have been executed including many juvenile offenders.

In a message on the occasion of the World Day Against the Death Penalty (October 10, 2014), Mrs. Maryam Rajavi, President-elect of the Iranian Resistance, stated that the religious dictatorship ruling Iran is a government of executions based on its history, ideology, laws and daily policies.

While noting "an alarming increase in the number of executions in relation to the already-high rates of previous years" Dr. Ahmed Shaheed, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran, said in his latest report: "The human rights situation in the Islamic Republic of Iran remains of concern." "Various laws, policies and institutional practices continue to undermine the conditions needed for the realization of the fundamental rights guaranteed by international and national law."

Rights groups and regional analysts say Iran's record may be worsening in the backdrop of potential detente with the West," an article published Wednesday in The Washington Times reported.

An advance copy of a book-length report on the violation human rights in Iran titled "Behind Rouhani's Smile" provided to The Washington Times by the National Council of Resistance of Iran notes more than a dozen cases of juvenile offenders have been hanged during past year.

(source: NCR-Iran)


Syrian Extremists Facing Death Penalty in UAE: Reports

15 alleged members of the al-Nusra Front and Ahrar ash-Sham Islamist organizations are facing the death penalty in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), local media reported Monday.

All 15 have been charged with belonging to foreign terrorist organizations and collecting funds for them. Some of them also have been accused of illegally manufacturing explosives, possessing firearms and launching an extremist website.

The trial began in Abu Dhabi last month, though 4 of the suspects are wanted and undergoing trail in absentia. Nine suspects are citizens of the UAE, the rest of them are immigrants from Syria and the Comoros.

According to the prosecution, some of the suspects have been trained in al-Nusra Front and Ahrar ash-Sham camps to fight government forces in Syria, while others provided extremists with logistical support, recruited new members in the UAE and raised funds for the Islamist groups. Members of the cell were crossing into Syria from Turkey and delivering goods, including 14,000 automobile engines, via the same route, the media outlets reported.

(source: RIA Novosti)

OCTOBER 19, 2014:


Man on death row because in Texas, being black means you're dangerous?

Justice should be blind. It should be blind to race, income, class and other factors. However, in the case of Duane Buck, race played a major factor in his death sentence for capital murder.

In 1997, Buck was convicted for the capital murder of his former girlfriend, Debra Gardner, and her friend, Kenneth Butler. Buck was also convicted of shooting his step-sister, Phyllis Taylor, in the same incident.

During the capital murder sentencing, through testimony of Texas state licensed psychologist Dr. Walter Quijano, Buck's race became the centerpiece to the implementation of the death penalty. Shockingly, the Supreme Court cited that the race factor was the fault of Buck's lawyers because they called Quijano as their witness. However, the Supreme Court would not order his case to be resentenced, like several other similarly situated defendants.

From the Texas Defender Service:

Defense Attorney: You have determined that the sex factor, that a male is more violent than a female because that's just the way it is, and that the race factor, black increases the future dangerousness for various complicated reasons; is that correct?

Quijano: Yes.

In June 2000, then-Texas Attorney General John Cornyn named 6 capital murder defendants due for resentencing, which Duane Buck was one of them. Cornyn knew that injustices occurred with the sentencing phases of these trials due to the psychologist's testimony that race was a factor in reoffending probabilities. Dr. Walter Quijano testified improperly in all 6 cases that being black was a reason the defendants would likely reoffend. Therefore, his testimony improperly sealed the death penalty sentences for each one. 5 of the cases were required to reopen for the sentencing phase, but Buck's was not one of them.

For Buck's sentencing, the defense called Dr. Walter Quijano. Dr. Quijano testified under defense questioning that Buck's likelihood of re-committing a crime was low. Conversely, under cross examination questioning by the state prosecutor, Dr. Quijano agreed with the prosecution's line of questioning that being black is a factor to consider for the future dangerousness of a person. This was similar testimony to the other 5 cases That Quijano testified in and the sentences were overturned.

However, when the United States Supreme Court reviewed Buck's case, the Court stated that the testimony about race was improper but the defense opened the door to this testimony since Quijano was their witness. Therefore, the Supreme Court would not overturn the sentence that was given. Basically, it was the defense's fault.

Buck may die because his lawyer called the wrong witness.

In capital murder convictions, there are several factors that can be considered in sentencing a person to life in prison or the death penalty. Sentencing is based upon 2 things: mitigating factors and aggravating factors. Mitigating factors are facts presented by the defense to ask for leniency, in this case, life without parole and not the death penalty. Mitigation includes the defense calling psychologists and witnesses to testify to a person's upbringing and how it influenced their behavior, IQ level and intelligence, lack of understanding what may have occurred, lack of criminal history and family ties. Family members and friends are often called to testify for leniency often begging for mercy on behalf of their loved one.

On the other hand, aggravating factors are those reasons why a person should be sentenced to a harsher sentence. The prosecution has the right to present testimony and evidence as to why a sentence should be stiffer. Examples of aggravating factors are: If the defendant is a future danger to commit crimes again, whether the defendant committed more than 1 murder at a time, the victim's age or if the murder was for monetary gain of some sort. Victims and victim's family members are often called to testify about the impact the defendant's actions had on them. However, race should never be a factor for aggravating circumstances, which was used in Buck's case. He testified that with Buck being black he was more likely to re-offend.

In the case of Buck, despite Quijano being called as a defense witness, he testified that with Buck being black he was more likely to re-offend. The inclusions of race as a factor is an unconstitutional argument and helped seal his death sentence. The prosecution took the defense's mitigation witness under cross-examination and made him testify as an aggravating witness by stating that being black is a factor in a person reoffending. This was a costly and potentially deadly mistake to Mr. Buck.

The wave of support to grant Buck a new sentencing hearing has been joined by many including one of the prosecutors on the case, Linda Geffen, who wrote on behalf of Buck to get a new sentencing hearing. Buck's step-sister Phyllis Taylor has joined the fight to get Buck resentenced as well.

5 of the 6 cases mentioned by former Texas Attorney General Cornyn were reheard for sentencing, all of which ended with resentencing to death.

(source: Opinion; Eric Guster is a civil rights and criminal defense trial


County, defendant face long trial after death of deputy----Capital murder case could cost millions

When Ian Cantacuzene heard on television the name Dan Higgins in connection with the shooting of a Midland County deputy, he said that he was "shocked" because in his experience with Higgins he found him to be a "very pleasant, very nice guy."

Cantacuzene, who was representing Higgins on a previous drug charge, then went to the Midland County jail to advise his client.

"What I did was go down to make sure he was OK, to tell him that I believe they are going to charge him with capital murder, potentially they were going to seek the death penalty, that he would need to remain silent, and that he would need to ask for a court-appointed lawyer," Cantacuzene said.

More than a week after Higgins is alleged to have shot and killed Sgt. Mike Naylor while he was serving an arrest warrant on Higgins, investigators and the District Attorney's Office have remained silent concerning the capital murder case.

But attorneys and experts reached for comment paint a picture of a long, stressful and complex process that could last as long as a decade and cost the county millions of dollars.

For Cantacuzene, who represented Clinton Lee Young, the last man Midland County sentenced to death row, the burden of a death penalty trial is both "scary and terrifying."

"You've got a person's life in your hands. That's the ultimate responsibility as a lawyer," he said.

"That is an awesome burden that keeps you awake at night. If you're not scared by it to some extent, you probably shouldn't be representing the person."

Al Schorre, a former Midland County district attorney who worked on 6 death penalty trials in his career, said that Midland County District Attorney Teresa Clingman and her legal team will be combing through the facts in the case and Higgins' history to determine whether they should pursue the death penalty.

"Even though it's technically a capital case, you try to make the assessment - is this a case that you think a jury would probably, a local jury, a Midland County jury, would be likely to return a sentence of death?" Schorre said in a phone interview with the Reporter-Telegram from his home in Colorado.

Both men agreed that the process will be long and costly, both in terms of man-hours worked on the case and money the county will have to put forth.

Keith Price, associate professor of criminology at West Texas A&M University, said that part of the calculation for the district attorney is the monetary cost of such a case, which can run upwards of $3 million.

"Is (the district attorney) willing to spend a couple of million dollars of [her] budget to give this guy the death penalty?" Price said. "You spend that money on one case, then that money ís not available for other bad things that happen. So [she'll] have to be very careful about making that decision, and [she] won't make that decision for a long time."

While the death penalty is one of the options in the capital murder case pending against Higgins, Price said there is another option that carries a similar penalty but is not as costly: a capital life conviction without the chance for parole.

"Capital life you can get a plea bargain on, you can get the guy to plead guilty, he accepts life without parole, he's going to prison for the rest of his life, and you've accomplished the exact same thing from a retribution standpoint," Price said. "The guy's going to die in prison. Now, he's not going to die in the death chamber, but he's going to die in prison, so he is basically spent his life for the crime that he committed against this police officer."

Price, who formerly was a prison warden at the Clements unit near Amarillo, said that inmates in Higgins' position face a grim future.

"There's a really good chance that the state will, one day, put a needle in his arm, and extinguish his life," Price said. "Even if they don't do that, there's an even higher possibility that they will send him to the Texas prison system and let him stay there, however long that is, until he dies. Now, neither one of those are very nice options for one's life, so I suspect he [has] probably - if he's got any sense - some stress about him," Price said.

But there is no way to predict how the trial will turn out, Price said.

"It is a roll of the dice," Price said. "Nobody knows how a capital murder trial is going to play itself out."

(source: Midland Reporter-Teleglram)


Death penalty isn't an effective deterrent

Last Tuesday evening in a Montgomery County courtroom, a jury sentenced to death 28-year-old Raghanundan Yandamuri, a man convicted a week earlier of murdering a baby and the baby's grandmother.

A short while later, commenting on the sentence in a local TV interview, one of the prosecutors, Deputy District Attorney Samantha Cauffman, calmly told a reporter: "It won't give them back what they lost, but it is a sense of closure for them."

She was referring, of course, to the effect the execution (if carried out) would have on the victims' family.

Apparently, Cauffman is oblivious to the fact that the sentence she fought to bring about, and was now so cavalierly referring to, involves the cold-blooded killing of another human being - even if it is being carried out by the state on someone who has been convicted of murder.

At best, executing Yandamuri may satisfy a desire for vengeance or retribution among family and friends of the victims, and that's certainly understandable. But closure, which literally means "an ending" or a conclusion to the nightmares suffered by the family, is something a lot less certain. And killing - even by the state - is still killing.

In recent years, the word "closure" has been loosely bandied about in various types of tragedies by individuals who have no idea what it actually means.

Rather than true closure, there will probably be a great deal more anguish for the victims' family when Yandamuri goes through his lengthy appeals process.

Based on experience, that strategy is almost a certainty.

While Pennsylvania has the 4th-largest death row in the country, the only people who have been executed in the state since the reinstatement of the death penalty by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1976 were 3 inmates, all convicted of murder and put to death between 1995 and 1999.

And that was only after they had waived their appeals and asked that the executions be carried out.

Following just about every death penalty conviction, and often lengthy trials, the Commonwealth routinely goes through the expensive and additional time-consuming process of fighting appeals. Yet, almost all of these cases end with a life sentence.

According to a recent Associated Press study, 124 death sentences in Pennsylvania have been overturned and the individuals resentenced. When the original errors were corrected, 95 % (118) resulted in life sentences or less. Only 6 inmates were resentenced to death.

For a great many reasons, it's well past the time for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to join the 18 other states and the District of Columbia that have abandoned capital punishment.

Among the 18 are 4 of Pennsylvania's 6 neighboring states - New Jersey, New York, Maryland and West Virginia. Delaware and Ohio still have the death penalty.

In New England, with the exception of Vermont, capital punishment has been banned. And even in Vermont, it's only applied in the case of treason.

Before a Supreme Court decision in 1972 effectively banning such practices, death sentences could be imposed for crimes like cattle rustling (Texas), grave desecration (Georgia) and forcing a woman to marry (Arkansas).

Between 1977 (a year after the U.S. Supreme Court reinstituted the death penalty) and 2009, 1,188 people were executed in the U.S. - most of them by lethal injection.

82 % of those executions took place in the South, with 37 % of them in just 1 state: Texas.

Texas has the 2nd-largest population of any state, trailing only California. However, since 1977, Texas has executed 517 inmates, while California has executed only 13 and none since 2006.

Proponents of the death penalty insist that it is an important tool for preserving law and order, that it deters crime and that it costs less than life imprisonment. They argue that retribution, or "an eye for an eye," honors the victim, helps console grieving families and ensures that the perpetrators of heinous crimes never have an opportunity to cause future tragedy.

Realistically, the proponents' claims are as convoluted as a skit on "Saturday Night Live." In effect, they maintain that to teach people that killing is wrong, the state often has to kill people.

Opponents of the death penalty argue that capital punishment has no deterrent effect on crime, that it wrongly gives governments the power to take human life and that it perpetuates social injustices by disproportionately targeting people of color and people who cannot afford good attorneys.

They further insist that lifetime jail sentences are a more-severe and less-expensive punishment than death.

FBI data supports the opponents' arguments that the threat of a death penalty rarely deters criminals. A report for 2011 reveals the states without capital punishment have homicide rates 18 percent below the states that retain it.

It additionally reveals the Northeast region of the U.S., which uses the death penalty the least, had the lowest murder rate of the four geographic regions throughout the country.

By contrast, the South, which carries out more executions than any other region, had the highest murder rate.

According to Amnesty International, 2/3 of the world's nations (141) have abandoned the death penalty, with the overwhelming majority of executions occurring in only 5 countries - China, North Korea, Iran, Yemen and, sadly, the United States.

These are certainly not the countries most citizens of the United States want to be grouped with.

(source: Commentary, Jerry Jonas; The Intelligencer)


Va. medical examiner reverses ruling to no known cause of death in Prince Rams case

Virginia's chief medical examiner has reversed a ruling that a 15-month-old boy died by drowning in Manassas in 2012, finding that the cause of Prince McLeod Rams's death "should be changed to undetermined" and that "the possibility of a natural death cannot be totally eliminated."

The reversal was 1 of 2 key setbacks Friday for Prince William County prosecutors, who are seeking the death penalty against the boy's father, Joaquin S. Rams, whom they suspect of killing his son and 2 others as part of an attempt to collect 6-figure insurance payouts. Prosecutors moved to use the other 2 uncharged slayings as evidence against Rams, but Prince William Circuit Court Judge Craig D. Johnston denied their request. The judge ruled that "a propensity" to commit crimes is not admissible to prove guilt in one specific case.

"The case against Mr. Rams is incredibly weak" after the medical examiner's reversal, defense attorney Tracey Lenox said, arguing that prosecutors were trying to save the case by introducing 2 uncharged slayings. And the judge prohibited it, saying it would lead to "3 murder trials in 1."

Rams, 42, has been in jail without bond since his arrest in January 2013. Police in Manassas, where Prince Rams was allegedly slain in October 2012, long suspected Joaquin Rams in the March 2003 shooting death of his ex-girlfriend, Shawn Mason, and the November 2008 asphyxiation of his mother, Alma Collins, which was ruled a suicide.

In June 2013, prosecutors convened a special grand jury to hear evidence about the 3 cases. That grand jury then increased the murder charge in the Prince Rams case to capital murder and handed up a murder indictment for the slaying of Mason.

But last August, prosecutors quietly dismissed the murder charge in the Mason case. Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney James A. Willett was not available to comment after Friday afternoon's hearing. No trial date has been set in the death-penalty case.

In addition to the sudden deaths of 3 people close to Joaquin Rams, all 3 had significant life insurance policies, including three policies totaling more than $500,000 on his young son, raising investigators' suspicions. Prosecutors said that Rams inherited more than $162,000 from his mother's estate but has not received any money from the policies for his son and ex-girlfriend.

"It is really the money that binds these cases together," Willett told the judge, "and establishes a single criminal enterprise."

But the prosecutor said he also needed the evidence of the other two deaths because "we don't have any direct evidence of the manner of death, as a result of" the new report by William T. Gormley, the state's chief medical examiner. Instead, Willett said, the other cases would provide circumstantial evidence that Rams killed his son.

The new medical examiner's report was sent to prosecutors last week. It overrules the original autopsy done by Constance R. DiAngelo, an assistant chief medical examiner for Northern Virginia, who concluded that because Prince was found naked, wet and cold and had fluid in his sinuses, lungs and intestines, he must have drowned.

Rams's attorneys argued last year that the boy was wet because his father had found him having a seizure, took him to a bathtub and splashed cold water on him until paramedics arrived. They also noted that Prince was on life support for more than a day, receiving intravenous fluids, before he died at Inova Fairfax Hospital on Oct. 21, 2012. The boy also had previously suffered a series of febrile seizures, or convulsions, including four in 24 hours the month before he died.

So Gormley reviewed DiAngelo's autopsy and in a letter to Prince William prosecutors wrote, "I have determined that the cause of death should be changed to undetermined." He said the fluid in Prince's body could have been caused by the fluids received in the hospital and that "some form of generalized epilepsy associated with febrile seizures cannot be ruled out and is supported by the history. .?.?. A homicidal manner of death cannot be proven to a reasonable degree of medical certainty with the available data."

Gormley was not available Friday to explain why he revisited the case, his assistant said.

But court records show that prosecutors were already searching for second opinions on the cause of death and did so shortly after a series of articles in The Washington Post last year in which medical experts and Rams's attorneys questioned the drowning finding. Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Teresa A. Polinske contacted a forensic pathologist in Kentucky, a pediatric neurologist and epilepsy expert in New York, and a pediatric emergency doctor in Richmond. The prosecutor sent medical and police records, photos and surveillance videos and the articles in The Post.

Court records show that the emergency doctor agreed with the determination of a drowning. The neurologist concluded that Prince had been asphyxiated or drowned. The forensic pathologist strongly disagreed with the drowning finding, saying the death was possibly seizure-related and consistent with "Sudden Unexplained Death in Childhood."

(source: Washington Post)


DA seeking death penalty against men charged in couple's deaths, says other slayings likely

Authorities in Atlanta say 2 men accused of killing a pregnant woman and her fiance may have killed others.

Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty against 40-year-old Andre Cleveland Gay and 41-year-old Richard Augusta Wilson in the slayings of Briana Brooks and Jeronta Brown.

The 2 DeKalb residents were kidnapped on Aug. 30 and killed when a ransom wasn't paid.

Authorities say they believe Gay and Wilson are responsible for other deaths.

Fulton District Attorney Paul Howard said Friday the 2 men killed at least 7 people there. And Atlanta police expect to tie more unsolved murders to the men.

Gay was paroled after serving time for a double murder, and Wilson is out on parole after pleading guilty to manslaughter and robbery.

Defense attorneys for the men haven't commented.

(source: Associated Press)


Faith & Values: Little is easy about capital punishment

Little is easy about capital punishment cases, save for the raw anger such cases universally evoke.

Capital punishment typically involves heinous crimes by perpetrators who appear brazenly bereft of empathy for their victims. These cases deeply violate our sense of decency. And they violate our sense of moral contract. The city of Richmond has had its fair share of such cases, as has Virginia.

Such crimes not only affect innocent victims, they also have a devastating impact on the lives of those victims' families, their friends and other loved ones - to say nothing of surrounding communities. And this is often equally true for the families of the perpetrators. Victims all.

As University of St. Thomas law professor Mark Osler, a former federal prosecutor, says, "It is all tragedy."

This month, the University of Richmond School of Law will offer 2 programs addressing capital punishment. The 1st is a daylong symposium on Friday titled "Lethal Injection, Politics and the Future of the Death Penalty."

The 2nd is an evening program on Oct. 28 titled "Jesus on Death Row: The Trial of Jesus and the American Capital Punishment System."

Both programs will afford an opportunity to consider our use of the death penalty in the commonwealth of Virginia, the third-leading state in the country in the use of capital punishment since it was reinstated in 1976 (Virginia: 110; Oklahoma: 111; Texas: 517).

Both programs should prove to be engaging and thought-provoking.

"Jesus on Death Row," however, may prove to be the more challenging of the 2 programs.

The challenges surrounding lethal injection, the politics of capital punishment and other issues affecting the death penalty's future are important aspects of the conversation. Yet, comparatively, these are easier to consider - as safer, more intellectual aspects of the conversation.

Considering capital punishment from the perspective of faith renders the issue infinitely more complex and confounding.

Our initial impassioned response to such heinous crimes is a visceral sense of rage, with accompanying cries for retribution and justice Yet, in the Christian faith, Scripture tells that Jesus asked for forgiveness on the cross, not revenge or retribution. "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do."

And we respond in chorus, "No way, kill the murderers! We want justice!"

It strikes me that the faith journey begins at the point when we are most consumed by anger - with fists clenched in righteous rage. This is where Jesus, as he often does, confronts and confounds us. When and where we are most broken. And it is through the open wounds of our brokenness that God's grace engages us.

The Old Testament argues for retribution: an eye for an eye, murder for murder. Not Jesus. Jesus preaches forgiveness and mercy.

By extension, most major faith traditions have opposed capital punishment for decades - as has my Episcopal tradition since 1958.

In his new book "Dear Friends," the Rev. Christopher Webber writes in a "Saint Paul inspired" letter to Texas, asking, "And how, if you value life, can you as followers of Jesus Christ use the law to bring death to those who have taken the lives of others? Did not Jesus, dying under the law, forgive his murderers and open heaven to his fellow sufferer? Can you truly imagine that Jesus would condemn anyone to death? How can we as Christians, condemned by the law ourselves and forgiven in Jesus Christ, condemn others no matter how evil their deeds?"

We as Virginians, along with Texans, need to consider these difficult questions.

Webber goes on to say, "Let them be removed from society and allowed opportunity to understand the evil they have done and repent and find forgiveness but let us not stain our own hands with the blood of others." I heartily concur.

Life is for God to take, and God alone.

Chicago public defender Jeanne Bishop chronicles this very faith journey in her forthcoming book, "Change of Heart; Justice, Mercy and Making Peace with My Sister's Killer."

At the trial of Jesus at UR, Bishop will defend Jesus and argue for life. Osler will represent the commonwealth, applying Virginia law, and argue for death. As in Scripture and as in our "modern" legal system, a jury of citizens will decide.

In the end, faith challenges us to struggle with the difficult truth that we are all children of God, even those who appear to be the worst among us.

(source: Craig Anderson is a psychologist and the director of counseling services at Randolph-Macon College. He is an active member of the Church of the Holy Comforter and the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia----Richmond Times-Dispatch)


Scott, Crist both tough on crime, but different

As the state's chief executive, the governor of Florida wields significant power over the court system and has great influence on how the state keeps the public safe.

Rick Scott and Charlie Crist have different views of how that power should be employed. Though both men say they endorse the death penalty, by and large, Scott advocates a harder line on crime. Crist says he, too, is tough but that he favors a more balanced approach. These differences in tenor are evident in the 2 candidates' positions on guns, prison sentences, civil rights and judicial appointments. A former Republican now running as a Democrat, Crist used to embrace the nickname "Chain Gang Charlie," earned as a state senator when he sponsored legislation to revive chain gangs.

Now, he says, times are different. In addition to long prison sentences, the state should consider what works and how to reintegrate felons into society to make them less likely to commit more crimes, he says.

Asked if he still should be called "Chain Gang Charlie," Crist balked.

"It's important to remember the context of the original 'chain gang' legislation: Florida was seeing record high crime and folks didn’t feel safe in their homes," he said in an email response. "I believe in justice - but I also believe in mercy."

Crist has also tempered his support of former tough-on-crime laws, including one he sponsored, the Stop Turning Out Prisoners act, which requires prisoners to serve 85 % of their sentences, as well as 10-20-Life, which stiffened minimum mandatory sentences for gun crime.

"I fully support the concepts of the STOP Act and 10-20-Life, and I'm not necessarily in favor of changing them, but after 15 and 20 years it is appropriate to review them and see if they can be improved," Crist said.

Republican Scott's campaign says Crist's stance is just another example of the former governor reversing positions. The incumbent says this is no time back down.

"Law enforcement officials agree that Charlie Crist's flip-flop on important policies like mandatory minimum sentencing and 10-20-Life threaten the progress we've made in achieving a 43-year low in Florida's crime rate," said Scott campaign spokesman Greg Blair.

Those laws have contributed to the growth in the prison population and increased costs for the Department of Corrections.

When Scott ran for governor in 2010, he promised to cut $1 billion from the state's $2.4 billion budget for prisons. He made cuts but was unable to keep that pledge; the prison budget now is $2.1 billion.

With more than 100,000 inmates and 55 prisons, Florida, the third most populous state, has the third largest prison system in the country. But federal statistics also show Florida also has one of the highest incarceration rates in the country, with 524 people behind bars for every 100,000 people in 2012.

7 of the prisons, with about 10,000 inmates, are privately run, and Scott has fought unsuccessfully to expand the privatization of prisons.

As governor and a state legislator, Crist also targeted prison budgets. In 2007, under Crist, Corrections Secretary James McDonough proposed saving money by erecting tents for some inmates and putting some to work in road crews.

When the economy slid in 2009, Crist wanted to use money set aside for building prisons to plug holes in the budget. A year earlier, his budget proposal called for a budget increase of $186 million for construction of facilities for 4,149 new prison beds.

Crist says he opposes further privatization. "Private prisons focus on filling beds rather than rehabilitating those who find themselves behind bars," he said.

The prison system has also been the focus of scandals, with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigating 82 cases in which inmates died of nonnatural causes. The department has fired dozens of employees, several over allegations that they punched and beat inmates.

The controversies, Crist said, underscore that the department "needs a comprehensive review of both its prison operations and its budget. We need to improve correctional officers' training, basic services to inmates, and the rehabilitation programs that will reduce recidivism."

Asked if Scott still hopes to cut $1 billion from the prison budget and if he still plans to expand prison privatization, his campaign spokesman did not respond directly, saying Scott "is proud that his administration has saved money in the corrections system while achieving a 43-year low in Florida's crime rate."

Crist and Scott differ sharply on how to treat felons after they have served their sentences.

Shortly after he became governor, Crist pushed through changes to grant nonviolent former felons an automatic restoration of their civil rights, including the right to vote. Crist said at the time that people convicted of crimes should be able to move forward after paying the price levied by judges and juries.

According to the American Civil Liberties Union, an estimated 154,000 former felons had their civil rights restored under Crist after the reforms he initiated in April 2007, a rate that was previously about 8,000 annually. The change was supported by civil rights groups but opposed by some law enforcement organizations.

After Scott took office in 2011, he and Attorney General Pam Bondi rolled back Crist's changes, saying nonviolent former felons should have to wait up to 5 years and violent felons 10 years before applying to have their civil rights restored.

A 2012 study by a national group that advocates for post-release rights found Florida had the nation's highest percentage of people prohibited from voting because of a felony record - 10.4 % of the total adult population and 23 % of adult African-Americans.

Asked several questions about criticism of his rollback, the Scott campaign responded with a single sentence: "Governor Scott respects the process that is in place for restoring rights for convicted felons."

This hard-line vs. moderate approach carries over into the 2 candidates' positions relating to guns.

Earlier in his career, Crist and the National Rifle Association were the best of friends. The gun rights group endorsed Crist when he ran unsuccessfully for U.S. Senate against Marco Rubio and gave him a grade of A on its report card designed to guide voters.

As governor, Crist was known for signing pro-gun rights measures into law, including one that allows people to bring their weapons to work and leave them in the trunks of their cars. This time around, the NRA has a different view of Crist. The organization's latest grade for him is a D, compared to A+ given for Scott.

NRA official Chris W. Cox said, "Rick has signed more pro-gun bills into law in one term than any other governor in Florida history."

Scott has signed 12 NRA-backed bills into law, nine more than Crist.

Asked if Scott supports restricting access to assault weapons or increasing background checks for gun purchases, his campaign said Scott "is a strong supporter of the Second Amendment. In 2013, he signed legislation, with the support of Second Amendment advocates as well as mental health professionals, that helps keeps firearms out of the hands of individuals who pose a threat to themselves."

Among the laws signed by Scott was one recently upheld by a federal appeals court that bars doctors from asking patients about their guns or recording that information in records unless it was medically necessary.

Crist now favors expanded background checks for gun purchases.

"I'm a believer in the Second Amendment, and I grew up hunting," Crist said. "I don't think you need an assault rifle to hunt a deer. But what's most important is making sure we keep guns out of the hands of criminals."

The 2 men have different styles when it comes to picking judges, but both have been accused of trying to appeal to political constituencies in their judicial selections.

Crist picked 4 Supreme Court justices, with his 1st 2 very conservative and his 2nd focused on making the court more diverse. In each instance, he was described by observers as trying to shore up voting blocs.

Scott has not had the opportunity to appoint any Supreme Court justices but has clashed with the Legislative Black Caucus by telling members he won't pick judges who think differently than he does to achieve diversity.

In January, the caucus canceled a meeting with Scott, saying it was disappointed in part in his failure to promote diversity in the judiciary.

In May, the Florida Bar released a report critical of Scott and calling for more diverse judicial appointments. Saying the judiciary is "woefully unrepresentative" of the state, the report noted that just 16 % of 981 state judges are nonwhite, a portion that has remained about the same since 2000.

(source: Tampa Tribune)


Judge vacates convictions in Akron quadruple homicide; new trial for Deshanon Haywood set for next year

A judge vacated the aggravated murder convictions of 22-year-old Deshanon Haywood on Friday and ordered a new trial in connection with the April 2013 quadruple homicide at a North Akron townhouse.

Jury selection for Haywood's new trial - the 3rd time that a pool of potential Summit County jurors will be summoned - is set for April 27.

Common Pleas Judge Paul Gallagher gave the order during a brief hearing with prosecutors, Haywood and his defense team.

Prosecutors had agreed to a new trial early Thursday evening, and once the hearing in Gallagher's court began, Summit County Assistant Prosecutor Angela Alexander said her office had agreed to a new trial "in the interests of justice."

Haywood was awaiting the penalty phase of his previous capital trial following his Oct. 1 conviction on multiple counts of aggravated murder with death penalty specifications.

Last week, however, those proceedings were suspended when the defense filed court papers seeking a new trial. The motion claimed misconduct by the prosecutor's office and false testimony by 2 material witnesses for the state.

Friday's developments began to unfold without Gallagher on the bench.

Shortly before the scheduled start of the hearing, Summit Assistant Prosecutor Margaret Scott informed the defense that her office would agree to a new trial but not on the grounds of prosecutorial misconduct.

Defense attorney Brian Pierce objected, saying there were "no strings attached" to the agreement that was in place Thursday night.

Once Haywood was brought into court, both sides went into Gallagher's chambers to discuss the matter. When the lawyers emerged for the official start of the hearing, Gallagher heard from both sides and quickly issued his order.

Afterward, Pierce and co-counsel Joseph Gorman released a written statement, saying a new trial "was the right thing to do in light of the circumstances surrounding this case."

According to the statement, prosecutors withheld evidence and information, "which they are required by law to provide to the defense," during Haywood's trial last month.

"This is concerning in any criminal case," the statement said, "and even more so when the state seeks the death penalty."

Pierce and Gorman went on to say they hope the prosecutor's office makes "immediate internal changes to ensure that this type of conduct does not occur in the future."

They concluded by saying that Haywood's case "illustrates in graphic detail why Ohio needs to abolish capital punishment."

In the Oct. 9 motion for a new trial, the defense argued that there was false testimony by two important witnesses, Anthony Townsend and Deonte Woods, and that prosecutors were guilty of misconduct by not disclosing such potentially exonerating evidence in advance.

Amid previous controversies, Haywood's case restarted Sept. 3 with a 2nd round of juror notification followed by the selection of a panel that returned the guilty verdicts.

His 1st jury was dismissed before it was sworn in to hear the evidence. Prosecutors had leveled prejudice charges against Judge Mary Margaret Rowlands, saying she was biased against the death penalty. She then voluntarily stepped down.

Haywood's co-defendant, Derrick Brantley, previously was convicted of aggravated murder with capital specifications in Rowlands' court. His jury, however, opted not to impose death.

(source: Beacon Journal)


Kansas attorney general appeals death penalty decisions for Carr brothers, Sidney Gleason

Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt has formally appealed a decision to vacate death sentences of 3 men convicted in 2 separate murder cases. Schmidt announced Thursday that he will appeal Kansas Supreme Court decisions in the case of brothers Reginald and Jonathan Carr, and Sidney Gleason. The state court in July upheld capital murder convictions against the 3 men but vacated their death sentences.

The Carr brothers were convicted of killing 4 people in December 2000 in Wichita after committing several other crimes against them and a woman who survived the ordeal.

Gleason was convicted in Barton County for the February 2004 killing of Mikiala Martinez and Darren Wornkey in Great Bend. Martinez was a potential witness against Gleason in an earlier crime. Wornkey was her boyfriend.

(source: Associated Press)


Conference to focus on capital punishment

An educational conference about capital punishment is being offered on the Kansas State University Salina campus from 3:30 to 8 p.m. Tuesday. The Salina Regional Abolition Conference will include 2 sessions. The 1st sessions will be presentations by the daughter of a murder victim and experts on capital punishment, and the final session will be a presentation by a Missouri man who spent 24 years in prison before being exonerated. The first 2 sessions are in Room 108 and 169 of the Technology Center, and the final session will be in the College Center Conference Room. The conference is sponsored by the Kansas Coalition Against the Death Penalty and the social work program at K-State Salina.



Death penalty moratorium appropriate

With the news that state Attorney General Scott Pruitt has asked to delay upcoming executions in Oklahoma, Gov. Mary Fallin should place an immediate moratorium on the death penalty in this state. Even though state officials said jrecently they were prepared for the executions currently scheduled for next month, the state hasn't yet secured the necessary drugs for the executions. In addition, new protocols recommended by the Oklahoma Department of Public Safety haven't been implemented. The staff hasn't been fully trained on the new initiatives.

Instead of merely postponing scheduled executions, Oklahoma needs a moratorium in order to allow for the necessary time to properly train all of those involved in executions and to acquire the requisite drugs. Once implemented, a moratorium on executions should not be lifted until it becomes absolutely clear that Oklahoma is able to carry out an execution without violating the constitutional guarantee against cruel and unusual punishment.

That guarantee was violated when the state botched the execution of Clayton Derrell Lockett earlier this year and there’s no reason to believe the same won’t happen again under the current circumstances.

Colin Selbo, Oklahoma City

(source: Letter to the Editor, The Oklahoman)


Why Jodi Arias faces death, and others have not----Jodi Arias faces the death penalty in her retrial; other heinous murders are pleaded down

Jodi Arias shot her lover, Travis Alexander, in the head, stabbed him nearly 30 times and slit his throat.

A Maricopa County Superior Court jury found her guilty of 1st-degree murder on May 8, 2013, and then, at the prosecutor's suggestion, found she had committed the murder in an especially cruel manner, which qualified her for the death penalty.

On the same day Arias was convicted, Crisantos Moroyoqui-Yocupicio pleaded guilty to second-degree murder, and a Maricopa County Superior Court judge sentenced him to 14 years in prison. In 2010, Moroyoqui-Yocupicio, a reputed member of a Mexican drug cartel, murdered an associate who had stolen from him, and then cut his head off.

A month later, Douglas Ray George beat and stabbed his girlfriend to death and left her naked body in the street in Tempe. He also was allowed to plead guilty to 2nd-degree murder and was sentenced to 16 years in prison. Prosecutors said it was uncertain whether the crime was premeditated.

There was no plea offer for Arias; she went to trial and was convicted of first-degree murder. The jury, however, was unable to reach a unanimous decision on a life or death sentence, so a new trial begins this week with a new jury to decide that question.

The death penalty is supposed to be reserved as punishment for the worst of the worst murders, and the Arias murder was certainly horrible. But so were the murders committed by Moroyoqui-Yocupicio and George.

Who decides which murders are the worst of the worst?


But it is almost impossible to draw a bright line between murders that should be punished by death and those that should not. So the U.S. Supreme Court, in 1976, approved a "narrowing" system using statutory "aggravating factors" to distinguish the extraordinary murders from those that are merely ordinary.

Those factors include killing children or police officers, committing multiple murders or killing for pecuniary, that is, monetary, gain. But since the 1976 ruling, the number of aggravators has risen from 6 to 14, leaving defense attorneys to complain that every murder qualifies for death.

"You can't have a formula if you look at each one on its merit," he said.

Instead, prosecutors weigh their chances of getting a conviction and analyze the aggravating factors that make the defendant eligible for the death sentence.

Through that kind of analysis, the Maricopa County Attorney's Office - during the tenures of three different county attorneys - decided it had a greater chance of winning a death ­sentence against Arias than against George or Moroyoqui-Yocupicio.

That is different from saying that the Arias case is more horrific than the other two.

"The death penalty should be reserved for the most extraordinary of cases," former Maricopa County Attorney Rick Romley said.

The definition of most extraordinary, however, is slippery at best, subjective at least. The extremes may be obvious: the sadistic act vs. the moment of poor judgment. The cases in between are harder to call.

"In the middle is where prosecutors and defense attorneys are expected to do their work," Montgomery said.

Different approaches

Different prosecutors exercise their discretion in different ways.

In July 1991, Randy Brazeal and Richard Stokley took 2 13-year-old girls from a southern Arizona small-town fair to an abandoned mine, raped them repeatedly, crushed their chests, poked out their eyes and threw them, still alive, down a well.

It was a horrible crime, a worst of the worst.

Brazeal had arranged to bring the girls to the desert and raped both of them. But he was allowed to plead guilty to second-degree murder and spent 20 years in prison.

He was released before Stokley was executed for the same crimes in December 2012. Brazeal's attorneys were able to negotiate a plea agreement based on Brazeal's account of events - before DNA results came back. Stokley's did not.

At the other end of the spectrum, in July 1987, Thomas West was burglarizing a trailer near Tucson when he was interrupted by the trailer's owner.

West knocked the man down, tied him up and put him in a closet. The man died. Though it does not come near the horror of Stokley's murders, West was convicted of 1st-degree murder, and in July 2011, he, too, was executed.

West was prosecuted by Deputy Pima County Attorney Ken Peasley, a virtual death-penalty machine, who was subsequently disbarred for unethical tactics and has since died. But he practiced at a time when Pima County prosecutors led the state in death-penalty cases.

That title passed to Maricopa County in the mid-2000s under the tenure of Andrew Thomas, who filed death notices on murders, including the Arias case, more than 120 times in his first four years in office.

Recently there has been a surge in Pinal County, which filed only 3 to 5 death cases per year until Lando Voyles became Pinal County attorney in January 2013. Voyles filed 10 death penalty cases in his 1st year in office and 17 more so far this year.

Montgomery has never tried a death-penalty case but attended several while he was a victims' rights attorney. He said that since he took office in 2011, he has reviewed 383 1st-degree murder cases and asked for death in 64. None has come to trial yet.

But Montgomery has to exercise his discretion before filing those cases, measuring the evidence of guilt and the aggravating factors against the mitigating evidence. Even if the crime is horrible, if there is little likelihood of convincing a jury, there is little point in seeking death.

He makes the decision to go forward, as prosecutors have always done.

In 1971, the U.S. Supreme Court considered 4 different death-penalty cases, some for murder, others for rape, in an opinion known as Furman vs. ­Georgia.

The justices wanted to know what the difference was between those few cases that resulted in death penalties and the majority that did not. The decision that came out in 1972 said death could be imposed only if there were a system to narrow which cases were eligible from those that weren't.

The moratorium on the death penalty lasted until 1976 and a decision called Gregg vs. Georgia. That's when the ­Supreme Court approved a system of ­aggravators to narrow the death penalty-eligible cases.

By then, Arizona had written its own statute, which had 6 aggravators that prosecutors could allege.

Since then, the Arizona Legislature has increased the number of aggravators to 14, including whether the murder was gang-related or involved a stun gun.

The result, says defense attorney Susan Corey, is that the current aggravators cover nearly all murder scenarios.

"The statute as a whole basically makes every case a death case," she said.

And that would move Arizona back to the pre-Furman-opinion era.

Case facts

Prosecutors say there is no point in comparing cases and charging decisions because each one has a unique set of circumstances. It's hard not to compare them when death is on the table, especially when the facts of cases like these seem so similar:

-- On Nov. 15, 2011, William Null bludgeoned his aunt to death in a days-long argument over $50 worth of cigarettes. Several aggravators were alleged, including that the murder was excessively heinous, cruel or depraved, and that he caused serious physical injury.

But the Maricopa County Attorney's Office pleaded Null to second-degree murder and burglary, even though he had 6 prior felony convictions. Montgomery said that the facts of the case were hazy and that Null's mental health was questionable.

-- Jacob Torres stopped a man on a bike in south Phoenix on Nov. 21, 2011, took his cellphone and shot him to death. The prosecutors alleged pecuniary gain; that the crime was excessively heinous, cruel or depraved; and that it was cold and calculating.

The Maricopa County prosecutor filed a death notice, and Torres is awaiting capital trial. Montgomery said it appeared to be a thrill killing.

-- Robbie Brown thought his girlfriend was seeing another man, so on June 8, 2011, he hit the man in the head with a hatchet and then chopped him up with a machete. Maricopa County prosecutors alleged the crime was heinous, cruel or depraved; that Brown got pecuniary gain; and they noted his prior felonies as aggravators. Nevertheless, they let him plead to 2nd-degree murder.

Montgomery said it was unclear whether Brown or his brother actually committed the murder.

-- On Sept. 26, 2011, Ryan Foote kicked in the apartment door of a man dating his ex-girlfriend and shot him to death. Prosecutors found 4 aggravators, and they will go to trial seeking death.

Montgomery said there was no question as to the killer's identity.

The cases are similar at first glance. The results are not. Montgomery's discretion seems sound, but the fact remains that the cases are decided not on their seriousness, but on what the prosecutor can prove to a jury.

Corey and her colleague, defense attorney Garrett Simpson, subpoenaed records of every murder case in Arizona for the last 10 years, hundreds of cases, to prove a point: Under the 14-aggravator system, every single murder could qualify as a death-penalty case.

Given those findings, they and several other defense attorneys filed motions to dismiss death notices based on an argument that the statute is unconstitutional. Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Joseph Kreamer said that Corey's motion had "a unique argument that ... needs to be taken on from a policy perspective," but he denied the motions.

Kreamer may reconsider later this month or in early November when Corey, Simpson, Crocker and defense attorney Gary Bevilacqua argue a new set of 1st-degree murder cases.

But in the meantime, there was a recognition of the debate from an unexpected place: the Governor's Office.

In April, Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed a bill that would have created a new aggravating factor for "a substantial likelihood that the defendant would commit criminal acts of violence that constitute a continuing threat to society."

Brewer called the aggravator "overly broad and vague."

Furthermore, she wrote, "The proposed additional language in the legislation broadens the scope of those eligible for the death penalty to the point where the constitutionality of Arizona's death penalty statute likely would be challenged and potentially declared to be unconstitutional."

Mitigating factors

In the Jodi Arias case, the jury that convicted her of murder also found that she killed Travis Alexander in an especially cruel manner. The current jury will decide only if there are mitigators that outweigh the cruelty.

The aggravator is called F(6) in the statutes, "especially heinous, cruel or depraved." In Arias' case, the trial judge would only allow for cruelty.

All murder could be deemed cruel, but "excessive cruelty" is supposed to refer to great physical suffering and mental anguish before death. But prosecutors often rely on the common meaning of the word "cruel" to get juries to believe that the murder they are judging is among the cruelest.

For example, Marissa DeVault killed her husband by caving in his head with a hammer. Maricopa County prosecutors alleged pecuniary gain and cruelty as aggravating factors.

In April 2014, a prosecutor proved that DeVault killed her husband to collect insurance money, but the jury did not find the pecuniary-gain aggravator. Instead it found cruelty, even though DeVault tried to kill her husband in his sleep. She did not get the death sentence.

In 1992, the U.S. Supreme Court opined that Arizona's F(6) aggravator was overly vague. But it ruled that it was not a problem because trial judges who had seen a lot of cases and knew the difference made the determination.

In fact, during the penalty stage of a capital murder trial, the court would have hearings in which lawyers would argue the proportionality of the crime and circumstances, comparing the punishment meted out in several similar cases before imposing life or death.

But after 2004, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in another Arizona case that juries and not judges had to determine aggravating factors in murder trials, proportionality disappeared.

Because of its vagueness, death sentences based on the F(6) aggravator get overturned.

Aaron Gunches was sentenced to death in 2007 because he shot a man to death in the desert near Mesa. The Arizona Supreme Court sent the case back for retrial, saying Gunches was not acting heinously when he put four bullets in the man's head, he was "merely escalating his attacks until he succeeded in killing."

Gary Snelling was sentenced to death in 2008 for strangling a woman in Phoenix. The Arizona Supreme Court overturned his sentence in 2010, saying that the murder was carried out too efficiently for mental anguish to be considered.

Martin Soto-Fong was 1 of 3 men sentenced to death for murders at a Tucson market in 1992. All three death sentences were eventually set aside for different reasons.

The Arizona Supreme Court threw out the cruelty aggravator against Soto-Fong, saying that "where shots, stabbings, or blows are inflicted in quick succession, 1 of them leading rapidly to unconsciousness, a finding of cruelty, without any additional supporting evidence, is not appropriate."

A jury found cruelty as the sole aggravator in the Jodi Arias case. But according to the time stamps on photographs taken before and after the attack that killed Travis Alexander, he was unconscious within one minute. And the medical examiner testified in the first trial that slitting a throat results in unconsciousness within seconds.

Prosecutor Juan Martinez alleged cruelty, and the 1st jury agreed with him. Those verdicts stand.

The new jury that will be impaneled Tuesday will decide whether to sentence Arias to death or to life in prison.

Then it will be up to an appellate court to determine whether the prosecutor erred in his discretion.


Arizona's 14 aggravating factors used to determine death-penalty cases

Arizona's 14 aggravating factors

Arizona has 14 aggravating factors that can be used to determine death-penalty cases. They are:

1. The defendant was convicted of another offense that merited a life or death sentence.

2. The defendant has been or was previously convicted of a serious offense, even if it was part of the same set of criminal actions.

3. The defendant knowingly created a grave risk of death to another person or persons in addition to the person murdered. This is commonly referred to as "zone of danger."

4. The defendant committed the murder for pecuniary gain, meaning for money or some other benefit.

5. The defendant committed the murder for payment.

6. The defendant committed the offense in an especially heinous, cruel or depraved manner.

7. The defendant committed the offense while in custody or during an escape from custody, or while on probation.

8. The defendant committed multiple murders.

9. The defendant was an adult who killed a child, an unborn child, or an elderly person.

10. The murdered person was an on-duty law-enforcement officer.

11. The defendant committed the murder in connection with a street gang.

12. The defendant committed the offense to prevent cooperation with a law-enforcement investigation or killed a witness.

13. The offense was committed in a cold, calculated manner.

14. The defendant used a remote stun gun or an authorized remote stun gun in the commission of the offense.

(source for both: Arizona Republic)


Sparring Over Legitimacy of Sex Letters Bogs Down Death Penalty Re-Trial

Jodi Arias has claimed that ex-lover Travis Alexander wrote letters to her apologizing for an alleged incident in which she said she caught him masturbating while looking at pictures of young boys.

Attorneys on both sides are sparring over whether the letters are legitimate and should be included as evidence in the penalty phase of the re-trial, which is slated to begin this week.

On Thursday, prosecutor Juan Martinez said the letters were phony. Arias' head lawyer Kirk Nurmi countered, saying the prosecution's "own [forensic] expert did not say those letters were forged" and said they were impossible to authenticate since they were copies, reported.

The dispute, among others tied to possible evidence in the case, has caused the penalty phase retrial to be delayed until Tuesday. On Monday, Superior Court Judge Sherry Stephens will hear arguments on the issues at a hearing.

Stephens said the new jury that will decide whether the convicted murderer is sentenced to death, or spends the rest of her life in prison, will be seated in at Arizona's Maricopa County Superior Court on Tuesday.

Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for the 34-year-old, who murdered her former boyfriend Alexander in June 2008 via stabbing and shooting, after an initial attempt ended with a deadlocked jury.

Before the new jury can start hearing the case, the judge will hear from the defense, which believes the death penalty should be taken off the table.

"The defense has challenged the death penalty," said's Mike Watkiss. "They want it thrown out. I think bear in mind the defense is now playing to appellate courts. They're no longer playing to Judge Sherry Stephens. They want to set a record that they can later appeal on."

The judge has also ruled that there will be no live streaming video like there was for Arias' 1st trial and no broadcast video until after the verdict.

"I think it's sort of a suspect judgment on the part of Judge Sherry Stephens [to ban video until the verdict], but here we go," Watkiss said. "These are the rules."

The waitress-photographer was convicted of 1st-degree murder in May 2013.



Jodi Arias trial attorneys get snarky in court, defense credibility in question

The countdown is on as attorneys for both the State and the defense tie up the last loose ends of their preparation for the retrial of the penalty phase of the State of Arizona versus Jodi Arias, trial for the murder of Travis Alexander. In just a matter of days, a jury will be sworn in for the retrial, and attorneys will begin their opening arguments. The most recent end the defense is trying to "tie up" before trial is a motion asking that the motion seeking the death penalty be dismissed, oral arguments for this motion were heard Thursday.

According to Michael Kiefer of the Arizona Republic on October 16, Thursday's day in court to argue this motion was a sense of "deja vu" as Jodi Arias trial attorneys got "snarky" with each other over key details contained in the motion. We have also learned that some key individuals that have formed relationships to inject themselves into the Jodi Arias camp are engaging in actions that are calling the credibility of the defense team into question.

A ruling on the motion will occur this week on Monday Oct. 20, opening arguments are expected to begin Tuesday Oct. 21 according to CBS on Oct 16. For the State of Arizona, prosecutor Juan Martinez will argue to the jury that the crime Jodi Arias is guilty of was "exceptionally cruel" as he continues to vigorously pursue the death penalty for the 1st degree murder of Travis Alexander.

For the defense we still have first chair Kirk Nurmi and Jennifer Willmott arguing that Jodi Arias has a series of alleged mitigating factors that resulted in this crime, which they are hoping should mitigate any notion of the death penalty. Attorneys for Jodi Arias however are hoping the ruling on the recent 59-page motion will be in their favor.

Nurmi is hoping that the motion is granted, the death penalty is eliminated, as is the need for a retrial. Prosecutor Juan Martinez is doing everything he can to make sure this doesn't happen, and reportedly even got a little "snarky" in court on Thursday when arguments were presented.

Jodi Arias has been in the Maricopa County Estrella Jail since her indictment on charges of 1st degree murder for the 2008 killing of her lover Travis Alexander in Mesa, Arizona. In May 2013, a jury found her guilty of 1st degree murder, and found her guilty in the aggravating factors stage making her eligible for the death penalty. The jury was deadlocked when it came to sentencing, and a retrial of the penalty phase was scheduled.

Since then, Jodi Arias and her team have been doing everything they can to delay the inevitable, the sentencing. Jodi Arias has still not been sentenced for a crime committed 6 1/2 years ago. Meanwhile, as Jodi Arias pulls out every stop that she can to delay this, the family of Travis Alexander has been waiting patiently to find closure over the death of their beloved brother.

This week's hearings will be a last chance for all parties involved in this case. The ruling on the 59-page motion will be the defense's final opportunity to have the death penalty lifted. If this is denied, the retrial that will ensue will be the State's last opportunity to pursue the death penalty. The stakes, and the emotions, are running high on both sides of the aisle.

This was evident in this week's hearing this past Thursday, where both the prosecutor and the defense argued vigorously over a motion to lift the death penalty. As Michael Kiefer for the Arizona Republic reported, the "snarky" between Juan Martinez and the defense was a reminder of the heated tempers that were seen in court during the 2013 Jodi Arias trial. In Thursday's hearing, key notes of contention included evidence that the defense is alleging Martinez has failed to turn over.

A matter of letters reportedly from Travis Alexander to Jodi Arias was also brought up, with attorneys on both sides of the table arguing about whether or not they should be precluded. As Michael Kiefer reports, a large portion of the hearing was closed to the public, making it very difficult for reporters in the courtroom to follow when they were allowed back in, after so many issues that had been argued were sealed.

One note of interest in Thursday's hearing was that Jodi Arias appeared in stripes, indicating to court reporters that a jury would not be brought in as had been origianlly planned. This suggested to many that this might mean the motion to dismiss the death penalty was going to be granted, although this turned out to not be the case. Jeff Gold of Fox and the Gold Patrol tweeted on this flurry of events and the sentiments of court watchers everywhere, "Blih blah, this is all drivel. Jodi Arias is in stripes. That's the news. There can be no jury being brought in."

Computer evidence was also a key note of contention during the public portions of the hearing. Attorney for the defense, Kirk Nurmi argued repeatedly that Juan Martinez must be compelled to release computer evidence on technology owned by Travis Alexander. This is an issue that has been an issue of contention for the defense, who claims that they have been privy to "thousands of photos" that could help Jodi Arias present mitigating factors according to the Arizona Republic.

Kirk Nurmi is alleging that even by October 2014, they are not ready to move forward to trial without this evidence. According to court reporters in the courtroom, Judge Sherry Stephens was allegedly not impressed at the defense's plea for more time to prepare. The defense is also hoping that a series of letters between Travis and Jodi will be admitted to the retrial, while Martinez is arguing the series of letters are forged and thus should be precluded.

This is where things got "snarky" between the attorneys in question in Thursday's hearing. Prosecutor for the State is alleging that the letters in question are fake, and the jury should not be permitted to see them. Nurmi disagreed.

"His own expert did not say those letters were forged."

Martinez then called Nurmi "snarky", and the attorneys quibbled a bit. A key argument being made on the letters is that originals of the letters are no longer available. This makes it impossible for any expert, for the defense or for the prosecution, to acknowledge whether or not they are fake.

Mary Ellen Resendez of ABC 15 in Arizona tweeted on the attorney quibbling. She said, "The State's witness is a handwriting expert on letters from Travis Alexander to Jodi Arias. Prosecutor Juan Martinez says letters from Travis to Jodi Arias are forged. Defense says there's no proof of forgery."

When things got snarky between the attorneys, Mary Ellen tweeted the sentiments that many court watchers reading the live tweets were feeling.

"Jodi Arias court is bringing out my Mommy feelings. Time for a couple of kids to go to time out."

Will Judge Sherry Stephens allow for the admission of letters that can not be proven to be authentic? It would be unusual if she did, particularly considering the content of the letters. The content of the letters pertains to allegations that Jodi Arias has made of Travis Alexander being a pedophile.

In these alleged letters, Travis Alexander reportedly apologized for his incidents where Jodi claims he was caught masturbating to pictures of children. Martinez is arguing these letters of apology are "phony" and should not be admitted. The defense has argued otherwise, but has conceded that the letters are "impossible to authenticate."

Other matters discussed in the Thursday hearing included computer evidence and the matters of jail misbehavior alleged by the defense motion. The defense was seeking to have the matters of jail misbehavior on behalf of mitigation specialist Maria de la Rosa precluded from the retrial. Attorney and regular guest on HLN Monica Lindstrom tweeted on this matter, "Defense wants the motions to remove Nurmi and jail misbehavior to be precluded from trial, prejudicial good call, will be granted."

Although not much beyond oral arguments presented was accomplished at Thursday's hearing, one thing was clear. Relationships going into the retrial of the Jodi Arias penalty phase are heated. We have also learned that one individual that has tried to inject themselves into the Jodi Arias camp, and this trial, is not making things any easier for the defense.

We have previously reported on this individual, who goes by the name Sandra Webber. Evidence was submitted by Sandra Webber to the defense to support this 59-page motion. We have learned from our sources close to the defense that Sandra Webber did not submit as much evidence into this motion as she likes to believe.

One key matter of evidence in this motion is a matter where alleged tweets occurred between Corinna Flores, wife of Detective Flores lead investigator in this csae, and Sandra Webber. Another party also had a private conversation with Corinna Flores via Twitter. That private conversation was more than 10 pages of evidence in the 59-page motion.

The evidence submitted by Sandra Webber, and her "findings" on the alleged Corinna Flores account, we are told did not make up more than one or two lines in this 59-page motion. Sandra Webber is an individual with a known history of creating multiple aliases online. Because of her history, many have openly speculated that she created a fake Corinna Flores account, in an effort to make it look that the wife of the lead investigator was revealing private information from a sealed hearing during trial.

We have learned that the Corinna Flores account mentioned in this motion is likely not a fake account. But that Sandra Webber has been linked to this evidentiary matter is not good for the defense, as she has a long history of making allegations that generally don't check out.

One thing she is guilty of is making prejudicial allegations against prosecutor Juan Martinez during the process of jury selection. She's advertised those allegations of prosecutorial misconduct on her Twitter account. We approached Sandra Webber for a comment on the proof that she has upon which to base those claims.

Rather than commenting, rather than saying "No comment" Sandra Webber turned the Toronto Relationships Examiner into her next target. She began harassing the Toronto Relationships Examiner, despite repeated tweets copied to Examiner and the FBI, "Stop stalking me dangerous person."

A twitter fire in a small circle of the camp daily engaged in the Jodi Arias trial erupted. Blogs were written. Sandra Webber then publicly asked the Toronto Relationships Examiner for her personal address, and when refused, told her she was going to "get it anyway" and then threatened to publicly tweet her results.

Which she attempted to all the next following day, tweeting pictures with insults and questions, "Am I close, Christine?" Sandra Webber then tried to report the Toronto Relationships Examiner for being a bully. This all occurred during the jury selection for the retrial of the penalty phase of the Jodi Arias trial.

After Sandra Webber was tipped to the FBI for stalking, she retaliated by taking to her blog and attacking the Toronto Relationships Examiner. She called this Examiner an "adult bully", after stealing pictures of children from a public school website and published what she believes to be "adult bullying."

According to her blog rant, Sandra's vision of bullying is defined by one person liking something that another person doesn't like. She even claimed that she was going to be reporting this Examiner to the public school where she volunteers, using her blog as "evidence" of her bullying.

Much of this is not relevant to the Jodi Arias trial, however it does reveal some disturbing things about someone who clearly wants to be close to this case, Sandra Webber. Not only has she injected herself close to the case, but also close to mitigation specialist Maria de la Rosa. The truth about Sandra is that only a small handful of people consider her to be a viable source of accurate, credible, and even truthful information.

Why would anyone believe her when she presents any kind of evidence in the Jodi Arias trial?

We have learned that the wife of the lead law enforcement investigator in the Jodi Arias case also has taken issue with the stalking that Sandra Webber commits on a daily basis. A copy of an email sent by Corinna Flores on the matter was recently published on a supporter's website. According to this email, Corinna Flores is taking action against Sandra Webber for her false claims, stalking, and harassment. This email said, "I do have the department looking into her complaint and checking her background....But it is sad to say she has not made too many people in the Mesa Police Department very happy with her tactics. She may have picked the wrong girl to stalk and attack. I would be happy if you could disclose that while she rants and raves that her tactics are currently being looked into...for stalking and her tactics of making false claims....I hope for her sake she is well represented."

Will law enforcement pursue charges against Sandra Webber for her false accusations? That remains to be seen.

Sandra Webber is a woman with known credibility issues, and it is a known fact that anyone that annoys her becomes her next public target. Nothing and nobody is safe. Children are not safe from becoming a public target of Sandra Webber. Children from one of the neediest schools in their district that were celebrating a food drive where they filled a bus with toys and food for other children became victims of Sandra Webber.

Another of her known targets has been an elderly man in a wheelchair who got in her way on the highway not once but several times. She reported him to the Clearwater Police Department, every time he got in her way. Every time. Then she commented on it publicly on Facebook. Every time.

Sandra Webber is also known to be vigorously pursuing the Ninja theory in the murder of Travis Alexander. Even Jodi Arias herself has said, no, that was a lie. But Sandra Webber has evidence. Does it check out?

Let's just say that at the time of press Sandra Webber's credibility and the credibility of the defense hasn't improved any as a result of the Ninja evidence she has collected. It puts her in a difficult position at this stage of the Jodi Arias trial, if she has real evidence to share. How many times can someone within arm's reach drop evidence on the defense table that screams "Wolf!"

Nobody is safe from becoming her next target. If you like something that she doesn't, it could be you next. She will call you a bully because you liked something she didn't, and threaten to report you to your non-profit organization she stole children's pictures from, for being a bully. She will threaten to report you to your employer even and will publicly display that whenever possible.

Of course she won't mention in her reports to those agencies that she is reporting to, that she was just tipped to the FBI the week prior for publicly threatening someone's safety. A lot of the times, people know, Sandra Webber just isn't telling the truth. So what about when she is? Are there 2 ninjas somewhere laughing on their journeys to the bank because the least credible person in the Jodi Arias camp is telling their story?

We have learned that with Sandra Webber, anything actually is possible. This lack of credibility points to a lack of credibility that is unfortunate not just for her, but for the entire Jodi Arias camp all together. When it comes time for prosecutor Juan Martinez to show that Jodi Arias and her mitigating factors lack credibility, it will be very easy for him. In fact with this cast of characters it gets easier for him every day.

We know that the jailhouse behaviour from Maria de la Rosa will not be heard by this jury, because it is prejudicial. This stresses the importance of credibility in the upcoming retrial of the penalty phase in the State of Arizona versus Jodi Arias, trial for the murder of Travis Alexander. It's not just Sandra Webber's credibility that is a concern.

In reality, no matter how close she is to key players in the defense, she doesn't have that much bearing on the case. Or Jodi's life. But there are people in her reach that do.

Sandra Webber's credibility then puts others within arms reach of her, and also within arms reach of Jodi Arias, in a difficult position. The term "Shady de la Rosa" came up in this 59 page motion. We have reported on tweets between Maria de la Rosa and Sandra Webber, that implicated Maria de la Rosa in an illegally recorded illegal third party jail house phone call that was illegally released to the public.

These are the people in the Jodi Arias camp, helping this woman fight for her life. Even if Sandra Webber is telling the truth at this point, she has put herself in a precarious position. Now she is showing the world, that people that support the Jodi Arias camp are the kind of people that will target children filling a bus with toys and food for other needy children. It has left a bad taste in a lot of people's mouths.

Terms like "Shady de la Rosa" are hard to get out of your head once they have been read, or said out loud. Do you really want those words lingering in people's minds on the dawn of a penalty phase that is determining the life or death of someone?

If it was you or someone you loved in Jodi's position, are those the kind of people you would want in your camp?

Judge Sherry Stephens will rule on the motion on Monday, there will also be an evidentiary hearing. This hearing will likely be related to this technology situation that has led the defense to jump for asking for more time. According to Mary Ellen Resendez of ABC 15, "Jury will be impanelled Tuesday at 10 AM. Also an evidentiary hearing Monday at 1:30 PM."

(source: The Examiner)


Motive for fatal knife attack on Pasadena couple still unknown

Jacob Bersson accepted his cousin's offer and moved to California from Florida in June.

He told a friend he needed change and it was a good opportunity. He described how nice people the Bressler's were and how good a time he was having.

The 29-year-old now stands accused of stabbing to death the Pasadena couple who opened their home to him - his 2nd cousin, Chefs Center general manager Larry Bressler, and Bressler's wife, Denise.

Wearing a county jail jumpsuit of a yellow top and blue pants, a handcuffed Bersson appeared Friday at Pasadena Superior Court to answer to 2 murder charges. But his arraignment was continued to Nov. 3 so he could be assigned an attorney.

Unlike his profile picture on Facebook, Bersson wasn't wearing glasses, had a mustache and the beginnings of a beard. He spoke clearly when asked questions by the judge.

In addition to the two counts of murder, the criminal complaint includes an allegation that Bersson personally used a knife to commit the killings. Because there is a special circumstance allegation of multiple murders, he could face the death penalty or life in prison without parole. The District Attorney's Office will decide later if it will seek the death penalty.

Bersson stayed with the Bresslers in the 200 block of North Madison Avenue in Pasadena. For reasons still unknown, authorities allege he forced his way into the couple's bedroom and stabbed them with a kitchen knife on Oct. 13.

Larry Bressler summoned help by calling 9-1-1 around 6:20 a.m. He identified Bersson as the suspect and told police his cousin left the apartment.

Police found Bersson in bloody clothing and with a cut on his left arm about a block away. Pasadena fire officials described his injury as minor.

Laura Simpson, who is Larry Bressler's niece, described him as a good-hearted person who loved music, food and cared about others.

"Everyone is shocked," Simpson said.

"He was wonderful, funny, always laughing. He was a good person. Denise was this tiny sweet lady. She had a beautiful voice, taught piano a long time. They were a nice happy couple."

She only met Bersson once when they were children. He was a distant cousin to her.

Larry Bressler's mother Ellin Snow, 75, who lives near Seattle, Washington, knew Bersson was living with her son and her daughter-in-law. Her son often called her.

Her impression was Bersson was somewhat lost and that he needed some direction.

Snow said she didn't really know him.

"I can tell you Jacob came from one of the loving families I know," Snow said. She described Bersson's mother and grandmother as truly loving people.

Snow said she loved her daughter-in-law, Denise, very much.

"She was sweet, loving. She was a dear person to me," Snow said.

Larry Bressler was joyful, loving, gregarious, a wonderful cook, creative and artistic, according to his mother.

"I called him my Larry Boy. From the time he was my baby, he was a wonderful guy to me and what I'm finding out, to a lot of friends," she said.

Snow said she always knew her son cared about people but she didn't realize how he was a big part of people's lives until she saw the emails and comments from his friends.

It also didn't surprise her that Larry Bressler extended a helping hand to Bersson.

News that Bersson is suspected of 2 murders shocked Chris Phillips, who has known the 29-year-old since middle school. He said Bersson isn't a violent person, wasn't the type to throw temper tantrums and loves animals.

"My heart goes out to his cousin and his cousin's family. I'm just in shock," Phillips said. "Such a tragedy. I'm so sorry. I can't believe this has happened."

He said no one could believe it when he told them.

Phillips wondered if drugs were involved.

"But he was someone who would experiment with psychedelic drugs," Phillips said. "I know he experimented. Drugs that mess with your mind, He was into mind-bending stuff."

The stabbings happened in the morning. He pointed out that waking up at 6 a.m. wasn't normal for Bersson.

"The kid would stay up late and go to bed at 2 or 3 am.," Phillips said.

A couple of weeks ago, he said Bersson started posting "really weird stuff" on Facebook.

He said Bersson wrote about getting up in the middle of the night, seeing a praying mantis and taking a picture of it. Phillips said there was a description of how Bersson felt like he was the praying mantis.

Phillips mentioned an Oct. 5 posting by Bersson.

"He says, 'Now I fully understand why as a kid my favorite video games were ones where the protagonist descends into dark labyrinth and confronts demonic formations,'" Phillips read. "Now that is kind of odd to me. He doesn't speak like that."

Bersson has gone through a lot, according to Phillips.

He said Bersson has been battling depression since high school and was obese.

Bersson was happy when he lost a lot of weight, Phillips said. He later gained the weight back.

3 to 4 years ago, he said Bersson pretty much spent time in his room playing video games. Bersson was into role playing games but Phillips didn't know the names of the games.

"He wouldn't go out. Edgy and mean. He was depressed."

Bersson's father died several years ago and his stepfather died of a brain aneurysm a year ago, according to Phillips.

He said Bersson's mother lost her business and sold her home.

"I think her accountant messed up. She ended up losing her business over it. She had to sell the house," Phillips said.

Bersson got a job at a paper shredding company but didn't last long there. Phillips didn't know the reason why.

"That's when his cousin reached out to him, trying to help him," Phillips said.

His cousin told Bersson he could move out to California and stay with him.

"He was really, really excited," Phillips said. "He just wanted to get out of his funk. Said, 'I need a change.' He said it was a good opportunity for him."

Bressler is due to return to court next month.

(source: Contra Costa Times)


Jurors hear video of suspect bragging about killings of 2 Chinese students in California

Jurors in the case of a man charged with the murders of 2 Chinese students at the University of Southern California were played a videotape Thursday where he bragged about the shootings.

Prosecutors played the video of Javier Bolden boasting to a cellmate after his arrest in the killings of Ming Qu and Ying Wu.

The 23-year-old engineering students were shot on April 11, 2012, while sitting in a parked car in a neighbourhood near the campus.

The deaths fueled concerns in China about the safety of students abroad and it spurred USC to provide more protection around campus.

Bolden's cellmate was a police informant who secretly recorded him discussing how he and a friend had planned to steal the couple's BMW.

The 22-year-old Bolden is charged with 2 counts of murder and attempted murder and assault with a firearm in a separate shooting that occurred months earlier.

Bolden's attorney Andrew Goldman said his client lied to the informant to appear tough and said he would have admitted to the Boston Marathon bombing to impress the informant. The informant had told Bolden he was arrested on murder charges.

Deputy District Attorney Dan Akemon showed jurors a 90-minute-long police interview that he said was Bolden's confession. In it Bolden admitted that he and a friend targeted USC to find well-off victims.

Goldman said his client made the confession under duress and that Bolden denied involvement in the shootings until a detective mentioned he could face the death penalty.

In February, Bolden's friend, Bryan Barnes, pleaded guilty to two counts of 1st-degree murder in the USC shooting. He was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole in a plea deal to avoid the death penalty.

(source: Associated Press)


Judge rejects Tsarnaev request for dismissal of charges

A federal judge refused Friday to suppress evidence in the case of suspected Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev that was uncovered when the FBI searched his computer, Dartmouth dorm room, and his family's Cambridge apartment in the days and months after the bombings.

US District Court Judge George A. O'Toole Jr. also rejected a defense request to dismiss the case, after Tsarnaev's lawyers said the secret grand jury that indicted Tsarnaev was improperly empaneled.

O'Toole refused to hold a hearing on the requests, finding that Tsarnaev's defense "has failed to prove a violation of the fair cross section requirements" of federal law.

The judge's rulings come as lawyers are scheduled to meet Monday for a status hearing in federal court in Boston, to go over evidence in the case.

Tsarnaev, now 21, is slated to stand trial in January on charges that he and his brother set off the bombs at the Marathon finish line on April 15, 2013, that killed 3 people and injured more than 260. The brothers also are accused of fatally shooting an MIT police officer.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev faces the possibility of the death penalty if convicted.

Tsarnaev's older brother, Tamerlan, was killed days after the bombings in a confrontation with police.

In his rulings Friday, O'Toole found that Tsarnaev failed to show that his rights were violated by a flawed jury selection process. Tsarnaev's lawyers had argued that the selection system was flawed because not enough African-Americans were represented, because the court allowed people over 70 to excuse themselves, and because the court did not follow its own rules to replace jurors whose summons were returned as "undeliverable."

O'Toole also refused to suppress evidence gathered by federal investigators. Defense lawyers had argued items that were confiscated went beyond what was authorized by search warrants.

The judge ruled that investigators properly obtained the warrants for the searches, but O'Toole said defense lawyers could contest specific pieces of evidence that prosecutors want to introduce to jurors during the trial.

"The defendant has failed to present any specific facts to support a showing that general rummaging occurred," the judge said.

(source: Boston Globe)


Book review: An honest, compelling look at 'The Mother Court'

"THE MOTHER COURT: Tales of Cases That Mattered in America's Greatest Trial Court," by James D. Zirin. American Bar Association. 308 pages. $29.95.

James D. Zirin was a young lawyer when he began his career in the prestigious U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, known as The Mother Court. Through his eyes, we meet the practitioners he most admires, and a few he doesn't. This rare and valuable book is an honest assessment of what he learned about the law and the people who shape it.

Zirin writes like a novelist glancing back at conflicts that found resolution here. Although settled in court, ambivalence can remain when those same issues reappear. The Rosenberg espionage case is an illustration.

Fundamental to all prosecution is the breaking of a law. Doing something bad is not enough for an arrest. The bad act must defy a law as written. Charging the Rosenbergs with treason wouldn't stick because of the Constitution's precise wording. Treason requires a person to aid the enemy during war. But in 1944, Russia was our ally.

The Espionage Act of 1917 was a better fit, because it prohibited the passing of secret information to a foreign government. Then Congress passed The Atomic Energy Act of 1946. It criminalized "atomic" spying, and, more significantly, gave the death penalty decision to the jury, not the judge. Ultimately, the Rosenbergs were "indicted, tried, convicted, and sentenced under the Espionage Act for a 'conspiracy' lasting from 1944 to 1950."

Legal scholars believe the Atomic Energy Act voided the Espionage Act. Thus, they argue, the Rosenbergs were sentenced illegally since Judge Irving Kaufman, not the jury, imposed the death sentence.

Since the lifting of the Iron Curtain, we now know for certain that Julius Rosenberg was guilty of passing secrets to the Russians. And we also know that he did not get a fair trial. Nor did Ethel.

What bedevils this case is not guilt or innocence, but the sentencing. By aiming the media spotlight on himself, Kaufman overlooked the intricate issues involved. And the swift execution prevented an appeal to correct errors made by the prosecution, the defense and the judge.

Now here we are again. What should be done with Edward Snowden if he is returned to the United States? There is tension between the government’s need to suppress information, and the public's right to know. We want both "security" and "transparency."

The Mother Court also grappled with the government's charge of obscenity (Joyce's "Ulysses"), the longest criminal trial in American history (The Pizza Connection), the Red Scare (the Alger Hiss trial) among many other familiar cases.

Why call it "The Mother Court?" Its story goes back to the dawn of the Republic. It is the oldest court in the nation, even predating the U.S. Supreme Court. Why call this book rare and valuable? It bolsters confidence in our court system. Not withstanding the Rosenberg case, Zirin asserts: "It is generally acknowledged to be the best in the justice business."

(source: Mandy Twaddell lives in Providence; Providence Journal)


Death penalty revival opposed

2 members of the House Independent Bloc on Saturday maintained their opposition against the revival of the death penalty as a solution to the current peace and order problem in the country.

Rep. Jonathan de la Cruz, member of the Bloc headed by Leyte Rep. Ferdinand Martin Romualdez, said death penalty will not stop heinous crimes, stressing that "preventive measures" should be done instead by the government.

"There is no need to re-impose the penalty of death as crime deterrent," de la Cruz said. "We have enough penalties to impose on those committing heinous crimes," he added.

De la Cruz stressed that the government should instead adopt "steady preventive measures, swift and proper judicial action to mete out penalties."

"The certainty of lawful action and penalty can make the difference," de la Cruz pointed out.

Buhay party-list Rep. Lito Atienza dismissed death penalty a "poison" as he maintained his position on "respect for human life."

"Reimposing the death penalty is not the solution to the breakdown in the country's peace and order situation. It is not and never will be an effective deterrent to the commission of crimes and will not address this serious problem," Atienza said.

Atienza stressed that the return of death penalty will never be an effective solution to criminal activities.

"The problem is the lack of effective and efficient law enforcement but the solution is not the death penalty - this will not stop the heinous crimes in the country; and the defective criminal justice system. Certainty of arrest is the best deterrent to crime," Atienza said.

Atienza pointed out that the present police system is in dire need of concrete reforms - from the investigation to the prosecution and judicial action.

(source: Manila Standard Today)


4 prisoners hanged in northern city

The Iranian regime henchmen hanged 4 men on Sunday in the main prison in city of Rasht in northern Iran.

The head of judiciary in Gilan province did not identify the prisoners but said they were all men that had been arrested on drug related charges.

The reports by state run news outlets said the prisoners were 32, 46, 44 and 32 years old.

Since Hassan Rouhani has become the president of the regime over 1000 prisoners have been executed whilst the news on the execution of many prisoners never gets out.

At least 27 women and 12 prisoners who were juveniles at the time of their arrest, together with 20 political prisoners, are amongst those executed with 57 of these executions carried out in public. During this period, a number of prisoners were killed under torture.

In a message on the occasion of the World Day Against the Death Penalty (October 10, 2014), Mrs. Maryam Rajavi, President-elect of the Iranian Resistance, stated that the religious dictatorship ruling Iran is a government of executions based on its history, ideology, laws and daily policies.

The head of policy and government affairs at Amnesty International said recently "Iran is a serial human rights offender" adding "President Rouhani has attempted to cast himself as a mild-mannered reformist figure, but the brutal reality is that Iran is hanging an average of 2 prisoners a day, the vast majority after unfair trials."

(source: NCR-Iran)


Suspect in UUM graduate's murder told to enter defence

Shahril Jaafar, 33, faces the death penalty if convicted over the murder of Universiti Utara Malaysia graduate Chee Gaik Yap in 2006. – The Malaysian Insider pic by Hasnoor Hussain, October 19, 2014.More than 8 years after Universiti Utara Malaysia graduate Chee Gaik Yap was killed, the man accused of her murder has been ordered to enter his defence.

Alor Star High Court judicial commissioner Datuk Mohd Zaki Abdul Wahab set December 28 to 31 for the trial of Shahril Jaafar, a 33-year-old businessman, who faces the death penalty upon conviction.

Shahril was charged with killing Gaik Yap between 5.30pm on January 14, 2006, and 3.05am the next day, near the Cinta Sayang Club in Taman Ria Jaya, Sungai Petani.

Chee, who was 25, was reportedly kidnapped and killed before the body was dumped at the Taman Ria Jaya housing estate where it was found semi-nude on January 15, 2006. It was believed that she was also raped.

It was believed that the marketing executive was followed by her assailant while jogging in the housing estate.

Deputy public prosecutor Kee Wei Lon said it was now up to the defence to prove its case.

"The prosecution will not call any witnesses. We have proven a prima facie case. It is now up to the defence to rebut," he said outside the courtroom.

Shahril's lawyer, Shamsul Sulaiman, asked the court to defer the trial dates to January as Shahril's wife would be in confinement then. He told the court she was expected to deliver in mid-December.

Zaki rejected the request. He also said that Shahril, who is held at the Alor Star prison, would remain in detention during his wife's delivery.

Shamsul then asked the court to transfer the case to the Sungai Buloh prison so that Shahril's wife could visit him, but the court rejected the request.

Shamsul later said the defence would call about 10 witnesses, including the Shahril's father, police and Road Transport Department officers, a reporter, a car dealer and an officer from the Australian High Commission.

The public gallery was packed this morning with reporters, family members of the accused, Gaik Yap's father Chee Ah Sau (pic, right), 58, and the public.

Shahril, who sat in the gallery under police supervision, was seen chatting with a woman believed to be his wife.

He told reporters that they were married in January this year.

Chee's father, a construction worker, said through Sidam assemblyman Dr Robert Ling that the family hoped that justice would finally be served.

Ling said the family had been hurting for a long time.

"It has been unfair... not just for the family. Even outsiders feel for the family.

"They only want justice and they will go on fighting for it," he said.

Chee was the 3rd of 6 children in the family.

Her murder case attracted public attention when Shahril, who was arrested as a suspect, fled to Perth, Australia, after he was released on police bail pending a DNA test in 2006.

The son of a Datuk who owned a meteorite and opal company, Shahril reportedly evaded arrest for 6 years and police had watched all airports and entry points for him.

He was arrested at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport on January 17, 2012 on his return from Perth, and was charged with Gaik Yap's murder 2 weeks later.

On June 25, 2013, Shahril was acquitted and discharged by the Alor Star High Court without his defence called.

Zaki, in his decision, said the prosecution failed to prove a prima facie case as there was no clear evidence to implicate Shahril in the murder.

He said the prosecution failed to prove that Shahril had stabbed the Chee, and the possibility of a 3rd person being involved in the crime, based on evidence by witnesses, could not be ruled out.

There was also evidence that Shahril's DNA had similarities to the traces of semen found on the Chee but it was not a complete match.

Last week, the Court of Appeals set aside Shahril's acquittal and discharge, and ordered him to enter his defence.

The panel of judges led by justice Linton Albert also ordered Shahril to be remanded.

(source: The Malaysian Insider)


New UN report reveals alarming rise in use of death penalty in Iraq

Top United Nations officials are today calling on Government of Iraq to impose a moratorium on the use of the death penalty after a new UN report found an alarming rise in executions carried out by the country since capital punishment was restored in 2005.

Equally troubling, warn the officials, is that the report details how executions in Iraq are often carried out in batches on one occasion last year, up to 34 individuals were executed in a single day and that overall, many convictions are based on questionable evidence and systemic failures in the administration of justice.

Published jointly today by the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), the report document that the number of executions carried out in Iraq rose substantially between 2005 and 2009.

Alarmed by the scale and extent of the imposition of death sentences in Iraq, and deeply troubled by the weaknesses in the criminal justice system, UNAMI chief Nickolay Mladenov Mladenov, and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Raad Al Hussein, jointly called on the Iraqi Government to impose a moratorium on the use of the death penalty as a 1st step towards its abolition, in line with UN General Assembly resolutions.

In 2009, 124 people were executed. Despite a drop in the implementation rate in 2010, the number of executions significantly increased between 2011 and 2013, culminating in the hanging of 177 individuals in 2013. Between 1 January and 30 September 2014 at least 60 people have been executed.

A press release on the report notes that, as of August 2014, according to the Iraqi Ministry of Justice, some 1,724 prisoners are awaiting execution. This number includes those sentenced to death at first instance, those on appeal, and those awaiting implementation of their sentences.

UNAMI and OHCHR have repeatedly voiced concerns about observed weaknesses of the Iraqi justice system, the report states. Criminal investigations and judicial proceedings in death penalty cases frequently fail to adhere to international and constitutional guarantees of due process and fair trial standards.

The report goes on to note that in over 1/2 of the trials involving the death penalty monitored by UNAMI, judges systematically ignored claims by defendants that they were subjected to torture to induce confessions, and in the remainder of cases they took little or no action.

Moreover, the UN found that in nearly all cases, judges proceeded to convict defendants and sentence them to death based solely, or substantially, on the weight of disputed confession evidence or the testimony of secret informants. Most defendants appeared in court unrepresented, and where the court appointed an attorney, no time was granted to the defendant to prepare adequately a defence.

The use of the death penalty in such circumstances carries the risk of grievous and irreversible miscarriages of justice since innocent people may face execution for crimes they did not commit. Far from providing justice to the victims of acts of violence and terrorism and their families, miscarriages of justice merely compound the effects of the crime the report states.

The large numbers of people who are sentenced to death in Iraq is alarming, especially since many of these convictions are based on questionable evidence and systemic failures in the administration of justice, said Mr. Mladenov, who is also the Special Representative of the Secretary-General in Iraq.

For his part, High Commissioner Zeid urged the new Iraqi Government to make a commitment to address the serious shortcomings in the criminal justice system in the country.

The new Government in Iraq is facing many serious security challenges, and it is more urgent than ever that the rule of law is reinforced and firmly entrenched in the country, Mr. Zeid said.

Given the weaknesses of the criminal justice system in Iraq, executing individuals whose guilt may be questionable merely compounds the sense of injustice and alienation among certain sectors of the population, which in turn serves as one of the contributing factors that is exploited by extremists to fuel the violence. he added.

Among its conclusions, the report stressed that the Government of Iraq urgently needs to develop and implement policies that address the conditions conducive to armed violence and terrorism, but which reinforce the rule of law and that promote the respect and protection of human rights.

These should include re-engaging affected communities in policies and decision-making related to their protection, ensuring actual protection by impartial State security forces from insurgent and terrorist activities, committing more resources to enhancing the forensic and investigatory capacities of police and security force members to investigate crimes, and reform of the criminal justice system.

(source: UN News Centre)


The Lahore court's decision to uphold Asia Bibi's death penalty is far from just----Unless influential people oppose Pakistan's harsh blasphemy laws, there's no hope for her or many others facing execution

In November 2010, Asia Bibi, a Christian mother of 5, was sentenced to death in Pakistan. Her crime was allegedly insulting the prophet Muhammad during an argument with some Muslim neighbours. The case caused an international outcry; politicians and international human rights organisations took it up; lawyers appealed. Today, the Lahore high court upheld the death sentence.

Bibi's case shone a spotlight on Pakistan's harsh blasphemy laws. The existence of blasphemy laws is not itself unusual. All over the world, different countries restrict what citizens can say about religion; Britain had a blasphemy law until 2008. What is exceptional in Pakistan is the extremity of the penalties, and the light burden of proof. Blasphemy carries a maximum penalty of death, yet the law sets out no standards for evidence, no requirement to prove intent, no punishment for false allegations and, indeed, no guidance on what actually constitutes blasphemy.

The accuser can refuse to repeat the offending statement in court, and judges can choose not to hear evidence in case it perpetuates the blasphemy and offends religious sensibilities. This means that in some cases, the accused can go through a whole trial without knowing what they are supposed to have done or said.

The law is open to massive abuse. As such, it is frequently used to settle personal vendettas and to persecute minorities. Bibi’s alleged blasphemous comments were supposedly made after co-workers refused to share water that she had carried; they said it was unclean because she was a Christian (this is a hangover from the caste system, as most of those who converted to Christianity in pre-partition India were members of the lower castes). She has always maintained her innocence, claiming that these neighbours simply wanted to punish her. The British citizen Mohammed Asghar, who suffers from paranoid schizophrenia, also faces the death sentence for blasphemy. Allegations were made against him in 2010 by a tenant with whom he was having a dispute. No concessions have been made for his mental health condition.

Despite these obvious flaws in the legislation and the way it is applied, reform is not coming. When Bibi's case came to prominence in 2010, 3 politicians - Salmaan Taseer, Shahbaz Bhatti and Sherry Rehman - all from the Pakistan People's Party, which was then in power, took up the case and called for reform. The consequences speak for themselves. Taseer was shot dead by his bodyguard in January 2011. In March the same year, Bhatti was killed by Taliban assassins. Rehman was forced into semi-hiding. The then prime minister shelved all reform, cowed into retreat by the potent mix of extremist threats and mob violence.

Blasphemy excites strong emotions among parts of Pakistan's public like no other issue. Many people accused of blasphemy are killed by mobs before they even make it to trial. (According to the Islamabad-based Centre for Security Studies, at least 52 people have been killed over blasphemy offences since 1990). Taseer's assassin was showered with rose petals when he arrived at the courthouse for his murder trial. Many took this as evidence of the way that extremist groups have infiltrated elements of Pakistani society, exploiting the public's strong religious sensibility and pushing it further towards intolerance.

The power of extremist groups, and the acquiescence of politicians, has had a big impact on the direction of public discussion in Pakistan. The targeting of anyone who speaks out about blasphemy laws has had a chilling effect, and even outspoken liberal voices are reluctant to make the case for reform publicly. Several years ago, while living in Karachi, I wrote on the subject for 1 of Pakistan's leading liberal English-language newspapers. The editors decided not to publish it because the subject was deemed too risky.

While this self-censorship is entirely understandable in a country where the authorities provide little protection, it gives extremist ideas the space to flourish and grow. Without people in the halls of power willing to stand up and call for change, there is little hope for Bibi, Asghar and the hundreds of other disenfranchised people sentenced to death under these excessive and nonsensical laws.

(source: The Guardian)


Seychelles founding president plea to Egypt's President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi

The death penalty is a controversial subject in many countries, including the Republic of the Seychelles. The Seychelles, like many nations don't believe in having a death penalty, and life in prison is the ultimate punishment for a crime. Yesterday in a personal letter to Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, Seychelles founding President James R. Mancham calls on the Egyptian leader to show mercy towards 3 Seychelles citizens about to face the gallows.

President Sir James R. Mancham asked eTN to publish this letter:

18th October, 2014

THE President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi

President of the Republic of Egypt

Your Excellency

This morning, the popular Seychelles newspaper 'TODAY' has carried on its first page an article entitled "Sentenced to death - Time is running out", concerning the information the paper has received that 3 young Seychellois - Ronny Jean, Yvon Vinda and Dean Loze will be executed on November 5th 2014 following the rejection of their appeal against the death sentence imposed on them by the Egyptian courts on the 7th of April 2013.

The 3 Seychellois were arrested on the 22nd of April 2011 in the Red Sea after Egyptian Police Officers found 3 tons of drugs inside their South African flagged boat.

Whilst the Seychelles Government has adopted a "zero tolerance" policy against drug trafficking and cannot interfere with the Egyptian system of justice, it has nonetheless involved the Egyptian authorities with a view to spare the 3 persons the penalty of capital punishment which does not exist in Seychelles legal system at this time.

Seychelles is a small nation with only 90,000 people, living more or less next to each other and whilst the Seychellois people feel that the 3 young men deserve maximum penalty of imprisonment - they should in the circumstances prevailing, be spared the gallows.

As the founding President of the Republic and as the recipient of Gusi Peace Prize Award for Statesmanship in 2011; as the recipient of the International Jurists Award in 2010 and as the elected member of the Committee of Elders of COMESA who represented the African Union at the last Egyptian Presidential Elections before Your Excellency was elected to office in his own right, I consider it my duty to support the Seychelles Government's plea for clemency for these 3 Seychellois, with a view to commute their death sentence to one of imprisonment.

Your Excellency, I have personally, during my lifetime, held Egypt and the Egyptian people in high esteem and affection, ever conscious of the Nation's important civilizing role in the history of our planet.

- As a young man growing up in Seychelles, one of my family's preferred songs was "See the pyramids along the Nile: watch the sun rise over tropic isles." Through this song, I became endeared to Egyptian history and geography - and e.g. learnt that Saad Zaghloul Pasha ibn Ibrahim was an intelligent Egyptian national hero, was exiled together with five other political personalities by the British in Seychelles in 1922 when he arrived onboard a British warship. In 1923, he was allowed to return to Egypt where he became Prime Minister in February 1924. Pasha died in Cairo on the 23rd of August 1927.

- As a young philatelist, I became the owner of a colourful collection of stamps depicting King Farouk.

- During the Second World War, the British created an army contingent styled "Seychelles Pioneer Corps" within which my uncle became an officer. Stationed in Benghazi, Libya, the Seychellois soldiers brought home great stories about their visit to Cairo which was the place they were sent for rest and recreations.

- In 1957, I passed through Suez Canal, visited Port Said and Port Alexandria on the last ship that was allowed to go through the Canal following the Anglo-France and Israel attacks on Egypt.

- In June 1976, as the founding President of the Republic of Seychelles, I participated at the Afro-Arab Summit in Cairo that was hosted by the late President Anwar Sadat.

- In 2004, I transited through the Port of Safaga in order to board The World ResidenSea as a lecturer on a cruise from Egypt to the Indian Ocean Islands.

- In 2011, I was a member of a COMESA Pre-Election Assessment Mission in Cairo and a few months later was designated by the then Secretary-General of the African Union to be the African Union witness at the Presidential Elections which brought to office your predecessor.

All these opportunities have enabled me to appreciate the complexity of the Egyptian society and its political problems, but also to appreciate the beauty of the country, the richness of its history and specially to appreciate the cultural dimension of its peace-loving people.

Of course, none of these situations provide me with any justifiable premise to interfere with the system of justice which prevails within the Egyptian nation today. However, I was extremely impressed and encouraged with the address Your Excellency delivered to the United Nations General Assembly recently when you ended your speech by chanting "Long Live Egypt."

Considering what I read about your strong character and personality and the popularity of your leadership in Egypt at this time, it is my view that you are the only person who could intercede so that the 3 Seychellois prisoners would be spared the gallows.

Your Excellency, in the above context and spirit, I am reminded of what William Shakespeare said concerning 'The Quality of Mercy': "The quality of mercy is not strain'd,

It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven

Upon the place beneath: it is twice blest;

It blesseth him that gives and him that takes..."

Mr President, I pray and continue to pray for a wise and merciful conclusion of this sad and unfortunate case. May Allah bless you forevermore.

With highest considerations

Sir James R. Mancham, KBE

Founding President of the Republic of Seychelles



Demos held in KSA against Shia Muslim cleric's death verdict

Hundreds of people have taken to the streets in Saudi Arabia's Eastern Province to protest against the death sentence of a dissident Shia Muslim cleric, Press TV reports.

For the 3rd consecutive day, people launched rallies in several towns of the kingdom's Eastern Province, including Qatif and neighboring Tarout Island, on Friday to show their solidarity with Saudi Shia cleric, Sheikh Nimr Baqir al-Nimr, who has been handed down the death penalty.

The recent spate of demonstrations comes after Nimr was sentenced to death at the Specialized Criminal Court in the Saudi capital city of Riyadh on Wednesday.

"This regime [Saudi regime] has been torturing and killing people...and now they have taken it up to a new level which is to go after someone like Sheikh Nimr.... All of these are made-up charges to silence the voices that are growing in Saudi Arabia against this oppression," human rights activist, Naseer al-Omari, told Press TV on Friday.

The prominent Shia cleric was attacked and detained in the Saudi city of Qatif in July 2012. His arrest sparked widespread protests in the kingdom, claiming the lives of several anti-government demonstrators.

Sheikh Nimr is accused of disturbing the country's security, giving anti-regime speeches, and defending political prisoners.

Amnesty International has called the death sentence for Sheikh Nimr "appalling," saying the verdict should be quashed since it is politically motivated.

International human rights organizations have repeatedly lashed out at Saudi Arabia for failing to address the human rights situation in the kingdom. They say Saudi Arabia has persistently implemented repressive policies that stifle freedom of expression, association and assembly.

(source: Press TV)


Riyadh Could Face Muslim World Boycott over Execution of Nimr: MP

A senior Iranian lawmaker warned Saudi Arabia that it could face boycott by the Muslim world unless it thinks twice about executing top Shiite cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr.

"If Saudi Arabia wants to make the mistake of executing prominent cleric, Sheikh Nimr, it should expect boycott by the Islamic world against its interests," Vice-Chairman of the Iranian Parliament's National Security and Foreign Policy Commission Mansour Haqiqatpour told the Tasnim News Agency on Saturday.

The lawmaker also cautioned that Riyadh's decision to impose death penalty on the Shiite cleric will ignite the "flames of wrath" which would burn the Saudi leaders, whom he blamed for the mercenary attitudes.

Warning about the consequences of death sentence against Nimr, the MP noted that the move will result in decline in relations between Tehran and Riyadh.

"The execution, if carried out, will negatively affect the political and regional ties between Iran and Saudi Arabia," Haqiqatpour cautioned.

Sheikh Nimr was detained in July 2012 following demonstrations that erupted in February 2011 in Qatif region. He is accused of delivering anti-regime speeches and defending political prisoners.

His arrest has sparked widespread protests in Saudi Arabia, leaving several people dead.

Activists say there are over 30,000 political prisoners in Saudi Arabia.

International human rights organizations have criticized Saudi Arabia for failing to address the rights situation in the kingdom. They say Saudi Arabia has persistently implemented repressive policies that stifle freedom of expression, association and assembly.

(source: Tasnim News)


Wrongly Repatriated Man Will Not Be Spared Execution

Botswana's defence minister, Ramadeluka Seretse, has insisted that his government will not give South Africa an undertaking that a Botswana citizen wrongly repatriated to face murder charges will be spared the hangman's noose.

Seretse said that, when Botswana applied for his extradition, the South Africans had asked for an assurance that Botswana would not apply the death penalty if he was found guilty, but this had not been given.

This follows the deportation of the suspect, Edwin Samotse, to Botswana in August, contrary to South African government policy and a ministerial court order. South Africa's home affairs spokesperson, Mayihlome Tshwete, told amaBhungane that there was no possibility that Samotse would be returned to South Africa because Botswana had its own sovereign judiciary.

He said the South African authorities were, however, preparing to make representations to the Botswana government asking for an assurance that Samotse will not be hanged.

Tshwete confirmed that three home affairs officials are being investigated in connection with the illegal deportation of Samotse.


OCTOBER 18, 2014:


Death penalty sought in DeKalb couple's murder

Federal officials want help finding Richard "Fathead" Augusta Wilson, who they say has a history of violent crime and should be considered armed and dangerous.U.S. Marshals Service

Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard said Friday he will seek the death penalty for 2 men suspected of kidnapping and killing a young DeKalb County couple.

That announcement came during an afternoon press conference in which Howard also revealed Richard Augusta 'Fathead" Wilson, 41, and Andre Cleveland Gay, 40, were responsible for nine deaths in Fulton County since 1990.

Wilson and Gay are accused of kidnapping for ransom Jeronta Brown, 23, and his pregnant girlfriend, Briana Brooks, 21, just steps from the door to their Colleen Court home in DeKalb County on Aug. 30.

Brown and Brooks were found shot on Ridge Avenue in northwest Atlanta, 17 miles from where they had been taken. Brown was already dead. Brooks died several days later when she was taken off life support after delivering prematurely their 2nd child.

Gay was booked into the Fulton County Jail on Sept. 26, charged with multiple counts of kidnapping, murder, felony murder, aggravated assault with intent to commit murder and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, jail records show.

According to Georgia Department of Corrections records, Gay was released from Phillips State Prison on parole in late January after serving nearly 22 years of a life sentence.

He was convicted in 1992 for the November 1990 shooting deaths of Cathy Dozier, 39, and Michael Broughton, 18 months. Dozier and Broughton were killed by shots fired through the door of an apartment in the McDaniel-Glenn housing project in southwest Atlanta.

Gay was 15 at the time of those murders.

The U.S. Marshal's Service and the Birmingham police arrested Wilson at a Quick Pawn shop trying to pawn a rifle and two other guns, Keith Booker of the U.S. Marshal's Service said in an Oct. 2 news release.

Wilson was indicted earlier this year on charges he murdered Fikree Muhsin Jordan on Jan. 9. The 37-year-old Jordan was found shot dead in the middle of Farrington Place in southeast Atlanta.


Death penalty sought in DeKalb couple's murder

Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard said Friday he will seek the death penalty for 2 men suspected of kidnapping and killing a young DeKalb County couple.

That announcement came during an afternoon press conference in which Howard also revealed Richard Augusta "Fathead" Wilson, 41, and Andre Cleveland Gay, 40, were responsible for seven deathsin Fulton County since 1990.

Wilson and Gay are accused of kidnapping for ransom Jeronta Brown, 23, and his pregnant girlfriend, Briana Brooks, 21, just steps from the door to their Colleen Court home in DeKalb County on Aug. 30.

Brown and Brooks were found shot on Ridge Avenue in northwest Atlanta, 17 miles from where they had been taken. Brown was already dead. Brooks died several days later when she was taken off life support after delivering prematurely their 2nd child.

Gay was booked into the Fulton County Jail on Sept. 26, charged with multiple counts of kidnapping, murder, felony murder, aggravated assault with intent to commit murder and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, jail records show.

According to Georgia Department of Corrections records, Gay was released from Phillips State Prison on parole in late January after serving nearly 22 years of a life sentence.

He was convicted in 1992 for the November 1990 shooting deaths of Cathy Dozier, 39, and Michael Broughton, 18 months. Dozier and Broughton were killed by shots fired through the door of an apartment in the McDaniel-Glenn housing project in southwest Atlanta.

Gay was 15 at the time of those murders.

The U.S. Marshal's Service and the Birmingham police arrested Wilson at a Quick Pawn shop trying to pawn a rifle and 2 other guns, Keith Booker of the U.S. Marshal's Service said in an Oct. 2 news release.

Wilson was indicted earlier this year on charges he murdered Fikree Muhsin Jordan on Jan. 9. The 37-year-old Jordan was found shot dead in the middle of Farrington Place in southeast Atlanta.

(source for both: Atlanta Journal-Constitution)


Trial rescheduled in Modesto death penalty case

A judge has rescheduled a trial to start Sept. 8 for a defendant accused of murder in a series of Modesto-area store robberies 8 years ago.

Edward Deandre Mitchell, 27, is accused of shooting to death Balbir Boyal, who owned BK Liquors at 150 Riverside Drive in east Modesto. The crime occurred June 7, 2006.

Mitchell also faces 5 felony counts of robbery and 1 felony count of attempted robbery in connection with a string of convenience store robberies in the spring and summer of 2006.

If convicted as charged, Mitchell would face the death penalty.

The defendant, who remains in custody at the Stanislaus County Jail, is scheduled to return to court Dec. 12 for a pretrial hearing.

(source: The Modesto Bee)

USA----book review

'Just Mercy,' by Bryan Stevenson

Unfairness in the Justice system is a major theme of our age. DNA analysis exposes false convictions, it seems, on a weekly basis. The predominance of racial minorities in jails and prisons suggests systemic bias. Sentencing guidelines born of the war on drugs look increasingly draconian. Studies cast doubt on the accuracy of eyewitness testimony. Even the states that still kill people appear to have forgotten how; lately executions have been botched to horrific effect.

This news reaches citizens in articles and television spots about mistreated individuals. But "Just Mercy," a memoir, aggregates and personalizes the struggle against injustice in the story of 1 activist lawyer.

Bryan Stevenson grew up poor in Delaware. His great-grandparents had been slaves in Virginia. His grandfather was murdered in a Philadelphia housing project when Stevenson was a teenager. Stevenson attended Eastern College (now Eastern University), a Christian institution outside Philadelphia, and then Harvard Law School. Afterward he began representing poor clients in the South, 1st in Georgia and then in Alabama, where he was a co-founder of the Equal Justice Initiative.

"Just Mercy" focuses mainly on that work, and those clients. Its narrative backbone is the story of Walter McMillian, whom Stevenson began representing in the late 1980s when he was on death row for killing a young white woman in Monroeville, Ala., the hometown of Harper Lee. Monroeville has long promoted its connection to "To Kill a Mockingbird," which is about a black man falsely accused of the rape of a white woman. As Stevenson writes, "Sentimentality about Lee's story grew even as the harder truths of the book took no root." Walter McMillian had never heard of the book, and had scarcely been in trouble with the law. He had, however, been having an affair with a white woman, and Stevenson makes a persuasive case that it made McMillian, who cut timber for a living, vulnerable to prosecution.

McMillian's ordeal is a good subject for Stevenson, first of all because it was so outrageous. The reader quickly comes to root for McMillian as authorities gin up a case against him, ignore the many eyewitnesses who were with him at a church fundraiser at his home when the murder took place, and send him - before trial - to death row in the state pen. When the almost entirely white jury returns a sentence of life in prison, the judge, named Robert E. Lee Key, takes it upon himself to convert it to the death penalty.

Stevenson's is not the 1st telling of this miscarriage of justice: "60 Minutes" did a segment on it, and the journalist Pete Earley wrote a book about the case, "Circumstantial Evidence" (1995). McMillian's release in 1993 made the front page of The New York Times. But this book brings new life to the story by placing it in 2 affecting contexts: Stevenson's life's work and the deep strain of racial injustice in American life. McMillian's was a foundational case for the author, both professionally and personally; the exoneration burnished his reputation. A strength of this account is that instead of the Hollywood moment of people cheering and champagne popping when the court finally frees McMillian, Stevenson admits he was "confused by my suddenly simmering anger." He found himself thinking of how much pain had been visited on McMillian and his family and community, and about others wrongly convicted who hadn't received the death penalty and thus were less likely to attract the attention of activist lawyers.

Stevenson uses McMillian's case to illustrate his commitment both to individual defendants - he remained closely in touch until McMillian's death last year - and to endemic problems in American jurisprudence. The more success Stevenson has fighting his hopeless causes, the more support he attracts. Soon he has won a MacArthur "genius" grant, Sweden's Olof Palme prize and other awards and distinctions, and is attracting enough federal and foundation support to field a whole staff. By the 2nd half of the book, they are taking on mandatory life sentences for children (now abolished) and broader measures to encourage Americans to recognize the legacy of slavery in today's criminal justice system.

As I read this book I kept thinking of Paul Farmer, the physician who has devoted his life to improving health care for the world's poor, notably Haitians. The men are roughly contemporaries, both have won MacArthur grants, both have a Christian bent and Harvard connections, Stevenson even quotes Farmer - who, it turns out, sits on the board of the Equal Justice Initiative. Farmer's commitment to the poor was captured in Tracy Kidder's "Mountains Beyond Mountains" (and Kidder's advance praise adorns the back cover of "Just Mercy").

A difference, and one that worried me at first, is that Farmer was fortunate enough to have Kidder as his Boswell, relieving him of the awkward task of extolling his own good deeds. Stevenson, writing his own book, walks a tricky line when it comes to showing how good can triumph in the world, without making himself look solely responsible.

Luckily, you don't have to read too long to start cheering for this man. Against tremendous odds, Stevenson has worked to free scores of people from wrongful or excessive punishment, arguing 5 times before the Supreme Court. And, as it happens, the book extols not his nobility but that of the cause, and reads like a call to action for all that remains to be done.

"Just Mercy" has its quirks, though. Many stories it recounts are more than 30 years old but are retold as though they happened yesterday. Dialogue is reconstituted; scenes are conjured from memory; characters' thoughts are channeled a la true crime writers: McMillian, being driven back to death row, "was feeling something that could only be described as rage . . . 'Loose these chains. Loose these chains.' He couldn't remember when he'd last lost control, but he felt himself falling apart." Stevenson leaves out identifying years, perhaps to avoid the impression that some of this happened long ago. He also has the defense lawyer's reflex of refusing to acknowledge his clients' darker motives. A teenager convicted of a double murder by arson is relieved of agency; a man who placed a bomb on his estranged girlfriend's porch, inadvertently killing her niece, "had a big heart."

For a memoir, "Just Mercy" also contains little that is intimate. Who has this man cared deeply about, apart from his mother and his clients among the dispossessed? It's hard to say. Almost everything we learn about his personal life seems to illustrate the larger struggle for social justice. (An exception: a scene where he is sitting in his car, spending a few minutes alone listening to Sly and the Family Stone on the radio. "In just over 3 years of law practice I had become one of those people for whom such small events could make a big difference in my joy quotient.")

But there's plenty about his worldview. As Stevenson says in a TED talk, "We will ultimately not be judged by our technology, we won't be judged by our design, we won't be judged by our intellect and reason. Ultimately, you judge the character of a society . . . by how they treat the poor, the condemned, the incarcerated." This way of thinking is in line with other pronouncements he makes throughout: "The opposite of poverty is not wealth; the opposite of poverty is justice." They are like phrases from sermons, exhortations to righteous action. "The real question of capital punishment in this country is, Do we deserve to kill?"

The message of this book, hammered home by dramatic examples of one man's refusal to sit quietly and countenance horror, is that evil can be overcome, a difference can be made. "Just Mercy" will make you upset and it will make you hopeful. The day I finished it, I happened to read in a newspaper that one in 10 people exonerated of crimes in recent years had pleaded guilty at trial. The justice system had them over a log, and copping a plea had been their only hope. Bryan Stevenson has been angry about this for years, and we are all the better for it.

JUST MERCY: A Story of Justice and Redemption

By Bryan Stevenson

336 pp. Spiegel & Grau. $28.

(source: Ted Conover is the author of "Newjack: Guarding Sing Sing," "Rolling Nowhere" and other books. He teaches at New York University's Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute----New York Times)


One Artist's Correspondence With Prisoners Sheds Light On The Dark Realities Of Death Row

In 2009, Los Angeles-based photographer Amy Elkins embarked upon a photography project titled "Black is the Day, Black is the Night." She did so by reaching out to 7 men online, all of whom she'd met through a prison pen pal website. She set up a P.O. Box and began writing to each of them, sending letters from her then home in New York to California, Nevada, Georgia, Idaho, Texas and Mississippi.

All of her recipients had one thing in common -- they were all serving a life or death row sentence in maximum security facilities across the country, having been confined to the inside of a prison for anywhere between 13-26 years.

An Accumulation of Prison Correspondence

What began as merely correspondence soon transformed into a multi-media art project; a collaboration between Elkins and her pen pals. She started using their letters and the prisoners' personal information - their age, location, sentencing and crime - to construct disturbing, yet profound homages to men she'd never met, but with whom she'd formed a genuine connection. Mining their memories and experiences, she created composite photographs, sketches and readymades that reflect the change in identity and muddling of time that has eroded her subjects' lives. The project as a whole paints a dark and puzzling portrait of life on death row.

"On average these men spend 22 1/2 hours a day in solitary cells roughly 6 feet by 9 feet; not only facing their own mortality, but doing so in total isolation," Elkins writes on her artist page. "I often wondered how that would impact one's notion of reality, of self-identity or even of their own memories outside of such an environment. Did they embrace the mind of a dreamer, the mind of a thinker or succumb to their bleak environment and allow mental, physical and emotional collapse? Did their violent impulses land them in an infinite state of vulnerability?"

Throughout her nearly 5-year long connection with the prisoners, Elkins sent copies of the artworks she produced to the men - everything from deliberately corrupted image files (in which image quality decreases according the ratio of years spent in prison to years alive) to recreated objects like a bed sheet jump rope and a food tray bought on eBay. They would critique her results, occasionally sending art in return.

For example: "The landscapes in this project were created out of an exchange of questions throughout letters and then constructed out of many, many appropriated images," she explained to HuffPost. "The layering of images to create each final landscape depended on the time served by each individual I wrote with and was created surrounding places they described. The result is a fictional landscape that morphs and mutates as the years of their sentence pass."

As of 2014, she remains in touch with only 1 man, who has been in solitary confinement since 1995 for a crime he committed when he was 16. As for the others, 1 was released in 2010 at the age of 30, 3 eventually stopped writing, and 2 were executed (in Texas and Mississippi) "d