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

JUNE 18, 2018:

TEXAS----impending execution

A Houston Killer Is Too Sick To Be Executed, His Lawyer Says

Danny Bible is scheduled to die on June 27. He was sentenced to death in 2003 for murdering Houston resident Inez Deaton in 1979. Bible's attorney, Jeremy Schepers, recently filed a lawsuit alleging that a lethal injection would almost certainly constitute cruel and unusual punishment. Schepers is a federal public defender in the Northern District of Texas.

"With this lawsuit that we've filed on Mr. Bible's behalf, it has nothing to do with his conviction or his death sentence," Schepers says. "It's all about the method of execution."

Bible's situation is unique because, Schepers says, "Texas has never attempted to execute someone in his condition. He suffers from a wide variety of serious medical issues."

While being transported to death row back in 2003, the van carrying Bible was involved in a collision that killed the driver and another passenger. Since then, Bible has used a wheelchair, and has developed a number of other serious medical conditions, including heart failure, coronary artery disease, Parkinson's Disease, diabetes, and hypertension.

"And some of the side effects of these diseases are that at this point Mr. Bible's veins are completely inaccessible and unsuitable for execution," Schepers says.

He argues that, if Texas proceeds with the lethal injection, "That could lead to a number of serious complications. If they're unable to locate a vein for execution, the vein itself could literally explode during the process if they're not able to hit it correctly with the needle. And there's also a possibility of just hours and hours of poking around and prodding with the needle trying to locate a suitable vein."

Texas currently only allows for execution by lethal injection, though other states allow for alternate means. In the suit, Schepers identifies some of these that could be used on Bible, such as a firing squad or nitrogen gas.

However, the suit also pleads that "with a claim like Mr. Bible has, that only applies to 1 person, that he shouldn't have to allege an alternative means of execution," Schepers says. "And that's something that is currently pending and is an open question before the Supreme Case in the [Russell] Bucklew case out of Missouri."

In addition to the cruel and unusual punishment argument, Schepers says there is also a public policy issue here.

"I think it would be something that would undermine the public's trust in the death penalty system itself. If you look at other states that have botched executions in recent years - for example, Oklahoma botched the execution of Clayton Lockett in 2014 - since then that state's been in a moratorium for conducting executions," Schepers says.

"So I think that anyone, regardless of your position on the death penalty, should be concerned about a botched execution, and even if you're a proponent to the death penalty, should be concerned about a botch, because that could lead to the death penalty system grinding to a halt in Texas," Schepers says.

After this interview was recorded on Friday, Attorney General Ken Paxton's office responded to Bible's suit, asking the court not to honor Bible's request for an alternative means of execution. The attorney general says that Schepers' real goal is to delay the execution as long as possible. The official response states that Texas has never had a botched execution, and that "Bible's suit is less a genuine challenge to Texas lethal-injection protocol and more a meritless attempt to postpone his lawful execution."

(source: kut.org)

ALABAMA:

Anthony Ray Hinton Spent Almost 30 Years on Death Row. Now He Has a Message for White America.

Anthony Ray Hinton was mowing the lawn at his mother's house in 1985 when Alabama police came to arrest him for 2 murders he did not commit. One took place when he was working the night shift at a Birmingham warehouse. Yet the state won a death sentence, based on 2 bullets it falsely claimed matched a gun found at his mother's home. In his powerful new memoir, "The Sun Does Shine: How I Found Life and Freedom on Death Row," Hinton describes how racism and a system stacked against the poor were the driving forces behind his conviction. He also writes about the unique and unexpected bonds that can form on death row, and in particular about his relationship with Henry Hays, a former Klansman sentenced to death for a notorious lynching in 1981. Hays died in the electric chair in 1997 - 1 of 54 people executed in Alabama while Hinton was on death row.

After almost 30 years, Hinton was finally exonerated in 2015, thanks to the Equal Justice Initiative, or EJI. On April 27, Hinton spoke at the Peace and Justice Summit in Montgomery, organized by EJI to launch 2 new historical memorials: the Memorial to Peace and Justice and the Legacy Museum. I met Hinton at a conference room at EJI's headquarters. In a blue checkered shirt and black boots, he said he likes to picture his lawyer and close friend Bryan Stevenson at that same table, strategizing around his case. We discussed Hinton's memoir, his unlikely friendship with Hays, and the links between racial violence and the modern death penalty.

Liliana Segura: You were a big part of the opening of EJI's Peace and Justice Summit. What was it like to visit the memorial and museum?

Anthony Ray Hinton: Seeing myself in the museum was like, "Wow." A whole lot of memories came back - not all good memories. But if 30 years is what it cost me to educate people, so be it. Those names you read when you go up to the memorial - they lost their life. As you read why they were lynched, you think, are you serious? This man was lynched because he asked for a receipt. This man was lynched because he looked at a white woman. Although I've read about all of these types of crimes, it brought tears to my eyes.

I call the death penalty, to this day, a form of lynching. It's not where they run to your house and burn you up without justification. Now, they do it in the name of the law. I was a victim of that, and almost lost my life because they have that much power.

LS: Lynching was a form of torture and terror for the community. You write vividly about those nights when men were killed in the electric chair. Would you call that torture?

ARH: Absolutely. It's torture for the guards that have a job to do. It's torture for the warden. It was torture for us. When you smell this smell, it makes you run to the toilet and throw up. This smell gets up in your nostrils, and you couldn't get it out. Torture was sitting there, 30 feet away from the death chamber, knowing that one day that's going to be me.

A photo of Hinton's mother sits next to his books on a side table in his home in Quinton, Ala.

LS: Your book is remarkable for having these very funny moments where you escape by imagining your way into amazing scenarios. But there are also moments where you are present in that space. The banging on the bars on execution nights - I was hoping you might talk about that.

ARH: Try to imagine: You and I live in this room for 30 years. We get to know each other, probably better than you would someone in your own household. Now, they come and it's your time to be executed. We don't know whether or not you have family members there. We don't even know whether your lawyer was going to be there. No one came and said, "His mother is with him." Banging on the bars was our way of letting the condemned know we are still here with you until the very end.

At one point, they used to carry out executions at 12:01 a.m. We would start beating on the bars about 5 minutes to 12. We would beat about 15, 20 minutes after 12. We would stop to see if we heard any noise. Every now and then one of the guards would say, "They haven't killed him yet." We would go back to beating on the bars.

LS: That's interesting - they didn't try to stop you.

ARH: The guards got to the point they understood why we did it. People don't realize that when you go to prison, families forsake you or they don't visit. You have to learn to develop a new family, new friends. A lot of guys had pen pals from other states and from other countries. The guards realized that it was our way of saying goodbye to someone that had no one.

LS: It's a form of protest, really.

ARH: Absolutely. We wanted the guards to hear and we wanted the warden to hear. We would shout out, "Murderers." We would shout out, "You're no better than what he did." Who was going to be put on death row for this man's murder? I do think it made a difference. I think it made the condemned feel love. It made them feel that somebody really cared enough about me to raise hell.

LS: Some of the most profound parts of your book are the sections in which we get to know Henry Hays before he was executed. On my drive down here, I was listening to an audio book about his case - his crime, but also about his background, his father, who was horribly abusive. How have people responded to that portion of the book?

ARH: The 1st person who called me was my niece. She said, "Uncle Ray, how could you?" I said, "Let's back up a moment. Henry was born Henry Francis Hayes, not "KKK Henry Francis Hayes." I explained to her that from the time he was conceived, he was taught hate. I imagine at the age of 4 and 5 his daddy drilled in him the word "nigger" every day, all day. As he got older, he went to Klan meetings, teaching him more hate. Before he turned 15, 16, 17 - where was child protective services? We love to say it takes a village to raise a child. Where was this village when this young boy was being mentally abused? The village didn't come out until he did something horrible. That same village that should have protected him found him guilty. This same village said, "This world would be better if you wasn't in it." What I find joy in is the fact that for 15 years, Henry was taught to hate, but once Henry came to death row, the very people that he was taught to hate taught him love, compassion. Henry changed and I saw the change.

LS: It really debunks the idea that some people are so irredeemable they have to be sentenced to die.

ARH: Politicians would also have you to believe it is a deterrent. Believe me, at the moment they was executing a man, somebody else was committing murder in Alabama. We need to be truthful. The death penalty serves no purpose other than the getting votes for politicians.

At least 3 different murder victims' families have come to hear me speak. They said, "I'm against the death penalty now. I haven't got any closure. Actually, it now gave me something more to think about. I had the date that my parents were murdered. Now I have to think of the date they executed the killer. I didn't want that on my conscience. I just wanted ... revenge." I said, "Say it." That's what it is.

LS: One of the most emotional moments of your panel at the summit was when you described how you had never received an apology from the state. It reminded me of speaking to victims' family members - sometimes it seems what they need more than anything to have a sense of justice would be the acknowledgement of the harm that was done to them.

ARH: That's why an apology is so important. Can you imagine the victims' family seeing me on TV, hearing somebody say, "You need to read this book by this guy"? An apology would at least acknowledge, first and foremost, I'm not the person that did the horrible crime. 2nd, it would acknowledge that as human beings, we make mistakes. Now, I'm going to be honest with you - there was no mistake made in my case. I was convicted because I'm a black male. But I'm willing to let the state say, "We made a mistake 33 years ago." Somebody ought to be honest enough to say to the victims' family, "I work for the state and we're sorry that we didn't catch the person - but we did let the right man go."

LS: In 2003, Gov. George Ryan of Illinois commuted all death sentences and pardoned a man named Madison Hobley, who had been wrongfully convicted for killing his wife and child. He spent 16 years on death row. After his release, he came to New York and told his story like you're doing now. This law student came up to him and said, "In the end, the system worked. You got released." Do you ever hear anything like that?

ARH: I've had people say, "Thank God you wasn't executed, but don't you think that that is the price one must pay to have law and order?" I say, you have a right to feel that way, but how would you feel about that price if I had been your father, if I was your brother? Then I've had people that comes up to me and they'll say, "Mr. Hinton, I'm so sorry what happened to you, but the system worked." I said, "If the system had worked, I never would have went in the first place."

LS: Some people are really resistant to accepting that these kinds of injustices have happened, whether it's our criminal justice system now or the history EJI has put on display in these monuments. Do you feel like white folks in Alabama are responding to this message?

ARH: It's too soon to know. I'm going to be honest with you. White people in Alabama know what happened. White people would love for it to stay in the closet, but it's open, it's out in the open. I think the white people in Alabama need to own up to responsibility. "My ancestors were a part of what happened. I feel nothing like they did, but I want to apologize in whatever way, by bringing the races together."

LS: Is there anything you wish you could have included in your book that you didn't?

ARH: I wish that I could have included a lot more about the men on death row - why they ended up being where they are. I wish I could have shown how we failed them. I think it was about 5 of us [on death row] that graduated from high school. Everybody had quit in the 7th and 8th grade. Tell me that society didn't play a part. We still fail them because we're spending more money on prison than we are on school. Since I've been out, I've been to white schools to speak and I thought I was at a college. They've got labs - Bill Gates, here they come. I'm saying, "Imagine if you could put something like this in a black neighborhood."

I think about lynching. They probably lynched one of the greatest scientists of modern times. They probably lynched someone that could come up with a cure for AIDS, Alzheimer's, cancer. We don't know what a person can be. Earlier, we spoke of Henry Hays. Henry could still be alive today and could be in the general population getting blacks and white to come together. He could say, "I was brought up to hate. I'm telling you, it serves no purpose. If anyone knows, I know. I lived it." But society didn't want him to be an advocate.

LS: You mentioned in your book that you still have a fear of going back to death row.

ARH: Yes. Every time I go somewhere and I'm by myself, the fear that police could get behind me and pull me over. The fear will always be there now. I don't disrespect them, but I trust no police.

LS: I noticed your car outside - it has the license plate that says "Hinton" on it.

ARH: Yeah.

LS: So you still drive that car with your name on it - fear isn't driving you.

ARH: I saved up money and had this door fixed and that window fixed. When I went to get the license plate, I said, "Is it possible I can get 'Hinton' put on it?" The lady said, "You sure can." I put Hinton on it because I want people to realize that for so long, I was nobody. I want you to realize that I am somebody.

(source: theintercept.com)

CALIFORNIA:

Murder charges filed against 3 men in Cathedral City gang shooting

Murder and attempted murder charges were filed Monday against 3 men accused in a gang-related shooting outside a Cathedral City strip club that left 1 man dead and 2 others injured.

Manuel Vargas, 30, Christian Miramontes, 24, and Guillermo Gomez, 22, are accused in last Wednesday's slaying of Jason Rosas, 24, of Indio outside the Showgirls Gentlemen's Club. The men also face special circumstance allegations of lying in wait and discharging a firearm from a vehicle, making them eligible for the death penalty, if prosecutors pursue it.

Vargas and Miramontes were taken into custody over the weekend, while Gomez remains at large.

Police say the suspects, Rosas and 2 other men got into a fight inside the club; that fight allegedly spilled into the parking lot after the men were kicked out around 2 a.m. The men were identified as "2 groups of rival gang members,'' by Cathedral City Police Chief Travis Walker.

Police did not specify what gangs the involved parties belong to but noted that are were from "out-of-area.''

After the fighting guests were kicked out of the club by security personnel, 1 suspect shot the victims with a handgun, Walker said.

All 3 victims were taken to a hospital, where Rosas later died. The other 2 -- a 28-year-old Indio man and a 28-year-old Coachella man -- were both expected to survive, police said.

Vargas is due to appear in an Indio courtroom Monday afternoon, while Miramontes is expected in court Tuesday.

Anyone with information regarding the shooting or Gomez's whereabouts is asked to contact Detective Heather Olsen at 760-770-0398 or Sgt. Rick Sanchez at 760-202-2488.

(source: KESQ news)

JAPAN:

Prosecutors seek death penalty for alleged killer of Vietnamese girl in Chiba

Prosecutors on Monday demanded the death penalty for the former parents' association chief accused of murdering a 9-year-old Vietnamese girl in Chiba Prefecture last year.

Yasumasa Shibuya, 47, committed a "cold-blooded, heinous and cruel" crime in abducting, sexually assaulting and strangling Le Thi Nhat Linh, prosecutors said at the hearing at the Chiba District Court.

Shibuya, a neighbor of the girl, has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

According to the indictment, Shibuya bundled Linh into his car in Matsudo on the morning of March 24, 2017, before sexually assaulting and killing her in the vehicle and abandoning her body near a drainage ditch in nearby Abiko.

"The defendant shows no sign of remorse. The suffering of Linh, who was killed in a foreign country, is beyond imagination," prosecutors said.

The crime was committed out of "extreme selfishness" and Shibuya deserves particularly serious blame given his position at the time as head of the parents' group, they said.

Shibuya denies involvement in the girl's death and says the prosecutors' claims are fictitious and fabricated. At Monday's hearing, Shibuya repeated that position, saying, "I'm innocent and not guilty."

"I wish for a fair judgment for the sake of my 2 children, who are waiting for me and believe in me," he said.

The court is scheduled to hand down a ruling on the case on July 6.

The focal point of the case is DNA evidence. Prosecutors say blood and saliva matching the girl's DNA was found in Shibuya's vehicle and that Shibuya's DNA was found on her body.

But defense lawyers said the DNA samples may have been deliberately placed there by the investigators.

The prosecutors claimed the DNA results were credible because blood was detected in several places inside Shibuya's vehicle, indicating the blood was left during the crime.

Although Shibuya has said he was preparing to go fishing on the day when Linh disappeared, the prosecutors said his statement is not trustworthy because it was contradicted by other people.

Le Anh Hao, the girl's 35-year-old father, requested the death penalty for Shibuya at a court hearing last week.

Linh, who was in her 3rd year at the elementary school, was on her way to attend a ceremony marking the end of the school year when she was abducted.

(source: Japan Times)

SOUTH KOREA:

Gov't Seeks to Declare Moratorium on Death Penalty in Dec.

The National Human Rights Commission says it is seeking to have President Moon Jae-in declare the abolition of capital punishment on Human Rights Day on December 10th.

The head of the commission's department on policy education, Sim Sang-don, said in a news conference on Monday that the commission is working toward the president declaring the moratorium on the death penalty upon the 70th anniversary of Human Rights Day this year.

Sim cited that scrapping the death penalty was one of the key topics that surfaced when the commission gave a special briefing to the president last December for the 1st time in 6 years. Sim said that at the time, President Moon was positive about getting rid of capital punishment.

Sim said the commission is currently coordinating views with the Justice Ministry on the issue.

South Korea has not carried out a state execution since December 30th, 1997 but it has never officially declared a moratorium on the death penalty.

(source: kbs.co.kr)

PHILIPPINES:

House drops proposed restoration of death penalty for acts of terrorism

The proposed restoration of the death penalty for acts of terrorism has been dropped by the House of Representatives following doubts aired by the Department of Justice and the Department of National Defense on its constitutionality.

During a meeting of the technical working group tasked to study the proposed overhaul of the Human Security Act of 2007, it was revealed that the DOJ and DND are not supportive of reimposing the death penalty as proposed House Bill 7141 filed by Pangasinan Rep. Amado T. Espino Jr.

Muntinlupa City Rep. Ruffy Biazon, vice chairman of the House committee on national defense, presided over the TWG meeting yesterday.

Espino, committee chairman, sought the reimposition of the death penalty for various acts contributing to terrorism, among other major amendments to the Human Security Act of 2007 which will be titled Prevention of Terrorism Act of 2018 under HB 7141.

Under the bill, life imprisonment or death penalty will be applied for conspiracy to commit terrorism, proposing to commit terrorism, inciting to terrorism and recruitment to terrorist organization.

Providing material support to terrorists or terrorist organizations and involvement of foreign terrorist fighters will be penalized with death.

"The fixed penalty of 40 years of imprisonment has been changed to 'life imprisonment to death' to give leeway to the judge to impose appropriate penalty after considering the circumstances present," Espino explained.

Espino's bill is being co-authored by former military officers, Representatives Leopoldo Bataoil (NP, Pangasinan) and Gary Alejano (Magdalo Partylist).

The bill is expected to draw strong opposition from progressive lawmakers for providing for a 10 year prison sentence on persons found guilty of glorifying or promoting acts of terrorism through any medium.

Biazon said he is concerned about the "adherence of the eventual law to the principle of upholding human rights as provided in the Constitution."

"We want a law that meets the end of law enforcers against terrorism while at the same time ensures the protection of human rights and prevention of abuse," the senior administration lawmaker stressed.

The bill has been included in the list of legislative priorities of the Lower House, apparently the result of the Maute invasion of Marawi City last year.

Espino proposed the change of the title of the current law "to maintain uniformity with other foreign jurisdictions which uses the same title and to avoid confusion simply because the law deals mainly with terrorism."

He explained that the measure will address exigencies that could prevent terrorism activities and avert loss of innocent lives.

Under the bill the secretary of Justice will have the power to compel telecommunications providers to "preserve and produce all customer information and identificaiton records, as well as data record and other cellular or internet metadata in cases of actual or imminent terrorist attacks."

Aside from the Court of Appeals, the Regional Trial Court will now be clothed with power to issue judicial authorization to facilitate the recovery of documents.

"A provisions on the arrest of unwilling witnesses that causes delay in building the cse against the terrorists is included. The extension of detention without judicial warrant is likewise extended to 30 days," Espino said.

(source: Manila Bulletin)

NIGERIA:

15 Herdsmen Escape Death Sentence At Supreme Court

The Supreme Court has sentenced 15 herdsmen to various terms of imprisonment ranging from ten years to life imprisonment for their roles in the communal crisis, which erupted in January 2010 culminating in attacks and counter attacks around Kadunu village in Mangu local government area of Plateau State.

The herdsmen however escaped death sentence because as at the time of commission of the offence and sentencing, the Terrorism (Prevention) (Amendment) Act, 2013, which prescribes death penalty for anyone on conviction for commission of acts of terrorism was yet to be enacted by the National Assembly.

A 5-member panel of the highest court in the land headed by Justices Olabode Rhodes-Vivour affirmed the judgement of the Court of Appeal, Jos. Other members of the panel are Justices Mary Ukaegbo Peter-Odili, John Inyang Okoro, Amiru Sanusi and Sidi Dauda Bage. The appellate court in Jos had upheld the decision of the Federal High Court in Jos, which dismissed the appeal filed by one of the herdsmen, Isah Bello, saying it lacks merit.

The 15 Fulani herdsmen were charged, convicted and sentenced for acts of terrorism, conspiracy and extra-judicial possession of firearms.

They are Mohammed Auwal, Ibrhim Yusuf, Salihu Jibrin, Abdulkarim Mohammed, Suliman Jibrin, Muhammed Jibri, Suleiman Jibrin, Musa Abdulmumuni, Isah Bello, Abdulhamid Bello, Isa Dauda and Ibrahim Jibrin.

In January 2010, there was communal crisis that culminated in attacks and counter attacks around Kadunu village in Mangu local government area of Plateau State. During the crises, there were massive destruction of lives and properties in the area.

The special taskforce of the federal government meant to restore law and order went to the scene of the disturbances and seized various kinds of ammunitions that were used by the rioters, such as guns, arrows and bows. The taskforce arrested those found in the vicinity of the crises that later claimed they were victims of the disturbances but that they were in the process of escaping when they were arrested.

After investigation, the herdsmen were found culpable, and consequently arraigned and tried before the high court.

The herdsmen were arraigned before the Federal High Court for alleged commission of offence under Section 518 (5) of the Criminal Code Act, Sections 5(1) and 27(1) of the Firearms Act and Section 15 (2) of the EFCC Act, 2004.

Justice A.L. Allagoa on December 16, 2010 found them guilty, convicted and sentenced them to various term of imprisonment allowed by the law under which they were charged to court. As at the time of commission of the offence and sentencing, the Terrorism (Prevention) (Amendment) Act, 2013, which prescribes death penalty for anyone on conviction for commission of acts of terrorism was yet to be enacted by the National Assembly.

The law now insists that "any person or group of persons who directly or indirectly, willingly does, attempts or threatens any act of terrorism, amongst others, commits an offence under this Act and is liable on conviction to maximum of death sentence".

Dissatisfied with the conviction and sentence by Justice Allagoa, each of the herdsmen appealed to the Court of Appeal, which consequently upheld the judgement of the high court. Justice Sidi Dauda Bage of the Supreme Court who delivered the lead judgement held that the 2 lower courts were concurrent in their decisions and that the apex court does not have reasons to interfere in their findings of facts arrived at.

"The appeal lacks merit and it is dismissed, and I affirm the judgement of the Court below upholding the trial court's decision", he ruled.

(source: leadership.ng)

PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY:

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has signed a protocol to abolish the death penalty, but the measure faces opposition in the Gaza Strip, where Hamas continues to support the sentence.

Palestine is joining 102 countries that have abolished the death penalty and 33 others that have suspended it. On June 6, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas signed documents to accede to 7 international conventions and treaties, including one on abolition of the death penalty. Abbas instructed Foreign Minister Riad Malki to handle the procedures to implement these conventions.

Abbas signed the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, adopted by the UN in 1989, aimed at abolishing the death penalty and stipulating, "No one within the jurisdiction of a state party to the present protocol shall be executed," and "each state party shall take all necessary measures to abolish the death penalty within its jurisdiction."

Public Prosecutor Ahmed Barak told Al-Monitor that current Palestinian Basic Law allows for the death penalty but requires that it be implemented with the approval of the Palestinian Authority (PA) president.

The PA in the West Bank currently applies the Jordanian Penal Code No. 16 of 1960, many articles of which stipulate the death penalty, while the Gaza Strip abides by the British Mandatory Penal Code No. 74 of 1936, which also provides for the death penalty. ?The new protocol will go into effect in three months. Barak added that authorities will take the necessary legal and legislative measures to amend Palestinian laws to align with the protocol.

Barak pointed out that countries around the world are divided into three schools: the 1st allows the death penalty, which is applied in certain states in the United States as well as most Arab countries; the 2nd provides for the death penalty but does not actually apply it; and the third does not condone the death penalty and imposes a life sentence instead.

In the Palestinian territories, between 1994 when the PA was founded and the end of 2017, 41 executions were carried out, 39 of them in the Gaza Strip and 2 in the West Bank in 2001 that were approved by late Palestinian President Yasser Arafat. Among the executions carried out in the Gaza Strip, 28 were conducted after Hamas took over in 2007 without Abbas' approval.

Abbas allowed the death sentence to be carried out with his permission for the last time in 2005. The prisoners had been sentenced years before.

The proposed death penalty ban faces obstacles in the Palestinian territories where the PA lacks control, specifically in the Gaza Strip. Ahmed Abu Halabiya, who represents Hamas on the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) in Gaza, has rejected the protocol because, he told Al-Monitor, it violates laws the PA had passed since it was founded.

Abu Halabiya said the proposal doesn't serve Palestinian society's best interest because the death penalty protects society. He said Abbas signed the protocol to win the approval of international bodies, which he did not name.

He noted that, regardless of Abbas' signature on the protocol to abolish it, Hamas will continue to support the death penalty, specifically against murderers, drug traffickers and those found guilty of colluding with Israel. He said Abbas' action is contrary to the Basic Law.

However, Rabah Muhanna, a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine's (PFLP) political bureau, told Al-Monitor, "When the PLC is asked to amend the Basic Law and remove the article that provides for the death penalty, PFLP representatives at the PLC will certainly support abolishing the death penalty and replacing it with a sentence as severe as life imprisonment."

The protocol signing received broad acclaim among human rights institutions in the Palestinian territories, especially since these institutions have been calling on Palestinians for decades to abolish the death penalty, stating it is inhumane and ineffective as a deterrent to crime. Issam Younis, the director of Al-Mezan Center for Human Rights in Gaza, told Al-Monitor that many countries in the world that use the death penalty still have high crime rates.

Abbas' signature on the protocol is a step in the right direction, he said, "yet all conventions the PA recently joined need to be compatible with all Palestinian legislation so they can be applied in real life, otherwise they would be worthless."

Yasser al-Amouri, a professor of international law at Birzeit University, called on Abbas to take the appropriate actions to suspend all provisions stipulating the death penalty in the Palestinian territories until the laws can be amended to create a legal system consistent with the international treaties and conventions the PA has joined.

Amouri said the PA's accession to this protocol is an advanced step in defending the right to life. He called on Palestinian legislative authorities to find alternatives to laws that have become outdated and are incompatible with civilizational development.

(source: Ahmad Abu Amer is a Palestinian writer and journalist who has worked for a number of local and international media outlets. He is co-author of a book on the Gaza blockade for the Turkish Anadolu Agency. He holds a master's degree from the Islamic University of Gaza----al-monitor.com)

IRAN----executtions

6 Executions in One Day

Reports suggest that after the execution of Mohammad Salas, 5 other prisoners who were sentenced to death on murder charges were also hanged at Rajai Shahr Prison today. One of the prisoners was charged with the murder of an 8-month-old baby named Benita.

According to a close source, on the morning of Monday, June 18, 6 prisoners, including Mohammad Salas, were executed at Rajai Shahr Prison.

According to the official news agency of the Judiciary, Mizan, 1 of the prisoners who were executed today was charged with the murder of an 8-month-old baby named Benita Qal'enoiy during a car theft.

The state-run news agency, Javan, reported, "The defendant, Mohammad Vafaiy, stole a car that belonged to Benita Qal'enoiy's father while the 8-month-old baby was in the back seat. Ultimately, he leaves the car in the street which leads to the baby's death due to high temperature and lack of oxygen."

The defendant said that he went to the police reported the incident a few hours later "but they didn't pay any attention."

Although the statements of the defendant were denied by the police spokesman, Tehran's prosecutor confirmed that the location of the stolen car carrying Benita, was informed to the police and they "should have" found the car "earlier".

A close source told IHR that the executions of Mohammad Vafaei and 4 other prisoners who were charged with murder were carried out an hour after Mohammad Salas’ execution. The 4 other prisoners have not been identified so far and the state-run media have not announced their execution.

According to Iran Human Rights annual report on the death penalty, 240 of the 517 execution sentences in 2017 were implemented due to murder charges. There is a lack of a classification of murder by degree in Iran which results in issuing a death sentence for any kind of murder regardless of intensity and intent.

(source: iran Human Rights)

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

Sufi bus driver executed at dawn after grossly unfair trial

Mohamed Salas was executed by the Iranian authorities at dawn on 18 June 2018.

In response to the execution of Mohammad Salas, a 51-year-old man from Iran's largest Sufi order, the Gonabadi Dervish religious minority, Amnesty International said:

"Amnesty International condemns, in the strongest terms, today's execution of Mohammad Salas, which was carried out despite serious unfair trial concerns.

"The Iranian authorities have a deplorable track record when it comes to the use of the death penalty. This execution is a travesty of justice that is abhorrent and unconscionable. It flies in the face of the huge public outcry in the country and is vengeance, not justice.

"Mohammad Salas' trial was grossly unfair. He said he was forced under torture to make a 'confession' against himself. This 'confession', taken from his hospital bed, was broadcast on state television weeks before his trial and used as the only piece of evidence to convict him. He was not allowed access to his chosen lawyer at any point before or during his trial, and his independent lawyer's repeated demands to the authorities to allow critical evidence indicating his innocence were dismissed outright."

Following Mohammad Salas' execution at Raja'i Shahr prison at dawn this morning, the authorities took his body away for burial to Borujerd, Lorestan Province, hundreds of kilometres from where his children and mother live, and despite their protestations to bury him in Tehran. The authorities buried his remains in Borujerd without his family present and with security forces standing guard. They also denied the family's request that Mohammad Salas' body be examined by a coroner to determine the injuries he incurred because of the torture to which he said he was subjected.

Below is the initial response from Amnesty International to Mohammad Salas' imminent execution

Iranian authorities must urgently stop the imminent execution of Mohammad Salas, a 51-year-old man from one of Iran's largest Sufi orders, the Nemattolah Gonabadi order, and to immediately quash his death sentence, Amnesty International said today.

"Amnesty International has received information that indicates a huge miscarriage of justice may be carried out if the Iranian authorities go through with this execution. We call on the authorities to immediately quash the death sentence of Mohammad Salas and to order a retrial that meets international fair trial standards without recourse to the death penalty," said Philip Luther, Research and Advocacy Director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International.

Background

Mohammad Salas was arrested around 2.30pm on 19 February outside a police station where thousands of Gonabadi dervish protesters had gathered to peacefully protest the persecution of the Gonabadi dervish community in Iran.

Salas, a bus driver by profession, has said that he was repeatedly beaten in the police station where he was held for several hours. He has said that he heard one police officer order the others to "beat him until he dies". He was eventually taken, unconscious, to a hospital to treat his injuries, which included cuts to the head requiring stitches, broken teeth, broken ribs, a broken nose, and a partial loss of vision.

Scared, disoriented and drowsy after being reportedly tortured, Salas awoke to find a police investigator by his bed, who forced him to sign a pre-written statement "confessing" to the murders. Salas was unable to read the statement because he has limited literacy and also cannot read without his glasses. The interrogation was conducted without a lawyer present.

Another man who was also in the room then put a camera and microphone in front of Salas and asked him why he had killed the 3 policemen. This video of his "confession" was broadcast on Iran's state news agency, the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB), on 20 February, the day after his arrest.

He was subsequently transferred to Shapour detention centre in Tehran, run by the Investigation Unit of Iran's police (Agahi), which is notorious for extracting "confessions" through torture, where he was held in solitary confinement without access to his family or lawyer.

On 1 March 2018, weeks before Salas' trial had begun, Tehran's Police Chief and Revolutionary Guards General Hossein Rahimi said in an interview with IRIB that Mohammad Salas would be executed for the murder of the policemen, thus violating the right to presumption of innocence.

Salas has said he was beaten in the Agahi detention centre and made to "confess" in court that he had killed the policemen. He has said that his beatings were so severe that one of his fingers was broken.

During the trial, state news agencies broadcast selected clips from the courtroom, attempted to smear Mohammad Salas’ character by using details about his personal life, and featured interviews with family members of the deceased policemen stating they want the punishment of qesas (retribution in kind) through his execution.

At the final trial session on 18 March 2018, he retracted his "confession" and said that he only "confessed" because he had been tortured and threatened. He denied murdering the policemen, and said he was already under arrest and in detention, with several witnesses present, when they were killed.

According to information received by Amnesty International, there are several witnesses, some of whom were also arrested at the protest, who were ready to give eye witness testimonies to support Mohammad Salas' statement. According to his lawyer, new witnesses have also claimed that the person behind the wheel of the bus that ran over the policemen was a young man.

At no point was Mohammad Salas allowed a lawyer of his choosing, even though his family had retained a lawyer to represent him. At trial, the judge did not order any investigations into his allegations of torture, nor did he allow any of the witnesses who could testify on behalf of Salas to do so.

Instead, on 19 March, using only the "confession" Mohammad Salas had made on his hospital bed, Branch 9 of the Criminal Court of Tehran convicted Salas of murder and sentenced him to death. The conviction and sentence were upheld by the Supreme Court, which later rejected an application for a judicial review of his case. His lawyer will submit a 2nd application for a judicial review to Branch 35 of the Supreme Court on 17 June 2018.

Gonabadi Dervishes in Iran consider themselves to be Shi'a Muslims. They are Sufis who describe Sufism as neither a religion nor a sect, but rather a way of life by which people - from any religion - may find God. However, Iran's Supreme Leader and influential figures deem their beliefs to be "false mysticism". Consequently, Gonabadi Dervishes have faced discrimination, harassment, arbitrary arrest and detention, imprisonment and flogging sentences, and attacks on their sacred or important sites.

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 campaigns for the total abolition of the death penalty.

(source: Amnesty International)

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

IHR STRONGLY CONDEMNS EXECUTION OF THE GONABADI DERVISH MOHAMMAD SALAS

Iran Human Rights (IHR) strongly condemns the execution of Mohammad Salas and calls on the European Union and the countries that have diplomatic relations with the Islamic Republic of Iran to play a more active role in preventing human rights abuses in Iran.

In spite of all civil society protests and despite the repeated warnings of human rights groups, the death sentence of Mohammad Salas was carried out early the morning of June 18. Noting that the death penalty in its entirety is inhumane, IHR insists that the principles of due process have not been implemented in the trial of this Gonabadi dervish.

Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam, the spokesperson of IHR, said: "The Islamic Republic of Iran's judiciary not only failed to investigate the reports of torture under the interrogations and confessions, but also ignored the claims by Mr. Salas' lawyer and family on the existence of new evidence proving his innocence demanding for new investigations. Mohammad Salas was executed innocently since he was not provided a fair trial and he insisted on his innocence. The responsibility for this execution lies with the authorities of the Islamic Republic, especially its leader Ali Khamenei, and they must be held accountable for this crime."

IHR also calls on the European governments, especially the EU and Norway, to play a more active role in dealing with human rights abuses in Iran.

Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam emphasized: "Perhaps more international pressure could have saved Mohammad Thallath from execution. The international community, especially the European countries, should recognize their role and responsibility and must work harder to stop executions and other human rights abuses in Iran."

(source: Iran Human Rights)

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

Iran Executes Sufi Man Convicted Of Killing Police In Clashes

Iranian authorities have executed a man convicted of killing 3 police officers during clashes involving members of a Sufi order, despite calls to stop his execution.

The official website of Iran's judiciary said Mohammad Reza Salas was hanged early on June 18.

"We are shocked and saddened to announce that Mohammad Salas was executed this morning," Amnesty International said on Twitter.

The 51-year-old was convicted and sentenced to death in March following what the London-based rights watchdog described as a "grossly unfair trial."

"In their haste to do justice, the authorities have trampled all over this man's rights," Philip Luther, Research and Advocacy Director for the Middle East and North Africa at ?Amnesty, said in a June 17 statement.

Luther cited Mohammad Reza Salas's denial of access to a lawyer before and during his trial and the dismissal of "key defense witnesses who can testify that he was already in detention when the three policemen were killed."

During the court hearings, Salas testified that he did not kill the police officers intentionally, according to local media.

3 officers were left dead after they were run over by a bus during battles between security forces and followers of one of Iran's largest Sufi orders in Tehran in February.

Followers of the Nemattolah Gonabadi order, known as dervishes, were protesting the arrest of members of the sect, as well as rumors that their 90-year-old leader would soon be detained by police, despite assurances by the authorities that they had no such intention.

2 members of the paramilitary Basij force were also killed in the skirmishes, authorities said. Some 300 dervishes were reportedly arrested following the violence.

Sufism, a mystical branch of Islam, is not illegal in Iran but rights groups accuse the Iranian government of harassment and discrimination against their followers, including the Gonabadis, one of the largest Sufi sects.

Rights groups have repeatedly called on Iran, one of the world's leading executioners, to abolish the death penalty.

Amnesty International said in a report published in April that 507 people were executed in the country last year -- a 10 % decline compared to the previous year.

(source: Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty)

BAHRAIN:

3 Shia Bahraini clerics sentenced to death, 8 others to life imprisonment

Bahraini regime officials have handed down death sentences to 3 Shia clergymen and condemned 8 others to life imprisonment as the ruling Al Khalifah regime continues with its repressive measures and heavy-handed crackdown on members of the religious community.

Bahrain's dissolved main opposition group, the al-Wefaq National Islamic Society, announced in a statement that Shia religious figures are being systematically subjected to arbitrary arrests, torture, trials, revocation of citizenship as well as forced deportation.

The statement added that al-Wefaq has recorded more than 347 cases of arrests, summons and various security prosecutions of Shia clerics in Bahrain.

It added that Bahraini security authorities have summoned more than 156 Shia clergymen over their speeches, ideological tendencies or political views. They have also arrested 99 religious scholars arbitrarily.

Al-Wefaq further noted that "harsh and unfair verdicts" have targeted more than 50 clerics, ranging from hefty fines and abolition nationality to life imprisonment and death penalty.

The statement went on to say that 3 Shia scholars have been sentenced to death, 8 to life imprisonment and a number of others been stripped of their citizenship. Among those whose nationality has been revoked are prominent Ayatollah Sheikh Isa Ahmed Qassim and Sheikh Hussein Najati.

Al-Wefaq then dismissed the Al Khalifah regime's policy of persecution and discrimination, stressing that authorities have no meaningful reform initiatives at the level of human rights, especially concerning freedom of religion and belief.

Thousands of anti-regime protesters have held demonstrations in Bahrain on an almost daily basis ever since a popular uprising began in the country in mid-February 2011.

They are demanding that the Al Khalifah dynasty relinquish power and allow a just system representing all Bahrainis to be established.

Manama has gone to great lengths to clamp down on any sign of dissent. On March 14, 2011, troops from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates were deployed to assist Bahrain in its crackdown.

Scores of people have lost their lives and hundreds of others sustained injuries or got arrested as a result of the Al Khalifah regime's crackdown.

On March 5, 2017, Bahrain's parliament approved the trial of civilians at military tribunals in a measure blasted by human rights campaigners as being tantamount to imposition of an undeclared martial law countrywide.

Bahraini monarch King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifah ratified the constitutional amendment on April 3 last year.

(source: presstv.com)

JUNE 17, 2018:

ALABAMA:

High court says no to Doster case

The Alabama Supreme Court has declined to review the death penalty case of Oscar Roy Doster, who is on the state's death row in Holman Prison for a 2002 Covington County murder.

According to its weekly order list issued Friday, the Alabama Supreme Court has denied Doster's writ of certiorari, a request to review the case.

Doster was convicted of the 2002 murder of Paul LeMaster in Covington County, which happened while he and 3 other men were on the run after escaping the county jail. He was arrested, but broke out again and killed a man in Texas in 2005, court records show. He pleaded guilty in the Texas case, and was sentenced to life in prison.

Forgotten the details? Here's a recap of the case.

The Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals upheld Doster's conviction in 2010.

In 2011, the Alabama Supreme Court quashed a motion for a new trial filed by the Equal Justice Initiative in Doster's behalf.

The state's high court also on Friday declined to review the cases of James Ben Brownfield, convicted of killing his sister, brother-in-law and 3-year-old great-nephew on Christmas Eve in 2001, and Nicholas Bernard Acklin and 2 other men were convicted in the fatal shootings of 4 people in Huntsville in 1996.

(source: The Andalusia Star-News)

OKLAHOMA:

Hunter the clear choice in Oklahoma AG primary

During his 16 months as attorney general, Mike Hunter has worked capably on Oklahomans' behalf, most notably leading efforts to ease the state's considerable opioid problem. Republican primary voters should mark the box next to Hunter's name on their June 26 primary ballot.

Hunter, 61, is 1 of 3 GOP candidates. The others are Gentner Drummond, 54, of Hominy, and Angela Bonilla, 41, of Glenpool. If none of the 3 receives more than 50 % of the vote, the top 2 will meet in a runoff Aug. 28.

Hunter was appointed attorney general in February 2017 after Scott Pruitt was named administrator of the federal Environmental Protection Agency. Hunter had been Pruitt's top assistant for more than a year prior to his appointment by Gov. Mary Fallin.

He has stayed busy since taking over. He filed suit in June 2017 against several pharmaceutical companies, alleging they hid the addictive nature of their products. Hunter has noted that opioid overdoses claimed the lives of 2,700 Oklahomans in the past 3 years, and that addiction has cost billions of dollars in state money for health care, rehabilitation, law enforcement and corrections.

Hunter spent the 2nd half of last year leading a commission that studied the impact of opioids on Oklahoma - drug overdose deaths had increased by 91 % in the past 15 years, the panel noted - and produced 31 recommendations for slowing the problem. They included seven pieces of legislation that wound up being approved during the 2018 session.

Earlier this year, Hunter announced a change in the state's execution protocol -0 the use of nitrogen in the death chamber. This followed problems with recent Oklahoma executions and the increased difficulty in securing the drugs used in lethal injections. Death penalty opponents criticized the decision, but Oklahomans support the death penalty, and Hunter said nitrogen provides the safest and most-effective method.

In May, the state's multicounty grand jury, which is guided by the attorney general's office, concluded 6 months of work by issuing a scathing report on the state Health Department. The agency didn't need the $30 million it had received from lawmakers during a “financial crisis” last fall, grand jurors said, and didn't need to lay off 198 employees.

Just last week, the attorney general's office announced a settlement in a rate case that will result in lower monthly bills for residential customers of Oklahoma Gas and Electric Co.

The Republican primary campaign has been caustic from the outset. Drummond initially challenging Hunter's legal residency, then criticized him for accepting campaign donations from lobbyists and special interests, and the mud-slinging hasn't stopped. The two campaigns have traded ads portraying the other candidate in the harshest possible light. That's politics.

One of our chief concerns about Drummond is his apparent disrespect for the First Amendment, as seen in his law firm's effort last month to keep The Oklahoman from publishing a story that was critical of Drummond. Especially considering he's seeking the state's top law enforcement job, that's troubling.

Hunter is clearly the best choice in the Republican field and has earned the chance to seek a full 4-year term.

(source: Editorial, The Oklahoman Editorial Board)

NEBRASKA:

Nebraska senators refuse offer to settle fight over lethal injection testimony

More than Nebraska's execution protocol will be at stake Monday when 2 branches of state government square off in what's been called "a constitutional turf war."

A group of 16 senators on Friday rejected a settlement offer by Attorney General Doug Peterson that would have required them to drop their subpoena of a top prison official. Now the attorney general will ask a judge to declare the senators in violation of state law and quash a subpoena intended to obtain information about the state's new lethal injection procedures.

"Subpoena power is not a license for a small subset of the Legislature to violate Nebraska law, their own rules, and bypass the entire Legislature with impunity," Assistant Attorney General Ryan Post said in a legal brief filed this week.

Sen. Dan Watermeier of Syracuse, chairman of the Executive Board and one of the sued lawmakers, said he believes senators "absolutely did it right" in exercising their subpoena authority. Now they are obligated to defend themselves in a fight they didn't pick.

"It's always been about our role as a Legislature to do our job," he said. "Disconnect it from the issue. I realize the death penalty, the protocol, the drugs are a hot topic, but ... I would be doing the same thing if we were talking about inspecting the dog catcher."

The decision not to settle the lawsuit sets up an unprecedented clash between the executive and legislative branches that will be decided by the judicial branch. Monday's hearing is scheduled for 10 a.m. before Lancaster County District Judge Lori Maret.

Peterson has sued members of the Executive Board and Judiciary Committee, who he said illegally authorized the subpoena of Scott Frakes, director of the Department of Correctional Services. The subpoena would compel Frakes to appear at a legislative hearing about a new lethal injection procedure the department intends to use to resume executions.

Last week, the attorney general offered to avoid the court battle and associated legal fees by allowing Frakes to respond in writing to questions by lawmakers. The offer also said senators could issue another subpoena as long as they followed the law.

William Connolly, a former judge on the Nebraska Supreme Court hired to defend the Legislature, called key provisions of the settlement a "non-offer" in a letter to his clients. He argued that the lawsuit represents a "constitutional turf war" in which the attorney general wants the courts to tell senators how to run their legislative committees.

That represents a clear violation of the separation of powers clause in the Nebraska Constitution, Connolly said.

"We believe the attorney general is wrong on the facts and the law in this case, and that the committee has the legal high ground," he told them.

In the recent brief, the assistant attorney general said he is not challenging the Legislature's subpoena power. But senators must follow the law, which he said requires a vote by the full 49-member Legislature before a subpoena can be issued.

The assistant attorney general argued that the Legislature is asserting "unbridled power" to subpoena any executive or judicial branch officer for virtually any purpose.

"Such an interpretation would cast a chilling effect upon the independence of those branches of government," Post said in the brief.

Additionally, he argued, the senators who authorized the subpoena of Frakes did not show how it relates to any current legislative purpose.

The dispute surfaced after Sen. Ernie Chambers of Omaha filed a complaint in the Legislature raising questions about the state's new 4-drug protocol. Watermeier said he assigned the complaint the Judiciary Committee, which set it aside after a discussion.

During the discussion, however, committee members raised related questions about the protocol. So the committee chairwoman asked the Executive Board for subpoena authority, which is required under the law. The board voted 5-3 to grant the authority on April 18, the final day of the legislative session.

Sen. Laura Ebke of Crete, chairwoman of the Judiciary Committee, asked Frakes to appear voluntarily. After he said he was advised by legal counsel not to answer questions, the subpoena was issued.

The Legislature rarely uses subpoenas to compel testimony at oversight hearings. Lawmakers used the authority in 2014 to question prison officials about a sentence miscalculation scandal and mistakes in the management of inmate Nikko Jenkins, who went on a killing rampage after he was released despite his repeated warnings that he needed mental health treatment.

Watermeier said Friday that a majority of the senators named in the lawsuit favored taking the issue to court. He acknowledged there is a risk the judge could rule in the attorney general's favor.

"I think the greater risk lies in not standing up for what the Legislature does and has done for years," he said.

(source: nptelegraph.com)

CALIFORNIA:

Kim Kardashian is now supporting a 'wrongly-convicted' death row inmate

After successfully seeing 63-year-old grandmother Alice Johnson's sentence commuted, Kim Kardashian has turned her sights on helping another prisoner she believes may have been wrongfully convicted.

The reality queen took to Twitter on Saturday to question the incarceration of Kevin Cooper, who has been behind bars for 33 years and will face the death penalty for the murders of 4 people, including 2 10-year-old children.

The California man has been fighting to have evidence in his case re-examined for years, as he, his legal team and 5 judges believe he was wrongly convicted, reports Daily Mail.

David Alexander - the person who saved Cooper from the death penalty in 2014 just three hours and 20 minutes before he was to be executed and has been working on his behalf ever since - has asked Governor Jerry Brown to order a review of his case, with no success.

He and Cooper want new DNA testing to be performed on evidence they believe was tampered with.

Alexander has made it clear they are not asking for a pardon or commutation of Cooper's sentence, just new testing they believe will exonerate the 60-year-old and hopefully implicate the real killers.

"All we're asking for is testing, [we're] not rushing to demand release," Alexander told DailyMail.com on Saturday.

He said he and Cooper's legal team had approached then-Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger for help, and Alexander said he expressed concern about the evidence presented against Cooper, but referred it on to incoming Governor Jerry Brown.

Brown is yet to act on requests for retesting of evidence in Cooper's case, labelling it a "complicated" situation.

"It is inexplicable to everyone who is familiar with the case why Governor Brown will not order the retesting be done," Alexander said.

"It is not a complicated case - it is a case with lots of instances of law enforcement misconduct.

"We've already proven the blood on the t-shirt was planted, then the person who did the testing withdrew the results, claiming contamination, and we could not get copies of the report."

Kevin Cooper was sentenced to death in 1985 for the brutal slaying of Douglas and Peggy Ryen, their 10-year-old daughter Jessica, and 10-year-old Chris Hughes, who was staying at their house in the Los Angeles suburb of Chino Hills.

Their 8-year-old son Josh was the only survivor, even though he had his throat slit, and his account of that night would be the key to the prosecution's case.

Initially, police were looking for 3 white or Mexican men, based on Josh's recollection of the horrific killings and evidence which suggested there were multiple people involved in the crime.

Witnesses also said they had seen 3 white men driving a station wagon, believed to be the family car, away from the home - but police continued to focus on Cooper.

Cooper had recently escaped from a minimum security prison, and was hiding out at a home nearby, The New York Times reported.

Prosecutors said a footprint of a prison issued shoe was at the home, as were cigarette butts with Cooper's DNA on them, and Josh eventually changed his story to say he saw a black man at the scene, not 3 white men.

Cooper was sentenced to death in 1985, but during his appeal, retesting of evidence, including a t-shirt believed to have belonged to the killer, was found to have Cooper's blood - and test tube preservative on it.

This indicated the blood on the shirt had been put there from inside a test tube of Cooper's blood, not splattered on during the quadruple murder.

The test tube containing Cooper's blood had DNA of at least two people inside, suggesting someone may have taken blood out of it and topped it up to cover up their actions.

Evidence of another man being involved in the killing is overwhelming - Jessica, the 10-year-old girl who was murdered, died with a chunk of light hair in her hand, and the ex-wife of a convicted murderer who lived nearby said the man had come to her home covered in blood and there was a hatchet missing from her home.

Alexander told DailyMail.com his client is 'innocent' and had been both 'wrongfully incarcerated for 33 years and wrongfully convicted'.

He says he and Cooper would be "happy to speak or meet with Ms Kardashian", and said "of course" her efforts would make a difference.

"I think support from any people who are interested in justice is important," he said.

"I don't know her from Adam, but I believe her speaking out and gathering other people in Hollywood to speak out, or anyone who is interested in criminal justice - speaking out and telling this Governor to have moral leadership - to have courage - to be better than his best excuses - [is a positive thing]."

Kardashian made headlines earlier this month after meeting with President Donald Trump following months of campaigning for the release of Alice Johnson - a 63-year-old woman who was sentenced to life behind bars for her minor role in a drug trafficking syndicate.

Johnson, who had been behind bars for 20 years, had her sentence commuted earlier this month - and Kardashian was widely credited for her release.

DailyMail.com have contacted Kim Kardashian for comment, but did not receive a response before publication.

(source: nzherald.co.nz)

WASHINGTON:

2nd murder charge added in 1987 cold case

William Earl Talbott II was charged Friday in Snohomish County Superior Court with 2 counts of aggravated 1st-degree murder for the November 1987 deaths of 2 young Canadians in Skagit and Snohomish counties.

He was arrested May 18 and charged in Skagit County District Court for the murder of 18-year-old Tanya Van Cuylenborg, whose body was found Nov. 24, 1987, in a ditch off Parson Creek Road near Alger.

At the time of his arrest, Talbott was not charged with the death of Van Cuylenborg's 21-year-old boyfriend Jay Cook because his body was found in Snohomish County.

The Superior Court charges were required to be filed 30 days after the District Court charges for the case to proceed.

Since his arrest, Talbott has been held in the Skagit County Community Justice Center on $2 million bail.

However, a Snohomish County judge issued an arrest warrant Friday for Talbott and after a request from the Snohomish County Prosecutor's Office denied Talbott bail.

"Defendant has no felony history," Snohomish County Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Craig S. Matheson wrote in an affidavit of probable cause. "However, he is charged with 2 brutal murders that leave him eligible for the death penalty. Given the potential ramifications for defendant flight is obviously a risk."

Skagit County Chief Criminal Deputy Prosecutor Rosemary Kaholokula told the Skagit Valley Herald on Friday that she would be co-prosecuting the case against Talbott in Snohomish County.

His arraignment, she said, is set for Tuesday.

In November 1987, Cook and Van Cuylenborg left British Columbia in the Cook family van for a trip to Seattle. They were supposed to return home the next day.

Their bodies were discovered about a week later, about the same time the van was found in Bellingham.

Over the years, investigators gathered a list of about 350 potential suspects, but none were Talbott.

A break in the 30-year-old cold case came in May after investigators from the Skagit and Snohomish county sheriff's offices used cutting-edge technology to create composite images of the couples' likely killer.

A private company, Parabon NanoLabs in Virginia, then used "reverse genealogy" to link DNA evidence found at the scene of Van Cuylenborg's death to Talbott.

At the time of his arrest, Talbott, of SeaTac, was working as a commercial truck driver for a business in Seattle. Using a discarded coffee cup, investigators were able to confirm a match between Talbott and the evidence left at the Van Cuylenborg scene.

(source: goskagit.com)

IRAN:

Prisoners riot to save Kurdish man on death row in Iran

Kurdish prisoner Ramin Hossein Panahi was injured in a fight in the Sanandaj jail where he is being held, awaiting execution.

The brawl broke out when a group of prisoners tried to prevent guards from taking Panahi out of the prison. His execution was scheduled to take place after Ramadan, which ended Friday.

About 20 prisoners were injured, the Ramin Hossein Panahi Campaign announced on Telegram on Saturday.

Panahi's brother, Amjad, confirmed to Rudaw that the fight had occurred and his brother was injured. He asked civil activists to continue their efforts to save his brother's life.

Panahi, 22, was arrested in June 2017 in Sanandaj and charged with being a member of the Kurdish opposition party Komala. Prosecutors said Panahi had received military training and was carrying a gun and a grenade at the time of his arrest.

His lawyer denied that Panahi had been armed and said his client was simply visiting family at the time of his arrest.

Membership in an opposition party is not an offence that warrants the death penalty, his lawyer has said.

The case has attracted international attention with UN human rights officials and Amnesty International both advocating for the Kurdish man.

(source: rudaw.net)

JUNE 16, 2018:

TEXAS:

Lubbock judge denies pre-trial motion to remove death penalty for James Holland case

A Lubbock judge has denied a pre-trial motion to remove the death penalty in the case of James Holland.

Holland is accused of the murder of his stepdaughter, 18-year-old Holly Jeffcoat, back in 2016.

Jeffcoat, a special needs student, was pregnant at the time.

The teen was found in her home, stabbed multiple times with her uterus cut out.

The motion, filed last week, asked 137th District Court Judge Trey McClendon to remove the death penalty as an option due to consideration of all evidence.

Holland's wife Deborah will also stand trial in Jeffcoat's murder.

(source: KCBD news)

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

Inmate who killed TCU prof loses appeal

A federal appeals court has rejected an appeal from a man on death row for the 2004 suffocation of a retired TCU professor whose body was found in Oklahoma after she was abducted in Fort Worth.

Attorneys for Edward Lee Busby, argued unsuccessfully to the 5th u.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that Busby was mentally impaired, meaning he would be ineligible for execution, and had deficient legal help at his trial and in earlier appeals.

Busby was convited of the slaying of 77-year-old Laura Lee Crane, awho was abducted from a Fort Worth grocery story parking lot. He was arrested in Oklahoma City driving Crane's car and led authorities to her body in Oklahoma.

(source: Associated Press)

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

Brutal Killer's Capital Murder Trial Set for November in San Angelo

November 5, 2018. The 1st Monday in November. A man accused of participating in a brutal killing now has a court date after District Judge Barbara Walther instructed attorneys for 28-year-old Eric Martinez to share information they have gathered and begin preparing for a jury trial.

The unique part of Martinez' trial is that he is charged with Capital Murder, but the death penalty has been waived. If a jury finds Martinez guilty of Capital Murder, he will have an automatic sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Attorneys for Martinez were ordered by District Judge Walther to be prepared for a jury trial on Monday, November 5, 2018.

Martinez is accused of conspiring with 3 others in the murder of an eldery San Angelo Man in a home invasion. The 4 defendants are accused of killing 69-year-old William Valdez while invading his home on August 31, 2015. The crime took place in the 500 block of N. Sellers St.

Those charged in the crime are Elisa Losoya, 28, Eric Martinez, 26, Fernando Lavaris, and Jonathan Marin, 26.

According to court documents, Losoya approached Guillermo Valdez, who lived with the victim at the house, telling him they needed to talk.

As Guillermo went back to the house and locked the door, the 4 broke into a glass door and threatened Valdez asking for money and not to call the police.

Valdez was shot in his left arm and taken to Shannon Medical Center, where he later died.

Late Thursday afternoon, Judge Walther set the final pretrial hearing for Martinez on October 9, 2018 with a pretrial on August 16 to work around defense and prosecution attorneys' court schedules.

(source: sanangelolive.com)

FLORIDA----female faces death penalty

State seeks death penalty for Miami mom whose baby died from scalding bath

A Homestead mother accused of killing her toddler in a burning-hot bath could face the death penalty after a grand jury indicted her for 1st-degree murder and aggravated child abuse.

Christina Hurt, shackled and in a jail jumpsuit, appeared in court Friday to plead not guilty as prosecutors announced the upgraded criminal charge in the January death of 1-year-old Ethan Cooley.

Hurt, who had a long and troubling history of abusing her children, is accused of refusing to take Ethan to a hospital after he suffered burns in the bath tub. She claimed to police that her 10-year-old daughter put Ethan in the hot bath, causing him "severe burns" and "peeling skin.

But Hurt did not seek medical help for the baby, instead calling friends to ask "about remedies on treating burn injuries," according to an arrest report. The child suffered overnight, throwing up, and became "lethargic" the next day as she took her other children to school — even bypassing Homestead Hospital, police said.

Neighbors and friends urged Hurt to call 911, but she "adamantly refused" for fear that child welfare authorities would take the boy from her. That morning, a neighbor called 911 after seeing the child had "become unresponsive," the report said.

Hurt was initially charged with aggravated child abuse and manslaughter. The latter charge was upgraded to 2nd-degree murder before prosecutors took the case to the grand jury on Wednesday.

Medical experts believe Ethan's injuries "were not consistent" with Hurt's story to police, leading a judge to approve a search warrant. In May, experts entered the property to do "additional measurements and tests" on the bathtub and water heater, according to the warrant.

Hurt was no stranger to Florida's Department of Children and Families.

Even before Ethan was born, she had twice lost custody of her 5 children.

The 1st time came in July 2014, when her then-3-year-old daughter was diagnosed with a skull fracture and a gash on her scalp. Hurt took the girl to school with a bow on her headcovering an oozing wound. The girl told authorities her mother pushed her off a bed when she wet the sheets. Hurt claimed the girl simply fell.

A judge eventually ordered Hurt's children returned to her, despite a recommendation from DCF that they remain under state care because of "Ms. Hurt's inability to safely care for and meet the needs of her children," according to state records.

But the children were taken away again in June 2015, after more reports of instability and abuse. A judge again ordered the children returned to Hurt in 2017, although they remained under the supervision of DCF.

After Ethan's death in January, DCF completed an investigation that that entire child-welfare system failed Ethan, including a rookie therapist whose insisted Hurt be reunited with her children, abuse investigators and the Miami-Dade judge who allowed the kids to be returned to her.

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

'Terrorist Boyz' gang member faces death penalty after convictions for Miami murder spree

A North Miami man is facing the death penalty after a jury on Friday convicted him of taking part in a murder spree by a notorious street gang known as the Terrorist Boyz.

Jurors convicted Frantyz Jean-Marie, 35, after nearly seven weeks of trial testimony from police detectives, eyewitnesses and former gang members turned state witnesses.

He was convicted of 2 counts of 1st-degree murder, and acquitted of 2 others. Jean-Marie was also convicted of 4 counts of attempted murder, plus conspiracy and racketeering. The verdict was announced under heavy security.

The same 12-person jury will reconvene in the coming months and will be asked to decide if Jean-Marie should be put to death, or face life in prison. Under recently enacted Florida law, jurors must be unanimous in imposing the death penalty.

Over the weeks, prosecutors outlined the rise of the gang, which culminated in months of violence that rocked North Miami-Dade in 2002. In all, detectives believe, the Terrorist Boyz gang was responsible for at least 12 killings and dozens of shootings, although gang members have been charged in only 9 murders.

Among those killed: a man the gang suspected of urinating on the flowers on the grave of one gang member's murdered brother; a 13-year-old boy shot dead while riding his bicycle home; and Gertrude LeFleur, a pregnant woman who identified the gang's ringleader as the man who robbed her.

"24 crime scenes ... some of the most violent murders imaginable," prosecutor Joshua Weintraub told jurors during closing arguments on Monday.

Those indicted in 2008 were Johnny Charles, also known as the ''Angel of Death,'' and Benson Cadet, Max Daniel, Robert St. Germain and Jean-Marie. St. Germain pleaded guilty 2 years ago and agreed to a 12-year prison sentence. The others are awaiting trial.

Defense attorneys shifted the blame to the gang members who flipped against Jean-Marie.

Frantzy Jean-Marie, a reputed member of the Terrorist Boyz gang in North Miami, was convicted of murder and now faces the death penalty.

(source for both: miamiherald.com)

OHIO----new execution date

The Ohio Supreme Court affirmed the death penalty for Austin Myers, 23, of Clayton, for the murder of Justin Back, 18, in January 2014.----Execution date set for 23-year-old Clayton man in Warren County case

A former Northmont High School student is to be executed on July 20, 2022 for the murder of a Warren County man.

The Ohio Supreme Court affirmed the death penalty for Austin Myers, 23, of Clayton, in the death of Justin Back, 18, in January 2014, according to a decision published today.

Myers was sentenced to death for Back's murder during a robbery at Back's home outside Waynesville. The sentence came although another Clayton man, Timothy Mosley - like Myers, 19 years old at the time - actually stabbed Back to death.

Back was 18 at the time, a 2013 Waynesville High School graduate about to enter the U.S. Navy.

(source: WHIO news)

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

Urgent Action: CALL ON OHIO GOVERNOR TO STOP EXECUTION (USA: 116.18)

Robert Van Hook is due to be executed in Ohio on 18 July. He has been on death row for 33 years for a murder committed in 1985. The parole board has voted against clemency. The governor is not bound by their recommendation and can stop this execution.

TAKE ACTION

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

Opposing the execution of Robert Van Hook, and calling for his death sentence to be commuted;

Noting that the trial court did not hear the full mitigating evidence of the defendant's abusive and dysfunctional upbringing and the impact that this had on his life, mental condition and conduct;

Explaining that you are not seeking to excuse violent crime or to downplay the suffering caused.

Contact this official by 18 July, 2018:

Governor John Kasich,

Riffe Center, 30th Floor,

77 South High St.

Columbus, OH 43215-6117, USA

Email: www.governor.ohio.gov/Contact/ContacttheGovernor.aspx Twitter: @JohnKasich

Salutation: Dear Governor

(source: Amnesty International USA)

KANSAS:

Thurber conviction upheld, sent back down for resentencing

The Kansas Supreme Court handed down a bit of a split decision in a death-penalty case on Friday.

"The Justin Thurber case involves a conviction for murder with the imposition of the death penalty," said Lumen "Lou" Mulligan. Mulligan is the Director of the Shook, Hardy & Bacon Center for Excellence in Advocacy at the University of Kansas. "The Kansas Supreme Court affirmed the conviction, meaning that he's guilty. Kansas law requires them to look at the imposition of the death penalty as opposed to life in prison as a separate question."

The U.S. Supreme Court and the Kansas legislature both had an impact on the state high court's decision Friday.

"The Kansas Supreme Court was faced with 2 U.S. Supreme Court decisions," said Mulligan. "A case called Moore v. Texas and a case called Hall v. Florida, as well as a change in Kansas statutory law made by the legislature back in 2016. Those 2 Supreme Court cases and the legislative change have to do with imposing the death penalty on someone with mental disabilities. The United States Supreme Court has held that you may not impose the death penalty on someone with a mental disability. These 2 newer U.S. Supreme Court cases as well as Kansas statutory law change how you determine whether someone has a mental disability."

Therefore, the case was sent back down for further argument reflecting the new information to decide if Thurber is mentally disabled or not. No timeline has been set for the next action in the case.

(source: Nick Gosnell is the News Director for WIBW News and the Kansas Information Network)

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

Jodi Sanderholm killer's death sentence postponed

The Kansas Supreme Court has postponed the death sentence for the 34-year-old man who abducted and killed Jodi Sanderholm more than a decade ago.

In its decision, released Friday, the Court upheld the capital murder and aggravated kidnapping verdicts against Justin Thurber. However, the Justices postponed the death sentence imposed by the jury.

The state high court ruled the district court must reconsider Thurber's claim he is intellectually disabled using the current legal standards. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that it is unconstitutional to execute defendants with even mild developmental disabilities.

"We feel compelled to point out the problems we identify on the intellectual disability determination were not of the district court's making," wrote Justice Dan Biles for the court. "That court was operating under now outdated state statutes and federal caselaw."

In the 126-page majority decision, Justice Dan Biles said the court had no choice but to reconsider intellectual disability because new rules for criminal prosecutions typically apply to cases on direct review.

Justice Eric Rosen dissented arguing the changes in law about Thurber's intellectual disability do not require a new district court ruling.

In a separate dissent, Justice Lee A. Johnson stated there were other guilt-phase errors in addition to the ones found by the majority. He contended a new district court ruling on intellectual disability is unnecessary because the death penalty cannot be applied to Thurber under the Kansas Constitution Bill of Rights and due to the problems with the intellectual disability statutes. And he argued that, in making the new ruling, the district court should not be limited to determining whether Thurber was intellectually disabled at the time he first made the claim.

(source: WIBW news)

NEVADA----death row inmate dies

Convict dies in Nevada prison 34 years after landing on death row

A 4-time convicted murderer died inside of a Nevada prison Friday, more than 30 years after he was first sentenced to die for strangling an escort.

Although Thomas Wayne Crump, 78, confessed to the killings of 7 people, attempted killings of 7 others and numerous robberies, assaults and kidnappings, he never felt any remorse.

"I'm not making any excuses. I don't feel compassion for the victims or anything that I've ever done," Crump told the Las Vegas Review-Journal in a May 1984 jailhouse interview shortly after his sentencing. "Why? I don't know. I have no idea. I've searched for that 'why' for so many years."

And for those he attempted to kill, the newspaper reported, he would have "finished the job" if he had known they survived his attacks.

On May 2, 1984, he was sentenced to death. He told Review-Journal reporter Kent Lauer that he had hoped death by lethal injection would put an end to his rage. But he was granted multiple stays of execution and survived another 34 years, 1 month and 13 days until 5:15 a.m. Friday, when he died at a medical facility inside Northern Nevada Correction Center in Carson City.

He was on death row for 3 decades after a jury of 7 women and 5 men convicted him of 1st-degree murder on April 26, 1984, for the death of 26-year-old Jodie Jameson.

(source: Las Vegas Review-Journal)

USA----book review

65 years on, revisiting the Rosenbergs----Protests to save Ethel and Julius Rosenberg from execution on spying charges 65 years ago fell on deaf ears. Maggie Gruner talks to Lori Clune, author of a new book on the subject

Mass protests in London failed to avert one of the Cold War's most controversial events - the execution 65 years ago this month of Ethel and Julius Rosenberg for conspiracy to commit espionage for the Soviet Union.

Attempts to save the couple included thousands picketing the US embassy, threats to disrupt the Queen's coronation and a last-ditch appeal to Winston Churchill.

But the Rosenbergs, who had 2 young sons, were sent to the electric chair on June 19, 1953.

With the anniversary looming and fear and distrust surrounding current US-Russian relations - President Trump tweeted recently that "our relationship with Russia is worse now than it has ever been" - Lori Clune's compelling book Executing the Rosenbergs: Death and Diplomacy in a Cold War World is particularly timely.

She writes that the Rosenberg case remains "emblematic of the tragic consequences that result when actions are driven by paranoia and fear".

Newly unearthed documents revealing global protest at the case are the basis for the book. The previously "hidden" files were discovered in 2 boxes after Lori probed US State Department archives.

Material from more than 80 cities and 48 countries around the world includes newspaper cuttings, petitions and detailed correspondence from embassies.

The Rosenbergs were arrested in 1950 for allegedly passing information about the atomic bomb to the Soviet Union.

Lori asserts that while few today do not acknowledge that Julius Rosenberg engaged in espionage, Ethel likely did no active spying of her own. Executing her was "the cruel, unjust act of a terrified nation".

The case imprinted itself on popular culture. For example, Sylvia Plath, who lived, and killed herself, in Fitzroy Road, Primrose Hill, "had the protagonist Esther Greenwood, in her 1963 novel The Bell Jar, obsessed with the executions".

On the morning of the executions Plath, then living in New York, wrote in her diary: "There is no yelling, no horror, no great rebellion. That's the appalling thing."

Lori, associate professor of history at California State University, Fresno, writes that the majority of Americans considered "the 2 Communist spies who prompted the Korean War got what they deserved".

International opinion vehemently disagreed. Letters, telegrams and petitions arguing that the death penalty was too severe began to "overwhelm" the US embassy in Grosvenor Square. Although there were no reports that threats to disrupt the Queen's coronation materialised, in her 1st post-coronation excursion she was greeted by a giant banner on the 1666 Great Fire of London monument that read: "Save the Rosenbergs."

Her chaplain, the Rev Charles E. Raven, protested that the verdict was "savage", underlining the conviction that America was becoming "hysterical in its dread of communism".

As the executions approached protesters from across England converged on the American embassy. Thousands picketed. Members of the London Save the Rosenbergs Committee begged prime minister Winston Churchill to call President Eisenhower immediately and advise clemency for the condemned couple. But Churchill's reply was: "It is not within my duty or my power to intervene in this matter."

America often dismissed overseas protests as communist inspired.

On 1 diplomatic cable (from the American embassy in Buenos Aires) someone from the State Department scribbled: "Protests in the Rosenberg case are not been (sic) dignified by a reply."

The book says we may never know why the documents it draws on were hidden. We might guess it was to bury evidence tarnishing the nation's reputation.

Lori Clune told Review she was surprised at the "often derogatory way in which American diplomats referred to protesters overseas. A few examples: "Dirty"... "just some housewives"... "mostly unkempt, probably Commies.'"

Her book says it would be incorrect to deduce that officials did not care about winning hearts and minds around the world.

So why did their reactions appear to suggest they didn't care?

She said: "Fear, even justified terror of nuclear annihilation, is... irrational. Fear clouded the judgment of government officials. Most officials also could not fathom why protesters misunderstood that executing the Rosenbergs would make the world safer."

There's still "a climate of fear surrounding US /Russian relations," she said. "While I do not see this as a new Cold War - the world is less binary than it was in the 1950s - we are living in dangerous and unstable times. The Doomsday Clock is currently set at 2 minutes to midnight, the same threatening level last reached in 1953, the year of the Rosenberg executions. I think some of the lessons of the Cold War, of coalition building, nuanced diplomacy, and restraint in foreign intervention, are more important now than ever."

Executing the Rosenbergs: Death and Diplomacy in a Cold War World. By Lori Clune. Oxford University Press

(source: islingtontribune.com)

BELARUS:

Unprecedented Supreme Court decision to suspend death sentences

Responding to the news that the Supreme Court of Belarus has in an unprecedented move decided to suspend and review the death sentences of Ihar Hershankou and Siamion Berazhnoy while their appeals are under consideration, Marie Struthers, Director of Amnesty International’s Eastern Europe and Central Asia Regional Office, said:

"This is a hugely significant and unprecedented decision for the only country in the region that has continued to execute people all these years. We are not aware of other cases where the Supreme Court of Belarus has suspended an execution."

"We continue to monitor the case closely, but it gives us hope that after years of discussion on the death penalty Belarus is ready to walk the talk. We urge Belarus' highest authorities to build on this development by immediately establishing a moratorium on executions and commuting all death sentences as first steps towards making Belarus death penalty-free."

Since 1994 the Supreme Court of Belarus has upheld all convictions and death sentences that came before it and President Alyaksandr Lukashenka has only once granted clemency.

Ihar Hershankou and Siamion Berazhnoy were convicted and sentenced to death by the Mahiliou Regional Court in eastern Belarus on 21 July 2017. They were found guilty of murdering 6 people between 2009 and 2015 with the aim of appropriating their property. Their convictions and death sentences were upheld by the Supreme Court on 20 December 2017 and the 2 men have since been at risk of imminent execution. Amnesty International has campaigned for their sentences to be commuted and for the President to introduce an immediate moratorium on executions with a view to abolishing the death penalty.

Despite continuing assurances from the Belarusian authorities that it is progressing toward a moratorium on the implementation of the death penalty, Belarus has shown a flagrant disdain for global and regional trends towards abolition. Amnesty International believes that the death penalty is the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment, and a violation of the right to life as proclaimed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. As of today, 106 countries have fully abolished the death penalty in law and 142 are abolitionist in law or practice.

(source: Amnesty International)

KENYA:

Muslims in Thika back calls for death penalty as punishment for graft

The Muslim community in Thika has asked the government to reintroduce the death penalty as a measure towards ending corruption.

They said anyone found guilty of corruption should face death and all their property gained through such illegal means confiscated.

? Supkem central region chairman Al Haji Shaban Bakari said there is need for the authorities to be tough on culprits as a deterrent to the vice.

He addressed the press at the Thika sub-county stadium after the Eid prayers on Friday.

Bakari said corruption in Kenya is rampant since criminals were let off lightly and the death penalty was the best option.

"If there is no severe punishment, corruption will get out of control. We need to safeguard national interests by recovering money and property embezzled from the public," he said.

Also read: Lifestyle audit will 'expose us', Murkomen jokes on Uhuru's call for wealth review

He suggested an amendment to the law, further asking MPs to borrow a leaf from China whose death penalty has yielded positive results.

"Our MPs should enact laws to the effect that anyone found guilty of corruption be hanged. We should emulate China who are among our biggest financiers."

The Supreme Court in December last year ruled that the mandatory death sentence is unconstitutional.

Section 204 of the penal code states that any person found guilty of murder, robbery with violence, treason and other capital offences shall be sentenced to death by hanging.

But Justice Njoki Ndung'u said the section "is out of sync and cannot stand as it is inconsistent with the constitution".

The court made the landmark ruling after a petition by 2 death row convicts Francis Murwatetu and Wilson Thrombus.

Earlier this month, Makueni MP Daniel Maanzo rooted for a referendum to reintroduce death penalty.

"Corruption in Kenya is at levels it cannot be fought without the death penalty," he said.

Separately, the Muslims lauded the government for providing security during the month of Ramadhan stating that they felt safe and ended their fast without any reported incidents.

The lot also praised the government for what they termed as a friendly budget which was read by Treasury CS Henry Rotich on Thursday.

Bakari singled out provision of enough funds to cater for the elderly, introduction of NHIF cover to students, and enough funds for electrification of villages across the country.

(source: the-star.co.ke)

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

Death penalty call worthless in fighting graft

Graft levels in Kenya are at the highest ever. The statistics are there for all to see. Corruption levels have steadily risen over the years, and with it the tolerance levels among the populace. It is also undisputed that our legal system has failed to deliver accountability.

It is not a surprise that some politicians, including Nominated Senator Isaac Mwaura and Nyeri Town MP Ngunjiri Wambugu, have voiced plans to introduce legislation to make corruption a capital offence.

If they make good their intention, it would be the most useless and worthless effort in fighting graft so far, however populist.

Graft war has not failed for want of stiff punishment.

Our laws are adequate to address runaway corruption.

The 'lenient punishment' in our laws, if applied consistently, are sufficient to turn the tide against the corrupt.

Take, for instance, the provisions of the Anti-Corruption and Economic Crimes Act, 2003. Part V thereof creates the offences of secret inducements for advice, deceiving principal, conflicts of interest, improper benefits to trustees for appointments, bid rigging, abuse of office, dealing with suspect property as well as attempts and conspiracies to engage in graft all of which are our bane as a country. Section 48 thereof provides for the penalties for these offences.

The general penalty provided is a fine not exceeding Sh1 million or a prison term of not more than 10 years. What is unique is that the law proceeds to provide for a mandatory fine if, as a result of the conduct that constituted the offence, the accused received a quantifiable benefit or any other person suffered a quantifiable loss.

The mandatory fine is fixed as 2 times the amount of the quantified benefit or loss. The law further states that where the conduct that constituted the offence resulted in a benefit and a loss, the mandatory fine shall be equal to 2 times the sum of the amount of the benefit and the amount of the loss.

The incentive for engaging in graft is the personal gain. Removing this gain from the equation means there is no incentive to engage in graft. The law, as far back as 2003, sought to make sure that whenever there was a conviction, the punishment would completely overshadow the gain. In other words, for the billions that are stolen, besides the general penalties, we should be seeing double the amounts in fines.

The reason this harsh punishment is never meted is what legislators should address.

It is quite clear that capital punishment would remain useless in our statutes if the due process of the law does not result in convictions and for the few convictions, the courts discretion is applied to the benefit of the thieves. It should then be a no brainer that our problem is not lenient punishment. Our problem is a legal system that has failed to deliver justice for Kenyans.

Simply put, corruption pays in Kenya.

To paraphrase Nobel Prize Laureate Rigoberta Menchu Tum, impunity has become the very foundation upon which systems of corruption are built, and if impunity is not abolished, all efforts to bring an end to corruption are in vain.

It is not the first time MPs have responded to public outcry by a promise to make it a capital offence. These promises are at best populist to hide the failure of Parliament to discharge its oversight role on the other arms of Government, particularly the Executive.

It should be appreciated that within our constitutional architecture, Parliament is the supreme oversight body. All the key actors in the justice chain report to Parliament. It should be Parliament holding to account the institutions that ensure effective investigation, prosecution, punishment and restitution for all offences committed against the Kenyan people.

This article has not gone to the merits or demerits of the death penalty, which deserves a separate treatment. It has simply illustrated the lack of imagination, or dishonesty on the part of those who promise Kenyans the sun when they cannot deliver the moon.

(source: Samuel Kimeu; The writer is Executive Director, Transparency International Kenya----standardmedia.co.ke)

ZIMBABWE:

Inmates on death row seek stay of execution

2 men who are on a death row will have to endure more anxiety after the Constitutional Court (Con-Court) yesterday postponed indefinitely a case in which they are challenging their sentence.

Njabulo Ndlovu of Cowdray Park and Shadreck Noel Sibanda of Nguboyenja were convicted of murder and sentenced to death in 2013 by former Bulawayo High Court judge Nicholas Ndou who found them guilty of murder with actual intent.

The duo was found guilty of assaulting and raping a United College of Education female student until she lost consciousness before murdering her male friend, Themba Mafunga.

Ndou found no extenuating circumstances when he gave his murder verdict - prompting the pair's lawyer - Vezokuhle Eric Ndlovu to approach the superior courts to have the judgment reviewed.

However, the Con-Court bench yesterday postponed the matter indefinitely, after ruling that the respondent, the Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs ministry, had not been properly served with the court papers.

"There appears to be improper service," deputy chief justice Elizabeth Gwaunza, who was leading the Constitutional Court bench said.

In his judgment, Ndou said the murder was pre-planned, adding that it was trite in law that where a robbery results in death, the inference was that the act would have been pre-meditated.

According to court papers, the murder took place on March 9, 2011, at a bush behind the UCE campus, as the student and Mafunga were walking along a gravel road behind the college campus to Highmount.

The pair emerged from the bush and drew knives which they used to threaten the 2 before assaulting and force-marching them into the bush, where they murdered Mafunga and raped the woman.

After raping the woman, the court heard, Sibanda and Ndlovu fled from the scene leaving her unconscious.

When she regained consciousness, she sought help from a passer-by who assisted her to make a report to the police, leading to the pair's arrest.

Zimbabwe's Constitution prohibits the death penalty for all women, as well as men who were under 21 at the time of the crime and those over 70.

It also bans using the death penalty as a mandatory punishment.

The charter, overwhelmingly approved by Zimbabweans during a national referendum on March 16, 2013, puts greater limits on the use of capital punishment.

(source: nehandaradio.com)

INDIA:

2000 Jamnagar triple murder case: Death penalty of prime accused commuted to life, son acquitted----The division bench of Justice M R Shah and Justice Mohinder Pal also acquitted Bhavan Sodha's son, Pankaj, who was sentenced to 7 years in jail for destroying evidence.

Citing the convict's old age, the Gujarat High Court on Friday commuted the death sentence of a 65-year-old man to life imprisonment in an 18-year-old murder case, but upheld the lower court's finding that the case fell in the category of the rarest of rare case. The division bench of Justice M R Shah and Justice Mohinder Pal also acquitted Bhavan Sodha's son, Pankaj, who was sentenced to 7 years in jail for destroying evidence.

Sodha and his son, who were convicted for killing a woman and her 2 children in Jamnagar in 2000 and cutting their bodies into pieces in order to destroy evidence, had filed an appeal in the High Court.

Sodha had killed Ranjanben Keshavlal Shukla and her 2 children- Devdat (15) and Avni (13) at their Jamnagar home. Ranjan was allegedly in a relationship with Sodha for over 7 years after her husband's death.

Sodha was reportedly interested in her property worth crores.

On the day of the incident, Sodha hacked all the 3 victims to death and chopped their bodies into pieces. He disposed the bodies by dumping them in a water tank and at a roadside.

His son, Pankaj who is his forties, was alleged to have acted as an accomplice to his father in destroying the evidence.

Sodha's lawyer argued in the court that he had been in jail since 2000 and was suffering from several diseases, including cancer. He also said that his vocal chords have been removed as a result of which he can not speak.

(source: The Indian Express)

JUNE 15, 2018:

TEXAS:

Ex-Doctor Charged In Rape, Murder Of Woman Who Died 30 Years Later

Prosecutors in Dallas say an ex-physician was charged in the death of a woman left incapacitated after being sexually assaulted and strangled in 1988.

Dallas County jail records show 56-year-old George Guo was being held Thursday on a capital murder charge with a $5 million bond.

The Dallas County District Attorney's Office says Guo was arrested Wednesday in Houston for the June 1988 attack on Dr. Katherine Bascone in Highland Park.

The attack left the 28-year-old unable to control her extremities, confined to bed, in need of rehabilitation and needing lifetime assistive/nursing care. She died in earlier this year.

Authorities say DNA testing was part of the investigation.

Guo, a registered sex offender, faces life in prison without the possibility of parole and is eligible for the death penalty.

He was convicted in 1991 for a home burglary in Highland Park where he broke into apartment of a 19-year-old SMU student and began to sexually assault her when the police were able to break down the door of the apartment and catch Guo in the act. A licensed medical doctor at the time, police found Guo is possession of a ski mask, military tear gas (mace), screwdrivers, a glass cutter, condoms, and multiple syringes filled with hospital grade sedatives.

In 1999, in Meadows Place, Texas, a suburb of Houston, Guo was caught breaking into the home where a juvenile female lived with the intent to commit sexual assault. He was convicted of burglary with intent to commit sexual assault and sentenced to 14 years in prison. He was released from prison in 2013.

(source: CBS News)

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

Guilty until proven innocent: 'The Last Defense' explores the story behind Darlie Routier's death penalty conviction

In 2008, Darlie Routier was granted the right to new DNA tests and there is still a chance, no matter how small, that she may escape the death row

'The Last Defense' premiered on ABC Television Network this past Tuesday with the investigative docu-series exploring the controversial death penalty cases of 2 of the country's most infamous criminals: Darlie Routier and Julius Jones. Executive produced by Viola Davis, Julius Tennon, and Andrew Wang, the series will 'explore and expose flaws in America's justice system' by delving into the cases and personal lives of the 2 inmates who, to this day, maintain their innocence.

Davis' rich voice introduces us to the cases explored in the show, stating that close to 3,000 prisoners are waiting on death row in the country. Out of these 3,000, 5 are exonerated on the basis of new DNA evidence and other developments in investigative techniques. So, the question remains, how many more are wrongfully executed for crimes they did not commit? Is there a possibility that Routier and Jones are innocent? Episode 1 of the docu-series looks at the Routier case.

The murders:

June 6, 1996 - 2:31 am: A near-delirious 26-year-old Routier calls 911 from her home in 5801 Eagle Driver, Rowlett, Texas, and tells the operators that an intruder broke into her home, stabbed her and her 2 children - 6-year-old Devon and 5-year-old Damon - and made his escape. Despite the early hours of the morning, police were at the scene within 3 minutes of the call and, after a cursory search of the house and the grounds, they did not manage to locate an intruder.

She was sleeping in the den with the 2 boys while her husband, Darin Routier, was reportedly sleeping upstairs with the couple's 7-month-old son, Drake.

Devon was pronounced dead on the spot, with Routier and Damon sustaining significant wounds. The mother had been cut in the neck, shoulder, and arms while Damon had been stabbed through the chest. They were rushed to the Baylor Hospital, with Damon declared dead in the ambulance and Routier rushed into surgery. She was discharged from the hospital just 2 days later.

Lt David Nabors has worked for the Rowlett Police Department for over 30 years and was the head of the department's Criminal Investigations Divisions at the time. As such, he was put in charge of the murder case and was tasked with apprehending the assailant who Routier only described as 'a white man wearing dark clothes and a baseball cap.'

Talking about the night, Nabors said: "Initially, when I got there, Darlie met the police officer with a towel around her neck putting pressure on her neck. When he walked to the back, he saw the 6-year-old laying there face up, already deceased."

The hunt lasted a total of 13 days, at the end of which, the department came to the conclusion that the murders were an inside job. Darin was ruled out as a possible suspect and Routier was arrested in connection with the deaths of her 2 children, much to the shock of her husband who proclaimed that she was innocent.

Because the horrific murders had taken place in a small, sleepy town such as Rowlett where everyone was close and Routier was well-known, support poured in immediately for the incarcerated mother. It was just not possible that such a caring, well-meaning woman could have committed such a heinous crime. Or was it?

Her version of events:

According to Routier's version of events, she had been sleeping on the couch when she felt one of her sons tersely push up against her. She woke up to see the intruder standing over her with a butcher's knife from the kitchen and he attacked her and her children. He then made his way through the kitchen - breaking a glass in the process - and into the utility room, before heading into the garage and making his escape through an open window.

Routier, in the voluntary statement, said she initially attempted to run after him and that she found the murder weapon lying down in the room and stopped. She then decided that her children would not survive if not tended to and proceeded to call 911. In the years past, she has corroborated the story numerous times, though investigators claim that there is little credibility to it.

The case against Routier:

During her trial - which was being prosecuted by Assistant District Attorney Greg Davis, with Toby Shook and Sherri Wallace assisting - the first point of contention was the 6-minute 911 call. Investigators say that instead of displaying concern for her wounded children, Routier told the operators she was worried about having touched the murder weapon and whether they would now be able to retrieve prints from them. She also mentions that her husband ran downstairs in response to her screams but fails to ask about her infant son.

Officers also testified that while the mother was screaming and upset, she did not seem to be in shock and was very alert to the happenings around her. One also said that when he instructed Routier to apply pressure to the stab wounds on Damon's back, she ignored him entirely.

There were also inconsistencies with her account of the events of the night, or so the prosecutors felt. While Routier said that he broke the glass on his way out, her blood was found underneath it, which could not have been possible if that were indeed the case. Furthermore, investigators did not find blood in the garage, and the window sills through which she said he had escaped still had layers of dust, indicating that they had not been disturbed.

Her claim that she had found the knife in the utility room did not seem to hold up either as there was no blood spatter to indicate that it had been dropped. A noticeable lack of blood on the couch where she said she was stabbed, apparent attempts to clean the countertop and sink before the police arrived were brought up against her in court as well.

The version of events where the assailant escaped from the garage by cutting his way through a fiber screen failed to stand up to scrutiny as well. During a sweep of the crime scene, the investigators confiscated all the kitchen knives and found that one had microscopic traces of the exact same fiber that had been used to slash the screen, indicating that she may have staged a fake escape.

However, it was possibly the 'expert' testimonies of crime scene consultant James Cron, her surgeon at Baylor Hospital, and blood spatter expert Tom Bevel that did the most damage. Cron, who had investigated hundreds of crime scenes at the point, testified that, according to his expertise, he felt that the crime scene had been staged.

Her surgeon stated that he felt her wounds were superficial and self-inflicted, and Bevel told the court that the cast-off blood found on the back of her blood-stained nightshirt indicated that she had raised the knife over her head as she withdrew it from each boy to stab again.

Because of the lack of motive, a confession, or witnesses, the prosecution worked tirelessly to portray Routier as a pampered, materialistic woman with substantial debt, plummeting credit ratings, and little money in the bank, who feared that her lavish lifestyle was about to come to an end. They pointed out to her extravagant spending and an entry in her personal diary in which she 'asked for forgiveness for what she was about to do,' though it was the Silly String video that arguably turned the tide in their favor for good.

June 14 was supposed to be Devon's seventh birthday and Routier said that plans to celebrate the day were already in place before the murder.

On the day, a prayer service was held at the boys' joint-grave site and was attended by family and friends who brought along with them gifts, balloons, and trinkets to adorn the grave. Her sister, Dana, had arranged the day's festivities and brought cans of 'Silly String' which she and her sister sprayed with great aplomb.

The scene was caught on camera by the local media, and the video was subsequently used in the trial and played in front of the jury countless times. The prosecutors pointed out how such joy and frivolity from a mother who had just lost her children in a double homicide eight days prior was unbecoming and questioned her mental state at the time.

They heavily edited the video to show only the portion where Routier and her sister were spraying silly string on the gravesite and cut out the bits where the mother was shown in a somber mood at the prayer service. Their intention was to make the jury believe that she was a remorseless, uncaring mother whose actions were that of a guilty person. They succeeded.

The case for Routier:

Routier was initially assigned court-appointed attorney Doug Parks to defend her and because Darin was informed that their chances of a not-guilty verdict significantly decreased with the appointment, they went out of their way to hire one of the best criminal defense lawyers in the state: Doug Mulder.

Mulder and the defense team worked to show that the prosecution had built its case on nothing more than circumstantial evidence. They cross-examined the prosecution's points of contention, arguing that the 911 call could be explained because Routier was traumatized and distracted by the chaos in the home at the time and that she could not be held accountable for what she said or did at the time. They had a psychiatrist even testify that she was a victim of 'traumatic amnesia.'

Explaining away how her blood could have gotten 'underneath' the broken glass, they said that it was entirely plausible the crime scene had been disturbed by the constant hustle and bustle of paramedics and investigators who were at the home during the initial few hours. A restaging of the crime also proved that it was possible to escape without disturbing the layers of dust that had gathered on the windows.

The prosecution's argument that the knife could not have been found in the utility room because of a lack of blood spatter was far-fetched as well. A pattern would have been left behind only if the knife had been caked entirely in blood, with the more realistic possibility being that the blood had dried up in the time investigators got to the scene. Mulder similarly argued that the microscopic fibers on the butter knife were a result of human error, a scenario that is not beyond imagination in such exact sciences.

A piece of evidence that the prosecution was unable to logically explain was a sock found 75 yards away in an alley at the rear of the Routier home. It was discovered by an officer who was conducting a search of the alley and, upon examination, was found to contain a bloodstain the size of an 'elongated nickel.' The blood belonged to Devon and Demon.

The defense said that if the prosecution's allegation that Darlie had staged the crime scene were true, then it was implausible that she had run down the alley, planted the sock and then returned to the home without a single trace of her blood in the area. In his opening statement, her attorney sarcastically quipped: "Somehow, this doting mother turned psychotic killer, went and dipped, just ever so slightly, an amount of her children's blood in that sock and then ran 75 yards down the alleyway, and planted it, while her husband is upstairs asleep."

The aforementioned 'expert' testimonies were systematically taken apart one by one too. Cron was found to have come to his conclusion that the scene had been staged on nothing more than a hunch. He admitted that he had taken all of 20 minutes to decide that the murder was an inside job. Similarly, San Antonio chief medical examiner Vincent DiMaio testified that the wound to Routier's neck came within two millimeters of her carotid artery, which if breached, could have easily resulted in the mother bleeding out to death on the spot. He said the wounds were inconsistent with self-inflicted wounds he had come across in the past.

Mistakes were made:

On a similar note, Tom Bevel was later found to have significantly exaggerated and falsely testified in several of the cases he had been asked to provide an opinion on, including that of Routier's. Other experts in the field questioned his version of events and provided evidence which suggested that it was impossible for the specks of blood to get onto the back of her nightshirt unless the motions of stabbing were unrealistically aggrandized.

Bevel had also not written a report on his findings, which was ethically a big red flag, meaning it could not be revisited in the case of a retrial. When asked about this, Bevel confessed he had done so on the advice of the prosecutors. Unfortunately, none of this was brought up at the trial because Mulder had decided that he would not be needing these other experts' testimonies to refute the claims brought up the prosecution. It would prove to be a critical mistake.

Another crucial error of judgment came from Routier's 1st lawyer, Parks. Parks, rightly fearing that his client would not receive a fair trial in Dallas County due to the excessive media coverage, filed a motion to have it moved to Kerrville. This played right into the prosecution's hands because the town was located in one of the state's most conservative counties with a very high conviction rate. When Mulder succeeded Parks, he immediately filed a motion with the court to have the trial moved back to Dallas County, but Judge Tolle struck down the motion.

Davis' intention was clear-cut from the very beginning. During the jury selection, he had proclaimed: "That she will be sentenced to die, and at some day in the future, she will be executed. That is our goal in this case."

He was granted his wish. Upon the trial's conclusion, the judge asked how many of the jurors felt that Routier deserved the death penalty; all 11 raised their hands.

The case of Susan Smith:

There were suggestions that overzealous and biased coverage by the media played its role in Routier's conviction and these were not too far-fetched. In the build-up to her trial, parallels were constantly drawn between Routier and another mother who had, as it turns out, falsely claimed that she was not responsible for the deaths of her children: Susan Smith.

On October 25, 1994, Smith, a resident of South Carolina, reported to the police that her vehicle had been carjacked by a black man who drove away with her sons still inside. For the next 9 days, she made dramatic pleas on national television for their rescue and return. But on November 3, she confessed to letting the car roll into nearby John D Long Lake with the children inside, much to the anger of an entire nation.

The case was still fresh in the minds of jurors and residents of the county, who felt that Routier's case was just the Texas version of Smith's case. However, the parallels ended there. Smith was found to have grown up in an unstable home, attempted suicide as a 13-year-old and was molested when she was a teenager. She was also suffering from mental health issues and was diagnosed with dependent personality disorder and major depression. In contrast, Routier had no underlying issues whatsoever.

Present day:

Routier was convicted and sentenced to death by lethal injection for the murder of 5-year-old Damon on February 4, 1997. Now, more than 2 decades later, she still remains in prison awaiting justice and is currently 1 of just 6 women on death row in the state of Texas. To this day, she insists on her innocence.

There is still hope for her case. In 2002, one of the jurors, Charles Samford, in an affidavit tendered to Routier's appeal attorneys, stated, "The videotape was one of the main reasons I voted to convict Mrs Routier of murder because I didn't know what to make of her behavior."

He also said that, after the trial, they were shown a different video from Devon's birthday party, writing: "Had we been shown this other tape so that we had been able to see the whole picture of what happened that day, I believe I would not have voted to convict Mrs Routier."

In 2008, she was granted the right to new DNA tests and her appeals were remanded to the state level for improved DNA testing. Then, in 2014, Chief Judge of the Western District Fred Biery granted a request from prosecution and defense for her case for further DNA tests vital to the defense to be performed on a bloody fingerprint found in the house, a bloody sock and her nightshirt. There is still a chance, no matter how small, that she may escape the death row.

(source: meaww.com)

PENNSYLVANIA:

Lawyers in Duquesne death penalty case spar over 13 1/2-hour confession video

James Karr sat in the police interrogation room for more than 13 hours on Dec. 30, 2014.

For 10 of those hours, he repeatedly told Allegheny County Police detectives questioning him about his estranged wife's killing that he didn't want to talk to them - that he wanted a lawyer.

It was only in the last hour of the interrogation that the Duquesne man admitted to binding Maureen Karr with floral wire, dousing her with vodka and setting their Friendship Street house on fire, authorities said.

In pre-trial motions for Mr. Karr's death penalty case underway this week, defense attorneys argued that the whole interrogation video should be suppressed since their client asked for a lawyer and the continued questioning violated his constitutional rights.

But a judge decided that the part of the recording where Mr. Karr actually confesses could be played at trial. She ruled that it was legally obtained when he resumed contact with the detectives by banging on the wall and asking them to come in to talk again.

Mr. Karr also signed a Miranda warning then, waiving his right to a lawyer.

On Tuesday and early Wednesday, prosecutors from the Allegheny County District Attorney's office played the portions of the video - a key piece of evidence - in which Mr. Karr admitted to the crimes.

But the defense, which originally wanted to block the video, now wants Common Pleas Judge Anthony M. Mariani, who is presiding over the case in a non-jury trial, to watch all 13 1/2 hours of it - including hours where Mr. Karr is in the interview room by himself sitting or with his head down. The defense is arguing that the lengthy video is crucial to determining whether their client's statement was truly voluntary.

"As the fact-finder, we want the court to experience the duration, the passage of time," argued defense attorney Christopher Patarini. "He appears to be experiencing difficulty. He appears to be emotionally distraught."

Judge Mariani, who said that watching silence on the screen is "not a productive use of judicial resources," at first ordered the parties to play only the relevant portions of the video and skip the down time.

However, defense attorney Lisa Middleman argued, "In a case where the commonwealth is seeking the ultimate penalty, the defendant should have every opportunity to demonstrate his statement was not voluntary."

Judge Mariani relented, at least for Wednesday morning, allowing the defense to start playing the interrogation from the beginning - at 6:19 a.m. - and said he will make a final determination on the issue after the attorneys file briefs on it when the case resumes Monday morning.

Mr. Karr is accused of killing his 56-year-old wife early Dec. 30, 2014. They appeared in court the day before for a hearing on a protection-from-abuse order she had obtained against him, but the hearing was continued until Jan. 7.

In the portion of the video played by the prosecution beginning at 4:49 p.m., Mr. Karr repeatedly tells detectives that he can't remember what happened.

"Were you upset?" Detective Timothy Langan asks.

"I don't know. I wish I could remember," Mr. Karr answered.

"We don't pass any kind of judgment. We try to determine the facts as best we can," the detective said.

The conversation continued like that for about an hour when Detective Langan was replaced by Detective Steve Hitchings.

He begins his questioning at 6:33 p.m., trying to impart to Mr. Karr that whatever he did, the detectives have seen similar cases over their many years working in the homicide unit.

"We've been dealing with this a long time," Detective Hitchings said. "Your wife didn't cause trouble for anyone but you. Same with his wife. Same with my wife. Same with every other guy in America.

"I mean, you think my wife [expletive] don't want to kill me half the [expletive] time?"

Mr. Karr admitted to the detective that he'd been smoking crack cocaine for about 5 years, and that he'd done so the day before.

After several minutes of Detective Hitchings wondering if Ms. Karr's death could have been accidental and the fire set just to cover it up, Mr. Karr admitted that he went to her house that night, entering through the back door.

He said she went at him with an ax.

"I pushed her. She hit right against - in the kitchen there was a doorway. And she wasn't moving. She wasn't moving. She wasn't breathing. I tried bringing her back, but she was gone," Mr. Karr said in the recording. "So I guess I did do it."

(source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

NORTH CAROLINA:

Suspect in Durham grandmother's death told police he wanted the death penalty

A Durham man accused of fatally stabbing a woman he was romantically involved with told investigators that he hoped he would receive the death penalty.

Recently released court documents shed new light on the investigation into the Jan. 30 death of Alicia Elder, an alumn of N.C. Central University and grandmother of 3.

2 days after her death, police charged Michael Anthony Person, 55, with 1st-degree murder.

Durham police responded to a 911 call at about 9 p.m. on Jan. 30 at Hillside Park on Roxboro Street. Elder had sustained multiple stab wounds to her back, neck and head, according to a search warrant.

"The victim was lying in a large pool of blood," police investigator T.S. Huelsman wrote in a search warrant.

Elder was found near a 2016 Dodge Journey SE, and investigators found "a large amount of blood" in the front passenger side of the vehicle.

Officers tracked a trail of blood away from the scene to a separate parking lot, warrants say.

"This blood trail is believed to belong to a suspect," Huelsman wrote. "From my training and experience the suspect is likely to cut themselves during an aggravated stabbing."

Elder's family told detectives about her romance with Person. The day after Elder died, detectives found Person at his mother's house on Roxboro Street, next to Hillside Park.

Person had "a freshly bandaged right hand," the warrant says.

During questioning at the police station, Person said he did not want to talk until he had a law, the warrant says.

But, the warrant says, Person "stated that he wanted to get the death penalty."

(source: heraldsun.com)

GEORGIA:

Georgia inmate admitted killing guards in recorded interview

1 of 2 Georgia inmates accused of killing 2 guards last year admitted in a recorded interview that he shot the guards.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that the recording of Ricky Dubose being interviewed by law enforcement after his arrest was played in court Wednesday.

Dubose and Donnie Rowe are accused of shooting Sgt. Christopher Monica and Sgt. Curtis Billue with the guards' guns while escaping from a prison transfer bus southeast of Atlanta last June. They were arrested in Tennessee a few days later.

Both men face the death penalty.

The newspaper reports that Dubose told authorities the escape wasn't planned, but that he seized an opportunity. He also said Rowe didn't want to kill anyone.

Dubose's attorneys are asking a judge not to allow the video confession at trial.

(source: WRBL news)

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

State still intends to seek death penalty in 2017 Albany murder case

The judge in a Dougherty County death penalty case questioned the defendant's mental competency on Wednesday.

Defense attorneys said they will examine his competency but on their own terms.

Jesse Brown Junior is charged for the January 2017 double murder of an Albany woman and her grandmother.

The state confirmed on Wednesday that they still intend to seek the death penalty for Brown.

Prosecutors and defense attorneys discussed in the courtroom how they will proceed with the case.

Wednesday was the unified appeal procedure, a procedure made by the Georgia Supreme Court for cases to follow when they are seeking the death penalty.

This procedure makes sure everyone involved understands how to move forward and explains the legal proceedings so when the case does go to trial, there are no delays.

The defense also said it is challenging the master grand jury list that was used to indict Brown back in October of 2017.

The next step in the case will be a formal arraignment where Brown will have the opportunity to plead guilty or not guilty.

That date has not been set yet.

(source: WALB news)

FLORIDA:

Florida Supreme Court targets juror's anti-gay bias in death penalty case

The Florida Supreme Court on Thursday ordered resentencing for a death row inmate convicted of a 2005 murder in Broward County and said a separate hearing should be held to delve into anti-gay statements made by a juror.

Justices ordered a new sentencing hearing for inmate Eric Kurt Patrick because the jury split 7-5 in recommending the death penalty to a judge. On that issue, Thursday's ruling was similar to numerous other cases in which justices have ordered resentencing based on a 2016 U.S. Supreme Court decision that found Florida's death penalty sentencing system unconstitutional.

But justices also agreed that Patrick should receive an evidentiary hearing related to anti-gay statements made during jury selection by a man who ended up serving on the jury. Patrick's current lawyers argued in a Supreme Court brief that his trial attorney did not properly seek to block the man from serving on the jury and that a new trial should result.

The Supreme Court opinion said the juror acknowledged he would have a bias if he knew a criminal defendant was gay.

"When asked if he would still hold the prosecutor to the proper burden of proof, he answered, 'Put it this way, if I felt the person was a homosexual, I personally believe that person is morally depraved enough that he might lie, might steal, might kill,'" the Supreme Court opinion said. "The juror said 'yes' when asked if this bias might affect his deliberations."

Patrick, now 55, was convicted in the September 2005 murder of Steven Schumacher after the men met at a park and went to Schumacher's home. Patrick, who was homeless at the time, gave Schumacher a massage and the men were naked in bed when Patrick began beating the victim, according to a summary of the case included in the Supreme Court opinion. Patrick said Schumacher wanted to have anal sex but that Patrick refused - a situation that ultimately led to the fatal beating.

The Supreme Court opinion said Patrick denied being gay but that he had engaged in sexual activity with other men. Regardless, the Supreme Court pointed to potential bias in the statements made during the jury selection process known as voir dire.

"Applying this evidence to the juror's voir dire answers establishes that, by the juror's own acknowledgement on the record, he was predisposed to believe that Patrick is morally depraved enough to have committed the charged offenses," the opinion said. "Although Patrick does not identify as homosexual and indicated in his confession that his sexual activity with men was for material support rather than personal fulfillment, these points do not eliminate the bias that this juror said he would feel based on the evidence that trial counsel and the trial court knew the jury would hear during trial."

The opinion said prosecutors contended that Patrick's trial attorney did not block the juror for strategic reasons. But the Supreme Court said it can "neither ignore the possibility that counsel's failure to challenge this juror was strategic nor conclude that it was." As a result, justices unanimously ordered a lower court to hold an evidentiary hearing.

The Supreme Court also ruled 5-2, with justices Charles Canady and Ricky Polston dissenting, that Patrick should receive a new sentencing hearing as an outgrowth of the 2016 U.S. Supreme Court decision.

That U.S. Supreme Court decision found Florida's death penalty sentencing system unconstitutional because it gave too much authority to judges, instead of juries. A subsequent Florida Supreme Court ruling said juries must unanimously agree on critical findings before judges can impose death sentences and must unanimously recommend the death penalty.

The Florida court Thursday applied that to Patrick's case, pointing to the jury's 7-5 jury recommendation for the death penalty. After the court rulings, state lawmakers changed the death penalty sentencing system to address the unanimity issue.

(source: Herald-Tribune)

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

Death Row Inmate Wins Hearing Due to Juror Comments

A Florida man sentenced to death for hog-tying and bludgeoning a man is getting a chance to challenge his conviction because a juror said gay people are "morally depraved."

The Florida Supreme Court on Thursday ordered 2 new hearings for 55-year-old Eric Kurt Patrick. Patrick was convicted in 2009 of beating Steven Schumacher to death. He told authorities that Schumacher attempted to have sex with him.

The court ruled that Patrick deserved a new hearing on his death sentence because a jury did not unanimously recommend the death penalty.

But justices also said a lower court should hold a new evidentiary hearing because Patrick's attorney did not challenge a juror who said that if a person was gay, then they might be "morally depraved" enough to lie, steal and kill.

(source: The Associated Press)

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

Brooksville man found guilty of killing girlfriend, others in 2014

A Hernando County court convicted George Mason III Wednesday of 3 2014 murders that investigators called one of the most horrific shooting rampages in Brooksville history.

Mason, 46, was found guilty by a jury of 3 counts of 1st-degree murder and 1 of attempted 1st-degree murder, court records show. He is set to appear again in court Monday, when jurors will consider the death penalty.

On the night of Aug. 29, 2014, police said Mason shot 4 people at a small, cream-colored house at 820 Peach St. - home to his half-brother, Gabriel "Bo" Taylor, their mother Tracy Taylor and their 81-year-old grandmother, Jannie V. Taylor.

3 people died: Tarasha Yata Townsend, Mason's 37-year-old girlfriend and mother of his 2 daughters; his grandmother; and Ralph Peyton, another son of his mother's. Gabriel Taylor, 33, was critically wounded.

At the time, police said they weren't aware of a motive. Mason was "just hellbent on a violent outrage," said Brooksville Police Chief George Turner.

After the killings, investigators said, Mason chased Gabriel Taylor to the corner of Main Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, where he shot him multiple times with a 9mm handgun. Then a passing pickup hit Mason, who ended up in the hospital with several broken bones before he was charged.

Records show Mason's criminal history goes back to 1991. Between 1992 and 2007, he served 4 terms in state prison for cocaine and marijuana sales and possession, battery on a law enforcement officer, fleeing law enforcement and felon possession of a firearm, among other crimes, Florida records show.

(source: tbo.com)

ALABAMA:

Capital murder suspect denied youthful offender status

A capital murder suspect was looking to make a deal today. 20-year-old Harold Wallace, Jr. accused of shooting and killing innocent bystander Tamara White was in court requesting "youthful offender" status. -- A scenario where Wallace could have escaped a possible death penalty.

Cuffed and shackled -- 20-year-old Harold Wallace, Jr. made his way into court Thursday afternoon. He's charged with capital murder in the death of 22-year-old Tamara White in March of 2017.

By all accounts, the single mother was in the wrong place at the wrong time when she was hit by a bullet while waiting in the parking lot of the Springhill McDonald's. Judge John Lockett heard the case and denied Wallace's request for "youthful offender" status.

"We are all as Tamara's family pleased with Judge Lockett not to award youthful offender status," said Tammy White, Tamara's mother.

After the request was denied, Wallace pleaded not guilty to capital murder. While Tamara's family is relieved her suspected killer won't get the easy way out, they're still mourning her loss as they navigate their way through the legal system.

"Tamara is truly missed. She was a great mom, great sister, daughter. Everything. So she's missed," said White.

The Mobile County District Attorney's Office is ready to prosecute and is also pleased the request was denied.

"It was certainly emotional for them and it's always emotional to be in that same courtroom and in the same room with the defendant and person who took their loved one's life. So it was an emotional day for them, but they are pleased with youthful offender status being denied," said Jennifer Wright, Mobile County Assistant District Attorney.

All parties are set to meet on July 25th and decide on how to move closer to a trial date.

(source: WALA news)

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

Man's death penalty trial set for 2019 in Huntsville strangling deaths of wife, young son

A death penalty trial is scheduled early next year for a south Huntsville man pursuing an insanity defense in the strangling deaths of his wife and 7-year-old son.

Stephen Marc Stone is charged with capital murder in the February 2013 killings. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty if he's convicted.

Stone, 38, was 1 of 5 capital murder suspects who had hearings in Madison County Circuit Judge Donna Pate's courtroom this afternoon. Pate scheduled the trial for Jan. 28.

Stone was just recently released from treatment at the Alabama Department of Mental Health. Pate in May 2017 ruled Stone was incompetent to stand trial. She ordered he be treated to regain competency. The judge hasn't held a rehearing on his competency since he was released from treatment.

The bodies of 7-year-old Zachary Stone and 32-year-old Krista Stone were found at the family's Chicamauga Trail home in south Huntsville on Feb. 24, 2013. Stephen Stone has been in custody without bail since that day.

Stone is represented by appointed attorneys Brian Clark and Larry Marsili. Madison County District Attorney Rob Broussard and Chief Trial Attorney Tim Gann are prosecuting.

3 other capital murder suspects received trial dates in unrelated cases during this afternoon's hearings in Judge Pate's courtroom:

Jason Loveday is tentatively scheduled for trial Oct. 29, 2018. Prosecutors haven't yet said whether they'll seek the death penalty. Loveday is accused of decapitating his aunt and fatally beating her boyfriend.

Keon Jackson is tentatively set for trial Oct. 29. Prosecutors aren't planning to seek the death penalty. Jackson is charged in the fatal shooting of his brother-in-law, whose body was found in a burning house.

Jebree King's trial is set for Nov. 26. He's charged in the 2014 shooting death of Lawrence Alan Williams Jr.

(source: al.com)

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

Alabama prison system sees steep rise in suicides

The SPLC argued in federal court today that Alabama's mistreatment of prisoners with mental illness has led to a dramatic increase in suicides.

Since the beginning of 2018, 4 people in ADOC custody - 3 in solitary confinement and 1 on death row - have died by suicide. The suicide rate in Alabama prisons is one of the highest in the country.

In June 2017, U.S. District Judge Myron H. Thompson declared the mental health system in Alabama prisons "horrendously inadequate," an unconstitutional failure that led to what Thompson called a "skyrocketing suicide rate" among prisoners.

Thompson's ruling followed a 2-month trial in the SPLC's lawsuit against the Alabama Department of Corrections (ADOC). Today's hearing was about ADOC's routine use of segregation - solitary confinement - for prisoners with mental illness.

"As far as we can tell, the state has done very little beyond promising to improve conditions in Alabama prisons," said Maria Morris, senior supervising attorney for the SPLC. "We continue to see the mentally ill kept in extreme isolation, and this is driving a steep rise in suicides.

"Even more disturbing, the suicide rate has dramatically increased since we filed this lawsuit in 2014. ADOC has been ordered to increase mental health and correctional officer staffing, and, hopefully, will do so over the coming years. However, the level of correctional staffing has fallen significantly since the start of the lawsuit. Last summer, as the situation become increasingly dire, the state stopped publicly reporting its staffing levels. ADOC has refused to provide information about its mental health staffing levels, but the information we've received suggests that it has fallen this year.

"It's sickening to witness people - many of whom have mental illnesses - endure so much suffering while the state stalls and makes excuses. Incredibly, at the same time more people under its care are taking their lives, ADOC is asking the court and the people of this state to trust it to provide the care the U.S. Constitution requires.

"For well over a year, ADOC has ignored the urgent need to protect people with serious mental illnesses from the detrimental effects of extreme isolation. Segregation can be deadly, especially for those who are already struggling, and the recent rise in prison suicides highlights this tragic reality."

In 2016, the plaintiffs settled the first phase of the lawsuit regarding violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act. In that settlement, ADOC committed to providing services and fair treatment to incarcerated people with disabilities.

The 3rd phase of the lawsuit will determine whether the prison system's poor medical and dental services violate the Eighth Amendment's ban on cruel and unusual punishment. Trial dates for those claims have not been set.

The Alabama Disabilities Advocacy Program and the law firms Baker Donelson, and Zarzaur Mujumdar & Debrosse filed the lawsuit against ADOC in conjunction with the SPLC.

(source: Southern Poverty Law Center)

OHIO:

Juror tells Ohio Parole Board he regrets death sentence

A former juror on a death penalty trial said Thursday that he was "frankly upset" to read information last year about the terrible childhood of the man he and 11 other jurors recommended be executed 2 decades ago.

The upbringing of killer Raymond Tibbetts was presented as a debate between his attorneys, who said his background was terrible, and prosecutors, who said it wasn't that bad, ex-juror Ross Geiger told the Ohio Parole Board.

Thus, Geiger said he was surprised when he came across information presented to the board last year that documented horrific facts about Tibbetts' early years, but which jurors never heard.

"It was like just a different story," Geiger said at the beginning of an 86-minute appearance before the board in a rare follow-up clemency hearing.

When Tibbetts was a boy, he and his brothers were tied to a single bed at night, were not fed properly, were thrown down stairs, had their fingers beaten with spatulas and were burned on heating registers, according to Tibbetts' application for mercy last year.

The only hints of Tibbetts' childhood at trial came from the lone witness who was called to talk about factors that might go against a death sentence, Geiger said. The witness was a psychiatrist who spoke briefly to members of Tibbetts' family.

"I was just struck and frankly upset that information that was available was not even addressed, other than in very summary fashion," Geiger said.

Tibbetts, 61, is set to die in October for killing Fred Hicks at Hicks' Cincinnati home in 1997.

In addition to the death sentence for killing Hicks, Tibbetts also received life imprisonment for fatally beating and stabbing his wife, 42-year-old Judith Crawford, during an argument that same day over Tibbetts' crack cocaine habit. The 67-year-old Hicks had hired Crawford as a caretaker and allowed the couple to stay with him.

The parole board voted 11-1 last year against mercy for Tibbetts. Republican Gov. John Kasich then delayed Tibbetts' execution after receiving a letter from Geiger saying he believed he and other jurors were misled about the "truly terrible conditions" of Tibbetts' upbringing.

Geiger acknowledged that during deliberations, jurors had access to a full report from the county human services department containing some of the worst details about Tibbetts' childhood.

Several board members asked Geiger why jurors didn't rely on that more.

Geiger acknowledged they could have, but also said they were inundated with material. He also likened the situation to students receiving a textbook from a teacher who didn't bother to explain what was in it.

"Is it too much to ask for a juror to rely on attorneys to provide the information that was available?" he said, referring to what he thought he should have heard during trial testimony.

Geiger said he isn't anti-death penalty now, but takes a more nuanced view of the issue. He said there was never any question about Tibbetts' guilt.

Hamilton County prosecutors have previously argued that Tibbetts' background does not outweigh his crimes. That includes stabbing Crawford after he had already beaten her to death, and then repeatedly stabbing Hicks, a "sick, defenseless, hearing-impaired man in whose home Tibbetts lived," they told the parole board.

The board planned to issue its ruling June 22.

(source: cleveland.com)

INDIANA:

Man charged with killing Deputy Pickett seeks change of venue

The man charged with murder in the fatal shooting of a central Indiana sheriff's deputy wants his trial moved.

Attorneys for 21-year-old Anthony Baumgardt of Lebanon have filed for a change of venue from Boone County. Baumgardt is charged in the March 2 shooting of Jacob Pickett, who was chasing of Baumgardt with his police dog. The 34-year-old Boone County deputy died 3 days later.

The motion was filed June 7. Prosecutors have 10 days to respond to it.

Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty in the case. A trial date has not been set.

(source: Associated Press)

KENTUCKY:

Kentucky Supreme Court rules death penalty IQ law is unconstitutional

The Kentucky Supreme Court ruled Thursday that the state's practice for determining if someone is intellectually disabled and not eligible to receive the death penalty is "unconstitutional" and has established new guidelines.

The order changing Kentucky's rules on capital punishment came in the case of Robert Keith Woodall, who was sentenced to death for raping and killing a 16-year-old girl in Greenville 2 decades ago.

The high court ordered a lower court to hold a hearing to determine if Woodall is intellectually disabled, preventing him from being executed.

It is unconstitutional to sentence a mentally disabled person to death - which has been defined in Kentucky as someone with an IQ below 70.

However, Kentucky's high court ruled a person cannot be found intellectually disabled simply because they have an IQ of 71 or above. Instead, the justices determined defendants must undergo a "totality of the circumstances test," including whether they have the ability to learn basic skills and adjust their behavior to circumstances, among other guidelines.

Those standards are in line with guidelines established by the U.S. Supreme Court that take other factors into account, according to the ruling. The federal court, for example, bars states from using a single, strict IQ standard to determine a prisoner's death penalty status.

In its ruling, the Kentucky high court found the state's current law to be "an outdated test for ascertaining intellectually disability."

Kentucky was one of only a few states still using the fixed score cutoff to determine mental disability.

Justice Sam Wright disagreed with the other high court judges that Kentucky's current law is unconstitutional, arguing that judges already must hold a hearing to determine beyond a reasonable doubt that a person is eligible for the death penalty.

Woodall pleaded guilty to kidnapping Sarah Hansen on Jan. 25, 1997, from a convenience store in western Kentucky, according to a story by the Associated Press. Woodall acknowledged that he raped the girl and slit her throat twice before throwing her in a lake. DNA evidence, fingerprints and footprints led to Woodall.

A jury sentenced Woodall to death, but a psychiatrist has since testified he was "intellectually disabled," according to the ruling. The case has been sent back to Caldwell Circuit Court.

(source: WDRB news)

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

Trial begins in murder case of Marine killed outside Lexington bar

The trial is underway for 2 people accused of murdering a Marine outside of Lexington bar.

Quincinio Canada and Dawan Mulazim are accused of killing Jonathan Price and injuring his wife, Megan, in the June 2014 shooting.

The couple was celebrating Megan's birthday at Austin City Saloon. Investigators said the couple was talking outside of the bar on Woodhill Drive when they were approached by 2 men. Police said 1 man attempted to snatch a purse from Megan, and when her husband intervened, a short fight broke out.

Investigators say Jonathan was shot in the back, and Megan was shot in the leg.

4 years after the shooting, the trial is now underway following a weeks-long jury selection. Both suspects could face the death penalty.

The Commonwealth started with opening statements showing Price and his wife, stating the Marine "didn't die in combat like his brothers and sisters." The jury would listen to the 911 call Megan made after suffering a gunshot wound to the leg. Prosecutors say the pair only stole $60 after the deadly shooting.

Mulazim's attorney would follow up with her opening statements, saying police "assumed" their suspects were Canada and Mulazim while disregarding evidence. One example the attorney is pointing to is DNA taken from under Jonathan Price's fingernails excludes both suspects. The defense is also arguing police photoshopped a face tattoo out of a picture of Canada which was used in a lineup.

The prosecution's 1st witness was paramedic Shane Hansford. He had a handgun stolen during a Lexington hotel robbery 6 days before the deadly shooting. Prosecutors are tying the stolen weapon to the Price's murder.

Hansford's wife was the 2nd witness. She said she did not identify the suspects because she could not make a positive identification with complete certainty. The prosecutors' 3rd witness, Mitchell Smith, was with the couple during the robbery.

Wednesday's testimony concluded with prosecutors calling a Lexington police officer who responded to the robbery.

(source: WKYT news)

IRAN:

70 Iranian lawmakers hope to amend pardon law, reduce death penalty

70 Iranian lawmakers have signed a bill to apply for collective pardons for political crimes and political prisoners who were served with harsh sentences.

"Collective pardons are within the authority of lawmakers. As lawmakers can define a crime, they also can provide pardons for some crimes," Mohammad Javad Fathi, member of the legal and judiciary committee of the Iranian parliament, told ISNA news agency.

Iran frequently comes under fire for its human rights record.

The bill covers all politically-related sentences and aims to reduce use of the death penalty.

The bill comes amid expectations that Ramin Hossein Panahi may be executed shortly. He was arrested in June 2017 on charges of being a member of the Kurdish opposition party Komala. Prosecutors said he had received military training and was carrying a gun and a grenade at the time of his arrest.

The punishment for those who fight against the Islamic Republic is the death penalty.

Panahi's lawyer denied the prosecutor's version of events, insisting his client had been unarmed when he was arrested.

The bill also addresses dual nationals.

"Iranians living abroad can return to Iran without any prosecution if they have not been sued by any person," Fathi explained.

In Iran has arrested several Iranians with dual nationalities. Around 6 million Iranians live outside the country, mostly in Europe and the US.

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a British-Iranian woman, is serving a 5-year prison sentence for allegedly planning the "soft toppling" of Iran's government.

In May, Tehran's Revolutionary Court announced that she was facing new security-related charges.

"I think as lawmakers we have to show this green light to about 6 to 7 million Iranians abroad because there are many experts among them," Fathi stated, noting the country is in need of this human capital.

The bill is likely to be discussed in parliament next week. If it is passed by the legislature, it will still have to be approved by the Guardian Council of the Constitution, a conservative council of the Islamic Republic, in order to become law.

(source: rudaw.net)

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

MPs Propose An Amnesty For Diaspora Iranians

The Islamic Republic's parliament (Majles) has drafted a double emergency motion to declare general amnesty and judicial immunity for diaspora Iranians.

Meanwhile, the motion has also called for restricting death penalty across the country.

The motion, signed by more than 70 MPs, has been delivered to the parliament's board of directors, a member of Majles Judicial and Legal Commission, Mohammad Javad Fat'hee told E'timad Online pro-reform website on Wednesday, June 13.

"Since the legislators are authorized to define a crime, they have also the authority to demand amnesty for people convicted of particular crimes," Fat'hee argued, adding, "Therefore, the new motion has proposed a general amnesty for all the people charged or convicted of political and security related crimes."

However, according to Fat'hee, the new motion has excluded people charged and convicted of physical sabotage actions "deplored by all the nations across the world", including espionage, setting fire to banks and damaging public properties.

"Crimes, such as espionage and setting fire to banks are so deplorable that people charged with such offenses are usually forced to commit suicide under mental and psychological pressures," Fat'hee maintained.

However, avoiding any reference to Iranian dual nationals currently behind bars in the Islamic Republic, Fat'hee did not elaborate on the reasons and the timing for the new motion 39 years after the Islamic Revolution in the country.

Many western countries have warned their Iranian dual citizens to stay away from their homeland, lest they be arrested.

Currently, an unknown number of Iranians with dual citizenship are sentenced to long prison terms, charged with espionage for the so-called "enemies" of the state.

If the new motion does not extend the amnesty to alleged cases of espionage, dual citizens would be reluctant to return to Iran.

Following the United States withdrawal from the nuclear deal, Iran is under diplomatic and financial pressures, which could be the driving force behind the proposed amnesty. Such a move can both put Iran under a better light internationally and also might entice diaspora compatriots to make investments in the country.

As a matter of fact, Fat'hee has insisted that the new motion "Will hopefully reduce the international pressure on Tehran concerning the fate of Iranians with dual citizenship who are currently kept mainly in Tehran's notorious prison, Evin."

As a legislator, Fat'hee insists, "We should give the green light to the 6-7 million Iranians living overseas. Iranian diaspora enjoys having significant assets and expertise that people inside Iran have been so far deprived of."

But Iran is among the countries with highest number of executions, which have included political opponents.

Internal and international civil rights activists say that human rights in Iran have been systematically violated during almost 4 decades of theocracy to the extent that the UN has assigned a special rapporteur to monitor the human rights situation in the country.

Most of the political, ethnic rights activists detained in Iran are generally convicted of vaguely defined charges, including "action against national security" and "anti-system propaganda".

In the new double emergency motion, according Fat'hee, political and ethnic rights activists will be pardoned.

The double emergency motion, if passed by the parliament, requires the Guardian Council's (GC) ratification to become a law.

GC is totally dominated by ultra-conservative elements with its most influential members directly appointed by the Islamic Republic's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

According to Fat'hee, the new double emergency motion is expected to be tabled next week.

(source: radiofarda.com)

BELARUS:

Belarus Suspends 2 Death Sentences, Rights Group Says

The Supreme Court of Belarus has suspended 2 death sentences, the Minsk-based Vyasna (Spring) human rights center says.

Vyasna cites relatives of Ihar Hershankou and Syamyon Berazhnoy as saying that the court has suspended the implementation of the 2 men's death sentences while their appeals are being considered.

In a June 14 statement, Vyasna lawyer Paval Sapelka said the appeals offers a possibility that the sentence be commuted.

Appeals usually take at least 1 month to consider.

Earlier in January, Amnesty International raised concerns about Hershankou and Berazhnoy, saying their executions were imminent after the Supreme Court upheld their sentences in December.

In July 2017, the 2 men were found guilty of murder and kidnapping, after an investigation established that they were part of a gang that killed old home-owners in order to acquire their properties.

Belarus remains the only country in Europe and Central Asia to carry out the death penalty.

The European Union and rights groups have urged Belarus for years to join a global moratorium on the death penalty.

According to rights organizations, more than 400 people have been sentenced to death in Belarus since it gained independence after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

(source: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty)

JAPAN:

Father of slain Vietnamese girl demands death penalty

The father of a 9-year-old Vietnamese girl allegedly killed by a male neighbor near Tokyo in 2017 demanded capital punishment at a court hearing on Friday.

Le Anh Hao, the 35-year-old father of Le Thi Nhat Linh, said at the Chiba District Court, "Linh said she wanted to become a bridge between Japan and Vietnam. I cannot forgive the killer."

According to the indictment, Yasumasa Shibuya, the 47-year-old former head of a parents' association at the girl's school, bundled Linh into his car on the morning of March 24, 2017, and sexually assaulted her before strangling her and abandoning her body near a drainage ditch in the city of Abiko, Chiba Prefecture.

Shibuya has pleaded not guilty, saying the prosecutors' claims are fictitious and fabricated. He has denied any involvement in the case.

Hoping that his daughter would connect the 2 countries, Hao said he picked Nhat and Linh for her name, meaning Japan and shine, respectively.

"I was anguished to learn that she was killed in such a cruel manner. I demand the death penalty," he said.

Saying his grief was beyond words, he told the court, "It was so painful. My wife was so worn out that she could not even shed tears."

Hao submitted around 1.16 million signatures he collected online and on the street in support of the death penalty for his daughter's killer to the Chiba District Public Prosecutors Office.

The focal point of the case is how and why blood and saliva matching the victim's DNA was found in Shibuya's car and the credibility of the DNA test. Evidence matching Shibuya's DNA was also found on Linh's body.

At a court hearing on Thursday, the defendant said he was preparing to go fishing on the day when Linh went missing. The girl was on her way to school in Matsudo, Chiba Prefecture, to attend a ceremony marking the end of the academic year.

(source: kyodonews.net)

JUNE 14, 2018:

TEXAS:

Death Watch: Intellectually Disabled or Mentally Ill?----3 cases raise the question

The Court of Criminal Appeals granted its 1st stay of execution of the year, and now Smith County man Clifton Williams will face a new hearing instead of lethal injection, which was scheduled for June 21. Williams was sentenced to death in 2006 for killing a 93-year-old woman in a home robbery gone wrong. He's spent the last decade fighting his sentence to little reward, but on May 23, his attorneys filed an appeal contending Williams is "intellectually disabled" and therefore not subject to execution.

Atkins v. Virginia, a 2002 Supreme Court case, determined that executing people with intellectual disabilities qualifies as cruel punishment and violates the Eighth Amendment, but the CCA decision on Williams is the result of a more recent Supreme Court ruling on Texas death row inmate Bobby Moore, who SCOTUS concluded was sentenced in part on outdated medical research on intellectual functioning. Indeed, Texas had been using material from 1992, as well as guidelines based in part on Lennie from John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men - factors that advanced "lay stereotypes" and made Texas an "outlier" in comparison to other states' handling of similar cases.

Williams now awaits examination. His Atkins hearing won't take place until that occurs. He has a hearing in Smith County District Court on June 21, to appoint substitute counsel.

Meanwhile, Moore's case appears to be headed down a different path. On June 6, the CCA upheld its ruling that he is competent enough for execution, and agreed to adopt current medical standards going forward (the same ones that moved the needle the other way in Williams' case), but the judges believe even under the new framework, Moore "failed to demonstrate adaptive deficits sufficient to support a diagnosis of intellectual disability."

And a similar conversation continued last week in the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, where Andre Thomas was granted, in part, a certificate of appealability to file a brief and have his recently denied appeal reviewed. In 2005, Thomas was sentenced for killing his ex-wife, her baby, and their young son. He spent the months leading up to the murders claiming to hear voices from God and cutting himself, and in the course of the murders cut out the hearts of the 2 children and stored the organs in his pocket, before trying to kill himself. Later, in jail, he gouged out his right eye. Unsurprisingly, 3 psychologists concluded Thomas suffered from paranoid schizophrenia. Though his trial attorney argued he was too ill to be given the death penalty, an all-white jury disagreed. (Thomas is black; his ex-wife was white.) 3 years later, he pulled out his other eye and ate it.

Unlike Williams and Moore, who used Atkins to further their appeals, Thomas is mentally ill - meaning he suffers from a disorder, as opposed to intellectual functioning and adaptive behavior limitations (i.e., intellectual disability). The 5th Circuit denied only 1 of Thomas' 5 COA issues: whether execution of the severely mentally ill violates the Eighth Amendment, stating "this issue is foreclosed under our precedent." Though the U.S. still allows mentally ill inmates to be executed, the 5th Circuit's approval might just force a Supreme Court decision.

(source: Austin Chronicle)

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

"Blood Will Tell" investigation, death row with disabilities

On this week's TribCast, Emily talks to Evan, Jolie and the New York Times Magazine and ProPublica's Pamela Colloff on Pam's 2-part "Blood Will Tell" series on blood spatter analysis and the state's consideration of intellectual disabilities in death row cases.

On this week's TribCast, Emily talks to Evan, Jolie and the New York Times Magazine and ProPublica's Pamela Colloff on Pam's 2-part "Blood Will Tell" series on blood spatter analysis and the state's consideration of intellectual disabilities in death row cases:

In Blood Will Tell, Pam told the harrowing story of Joe Bryan, a small-town Texas school principal who's been imprisoned for decades for the murder of his schoolteacher wife - based on blood spatter analysis that remains in question as a forensic science. Pam made some pretty big news on the TribCast: Bryan has just been denied parole again. He's 77 and has congestive heart failure and is on his 3rd pacemaker.

In 2002, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that people with intellectual disabilities aren't eligible for the death penalty, and just over a year ago, the court knocked down Texas' method of determining whether death row inmates qualified as intellectually disabled. Jolie talks about 2 recent cases where the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals used new standards to uphold one death sentence and delay another.

Thanks for joining us! We'll see you next week.

(source: Texas Tribune)

FLORIDA:

Convicted killer asks for new sentence in infamous Hillsborough murder case

On June 27, 1998, 49-year-old Vicki Robinson was murdered by her 15-year-old daughter Valessa in her Carrollwood home.

Valessa's boyfriend, 19-year-old Adam Davis, and their friend Jon Whispel were all part of the attack that took Robinson's life.

The crime was brutal - the teens held Vicki Robinson down and tried to inject her with bleach. When that didn't work, Davis used a knife to cut her throat.

All 3 were found guilty of the murder, but only Davis was given a death sentence. Now he is asking for his sentence to be reduced to life in prison.

Tampa Attorney DeeAnn Athan represented Valessa at trial.

"You have to look at the big picture, you can't be myopic and look at just what happened," Athan said. "Valessa was 15 years old. I've heard a lot of people say 'I don't care how old she was.' Well, you have to care about children."

She is opposed to the death penalty and feels Davis should have never been given the sentence, pointing out the jury was split on the decision of a death sentence.

"It was almost equally split and just that one vote that put him over to the death penalty," said Athan.

She points out Davis had a difficult life growing up.

"I think you had a 19-year-old who had no direction in life, had lost a parent. And so, you know, even though he is 19 and responsible for his actions, there are reasons that things happen," said Athan.

A hearing has been set up for August to hear arguments in Davis' request.

(source: WFLA news)

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

Bargo attorney has until March to prepare for resentencing

A judge set deadlines in the case of Michael Shane Bargo, sentenced to death in 2013 by a 10-2 vote. The Florida Supreme Court has since ruled that death penalty verdicts must be unanimous.

Instead of the requested 13 months, a Marion County judge ordered Wednesday that defense attorneys will have 9 months to prepare for the resentencing of a death row inmate.

Fifth Circuit Judge Anthony Tatti set a series of deadlines for attorneys in the case of Michael Shane Bargo, 26, who murdered Seath Jackson, 15, in 2011 and was sentenced to death in 2013. The last of those is March 4, 2019, when Tatti said the case will go to trial.

"I'm very unlikely to entertain any change to this schedule short of something drastic," Tatti said.

Bargo is 1 of 4 Marion County murderers granted a resentencing under Florida's new death penalty scheme. The Florida Supreme Court granted his resentencing in June 2017.

Defense attorney Candace Hawthorne had requested the trial be pushed to August 2019 to properly prepare because there have been "significant developments" in psychology and neuroscience since Bargo's incarceration that demands reevaluations, and that she must review the entire proceedings leading up to Bargo's original trial to evaluate them and provide proper representation, according to a motion filed in May.

She added that preliminary investigation into Bargo's life has unearthed "several issues that have not yet been explored." Defense attorneys can use anything from the defendant's life to argue against the death penalty, according to capital case jury instructions.

Although she did not get her requested timeline, Hawthorne thanked Tatti for the extension.

"I appreciate the court's review of our motion and resetting dates as the court feels appropriate," she said.

Tatti urged both the state and defense to start preparation immediately, especially in setting up experts to evaluate Bargo.

Bargo - along with co-defendants Amber Wright, 21; Kyle Hooper, 22; Charlie Ely, 24; and Justin Soto, 26 - was convicted of Seath's murder in August 2013. His co-defendants all received life sentences.

In April 2011, the group worked together to lure Seath to a house where they beat him, shot him and burned his body. His remains were placed into paint buckets and dropped into a water-filled quarry. Bargo was the ringleader.

Bargo's conviction still stands, but his sentence was overturned after the Florida Supreme Court ruled in October 2016 that death penalty verdicts must be unanimous jury decisions. Bargo's 2013 jury sentenced him to death with a 10-2 vote.

Neither of the 2 Marion County defendants who have gone to trial under the new rules were sentenced to death.

No next court date was set.

(source: ocala.com)

OHIO:

Parole board to hear former juror's death sentence regrets

The Ohio Parole Board on Thursday planned to hear from a juror who recommended that a convicted killer be sentenced to death, but now believes he should be spared.

At issue is the case of death row inmate Raymond Tibbetts, who is set to die in October for killing Fred Hicks at Hicks' Cincinnati home in 1997.

After the parole board voted 11-1 last year against mercy for Tibbetts, ex-juror Ross Geiger came forward and said jurors were not given enough information about Tibbetts' tough childhood.

In a Jan. 30 letter to Ohio Gov. John Kasich, Geiger said he believes he and other jurors were misled about the "truly terrible conditions" of Tibbetts' upbringing.

When Tibbetts was a boy, he and his brothers were tied to a single bed at night, were not fed properly, were thrown down stairs, had their fingers beaten with spatulas and were burned on heating registers, according to Tibbetts' application for mercy last year.

"After reviewing the material, from the perspective of an original juror, I have deep concerns about the trial and the way it transpired," wrote Geiger. "This is why I am asking you to be merciful."

In response, the Republican Kasich delayed Tibbetts' execution to give the parole board a chance to hear directly from Geiger and consider his claim.

In addition to the death sentence for killing Hicks, the 61-year-old Tibbetts also received life imprisonment for fatally beating and stabbing his wife, 42-year-old Judith Crawford, during an argument that same day over Tibbetts' crack cocaine habit.

The 67-year-old Hicks had hired Crawford as a caretaker and allowed the couple to stay with him.

Hamilton County prosecutors have previously argued that Tibbetts' background does not outweigh his crimes. That includes stabbing Crawford after he had already beaten her to death, and then repeatedly stabbing Hicks, a "sick, defenseless, hearing-impaired man in whose home Tibbetts lived," they told the parole board.

(source: Associated Press)

TENNESSEE:

Tennessee must rely on 'black market drugs' for executions, attorney says----Many states, including Tennessee, previously used a drug called pentobarbital in lethal injections. However, manufacturers have largely stopped selling the drug to entities planning to use it for executions.

Tennessee prison officials do not have all of the drugs needed to carry out lethal injections, but the state's prison chief says he's confident those drugs can be obtained.

An attorney for death row offenders responded Tuesday, telling a judge the only way the department could get those drugs is through shady channels.

"Essentially, we're getting black market drugs for an execution here," said Kelley Henry, one of many attorneys representing more than 30 death row inmates.

1 of them, 59-year-old Knox County man Billy Ray Irick, is set to be executed Aug. 9. He was convicted of the 1985 rape and murder of a 7-year-old girl.

The inmates are suing the state, arguing the lethal injection protocol used to execute offenders is unconstitutional because it amounts to cruel and unusual punishment.

'I felt like if it was illegal, I would not do it'

During Tuesday's hearing in Davidson County Chancery Court, Henry cited a June 5 deposition of Tennessee Department of Correction Commissioner Tony Parker taken for this lawsuit. The 358-page deposition reveals insight into Parker's knowledge of executions in the state and whether Tennessee has the drugs they want to use to put offenders to death.

In his deposition, Parker said earlier this year the state had the three drugs it needs to carry out an execution. But 2 of the drugs have since expired.

1, a powerful sedative called midazolam, expired June 1. This date appears to be the source of a Tennessee attorney general statement issued earlier this year: Attorney General Herbert Slatery told the state Supreme Court if executions were not completed by June 1, the availability of the necessary lethal injection drugs would be "uncertain."

Further complicating the department's task to find the drugs, the manufacturer of midazolam has asked the department to return all of its product because the company does not want it used in executions.

Parker said in the deposition the department refused this request because they believe they purchased the drug legally, and he intends to buy more in the future.

Asked whether buying the drug and using it in a way unintended and unwanted by the manufacturer is illegal, Parker said, "I'm assuming it's not illegal because it's - I felt like if it was illegal, I would not do it."

Manufacturers banning the use of their products in executions is a driving factor in Tennessee's search for lethal injection drugs.

'They are literally drowning'

Many states, including Tennessee, previously used a drug called pentobarbital in lethal injections. However, manufacturers have largely stopped selling the drug to entities planning to use it for executions.

Parker acknowledged this in his deposition, saying it would be fair to say the department has not had non-expired pentobarbital in its possession since the state's last execution in 2009.

Earlier this year, the state released a new execution method that relies on using 3 drugs. Advocates argue the medications essentially put an offender to sleep before stopping the lungs and the heart. Henry, pointing to botched executions using the method around the country, has repeatedly argued midazolam, the first drug used, frequently does not render an offender unconscious or unable to feel pain.

That means the 2nd and 3rd drugs cause pain: Henry has likened these feelings to drowning and burning alive.

In his deposition, Parker says he asked people in the corrections field about using midazolam and decided "for the most part" the drug worked as intended.

But he is aware of inmates still able to feel pain during executions using the drug. In fact, a potential supplier noted problems with the drugs in an email to Tennessee prison officials in September.

"Here is my concern with midazolam ... it does not elicit strong analgesic effects. The subjects may be able to feel pain from the administration of the second and third drugs. Potassium chloride especially," the supplier wrote.

"It may not be a huge concern but can open the door to some scrutiny on your end."

During the hearing Tuesday, Henry said she and her team plan to show during the upcoming trial evidence the drugs repeatedly do not work as intended. After reviewing 25 autopsies of offenders executed using midazolam, she says 21 inmates showed signs of pulmonary edema, or fluid in the lungs.

Experts will show pulmonary edema can't happen in a body where the lungs have stopped working. Henry argues this is clear evidence the inmates experienced "horrific torture."

"It is destroying their lungs and their lungs are filling with fluid. They are literally drowning ... they're feeling every single bit of it," Henry said.

'We're terrified of that'

Attorneys for the inmates and the state are arguing over the constitutionality of lethal injection. However, there's a chance the next Tennessee death row offender put to death will die not on a gurney, but in a chair.

Tennessee law allows the state to use the electric chair if the Department of Correction certifies drugs needed for lethal injection are not available.

Although Parker says the department is confident it can obtain lethal injection drugs, there is a legitimate chance it cannot. No state has ever certified it can't use one method of execution in order to use a different method, Robert Dunham, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, said in a March interview.

This uncertainty leaves the door open to the department deciding - potentially days or hours before an execution - that it planned to use the electric chair and not lethal injection, Henry said.

That puts clients at a distinct legal disadvantage, she said. This lethal injection lawsuit is set to go to trial July 9, a month before Irick is scheduled to die. If the state certifies at any moment that it plans to use the electric chair, and not lethal injection, Henry argues that leaves attorneys trying to prepare a completely different defense.

"We're terrified of that," Henry said.

However, the state pursuing the use of the electric chair would almost certainly prompt entirely new lawsuits, potentially delaying any execution.

The state has scheduled 2 more executions this year. Both would occur after Irick's execution date, but both could be delayed.

(source: WBIR news)

MISSOURI:

After governor's resignation, fate of Missouri man on death row in doubt

The fate of a Missouri man on death row for murder is in doubt after Gov. Eric Greitens stepped down last month amid a personal scandal. Greitens delayed Marcellus Williams' execution last summer. Williams, who has long maintained his innocence, is facing a death sentence for the 1998 murder of Felicia Gayle.

When Greitens delayed Williams' execution, he assigned a special board to re-examine the case, reports CBS News correspondent Jim Axelrod. But Greitens' resignation left the board in jeopardy - and Williams' future more unclear than ever.

Marcellus Williams Jr. prepared for his father's execution last August.

"Me and my father, we said our goodbyes," Williams Jr. said. "We said we loved each other, I loved him, he loved me."

But hours before the execution, Greitens granted Williams Sr. a temporary stay. Williams is convicted of stabbing Gayle, a former St. Louis-Post Dispatch reporter, 43 times with a butcher knife.

"There's enough doubt in this case that his sentence should at least be commuted," Innocence Project co-founder Barry Scheck said, adding, "The skin cells on the handle of the knife that was used in this murder are not from him."

When Greitens issued pardons before leaving office in June, Williams was not one of them.

"Why do you think he chose not to?" Axelrod asked.

"I'm really not sure," Williams Jr. said. "It's like, maybe he also never cared. So he's like, I'm leaving, I don't care. I do these five pardons and Marcellus, he can rot."

While in office, Greitens asked a special 5-person board to review the case. Now that he's gone, that board has since been canceled.

"I know the board was canceled. Will they meet? Will they make a recommendation to you and what will you do then?" Axelrod asked new Missouri Gov. Michael Parson.

"I would assume they would," Parson said. "I heard they're not going to. So I think once they make that recommendation, if they do meet, then we'll discuss that at the time."

"We've been following this case for a year," said activist and social media influencer Alison Brettschneider. She learned of the case days before Williams' scheduled execution and has since advocated for his exoneration.

"You're not a lawyer, you're not a politician... What are you bringing to this?" Axelrod asked her.

"I'm a person that cares and that's what the world needs more of," Brettschneider said.

The Missouri attorney general's office maintains Williams is guilty. Though Williams was not linked to the murder weapon, police found Gayle's clothing and her husband's computer in Williams' car.

In a statement, the attorney general's office told CBS News: "We will continue to defend the judgment of the jury and the many courts that have carefully reviewed Mr. Williams' case over 16 years."

In addition to 1st degree murder, Williams has been convicted of burglary, assault and attempted armed robbery.

"When people say to you, 'Hey, your dad was no Eagle Scout.' What's the answer to that?" Axelrod asked.

"Right... But he didn't harm, choke, slap punch and kill anyone. Someone did murder Mrs. Gayle, but it wasn't my father," Williams Jr. said.

In a statement to CBS News, Gayle's family said: "While we understand that Williams' sentencing fits a troubling pattern of racial disparity in the death penalty and that a case serious enough to warrant death is serious enough to warrant careful scrutiny, we would ask those on all sides to recognize that for the family, this is not policy, it is pain."

(source: CBS News)

OKLAHOMA----death row inmate dies

Death row inmate in Tulsa bank teller's murder found dead at state penitentiary

A death row inmate who killed a Tulsa bank teller in 2004 and who exhausted his appeals reportedly hanged himself Saturday in his jail cell.

Oklahoma State Penitentiary staff found Jeremy Williams, 35, dead in his cell from an apparent suicide, according to an Oklahoma Department of Corrections incident report. Matthew Elliott, a DOC spokesman, said Williams' death remains under investigation.

DOC security officers found Williams "hanging from the vent with a ligature tied around his neck," officers state in the report. Williams was convicted for his part in a 2004 shooting death during a botched bank robbery.

He was sentenced to death after his conviction and exhausted his appeals in January 2016 when the U.S. Supreme Court rejected his final appeal. Williams was on death row for nearly 12 years before he was found dead in his cell.

In June 2004, Williams and Alvin "Tony" Jordan were the masked gunmen who robbed First Fidelity Bank, located in the 2600 block of East 21st Street, according to Tulsa World archives. Amber Rogers, 26, was a teller there at the time of the robbery. She was shot in the abdomen and killed.

During the court case, prosecutors argued Williams and Jordan caught Rogers in crossfire. The bullet passed through her body and state medical examiners could not determine the caliber of gun that fired it.

Jordan pleaded guilty and is serving a life sentence in prison. Jordan avoided the death penalty when he pleaded guilty, according to a previous story.

On Saturday, prison security officers were conducting a "count" around 11:15 p.m. when they found Williams' cell window obscured by a sheet. Staff state in the incident report that Williams "did not respond to knocking." They cracked the door to pull back the sheet from the window, revealing Williams' body.

Authorities attempted life-saving measures, but by 3:30 a.m. Sunday, state medical examiners had taken Williams' body.

Williams was on death row, but he had not yet been scheduled to be executed.

Between 1915 and 2014, state officials executed 192 men and 3 women, according to DOC records.

The last execution in Oklahoma was that of Charles Warner, who died by lethal injection in January 2015. An autopsy first reported by The Oklahoman revealed that 1 of the drugs used was not part of the Department of Corrections' lethal injection protocol.

Oklahoma authorities announced in March 2018 that they will transition to inert gas inhalation for executions. The announcement came after 3 years without an execution due to controversy over lethal injection.

(source: Tulsa World)

NEBRASKA:

Nebraska Supreme Court won't let ACLU weigh in on death penalty case

Just days after the ACLU asked to be allowed to file a "friend of the court" brief in Carey Dean Moore's death penalty case, the Nebraska Supreme Court on Wednesday denied it.

Without elaborating, the state's highest court simply overruled the motion, according to court records.

Friday, attorney Amy Miller of the ACLU of Nebraska had asked to be allowed to file a brief, in which she planned to lay out legal reasons why the court should delay issuing an execution warrant, sought by the attorney general's office, to carry out Moore's death sentence.

In the motion, which contained the proposed brief, Miller listed 4 pending lawsuits, including one in which the Lincoln Journal Star, the Omaha World-Herald and the ACLU alleged a violation of public-records law regarding the source of the state's lethal injection drugs.

But the ACLU doesn't currently represent Moore, who asked defense attorneys to withdraw from his case last month and isn't fighting the death penalty.

Moore, on death row since 1980, was convicted of 2 counts of 1st-degree murder in the 1979 deaths of Omaha cab drivers Reuel Van Ness and Maynard Helgeland. Moore was 21 at the time.

On April 3, Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson filed a motion for an execution warrant for Moore.

Peterson's office later asked the court to expedite the execution and requested a July 10 date, or sometime in mid-July, because one of the lethal injection drugs expires this summer.

Scott Frakes, director of the Nebraska Department of Correctional Services, said the potassium chloride they have to carry out the execution expires Aug. 31.

(source: Lincoln Journal Star)

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

Mental illness, burden of 'profound failure' led Anthony Garcia to kill 4, lawyer says

The doctor turned quadruple killer was wheeled into the third-floor courtroom, shoulders hunched, eyes scrunched.

Forced to court by Douglas County sheriff's deputies, Anthony Garcia rolled into court as if he had rolled out of bed - with his unkempt beard, uncut fingernails and toenails, and the defiance that he has displayed throughout his 5-year court case.

"Wow - he's a mess," an attorney said from the back of the courtroom. "Like Howard Hughes (the Texas tycoon and recluse) - without the genius part."

Garcia's attorneys spent much of Wednesday - Day 1 of Garcia's defense against the death penalty - trying to establish the mitigating factors that they say should spare him capital punishment for the March 2008 murders of 11-year-old Thomas Hunter and 57-year-old Shirlee Sherman and the May 2013 murders of Dr. Roger Brumback and his wife, Mary, both 65. Garcia killed the 4, acting on a grudge that had festered after Dr. Brumback and Dr. William Hunter fired him from Creighton University Medical Center in 2001.

Attorney Jeff Pickens of the Nebraska Commission on Public Advocacy essentially offered a 3D defense against the death penalty: that Garcia was too dumb to become a doctor; that he felt the intense drive of his parents to become one despite his mental deficits; and that he became drunk and deranged after realizing that he would never measure up.

In essence, Pickens argues that Garcia became a killer - a sort of Frankenstein creation - because his parents pressed him into a field for which he wasn't qualified and various medical school administrators passed him along, focused on his ethnicity rather than his ability.

That defense theory is an attempt to establish a mitigating factor recognized under state law: that Garcia "acted under unusual pressures or influences."

Garcia was severely mentally ill and "burdened by a profound failure," Pickens said. "All of which caused him to fixate on the 2 doctors he considered responsible for his failure."

Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine said prosecutors agree with only 1 of the defense's alleged mitigating factors: that Garcia had little criminal record before he killed his victims. Kleine said none of the mitigating factors will overcome the 10 aggravating factors that a jury found could merit the death penalty.

After this week's hearing, a 3-judge panel - Gary Randall and Russell Bowie of Douglas County and Ricky Schreiner of southeast Nebraska - will decide whether Garcia deserves death. An announcement isn't expected for a month or 2.

Garcia's problems began with his parents' dream, Pickens argued.

Estella and Frederick Garcia - primarily Fred - pushed Garcia to become a doctor, Pickens said. During Garcia's childhood, they often would refer to Garcia as their future "brain surgeon."

Garcia's grades in high school and college didn't portend a future in the medical field, Pickens said. He had, at best, a B average.

Despite that, administrators gladly passed Garcia along, Pickens said.

Garcia's brother, Fernando, told authorities that his brother "did not want to be a doctor."

In fact, Anthony Garcia, who studied pathology at Creighton, later wrote in a journal: "The primary problem with pathology is that you cannot live or work where you want to. ... People treat you like shit. It's not what I wanted to be."

And this: "Math was my favorite subject from 1st through 12th (sic) grade ... I wanted to be a mathematician. My parents would not let me."

As those journals were aired in court, Garcia's parents sat 2 rows behind their son. Fred Garcia had a long career with the U.S. Postal Service. Estella Garcia worked as a nurse. The couple, from Walnut, California, invested in their son's education - and were so proud that Fred Garcia once proudly loaded up a van and drove his son cross-country for his 1st medical gig.

Garcia was admitted to the University of Utah Medical School, even though his test scores and grades were lower than typical applicants.

A current Utah medical school official told defense attorneys that he "had little doubt that (Garcia) was considered because of his ethnicity," said Shara Aden, a paralegal for the Commission on Public Advocacy.

Nonetheless, Garcia graduated with a medical degree and headed off to his 1st residency program in upstate New York in the late 1990s.

He was fired from that residency after yelling at a radiology technician who interrupted him as he read flash cards. He then went to Creighton, where he was fired after a series of misdeeds, including leaving an autopsy subject on his face so the body became disfigured, and placing a prank call to another resident taking his medical exams.

Dr. Hunter, who headed the residency program, later told police that Garcia was Creighton's "worst resident ever."

After his firing from Creighton, he was accepted into the University of Illinois-Chicago. He took several leaves of absences from that program because of migraines. The director at that program said he accepted Garcia "because he had a quota to fill."

"The cruelty in all of this," Pickens said, "is that Dr. Garcia was set up to fail."

Garcia didn't prosper in his professional life. After his failings at residency programs in New York, Nebraska and Louisiana, Illinois was the only state to issue a medical license to Garcia.

Even while he was a doctor in Illinois, Pickens said, Garcia's bosses limited his work with patients. He would do work akin to a physician's assistant - at times getting decent reviews.

He didn't last long in any job.

"We are not claiming that Garcia was a good doctor or even a competent doctor," Pickens said. "There was limited care he was asked to give these patients. He wasn't asked to do anything heroic."

As his medical career floundered, Garcia looked to other professions. He once applied to become a police officer in Los Angeles.

He also applied to several law schools - albeit in an unusual way. He simply sent in his medical school applications, subbing the law school's name for the medical school. The applications still included his reference to various maladies, such as spiked fevers.

That wasn't the end of his "weird" behavior. One doctor who supervised Garcia noted that he used to eat a head of lettuce as if he were chomping into an apple. He would wash that down by drinking milk out of the jug. It wasn't the only thing he ingested. He prescribed himself medications, including testosterone, even though tests indicated that he didn't need it.

One thing that was consistent: Garcia's affinity for booze and nude bars.

"He was the strip club version of Norm from 'Cheers,'" said psychologist Kirk Newring. "It didn't seem like he had a high social network."

Loneliness enveloped him. Neighbors described him doing lawn work in full "Outbreak" hazmat gear. Another set of neighbors told authorities that he once drunkenly reported a theft to them. They told him to go back home, later seeing him standing outside his front door with a coat covering his head.

In 2003 - 5 years before his 1st set of murders - he told doctors that he dreamed of killing himself and co-workers. Garcia was hospitalized for 10 days after that vague threat. He later underwent electroshock therapy for depression.

In January 2013, firefighters and rescue squad personnel broke down the front door of his Terre Haute home and found him passed out on the living room floor, surrounded by beer cans and a gun.

Police seized the gun. However, Garcia bought another and used it 4 months later in the Brumback slayings.

While prosecutors say Garcia clearly acted on his grudge over his firings, Garcia's attorneys suggested that mental illness fueled the murders.

In 2003, a doctor wrote that Garcia "can't make the negative thoughts stop."

"The mental pain is overwhelming," Garcia told them. "It's like the thoughts are not my own."

Outside court, Estella Garcia said she couldn't believe how her son looked. "Terrible," she said. "It's bad."

And the couple wasn't buying the idea that Garcia cracked under the weight of their expectations.

"It's not like we pressured him or anything like that," Fred Garcia said. "If he had a problem, if he wanted to do something else, fine.

"I can't understand it. We've always supported him."

(source: Omaha World-Herald)

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

Attorneys seek to spare ex-doctor from death for 4 slayings

Attorneys for a former doctor convicted of killing 4 people connected to an Omaha medical school began the effort Wednesday to spare him from the death penalty - even as he refused to help in his own defense.

Anthony Garcia appeared disheveled, with a heavy beard and unkempt hair, when he was wheeled into a Douglas County courtroom in a wheelchair. He appeared to sleep throughout the hearing and refused to engage in conversation with his attorneys, who presented hundreds of documents and interviews collected over years intended to show that he was mentally ill at the time of the killings.

Garcia's lawyers hoped to present any mitigating factors - such as impaired mental capacity - that might save him from execution. Much of the evidence Garcia's lawyers presented Wednesday sought to show Garcia as an alcoholic who suffered depression since childhood and mental illness that caused him to have invasive thoughts of hurting people.

Garcia, 45, of Terre Haute, Indiana, was convicted of fatally stabbing 11-year-old Thomas Hunter, son of Creighton University School of Medicine faculty member Dr. William Hunter, and the family's housekeeper, 57-year-old Shirlee Sherman, in 2008 at the family's home in an upscale Omaha neighborhood.

Garcia also was found guilty of 2 other killings in a separate incident 5 years later, the 2013 Mother's Day deaths of another Creighton pathology doctor, Roger Brumback, and his wife, Mary, in their Omaha home.

Prosecutors say Garcia blamed Hunter and Brumback for his 2001 firing from Creighton's pathology residency program.

His lead attorney, Jeff Pickens with the Nebraska Commission on Public Advocacy, on Wednesday painted the medical residency programs to which Garcia was accepted - including the Creighton program where Garcia worked for about a year - as "poor programs" that accepted Garcia simply to fill open positions.

"There's a cruelty built into this case in that Mr. Garcia was set up to fail," Pickens said.

Garcia's parents attended the hearing, but Pickens said he did not plan to have them testify on Garcia's behalf.

The jurors who convicted Garcia found evidence of several aggravating circumstances that could lead to his execution. A 3-judge panel in Omaha will determine whether he will be sentenced to death or to life in prison. The sentence is not expected be announced for at least a month.

Nebraska has not executed an inmate since 1997, when the state's method of execution was the electric chair. The state has since adopted a lethal injection protocol that has been fraught with controversy, legal challenges and difficulty in obtaining some of the drugs used to carry out lethal injection.

11 people are on Nebraska's death row.

(source: Associated Press)

SOUTH DAKOTA:

Did a jury give a gay man the death penalty because prison would be 'too much fun?'

A South Dakota man is arguing that he was sentenced to death because he's gay, and he's asking the Supreme Court to overturn his death sentence.

Lawyers for Charles Rhines say that they have evidence that the jury gave him the death penalty because they believed that prison would be too much fun for a gay man, possibly referring to the prevalence of male rape in prison.

Rhines murdered Donnivan Schaeffer, 22, in 1992. Schaeffer was an employee of Dig 'Em Donuts in Rapid City, South Dakota, when Rhines tried to rob the shop.

In 1993, Rhines was convicted of stabbing Schaeffer to death, and was given the death penalty. But defense lawyers are trying to get the Supreme Court to hear their appeal to overturn the death penalty, saying that the jury's decision is tainted by homophobia.

Juror Frances Cersosimo said that she remembers a juror saying that Rhines wouldn't mind life in prison because he's gay. "There was a murmuring, everyone said 'Whaaat?'" she said.

"It was not a joke," she said.

In an affidavit presented to the Supreme Court, juror Harry Keenan said that his decision was affected by homophobia. But Keenan's wife said that he has dementia and that his memory of something that happened 25 years ago isn't reliable.

"I wouldn't depend upon it," Keenan's wife said.

In another affidavit, a third juror said that another juror said that a sentence of life in prison would be "sending him where he wants to go."

The defense attorneys also point to questions the jury asked the judge during sentencing in 1993, which included: What would his life in prison look like? Would he be allowed to mix with the general inmate population? Would he have a cellmate?

The judge said that he couldn't answer those questions.

Rhines has long argued that he was sentenced to death because he's gay. In addition to the comments about prison being too much fun for a gay man, he said in 2014 that prosecutors portrayed him as a dangerous "sexual predator" even though his crime did not involve sexual assault.

Lawyers for the state of South Dakota, though, shot back, saying that the jury had ample grounds for giving Rhines the death penalty.

"Rhines locked Donnivan's head between his knees and pounded a hunting knife into the base of Donnivan's skull, partially severing his brain stem," the assistant attorney general's brief reads. "Unaffected by the screams and blood and death, Rhines left the store with his loot to get something to eat."

Generally, the jury's discussion is not grounds to overturn a sentencing, under the "no-impeachment rule." But several recent Supreme Court decisions have opened the door to examining juries' bias.

Last year, in Pena-Rodriguez v. Colorado, a man was convicted of sexually assaulting 2 girls, but 1 of the jurors said, "9 times out of 10 Mexican men were guilty of being aggressive toward women and young girls," and "Mexican men had a bravado that caused them to believe they could do whatever they wanted with women."

The Supreme Court ruled that the statements showed that the defendant's Sixth Amendment rights were violated because the jury decided that he "was guilty and his alibi witness should not be believed" because of a racist juror. The case was sent back to the lower courts.

And earlier this year, the Supreme Court instructed an appeals court to reconsider the death sentence of Keith Tharpe, an African American man. In an interview after sentencing, a juror said, "After studying the Bible, I have wondered if black people even have souls," and referred to Tharpe with the n-word. It's possible for the Supreme Court to extend that logic to sexual orientation, especially since studies have shown that gay men are more likely to be found guilty by juries and that the death penalty is less likely in cases involving gay victims.

(source: lgbtqnation.com)

CALIFORNIA----female may face death penalty

Caregiver charged with murder, grand theft in death of elderly Indio woman

A Palm Desert woman charged with murder for allegedly causing a string of overdoses in a woman she cared for, so she could gain access to the woman's estate and more than $200,000 from her bank accounts, was arrested today.

Marilyn Joy Zemek, 59, is accused in the June 17, 2016, death of Pamelia Powell, 69. Zemek is charged with murder, elder abuse, grand theft, identity theft and also faces a special circumstance allegation of murder for financial gain, meaning she could be eligible for the death penalty, should prosecutors pursue it.

She was taken into custody Tuesday morning by Indio police near Frank Sinatra Drive and Portola Avenue in Palm Desert, according to county jail records.

Authorities allege that Zemek, who allegedly had Powell draft a new will leaving her possessions and bank account information to her, caused Powell's fatal overdose on phenobarbital, which the victim had been taking for several years to regulate seizures, according to an arrest warrant declaration.

Zemek and Powell allegedly met at a Palm Desert "Botox party'' in late 2015, and "within a few weeks, Zemek managed to become a major part of Powell's life,'' the declaration states.

On the date of Powell's death, Zemek reported her passing to police, who found Powell at her home at 81562 Avenida Viesca in Indio. Neighbors told police that Zemek allegedly entered the home and did not call 911 for about 90 minutes to report Powell's death.

In the months prior to her death, prosecutors allege that Powell's health deteriorated rapidly, with 3 hospitalizations due to phenobarbital overdoses or intoxication that led her doctor to remove the drug from her medication list in April 2016.

However, after Zemek became her primary caretaker, she allegedly continued providing the drug to Powell, who suffered "altered mental states, disorientation, delusions and confusion'' during her hospital stays in early 2016, according to reports from medical records and accounts from Powell's neighbors and friends, prosecutors said.

Powell was not allowed to make medical decisions for herself, but was signed out of a medical facility in late May against doctor's advice, and allegedly at Zemek's behest. She later drafted a new will giving Zemek her power of attorney, naming her the beneficiary on her Edward Jones account and the recipient of all her possessions, including "every item in the victim's house,'' the declaration states.

Following Powell's death, investigators found that more than 100 charges, totaling nearly $8,000, were made on her credit card, according to the declaration. When the account was frozen, prosecutors claim Zemek successfully restored access to the account by claiming she was Powell. She can also be seen on video footage making some of the purchases on Powell's credit card, officials said.

She also allegedly filed probate paperwork in Nevada to become appointed special administrator to Powell's estate and "withdrew $201,634 in 3 cashier's checks made out to herself from Powell's account,'' the declaration states.

Zemek, who's being held without bail, is expected to appear in court Thursday, according to jail records.

(source: desertsun.com)

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

Jury recommends death penalty for man who killed 5 women in Orange, Riverside counties

A jury on Tuesday recommended the death penalty without parole for an 8-time serial killer on trial for murdering 5 women in Orange, Riverside and San Diego counties.

An Orange County Superior Court judge will make the final decision as to whether Urdiales will be sent to death row. The sentencing hearing is set for Aug. 31.

The jury recommended the death penalty for all 5 murders.

That Santa Ana jury, which last month found Andrew Urdiales guilty of 5 special-circumstances murders, deliberated for several hours before backing the death penalty rather than a life sentence.

Urdiales, shortly after his arrest, confessed to killing 1 woman in Orange County while stationed as a U.S. Marine at Camp Pendleton; four women in Riverside and San Diego counties while stationed at Twentynine Palms; and 3 women in Chicago while working as a security guard after leaving the military.

During closing arguments in Urdiales' Orange County trial, Deputy District Attorney Matt Murphy described him as a "misogynistic, sadistic monster."

Attorney Denise Gragg, who represented Urdiales, countered that her client was born with brain damage and suffered a childhood marked by emotional, physical, sexual and psychological abuse.

Last month, the Santa Ana jury found Urdiales, now 53, guilty of killing Robbin Brandley in 1986 in a Saddleback College parking lot in Mission Viejo, and of the murders over the subsequent 7 years of Julie McGhee, Tammie Erwin and Denise Many in Riverside County, and Mary Ann Wells in San Diego.

A 9th woman, Jennifer Asbenson, escaped from Urdiales after being kidnapped and sexually assaulted in a remote Riverside County desert.

While the Southern California News Group does not normally identify victims of sexual assault, Asbenson has spoken extensively about her experience in public forums.

A Chicago jury previously convicted Urdiales of killing Laura Uylaki, Cassandra Corum and Lynn Huberand.

(source: Orange County Register)

USA----2 new death sentences

2 white supremacists from Utah get death penalty for killing Texas inmate

Prosecutors say 2 white supremacists serving time at a federal prison in Southeast Texas have been condemned for the 2014 slaying of a fellow gang member behind bars.

A federal jury in Beaumont on Wednesday ordered the death penalty for Ricky Fackrell of Vernal, Utah, and Christopher Cramer of Ogden, Utah. Both were convicted last month of murder.

Investigators say Fackrell and Cramer conspired to kill Leo Johns, who was fatally stabbed on June 9, 2014, at the lockup in Beaumont.

Records show Cramer and Fackrell were serving time for unrelated robberies in which firearms were used. Johns was imprisoned for being a felon in possession of a firearm.

A spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney's Office, Davilyn Walston, says the slaying was likely because 1 gang member offended another.

(source: The Salt Lake Tribune)

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

Americans Are Starting to Like the Death Penalty Again----Support had been declining for 15 years.

Over the last 2 decades, public support for the death penalty has been on the decline. In 2016, the number of people in favor of capital punishment was 49 % - the lowest it had been in more than 40 years. But a new Pew Research Center survey shows a reverse of that trend for the 1st time since 2003.

Today, 54 % of Americans are in favor of executing those convicted of capital murder. The last time there was such backing was in 2013, when 55 % of Americans supported capital punishment. The all-time high was in the mid-1990s when Pew found that 78 % of Americans were in favor.

Death penalty support ticks up in 2018 after years of decline

Death penalty support has always been divided by race and gender. In 2016, 55 % of men supported the death penalty, 2 years later that number has increased to 61 %. This year, women's support for the death penalty has jumped up from 43 % in 2016 to 46 %. In the 2018 survey, 59 % of white people supported the death penalty, up 2 points from 2016. Even among black people, who have long opposed the death penalty because of its racial bias, the % of this in favor increased from 29 to 36.

The increased support was also bipartisan. In 2016, 72 % of Republicans supported the death penalty, while just 34 % of Democrats did. 2 years later, those numbers have ticked up to 77 and 35 % respectively. Among independents, that number has increased from 44 % to 52 %.

19 states have banned capital punishment, but 31 states still have it on the books. But only a handful of states continue to execute inmates - in 2018, 11 people have already been executed.

The greater support for capital punishment has taken place against the backdrop of fewer executions taking place in the United States than in decades past, and a president who has upped the rhetoric in favor of executing criminals.

Donald Trump has always been a proponent of the death penalty. In 1989, after a woman was raped in New York's Central Park and 5 brown and black teenagers were accused - and later exonerated - he took out full-page advertisements in the city's newspapers demanding the return of the death penalty. He has repeatedly called for the death penalty for people who kill law enforcement officers. In February, he announced that he would also like to seek the death penalty for drug dealers in an effort to combat the opioid crisis.

(source: Mother Jones)

AUSTRALIA:

'It's abhorrent': MP Steve Irons calls for death penalty for paedophiles

Federal MP Steve Irons has called for the introduction of the death penalty for paedophiles and "people who continually abuse children".

Mr Irons made the call during a debate in federal parliament on the introduction of laws to establish a compensation scheme for victims of sexual abuse. Liberal MP Steve Irons during debate on the National Redress Scheme for Institutional Child Sexual Abuse Bill 2018, in the House of Representatives at Parliament House.

The MP, who grew up as a ward of the state and has been a key campaigner for a redress scheme for victims of institutional child sex crimes, said he understood the idea wouldn't get far, but it was still a "personal passion".

Mr Irons said in an interview on Tuesday that both he and his wife grew up in families that suffered from either sexual or violent child abuse.

"We're both strong believers that once an adult has crossed that line, it's like crossing the Rubicon," he said.

"Once they've done it, they'll continue to do it no matter what and, whether it's alcohol-induced or whatever it is, those children should never be returned to their abusers at all.

"What country in the world says the abuse and rape of a 2-year-old child is acceptable?

"Everyone's too scared to say, I don't care what culture they come from, or what race or ethnicity they are, they need to go to jail for the rest of their life and never be in contact with a child ever again, or - should I say it? - put to death."

In parliament, Mr Irons referred to the case of a seven-year-old girl who died in 2007 after her parents kept her as a prisoner in the filthy room where she "died a slow and torturous death", according to NSW police.

"She wasn't in an institution but she starved to death in a home in New South Wales under the care of her own parents," Mr Irons said in parliament.

"We have heard the many stories about institutional child sex abuse over the last 10 years.

"They are often reflected in private homes around Australia as well, for which there is no form of redress at all under the system. After our achievement today [the introduction of a redress scheme], we need to look at child abuse in private homes and how the children continue to be returned to the abusers."

On Tuesday Mr Irons said child abuse was a "It's a dark, tragic shadow on the history of Australia".

"To me, the shameful thing is that it's still happening," he said.

"It hasn't only happened in institutions, it's happened in family homes around Australia.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull pays tribute to the survivors and families who came forward to contribute to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

"Some of the things fathers, step-fathers and even mothers have done to their own children in the supposed sanctity of their own home is terrible and it's still continuing today."

On Wednesday, Western Australia became the final state to join a $3.8 billion national redress scheme that will cover more than 90 % of eligible child sexual abuse survivors.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull says WA Premier Mark McGowan had given him a firm commitment that the state will join the scheme.

A statement from federal opposition leader Bill Shorten said Labor was disappointed the redress scheme would start one year later than was recommended by the Royal Commission and that the cap on redress payments was lower than recommended.

Mr Irons said work had commenced on a national apology to victims of victims of institutional child sexual abuse, which Mr Turnbull would deliver later this year.

(source: watoday.com.au)

SOUTH AFRICA:

In these times of fear, why I favour the reinstatement of the death penalty

I hold an alternate but opposing view to that of columnist Yogin Devan whose article "An eye for an eye is not the answer" appeared in last week's POST.

The narrative in recent times, notably with the escalation of capital crime, suggests that society is growing impatient in the apparent kid-glove treatment meted out to heinous criminals who commit gratuitous murders of innocent people with utter impunity and without remorse.

Devan argues that calling for the death penalty is an affront to human rights and dignity.

I beg to differ.

He correctly states that "there is no concrete evidence showing that the death penalty actually deters crime".

Conversely, there is no empirical evidence to suggest that a prison sentence will equally deter a criminal from re-offending, especially in terms of murder or rape and those non-capital crimes.

While our constitution guarantees the right to life, it fails consciously to account for those who, with premeditated and deliberate intent, takes the lives of others.

The concept of a life-for-a-life trade-off may appear unpalatable to the moral and religious convictions of those who believe that it is a superior being who should be the only determinant of such an act.

I then question what of those who unjustifiably usurp such powers by denying another human being of their right to life.

Retributive justice can be distasteful at the best of times, but sadly it becomes a necessary evil when civil society is persistently besieged by acts of gross human rights violations that go against the grain of normalcy and common decency.

Arguing in mitigation against the death penalty in an article in The Mercury, Professor George Devenish, one of the crafters of our constitution, made many points which were adequately challenged by renowned historian and independent researcher, Dr Duncan du Bois.

Devenish puts forward four specific arguments against capital punishment.

1st, in Arthur Chaskalson’s view, execution is inconsistent with the prohibition of cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment as set out in section 12(1)(e) of the constitution.

2nd, Chaskalson sees the imposition of the death penalty as being subject to "capriciousness" in its application.

3rd, the Concourt has found that retribution is vengeance.

4th, Albie Sachs has posited that capital punishment is an "illusory solution and as such detracts from really effective measures".

While Devan corroborates former Chief Justice Arthur Chaskalson's viewpoint, I am inclined to agree with Du Bois when he states that "Chaskalson's assertion that capital punishment is degrading and cruel is devoid of context and makes mockery of any claim to moral order for the simple reason that it ignores what murder victims suffer at the hands of murderers."

There is no logic in Justice Chaskalson's view that society owes a murderer the right to be treated with dignity and respect. Society is only obligated to provide for a fair trial.

The above illustrates the divergent yet complex vagaries of perceptions when we consider the matter of the death penalty but I would be loath to accept the moral and religious rhetoric that "an eye for an eye is not the answer" - simply because it assuages the philosophical nicety of a just society.

While the ultimate sanction of death has to be balanced in all aspects in terms of the final execution of such a warrant, I also accept that there may be problems in human error or deceit that can verify guilt when one is not guilty.

The holding back of exculpatory evidence by unscrupulous prosecutors, for example, may lead to unjust convictions. But given the import of such a sanction, measures will have to be established to eliminate the "human error" aspect so that a guilt conviction is way beyond reasonable doubt and without reprisals.

My advocacy of the death penalty is not so much out of hatred or vengeance, but rather for the dire need to re-establish a society that exists without fear and constant angst.

We must never forget that a murder victim was also entitled to the inalienable right to life - and the deterrence against the brutality and barbaric nature of crimes committed nowadays is being thwarted by the ineffectual imposition of really harsh sanctions.

The moment one makes a conscious and deliberate choice to end the life of another person in cold blood, then any equivocation used to mitigate the ultimate sanction becomes arbitrary, particularly in view of the fact that if the victim could speak, then they would certainly have wanted to live, as we all do.

There can be no gainsaying that the death penalty used in the apartheid era, as described by Devan, was antiquated to the extent that it had malicious and political intent, and did not serve the true precepts of real justice.

It was irrational and salutary only for the benefit of a regime to the extent that it got rid of those, in the main, who were opponents of apartheid.

It is true that Nelson Mandela and his freedom fighters were a whisker away from a fate unimaginable had reason not prevailed, and in the same vein, each case where a capital crime is committed, must be seen in context and not be hastened to execute simply because the sanction is available.

Circumstantial considerations, premeditation and other factors both mitigating and extenuating must be fully exhausted before such a sanction is imposed.

That our law enforcement agencies are desperately strained to combat crime effectively, and there is no suggestion that evinces one to believe that there are prospects of abatement, we are compelled to importunate our criminal justice system to act on our behalf to halt the rampant disutility that crime has become.

Justice tempered with mercy is vital for the well-being of any society, but such mercy must not be held to ransom because we amplify human rights to those who care less about those they massacre.

It was rather disingenuous of Devan, however, to suggest that "calling for the death penalty should be made a punishable offence" - this is anathema to the freedom of speech and thought.

Finally, while I vouchsafe Devan's stance on this critical call on the re-instatement of the death penalty, I am averse to accept that such a call would blind us as a moral and caring society to the horrific realities of life in South Africa - that at any given moment, anyone of us could become an unwanted statistic of a horrendous murder at the hands of the callous vermin that roam our streets. (source: Opinion; Narendh Ganesh is a political activist----iol.co.za)

NIGERIA:

In Adamawa; Court sentences 4 to death for robbing politician----The convicts were found guilty of abduction and armed robbery.

Justice Abdul-Azeez Waziri of the Yola High Court has sentenced 4 people to death by hanging or firing squad after they were found guilty of abduction and armed robbery.

According to a report by Premium Times, the convicts had been arraigned before the court for robbing and abducting the Adamawa House of Assembly member, Adamu Usman (Toungo constituency), and a retired civil servant, Wilson Gundiri. Usman was kidnapped at gunpoint from his residence at Kofare Ward of Yola in May 2015.

The judge handed the convicts a prison sentence of 10 years each for conspiracy to commit abduction and sentenced them to death for armed robbery.

The convicts are Gambo Musa, Mana Musa, Abdu Baba, and Mohammed Muazu. Muazu already died in custody before the sentence.

5 sentenced to death for killing herdsman

Justice Waziri had also handed down the death penalty sentence to 5 people who were found guilty of criminal conspiracy and culpable homicide.

They were accused of conspiring and attacking three herdsmen at Kadamun village in Demsa local government area of Adamawa State on June 1, 2017. During the attack, they killed 1 of their victims, identified as Adamu Buba, and dumped his corpse into a river.

The convicts are Alex Amos, Alheri Phanuel, Holy Boniface, Jerry Gideon and Jari Sabagi, all from Demsa LGA.

| (source: pulse.ng)

BAHRAIN:

Suitcase killers lose death penalty plea

2 Bangladeshi murderers have lost an appeal against the death penalty following a retrial. Roubel Al Salam and Kamrol Miah tied up their victim, gagged him and beat him to death over an unpaid debt of BD50.

(source: Gulf Digital News)

IRAN:

Prominent Human Rights Lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh Arrested

Iran's Supreme Court rejected Ramin Hossein Panahi's appeal. He was sentenced to death on rebellion charges and is in imminent danger of execution.

Ramin Hossein Panahi's lawyer and family announced that his appeal was rejected by Iran's Supreme Court.

His brother, Amjad Hossein Panahi, told IHR, "My brother's appeal has been rejected and he may get executed in the next few days or weeks. I think no matter how many times we file an appeal, he will be sentenced to death again because security agencies in Tehran decide this case."

In an interview with IHR, Hossein Ahmadi Niaz, the political prisoner's lawyer, confirmed the rejection of Ramin Hossein Panahi's appeal.

Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam, the spokesperson for IHR, had earlier said, "Ramin Hossein Panahi has been sentenced to death by the Revolutionary Court through an unfair trial. His death penalty is not only inhumane but also illegal due to lack of a fair trial, and it should be stopped immediately."

Iran Human Rights urges Human Rights Institutions to pay special attention to Ramin Hossein Panahi's situation. Now that the judicial authorities have refused to consider his lawyer's several appeals, Ramin's only hope for being saved from execution is the international community's attention.

Ramin Hossein Panahi was shot and arrested by the agents of the Revolutionary Guard on Friday, June 23, 2017. The IRGC agents claimed that he was armed, but Ramin's family claim otherwise. This prisoner was transferred to Sanandaj central Prison on January 9, 2018, after spending 200 days in the custody of the Intelligence Organization of Army of the Guardians of the Islamic Revolution and the Ministry of Intelligence.

Ramin Hossein Panahi's trial was held on January 15, 2017. He was sentenced to death in the 1st session on the charge of "rebellion against the regime, acting against the national security, and being a member of Komala Party of Iranian Kurdistan." His execution was approved by branch 39 of the Supreme Court on Tuesday, April 10 after which his layer requested a retrial.

It should be noted that Ramadan (observed by Muslims worldwide as a month of fasting) will be over in a few days. The process of executions is usually stopped in Ramadan but it starts again after the end of the month. It is concerning that Ramin Hossein Panahi's execution may be carried out after Ramadan.

(source: Iran Human Rights)

IRAQ:

Lawyers, activists ask Supreme Leader to stop execution of Kurdish man

40lawyers and activists wrote an open letter to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran's supreme leader, asking him to stop the execution of Kurdish prisoner Ramin Hossein Panahi.

"In this coming Ramadan Eid, we ask you as the leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran to deal with the case of Ramin Hossein Panahi, a citizen of Iranian Kurdistan, with forgiveness," the activists wrote in the letter, published by ISNA.

Panahi, 22, was arrested on June 2017 in Sanandaj and charged with being a member of the Kurdish opposition party Komala. Prosecutors said Panahi had received military training and was carrying a gun and a grenade at the time of his arrest.

The punishment for those who fight against the Islamic Republic is the death penalty.

In May, Panahi's brother Rafiq told Rudaw that his brother is a Komala Peshmerga, yet he was in Rojhelat (Iranian Kurdistan) to visit family when he was shot by Iran's security forces.

"According to Article 278 of the Islamic penal code, the supreme leader has the right to act with forgiveness in such cases ... so the citizens of Kurdistan will ask you to deal with the case of Ramin Hossein Panahi with mercy," these lawyers and activists requested.

The lawyers emphasized that Panahi's parents are old and a stay of execution would appease the people of Iranian Kurdistan.

Panahi's family and international human rights organizations are worried that the Islamic Republic might execute Ramin Hossein Panahi after the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.

Panahi was held in solidarity confinement for several months. His health has deteriorated in prison and he is suffering from kidney failure and amnesia. He has been denied medical treatment and was subjected to torture, according to the Kurdistan Human Rights Network (KHRN).

Kurdish men are among the biggest victim of Iran's capital punishment as large numbers are annually hung with cranes in the public area. Iran carries out the 2nd-most capital punishment executions in the world, behind China.

(soruce: rudaw.net)

PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY:

Capital punishment no longer valid in Palestine

During a meeting with Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney, a senior Palestinian official said that 1 of the 7 international treaties and conventions that the Palestinian government has recently signed is the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

By signing this convention, Palestine joins 103 countries in abolishing the criminal act of punishing a person by ending their life. 56 countries retain capital punishment, 103 countries have completely abolished it de jure for all crimes, 6 have abolished it for ordinary crimes, while maintaining it for special circumstances, such as war crimes, and 30 are abolitionist in practice.

The commitment not to carry out capital punishment puts Palestine in good company and projects a more progressive attitude towards the right of life.

Capital punishment is a matter of active controversy in several countries and states, and positions can vary within a single political ideology or cultural region. Article 2 of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights prohibits the death penalty.

The Council of Europe, which has 47 member states, has sought to abolish death penalty by Protocol 13 to the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. However, the convention is only effective in member states which have signed and ratified it, and they do not include Armenia, Russia and Azerbaijan.

The United Nations General Assembly has adopted in 2007, 2008, 2010, 2012 and 2014, non-binding resolutions calling for a global moratorium on executions, with a view to eventual abolition. Although most nations have abolished capital punishment, over 60 % of the world's population live in countries where the death penalty is retained, such as China, India, the United States, Indonesia, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Japan and Sri Lanka.

Ironically, Israel, which carries out impromptu capital punishment against unarmed civilians on a regular basis, has capital punishment on its legal books, but has only used it once against the Nazi leader Adolf Eichmann, who was brought to Israel, tried and executed by hanging after a court decision in 1962.

Israeli intelligence officials have recommended against the use of capital punishment against Palestinian fighters worried that it would increase, and not decrease, attacks on Israelis. By creating a martyr, Israel would encourage Palestinians to carry out violent missions with no chances of survival since those carrying them out will know that if they survive, they will be killed anyway, according to Israeli intelligence leaders.

For Palestinians, abolishing capital punishment will create an internal problem with the Islamic movements in general, and the acting power in Gaza, Hamas, which has ordered and carried out capital punishment against Palestinians numerous times, usually on charges that those individuals carried out treason acts by providing information to the enemy of the Palestinian people.

For ordinary Palestinians, the issue of capital punishment has not received enough discussion. While religious debate has justification for both sides of the argument, the fact is that cancelling capital punishment resonates well with more progressive secular Palestinians and intellectuals.

It is not clear what the various factions of the Palestine Liberation Organisation think of capital punishment. In general, left-wing movements generally oppose it, although some exceptions have been seen worldwide.

The right to life is precious and no mortal has the right to take it away. Courts across the world have demonstrated in numerous occasions how capital punishment has been unjustly carried out to innocent individuals. The discovery of DNA and its introduction to the court system has revealed cases of persons who were wrongly punished for crimes they did not commit.

The Arabic proverb says, "the sword has preceded justice". The fact that Palestine has agreed to overcome internal conservative forces and agreed to commit not to use capital punishment will be added to the legacy of the Palestinian leadership, specifically to that of the aging Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas.

(source: The Jordan Times)

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

Palestinian Territories - Abolition of the death penalty

France welcomes the signing of the Protocol on the Abolition of the Death Penalty by the Palestinian Authority on June 6.

France reaffirms its unwavering opposition to the death penalty everywhere and in all circumstances and its resolute commitment to the universal abolition of this unjust, inhuman, ineffective punishment. It calls on all nations that still have the death penalty to establish a moratorium on it ahead of its definitive abolition.

(source: diplomatie.gouv.fr)

JUNE 13, 2018:

TEXAS:

Gustavo Tijerina-Sandoval formally sentenced to death for murder of Border Patrol agent

Gustavo Tijerina-Sandoval appeared in court Tuesday for his formal sentencing, almost a week after a Cameron County jury sentenced him to death for the murder of Border Patrol Agent Javier Vega Jr.

The courtroom was filled with dozens of Border Patrol agents and other law enforcement, who were there in support of the Vega family.

Judge Migdalia Lopez presented the verdict, sentencing Tijerina-Sandoval to death for the capital murder charge and life for attempted capital murder.

At that hearing, Marie Vega, the mother of the Border Patrol agent Javier Vega Jr., read a final statement addressed to Tijerina-Sandoval.

"I hope you spend the rest of your time on death row thinking about the day you are finally put to death, " said Marie Vega. She went on to say, "You sentenced yourself to the death penalty. Tijerina, you broke the law. You killed an innocent man. You thought you were so brave and tough, now be brave and tough and suck it up and die like you need to."

Tijerina-Sandoval was not present during her statement. As Judge Lopez dismissed the court, all Border Patrol agents got in line and exchanged hugs with the Vega family.

"Justice has been served in the Javier Vega murder," said Manuel Padilla Jr, Chief Patrol Agent. "Although this doesn't bring our agent back, it just shows the justice system does work."

Although this trial is over, the Willacy County District Attorney's Office is now preparing for the trial of Ismael Hernandez-Vallejo, a co-defendant in this case.

Hernandez-Vallegjo's trial is expected to start in August. Prosecutors will also seek the death penalty in that case.

(source: valleycentral.com)

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

Man Sentenced to Death For Killing Agent Tells Court "Thank You for Making Me Famous"

"Thank you for making me famous it was my dream to be on TV," are the words a man sentenced to death for capital murder said at his sentencing.

Last month, the jury found Sandoval guilty of killing off-duty border patrol agent Javier Vega Jr. and last week the jury's verdict for capital murder was the death penalty.

Vega Jr.'s mother, Marie Vega, stood in front of the courtroom and tearfully spoke on behalf of the family, saying the sentence was just.

While Vega's Jr's father and wife sat with the dozens of border patrol agents who attended the sentencing, with tears in their eyes.

"You need to die for what you did, you don't deserve to live or breathe our air," Marie Vega said.

After the sentencing, Defense Attorney Nat Perez told News Center 23 said that this was the longest trial he has even been involved in.

"It was pretty tedious and contested I think it was hard fought, and certainly we're a little disappointed with the verdict," Perez said.

"We'll be filing a direct appeal to the Court of Criminal Appeals, we think there's some things that the Court of Appeals should look at, and then we'll see what they say," he said.

During the course of the trial, jury heard Vega Jr.'s parents and children testify about the day the murder took place, when Sandoval and other suspect, Ismael Hernandez, Vallejo ambushed the Vega's while they were fishing on August 3, 2014.

They also watched Sandoval's video interview with Texas Rangers, where he weeps and says he must pay the price.

The defense has 30 days from today to file a motion for a new trial, although it is likely it will be denied.

(source: KVEO news)

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

5 controversial moments in the case that sent Darlie Routier to death row for her son's murder

Darlie Routier was convicted and sentenced to die for fatally stabbing her 5-year-old son Damon in June 1996. More than 2 decades later, the Rowlett woman remains in prison - 1 of only 6 women on Texas' death row.

Devon, 6, was also slain, but Routier was convicted of only 1 murder because prosecutors decided to ensure the option to pursue a 2nd indictment if the 1st trial didn't net a lasting conviction.

Routier has maintained an intruder broke in while she slept and killed her sons before she chased him away. She said she could not remember much of what happened that night, and a psychiatrist for the defense said she was a victim of "traumatic amnesia."

But prosecutors called that a convenient excuse and argued Routier killed her children because they interfered with the life she wanted to live.

On Tuesday at 9 p.m., ABC aired the 1st episode of The Last Defense, a 7-part documentary series that focuses on the death row cases of Routier and Oklahoma man Julius Jones.

Viola Davis and Julius Tennon are the executive producers of the series, which the network says "explores and exposes flaws in the American justice system."

Following is a look at 5 moments that helped define the Routier investigation, trial and the aftermath of her conviction:

During Routier's death-penalty trial, jurors heard a 6-minute 911 call from the night of the attack. Prosecutors said the call supported what officers said about Routier's behavior, but the defense said the recording showed she was traumatized and distracted by the chaos in her home. They argued Routier should not be held accountable for what she said or did during that time.

In the recording, Routier tells the dispatcher that she touched the knife, the suspected murder weapon, and added, "I wonder if we could have gotten the prints maybe."

She mentions her husband ran downstairs but doesn't ask about their infant son, Drake.

Officers testified that Routier was upset and screaming, but didn't appear to be in shock and seemed very alert. One officer said he told Routier to apply pressure to the stab wounds on Damon's back as he gasped for breath, but instead, she did nothing.

"I thought if she was worried about fingerprints on a knife, she could certainly take care of her kids," Officer David Waddell said during the trial.

He added that she did not follow paramedics when they carried Damon to an ambulance and did not ask where they were taking him.

Bloody evidence and the garage escape

Over and over, Routier, who was 26 at the time of her sons' murders, said a man wearing dark clothes and a baseball cap attacked the boys, then her, before escaping through the garage.

But investigators said evidence at the scene was inconsistent with Routier's account.

Investigators found no blood in the garage or on the garage window or wooden fence surrounding the backyard. The window sills in the garage had layers of dust, and the mulch in the flower beds between the garage and the backyard gate was undisturbed, an arrest warrant stated.

Lab tests did find fingerprints on the garage window that did not belong to Routier, her husband or law enforcement, but it's unclear who left them.

Routier said she found the knife on the floor in the utility room, but investigators didn't find any blood splatter or other marks that would have indicated the knife was dropped there.

Blood was found near the kitchen sink, but no appreciable amount on the couch where Routier said she had been stabbed. There had been attempts to clean the countertop and sink before police arrived, and police suggested that she may have inflicted the wounds herself, the affidavit stated.

Police said a bloody sock was found on the grass several houses down. Routier's relatives cited it as evidence that someone else killed the boys, and the defense said there was no way Routier would have had time to stage the crime scene.

Much debate also centered around a bloody fingerprint on the coffee table near her son's body. Part of her appeal centered on the print belonging to an adult, not one of Routier's slain children.

The print was never compared to the children's fingers because morgue workers did not take the children's prints, which is usually standard procedure.

In 2008, a federal judge granted additional testing of the sock, a butcher knife, the fibers from another knife and gave permission to run four fingerprints through a national database. The DNA was submitted last year for testing, but there have been no other recent updates.

The Silly String video

Days after the boys' deaths, the Routiers held a graveside birthday party for Devon on what would have been his 7th birthday.

They sprayed Silly String on the grave and sang "Happy Birthday." KXAS-TV (NBC5) recorded the celebration and interviewed the couple who said they had nothing to hide.

Routier was arrested four days later and charged with capital murder.

The NBC5 footage of the Silly String and a smiling Routier was shown during the trial. Prosecutors said her behavior at her children's graves showed a lack of grief and remorse.

Defense attorneys said the tape showed a family trying to cope with grief.

It was not the only time jurors heard statements about Routier's lack of remorse.

An emergency room doctor testified that the mother seemed emotionless when he tended to the knife wounds to her neck, shoulder and forearm. Dr. Alex Santos called the wounds "superficial," but agreed that they came millimeters from cutting her carotid artery.

A nurse's note, however, described Routier as "very emotional, crying, sobbing and talking about events in her family."

The gravesite recording

During Routier's trial, a detective testified that investigators hid microphones near the boys' graves in Rockwall before Devon's birthday in the hopes that someone might make a confession that would lead police to the killer.

In 1997, after an FBI investigation, U.S. Attorney Paul E. Coggins announced that the Rowlett Police Department would not face federal charges for planting the hidden microphones.

Attorneys and others questioned the legality of the move.

The investigation determined that the decision was based on legal advice indicating the technique was lawful.

In June 1998, Routier's mother and husband filed a lawsuit accusing the police detectives and a prosecutor of invading their privacy. The suit was later dismissed.

The trial transcript

Court transcript problems became central to Routier's appeal, which was delayed because of the issues.

Following the trial, one of Routier's attorneys found errors in the transcript, which was needed for an appeal. Court reporter Sandra Halsey refused to answer questions, and a state district judge ordered a review.

In 1999, a complaint filed with the state board alleged that Halsey's work was "incompetent, inaccurate, unprofessional and untimely" and that she lied to hide mistakes.

She was ordered to pay $32,265 for the cost of getting the transcript fixed and had her license revoked.

A 2nd court reporter who was appointed to reconstruct portions of the transcript using Halsey's audio recordings, stenographer's notes and the original transcript, said the 1st version contained 18,000 errors.

She also had to make a new version of 53 pages of the transcript detailing pretrial issues and preliminary jury selection using stenographic notes rather than audio recordings after Halsey reportedly could not find the tape.

Finally, in November 1999 a judge approved the revised transcript. Routier's team filed an appeal in 2001, but in 2003 the Court of Criminal Appeals rejected Routier's claims and upheld her conviction.

(source: Dallas Morning News)

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

Fifth Circuit Chastises 2 Texas Attorneys For Filing Last-Minute Death Penalty Stay

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit has chastised 2 Texas attorneys in connection with a last-minute effort to stay the execution of a death row client, though it stopped short of sanctioning them.

Seth Kretzer and Carlo D'Angelo represented Rosendo Rodriguez III, who was convicted of capital murder and sentenced to death in 2009 for the murder of Summer Baldwin, a pregnant prostitute he killed and stuffed in a suitcase.

After years of unsuccessful appeals, the attorneys filed another writ of habeas corpus a week ahead of Rodriguez's March 27 execution date, alleging they found newly discovered evidence that questioned the credibility of Lubbock County Medical Examiner Dr. Sridhar Natarajan, who performed the autopsy on Baldwin's body.

The writ alleged that the lawyers had become aware on Feb. 16 of a 2015 wrongful termination suit filed against Natarajan by Dr. Luisa Florez, who claimed that Natarajan was not performing his own autopsies but was delegating those duties to technicians who were not trained doctors. The writ also alleged that Natarajan and Lubbock County settled that lawsuit, and paid Florez $230,000, on Nov. 7, 2017.

The Fifth Circuit denied the writ, and Rodriguez was executed as scheduled March 27. 2 days day later, according to the decision, the Fifth Circuit issued a show cause order against Kretzer and D'Angelo, directing them to explain why they shouldn't be sanctioned for filing the successive writ.

The Fifth Circuit asked the attorneys to explain 2 things: When did they first became aware of the 2015 lawsuit that Dr. Florez settled in 2017, and why their writ did not mention the Feb. 26 eyewitness affidavit, filed by prosecutors in Rodriguez's criminal matter, of former Lubbock County homicide investigator Garland Timms, who swore he personally witnessed the autopsy of Baldwin performed by Natarajan.

In their response, according to the court, the attorneys explained they knew nothing about the Florez suit until February 2018, because the case was only disclosed in a handful of Lubbock media outlets.

As for Timms' affidavit, which was created 12 years after the autopsy occurred, they noted they had no opportunity to cross-examine Timms about his statement.

Those answers did not completely satisfy the Fifth Circuit panel, but the court ultimately decided against sanctioning the attorneys.

"As to the 1st question, counsel claimed their client, now executed, informed them about the lawsuit filed by Dr. Florez in February 2018, which precipitated their filings," the Fifth Circuit panel wrote in per curiam opinion. "Counsel nevertheless failed directly to answer the second question, and instead asserted unpersuasive, post-hoc arguments as to why this court should have discredited the affidavit."

"After reviewing counsels' submissions carefully, we do not impose sanctions, but we chastise habeas counsel for failing to even acknowledge, much less attempt, to rebut an affidavit timely offered by the state that on its face contradicted the factual basis for the last minute successive petition," the court wrote.

"This court takes very seriously its duty to review all petitions on behalf of petitioners facing execution. Our task is made all the more difficult when counsel, having already pressed against an impending execution date, simply ignore the facts brought to bear by the state that undermine their newly discovered theories," the court wrote. "There is no excuse for such delays."

"This bespeaks lack of candor to the court and arguably lack of a good-faith basis for the positions they espoused," the court concluded. "However, attorneys Seth Kretzer and Carlo D'Angelo are admonished that their pleadings and filings in future cases will be scrutinized for accuracy, completeness and compliance with Rule 11," which allows courts to sanction attorney for filing pleadings that have no evidentiary support.

The panel that admonished the attorneys consisted of Fifth Circuit Judges Edith Jones and Jerry Smith. Judge James Dennis also sat on the panel but declined to participate in the lawyers' admonishment.

Kretzer, a Houston attorney who frequently litigates criminal appeals before the Fifth Circuit, said he was happy to answer the Fifth Circuit's questions and welcomes their scrutiny.

"Obviously, we have nothing but the greatest respect and deference for all of the judges on the Fifth Circuit," Kretzer said.

"I welcome any scrutinization of my work for completeness and accuracy," added Kretzer, noting that he and his co-counsel hired Thomas C. Wright, a Houston attorney who defends attorneys in professional responsibility cases, to answer the Fifth Circuit show cause order.

"I hired an outside counsel to check our work. If I felt I had done anything wrong, I would have said so," Kretzer said.

D'Angelo, a Tyler attorney, and Wright, both did not return calls for comment.

(source: Texas Lawyer)

PENNSYLVANIA:

Death penalty trial underway for man accused of using vodka to set fire that killed wife

Testimony is underway in the death penalty trial of a man accused of killing his wife in 2014.

James Karr is accused of knocking his wife Maureen Karr unconscious during an argument at their Friendship Street home in Duquesne, tying her up and setting the house on fire.

Investigators said Maureen Karr took out a protection of abuse order 2 weeks before the fire, claiming her estranged husband was "threatening to set the house on fire."

The case will not be decided by a jury, but instead will be decided by Judge Anthony Mariani.

The district attorney's office said this is the 1st time during the administration of District Attorney Stephen Zapalla that a capital case has been decided by a judge instead of a jury.

(source: WPXI news)

NORTH CAROLINA:

Meet the 'Death Row Granny', one of America's most prolific female serial killers

When we picture a person responsible for some heinous crime - be it real or fictional - we probably imagine someone ice-cold and sinister: a loner, an aggressor, somebody who exudes a palpable sort of evil from every aspect of their demeanor. Think Christian Bale in American Psycho, for instance, or Ian Brady and Myra Hindley (the Moors Murderers).

It just seems incomprehensible that someone who looks so "normal" - who looks nice, even - could possibly be a threat to their fellow friends and neighbours.

So, when Velma Barfield (nee Margie Velma Bullard), a seemingly sweet woman in her 50s, confessed to multiple murders, the world was stunned.

Barfield was born in a rural part of South Carolina in 1932, but spent most of her childhood in the neighbouring North Carolina. By all accounts, her youth was not a particularly happy time, and her father was reportedly very abusive. In order to escape that lifestyle, she married young - being just 17 at the time - and went to live with her husband, Thomas Burke.

Their marriage was a happy one at first. They had 2 children together, and appeared to be living a fairly contented lifestyle. However, later on in their relationship, Barfield had a hysterectomy, and subsequently developed an addiction to painkillers after the procedure left her with chronic back issues. This apparently caused a change in her personality which, in turn, caused her husband to turn to drinking.

After that, the couple would have vicious arguments, and the tension between them only ended when their relationship did. And how did that happen? Well, one night in 1969, when Burke was passed out drunk on the couch, Barfield took their children out. By the time they returned, their home was burnt to the ground.

From that point onward, Barfield's life was littered with a suspicious amount of death.

In 1970 - mere months after the woman's 1st husband had perished in a fire - Barfield remarried, this time to a widower named Jennings Barfield. Once again, however, their relationship quickly deteriorated after he confronted her about her misuse of prescription drugs.

Less than a year after they were married, the widower died after contracting a mysterious illness and suffering a heart attack.

From the outside, it appeared as if Velma Barfield simply had bad luck when it came to choosing husbands - but she knew otherwise. Even so, other people didn't begin to suspect there had been any foul play until years later, by which point the woman had offed at least 6 people.

Her next victim - shockingly - was her own mother.

In 1974, Lillian Bullard (Barfield's mother) developed an aggressive illness, the symptoms of which were nausea, diarrhea, and vomiting. She actually managed to recover from it once, but it struck again around Christmas time of the same year - and that time, she wasn't as lucky.

After that, in 1977, 3 more people died after coming into contact with Barfield. Montgomery and Dollie Edwards, an elderly couple that Barfield worked for, passed away within weeks of one another, with Dollie suffering from exactly the same symptoms as her caretaker's 2nd husband.

With both her clients dead, Barfield had to take another caretaking job; this time for 76-year-old Record Lee, who had recently broken her leg. Lee actually survived Barfield's murder spree but her husband, John Henry, succumbed to a severe gastrointestinal illness that caused - you guessed it - severe nausea, diarrhea, and vomiting.

In 1978, Barfield ended the life of her final victim. His name was Rowland Stuart Taylor and he was a relative of one of Barfield's previous targets, Dollie Edwards. The twice-widowed woman was in a relationship with Taylor, but was also using him by forging checks in his name. After fearing he might have found out about her illegal activity on her account, Barfield sorted the matter in the only way she knew how to by this point: murder.

Taylor died the day after attending a church service with Barfield and, once again, everyone thought she was simply unlucky. This time around, however, a woman claiming to be Barfield's sister called police and informed them that she believed the widow had poisoned her boyfriend. In fact, she said, Barfield had killed several others before using the same method.

Sure enough, after investigation, autopsy results found arsenic in Taylor's system, and tests performed on the bodies of John Henry, Lillian Bullard, Dollie Edwards, and Jennings Barfield all showed traces of the poison, too. Barfield would eventually confess to four of these murders, plus the murder of Montgomery Edwards, but always denied killing her 2nd husband.

She was never tied to her 1st husband's death, either, but it's always been suspected that she might have had a hand in it.

In the end, Barfield was only convicted of the 1st-degree murder of Stuart Taylor - but that was enough to get her the death penalty. She spent 6 years on death row, during which time she became a born-again Christian and earned herself the nickname, the "Death Row Granny".

She was the 1st woman ever to be put to death by lethal injection in the USA - much to the disagreement of anti-death penalty campaigners and fellow Christians who had asked for Barfield's sentence to be commuted to life imprisonment.

Before she died, Barfield said: "I'm sorry for any hurt I've caused anybody. There isn't a day goes by that I don't think about this and wish that it were possible for me myself to take that hurt."

To this day, she remains one of the most prolific female serial killers of all time.

(sourcwe: vt.co)

OHIO:

Even bad guys are guaranteed due process

We are a government of laws and not a government of men. If we were a government of men, we surely would all seek the death penalty for many wrongs done to us and nearly all wrongs done to those we love. Undoubtedly, there are offenses for which we all become inspired to vigilantism.

Enshrined in the U.S. Constitution is the right for all persons to be zealously represented by a lawyer when facing criminal charges brought by the government. Brian Golsby is no different. He was facing the most serious charges possible. He was entitled to and received a zealous defense to the charges and the government's attempts to sentence him to death.

While letter writer Emily Prieto apparently disagrees ("Defense attorney helped bad guy live," last Tuesday), 12 jurors believed that the appropriate punishment after a full trial where they heard all the evidence presented by both sides was life imprisonment with no chance of parole.

Far from being a disgrace, Diane Menashe, like all criminal defense lawyers, protects the constitutional rights of all citizens by defending the rights of those charged with crimes.

Kenneth R. Bailey, president, The Ohio Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers

Columbus

(source: Letter to the Editor, Columbus Dispatch)

INDIANA:

Private attorneys in death penalty cases create dilemmas for judges, public defenders

After spending much of the pretrial conference questioning the defense attorney about her caseload, ability to retain co-counsel and the expenses related to hiring an investigator and mitigation specialist, Marion Superior Judge Sheila Carlisle concluded by describing the situation taking place in her courtroom.

"This is uncharted territory," she said.

The stakes are high because the defendant, Jason Brown, is facing the death penalty for allegedly killing a police officer. But the twist comes from the accused, who is indigent, being represented by a private attorney who is doing the work pro bono. Carlisle was juggling the man's right to choose his own counsel with the court's concern not only over how much the county would have to pay for his defense, but also whether his lawyer would be able to handle the case from start to finish.

At risk is having to redo - and pay nearly $1 million for - the whole trial again if Brown is convicted and sentenced to death. The appeal would likely argue ineffective counsel and, should the Indiana Supreme Court agree, the guilty verdict could get overturned with the case getting sent back for retrial.

For now, State of Indiana v. Jason Dane Brown, 49G03-1708-MR-028177, is proceeding with the defendant's counsel of choice, Denise Turner. She spent 6 years in the Marion County Public Defender Agency before leaving to start her own practice. While she has received training on representing clients facing the death penalty, she has never worked a capital murder case.

Turner said this case came to her through an email that was forwarded from an investigator Brown's family had contacted after his arrest. As she explained, the family did not want a public defender and was talking to another attorney. But the other lawyer, Turner said, was a former prosecutor with little experience handling major felony trials and who had not been doing criminal defense work for very long.

"So I was terrified that Jason's case would go to someone inexperienced and only in it for the possible publicity," Turner said. "So for the family, it wasn't a question of me representing Jason or the case going to the public defender agency; it was the other attorney or me."

An appeal withdrawn

Defense attorneys say private counsel representing a death penalty defendant is rare in Indiana. Public defenders typically defend individuals charged with capital crimes because of the cost of the case coupled with the demands of preparing for trial.

Until the beginning of 2018, the state had 2 death penalty cases represented by private counsel who needed to draw upon public funds to support their defenses. In addition to Turner, Fort Wayne attorney Nikos Nakos of Nakos & Adams was defending Marcus Dansby, who is accused of stabbing and shooting to death 3 adults and an unborn child.

Larry Landis, executive director of the Indiana Public Defender Council, said he empathizes with the dilemma judges confront in these cases. The bench has to weigh the defendant's right to choose counsel against the ability of the attorney to provide representation.

The Fort Wayne case, State of Indiana V. Marcus D. Dansby, 02D06-1609-MR-000010, could have provided some guidance for resolving that dilemma. Allen Superior Judge Frances Gull removed Nakos at the beginning of the year and appointed 2 public defenders, Michelle Kraus and Robert Gevers II.

Kraus said Gull carefully laid out her reasons for replacing Nakos. The judge made a record, citing caselaw and the standards from the American Bar Association, as she detailed what private counsel had done and not done on the Dansby case.

Nakos disputed that he was not adequately representing his client. He claimed he had hired a mitigation expert but Gull, after she signed the order allowing the expense, wanted more documentation showing the expert was qualified. That individual got angry and quit.

When Nakos found another, he said Gull referred to his submission to the court as containing "stupid (stuff)." In January 2018, he filed a motion for the judge to recuse herself and soon after, Gull removed him from the case.

Once the public defenders were appointed, they filed a petition for an interlocutory appeal. Kraus explained the central question under the Sixth Amendment was whether the defendant's right to an attorney of his own choice trumps his right to effective counsel. Although the trial court granted the petition, the public defenders decided not to proceed to the Indiana Supreme Court and withdrew the appeal.

Kraus said an appeal would have likely stayed the case for several months and the defendant wanted to keep things moving forward. The defense, she said, believes they have preserved the issue and, if needed after the trial, can revive the issue.

Although private counsel in death penalty cases is rare, Landis would still like to see the Indiana Supreme Court address the Sixth Amendment issue.

"At some point that dilemma needs to get resolved and it may ultimately get resolved in the Fort Wayne case if there is a trial and conviction," he said. "If the verdict is appealed, that will be one of the appellate issues."

Still a gray area

Fran Watson, professor in the criminal defense and wrongful conviction clinics at Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law, pointed to a recent ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court which could influence any subsequent decision by the Indiana justices.

The 6-3 decision in McCoy v. Louisiana held that a defendant has the right to choose the objective of the defense even if the attorney believes another strategy would avoid the death penalty. Watson sees this ruling as analogous to the Brown and Dansby cases. Following the Supreme Court’s reasoning, Brown and Dansby's right to pick their attorney would outweigh their right to effective counsel.

Indiana Prosecuting Attorney Council executive director David Powell and Jim Oliver, IPAC deputy director for criminal law, speculated that even with a ruling from the Indiana Supreme Court, questions still would arise. The 2 offered insight into death penalty cases but emphasized they were only talking in general terms and not specifically about the Brown or Dansby cases.

They agreed guidance about defendants' rights in capital cases would be helpful, but attorneys and judges could still struggle even if the justices create a bright line. Every case has a different set of facts so, they said, gray areas will probably still exist.

No blank check

In the Brown pre-trial conference, Turner sat alone with her client at the defense table, surrounded by 5 sheriff's deputies. At the other table, 3 prosecuting attorneys crowded together.

Carlisle pressed Turner. Among the judge's concerns was that the defense attorney has not found co-counsel, currently was defending 49 felony cases, and did not seem to be adequately preparing. Turner said she is actively seeking another attorney to assist and that she is doing all things that need to be done. In addition, she told Carlisle that the bulk of her workload was manageable because most of her cases were Level 6 felonies and Brown was her only murder case.

The judge was also concerned about the cost. Carlisle reminded the attorney she would have to justify the expenses because there would be no blank check.

A county can get reimbursed for half the cost of the capital defense but, according to Landis, only if the attorneys meet the requirements outlined in Rule 24 of the Indiana Rules of Criminal Procedure. Turner does not meet the requirements in part because she has no experience with a capital case and because she currently is defending more than 20 open felony cases. So, Marion County might have to foot her entire bill.

An analysis done by the Legislative Services Agency in 2015 examined the cost of the 8 death penalty cases that went to trial in Indiana between 1995 and 2013. The average cost of a capital murder trial was $789,581 with the state expenditures totaling $420,234 and the county expenditures reaching $369,347.

Turner acknowledged she is frustrated with the battles she feels she is having to fight to defend Brown. She said she understands that nobody wants the case to be reversed and sent back, but she worries that her client is not the center of everyone's attention.

Nevertheless, knowing what she knows now, Turner said she would still take Brown's case.

"If I felt like I was contributing to the community or to one person, I still would do it," she said. "I believe that nothing great comes with ease."

(source: The Indiana Lawyer)

KENTUCKY:

Death penalty to remain option in Butler double murder case

A judge denied bail Monday for a man suspected in the deaths of a retired pastor and his wife.

The death penalty will also remain a potential option for punishment for Kevin Dye if he is found guilty as charged of 2 counts of murder.

Dye, 36, of Morgantown, is accused of shooting and killing Kenneth Neafus, 71, and his wife, Dorothy, 70, who were found dead Aug. 9, 2016, at their Richland Church Road home.

Dye is also accused of receiving stolen property (firearm) and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.

He has been held in Butler County Jail since his arrest Aug. 25, 2016, but his defense team of attorneys Currie and Wes Milliken filed motions to eliminate the death penalty and to set a bond for his release while the case is pending.

Dye's attorneys argued the evidence in the case is too weak to support a finding of guilt on all charges and a jury's decision in favor of the death penalty would be "arbitrary, capricious and inadequately reliable."

Court filings by Dye's attorney featured claims that Dye's DNA hasn't been found at the crime scene and the Neafuses' DNA hasn't been found in Dye's vehicle.

"The stuff most likely to have yielded that (evidence) has all been tested and ruled out," Wes Milliken said Monday.

Butler County Commonwealth's Attorney Blake Chambers disputed the defense's characterization of the evidence, saying Monday that 102 items have been gathered by Kentucky State Police and sent for testing at the KSP Central Lab.

Most of those items have been analyzed, but 22 items are left to be tested, Chambers said.

State law allows prosecutors to seek the death penalty in murder cases under any of several conditions, including if the case involves multiple deaths.

Chambers also contended that, because the offenses in the case are punishable by death, bail cannot be imposed on the defendant.

To support his argument, he called KSP Detective Jason Lanham as a witness to testify about his involvement in the investigation.

Lanham said he was called to the Neafuses' home to assist in the investigation Aug. 9, 2016, and found Kenneth Neafus' body in the yard near the front of the house and his wife's body on a couch in the living room.

Both people appeared to have been shot in the head, and Kenneth Neafus' body showed signs of blunt force trauma to the head as well, Lanham said.

Prescription bottles and firearms were reported missing from the residence.

The detective began talking to relatives of the late couple.

"The family could not give me the name of anyone they'd suspect of doing this," Lanham said.

About a week later, Lanham heard from one of the couple's daughters, who recalled visiting with her parents in July 2016 and noticed that her father was acting strangely and mentioned he had received some troubling information, but he did not elaborate.

Lanham was also contacted by KSP Sgt. Brian McKinney, a Morgantown resident who suggested looking into Dye as a possible suspect.

"(McKinney) described (Dye) to me as very hot-headed ... a local drug dealer, he heard he had been breaking into houses and going door-to-door asking for money," Lanham said.

KSP officers received an anonymous tip Aug. 11, 2016, urging them to investigate Dye and heard from then-Butler County Jailer Terry Fugate four days later, who reported that someone came to his house about the murder and said "Dye was a good suspect to look at" and that he had been trying to get money from elderly residents in the area, Lanham testified.

Lanham said he attempted to contact Dye at his residence but got no answer and left a business card.

Dye came to KSP Post 3 in Bowling Green on Aug. 16, 2016, and was interviewed by detectives about his actions around the time of the homicides.

Dye was reluctant to answer a question from Lanham about whether he knew of a reason to kill the Neafuses.

"I repeated the question 4 times, but he never answered the question," Lanham said. "He started crying ... and said they were good people and they really helped (him)."

On Aug. 24, 2016, KSP heard from someone who reported that one of Dye's children talked about seeing Dye with blood on his arms, and Lanham followed up the following day, meeting the child at Morgantown Elementary School.

The child told police that he was in Dye's vehicle on the night of Aug. 8, 2016, outside of what police confirmed was the Neafus residence and that he saw "an older, bigger man" run out of the house toward the car, with Dye pushing the man away from the car and onto the grass, Lanham said.

The child described Dye as "hitting the bad man with a rock" and said Dye got into the car and used wet wipes to clean blood from his arms, the detective testified.

Multiple neighbors also reported that their homes were burglarized and money, weapons and drugs were stolen a few days after Dye visited them to ask for money, Lanham said.

Police obtained a search warrant for the car and Dye's residence, where they found a .32-caliber revolver that had been reported stolen. The Neafuses were struck with bullets fired from a .32-caliber firearm, Lanham said.

Dye was interviewed again the day of his arrest, and he was confrontational with police.

"He was so confrontational we had to stand up and detain him," Lanham said.

KSP obtained Dye's cellphone and saw no activity during a 2-week period around the double homicide, but interviews with relatives established that Dye had been calling and sending texts during that time, Lanham said.

A pair of boots were also taken from Dye's home and found to have blood on them from three individuals, but there was not enough blood to do a comparative analysis and determine whose blood it was, according to the detective.

Under cross-examination from Wes Milliken, Lanham said testing of the firearm could not confirm that this was the murder weapon, and that none of the victims' blood was found in Dye's vehicle and no blood found in the Neafus' home matched Dye.

Lanham also testified he was not aware that Dye's son visited Chambers' office with his mother and recanted his account.

Crocker denied the motion for bail based on the information gathered in the investigation.

(source: Bowling Green Daily News)

NEBRASKA:

Garcia death penalty hearing to begin Wednesday

The death penalty phase for convicted serial killer Anthony Garcia is set to begin Wednesday.

Garcia was convicted in the 2008 deaths of Thomas Hunter, the 11-year-old son of Creighton University Medical Center pathologist Dr. William Hunter and the family's housekeeper, Shirlee Sherman, as well as the 2013 deaths of Creighton pathologist Dr. Roger Brumback and his wife Mary.

The 3 judge panel is expected to convene at 9 a.m. Wednesday. District Court Judge Gary Randall of Douglas County, District Court Judge W. Russell Bowie of Douglas County and District Judge Rick Schreiner of Gage County will determine whether Garcia will get life in prison or the death penalty.

Garcia's defense will argue mitigating circumstances. Prosecutors will argue aggravating circumstances.

If the 3 judge panel determines aggravating circumstances outweigh mitigating circumstances, Garcia will get the death penalty.

(source: WOWT news)

CALIFORNIA:

ACLU revises tactics to stop executions in California

The will of the people is being challenged as the courts continue to stall the implementation of the death penalty. Despite the passage of Prop 66 to speed up executions, California has not conducted an execution since 2006. There are more than 750 people on death row. Of those, more than 20 have lost their final appeal.

Michele Hanisee President of the Association of Los Angeles District Attorneys says the American Civil Liberties Union, a longtime opponent of the death penalty, had to file a new lawsuit to continue their campaign to prevent any executions from taking place.

"After years of litigation and writing ballot initiatives, all their prior lawsuits and arguments had been defeated and Proposition 66, which the voters enacted, said the execution protocol is not subject to this public vetting process and the Administrative Procedures Act. You have to understand the execution protocol has always been a 50-60-page-long document. It's a soup to nuts recipe for what we're going to do if we're going to execute someone, including, are they sane enough? Do we move them to a secure cell? What is their last meal going to be? Do we get them a minister? Everything step-by-step. Now the ACLU is saying, 'whoa, whoa, whoa! All that stuff? That's not exempt from the public commentary process. Only the specific part about how you kill them.'"

She says the other stuff was never an issue for the ACLU before.

(source: KABC News)

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

Jurors Weigh Death Penalty for Former Marine Guilty in Serial Killings

An 8-time serial killer was driven by anger and frustration combined with childhood trauma and brain damage, his attorney on Monday told jurors who will soon weigh whether the convicted killer should receive the death penalty.

As the penalty phase in the capital murder trial of Andrew Urdiales came to an end, the 53-year-old killer's attorney argued that Urdiales feels remorse for his actions and helped bring closure to the victim's families by confessing to killing women in Orange, Riverside and San Diego counties.

Urdiales has been convicted of killing 1 woman in Orange County while stationed as a U.S. Marine at Camp Pendleton; 4 women in Riverside and San Diego counties while stationed at Twentynine Palms; and 3 women in Chicago while working as a security guard after leaving the military.

Urdiales' attorney, Denise Gragg, during her closing arguments Monday noted that had her client not brought up the California murders soon after being arrested for the Chicago killings, law enforcement officials would not have tied the slayings together.

"He didn't say he was crazy, he didn't say he was hallucinating, he didn't say that God made him do it," Gragg said. "He was trying to figure out why he did it, he didn't want to do it and he felt bad about doing it. Bad enough to go to therapy for years, and bad enough that when he knew he was caught for the Chicago murders to say 'call California'... that is worth something. That is worth a lot."

The same Santa Ana jury last month found Urdiales guilty of the Orange County murder of Robbin Brandley in 1986 in a Saddleback College parking lot in Mission Viejo; and over the next 7 years the Riverside County killings of Julie McGhee, Tammie Erwin and Denise Maney; and the San Diego slaying of Mary Ann Wells. A Chicago jury previously convicted him of the killings of Laura Uylaki, Cassandra Corum and Lynn Huberand.

During the most recent phase of the trial, jurors also heard dramatic testimony from Jennifer Asbenson, who described in terrifying detail how she escaped from Urdiales after being kidnapped and sexually assaulted in a remote Riverside County desert.

Gragg contended that Urdiales was born with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, a result of his mother's drinking during her pregnancy. His condition was worsened by a childhood marked by emotional, physical, sexual and psychological abuse, as well as teen years in which he was targeted for regular harassment, the defense attorney said.

Gragg told jurors that Urdiales was unable to connect with others, particularly women, and had "free-floating anger" that led him to "lash out."

"There are people who commit these crimes because they just enjoy it," Gragg said. "They enjoy hurting other people. That is not Mr. Urdiales."

Deputy District Attorney Matt Murphy during his closing arguments. dismissed what he referred to as the "sad, abused, loner narrative."

"Kind of tough to make friends when you keep killing people you could be friends with," Murphy told jurors.

Murphy described Urdiales as a a "misogynistic, sadistic monster" who killed for his own pleasure. The prosecutor questioned whether Urdiales actually suffered from fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, arguing that he was capable of controlling his impulse and desires.

Murphy also noted that Urdiales during one police interview told police he had no remorse for killing Brandley, an aspiring broadcaster who was stabbed 41 times.

"What weight do we put on that?" Murphy asked the jury. "How many layers of horror do we need before (death) is the appropriate penalty?"

Jurors began deliberations on Tuesday morning as to whether Urdiales should receive the death penalty or life without the possibility of parole.

(source: military.com)

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

Gov. Brown should do the right thing and grant clemency to death row inmate Kevin Cooper

Stymied by legal challenges, the state of California has not executed any of its more than 700 condemned prisoners since 2006. But if the machinery of death ever does rev back up, Kevin Cooper will be on the short list of people to receive lethal injections. He shouldn't be, and Gov. Jerry Brown needs to ensure that it doesn't happen.

Cooper was convicted of horrific crimes. Douglas and Peggy Ryen, their 10-year-old daughter Jessica, and 11-year-old houseguest Christopher Hughes were hacked and slashed to death in June 1983. The Ryens' 8-year-old son Josh miraculously survived having his throat cut.

Even though Cooper has spent more than 30 years on death row for the murders, however, serious questions have lingered.

For instance, Josh Ryen initially told hospital workers that the family had been attacked by 3 or 4 white men. Cooper is black.

What's more, a woman said that on the day of the murders, her former boyfriend had been wearing a tan T-shirt similar to one found near the crime scene. She also said he showed up at her house wearing blood-spattered coveralls. (The coveralls were discarded by a sheriff's deputy, the blood untested.)

No matter what the DNA test finds, Brown should commute Cooper's sentence to life in prison without parole.

The forensic evidence linking Cooper to the killings was thin, and there are strong arguments that some of it was planted after his arrest. For instance, years after Cooper's arrest, a blood test was performed on the tan T-shirt and, according to analysts, the test detected his DNA. At first, that seemed to be the incontrovertible scientific evidence that had for so long eluded investigators - but an appellate judge noted that the blood on the T-shirt contained signs of a chemical used by the sheriff's office to preserve blood in a laboratory for later testing. According to the judge, that suggested the blood "had been planted on the T-shirt."

That shirt remains at the center of the current battle over Cooper's guilt. Trace DNA tests not available at the time of the crimes or Cooper's trial or his earlier appeals could, experts argue, determine whether Cooper or someone else had worn the shirt. But since Cooper has exhausted his appeals, prosecutors have refused to conduct the test.

There are 2 outrages here. First, there is no rational reason not to do the tests. A man's life hangs in the balance. If the state wants to execute someone, it must go to extreme lengths to make certain the inmate is actually guilty. It's true that Cooper has exhausted all his legal appeals, but that's no reason to refuse to take another step to determine whether the state has convicted the wrong man. It was just 6 weeks ago that Vicente Benavides Figueroa was freed after a quarter-century on death row when it was finally determined that the medical evidence against him was based on incomplete records. 7 months ago, Craig Coley was released from a life sentence when new DNA tests of evidence from his 1980 trial proved his innocence.

Second, there are serious accusations here about the planting of evidence and the destruction of other evidence, the failure of prosecutors to share exculpatory evidence with Cooper's lawyer, lies by investigators and other acts of official misconduct. These demonstrate yet again why the capital punishment process is too imperfect and manipulable to be relied upon. Even if the DNA test doesn't provide incontrovertible proof that Cooper is innocent, it is still the case that actions by police and prosecutors - such as throwing away the bloody coveralls - deprived Cooper of due process and a fair trial.

Cooper filed this clemency petition more than 2 years ago, yet Brown has not acted on it. No matter what the DNA test finds, Brown should commute Cooper's sentence to life in prison without parole. (Because Cooper has prior felony burglary convictions, four state Supreme Court justices would have to approve, too.)

The Times opposes the death penalty under any circumstances in part because of cases such as this, in which a person who may very well be innocent could get executed. There is no known mechanism to ensure against that.

The governor, who also opposes the death penalty, knows the capital punishment system is inherently flawed. And the Cooper case bares those flaws in excruciating detail. The system has failed from beginning to end, and it would be both an error of judgment and a failure of morality to keep Cooper on death row any longer.

Brown has over his recent 8-year stint in the governor's office made tough decisions on a range of issues. This one actually is easy. Brown should grant clemency and see that the DNA test is conducted.

(source: Editorial, Los Angeles Times)

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

Suspect in weekend homicide could face death penalty

22-year-old Celina Victoria Ramirez may have been murdered as she waited at night along a north Stockton boulevard because she was willing to testify as a witness in another crime, according to charges presented in court Tuesday against the young gang member accused of killing her.

In addition, the San Joaquin County District Attorney's Office believes that defendant Alexes Daniel "Mumbles" Corrales, 20, carried out the murder of Ramirez for the benefit of his gang. If convicted, he faces the possibility of death or life in state prison without the possibility of parole.

Corrales, who is being held in County Jail without bail, appeared before a judge Tuesday for his arraignment on numerous felonies, including suspicion of murder with 3 special circumstances: murder of a witness, discharging a firearm from a vehicle with the intent to kill and murder committed for a criminal street gang.

He did not enter a plea Tuesday. Instead, Superior Court Judge Ron Northup appointed the Public Defender's Office to represent Corrales and scheduled further arraignment for June 26.

About 11:05 p.m. Saturday, Stockton police got a report of a person shot in a busy commercial corridor on the east side of West Lane between East Hammer Lane and Knickerbocker Drive. Responding officers found Ramirez on the sidewalk near Normandy Village. She was suffering from at least 1 gunshot wound to the head, according to authorities. The charge against Corrales implies that the shot came from a passing vehicle.

When medics arrived, they declared Ramirez dead at the scene, police reported.

Corrales was arrested Sunday afternoon about 10 miles south of the crime scene while driving on Arch Airport Road near Highway 99. The DA's Office reported police found a shotgun in his car.

In September 2016, Corrales pleaded no contest - the same as a guilty plea - to a felony charge of willful discharge of a firearm in a grossly negligent manner and admitted to street gang activity, an enhancement to the charge. With that plea, 2 other charges were dismissed and Corrales was sentenced to 16 months with a condition that he register as a gang offender. His weapon was ordered confiscated and destroyed, according to court documents.

Ultimately, Corrales walked out of jail within hours of sentencing due to time already served. But the crime he was convicted of put one strike on his criminal record. If convicted of these latest charges, he would get a 2nd strike, according to the DA's Office.

In addition to the murder and special circumstances charges, some of the counts also leveled against Corrales include suspicion of intentional discharge of a firearm causing death, criminal street gang activity and 2 counts of being a felon in possession of a firearm (a 9mm semiautomatic handgun and a shotgun).

Authorities have provided no further information, including what crime Ramirez may have witnessed and details about Corrales' gang affiliation.

(source: Stockton Record)

TRINIDAD & TOBAGO:

Death for murderers sends strong message

THE EDITOR: Roman Catholic priest Fr Ian Taylor made a bold declaration approximately 1 year ago. He called for the death penalty to be reinstated to kill murderers. This was condemned almost immediately by then archbishop Joseph Harris. He said it could never be an answer to solve the crime epidemic because this is "totally against what the church stands for."

RC priest Fr Gregory Augustine, in response to Taylor's comments, said: "The church is an institution that does not believe in capital punishment."

He said serious crimes ought to be fully explored so as to determine the root cause because these were not natural.

"We as a society have to spend more time developing that human aspect," he said.

While Augustine is spending his time developing the human aspect, crime has gotten worse and one year later citizens are still being subjected to gun attacks, kidnappings, rape, arson attacks, domestic violence, and other violent and heinous crimes. We need a solution now.

If would-be criminals know without a shadow of a doubt that they will be put to death should they murder with premeditation, most of them are less likely to kill.

Capital punishment is the ultimate warning against all crimes. If the criminal knows the justice system will not stop from putting him to death, then the system appears more fearful to him. Hence, he is less inclined to commit a serious crime. He may have no intention of killing anyone in the process of robbing them, but is much more apprehensive about the possibility if he knows in his mind he will be executed.

Fr Taylor was very wise in his call for the reinstatement of the death penalty for murderers because the taking of the murderer's life sends a strong message that murder is not acceptable and will not go unpunished. Retribution has its place in religion which historically maintains that it is proper to take an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth and a life for a life.

It is true that the victim and the victim's family cannot be restored to the status which existed before the murder, but at least an execution brings some form of closure to the murderer's crime and ensures that he will not repeat his crime, resulting in more victims.

For the most cruel and heinous crimes, the ones for which the death penalty is applied, offenders deserve the worst punishment possible and that is the death penalty. Any lesser punishment would undermine the value society places on protecting lives.

Life seems to have no value in Trinidad any longer. For justice to prevail, some killers just need to be put to death.

Simon Wright, Chaguanas

(source: Letter to the Editor, Trinidad & Tobago Newsday)

BURKINA FASO:

Botswana rights group applauds Burkina Faso over death penalty move

The Botswana Centre for Human Rights on Tuesday congratulated Burkina Faso for abolishing the death penalty and called on the authorities in Gaborone to emulate their peers in the West African country.On May 31 Burkina Faso became the 21st African state to abolish the death penalty.

This followed an adoption of new penal code by Burkinabe parliamentarians which included an increase in fines and placing life imprisonment as the maximum penalty. This adoption means that the death penalty has been removed.

"We believe that our government should take the lead in condemning the use of force as a demonstration of its commitment to the respect for the dignity of all human beings," the Botswana Centre for Human Rights said.

Botswana remains the only country in southern Africa which continues to carry out the death penalty. The most recent execution was on 25 May.

The Botswana Centre for Human Rights called on the Botswana government "to act in concert with an increasing number of our African states by imposing a moratorium on the use of the death penalty with the ultimate aim to abolish it."

Botswana still insists that its citizens are not opposed to death penalty as a deterrent to murder cases.

(source: journalducameroun.com)

ZAMBIA:

Abolish death penalty

THE Human Rights Commission (HRC) has urged Government to abolish the death penalty both by law and practice by ratifying the second optional protocol to the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights.HRC vice-chairperson Kondwa Sakala said it is encouraging that no head of State has signed a death warrant in Zambia since 1997 and no execution has taken place.

Ms Sakala said this yesterday during a Universal Periodic Review (UPR) information dissemination breakfast meeting.

(source: Daily Mail)

JUNE 12, 2018:

TEXAS:

Texas death row inmate convicted of killing boy, 9, loses appeal

The U.S. Supreme Court Monday refused to review the appeal of a Houston man on death row for the 1992 slaying of a 9-year-old boy.

The justices offered no comment Monday in rejecting the case of Perry Allen Austin, 58.

Austin was serving a 30-year term for sexual assault on a child when he pleaded guilty in April 2002 to capital murder for injecting David Kazmouz with a pain killer and then slitting the boy's throat.

The boy's skeletal remains were found in Houston in 1993.

Austin confessed in 2001.

Attorneys have argued in appeals he wasn't mentally competent to plead guilty.

Prosecutors described Austin as a drug courier for a Houston street gang.

He volunteered for execution, then changed his mind a week before his scheduled punishment in 2003.

(source: Associated Press)

PENNSYLVANIA:

'Death! I sentenced someone to DEATH!' - York County juror describes the emotional toll

I did not take this lightly. None of us did. We carried this weight for 10 days - and continue to carry this weight.

Recently, I was chosen to be on the jury of a high-profile homicide case in York. Initially, I was intrigued and a bit excited at the thought of such an interesting case. I was one in 16, of 100 people, selected to sit in on a trial at which the death penalty was a possibility.

For someone who regularly watches criminal TV shows and documentaries, this was incredible! I had NO idea what I was in for.

For 10 days, I listened to testimony and viewed evidence of the horrific killing of a young woman and man. I saw pictures of their bodies. I listened to the gruesome details of their deaths.

For 10 days, I watched as the young woman's family sat in the courtroom, on edge and emotional as they listened to the details of their daughter's final moments of life.

For 10 days, I watched the defendant's mom in the back of the courtroom as she listened to the accusations against her son - her pride and joy. And then again as she held her hands over her ears as the prosecution delivered their closing arguments.

For 10 days, I watched a man, accused of heinous crimes, as he struggled to declare his innocence.

But in the end, justice served or not, I now only hear silence.

Memories burned in my mind.

Pictures forever filed in my brain.

A 10-day experience that has and will continue to forever change me.

This was not an hour of "CSI," this was real life. 2 human beings were taken from this earth and from their families at the hands of another. I had no idea that I'd be affected in this way. No idea that days afterward, I'd still think of the families - defendant and victims - and carry such a heavy burden for all. That I would wonder what is truly going on in the mind of a man who is now sentenced to death. And that I was 1 of 12 who deliberated and thought and prayed about the task we were asked to carry through: To judge impartially, and to uphold the law.

I did not take this lightly. None of us did. We carried this weight for 10 days - and continue to carry this weight, even though it's all over. We lived it and experienced it, as close to being there in the actual moment as we could be.

We reviewed the evidence and we reviewed the information that we were given. We read the law, and we made a choice - death.

Death! I sentenced someone to DEATH!

I have heard it over and over in the last few days: I didn't do this to him, he did it to himself. I didn't ruin the lives of his family members, he did. I didn't take away the only daughter that Danielle's family had, he did. And I didn't take Foday away from his family and loved ones either.

While they're absolutely right, it still doesn't ease the enormity of this situation and experience. And sadly, for me, it doesn't change the hurt in my heart.

Nobody wins. I'll say it again: Nobody. Wins.

Danielle and Foday aren't coming back. Their families cannot call them on the phone or send them a letter. The 4 witnesses cannot erase the images and trauma now engraved in their hearts and minds. And Mrs. Henry no longer has a son to help her with life at home.

And last, but not least, is me - ME.

In 10 days, I went from an hour of "CSI" to real life. I went from restful dreams to restless nights. I went from ignorance to overwhelming reality. This is real life. These are real people. And this is the real me. A faith-filled and caring person who was chosen to decide a man's fate. A fate that when decided was death.

It has gripped me. And I continue to think of, and cry for, all those involved. This has affected me more than I could ever have imagined. What started out as intrigue has turned into pure heartbreak.

Mention jury duty to anyone within earshot, and guaranteed someone will mention how boring and miserable it is. And yes, that's typically the case. What I expected to be a week of reading a book turned into 3 weeks of intense and exhausting emotions. Never would I have believed that I'd be here in this position.

I did not choose this. I did not choose to be placed on that panel. But I know it happened for a reason. I only hope and pray that some of that reason can somehow turn into good, if that's even possible. I pray that this becomes more than about a man who stormed into a house and took 2 lives.

I pray we remember the lives of the lost and their families. And the lives of those who witnessed it and are now left to live without their friends and loved ones. And lastly, I also pray for myself and the 14 other jurors/alternates whose lives are forever changed as well.

(source: Elizabeth Enfield was a juror in the homicide trial of Paul Henry III----York Daily Record)

FLORIDA:

Man accused of killing son will go to trial after 5-year wait

A man accused of killing his 5-year-old son in 2013 will got to trial next week, a judge in Orange County ruled Monday.

Darell Avant Sr., now 31, is accused of beating Darell Avant Jr. to death nearly 5 years ago. He could face the death penalty if convicted.

Avant was in court Monday when his attorneys asked Circuit Judge Jenifer Harris for more time to prepare, talk to witnesses, and have a doctor evaluate the older Avant for evidence of a brain injury. Harris denied the motion and said jury selection will start June 18.

Defense attorneys particularly wanted to ask the child's mother and the medical examiner in the case about possible older injuries on Darell Avant Jr.'s body, which prosecutors may present to jurors as evidence of ongoing violence.

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

Bessman Okafor defense tries to disqualify prosecutor, citing conflict of interest in death penalty case

Convicted killer Bessman Okafor's attorney is trying to disqualify the prosecutor in his death penalty re-sentencing because of a possible conflict of interest - though Okafor said wanted to go back to prison instead of attending the hearing about it.

Okafor has been working on an appeal in another case and wants access to a law library, he wrote to Circuit Judge John Marshall Kest. The library in prison is more comprehensive than the one he has access to when brought back to the Orange County Jail for hearings, he wrote.

"Usually those are pretty severe, pretty significant motions," Kest told Okafor in court Monday. "Generally you would want to be here. You don't have to be here if you don't want to, but I would think that you might want to seriously think about staying for that one hearing and then going back [to prison.]"

Okafor still said he wanted to return to the prison and let his defense attorney, Dean Mosley, have the hearing without him. Kest said he was willing to set the hearing for some time in the next to weeks so Okafor could attend, then send him back to prison until his trial date gets closer.

Okafor was convicted in the 2012 murder of Alex Zaldivar, a 19-year-old who was supposed to testify against him in a home invasion case. A jury recommended a death sentence for Okafor over life in prison by a vote of 11-1, but that verdict was overturned after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled death sentences must come from unanimous juries. A new jury will decide whether Okafor should be sentenced to death or life in prison in a trial scheduled for November.

Okafor's defense attorney filed a motion Monday arguing State Attorney Brad King - that Ocala-based state attorney whose office is prosecuting the case - should be removed from it. King also leads the state's Judicial Administrative Commission, the board that funds the defense of some people facing the death penalty who cannot afford their own attorneys.

The JAC board in May voted not to renew the contract of mitigation specialist Cynthia O'Shea, who has been looking into Okafor's background and family history to gather evidence meant to convince a jury not to sentence him to death. The commissions auditor said O'Shea sometimes billed taxpayers for more than 17 hours of work in a single day and sent duplicate bills.

"To have Brad King sit on a board that approves or denies funding to a death penalty defendant is inherently a serious conflict," Mosley wrote. "The interest are in direct opposition of each other. He would also know or be in a position to glean from funding request the defense strategies of a defendant, which would be in violation of a defendant's attorney client privilege."

An attorney for Markeith Loyd, whom King is prosecuting for charges of killing his pregnant ex-girlfriend and an Orlando police officer, filed a similar motion last week. O'Shea worked on Loyd's case as well. Chief Judge Frederick Lauten will hear evidence in that case Tuesday morning.

(source for both: Orlando Sentinel)

OHIO:

Court to Hear Case of Ohio Man Who Killed 88-Year-Old Woman

The Ohio Supreme Court plans to hear arguments in the case of a condemned killer convicted of fatally beating and stabbing an 88-year-old woman during a robbery.

Death row inmate James Goff was sentenced to death in the 1994 slaying of Myrtle Rutledge in her Wilmington home in southwestern Ohio. He was found guilty by a jury the following year.

A federal appeals court ruled in 2010 that Goff received poor legal help during his appeals. He went before a judge in 2015 for a new sentencing and again received the death penalty.

The 43-year-old Goff argues he was wrongly prevented from presenting a psychological update and evidence of his good behavior in prison at his resentencing.

The Supreme Court planned oral arguments Tuesday morning.

(source: Associated Press)

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

A retired warden supports clemency for death-row inmate Ray Tibbetts

The Ohio Parole Board will hear the case of Ray Tibbetts on Thursday.

I spent almost 30 years of my life working in the Ohio prison system, beginning as a chaplain at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility. I later worked in a number of other positions, eventually serving as warden at Madison, London and Pickaway correctional institutions. My time working directly with inmates showed me what my faith had always taught me was true: All life has value, even those who have committed horrible and despicable acts and that change and rehabilitation are possible.

Based on my experience, I believe that Ray Tibbetts' death sentence should be commuted to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

In February, Gov. John Kasich asked the Ohio Parole Board to take another look at Tibbetts' case because of a highly unusual circumstance: A juror, Ross Geiger, came forward to ask for mercy for Tibbetts.

In a letter to the governor, the juror said that if he had heard the detailed evidence about the brutality and abuse Tibbetts suffered as a child and other strong mitigating evidence that wasn't presented at trial, he would have voted for a sentence of life without parole. Under our rules in Ohio, if 1 juror - in this case, Geiger - had voted for life without parole, Tibbetts would not have ended up on death row.

As Geiger explained in his letter, Tibbetts' trial attorneys utterly failed to present compelling evidence that would have caused him to spare Tibbetts' life. Tibbetts was severely abused and repeatedly abandoned throughout his childhood. When he was age 2, Tibbetts and his siblings were placed in foster care. Even though the prosecutor at trial told the jury that foster care was the best thing that ever happened to Tibbetts, he and his siblings were malnourished, routinely beaten and humiliated.

Tibbetts and his siblings endured a variety of cruel punishments such as being tied in their beds, lying in their own urine all night, being forced to stand until they collapsed and being denied food but forced, as they cried from hunger, to watch their foster family eat.

All of the siblings were deeply scarred by their upbringing with one committing suicide and others suffering with mental illness, addiction, homelessness and incarceration. For Tibbetts, his abusive childhood resulted in serious drug and alcohol addiction as an adult.

Backgrounds like Tibbetts' are all too common for people who enter our prison system. The Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction recognizes this, and like the department’s name suggests, is dedicated to not only protecting the public, but also offering rehabilitative opportunities to the incarcerated.

Considering all that Tibbetts went through as a child, his ability to overcome and find success and sobriety as an adult inmate is a credit to the department.

I understand Tibbetts' life has been transformed through his Christian faith and serves as a spiritual resource to other incarcerated men. He is active in a prison ministry and provides messages of hope, support and redemption through correspondence with others who are incarcerated. He is no longer the troubled criminal, addicted to drugs and alcohol, as he was when he entered death row 20 years ago. He is remorseful, reflective and reformed.

To be sure, Tibbetts must be held accountable for his actions, but executing a changed man who committed a terrible deed does not make our justice system just. There is nothing redemptive about the death penalty. It not only removes the offender, no matter how far removed from the original offense, but it also affects those who carry out the execution.

Correctional personnel, from corrections officers up through the ranks to wardens and above, also carry the lingering weight of taking a life, a burden no one should have to carry.

By all accounts, by the grace of God, Tibbetts has experienced a radical transformation. I understand he is a model inmate, a positive influence inside the cellblock as he shares his story. If Tibbetts is granted clemency, he will never return to free society. He will be able to continue functioning as an example of a changed life and a redeemed person, an asset though limited by his confinement.

For Tibbetts, court appeals are over. But the parole board, with its recommendation, and Gov. Kasich, with his ultimate decision, can fix this injustice. I pray that they find the strength to do what is right, affirming truth and acknowledging the value of a changed life, and spare the life of Ray Tibbetts.

(source: George D. Alexander served as one of the first chaplains at Southern Ohio Correctional Facility and in several administrative positions there. He also is a former warden of the Madison, London, and Pickaway correctional institutions. He resides in Delaware, Ohio---- Opinion; Akron Beacon Journal)

INDIANA:

Judge rejects Gary man's claims of ineffective counsel in 2013 death penalty case

A criminal court judge denied a petition for post-conviction relief filed on behalf of Kevin Isom, a Gary man sentenced to death for the murders in 2007 of his wife and 2 stepchildren.

Judge Samuel L. Cappas and Magistrate Judge Natalie Bokota determined in a ruling issued Friday that Isom failed to establish in his petition that he suffered from ineffective counsel at his murder trial or during the appeals process.

Isom, 52, was convicted in 2013 at trial of 3 counts each of murder for the shooting deaths in August 2007 of his wife and 2 stepchildren at their apartment in the 5700 block of Hemlock Avenue in Gary. The victims were Cassandra Isom, 40; Michael Moore, 16; and Andria Cole, 13.

The jury determined during the penalty phase of the trial Isom should be put to death for the crimes.

Isom was initially represented by defense attorney Nick Thiros and other members of the law firm Thiros & Thiros. After Thiros' death from cancer in October 2010, Isom fired his defense team and was appointed attorneys Herbert Shaps and Casey McCloskey of the Lake County Public Defender's Office, who represented Isom at his murder trial.

The judges note in their opinion both Shaps and McCloskey had decades of law experience. Shaps, who served as lead counsel, had litigated more than 300 jury trials, including 76 murder trials.

Both attorneys testified at an evidentiary hearing in March that Isom maintained his innocence throughout their representation.

Shaps testified Isom, "unequivocally wanted a trial," despite signing a written confession to the crimes and barricading himself in his apartment with his dead family during an hours-long SWAT team standoff.

The defense attorneys complied with Isom's wishes and argued at trial an unknown perpetrator broke into the Isom family apartment, killed Isom's wife and stepchildren, injured Isom and left him in the apartment.

The judges noted in their opinion the U.S. Supreme Court recently issued an opinion supporting the decision by McCloskey and Shaps to comply with Isom's wishes to maintain his innocence.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in an opinion issued May 14 that Robert McCoy, a Louisiana resident convicted in 2011 of murdering three members of his estranged wife's family, should be granted a new trial because his defense attorney admitted his client was guilty at trial, despite McCoy's wishes to maintain his innocence.

The attorney admitted his client's guilt during trial because he hoped to obtain a life-in-prison sentence during the penalty phase of the trial. Instead the jury sentenced McCoy to the death penalty.

The U.S. Supreme Court determined McCoy had a constitutional right to choose the objective of his defense and to insist that his counsel refrain from admitting guilt over his objections.

"Despite McCoy's insistence that he was innocent, his attorney conceded his guilt at trial and did what it appears Isom's post-conviction counsel would have Shaps and McCloskey do at the penalty phase: counsel "urged mercy in view of McCoy's 'serious mental and emotional issues,'" the judges wrote.

Counsel for Isom filed their petition for post-conviction relief Jan. 12, 2016. Though the petition was initially denied by Cappas because Isom refused to sign the documents, the Indiana Supreme Court ruled in January 2017 the petition could be filed in Lake Superior Court regardless of whether Isom signed the documents.

The petition for post-conviction relief is the final opportunity for state court consideration of Isom's case. The case will likely advance to federal court following Cappas' decision Friday.

(source: nwitimes.com)

ARKANSAS:

Arkansas judge seeks to dismiss complaint over demonstration

An Arkansas judge charged with breaking judicial ethics rules for participating in an anti-death penalty demonstration the same day he blocked the state from using an execution drug says a disciplinary panel should dismiss its case against him.

Pulaski County Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen's attorneys renewed their May 2017 request for the Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission to dismiss the complaint against the judge.

He was photographed on a cot outside the governor's mansion last year wearing an anti-death penalty button and surrounded by people holding signs opposing executions. Earlier that day, Griffen blocked the state from using a lethal injection drug over claims the company had been misled by the state.

A 3-member panel of the commission on Friday charged Griffen with violating ethics rules over the demonstration.

(source: Associated Press)

SOUTH DAKOTA:

Was This Man Sentenced to Death Because He's Gay?----His defenders say yes. South Dakota says no. The Supreme Court may soon weigh in.

Before South Dakota jurors decided the fate of Charles Rhines in 1993, they sent a handwritten note to the judge. They had just found Rhines guilty of fatally stabbing 22-year-old Donnivan Schaeffer, an employee of Dig 'Em Donuts in Rapid City, during a robbery a year earlier. But now they had some questions.

Case in Point

In "Case in Point," Andrew Cohen examines a single case or character that sheds light on the criminal justice system. An audio version of Case in Point is broadcast with The Takeaway, a public radio show from WNYC, Public Radio International, The New York Times, and WGBH-Boston Public Radio.

If they didn't vote for the death penalty, what would his life in prison look like? Would he be "allowed to mix with the general inmate population"? Would he be able "to create a group of followers or admirers"? Would he have a cellmate?

The judge said he couldn't answer, and the jury sent Rhines to death row, where he remains today. A few years ago, those seemingly innocuous questions became crucial to the last-ditch efforts to save his life. Rhines's lawyers knew that the jurors had been told that Rhines is gay. They went looking for jurors, following a hunch that turned out to be correct.

"There was lots of discussion of homosexuality," one juror recalled, according to affidavits later filed in court. "There were lots of folks who were like, 'Ew, I can't believe that.'" Another juror said they "knew that he was a homosexual and thought that he shouldn't be able to spend his life with men in prison." A 3rd recalled overhearing a fellow juror say that life in prison would mean "sending him where he wants to go."

In essence, the defense argues, the jury sent Rhines to his death because some jurors thought life in a male prison might be enjoyable for a gay man.

South Dakota jurors sent Charles Rhines, pictured, to death row for fatally stabbing Donnivan Schaeffer. Rapid City Journal

The Supreme Court is now considering whether to hear Rhines's argument that his death sentence should be thrown out because it was tainted by homophobia. In the wake of the Masterpiece Cakeshop decision - in which the court ruled for a baker who declined to bake a wedding cake for a same-sex couple - the Rhines case could pave the way for new legal debates about how the justice system treats LGBTQ+ people accused of crimes. Simply put: Can a sentence be overturned if it was based on someone's sexual orientation?

Until recently, the answer would have been an easy no. A central tenet of American law is that what happens in the jury room stays in the jury room. (This is often called the "no-impeachment rule.") But last year, the court made an exception to that rule in the case of Miguel Angel Pena-Rodriguez. He was convicted of sexually assaulting 2 teenage girls, but a juror had allegedly remarked that Mexican men "had a bravado that caused them to believe they could do whatever they wanted with women." Sending the case back to lower courts, Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote that judges should look at situations where a jury may have relied on "racial stereotypes or animus" to find someone guilty. The justices then ordered a lower court to revisit the case of Keith Tharpe. Years after sentencing Tharpe to death, a juror admitted, "I have wondered if black people even have souls."

These cases concern race, but Shawn Nolan, who oversees Rhines's defense team at the Federal Community Defender Office in Philadelphia, called sexual orientation "a natural next step."

Paul Swedlund, the assistant attorney general for South Dakota who is arguing against Rhines, said he could not comment on pending litigation. But his brief to the Supreme Court punches back hard, arguing that jurors had lots of reasons to sentence Rhines to death beyond his sexual orientation. "Rhines locked Donnivan's head between his knees and pounded a hunting knife into the base of Donnivan's skull, partially severing his brain stem," the brief says. "Unaffected by the screams and blood and death, Rhines left the store with his loot to get something to eat...an order of french fries."

Then there was his "bloodcurdling confession, in which he cackles while comparing young Donnivan's death spasms to a beheaded chicken running around a barnyard."

The state's lawyers also argue that discrimination against sexual minorities has not been as destructive - and thus in need of policing by the courts - as racial discrimination. "No politician has ever proposed constructing a wall to keep homosexuals out of the country," the state's brief says. "No civil war has been fought over [sexual orientation]. No nationwide pogrom has been perpetrated for the enslavement or eradication of homosexuals."

In other cases, prosecutors have been criticized for making inflammatory comments about a defendant's sexual orientation, but researchers know little about whether juries listen to them. A few studies have found that college students, serving as mock jurors, tend to find people they know are homosexual guilty more often in certain circumstances. "If there is a potential homosexuality component to the case, this is something that is on the minds of jurors," Bellarmine University criminologist Heather Pruss wrote in a dissertation based on thousands of interviews conducted by the national Capital Jury Project. But how jurors evaluate sexual orientation is difficult to untangle. In cases out of Kentucky and California, for example, jurors spoke disparagingly about gay victims - suggesting they were somehow culpable because they were lured by the defendants - and the implication was that this made the jurors less likely to vote for death.

Such cases are rare, and the legal battles over them are plagued by hazy facts. Juries don't typically record their conversations, and interviews with former jurors often happen years or even decades after the fact. Some judges also restrict the ability of defenders to interview former jurors. Even when they find them, each of the twelve can remember things a little differently.

South Dakota also says Rhines shouldn't have an audience before the Supreme Court because the defense misrepresented what jurors really said in interviews. The state sent its own investigator to find the jurors in May 2017. Many told him they had no memory of the homophobic comment and felt harassed by the defense. One did recall someone saying Rhines might "like life in the penitentiary among other men," but said this line was a passing remark that was given little weight.

The state lashed out at the defense lawyers as a "boutique, anti-death penalty law firm" that stretched the truth to save their client. "We're not boutique! We're public defenders!" Nolan responded, pointing out that the state has not shown that any jurors actually recanted their comments on homosexuality.

But what really happened in the jury room? I reached out to 3 jurors - 1 quoted by the defense, 1 quoted by the prosecution, and 1 quoted by both sides - and the picture grew even muddier.

Former juror Frances Cersosimo said last week that she vividly remembers a juror saying that Rhines might not mind life in prison because he was gay. "There was a murmuring, everyone said 'Whaaat?" Cersosimo recalled. Immediately, this man admitted "it was a stupid thing to say...I don't know why I said that." The South Dakota state investigator characterized this as a "joke," though Cersosimo insisted, "It was not a joke." (The juror she recalled being the one who said this declined to comment.)

In another affidavit collected by the defense, juror Harry Keeney admits the knowledge of Rhines's homosexuality affected his decision. His signature appears shaky and the state says this is because he has dementia. His wife Janet Keeney confirmed to The Marshall Project this is true. "I think he didn't say that," she said of the comment in question. "I wouldn't depend upon it."

"We'd just come back from a vacation," she added. "We were tired...The average person can't remember what happened 25 years ago."

The jurors I reached all said that they sentenced Rhines to death primarily because of the nature of the murder. "The pictures of the kid, he way he bragged about the kid begging for his life. Those things never leave your head," said juror Delight McGriff, who has no memory of any comments about homosexuality, though she admitted "this was a long time ago."

The Supreme Court will discuss whether to take the case on Thursday. Rhines's lawyers, in asking them to say yes, cite the case of Duane Buck. At his trial, an expert witness made remarks about his race. When the court overturned his sentence, Chief Justice John Roberts memorably declared that the "law punishes people for what they do, not who they are." The expert's comments boiled down to a couple of sentences, but Roberts noted that "some toxins are deadly in small doses." If the Supreme Court agrees to hear Rhines's case, they'll again need to decide how to weigh just a few words, uttered decades ago and now mostly forgotten.

(source: themarshallproject.org)

COLORADO:

Colorado Supreme Court rules prosecutorial misconduct docs can remain secret in death row case----The state's highest court ruled against The Colorado Independent in its attempt to unseal the records detailing wrongdoing by DA and AG candidate George Brauchler's office.

The Colorado Supreme Court today denied a petition from The Colorado Independent to unseal records about prosecutorial misconduct in the capital case against Sir Mario Owens, a death row inmate who was convicted of murdering a state lawmaker's son.

The unanimous ruling may make it easier for Colorado courts to decide to block public access to court documents. That includes, evidently, records related to cases in which the death penalty is at issue and cases in which prosecutors are accused of wrongdoing, said Steve Zansberg, attorney for the Independent.

"These types of documents are the only way the press and public can gauge whether prosecutors and judges - officials who have enormous power over people's lives - are serving ethically and fairly. By allowing these records to be shrouded in secrecy, this ruling will further erode confidence in Colorado's criminal justice system and the public's trust the judicial branch of our state government," said Independent Editor Susan Greene.

The Independent is considering appealing today's ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court, which, as the state Supreme Court wrote, has never ruled on the matter of whether access to "all criminal justice records is a constitutionally guaranteed right belonging to the public at large."

The statewide nonprofit news site filed an emergency petition in January to the state Supreme Court after District Court Judge Christopher Munch issued a 1,500-page order issued nine months ago in which Munch upheld Owens' conviction and death sentence despite having found a pattern of misconduct by state prosecutors whom the judge found withheld evidence that might have helped Owens.

This suppression of evidence happened under the watch of Carol Chambers, the former district attorney of the 18th Judicial District, and later under her successor, District Attorney George Brauchler, the Republican currently running for state attorney general.

Vikki Migoya, spokeswoman for Brauchler's office, said, "We feel the ruling speaks for itself and have nothing to add."

Owens' legal team filed a motion seeking to disqualify Brauchler's office from the case on grounds that the office had withheld evidence that could have helped Owens's defense. That motion asked the court to appoint a special prosecutor from another district, but it was denied and sealed along with the denial and all documentation related it.

"While presumptive access to judicial proceedings is a right recognized under both the state and federal constitutions," Justice Melissa Hart wrote on behalf of the state Supreme Court, "neither the United States Supreme Court nor this court has ever held that records filed with a court are treated the same way. We decline to conclude here that such unfettered access to criminal justice records is guaranteed by either the First Amendment or ... the Colorado Constitution."

The ruling today has statewide impact and "means the public will never come to understand why a motion to disqualify a prosecutor in a capital murder case was denied. That's, I think, deeply disconcerting," said Steve Zansberg, attorney for the Independent.

"I'm not saying (Owens's) motion should have been granted. but we'll never know why it was denied."

Said Jeff Roberts, executive director of the Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition, "Access to court records is important so that the public can evaluate how the criminal justice system is working and hold officials accountable. So it's disappointing that relevant facts about the prosecution of a capital murder case will remain under seal."

Owens, 32, was convicted and sentenced to death in 2008 for the 2005 killings of Vivian Wolfe and her fiancee, Javad Marshall-Fields - son of Rhonda Fields, now a state senator from Aurora. Marshall-Fields was scheduled to testify against a suspect in a different murder case for which Owens ultimately was convicted.

Owens is 1 of 3 death-row inmates in Colorado. All 3 were prosecuted by the office Brauchler now leads, and all 3 are African-American - a population that comprises less than 5 % of Colorado's overall population. Vast racial and socioeconomic disparities in who gets sentenced to death in the state have been cited by civil libertarians and even Gov. John Hickenlooper, a 1-time death penalty supporter, as reasons to reconsider capital punishment in the state.

Brauchler repeatedly has said his office is color-blind and ethical in seeking death sentences. Since The Independent became a party in The People v. Sir Mario Owens, the 18th Judicial District Court and the state Supreme Court have blocked access not just to documents related prosecutorial misconduct allegations, but also to Owens' entire 13-year case.

(source: coloradoindependent.com)

UTAH:

Prison settles lawsuit filed after inmate's death

A lawsuit filed in the death of a Utah man killed at the state prison has been settled.

Jeffrey Vigil, 24, was beaten and stabbed to death after guards ignored warnings that he would be in danger from members of a rival gang if he was moved to another part of the prison, the lawsuit claimed.

Terms of the settlement reached Thursday were not immediately available, the Standard-Examiner reported. The case filed by his widow originally sought $20 million in damages.

Prison authorities did not immediately respond to messages from The Associated Press seeking comment on the case Monday.

Vigil was in prison for almost a year after violating his parole when he was beaten to death in 2016. The suit also claimed the area was understaffed and guards were slow to react to the attack. It says authorities canceled a 911 call at one point, contributing to a 45-minute delay before he reached the hospital, the suit said.

The suit claimed prison officers were warned repeatedly that Vigil, a member of the Ogden Trece gang, could be targeted by members of the rival Crips gang if he was moved.

Vigil was originally in a maximum security area, but was transferred to a lower-security cell, "possibly as a reward for good behavior," the suit said.

He was attacked hours after being transferred, the suit states. Authorities say Ramon Luis Rivera, 31, stabbed him, choked him to unconsciousness and kicked him in the head at least 70 times. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty if he's convicted of aggravated murder.

An attorney for Rivera could not immediately be reached for comment. A 2nd man is accused of preventing Vigil from escaping.

(source: Associated Press)

CALIFORNIA:

Jurors to weigh death penalty for eight-time serial killer who murdered women in Orange, Riverside and San Diego counties

An 8-time serial killer was driven by anger and frustration combined with childhood trauma and brain damage, his attorney on Monday told jurors who will soon weigh whether the convicted killer should receive the death penalty.

As the penalty phase in the capital murder trial of Andrew Urdiales came to an end, the 53-year-old killer's attorney argued that Urdiales feels remorse for his actions and helped bring closure to the victim's families by confessing to killing women in Orange, Riverside and San Diego counties.

Urdiales has been convicted of killing 1 woman in Orange County while stationed as a U.S. Marine at Camp Pendleton; 4 women in Riverside and San Diego counties while stationed at Twentynine Palms; and 3 women in Chicago while working as a security guard after leaving the military.

Urdiales' attorney, Denise Gragg, during her closing arguments Monday noted that had her client not brought up the California murders soon after being arrested for the Chicago killings, law enforcement officials would not have tied the slayings together.

"He didn't say he was crazy, he didn't say he was hallucinating, he didn't say that God made him do it," Gragg said. "He was trying to figure out why he did it, he didn't want to do it and he felt bad about doing it. Bad enough to go to therapy for years, and bad enough that when he knew he was caught for the Chicago murders to say 'call California'... that is worth something. That is worth a lot."

The same Santa Ana jury last month found Urdiales guilty of the Orange County murder of Robbin Brandley in 1986 in a Saddleback College parking lot in Mission Viejo; and over the next 7 years the Riverside County killings of Julie McGhee, Tammie Erwin and Denise Maney; and the San Diego slaying of Mary Ann Wells. A Chicago jury previously convicted him of the killings of Laura Uylaki, Cassandra Corum and Lynn Huberand.

During the most recent phase of the trial, jurors also heard dramatic testimony from Jennifer Asbenson, who described in terrifying detail how she escaped from Urdiales after being kidnapped and sexually assaulted in a remote Riverside County desert.

Gragg contended that Urdiales was born with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, a result of his mother's drinking during her pregnancy. His condition was worsened by a childhood marked by emotional, physical, sexual and psychological abuse, as well as teen years in which he was targeted for regular harassment, the defense attorney said.

Gragg told jurors that Urdiales was unable to connect with others, particularly women, and had "free-floating anger" that led him to "lash out."

"There are people who commit these crimes because they just enjoy it," Gragg said. "They enjoy hurting other people. That is not Mr. Urdiales."

Deputy District Attorney Matt Murphy during his closing arguments. dismissed what he referred to as the "sad, abused, loner narrative."

"Kind of tough to make friends when you keep killing people you could be friends with," Murphy told jurors.

Murphy described Urdiales as a a "misogynistic, sadistic monster" who killed for his own pleasure. The prosecutor questioned whether Urdiales actually suffered from fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, arguing that he was capable of controlling his impulse and desires.

Murphy also noted that Urdiales during one police interview told police he had no remorse for killing Brandley, an aspiring broadcaster who was stabbed 41 times.

"What weight do we put on that?" Murphy asked the jury. "How many layers of horror do we need before (death) is the appropriate penalty?"

Jurors are expected to begin deliberations on Tuesday morning as to whether Urdiales should receive the death penalty or life without the possibility of parole.

(source: Orange County Register)

USA:

Public support for the death penalty ticks up

Public support for the death penalty, which reached a 4-decade low in 2016, has increased somewhat since then. Today, 54% of Americans favor the death penalty for people convicted of murder, while 39% are opposed, according to a Pew Research Center survey conducted in April and May.

2 years ago, 49% favored the death penalty for people convicted of murder, the lowest level of support for capital punishment in surveys dating back to the early 1970s.

While the share of Americans supporting the death penalty has risen since 2016, it remains much lower than in the 1990s or throughout much of the 2000s. As recently as 2007, about twice as many Americans favored (64%) as opposed (29%) the death penalty for people convicted of murder.

Since the mid-1990s, support for the death penalty has fallen among Democrats and independents but remained strong among Republicans.

About 3/4 of Republicans (77%) currently favor the death penalty, compared with 52% of independents and 35% of Democrats.

Since 1996, support for the death penalty has fallen 27 % points among independents (from 79% to 52%) and 36 points among Democrats (71% to 35%). By contrast, the share of Republicans favoring the death penalty declined 10 points during that span (from 87% to 77%).

The trends look somewhat different when considering a more recent time frame. Since 2016, opinions among Republicans and Democrats have changed little, but the share of independents favoring the death penalty has increased 8 % points (from 44% to 52%).

Support for the death penalty has long been divided by gender and race. In the new survey, about 6-in-10 men (61%) say they are in favor of the death penalty and 34% are opposed. Women's views are more divided: 46% favor the death penalty, while 45% oppose it.

A 59% majority of whites favor the death penalty for those convicted of murder, compared with 47% of Hispanics and 36% of blacks.

Young people are somewhat less likely than older adults to favor capital punishment. Those younger than 30 are divided - 47% favor and 46% oppose it - but majorities in older age groups support the death penalty.

There are educational differences in views of the death penalty. Adults who have a postgraduate degree are more likely to oppose the use of the death penalty in cases of murder (56%) than those whose education ended with a college degree (42%) and those who never received a postsecondary degree (36% some college experience; 38% high school degree or less).

White evangelical Protestants continue to back the use of the death penalty by a wide margin (73% favor, 19% oppose). White mainline Protestants also are substantially more likely to support (61%) than oppose (30%) the death penalty. But among Catholics and the religiously unaffiliated, opinion is more divided: 53% of Catholics favor capital punishment, while 42% oppose it. And while 45% of those who are religiously unaffiliated oppose the death penalty, 48% support it.

In 2015, a more detailed study of attitudes toward capital punishment found that 63% of the public thought the death penalty was morally justified, but majorities said there was some risk of an innocent person being put to death (71%) and that the death penalty does not deter serious crime (61%).

(source: pewresearch.org)

IRAN:

Iranian Kurdish Dissident Facing Execution Suffers Legal Blow

A lawyer for an Iranian Kurdish man sentenced to death for belonging to a Kurdish nationalist group says his client has suffered a major legal setback in a bid to escape execution.

Speaking to VOA Persian by phone Monday from Tehran, lawyer Hossein Ahmadiniaz said Iran's Supreme Court has rejected an appeal to spare the life of his client, Ramin Hossein Panahi.

"By law, the Supreme Court should have responded to my request for an appeal by stopping the [death penalty] from proceeding and reviewing the case in its entirety," Ahmadiniaz said. "Unfortunately, they did not do that for my client - they just skimmed through the case."

Ahmadiniaz said he will file a 2nd appeal against Panahi's sentence, but did not explain how that will proceed. "I will do my utmost to use all legal procedures to get justice for my client," Ahmadiniaz said.

Panahi, who is in his 20s, was arrested in June 2017 for allegedly belonging to Kurdish nationalist group Komala and drawing a weapon against Iranian security forces who were carrying out a raid in the region. An Iranian court sentenced him to death in January. Since then, Panahi has been imprisoned in the northwestern city of Sanandaj.

A U.N. human rights expert issued a call last month for Iran to immediately halt and annul Panahi's death sentence. In a May 2 statement, Agnes Callamard, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, said her office was concerned about allegations that Panahi had not received a fair trial and was mistreated and tortured in detention.

In a report published Sunday, Iranian state-run news site ISNA acknowledged Callamard's concerns, saying no evidence linking Panahi to any "intentional killing" was presented at his trial.

A Europe-based brother of Panahi told VOA Persian last month that authorities took Panahi from Sanandaj prison to an unknown location on May 1, prompting concerns of an imminent execution. But the brother said authorities returned Panahi to Sanandaj the next day and placed him in the prison's public ward rather than death row, where he had been kept previously.

Panahi's return to the Sanandaj prison coincided with Callamard's appeal for an annulment of his death sentence and a social media campaign by his supporters also seeking clemency for him.

Social media users concerned that Panahi still could be executed after the Islamic holy month of Ramadan ends this week have intensified their campaign in recent days. Twitter users posted at least 53,000 tweets with the hashtag #SOSRamin from Saturday into Sunday. SOS is an international code used to warn of extreme distress.

(source: voanews.com)

BANGLADESH:

2 heroin peddlers get death penalty

terday sentenced 2 drug paddlers to death.

The court of Metropolitan Sessions Judge Mujibur Rahman Bhuiyan also fined Hossain Ahmed Manik and Parvez Alam Sumon Tk 1 lakh each, said Additional Public Prosecutor Mofur Ali.

They are from Beanibazar upazila. Parvez is in Sylhet Central Jail and Manik on the run. According to the prosecution, a parcel was received at Sylhet Post Office from Pakistan on March 9, 2014.

When postal supervisor inspected it, he found 8.025 grammes of heroin in it. The postal department filed a case with Daksin Surma Police Station.

Police found the drug peddler through the phone number mentioned on the parcel.

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

New law to ensure capital punishment for drug kingpins

Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal yesterday told the parliament that the government has drafted a new law to ensure capital punishment for masterminds, godfathers and patrons of illegal drug trading.

In reply to lawmakers' queries, the minister also informed the parliament that there is no visible progress in stopping yaba smuggling in Bangladesh from Myanmar due to lack of good intentions of Myanmar authorities.

On bringing godfathers of drug trade to book, Kamal said in the existing Narcotics Control Act 1990, there is a provision for capital punishment for drug criminals. But according to the law, there is no option of taking actions if drug is not found in someone's possession. That's how masterminds escape the law easily.

In a bid to take tougher actions against patrons and godfathers of drug trade, the government has drafted Narcotics Control Act 2018 keeping the provision for death penalty against them, Kamal said.

Besides, the home minister also said officials of the respective directorate who investigate money laundering related crimes will be empowered to bring drug kingpins to book.

About the ongoing drive against drugs, the minister said it is going on according to the list of drug traders to bring drug patrons and godfathers under the purview of the law.

In response to another query, Kamal informed the House that Bangladesh and India so far held 5 director general level meetings to stop illegal transport of drugs from India to Bangladesh which were effective.

On stopping yaba being smuggled from Myanmar, the minister said Bangladesh and Myanmar so far held 3 bilateral meetings on preventing yaba smuggling.

"In every meeting, we have exchanged intelligence reports on yaba manufacturing factories in Myanmar, requesting them to stop production and supply of yaba in Bangladesh," Kamal said.

"But there is no visible progress in this regard," he added.

On the anti-narcotics drive, he said a total of 35,112 accused drug traders were arrested from January to March in 2018 in connection with 27, 340 cases.

Over 3.28 crore pieces of yaba were recovered during the time, said the minister.

(source for both: The Daily Star)

PAKISTAN:

Pak SC rejects appeal of convict for raping and killing 6-year-old girl

Pakistan Supreme Court today rejected an appeal of a convict for raping and killing a 6-year-old girl and upheld his death sentence in a crime that drew nationwide condemnation and led to widespread protests across the country, according to a media report.

A 3-judge bench at the Lahore registry, comprising Justices Asif Saeed Khosa, Manzoor Ahmed Malik and Mansoor Ali Shah, rejected convict Imran Ali's appeal, upholding the death penalty handed to him by an anti-terrorism court (ATC), Dawn News reported.

The ATC gave him 4 counts of the death penalty, 1 life term, a 7-year jail term and Rs 41 lakh in fines.

The 4 death penalties were for kidnapping, raping and murdering the 6-year-old girl, and for committing an act of terrorism.

Ali faces further charges in the cases of at least 7 other children he attacked 5 of whom were murdered in a spate of assaults that had stoked fears a serial child killer was on the loose, the report said.

He had appealed to the Lahore High Court against the sentence but his appeal was dismissed.

The 6-year-old girl went missing on January 4 and was found dead in a trash heap in Kasur on January 9. Her rape and murder had sparked outrage and protests across the country.

The heinous nature of the crime had seen immediate riots break out in Kasur in which two people were killed while the incident became a rallying cry for an end to violence against children.

(source: business-standard.com)

MALAYSIA:

Drugs: Trio may face death

3 suspects may face the death penalty if found guilty after police found them with 1.9kg of cannabis believed obtained from a supplier in Kuala Lumpur via WeChat.

An operation carried out near a hotel at Bundusan at about 6pm last Friday saw a man and woman being nabbed with 6gm of the drug in their car.

District Police Chief DSP Mohd Haris Ibrahim said another suspect believed to be the supplier, who was walking towards the vehicle, tried to flee upon noticing police presence.

"He threw away a Poslaju package while trying to flee," Haris told a press conference at IPD Penampang, Monday.

He said the suspects allegedly received their supply from a dealer in Chow Kit, Kuala Lumpur.

After making an arrangement via WeChat, the drug is sent over through Poslaju.

He added that the drug seized was worth about RM5,000. The case is being investigated under Section 39B of the Dangerous Drugs Act 1952 which could lead to the death penalty and under Section 6 of the same Act which leads to a fine or jail, or both.

In another drug case, police arrested 2 men believed to be in their 20s, one of them a local, in a bust at a house at Kampung Luyang Baru, here, at about 1.30pm on the same day.

The suspects attempted to evade arrest which led to 1 of them sustaining injuries on his face, back and legs from falling.

Further investigations led to the discovery of a packet of Syabu weighing 5.01gm from the suspect.

The case is being investigated under Section 39A(1) of the Dangerous Drugs Act 1952.

(source: Daily Express)

JUNE 11, 2018:

TEXAS:

'I did not kill my babies'----City native's murder conviction, appeal featured in docu-series

When Altoona native Darlie Lynn Routier was convicted by a Texas jury in February 1997 of stabbing to death her young son, Damon, 5, and by implication, her other son, Devon, 6, she reportedly cried out, "I did not kill my babies."

Both boys were murdered on June 6, 1996, as they were sleeping with their mother in the downstairs television room of the family's Rowlett, Texas, home, while her husband, Darin, was in an upstairs bedroom with their 18-month-old son Drake.

Routier, then in her 20s, also suffered grievous injuries that night, including a badly bruised arm and stab wounds to her neck, which came within 2 millimeters of slicing a carotid artery, an injury that could have killed her within minutes.

She said she fought an intruder and after he allegedly fled through a cut screen in the home's utility room, she and Darin, who was awakened by the noise and came downstairs, took steps to quell the bleeding of their 2 children, and call 911.

When EMTs and police arrived, the older boy was dead on the floor while Damon was alive. He died on the way to Baylor Hospital in Dallas.

Darlie Routier described the intruder as a man with long hair, wearing a baseball hat, a dark T-shirt and jeans.

On the scene that night was a veteran but retired Rowlett police officer, James Cron who, after only 25-30 minutes, was convinced there was no intruder and that the murders were an inside job. He concluded Darlie Routier had staged the scene, including her own injuries.

The family room was a mess, with blood on the floors and furniture, and broken glass from wine glasses and other evidence scattered about.

When Cron was asked at trial why he debunked the story of the intruder, he answered, "It's sort of a big picture. It's not any one thing. It was the overall scene which, primarily, is the lack of evidence in many cases. But the entire scene indicated to me there had not been an intruder."

Within days, Routier was charged only with Damon's death and the case went to trial within 7 months.

2 days later, on Feb. 3, 1997, the jury recommended that Routier be put to death, and since that time, she has remained on death row in a state where the death penalty is often carried to conclusion for both men and women.

For the past 22 years, Routier has maintained she didn't commit the murders.

She and her mother, Darlie Kee, formerly of Altoona, have proclaimed Routier's innocence through newspapers, books and several TV documentaries.

Aided by a team of lawyers at her side, the mother-daughter pair have challenged the verdict in both the state and federal courts.

Despite the passage of time, the Routier case continues to gain national attention and will be the premiere case in a new series called "The Last Defense," which will air on ABC Television Network beginning at 10 p.m. Tuesday.

The 7-week docu-series explores the flaws in the American justice system through the Routier case and that of another death row inmate, Julius Jones, who was convicted of a car-jacking murder in Oklahoma.

Jones, too, maintains his innocence.

Actress Viola Davis is the executive producer with Julius Tennon.

Tuesday's 1st episode will feature Darin Routier relating the events of June 6, 1996, as police conducted their investigation.

The murders of Damon and Devon occurred 22 years ago this past week, but Routier's mother, Kee, still has hope that she will one day see her daughter a free woman.

"The upcoming 4-part series (devoted to the Routier case) will expose the mistakes and how, now, she (Darlie) is still 100 % innocent," Kee stated when contacted this week.

Attorney Richard A. Smith of Dallas, who has been involved in the defense since 2002, said he is looking forward to the docu-series. He said he was interviewed for it.

He said he believes Darin, although divorced from Darlie, still supports her claim of innocence, and he reported that Drake, the 18-month old in the upstairs bedroom that night, is now an adult who was treated for leukemia. The disease is now in remission, he said.

A flawed trial?

While the investigation quickly led to an arrest, much of the story of the Routier case lies with what has happened since.

According to the defense lawyers in their federal filing, Routier did not have proper legal representation, and the defense did not counter scientific evidence that allegedly linked Routier to the crime, due to a her lawyer's conflict of interest.

In addition, the prosecution used "character assassination" to turn the jury against Routier, the prosecutor's opening statement said, contending: "The real Darlie Routier is, in fact, a self-centered woman, a materialistic woman, and a woman cold enough, in fact, to murder her own 2 children."

The prosecution presented a friend who stated Routier had a temper, and had become materialistic over the years as her husband's computer business allowed the couple to live in an expensive home and purchase a boat and a Jaguar.

The couple's extensive buying coupled with a business downtown led to money troubles the Routiers were experiencing at the time of the killings.

The prosecution presented the jury with video of Darlie shooting silly string and laughing during a graveside celebration of Devon's 7th birthday just prior to her arrest.

What the jury never found out was that a sister organized the graveside party and brought the silly string, and that there was an ensuing prayer service followed by a quiet family gathering, the defense claims.

She was criticized for going to a woman's night out at a Dallas nightclub on Mother's Day eve.

A doctor and 2 nurses who treated Routier while in the Baylor Hospital were allowed to testify that Routier did not act typically for a woman who had just lost 2 children.

The doctor said she did not become hysterical but had a "flat effect."

A nurse supervisor said she was withdrawn and didn't cry very often and told the jury this was "not the emotions that you usually see with a mother."

A nurse testified that Routier did not display the emotions she had witnessed in people who had lost loved ones or close relatives.

This impermissible character evidence and "expert testimony" from the medical personnel "so infected Ms. Routier's trial as to undermine the confidence in the verdict," her lawyers stated.

Lawyers replaced

In the beginning, Routier was represented by attorneys Douglas Parks and Wayne Huff, who retained 2 forensic scientists and who were prepared to counter prosecution theories about how the blood spatter, broken wine glasses, a bread knife found at the scene and an overturned sweeper rebutted Routier's story that an intruder had murdered the children.

The forensic scientists, Terry Labor and Barton Epstein, disagreed that blood on the back of Routier's nightgown came from the knife spatter as she allegedly raised and lowered her arm while stabbing the children.

They noted only "minimal areas of spatter" on the nightgown - which had never been tested.

However, the 2 court-appointed attorneys were eventually replaced by attorney Douglas Mulder and several others, who, according to the federal appeal, did not use the forensic scientists to counter the scientific evidence presented by the prosecution.

Mulder, it is contended, also agreed not to attempt to implicate Darin as a suspect in the murders of the 2 children. The present defense team pointed out that Mulder had represented Darin in the past and thus was conflicted in his representation of Darlie.

Another issue the defense raises is the fact that the court reporter for the case had personal problems during the trial and that an investigation found 30,000 errors in the transcripts that had to be corrected.

The defense in its quest to overturn Routier's verdict summed up its case in its federal petition, stating that the jury that convicted Darlie for Damon's murder "never heard substantial evidence that undermines the state's circumstantial case against her and supports her claim of innocence.

"And the jury never heard a key alternate explanation for the crimes because Mulder had agreed as a condition of retention by Darlie's counsel to protect a more plausible suspect, her husband, at the expense of Darlie's own defense.

The defense wants the verdict overturned "because no court can have confidence in such a fundamentally tainted verdict," it concluded.

Appeal moving slowly through the courts

Over the years, Routier's challenges in the courts have moved glacially slow, awaiting the outcome of DNA tests on the blood evidence from the rugs, Routier's nightgown, on a pair of socks found 70 yards away in the neighborhood, and several mysterious, unidentified fingerprints.

Routier's federal challenge filed in the U.S. District Court for West Texas in San Antonio begins, "Darlie Lynn Routier sits on Texas death row for a crime she did not commit."

That filing has been on hold for more than a decade, pending the outcome of her state post-conviction challenge.

The federal court requires that a status update on the DNA testing be submitted every 6 months.

The status report submitted just a year ago, on June 19, 2017, made it clear the Routier case falls low on the state's priority list. It read:

"In May 2017, counsel in the Dallas County District Attorney (office) learned the materials that were supposed to have been transported to the Department of Public Safety for DNA testing, as the state trial court's testing order had required, had never been transported to DPS."

That error has since been rectified, and according to defense attorney Smith, the DNA testing is in its last stage.

He said he didn't want to discuss results so far but said the testing is important in the overall picture and will enable the defense to determine its strategy during the pending state court hearings.

(source: Altoona Mirror)

INDIANA:

Federal gun charges sought in deaths of Deputy Jacob Pickett, Officer Rob Pitts

Federal authorities will hold a news conference Monday regarding the deaths of Boone County Deputy Jacob Pickett and Terre Haute Officer Rob Pitts.

According to a news release from the Department of Justice, United States Attorney Josh Minkler will announce federal charges against 3 individuals who are alleged to have illegally purchased firearms that were used to kill both Pickett and Pitts.

Officials from the Boone County Sheriff's Department, Terre Haute Police Department, Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department, United States Marshal's Service and ATF will join Minkler for the announcement.

Pickett was shot and killed on March 2 following a pursuit in Boone County. Pitts was killed in a shootout in May while investigating a homicide.

The Boone County prosecutor plans to seek the death penalty against 21-year-old Anthony Baumgardt, who's charged in Pickett's death. Christopher Wolfe, who fatally shot Pitts, was killed after exchanging gunfire with officers in May.

According to the FBI, 93 officers were killed in the line of duty last year. Of those deaths, 47 were attributed to accidents, such as car crashes, while 46 were due to an intentional act, such as an officer being shot.

(source: cbs4indy.com)

IRAN:

Iran Supreme Court Upholds Death Sentences for Daesh Members

Iran's Supreme Court has upheld death sentence rulings for 8 members of the Daesh (ISIL or ISIS) terrorist group that followed their conviction on charges of having a role in June 2017 terrorist attacks in Tehran, a judge said Monday.

Speaking to Tasnim, head of Tehran Revolutionary Court, Mousa Ghazanfarabadi, said the death sentence rulings have been upheld by the Supreme Court.

He added that the Supreme Court has ruled that capital punishment is commensurate with their conviction for "aiding and abetting" violent action against the Establishment.

On June 7, 2017, Daesh terrorists launched simultaneous attacks on Iran's Parliament building in downtown Tehran and on the mausoleum of the late founder of the Islamic Republic Imam Khomeini.

The attacks left 17 people dead and more than 40 others wounded.

All of the 5 gunmen directly involved in the attacks were killed by the security forces.

(source: tasnimnews.com)

BANGLADESH:

4 to hang for raping girl in Narayanganj

A court in Narayanganj today handed death penalty to 4 people for raping a 10-year-old girl in 2003.

The 4 convicted rapists -- Sumon, Alamin, Abul and Shahadat -- all residets of Alirtek of Narayanganj Sadar upazila, are still at large.

After 15 years of the incident, the culprits were punshed for their crime today as Judge Md Juel Rana of Women and Children Repression Prevention Tribunal awarded death penalty to them.

On January 13, the girl went missing, after it was reported that the 4 culprits called the girl from her house, our Narayanganj correspondent reports quoting Rakib Uddin, public prosecutor of Women and Children Repression Prevention Tribunal.

The next day, her body was recovered from a field next to her house, the lawyer said adding that ever since the victim’s brother filed a case with Narayanganj Sadar Model Police Station, the culprits went into hiding.

However, the victim's family is content with the decision, the PP added.

(source: The Daily Star)

JAPAN:

High court rejects decision to reopen 1966 Hakamada quadruple murder case

The Tokyo High Court on Monday overturned the Shizuoka District Court's decision to reopen the 1966 murder case involving former professional boxer Iwao Hakamada, who was convicted of killing four people, despite recent DNA evidence that undermined his prosecution.

The case, often cited as an example of how miscarriages of justice take place in the Japanese judicial system, has seen Hakamada become an emblem of wrongful convictions after spending over four decades behind bars, most of it on death row.

The high court, presided over by Justice Takaaki Oshima, rejected the lower court's ruling that the DNA on bloodstained clothes found near the crime scene, presumably worn by the murderer, did not match Hakamada's DNA. The high court claimed that the results were not credible and fell short of being "indisputable" evidence.

The ruling also rejected the defense team's claim that the bloodstained clothes might have been fabricated, dismissing the accusation as a mere "abstract possibility."

The ruling, however, did not overturn the district court's decision to release Hakamada from detention, nor its suspension of his death penalty, claiming that the final judgment on detention should wait until the case is finalized, given Hakamada's frail health.

The more than 4 decades of detention have diminished Hakamada's mental health, and he also reportedly has dementia.

Hakamada was held at the Tokyo Detention center for a total of 48 years until the Shizuoka District Court ruled in favor of reopening the case in 2014, allowing him to be released. The Shizuoka District Court also decided to suspend his death penalty.

At a news conference after the ruling, Hakamada's legal team said it will appeal.

Despite losing the retrial request, Hideko Hakamada, the defendant's sister and longtime advocate, said she was "slightly relieved that Iwao won't have to be taken into custody."

Many people, including politicians, members of citizens' groups and the Japanese Bar Association all expressed disbelief and disappointment at the ruling.

"This judgment is not based on evidence, but rather on mistaken assumptions," said Hideyo Ogawa, a lawyer on the defense team.

"We strongly believe that we can prove (Hakamada's innocence) with factual proof," he continued.

"I'm devastated at the ruling," Nobuhiro Terazawa, a member of a citizens' group campaigning for Hakamada's freedom, said at the news conference.

"Iwao Hakamada is posing a question to (Japan's) judicial system, and we have to answer to that question," he continued.

Hakamada, who was a live-in employee at a soybean processing firm, was arrested in August 1966 on suspicion of robbery, murder and arson after the firm's senior managing director, his wife and 2 children were found dead with stab wounds at their burned-down house in Shizuoka Prefecture.

Accused of robbery, murder, and arson, Hakamada was sentenced to death in 1968. His death sentence was finalized in 1980 by the Supreme Court.

(source: The Japan Times)

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

Longest-serving death row inmate deserves retrial despite court ruling

Responding to news that Tokyo's High Court has overruled a lower court, and denied a retrial to Hakamada Iwao, 82, who spent more than 4 decades on death row, Hiroka Shoji, East Asia Researcher at Amnesty International commented:

"Today's ruling is a gross injustice and flies in the face of the facts. Hakamada's conviction is based on a forced 'confession' and there remain serious unanswered questions over DNA evidence.

"Time is running out for Hakamada to receive the fair trial he was denied 50 years ago. Any appeal by Hakamada's legal team should be heard without undue delay. Hakamada is elderly and has poor mental health because of his many years on death row.

"To send Hakamada back to prison would not only set the Japanese authorities against international safeguards protecting those with mental disability and the elderly from the use of the death penalty, but would be plain cruel. While his fight for justice continues, he must be allowed to remain at home on humanitarian grounds."

Background

Hakamada Iwao was sentenced to death in 1968 and was the longest-serving death row inmate in the world. After an unfair trial, he was convicted of the murder of his employer and his employer's family. Hakamada "confessed' after 20 days of interrogation by police. He retracted the "confession" during the trial and told the court that police had beaten and threatened him.

He was temporarily released from prison in March 2014, when a district court granted him a retrial after new DNA evidence cast serious doubt on the reliability of his conviction.

The decision to open a retrial was also based on more than 600 pieces of evidence which the prosecutor was ordered by the court to disclose after Hakamada submitted his 2nd request for a retrial in 2008. Some of this evidence undermined the veracity of earlier evidence.

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.

(source: Amnesty International)

SCOTLAND/PAKISTAN:

Christian man fears death if forced to leave UK

A Christian man who has spent 6 years seeking asylum has appealed to the Prime Minister to allow him to stay in the UK, fearing he and his family face death if they return to Pakistan.

Maqsood Bakhsh fled Pakistan in 2012 with his wife Parveen and their sons Somer and Areebs, then aged 9 and 7, after Islamic extremists threatened to kill him because of his religious beliefs.

The catalyst was the murder of 2 Christians shot outside a court, while in police custody, in Faisalabad 2 years previously.

Pastor Rashid Emmanuel, 32, and Sajid, 24, were accused of writing a pamphlet critical of the Prophet Muhammad that flouted Pakistan's controversial blasphemy law, which carries the death penalty.

Mr Bakhsh, 50, claims the people responsible for the deaths believe he is in league with the 2 men and would kill him and his family if they had the chance.

The Home Office has repeatedly rejected their asylum applications, largely as officials do not believe they would be at risk in Pakistan. The family, who live in the north of Glasgow, have now been told they have exhausted the process and have no right to appeal, but plan to launch a legal challenge.

Mr Bakhsh said: "Prime Minister, please help us because I do not understand why the Home Office keep rejecting us.

"They keep telling us that some parts of Pakistan are safe for Christians.

"It is true that lots of Christians live in Pakistan but once you have been targeted by Islamic extremists who know your name and your face, it is impossible to live.

"4 of my friends have been killed by Islamic extremists and my sister-in- law's brother is serving life in jail because of the blasphemy law.

"My nephew was kidnapped last month and no one knows what has happened to him."

Glasgow North East Labour MP Paul Sweeney plans to raise the case in the House of Commons.

Mr Bakhsh, who was a commissioner at the Kirk's General Assembly in 2017, worked as a data analyst in Pakistan and holds 2 Masters degrees, while his wife is a trained neo-natal midwife with 17-years of experience. Due to their immigration status both have been unable to work since arriving in Scotland and survive on benefits and charity.

Mr Bakhsh said: "Not being able to use our talents and abilities to make a contribution to this great country has been very hard and frustrating for us." He added: "We love this city, my sons feel Scottish and they are thriving here.

"They feel safe, which is my biggest concern, and want to stay with all their friends - the only people they know - and get a good education."

Rev Linda Pollock, minister at Possilpark Parish Church where Mr Bakhsh is an elder, said their situation is "unconscionable".

She added: "I hope that the Home Office will re-examine the family's case, stop treating them as numbers and acknowledge them as human beings because they have so much to give to Scotland."

(source: scotsman.com)

AUSTRALIA:

A Rare Australian Advocate Fighting The Death Penalty

An Australian lawyer working against the death penalty in the United States will be back in Australia next month to speak. Stephen Keim SC and Madeleine Murphy are hoping people won’t miss the chance to hear what he has to say.

"We are all going to die, and we have no choice about that, but we do choose whether to kill or not," concluded Australian-born capital defence lawyer, Richard Bourke, during a moving speech he delivered at a TedxSydney event in early 2015.

Since then, the effectiveness and availability of various drugs employed in the lethal injection protocols of various US states has again brought the debate about the death penalty to the fore.

In its June 2015 ruling (Glossip v Gross), a 5 Justice majority of the United States Supreme Court ruled that use by the State of Oklahoma of the sedative midazolam in the lethal injection protocol does not violate the Eighth Amendment protection against cruel and unusual punishment. The finding was contrary to contentions by the Applicants that midazolam failed to render the person insensate (unconscious and without sensation).

In a dissenting opinion in which Justice Ginsberg joined, Justice Breyer wrote, "Rather than try to patch up the death penalty's legal wounds, one at a time, I would ask for a full briefing on a more basic question: whether the death penalty violates the Constitution".

Recently, the United States Supreme Court has accepted for review, a challenge by a Missouri man to his death sentence on the basis that the combined effect of his particular medical condition and the drugs used in the lethal injection cocktail would result in a death which violates the same Eighth Amendment protections. That matter (Bucklew v Precythe) is due to be heard in the next sitting Term of the Court.

Richard Bourke is returning to Australia in July to speak at the Banco Court of the QEII Courts building in Brisbane in a joint initiative of Australians Against Capital Punishment, the Julian Wagner Memorial Fund; the UQ Law Alumni Association and the TC Beirne School of Law. Bourke's talk will be recorded for broadcast on the ABC's Big Ideas program.

Bourke often speaks of the dignity and humanity involved in the work of defending capital cases and it is certainly these words which come to mind when hearing his own story.

(source: newmatilda.com)

KENYA:

Only female inmate hopes to evade death penalty in retrial

Hawo Mohamed, a mother of 3, stands out at Marsabit Prison. She is the only female prisoner at the facility.

She has been assigned a female prison warder who is always in tow, watching her every move. In her yellow dira, she does not strike many as a prisoner.

Her male colleagues mostly spot the prison uniform of white and navy blue stripes. Hawo is in remand awaiting retrial as ordered by the Court of Appeal in Meru.

Favourable ruling

"I was sentenced to death in 2013," she says, tears flooding her eyes, as memories of that day stream through her mind.

After lodging an appeal, Hawo received a favourable ruling in June 2016 by Court of Appeal judges, who declared the 2013 case a mistrial and ordered that she be retried.

Like most prisoners, Hawo claims that she is innocent.

She has been a guest of the State since 2011 - the year her husband accused her of killing his mother.

She claims that her husband sent her to the market to buy kitchen supplies in preparation for a feast; child-naming celebrations. When she returned home, angry villagers pounced on her and brutally beat her up.

"My husband accused me of killing his mother and stuffing her body in a bag," she says.

Police saved her in the nick of time from lynching. As the only female prisoner among 84 inmates, one might worry about her safety.

"Mostly, I'm kept separate from the male prisoners," she says.

"And so I feel secure. I haven't been attacked."

Not long ago, the female section of the prison housed 8 inmates, but 7 were either released or moved, leaving her alone.

Hawo wishes there were other female colleagues to interact and have conversations with. Right now, she adds, a TV set is her only companion.

"I watch TV when I am bored. It keeps my mind engaged somehow," she says.

For now, she says, she can stomach the loneliness. Of all the jails she has been remanded or incarcerated in - including Moyale, Lang'ata, Meru, and Nyeri - she says Marsabit is where she feels she has been treated well.

Case review

Hawo is 1 of the 56 remandees at the prison whose cases are being reviewed by the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DDP). The exercise is expected to be undertaken in at least 90 % of prisons in Kenya.

"Our prisons are severely congested. About 1/2 of prisoners are remandees whose cases are yet to be concluded. DPP is having a 2nd look at all remand cases to fast-track them in order to lessen the backlog," said Ms Dorcas Oduor, the secretary of public prosecutions, who led a team of prosecutors from ODPP to the prison.

(source: standardmedia.co.ke)

ALGERIA:

Algeria blogger faces death penalty charges for posts

An Algerian blogger is to go on trial on Thursday accused of collaborating with a foreign country and inciting an uprising, charges which carry the death penalty, his lawyer said.

Merzoug Touati has been held since January 2017 in Bejaia, on the coast in northeast Algeria, after having called for protests against a new financial law on his Facebook page and posted a video interview with an Israeli foreign ministry spokesperson.

Lawyer Boubakeur Esseddik Hamaili told AFP that his client was being charged under an article of the penal code which carries the death sentence for armed incitement against the state.

He would call on the court to throw out the charges, arguing that his client, an unemployed university graduate, had simply campaigned for acts of civil disobedience.

According to Amnesty, "there was no incitement to violence or advocacy of hatred" in Touati's posts, which were "covered by freedom of expression in relation to his work as a citizen-journalist".

It said he was faced with "trumped-up espionage charges".

"Every day Merzoug Touati spends in prison is 1 day too many, and is a further stain on Algeria's human rights record," Amnesty International said in a statement.

(source: news24.com)

JUNE 10, 2018:

SOUTH CAROLINA:

Judge denies bond to duo charged in Myrtle Beach bathroom murder case

A judge denied bond for 2 men accused of murdering a 24-year-old in a bathroom off Ocean Boulevard earlier this week.

Sylvester Bellamy, of Georgetown, was supposed to start work as a groundskeeper for Myrtle Beach on Saturday. Instead, his accused killers were in a city jail in handcuffs and jail-issued orange jumpsuits hearing how they could face the death penalty for Bellamy's killing.

Myrtle Beach Municipal Judge J. Scott Long denied bond for Terence Isacc Blackwell and Earl Rafel Gaddis, Jr. as they face General Sessions charges. The 2 will have the chance to ask for bail before a circuit court judge later this summer.

Gaddis faces charges of murder, possession of a weapon during the commission of a violent crime, possession of a stolen pistol, possession with intent to distribute marijuana, unlawful carrying of a pistol and 2 counts of possession of a controlled substance.

(source: myrtlebeachonline.com)

TENNESSEE:

Parents of slain Dickson County boy face more charges, possibly death penalty

The parents of Joe Clyde Daniels face additional charges, including the possibility of the death penalty.

Joseph and Krystal Daniels were arraigned Friday morning after being indicted by a special grand jury.

Joseph Daniels faces felony premeditated murder and aggravated child abuse charges. His wife, Krystal, has been indicted for failing to prevent aggravated child abuse and neglect and later hindering the investigation.

The district attorney also indicated it could be a death penalty case, but a final decision has not yet been made.

5-year-old Joe Clyde was initially reported missing from his Dickson County home in early April. His father confessed to killing him a few days later. He has been jailed ever since.

Krystal Daniels was arrested several days later and remains jailed. She is expected to go to trial next March.

Joe Clyde's remains have not yet been recovered. A search is scheduled for Saturday.

(source: clarksvillenow.com)

ARKANSAS:

Panel formally levels claims against Arkansas judge over death-penalty protest----Judge broke 9 conduct rules, it says

Arkansas' judicial watchdog agency filed formal charges Friday against Pulaski County Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen over his 2017 death-penalty protest, launching a high-stakes case with potential sanctions ranging from counseling to removal from office.

The charges -- a result of a special counsel's investigation -- initiates public, noncriminal proceedings in a matter that involves free speech, freedom of religion and the judiciary's impartiality, as well as the death penalty and property rights.

Griffen and the Arkansas Supreme Court filed dueling complaints against each other in April 2017 after the high court sanctioned the judge from hearing any cases involving the death penalty. A special counsel's investigation into Griffen's complaint against the Supreme Court is ongoing.

Griffen had been photographed while he lay on a cot during a public demonstration outside the Governor's Mansion on Good Friday last year -- the eve of what was then scheduled to be a series of seven Arkansas executions over 11 days.

Earlier that day, April 14, 2017, Griffen effectively put the state's execution plans on hold by ruling in favor of a drug supplier that tried to stop the use of its medication in lethal injections.

A "statement of allegations" released by the state Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission accuses the judge of violating up to nine rules in the Arkansas Code of Judicial Conduct.

It also accuses him of violating "Canon 1," which says a judge must "uphold the independence, integrity and impartiality of the judiciary" and "avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety."

Griffen's attorney, Michael Laux, said in a news release that the judge is a victim of a "vindictive" investigation.

"We're, unfortunately, not surprised by today's announcement," Laux said by phone. "However, we are extremely dismayed by the lack of effort and diligence that appears to have gone into the investigation. We will have a full-throated response to issue on Monday."

Friday's announcement marks the 1st formal charges the state's judicial disciplinary commission has filed against a sitting judge since July 2017, when Saline County Circuit Judge Bobby McCallister was accused of failing to pay income taxes. McCallister ultimately agreed to resign.

The Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission's full-time staff attorneys recused from the cross investigations into Griffen and the state's high court. Rachel Michel of Mississippi led the investigation into Griffen. J Brent Standridge of Benton was appointed to investigate the judge's complaint.

Griffen will be given the opportunity to request depositions and copies of investigative materials, and he has the option to file a motion to dismiss the charges. The case will proceed similar to a civil matter.

A 9-member panel -- 3 judges, 3 attorneys and 3 public members -- will preside. Unless the charges are dismissed or settled, the panel will decide by majority vote whether the evidence is "clear and convincing" enough to prove the allegations.

If the allegations are proven, the commission has a range of sanctions at its disposal, including a public reprimand or mandated professional counseling. It could also recommend that the Arkansas Supreme Court take stronger action, such as a suspension or removal from office.

The statement of allegations said Griffen is subject to sanctions in Arkansas Code Annotated 16-10-410, which provides for the removal of a judge from office under a number of circumstances, including "willful violation" of the Arkansas Code of Judicial Conduct.

Griffen's April 14, 2017, ruling granted a temporary restraining order requested by McKesson Corp., which had accused the state Department of Corrections of skirting company rules to obtain a batch of vecuronium bromide. Arkansas uses the drug, a paralytic that prevents breathing, as the second in its 3-part lethal injection process.

"It had the effect of stays of execution in the executions ... which Judge Griffen would not have otherwise had authority to enter," the statement of allegations says. Also that day, he attended an "anti-death penalty rally" and, later, a Good Friday prayer vigil, the charges say.

"Judge Griffen holds a right to free speech, but once Judge Griffen asserted his free speech in unequivocal opposition to the death penalty, he had an obligation to disqualify himself in every case effecting the death penalty," the allegations say.

Griffen, who also has a pending federal civil rights lawsuit against Arkansas Supreme Court justices, has said the prayer vigil "remembered that Jesus was a subject of capital punishment." Griffen participated in a similar demonstration this year on Good Friday.

"Again, I lay on a cot in silent prayer," he wrote in an April 18 post to his blog, called Justice is a Verb! "Again, I had my Bible. Again, I wore a button calling for an end to the death penalty."

The disciplinary commission's allegations cite photographs and signs from the 2017 demonstration as evidence contrary to Griffen's statement that he lay on the cot "in solidarity with Jesus." It says the "placard on Judge Griffen's body did not refer to Jesus or His crucifixion."

"While the [commission] has no basis on which to evaluate Judge Griffen's motive or to question any good faith belief, the record fails to support any primary religious motive of anti-death penalty vigil, but the record does establish that Judge Griffen was dressed in what appears to be a traditional inmate jumpsuit or a reasonable facsimile thereof, and he was wearing a button or sign that compelled the State of Arkansas to 'end the death penalty,'" the allegations say.

(source: nwaonline.com)

WASHINGTON:

Last juvenile sentenced to die in Washington re-sentenced to 48 years

The last juvenile to receive the death penalty in Washington was re-sentenced to 48 years in prison Friday, marking the end of a long road for the family members of the woman he was convicted of raping and murdering.

Kitsap County Superior Court Judge Sally Olsen sentenced Michael Furman to a minimum of 48 years to life, which means he will be eligible for release in about 18 years. He has already served about 30 years.

Furman was 17 when he raped and killed 85-year-old Ann Presler in her home on April 27, 1989. Furman had been going door to door looking for odd jobs, and Presler had agreed to pay him to wash her windows. While working inside, Furman bludgeoned Presler to death with several different objects.

In 1990, Furman was charged as an adult and was sentenced to death after a jury found him guilty of aggravated 1st-degree murder. However, the state Supreme Court outlawed the death penalty for juveniles in 1993, and Furman was given a sentence of life in prison without parole.

A 2012 U.S. Supreme Court decision, Miller vs. Alabama, found that juveniles convicted of aggravated murder cannot be automatically sentenced to life in prison. The decision held that sentencing courts must consider juveniles' "diminished culpability" before handing down a life sentence.

The ruling allowed Furman and 30 other inmates in the state to be resentenced, and it called back to the courtroom Presler's descendants, who have been fighting for years to keep him in prison.

"We're part of the 3rd generation," said Amy Jones, who was 9 when her great-grandmother was killed. "It's haunted all of us our whole lives."

Jones attended the hearing Friday alongside several of Presler's other grandchildren and great-grandchildren to hear Olsen's decision.

At a hearing in March, prosecutors asked for a 60-year to life sentence, meaning Furman wouldn't be up for parole until his late 70s. Furman's attorney, public defender Steve Lewis, argued that a 60-year sentence was unconstitutional and Furman should be eligible to apply for release now.

In her decision, Olsen discounted Furman's age as a mitigating factor in the crime. While research has shown that younger people tend to have poorer impulse control and judgment than adults, Furman was only 2 months shy of his 18th birthday when he killed Presler, she said.

The deliberate nature of the crime also showed Furman's responsibility, Olsen said. Before he beat Presler with several different vases, Furman wrapped the objects in rags to not leave fingerprints. He also disposed of his clothing after the fact and initially lied to detectives about whether he was in the home.

"This is not a reckless or impulsive act, but rather one of a clear, cold, calculating decision of a mind fully cognizant of future consequences," Olsen said.

Olsen did consider Furman's upbringing, which he told the judge in March was disturbing and violent. Furman's stepmother renamed him "Jason" because her own son was named Michael, and she made him sleep in the garage. She also made him shoot a litter of puppies they couldn’t afford. Furman began abusing drugs at a young age.

"The defendant experienced chronic instability, neglect, physical, sexual and emotional abuse, and there's no doubt it impacted his psychological development," Olsen said.

Olsen cited a specific Washington court case that ruled that a defendant who would be up for parole at age 68 amounted to a "de facto" life sentence. Under the new sentence, Furman would be eligible to apply for release when he is 65.

In an email to the Kitsap Sun, Lewis said Furman was "disappointed beyond measure" at Olsen's ruling and plans to appeal the sentence.

"We respectfully disagree with the conclusion that providing an opportunity for release for the first time at age 65 for a juvenile offender is providing that juvenile offender a "meaningful" opportunity at parole," Lewis wrote.

Presler's family watched in silence as the sentence was handed down. Furman was not in the courtroom but joined in by phone from Clallam Bay Correctional Facility. Afterward, the family described Olsen's ruling as "fair."

"What's good for 1 person is good for the other, and this is not just for our family, this is for all the other families, heaven forbid, that have to go through this," Jones said.

The horror of Presler's death and subsequent trial have dominated most of the memories of their great-grandmother for the past several decades. Jones' sister Robin Adams was 11 when Presler was killed. The oldest family members present at the hearing were in their 20s.

"We don't really talk about her life as a family because her life is so wrapped up in her death, and it's made it really hard, especially for us younger grandchildren," Jones said.

The family hopes this will be the last time they'll have to revisit Presler's death. If Olsen's sentence is found to be unconstitutional, the family would have to come back to court.

"We're in a club that no family ever wants to be in, which is murder," Adams said. "The problem is that it will never end for us until he dies."

For now, the sentence ensures Furman will remain in prison. But the family is still struggling with closure. Younger members of the family don't know much about Presler, because her grandchildren want to avoid passing along painful memories.

"We hope that the 4th and the 5th generation, that this is not something that's ever on their plate, that they ever have to think about," Jones said.

(source: Kitsap Sun)

PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY:

PCHR: Accession to abolition of death penalty "step in right direction"

On Wednesday, 06 June 2018, the Palestinian President Mahmoud 'Abbas signed instrument of State of Palestine's accession to 7 international convention and treaties, including the 1989 Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), aiming at the abolition of the death penalty. The Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) commended the accession to the ICCPR Protocol aiming at the abolition of the death penalty and emphasized it is a step in the right direction that needs to be upheld with legislative steps to guarantee compliance with the protocol.

In a statement, PCHR said that since its establishment in 1995, the center has opposed the use of death penalty in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt) and called upon the Palestinian leadership in many occasions and with the issuance of a new death sentence to necessarily abolish it and sign the relevant international protocol.

PCHR at the time based on legal and logical grounds that render the application of death penalty in the Palestinian Authority (PA) a crime in light of absence of investigation techniques and guarantees for a fair trial in order to apply such a dangerous penalty. Moreover, PCHR said it believes that such penalty is inhuman and ineffectual in achieving general deterrence or peace in society.

Since the establishment of the PA, PCHR monitored serious abuses, particularly following the division in the PA, as many death sentences were applied without a fair trial or following up the proper legal proceedings.

Most prominent of those abuses of the use of death penalty in the PA was issuing death sentences by military courts against civilians, establishing the so-called "Field Court" in the Gaza Strip that issued and applied immediately inappellable death sentences, applying death sentences without the ratification of the Palestinian President in flagrant violation of the Basic Law; absence of fair trial guarantees; and systemic use of torture to obtain confessions.

Since the establishment of the PA, 41 death sentences were issued; 39 of which were in the Gaza Strip and 2 in the West Bank. Among the sentences applied in the Gaza Strip, 28 were applied since 2007 without the ratification of the Palestinian President in violation of the law. Moreover, the total number of death sentences issued in the Palestinian Authority (PA) controlled areas has risen to 203 sentences since 1994. 30 of them have been issued in the West Bank and 173 in the Gaza Strip. Among those issued in the Gaza Strip, 115 sentences have been issued since 2007.

PCHR called upon the Palestinian President to promptly and immediately amend the penal laws applicable in the West Bank and Gaza Strip; the 1936 Penal Law in force in the Gaza Strip and the 1960 Jordanian Penal Code in force in the West Bank, as each of them proclaims 15 crimes punishable by death penalty. PCHR also reiterated its call for suspending the 1979 Revolutionary Penal Code for its unconstitutionality as it stipulates 45 crimes punishable by the death penalty.

PCHR called upon the Palestinian President to issue a decision by law to suspend immediately the death penalty until making the necessary amendments to the above mentioned laws.

(source: pnn.ps)

INDIA:

Convict's appeal against death penalty: SC seeks reply from UP govt

The Supreme Court has sought the Uttar Pradesh government's response on a plea by a death-row convict challenging the Allahabad High Court's judgement upholding the capital punishment awarded to him for burning alive his son and 2 brothers.

A vacation bench of justices Adarsh Kumar Goel and Ashok Bhushan issued notice to the state on the appeal and called for the original records of the case.

The counsel representing convict Irfan requested the apex court to stay the execution of sentence.

"When the appeal is pending before us, nobody is going to be executed," the bench observed.

"Intimation of this matter be sent to the concerned jail authority," the bench noted in its order.

Irfan challenged the April 25 verdict of the high court which had upheld the death penalty awarded to him by a trial court in Bijnor district.

Fifty-year-old Irfan was convicted by the trial court for offences under various provisions of the Indian Penal Code, including murder.

According to the police, Irfan had set the room, in which his son and 2 brothers were sleeping, on fire by pouring inflammable substance and bolted the door from outside on the intervening night of August 5-6, 2014.

It had said that injured persons -- Irshad, Naushad and Islamuddin -- were rushed to a hospital in Delhi where they died during the treatment.

The police had also said Islamuddin opposed his father's 2nd marriage leaving Irfan annoyed.

Irfan had assaulted his son 2 days prior to the incident and Irshad and Naushad had mediated between them, the police said.

Following the incident, a complaint was lodged by Irfan's father-in-law.

During the trial, Irfan alleged that he was falsely implicated in the case by some of his relatives so as to deny a share in their ancestral property.

(source: indiatoday.in)

MALAYSIA:

July 12 re-mention for murder of mother case in KB

The case of a 39-year-old local charged with murdering his mother in Kota Belud will re-mentioned on July 12.

High Court Judge Datuk Nurchaya Arshad set the date for Bukhari Jinol's case for the prosecution to get further instruction from the Headquarters in Putrajaya regarding the case.

Earlier, Deputy Public Prosecutor Gan Peng Kun informed the court that the Headquarters instructed to proceed with the trial for murder under Section 302 of the Penal Code, even though he had recommended for Section 304(a) (manslaughter) to be read to the accused.

DPP Gan said the instruction was on grounds that there were sufficient evidence to proceed with Section 302.

Counsel Ridwandean Borhan, representing Bukhari, informed the court that a report from the hospital in Bukit Padang stated that Bukhari was of unsound mind at the time the offence was committed because he took drugs.

Bukhari is accused of committing the crime to one Teh Juari, 56, at 10.40pm on May 1, this year in a house at Kg Linau, Kota Belud.

When the trial commenced on April 16, the prosecution's 1st witness, a psychiatrist, testified on Bukhari's mental condition that Bukhari was of unsound mind and was incapable of knowing the nature of the act during the commission of the alleged offence.

The prosecution referred the matter to the Headquarters following an order from the court to get instruction on the case.

The charge under Section 302 of the Penal Code carries the death penalty on conviction.

Meanwhile, the court deferred to July 9 the case of a 35-year-old unemployed local charged with trafficking 4,619gm of syabu.

Counsel Dominic Chew, representing Muhd Zubir Sabtal, applied for another pre-trial case management as he wanted to write a letter to challenge the whole thing regarding the charge against Zubir.

Zubir is accused of committing the offence at 2.45am on Jan 4, 2017 in Room No. 502, Tang Dynasty Bay Hotel, at Kg Gudon, Sepanggar Bay Road.

(source: dailyexpress.com.my)

JUNE 9, 2018:

TEXAS----impending execution

Houston serial killer Danny Bible's lawyers say he is too sick to execute, predict botched procedure

Lawyers for Houston-area serial killer Danny Bible filed a civil rights suit Friday alleging the aging death row inmate is in such poor health that any attempts to execute him will end in a gruesome, botched procedure.

The so-called "ice pick killer" has Parkinson's, bad veins and a slew of other medical conditions that raise the possibility of a prolonged and painful lethal injection process his lawyers argue could violate the 8th Amendment's ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

The 66-year-old is scheduled to die on June 27.

"Texas will almost certainly join Alabama and Ohio and add itself to the unconscionable list of botched executions in America," his attorney Jeremy Schepers told the Chronicle.

"Mr. Bible is an elderly, frail man who has been confined to a wheelchair for the last 15 years and his health is rapidly deteriorating," he continued. "Recent medical evaluations confirm that his veins are inaccessible and unsuitable for placing an IV. Any attempts to carry out the execution will amount to torture, cause excruciating pain, and violate his constitutional rights."

Bible's bid for reprieve comes months after a high-profile botch that forced officials in Alabama to call off the execution of Doyle Hamm, a 61-year-old death row prisoner with lymphoma. In February, a lethal injection team there spent hours poking the condemned killer's arms, legs and groin to find a usable vein before ultimately giving up as the midnight deadline approached.

Previously, Ohio saw similarly botched procedures in the attempted execution of Romell Broom in 2009 and Alva Campbell in 2017. Schepers writes that Bible is in worse health than Hamm, Campbell or Broom.

The Texas lethal injection preparation - a part of the process media and witnesses are not permitted to observe - involves inserting 2 IV lines, while the prisoner is strapped to a gurney.

But lying down causes Bible shortness of breath, and his lawyers argue that he would "likely be choking and gasping for air" during attempts to hook up IVs that may be "futile" anyway.

Bible's legal claim, which lays out a "galaxy of medical issues" in detail over the course of 90 pages, names Texas Department of Criminal Justice officials and "anonymous execution team members" among its numerous defendants.

This isn't the 1st time a Texas death row prisoner has fought his sentence by questioning the lethal injection process. Thomas "Bart" Whitaker - a Fort Bend man eventually spared by Gov. Greg Abbott - was 1 of 3 inmates behind a years-long suit alleging the drugs Texas uses could cause undue suffering.

And earlier this year, hours before his February execution, John Battaglia unsuccessfully tried winning a stay by raising concerns about 2 allegedly botched executions his lawyers said were caused by too-old drugs.

Both of those cases focused on the possibility that the drugs themselves would cause suffering, a claim that could more generally apply to any death row prisoner. Bible's argument focuses more narrowly on the possibility that he, specifically, is unfit to execute.

"To my knowledge this is the first suit of its kind in Texas," said lethal injection expert and death penalty lawyer Maurie Levin, who worked on the Whitaker and Battaglia cases.

In Bible's case, his lawyers suggest that an alternative method - firing squad or nitrogen gas - would decrease the risk of suffering.

Bible was initially sent to death row in 2003, more than 2 decades after the crime that landed him there.

A former drifter, Bible's lengthy string of violence dates back to at least 1979. That May, a passerby found the bloodied, half-naked body of Inez Deaton along the slope of a Houston bayou. She'd been stabbed 11 times with an ice pick before her killer posed her corpse by the water.

For nearly 2 decades, Deaton's slaying went unsolved - but Bible's violent streak continued.

In the years that followed, Bible terrorized women in the Midwest, once setting his girlfriend's car on fire because he didn't like her haircut. After he returned to Texas and settled west of Fort Worth, he murdered his sister-in-law Tracy Powers and her infant son Justin. Then, he killed Powers' roommate, Pam Hudgins, and left her body hanging from a roadside fence.

Following those killings, he fled to Montana, where he kidnapped a woman and raped an 11-year-old girl, according to court records.

Eventually, he was caught and in 1984 he pleaded guilty to Hudgins' murder. He was sentenced to 25 years for the killing and 20 years for a Harris County robbery. He was released on parole 8 years later, under a since-repealed mandatory supervision law.

While still on parole, he raped and molested multiple young relatives, including a 5-year-old. Then in 1998, he raped Tera Robinson in a Louisiana motel room before stuffing her into a duffel bag when he became enraged that he couldn't maintain an erection.

The woman broke free and called for help.

Bible was eventually caught in Florida, and freely admitted to his crimes under questioning.

Weeks after he was sentenced, Bible narrowly escaped death during a head-on-collision on the way to death row. The officer behind the wheel of the prison transport vehicle, 40-year-old John Bennett, died in the wreck, while Bible ended up in a wheelchair.

In past appeals, Bible's attorneys have used his deteriorating medical condition to argue against his execution, saying he can't be a danger in his current state.

Texas has already executed 6 men this year, including another Houston serial killer, Anthony Shore. Aside from Bible's, there are 7 other death dates on the calendar in Texas.

(source: Houston Chronicle)

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

Racist Jurors, Extreme Mental Illness - a Federal Court Is Rethinking the Case of Texas Death Row Inmate Andre Thomas

With all the bluster from Pennsylvania Avenue about executing drug dealers and school shooters and MS-13 members, you may not have noticed that the death penalty has been in a long and steady decline. Executions and death sentences in the United States have dropped more than 75 percent from their highs of 2 decades ago, and there is no evidence to suggest these trends will reverse themselves. Still, there is a steady drip-drip-drip of state-sanctioned killing, almost entirely in a handful of Southern states, and many participants in the criminal justice system, including several members of the Supreme Court, appear to be wondering when it will all end.

Some cases seem tailor-made to hurry the discussion along, and Texas' long-grinding case against Andre Thomas is 1 of them. Thomas' trial and appeals, which I covered in detail for Mother Jones in 2013, paint a harrowing portrait of mental illness, systemic racism, and an unfathomable crime: Thomas had killed his estranged wife, his 4-year-old son, and her 13-month-old daughter, which was shocking enough, but the nature of the crime itself would have been a massive red flag for any mental health professional.

For one thing, Andre had cut out the children’s hearts and returned home with the organs in his pockets. For another, he was careful to use 3 different knives so that the blood from each body would not cross-contaminate, thereby ensuring that the demons inside each of them would die. He then stabbed himself in the chest, but he did not die as he had hoped.

Thomas' family tree was replete with domestic violence, parental neglect, substance abuse, and enough genetic markers to predict the schizophrenia that plagued him. But as bizarre as the crime was, and as detailed his troubled past, his behavior afterward stood out even among cases involving extreme mental illness.

Andre refused the anti-psychotic medication the jail doctors prescribed him, but at least he had the Bible, and when he wasn't acting belligerently or gesticulating wildly or ranting about evil he would read from it. One can only wonder what he thought when he turned to Matthew 5:29 - particularly in light of his obsession with the eye on the pyramid. "If your right eye causes you to sin," the passage reads, "gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell."

And that is precisely what Andre did. Sitting in his cell, reading the Bible, he gouged out his right eye with his fingers.

After 3 years on death row, Thomas began to act as he had before committing his crimes. He stopped talking and eating, began to feel suicidal, and refused his meds. And then, a few weeks before Christmas 2008, he ripped out his remaining eye - and ate it.

As he explained some days later, he didn't want the government to read his thoughts, so he ate the eye because he was certain they would figure out some way to put it back in.

Thomas has been blind for close to a decade now, and Texas continues to push for his execution. But last week, during oral arguments on his case before the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, federal judges hinted they were troubled by more than just Thomas' psychoses.

While mental illness pervades every aspect of the case, there was something more sinister at play during Thomas' trial for capital murder. Thomas is black, and he had killed his estranged wife, who was white. This fact prompted the inclusion of an item on the jury questionnaire about interracial marriage, and 4 potential jurors indicated they were "opposed" or "strongly opposed" to such pairings. 3 of those jurors were seated, and the 4th was chosen as an alternate. Thomas' court-appointed defense lawyers neither asked 2 of the 3 seated jurors a single follow-up question about race to try to disqualify them, nor did they use a peremptory strike to have either of them removed.

Those same defense attorneys who had failed to keep Thomas off death row proved even less helpful during his appeals. They gave prosecutors and Thomas' new lawyers contradictory statements regarding their own conduct at trial, and they used virtually identical language to explain their failure to probe deeper into the jurors' antipathy toward mixed marriages: We "questioned them to the extent necessary for us to request a strike for cause or make a decision to use a strike against them."

One of the lawyers went even further, accusing Thomas' appellate attorneys of race-baiting and claiming that "the prosecutors and jurors are being accused of racial prejudice without any basis in the record." It seems that the jurors' sworn comments regarding interracial marriage - "I don't believe God intended for this," "We should stay with our bloodline," and "[It is] harmful for the children involved because they don't have a specific race to belong to" - did not meet their threshold for racial bias.

Thomas' appeals were roundly rejected by Texas state courts, so he moved on to the federal district court in eastern Texas. There, without explanation, his case was passed from one judge to another to a 3rd, until it finally came to rest where it had begun, with Judge Michael H. Schneider, a 2004 appointee of President George W. Bush.

Schneider made short shrift of the mental health and racial bias claims presented by Thomas' appellate attorneys. Relying on procedural rules ushered in after the Republican takeover of the House of Representatives in 1994, he followed the state courts' lead by attributing credibility to the statements Thomas' original lawyers had given to the prosecution after his trial, while ignoring the contradictory statements those lawyers had provided 6 months earlier to the lawyers representing Thomas in his appeals.

1 prosecutor asked the all-white jury whether they were willing to risk Thomas "asking your daughter out, or your granddaughter out?"

Schneider ruled that the failure of Thomas' original defense lawyers to press some jurors on perceived racial biases "was simply a matter of trial strategy." But that would have been a curious strategy in light of the lead prosecutor's closing argument for execution, which he concluded by asking the all-white jury whether they were willing to risk Thomas "asking your daughter out, or your granddaughter out?"

As for Thomas' competence to stand trial after gouging his eye out and being committed to the state mental hospital, Schneider sided with the Texas courts in crediting B. Thomas Gray, a clinical psychologist who noted that Thomas had been diagnosed as "malingering" and that he "may engage in gestures or behaviors, including possibly those involving self-harm, in a bid to appear more seriously mentally ill than he is." (Schneider's opinion made no mention of whether the doctor may have changed his diagnosis after Thomas removed his second eyeball.)

The ruling left no doubt about Schneider’s views: He denied every issue raised by the defense and declared that no "reasonable jurists" could even debate the merits of Thomas' claims. His 77-page opinion was published on September 19, 2016 - Schneider retired from the federal bench 12 days later.

But the legal winds seem to be shifting in Thomas' favor. Last year, the Supreme Court handed down 2 important decisions about discrimination in a criminal law context. Although neither relates directly to Thomas' fate, both cases showed the court is finally taking a clear-eyed look at the racial elephant in the courtroom.

In Pena-Rodriguez v. Colorado, the high court reversed a sexual assault conviction wherein a juror had condemned the defendant during deliberations "because he's Mexican and Mexican men take whatever they want…9 times out of 10 Mexican men were guilty of being aggressive toward women and young girls." Unlike the Thomas jurors, who had expressed racial animosity and were not questioned about it by his defense lawyers, the biased juror in Pena-Rodriguez did not reveal his prejudice during jury selection.

"Our law punishes people for what they do, not who they are."

The 2nd Supreme Court decision, Buck v. Davis, involved Duane Buck, a Texas death row inmate whose own lawyer put a psychologist on the stand to testify about his client’s likelihood of committing criminal acts of violence that would constitute a continuing threat to society. This expert witness concluded that Buck probably would not engage in further violent conduct, but that because he was black, there was an elevated probability he would.

Chief Justice John Roberts, recognizing that Buck may have been sentenced to death in part because of his race, wrote this was "a disturbing departure from a basic premise of our criminal justice system: Our law punishes people for what they do, not who they are. Dispensing punishment on the basis of an immutable characteristic flatly contravenes this guiding principle." This was a harsh reversal of the Fifth Circuit's opinion, which held that Buck had "not made out even a minimal showing” that his case was exceptional.

Like Schneider in the Thomas case, the Fifth Circuit in Buck had determined that no reasonable jurist could argue that Buck's claim of racial bias had merit. Thomas' next appellate stop was that very same Fifth Circuit. Had they learned anything from Buck v. Davis? Last week’s oral arguments provided an inkling.

In his book The Supreme Court, the late Chief Justice William Rehnquist wrote about an 1824 case, Gibbons v. Ogden, that involved 5 days of oral argument before the court. Appeals courts these days rarely allow more than an hour, and so it was in the Thomas case. Still, the racial bias of the jurors was of significant interest to the 3-judge panel. When 1 of the judges asked about the claim by 1 of Thomas' trial lawyers that he had avoided questioning those jurors further for fear of creating animosity, Thomas' appellate attorney was prepared:

He does say that in his 2nd affidavit, which of course is diametrically contrary to the first affidavit he submitted, in which he said, "There was no intentional strategy, I simply just didn't ask." What we know here is that these questions were posed to the jurors...in the first place precisely because the interracial dynamics of the facts in this case were so palpable that it was recognized that this was an important question that needed to be asked. So it's not a reasonable strategy to then say, "Well, I don't want to inject race into the discussion." Race was already injected into the discussion, and these jurors gave extremely troubling responses.

When it was the assistant attorney general's turn to argue, a serious error in the state's brief was exposed. The prosecution had erroneously claimed all the jurors at issue were questioned further about their views on interracial marriage:

Judge Stephen Higginson: On page 36 of your brief, you say trial counsel extensively questioned all 4 [jurors] regarding whether Thomas and [the victim's] race would impact their ability to remain impartial. You said all four indicated it would not. You didn't give a record [citation]. Is it your position that, when I look at the transcript, that trial counsel questioned [the 2 jurors in question] as to whether or not their race would impact the ability to remain impartial?

Prosecutor: At this point, I have to admit that that was a mistake.

Judge: It's a pretty significant mistake.

Prosecutor: It is, Your Honor.

Not surprisingly, Thomas' severe mental illness came up prominently. When the state attempted to portray the killings as "revenge and obsession," Higginson was not having it. "It seems like the state admits, and certainly the defense insists, that the defendant was psychotic," he said. "You're saying that this was a revenge killing...[and that] does seem to be missing the greater point, that even you acknowledge, that this is a matter of a person who was psychotic at the time." "As a little boy he was suffering the effects of this organic mental illness. He needed help. He never got it."

Thomas' attorney ended her presentation by explaining that the trial lawyers had failed to provide an accurate portrayal of her profoundly disturbed client: "What [the jury] should have seen, and what would have gravely affected their evaluation of whether he deserved to die, was that as a little boy he was suffering the effects of this organic mental illness. He needed help. He never got it."

Higginson concluded the hearing with an understatement. "It's an important set of questions for us to resolve," he said. Then, only 2 days later, the Fifth Circuit panel issued an order acknowledging what was painfully obvious to anyone who was in the courtroom last week: That "reasonable jurists could disagree" on the race and mental illness aspects of the case. The judges then asked both sides to brief them further on those issues.

The order amounts to a rare glimmer of hope for Thomas, who is entering his 14th year on death row. While justice purports to be blind, would a reasonable jurist believe it to be served by executing a severely mentally ill man who blinded himself?

(source: Mother Jones)

NORTH CAROLINA:

Man's mental condition, past cited in capital resentencing

A survivor from El Salvador's civil war must be resentenced because North Carolina jurors who decided he should die for his wife's killing weren't told to consider evidence relating his conduct to his mental condition, the state Supreme Court ruled Friday.

The justices vacated the death sentence but let stand the 2014 1st-degree murder and 1st-degree kidnapping convictions of Juan Carlos Rodriguez of Winston-Salem for the 2010 death of his wife, Maria. Her decapitated body was discovered 3 weeks after she was last seen alive.

The majority in the 5-2 decision determined that Superior Court Judge Stuart Albright failed during Rodriguez's sentencing hearing to direct jurors to examine that Rodriguez's mental limitations and past struggles impaired his ability to fully comprehend his conduct.

Associate Justice Sam Ervin IV, writing the majority opinion, pointed to evidence showing Rodriguez was malnourished and in extreme poverty amid constant violence as a child in war-torn El Salvador in the late 1970s and '80s. He suffered a mental disorder, according to expert witnesses and had a low IQ and mild intellectual disability.

Jurors had to make a binding recommendation to the judge to sentence Rodriguez to death or to life in prison without parole. Ervin wrote there's uncertainty whether the judge adding this information to the list of mitigating and aggravating circumstances would have changed a juror's mind.

Evidence of Rodriguez's "mental limitations and disturbed and overwrought thinking supports a rational inference that defendant's ability to fully comprehend the wrongfulness of his conduct and to conform his conduct to the requirements of the law was adversely affected" when the murder occurred, Ervin wrote.

In the dissenting opinion, Chief Justice Mark Martin wrote there was no evidence linking Rodriguez's "purported intellectual impairment, mental disorders, and marital strife to his homicidal conduct."

"The majority also ignores the evidence showing that defendant's actions were carefully premeditated and that he took many steps to conceal his identity as the perpetrator," which would have prevented jurors from finding the mitigating circumstance occurred, Martin wrote.

The couple had been estranged at the time of Maria Rodriguez's death. She had entered a domestic violence shelter a month before, writing that her husband had threatened to kill her. She was last seen alive at the couple's former apartment by her children, who told investigators she had been bloodied by their father. He tossed her body over his shoulder, put her in the vehicle and said he was taking her to the hospital, according to evidence. Her skull was recovered 2 1/2 years after her decapitated body was found, 20 miles away.

Rodriguez's IQ was estimated several times at below 70, a threshold for significantly impaired intellectual functioning. But accused killers in North Carolina also must show significant inability to adapt to daily life and that their mental disabilities were evident before adulthood.

Rodriguez has been on North Carolina's death row while awaiting the appeal. While more than 140 people await execution, the state hasn't carried out capital punishment in more than a decade as various legal challenges have blocked it. Changes in state law have also dramatically lowered the number of murder cases in which local prosecutors seek the death penalty.

(source: Associated Press)

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

Death penalty upheld for man convicted of killing Shaniya Davis

The man convicted of killing 5-year-old Shaniya Davis will receive the death penalty after his appeal to have his conviction overturned was denied.

Mario McNeill was convicted and sentenced to death for killing the 5-year-old in 2009.

McNeill wanted the court to overturn his conviction because he says his attorneys should not have told police where to find the little girl's body.

While his attorney Andrew DeSimone said McNeill would have been better off without a lawyer.

"Mr. McNeill would have been better off without any lawyers because if this condition of anonymity was not going to be honored if he was not going to get any promise of a benefit or protection from use of this evidence against him, he could have done this himself," said DeSimone.

The jury decided McNeill received a fair trial.

(source: ABC News)

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

State seeks death penalty in Y.G. Wells killing

A Winston-Salem man could be sentenced to death if found guilty of killing a Statesville father of 3 earlier this year, a Superior Court judge ruled Friday.

Judge Jesse Caldwell ruled that it would be appropriate for prosecutors to seek the death penalty in their case against 35-year-old Enrico Dewaine Heggins.

Heggins "knowingly created the possibility of death for more than one person," Caldwell said during a hearing. "(The) state is lawfully entitled to seek the death penalty."

Freeman Jacobi "Y.G." Wells, 30, was shot and killed Jan. 6 while inside his Hickory Avenue home. Prosecutors say he was struck in the head by a bullet.

Mikko Red Arrow, Iredell County assistant district attorney, said the bullet was forensically linked to a mini Draco "shortened assault rifle" that Heggins had when he was arrested by the Davie County Sheriff's Office in March on unrelated drug charges.

Red Arrow said Heggins arrived at Wells' Statesville home in the early morning hours of Jan.6 and opened fire, sending a round of a round of bullets into the house.

Heggins is charged with 1st-degree murder, possession of a firearm by a felon and discharging a firearm into an occupied dwelling.

Antwon Deon Taylor and Kasey Allen Randol also are charged with murder in the case. Both are scheduled to appear in Iredell County Superior Court June 27.

Heggins' attorney, Patricia Riddick, was not immediately available for comment.

Toni Watts, Wells' mother, said the death penalty would be a fitting punishment.

"They didn't have a right to take my son's life away," Watts said. "I can't talk to my son; I look at my grandkids' faces and all I see is hurt. I'm glad they are going after him with the death penalty. They should go after every one of them."

Watts' husband, Patrick Eugene Watts, was shot and killed in 2002. Her mother, Henrietta Griffith, died a few days after she buried her son. Watts said she is "hurting," but the dedication law enforcement is giving to her son's case gives her hope.

"I'm thankful because I'm never going to give up," Watts said. "I'm not stopping until everyone involved is held accountable for what they've done."

(source: statesville.com)

FLORIDA:

Florida prosecutor allows local input on death penalty for Woodbury

Local input is being accepted by the Florida prosecutor, who is currently seeking the death penalty for Michael Woodbury, the former Mainer who shot and killed three people in Conway in 2007 and recently pleaded guilty to murdering a fellow inmate in a Florida prison.

Woodbury has been serving a life sentence without parole in Florida since 2009.

According to a report in the Okeechobee News, Woodbury, 42, formerly of Windham, Maine, pleaded guilty May 21 to first-degree premeditated murder in the beating death with a padlock of fellow inmate Antoneeze Haynes on Sept. 22 at Okeechobee Correctional Institution.

The plea, according to Okeechobee News reporter Matteo Tullio, came on the 3rd day of Woodbury's trial, which began May 17.

Ashley K. Albright, assistant state attorney for Florida's 19th Judicial Circuit, told the Sun last week that people can contact him by email to add their input.

"We have already reached out to the family members of the triple homicide and tried to contact them and get input from them but certainly anyone who would like to can send me an email," said Albright adding some of the Conway victims' family members plan to attend the sentencing hearing tentatively scheduled for July 23. "Because they are not direct victims of this case, they will not be able to testify in the penalty phase in front of the jury. However, we can still present evidence of those crimes to the jury for them to consider."

The proceedings take place at Okeechobee County Courthouse with St. Lucie County Circuit Court Judge Sherwood Bauer presiding.

The sentencing phase is open to the public.

Longtime Conway residents will remember July 2, 2007, as the day when Woodbury, then 31 and from Windham, Maine, walked into the Army Barracks at 347 White Mountain Highway and shot store manager James Walker, 34, and two customers from Massachusetts, William Jones, 25, and Gary Jones, 23.

Walker and William Jones died at the scene, and Gary Jones died later at Maine Medical Center. The 2 Joneses were not related but were close friends who had been camping in Maine. The two campers walked in on Woodbury and apparently tried to halt his bid to steal gas money for the stolen cars in which he had been living.

The day after the shootings, Woodbury gave himself up to a Fryeburg, Maine, patrol officer in a forested stretch of railbed in that town.

He later pleaded guilty to those killings.

"We will present actual evidence of all of the prior crimes that he committed to the jury to consider in determining whether or not to impose the death penalty," said Albright.

To impose the the death penalty, the jury of 12 has to agree unanimously. Then it goes to a judge.

"If the jury voted to impose the death penalty, the judge could still impose life instead of death; if the jury voted to impose life, the judge would have to give life," said Albright who explained that Florida executes inmates by lethal injection.

Then there's an automatic appeal to the state's Supreme Court. Albright said it would take years to have Woodbury executed.

During his trial, Woodbury claimed Haynes tried to rape him, according to the Okeechobee News report.

"This case is first and foremost, from my perspective, about how my cellmate, Haynes, attempted to rape and sexually assault me while asleep in my bed in the middle of the night," Tullio quoted Woodbury as testifying.

(source: The Conway Daily Sun)

TENNESSEE:

Possibility of death penalty with new charges against Joe Clyde's parents

New charges have been filed against the parents of Joe Clyde and now there is the possibility of the death penalty in the case.

Joseph Ray Daniels and Krystal Daniels were both video arraigned in Dickson County court on Friday.

Joseph Ray is now facing premeditated first-degree murder, child abuse, tampering with evidence, criminal responsibility and false report charges, while Krystal is charged with failing to prevent aggravated child abuse and neglect, false report and accessory after the fact. Both Daniels pleaded not guilty to all charges.

A Special Grand Jury returned the indictments Thursday afternoon.

The district attorney said in court that the death penalty could be sought in the case, depending on if Joe Clyde's body is found.

A search for Joe Clyde's remains is slated for Saturday and Sunday.

Earlier this week, FOX 17 News learned Joe Clyde's blanket was found. According to sources close to the investigation, Joseph Ray said it was the blanket Joe received the previous Christmas.

It's the 1st piece of concrete evidence in the case, as of the hearing Monday, it appeared to be largely based on Joseph Ray's confession and Krystal's statement.

Joseph Daniels confessed to beating his son to death and hiding his body in a remote area back in the beginning of April. The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation said they have a video recording of Joseph Daniels' confession during a hearing.

Per the confession, Joe Clyde's 8-year-old brother went into his parents' bedroom to tell them baby Joe had peed on the floor. Joseph told TBI Joe Clyde started laughing, "so I beat him."

Joe Clyde apparently ran outside near the road before Joseph retrieved his son and beat him again. Since the confession, Daniels has sent several locations for Joe's body to Dickson County officers, with no success.

According to Krystal's statement to police, Krystal heard a "loud, painful" scream that suddenly just stopped -- and it was silence. She came out of her room, saw Joe Clyde on the ground, not moving, with Joseph standing over him with his fist clenched. She never got close enough to check on him and went back to bed.

The state argued Krystal "walked hand in hand" with her husband, spreading lies about Joe Clyde's disappearance.

(source: Fox News)

KENTUCKY:

1 sentenced, another facing death penalty in 2016 murder of Russellville mother

In 2016, Lexus Bell was shot and killed during an armed robbery at her home. Almost 2 years later, 4 people are facing charges in her murder.

On Thursday, Reba Kirk was sentenced to 20 years in prison after she admitted to orchestrating the robbery that resulted in Bell's death.

The court heard from Lexus Bell's aunt as well as her step-father during the sentencing hearing.

Circuit Judge Tyler Gill said Kirk had demonstrated "gangster mentality" amid discussion that dug deep into Kirk's past, growing up with less-than-reputable guardian figures.

On Friday, the man alleged to have pulled the trigger, Demetrius Roberson, appeared in court alongside Tayveon Bibb, who was indicted on murder charges in May.

Acting prosecutor Justin Crocker filed a motion earlier this year in which he explained he will now go after the death penalty for Roberson.

Roberson, who has been declared indigent by the court, is being represented by the Kentucky Department of Public Advocacy.

His attorney, Michael Bufkin, was asked about being prepared for trial, and said as of today, he didn't foresee any obstacles preventing them from being ready.

"We will do everything in our power to be able to try this case on the date that the court has given, but we can't anticipate what might happen between now and then," said Bufkin.

Russellville Police are still investigating the case, and say even almost 2 years later, there could still be more arrests to come.

"My situation is just having patience, and hopefully the people that didn't come forth will come forth," said Detective Kenneth Edmonds. "It's just a waiting game."

The trial for both Demetrius Roberson and Tayveon Bibb is scheduled for March 2019.

The 4th person facing charges, Jordan Lunsford, has pleaded guilty to his charges for the role he played in the shooting.

(source: WBKO news)

ARKANSAS:

Arkansas judge seen at anti-execution rally faces sanction

A judicial disciplinary panel charged an Arkansas judge on Friday with ethics violations for lying down on a cot during an anti-death penalty demonstration the same day he blocked the state from using an execution drug, a move that could result in his suspension or removal from office.

A 3-member panel of the Arkansas Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission filed the formal charges against Pulaski County Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen, who was photographed on a cot outside the governor's mansion last year wearing an anti-death penalty button and surrounded by people holding signs opposing executions. Earlier that day, Griffen blocked the state from using a lethal injection drug over claims the company had been misled by the state.

Though the image appeared to mimic a condemned inmate awaiting lethal injection, Griffen, who is also a Baptist pastor, has said he was portraying Jesus and participating in a prayer vigil. The panel cited his participation in the demonstration, as well as comments he had made online and on social media against the death penalty.

"Judge Griffen holds a right to free speech, but once Judge Griffen asserted his free speech in unequivocal opposition to the death penalty, he had an obligation to disqualify himself in every case effecting the death penalty," the panel said in its statement of allegations.

Days after the demonstration last year, the state Supreme Court removed Griffen from the drug case and prohibited him from handling any execution-related cases. Griffen in April re-enacted his demonstration outside the governor's mansion during a vigil to mark the 1-year anniversary of the 4 executions Arkansas carried out last year.

Griffen has 30 days to respond to the charges and will have a hearing before the full, nine-member commission. The commission can recommend the state Supreme Court suspend or remove Griffen if it finds he violated judicial rules of conduct. The panel could also issue a public admonishment, reprimand or censure the judge.

An attorney for Griffen criticized the panel's decision to charge Griffen.

"We are disappointed by today's announcement, but not surprised," Mike Laux, an attorney for Griffen, said in an email. "We question the thoroughness of the investigation, as well as the impartiality of the ad hoc JDDC panel assembled to review the matter. We will elaborate on this on Monday."

Griffen has claimed the disqualification violated his constitutional rights. The state's 7 Supreme Court justices are appealing a federal judge's ruling that allows Griffen's lawsuit against them over the disqualification to proceed.

(source: Associated Press)

MISSOURI----female faces death penalty

Pam Hupp judge considers motions to suppress evidence and statements

The death penalty is still in play for Pam Hupp as she approaches a scheduled September murder trial, but a St. Charles County Judge says he needs more time to consider other defense motions.

Hupp is charged with murder first and armed criminal action after the August 2016 shooting death of Louis Gumpenberger.

Hupp claimed Gumpenberger, a man with disabilities, forced himself into her home. She says she shot him in self-defense.

12 police officers and investigators took the stand Friday, painting a picture of premeditated murder by Hupp. They also suggested she planted evidence, such as a knife.

The defense argued that the supposedly planted evidence only had Gumpenberger's fingerprints.

The most intense arguments were about the death penalty.

"I would put this case against any in the country in terms of depravity of mind - this woman (he points at Hupp)," prosecutor Phil Groenweghe.

Defense attorney Kim Freter interrupted, "Your honor, I'm going to object at this point. This is a preliminary matter. He doesn't get to yell and scream and point fingers at my client and keep calling me out by name and keep saying 'Her. Her. Her.'"

At another point in the arguments, Groenweghe said, "This is a woman who went all over St. Charles County looking for someone she could set up and make a fake 911 call so she could execute the person while they were on the phone with 911."

Again, Freter interjected.

"Your honor, the court hasn't heard any evidence," she said. "This is the argument about the statutory scheme regarding Missouri's death penalty."

There was one humorous break in the hearing after continued discussion of a search warrant involving Pam Hupp's safe. Investigators were looking for cash when they reportedly found "1 thing" inside the safe – "KY intense." There was no further explanation.

We also learned a little about what it was like the day officers responded to Hupp's shooting. 2 officers described driving up to the scene and seeing Hupp outside of her home walking her dog on a leash. One officer described her as "excited," not crying, but talking fast and breathing heavy when she said she's shot someone in her home. Another officer said Hupp told her, "What's with all the home burglaries around here lately?"

The judge said he'll decide on the suppression arguments soon.

(source: Fox News)

NEBRASKA:

ACLU asks Nebraska Supreme Court to delay setting execution date

The ACLU of Nebraska asked the State Supreme Court on Friday to postpone setting an execution date for Carey Dean Moore until four lawsuits are resolved.

The request could delay an execution date for months for Moore, who's spent 38 years on death row, far longer than any of the 11 other inmates sentenced to die.

The motion contests arguments by Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson, who has maintained that the legal battle is over and has asked the Supreme Court to expedite the scheduling of Moore's execution. He argued that all "subsequent collateral attacks and other various postponements have been exhausted." Plus, 1 of the state's 4 drugs needed for the execution will expire Aug. 31.

Peterson suggested a July 10 date for the state's 1st execution in 21 years, a date that coincides - by accident, according to the attorney general - with the birthday of State Sen. Ernie Chambers, an ardent foe of capital punishment.

The ACLU, in its filing by legal counsel Amy Miller, said that "several substantial (legal) questions" are pending and that the court should put off an execution to ensure that the state doesn't engage in an "unconstitutional or unlawful execution."

The Attorney General's Office, in response, said that state law requires the setting of an execution date when a death sentence is "final" and no court has issued a stay of execution, which is the case at this point.

"Today's late filing by the ACLU is their latest dilatory effort to obstruct the requirement to carry out final death penalty sentences," said Suzanne Gage, a spokeswoman for the Attorney General's Office. She noted that the ACLU has lost recent court rulings on the issue.

Whether the Supreme Court would set an execution date quickly, or wait until other court cases are resolved, has been a question for speculation.

Moore recently filed a sworn statement with the Supreme Court, affirming that he wants no legal representation to fight the setting of an execution.

Previously, he had told The World-Herald that after spending 38 years on death row, he will not oppose becoming the 1st Nebraska inmate to die by lethal injection. The state's last execution, in 1997, was via the electric chair, which has since been deemed unconstitutional.

But despite Moore's withdrawal, others who oppose capital punishment, including the ACLU, have continued to fight.

The ACLU, in its request to file a brief on behalf of Moore, cited 4 pending lawsuits that relate to the state's death penalty that the group says should "constitute 'just cause' for delaying issuing an execution warrant until they are resolved."

Those pending legal actions are:

-- A lawsuit, now on appeal to the Supreme Court, that seeks to nullify the 2016 referendum approved by voters that reinstated the death penalty. The suit asks the court to declare that the vote came too late and that the sentences of all death row inmates at the time should be changed to life in prison.

-- A lawsuit, also under appeal, that alleges that the state violated its procedures in adopting a lethal injection protocol.

-- A public records action, filed by the ACLU of Nebraska, that seeks the release of information about where, and from whom, the state obtained its supply of lethal injection drugs. That lawsuit is pending before a Lancaster County district judge.

-- A legal spat over whether the state's prison director, Scott Frakes, should comply with a subpoena from the State Legislature to testify about the procurement of lethal injection drugs.

Moore, 60, was sentenced to death for the 1979 killings of Omaha cabdrivers Reuel Van Ness and Maynard Helgeland.

(source: Omaha World-Herald)

COLORADO:

Cold-case effort encouraging

I was so heartened to read Boulder County's Michael T. Dougherty's oped describing steps that will be taken to beef-up our county's attention to cold cases.

About a decade ago, the board of directors of Coloradans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty launched the 1st of 4 bills to abolish the Colorado Death Penalty and ensure that the savings from the wasteful and ineffective death penalty, death row and execution protocol would go toward reinvestigation of some, preferably all, of the 1,500 unsolved murders in our state.

Each year, CADP and members of other non-governmental organizations committed to criminal justice reform, got closer and closer to abolition of the death penalty.

Because we saw so clearly that we could do something far more positive with the squandered funds used in the death penalty regime that's in place in our state, we made common cause with many individuals and groups that represented individuals and family members that had suffered loss at the hands of brutal criminals.

The real closure, if there can ever truly be closure for murder victims' families, is arrest and imprisonment of murderers. Family members have told us in CADP that executions and the lengthy run-up to them re-traumatize families.

I salute Boulder County for committing to reducing the scandalous backlog of cold cases, and urge members of the public to read widely the facts and figures about the ineffectuality of our Colorado death penalty, and more precisely to support men and women running for public office who are courageous enough to say no more funds wasted on barbaric capital punishment.

Ellen V. Moore

Nederland

(source: Letter to the Editor, Daily Camera)

ARIZONA:

Arguments against death penalty expected in Phoenix case

A court hearing is scheduled for a former city bus driver charged in a string of deadly nighttime shootings in Phoenix.

Attorneys for Aaron Juan Saucedo are expected to argue for the dismissal of the death penalty during a hearing Friday morning.

Saucedo has pleaded not guilty to murder and other charges in attacks that left 9 people dead and 2 others wounded in 2016.

Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty in 8 of the deaths.

Saucedo's lawyers say the death penalty should be taken out of consideration because authorities released video showing him in his jail cell to news organizations.

The jailhouse video showed Saucedo talking on the phone and looking out of a cell-door window.

They say that violated Saucedo's right to bodily privacy.

(source: Associated Press)

IDAHO----female may face dath penalty

Woman confesses to killing father

A 35-year-old Montana woman potentially faces the death penalty for the premeditated murder of her father on Tuesday.

At minimum, the courts could sentence her to at least a decade in prison and a life sentence for the killing. Jessica Conser came before Judge Mark S. Rammell Wednesday afternoon at the Madison County Courthouse. There, Rammell asked Conser if she understood her rights to which she responded in the affirmative.

The Judge also appointed Jim Archibald as her defense attorney. Because Conser faces a possible death penalty, Archibald requires the assistance of a second attorney. It's up to the Madison County Prosecutor's Office to decide what kind of punishment to seek against Conser. That decision won’t be known for another 2 weeks and not until after Archibald meets with Madison County Prosecutor Sid Brown.

During Wednesday's hearing, Rammell asked Conser if she understood her rights, and the charges filed against her. Conser quietly answered that she did. Rammell also explained the charges and the possible punishment that Conser faces.

"Under the statute, if you are convicted on count 1, the murder charge - and these are the maximum penalties, not what necessarily happens - you could be punished by death or by imprisonment for life with a minimum of 10 years," Rammell said.

The Judge explained that Conser could also be fined $50,000 plus additional restitution for the crime. The state is also charging her with a weapons enhancement.

"The weapons enhancement on part two increases possible punishment for 1st degree murder by up to 15 years imprisonment and a $5,000 fine," Rammell said.

Should the prosecutor's office push for the death penalty, Archibald requires the assistance of a 2nd attorney and a mitigation specialist.

"The prosecutor and I have talked, and he has agreed to give me an answer (on the death penalty)," Archibald said. "I'll let the court know if I need assistance within 2 weeks."

Rammell doesn't handle felony cases and could not accept a "guilty" or "not guilty plea from Conser on Wednesday. Despite whatever Conser pleads, she has already told police that she killed her father and did so shortly after officers arrested her Tuesday night.

"Jessica fully admitted and confessed to driving from Butte, Montana, to Rexburg to shoot and kill her father," police stated in their report.

The incident started around 9 p.m. Tuesday when Conser arrived at her father Mathew and step-mother Barbara Travao's home in Hibbard.

According to Barbara Travao, the couple didn't know that Conser was heading to Hibbard. When Conser entered the home, Barbara Travao was in a back bedroom with her 2 step-grandchildren who also happen to be Conser's children. The Travaos had cared for the youth since May.

"Barbara indicated that she heard yelling, and then she heard shots. As Barbara came out of the room she was in, she saw Jessica running out of the house," the police reported.

At that point, Travao found her husband had been shot in the face and was bleeding. Barbara Travao called 911 and met police in her front yard. Officers entered the home, and found Mathew Travao slumped on the couch.

"It appeared he had a wound to his eye and facial area. (Officers) observed a large amount of blood on the couch," stated police.

Officers reported that Mathew Travao's breathing proved shallow and labored. An officer attempted to remove blood from Mr. Travao's mouth and tried keeping the victim's airways open. Shortly after, EMTs responded to administer first aid to Mr. Travao.

Barbara Travao gave police a description of Conser's truck, stating that her step-daughter was driving a blue 2005 Chevrolet Silverado pickup and had driven westbound on 2000 North.

In the meantime, family members removed Conser's children from the Travao home. During that time, 1 child asked officers if her mother "had shot Papa." The child also told police that she had heard her mom's voice.

EMT's transported Mathew Travao to the Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center where he died from his wounds at 10:11 p.m.

Madison County Sheriff's deputies contacted the Clark County Sheriff's Office concerning Conser and about an hour later, Clark Sheriff's deputies located the vehicle on I-15 near the Idaho/Montana border.

Idaho State Police helped investigate and found a 26 9mm pistol underneath the driver’s seat of Conser's truck.

Shortly after, Conser admitted to killing her father. Police took Conser into custody and transported her to the Madison County Jail. She remains there and has been denied bond.

Travao's neighbors were horrified by the shooting and initially thought someone was shooting one of the numerous skunks known to roam the neighborhood.

Blake Hart lives across the street from the Travaos and said the shots he heard Tuesday night were unusually loud and too close for comfort.

"We saw cop cars coming in, and then we saw the ambulance. The cops went in with guns," he said. Shortly after, Hart witnessed ambulance workers take Mathew Travao out on a stretcher.

Concerned about the man, Hart tried checking on his neighbor, but officers stopped him from entering the house.

Hart said he had noticed Conser visiting at the victim's home on numerous occasions prior to the shooting.

"I had seen her come here to hang out," he said.

Mr. Travao proved an avid gardener who routinely shared his extra produce with neighbors, Hart said.

"He was the type of guy who would give the shirt off his back just to help you out. If you were in need, he would give you anything," Hart said. Hart said that the victim's grandchildren had visited last summer as well. "That man would do anything for his grandkids," he said.

Hart said that Hibbard traditionally proved an incredibly safe neighborhood, and that for something like a murder to take place is unbelievably shocking.

"You just don't think that somebody's going to shoot somebody out here," Hart said.

Police spent much of Wednesday at the scene. A large piece of cleaning equipment with a hose attached to it leading into the Travao home was seen on Wednesday. Police had placed yellow crime scene tape around the house but had been removed by Thursday.

Conser is scheduled for a preliminary hearing at 11 a.m., June 20, again with Judge Rammell at the Madison County Courthouse.

(source: Idaho State Journal)

NEVADA:

NV Death Row Case Earns State Rebuke From SCOTUS

Last spring, the U.S. Supreme Court took the unusual approach of dressing down Nevada for a death penalty case decided more than 20 years ago.

Michael Rippo was found guilty in the murder of 2 women in 1992, and sentenced to death in 1996.

But the nation's high court says Nevada messed up the trial, and Ripp's fate remains in a state of limbo.

Las Vegas defense attorney Dayvid Figler wrote about the case for the Nevada Independent.

Figler told KNPR's State of Nevada that the case is an example of how the legal system in Nevada was "really the wild west" at one time.

The main issue the Supreme Court had with the case was the allegations of bias against the trial judge.

At the time of the trial, the judge was being investigated for bribery and the district attorney's office was part of that investigation.

Rippo's attorneys allege the judge favored the district attorney in the trial in order to curry favor in his bribery case. Attorneys asked that he recuse himself from the trial, but he refused.

The judge was eventually acquitted of the bribery charges but he didn't know that while presiding over Rippo's trial.

Figler says the Supreme Court decision could have a far-reaching impact.

"And now, all these years later, the United States Supreme Court says that the Nevada Supreme Court and subsequently all the other courts in Nevada have been applying the wrong standard, asking the wrong questions, on whether or not a judge should be removed from a case," he said.

The allegations of wrongdoing in the case go beyond just the judge. Attorneys for Rippo have launched a myriad of complaints against the prosecution, including that they withheld information, used bad science, and put poor witnesses on the stand.

Despite all of the allegations and the decision by the Supreme Court, Rippo's case remains in limbo.

Figler explained that it is really up to the Nevada Supreme Court to make a decision on the case and since they don't have deadlines the case has lingered.

In fact, it has been 14 months since the Supreme Court said Nevada was wrong about its bias standard mandated changes and nothing has been fixed.

"Meanwhile, this is a very important standard that doesn't just effect Mr. Rippo's case, although I'm sure Mr. Rippo is very concerned about what the Nevada Supreme Court will do now that the U.S. Supreme Court has spoken, but for any case where there was an allegation - especially in a criminal case, especially a case of life or death like a death penalty case, where the judge had a possibility of bias or a probability of bias that met the United States Supreme Court standard and wasn't given the relief," he said.

At this point, Figler said the federal public defender's office could try to "gently petition" the court to move ahead with a decision but that would be an unusual step.

They could also take the even more unusual step of going to the higher court to ask it to tell the Nevada Supreme Court to do something.

But for now, the case waits in limbo.

Figler believes the case speaks to a more difficult problem in Nevada: choosing unbiased judges.

Nevada elects its judges and most people would find it extremely difficult to suss out a judge's bias either by looking at their campaign donation records or reading past written decisions.

"We elect our judges and most voters really can't discern who should be the judge," he said.

(source: KNPR news)

CALIFORNIA:

Gabriel Fernandez's mother gets life, boyfriend sentenced to death

It's been 5 years that Pearl Sinthia Fernandez called 911 to the Palmdale home that she shared with her boyfriend, Isauro Aguirre. Her 8-year old son Gabriel son was not breathing; he had fallen and hit his head on a dresser, she told sheriff's deputies.

When paramedics arrived that May 22, 2013, they found Gabriel unconsciousness, naked and not breathing in a bedroom. His skull was cracked, ribs broken, skin burned, with missing teeth and BB pellets embedded in his lungs and groin, according to testimony later reported in the Los Angeles Times. Gabriel died 2 days later after being removed from life support.

In more than 800 pages of sworn grand jury testimony made public in August 2014, the extent of Gabriel's tortured life was revealed, including the suspicion that he was abused because Aguirre thought the child was gay.

"It was just like every inch of this child had been abused," LA County Fire Department paramedic James Cermak testified.

"For 8 straight months, he was abused, beaten and tortured more severely than many prisoners of war," Deputy District Attorney Jonathan Hatami told the grand jury. The couple not only tortured the boy to death but they tried to hide their abuse with forged doctor's notes and lies to authorities, he added. On Nov. 15, 2017, Aguirre, 37, was convicted of 1st-degree murder for fatally torturing and murdering Gabriel. During the penalty phase of his trial, Hatami told jurors that for months before the murder, Aguirre "reveled in his brutalization, forcing Gabriel to eat cat feces and his own vomit. The boy slept in a small cabinet, the prosecutor said, with his ankles handcuffed, his hands bound and his mouth gagged with a sock," The Times reported.

"No human with a heart and soul could do that to an innocent little boy," Hatami said. Jurors deliberated for 7 hours over 3 days before recommending the death penalty that December.

Fernandez pleaded guilty to 1st-degree murder in February - a plea that included admitting that Gabriel was tortured and his murder was intentional. Her plea also enabled her to avoid the death penalty, which her defense argued would not be appropriate because of her very low IQ and her history of being a victim of abuse and torture herself. Apparently, Fernandez was taking a massive amount of opioid drugs, including OxyContin and Norco.

On Thursday, after Deputy Public Defender Michael Sklar argued that Aguirre's death sentence was "grossly disproportionate" with his culpability, Superior Court Judge George G. Lomeli - who sentenced Gabriel's mother, 34, to life in prison without parole and her boyfriend, 37, to death - could not contain his disgust.

It was the worst case of abuse he'd seen in nearly 20 years on the bench, Lomeli said, abuse that was "horrendous, inhumane and nothing short of evil."

"I hope you think about the pain you caused this child and that it tortures you," Lomeli said. "I rarely say that."

Lomeli cited evidence, such as bashing Gabriel's teeth out with a bat and shooting BB pellets at him, The Times reported, saying that some might call the abuse "animalistic." Except that animals don't do that to their own family.

The torture and murder of Gabriel Fernandez shocked the conscience of the country. In LA County, which has had serious problems with their Department of Children and Family Services, supervisors appointed a child protection czar, initiated a number of child welfare reforms and the DA brought criminal charges against County social workers who visited the home repeatedly and knew of at least 6 reports of abuse yet failed to removed Gabriel from a clearly dangerous home situation.

It is unclear whether Aguirre will ever actually be put to death for torturing and murder his 8 year old ward. As of Aug. 2017, 747 inmates are on death row, The Times reports. Only 13 men have been executed since 1978.

(source: Los Angeles Blade)

JUNE 8, 2018:

TEXAS:

The Legacy Of James Byrd, Jr. 20 Year After His Lynching----20 years later, Houston Matters discusses the hate crimes legislation Byrd's vicious murder inspired.

20 years ago today, on June 7, 1998 in Jasper, Texas, about 130 miles northeast of Houston, James Byrd, Jr. was heading home. The 49-year-old black man accepted a ride from Shawn Berry and his friends, Lawrence Russell Brewer and John King. Byrd new Berry from around town. He wasn't a stranger.

But instead of driving Byrd home, Berry drove to a remote country road, where the 3 white men severely beat Byrd, chained him to their pickup truck, and then dragged him to death, for nearly 3 miles.

The 3 men were white supremacists and were tried and convicted of murder. Brewer and King received the death penalty. Berry received a life sentence.

The vicious killing shocked the nation and helped prompt passage of state and federal hate crimes legislation.

To look back at the legacy of Byrd and the laws his death inspired, Houston Matters talks with Dena Marks, of the Anti-Defamation League in Houston and Harris County Commissioner Rodney Ellis.

(source: houstonpublicmedia.org)

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

He Pocketed His Victims' Organs. Was His Death Penalty Trial Fair?----As Andre Thomas faces execution for three gory murders, a court questions jury bias and his competency.

Warning: This story contains graphic content that could be disturbing to some readers.

It's been 13 years since a floridly psychotic black man named Andre Thomas was sentenced to die. He killed his estranged white wife, their young biracial son and the wife's other biracial child. He then stabbed himself 3 times and laid down next to his victims, expecting to die. When he didn't, he walked 5 miles to his father's house in Sherman, Texas, carrying his victims' organs in his pockets, and tried to call Laura, the woman he'd just killed.

5 days after his confession to police, he decided he would heed Matthew's Biblical advice: "If thy right eye offends thee, pluck it out." And so he did. Then, after being sentenced to death row 4 years later, he decided to gouge out his other eye. Then he ate it.

Texas has always argued that Thomas deserved the death sentence, but the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Thursday ordered both state attorneys and defense lawyers to submit more evidence and legal arguments on the merits of 2 timely issues in capital punishment law: jury bias and the competency of defendants when they kill.

Was Thomas competent to stand trial? At first all sides agreed he wasn't and Thomas was sent to a state psychiatric hospital. Then, just 7 weeks later, after state doctors gave him heavy doses of the anti-psychotic drug Zypreza, those same doctors said that he now could be tried. They said his psychosis, which had presented itself for a decade before the murders, was not organic, but had been "exaggerated" by drugs and alcohol in his system.

Thomas's case was well told by Brandi Grissom in a piece titled "Trouble in Mind" in Texas Monthly in March 2013. Thomas was a smart, likeable kid, who loved to study the Bible, growing up poor in Sherman. But his slide into madness began around age 9, when he started complaining about the angels and the demons arguing with one another in his mind. He was in and out of trouble with the law, and repeatedly tried to kill himself, and through it all he had no adequate medical care that might have allowed him and his victims to avoid the horror that happened in March 2004.

The competency question in the Thomas case falls neatly into recent Supreme Court precedent. In 2002 the court outlawed the execution of intellectually disabled capital defendants, a decision they reinforced in 2014. In 2005 the court outlawed the execution of juvenile murders. In each instance the court's majority focused on levels of culpability and the capacity of the defendant to understand either the nature of the crime they had committed or what capital punishment would mean as a retributive response to it. The 5th Circuit ruled that it does not want to explore the question of mental illness and the death penalty but that does not mean the justices will be so constrained.

Thomas was convicted by an all-white jury that contained at least three members who spoke openly about their opposition to interracial marriage. One juror told lawyers and the judge during jury selection that "the bloodlines shouldn't be mixed." Another juror who sentenced Thomas to death said that the children from an interracial couple would "not have a specific race to belong to." Yet another juror said that interracial relationships were "contrary to God's intent." Thomas' trial attorney never aggressively challenged these statements.

During the oral argument Tuesday at the 5th Circuit (listen here), Thomas' current lawyer Catherine Carroll argued that jury selection in these circumstances was a "structural error" that rendered the entire trial, and the verdicts that followed, constitutionally deficient. The state courts applied the wrong legal standard when they upheld Thomas' conviction and sentence, Carroll contends, because the law does not require proof that the jury's verdict was motivated by purposeful discrimination and racial bias. And, say Thomas' attorneys, there is controlling 5th Circuit precedent from a 2006 case with similar facts.

State attorneys tried to diminish the racial component of the case by claiming the crime wasn't really about interracial marriage but about marriage in general, where Thomas, mentally ill or not, could not accept the fact that his wife, Laura, had left him and had begun a family with another man. "A black man killed a white woman but that is not at all the crux of this case," argued Fredericka Sargent, an attorney with the attorneys' general office. "Mr. Thomas killed his wife because she would not come back to him. It had absolutely nothing to do with her race or his race or anybody else's race. It was all about revenge and obsession."

But isn't that beside the point in a case where the defendant was psychotic at the time, Judge Stephen Higginson asked?

If this really is a case of racial bias by jurors, the judge said, is it enough for Thomas' lawyer to have simply asked of those jurors: "Can you be fair?"

(source: themarshallproject.org)

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

John Allen Rubio initiates federal appeals process

A Brownsville man convicted and sentenced to death for decapitating his 3 young children has initiated the federal appeals process.

On Wednesday afternoon, attorneys who want to represent John Allen Rubio, 37, filed a motion for expedited appointment of counsel, which triggers his right for federal habeas corpus proceedings.

"This right is triggered by the petitioner's motion requesting counsel," the court document states.

Rubio, who was initially convicted of capital murder in and sentenced to death in 2002, was retried in 2010 after an appeals court reversed that conviction and sentence. He was again convicted of capital murder and sentenced to death.

On May 23, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals denied Rubio's appeal.

Jason Hawkins, a federal public defender in the Northern District of Texas who heads up the Capital Habeas Unit, which specializes in death penalty appeals, filed the petition on Rubio's behalf asking for the appointment.

In the motion, Hawkins asks the court to also appoint Lee B. Kovarsky, principle at the Phillips Black Project, a nonprofit specializing in death penalty appeals, who also has a legal practice that exclusively handles death penalty cases, as co-counsel.

The motion has landed in U.S. District Judge Rolando Olvera's courtroom and as of noon Thursday, Olvera had not ruled on the motion.

On March 11, 2003, Rubio stabbed and decapitated 3-year-old Julissa Quesada, 14-month-old John E. Rubio and 2-month-old Mary Jane Rubio in the rundown apartment he shared with his common-law wife Angela Camacho, 38, on the corner of 8th and Tyler streets, just down the street from the federal courthouse in Brownsville.

Camacho is serving a life sentence for her role in the brutal slayings.

Rubio was the biological father of Mary Jane Rubio but acted as father to all 3 children in the home.

(source: Brownsville Herald)

FLORIDA:

Convicted Flagler murderer back in court for death penalty hearing

Convicted killer Cornelius Ozell Baker was back in a Flagler County courtroom Wednesday morning for a status hearing.

Baker, 31, is in the process of being resentenced after his death sentence from a 2007 murder was overturned last year. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty again for Baker, who sat in court with his new attorney, Junior Barrett of the Office of the Criminal Conflict and Civil Regional Counsel. Baker's former attorney, Steve Laurence, withdrew from the case and Barrett took over May 15.

During Wednesday's hearing, Circuit Judge Margaret Hudson ordered Barrett and Assistant State Attorney Tammy Jacques to submit amended timelines for the case by June 18, along with recommendations for the next status hearing.

Baker and his girlfriend, Patricia Roosa, who was 19 at the time, broke into the Daytona Beach home of Elizabeth Uptagrafft on Jan. 7, 2007, as part of a plan to steal money. The 2 beat and held Uptagrafft, her mother and son hostage for four hours before kidnapping Uptagrafft, stealing her car, making her withdraw money from an ATM and driving her to a remote area in western Flagler County. That's where Baker led her down a dirt road and shot her to death.

Roosa was sentenced to life without parole. Baker was convicted of 1st-degree murder, among several other charges, and a jury voted 9-3 to condemn him to death in 2009.

Baker's death sentence was vacated in March 2017 per a Florida Supreme Court mandate that juries must unanimously recommend death before a judge issues that capital punishment. He's 1 of 5 convicted murderers in Volusia and Flagler who had their death sentences struck down by the Supreme Court ruling.

(source: The St. Augustine Record)

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

2 men could face the death penalty. The Bradenton women they were involved with are dead

2 men could face the death penalty in romantic entanglements gone bad.

1 of the men is charged with beating a blind woman to death with a sharp instrument that pierced her skull hours after being seen flirting and driving around with her.

The other is charged with beating the woman he shared a mobile home with to death before going on a drinking binge at a nearby bar for his birthday.

On Wednesday, both men were indicted of 1st-degree murder by the same grand jury, according to court records. The grand jury convened for less than 4 hours before handing up both indictments.

Dakota Jibson, 23, and Barak Pozas, 51, could each be sentenced to death or life in prison in the separate cases. The State Attorney's Office will have to consider whether to pursue the death penalty in each case.

At about 1:15 a.m. on April 2, paramedics and Southern Manatee firefighters found Polite's body when they responded to wooded area near the 4600 block of 18th Street East after a 911 caller reported finding a body on fire. A medical examiner determined that Polite had severe burns on her upper body and severe head trauma caused by a blunt sharp object that had pierced her skull.

(source: Bradenton Herald)

ALABAMA:

Judge delays release of Alabama's lethal injection documents

Alabama won't reveal its lethal injection protocol until a higher court reviews that decision.

Court records entered Thursday show U.S. Chief District Judge Karon O Bowdre has granted a motion from the Alabama Attorney General's Office to stay her previous ruling, which ordered the state to reveal execution secrets, until a higher court can review the state's appeal.

The AG's office has appealed the ruling to the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals. A motion from the AG's office requesting the stay says they would like the release to be delayed because the release of execution protocol "implicates a serious issue that deserves the review of a higher court before it becomes effective."

"...while this Court found that there exists a public interest in understanding how Alabama carries out its lethal-injection procedure... there is a greater public interest at stake here: The State's ability to carry out its lawful functions."

The motion says, "There is no doubt that there is great public interest in ensuring that the State can carry out its duly enacted laws. Alabama's death-penalty statutes are constitutional and enforceable and anything that hinders the State's ability to enforce that statute (even minimally) is of great public interest and, thus, weighs in favor of granting a stay pending appeal."

The motion also says the media outlets who requested the protocol be made public--Alabama Media Group, the Associated Press, and the Montgomery Advertiser--will not suffer from the documents being sealed until the appeal process takes place.

The judge's order to unseal the Alabama Department of Corrections' capital punishment protocol was entered last month. She wrote the public has a "common law right of access" to the sealed records relating how the state executes death row inmates. The judge said any identification or names of low-level prison employees involved in executions, the court's independent medical examiner, and other confidential security measures can be kept secret.

The order stems from the case of Doyle Lee Hamm, a 61-year-old death row inmate who experienced an aborted execution on February 22. The execution was called off after several hours of attempting to insert a catheter for the lethal drugs in Hamm's veins, and Hamm's lawyer Bernard Harcourt said then that Hamm experienced severe pain and bleeding during the attempt.

He had argued Hamm could not be executed via intravenous lethal injection because of Hamm's lymphatic cancer and prior drug use. The AG's Office said Hamm's veins would be accessible for the procedure.

(source: al.com)

COLORADO:

Prosecution rests in El Paso County death-penalty murder case

El Paso County prosecutors on Thursday rested a 3-week case against death-penalty candidate Glen Law Galloway, clearing the way for his defense attorneys to begin introducing evidence.

Galloway, 46, is charged in the fatal shootings of Marcus Anderson and Janice Nam on consecutive days in May 2016. Authorities say he is linked by extensive forensic evidence, including a weapon found in his possession.

His defense team doesn't dispute that Galloway is responsible for both killings, but says he didn't have a "culpable mental state" to be convicted of 1st-degree murder. They say he killed Anderson, a homeless man, in self-defense, leading him to "snap" and kill Nam, an estranged girlfriend he blamed for what he claimed was a wrongful conviction for stalking.

Defense attorneys say they have 4 days of witnesses to present, putting the 1st phase of the trial on course to conclude by mid-June.

If Galloway is convicted of 1st-degree murder, the same panel that heard evidence against him must decide to impose life in prison or death. That process could stretch into July, attorneys say.

The trial will break for a day on Friday with testimony resuming on Monday.

(source: Colorado Springs Gazette)

CALIFORNIA:

Death Penalty Focus Welcomes New Executive Director Magdaleno Rose-Avila

Death Penalty Focus announced today that its Board of Directors has appointed Magdaleno "Leno" Rose-Avila to the position of Executive Director.

"I couldn't be happier to announce that Leno has signed on to lead Death Penalty Focus, an organization he has supported for many years," DPF President Mike Farrell said. "Leno's commitment to social and criminal justice is demonstrated by his lifelong work with the most underrepresented and marginalized members of society. He has worked with gang members, farm workers, and death row exonerees. He brings a depth of experience, and great passion to advancing our mission to abolish the death penalty."

Rose-Avila has been active in the social and criminal justice fields for many years. He most recently served as Executive Director of Witness to Innocence, a Philadelphia-based organization that represents the men and women who have been exonerated from death rows around the nation and are working to end the death penalty by educating the public about innocence and wrongful convictions.

Rose-Avila has also served as the Human Rights Director at Washington state's Latino Community Fund; Executive Director of the Cesar E. Chavez Foundation; the Western Regional Director of Amnesty International; and was a founder and Executive Director of Moratorium 2000, working with Sister Helen Prejean, the organization's chair.

I am excited to join one of the premier anti-death penalty organizations in the country," Rose-Avila said. "DPF has long been a voice in the world-wide movement for abolition. California is a key state in the fight not only because it has the largest death row population in the Western Hemisphere, but also because of the size of its economy, its political influence nationally, and its diverse, and young voting population. All major struggles, such as the women's, immigrant, LGBTQ, and civil rights movements show us that social change is not easy but it can be achieved. DPF and the abolition movement have made much progress, and I am proud to lead this organization as we continue to move forward."

Rose-Avila will relocate to California from Philadelphia, and will assume his new position on June 12, 2018.

Death Penalty Focus organizes year-round public education and professional media campaigns; provides speakers for schools, faith communities, and community organizations; conducts outreach to key constituents; and mobilizes support for legislation to end the death penalty. It has several active volunteer chapters in California and hundreds of thousands of supporters worldwide.

Founded in 1988, Death Penalty Focus is committed to the abolition of the death penalty through public education, grassroots organizing and political advocacy, media outreach, and domestic and international coalition building.

(source: businesswire.com)

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

Couple gets life, death penalty for 'beyond animalistic' death of boy, 8, believed gay

A judge sentenced a Southern California mother to life in prison Thursday and gave her boyfriend the death penalty in the "beyond animalistic" killing of the woman's 8-year-old son, who prosecutors say was punished because the couple believed he was gay.

Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge George Lomeli told the couple that he hopes they wake up in the middle of the night and think of the injuries they inflicted on 8-year-old Gabriel Fernandez.

Gabriel was repeatedly beaten, starved, tied up, locked in a cabinet, shot with a BB gun and once had his teeth knocked out with a bat, the judge said.

Gabriel Fernandez

The boy also had a fractured skull, broken ribs and burns across his body. He died on May 24, 2013, of his injuries.

"It goes without saying that the conduct was horrendous and inhumane and nothing short of evil," Lomeli said. "It's beyond animalistic because animals know how to take care of their young."

Pearl Fernandez

Gabriel's mother, 34-year-old Pearl Fernandez, pleaded guilty to murder in February in the death of her son. A jury found her boyfriend, 37-year-old Isauro Aguirre, guilty of murder last year and found that he intentionally tortured the boy.

Isauro Aguirre

Fernandez spoke briefly during the court hearing, saying she was sorry and wished Gabriel was alive.

Neither she nor Aguirre appeared to show much emotion while Lomeli detailed the boy's injuries and others spoke of how Gabriel just wanted to be loved.

Prosecutors also have filed charges of child abuse and falsifying records against four county social workers in Gabriel's death.

(source: Fox News)

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

Prosecutor: Put 'Misogynistic, Sadistic Monster' to Death

A U.S. Marine Corps veteran convicted of killing eight women is a "misogynistic, sadistic monster," who tortured one victim, who got away, "for the fun of it," an Orange County prosecutor told jurors Thursday as he sought the death penalty.

Andrew Urdiales, 53, was convicted May 23 of murdering 5 women in Orange, San Diego and Riverside counties between 1986 and 1995. Jurors must now decide whether to recommend the death penalty or life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Urdiales' attorneys have tried to make the case that his mother was drinking when she was pregnant with him and that he suffered from fetal alcohol spectrum disorder.

"I think that is a dead horse," said Senior Deputy District Attorney Matt Murphy. "There is no real evidence she was drinking during her pregnancy."

Also, Murphy argued, Urdiales did not exhibit many of the symptoms associated with the disorder and called 1 of the defense's experts an "unqualified, arrogant clown."

Urdiales deserved some credit for joining the Marine Corps out of high school, Murphy said as he noted the defendant was served in the Persian Gulf War in 1991.

"That's a big deal," Murphy said. "He was part of the convoy that went to Kuwait."

But, Murphy continued, Urdiales got in trouble while in the military for a "black market" operation and was cited for a "bad attitude."

Plus, Marines are trained to kill so they can protect innocent people, Murphy said.

"What did he do with that training? We know what he did," Murphy said. "He's using it to prey on the very innocents he was trained to protect."

Murphy said Urdiales "disgraced" the Marine Corps.

(source: mynewsla.com)

TAIWAN:

Father of murdered 'Little Light Bulb' tired of apologies, wants death penalty

The father of a 4-year-old girl who was brutally decapitated in broad daylight on the streets of Taipei two years ago, has had enough of apologies from the suspect and wants the judges to sentence the man to death, reported CNA.

During a court hearing over the brutal murder of a little girl on Tuesday (June 5), the suspect, Wang Ching-yu, apologized by saying, "I'm sorry, please forgive me," but afterwards the father, Liu Ta-ching, told reporters that he refused to accept the apology and expressed his hope that the judges would sentence Wang to death.

On March 28, 2016, a 4-year-old girl, nicknamed "Little Light Bulb" was riding her bike just a few meters in front of her mother on a Taipei street, when Wang Ching-yu, then 33, suddenly grabbed her behind and slashing her neck with a knife. Her mother tried to stop Wang, but he fended her off as he decapitated the little girl.

Last May, judges at the Shilin District Court determined that Wang suffered from schizophrenia and based on provisions of the United Nations he could not be sentenced to death. The prosecution appealed the case to the high court and sentencing will be decided on July 3.

Recalling the day when he saw his daughter's body after the murder, Liu said that he kneeled down and lifted the white sheet covering her body and said, "I saw my Little Light Bulb, her eyes half open and frozen in place with an expression as if to say 'what happened?'"

Liu said that part of his life died when she was murdered, and as society is unable to deal with the risk of Wang repeating such heinous crimes, "Any sentence outside of the death penalty is likely to put the public at risk of depriving another innocent person from their right to life, which is a serious violation of human rights."

The mother of the little girl, Claire Wang, said that through the efforts of the prosecutor, judge and expert witnesses, she learned to understand why Wang had gone to such an extreme, and that given the current situation in society and government policies, there is no way for him to be permanently cured, nor is it possible for them to prevent him from repeating his crimes.

Claire said that no parent can imagine losing their child while walking down the street and she hopes that such a tragedy will never happen again. She expressed her hope that the court will provide basic security, esnure that he will never repeat his crimes, and never allow him to return to society.

Noticing that Claire was crying during the hearing, the presiding judge apologized to her and said the details of the crime made him shudder, but also said the guilt of the defendant must be proven in a court of law and the court does not wish to cause additional harm.

Wang's lawyer said that because his client suffered from a cognitive impairment, he was delusional and made a mistake, and therefore his punishment should include treatment for his condition. The lawyer said that the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Convention on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights have revealed that the death penalty should not be imposed on the mentally handicapped. He then expressed his hope that the court will reduce the punishment in accordance with these treaties and announce a treatment regimen.

The prosecution argues that Wang's act was brutal, appalling and therefore necessitates the death penalty. The lawyer for the victim's family said that the suspect showed no signs of remorse in the and asked the court to issue the death penalty.

(source: Taiwan News)

SAUDI ARABIA:

Indonesian freed from death penalty in Saudi Arabia

An Indonesian woman, Nurkoyah binti Marsan Dasan, from Karawang, West Java, has won an 8-year battle to escape the death penalty after she was accused of killing a 3-month-old child in Saudi Arabia.

According to a statement from the Indonesian Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Agus Maftuh Abegebriel, received by Antara here on Thursday, the East Province Court, Saudi Arabia, overturned the death penalty for Nurkoyah.

This comes soon after 2 other Indonesians, Sumiyati and Masani, who were also free from the death penalty, returned to their hometown in Lombok, West Nusa Tenggara, on May 7, 2018.

The Indonesian Embassy said Nurkoyah was accused of "ghilah" (murder with sanctions) of a 3-month-old baby, Masyari bin Ahmad al-Busyail, by deliberately putting certain drugs and rat poison in his milk.

After going through a long and difficult trial since her arrest on May 9, 2010, Nurkoyah finally obtained on May 31, 2018, an assurance that the judge rejected the demand of "qisas" (retaliation) and "diyat" (fine) against her. The verdict signed by Judge Muhammad Abdullah Al-Ajjajiy was legally binding and completed the trial.

During the legal process, Nurkoyah received intensive assistance from the Indonesian Embassy, which appointed a lawyer, Mishal Al-Sharif, for her defence.

During the hearing, the judge rejected "had ghilah" (death penalty) and decided ta'zir (a kind of disciplinary punishment) with a sentence of 6 years in prison and 500 strokes of the whip.

That decision was based on Nurkoyah's confession at the time of the investigation, though she withdrew it later saying it was made under pressure.

The employer, Khalid Al-Busyail, then filed a lawsuit of qisas (death sentence) against Nurkoyah. The judge of the Dammam District Court rejected the death sentence because Nurkoyah denied the allegations and the employer was unable to present other evidence to substantiate the claim.

After the qisas demand against her was rejected, Nurkoyah had hoped to be released. The Embassy immediately took steps to repatriate Nurkoyah, but her employer, Khalid Al-Busyail, again filed diyat (ransom) on charges of negligence leading to his son's death.

On April 3, 2018, the Judge rejected the diyat charge on the principle of "non bis in idem", which prohibits trying an accused more than once for the same act. The judge provided an opportunity for the employer to file within 30 days i'tiradh (expostulation) of the decision, but he did not before the deadline ended.

Thus, on May 31, the Court stipulated that the legal ruling in Nurkoyah's case had been enforced. On June 2, the Indonesian Embassy formally received a copy of the Dammam General Court's decision in Nurkoyah's case.

The Embassy then followed up by starting the process of returning Nurkoyah to Indonesia. It has been in touch with the lawyers while continuing to monitor the condition of Nurkoyah who is in Dammam prison. Nurkoyah will return to Indonesia immediately after an exit permit and other documents are issued by the Saudi Arabian authorities.

(source: Antara News)

IRAN:

Telegram Channel Admin Could Get Death Penalty For "Insulting the Prophet"

Weakened by his hunger strike, prisoner of conscience Hamidreza Amini was transferred to a hospital in hand and ankle cuffs but was returned to prison before the treatment was completed.

Hamidreza Amini could face the death penalty if he is convicted of "insulting the Prophet" for the content of his Telegram app channel, a source close to the prisoner of conscience told the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) on June 5, 2018.

In addition to "insulting the prophet," Amini is due to go trial on June 25, 2018, for the charges of "insulting the supreme leader," "acting against national security," "propaganda against the state" and "disturbing public opinion," said the source who requested anonymity due to the sensitivities in Iran around speaking to foreign media.

"Hamidreza had created a Telegram channel where anyone could post her/his views," the source told CHRI. "The IRGC held him responsible for everything others had written and when he told the investigator that he did not write those things, he was told that his channel and related groups had been shut down and therefore the IRGC could accuse him of anything they want."

"First of all, anyone is free to express his or her views and that's what Hamidreza and the people in his group did," the source said. "But most of the things he has been accused of, including 'insulting the prophet,' were written by others... He is being prosecuted for what 3,000 people did."

Based on Article 262 of Iran's Islamic Penal Code, "Anyone who swears at or commits qazf [slander] against the Great Prophet [of Islam] (peace be upon him) or any of the Great Prophets, shall be considered as Sab ul-nabi [a person who swears at the Prophet], and shall be sentenced to the death penalty."

A 47-year-old mobile phone repairman, Amini was arrested by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps' (IRGC) Intelligence Organization in Tehran on December 2, 2017, for allegedly insulting the Prophet Mohammad and Shia Muslim imams on his Telegram channel, which he managed under the pseudonym, "Ariyobarzan."

After his arrest, Amini was held in solitary confinement in Evin Prison's Ward 2-A where he was interrogated without access to legal counsel.

In late February 2018, he was moved to the Great Tehran Penitentiary in Fashafouyeh, 20 miles south of Tehran, without a court order. However, he was returned to Evin Prison on June 3 after going on hunger strike to protest his condition, according to the source.

The source added that Amini was hospitalized for the effects of the hunger strike but transferred back to the prison before the treatment was completed.

(source: Iran Human Rights)

MAURITANIA:

UN Urges Mauritania to Repeal Anti-Blasphemy Law

A group of UN human rights experts* have urged Mauritanian authorities to reconsider the adoption of an amendment to the Penal Code which would mandate the death penalty for blasphemy and apostasy, a provision which would gravely violate international law.

Article 306 of the Penal Code, as revised, provides that any Muslim guilty of apostasy or blasphemy will be sentenced to death upon arrest without possibility of clemency based on repentance. The previous article imposed the death penalty for apostasy and blasphemy but required prison terms in cases of repentance. The revision was adopted by Parliament on 27 April 2018 and is pending promulgation.

"We are outraged that, while international law prohibits the criminalization of apostasy and blasphemy, Mauritanian authorities have decided to enshrine the death penalty for those who express their rights to freedom of expression, religion and belief," the experts said.

"This revision will further muzzle the right to freedom of expression in Mauritania and set the stage for incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence against persons on the basis of religion or belief. There is an additional risk that article 306 will be applied in a discriminatory manner to different faiths. Moreover, the revised article advances a fundamentalist agenda which puts human rights gravely at risk and encourages extremists.

"For those States that haven't abolished the death penalty, it can only be imposed for the most serious crimes involving intentional killing," they said, adding that the mandatory death penalty constituted a direct violation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and constituted an arbitrary deprivation of life.

The experts urged the Mauritanian authorities not to promulgate the revised article 306 of the Penal Code and instead to review it so as to bring it in line with international standards of human rights law.

*The UN experts: Mr. David Kaye, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, Ms. Agnes Callamard, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions; Mr. Ahmed Shaheed, Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief; Ms. Karima Bennoune, Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights.

Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council's independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures' experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

(source: scoop.co.nz)

KENYA:

Death penalty won't deter graft

The sky-high levels of corruption in Kenya are angering many people, particularly because of the impunity with which it is committed. In 2017, Transparency International ranked Kenya high among the most corrupt countries in the world. The crackdown on National Youth Service officials following the disappearance of Sh9 billion from the agency illustrates how serious the concerns about corruption are.

Indeed, corruption is a major problem which the government needs to tackle urgently because of the negative impact it has at every level of society. In response to this problem, Nyeri Town MP Ngunjiri Wambugu (Jubilee) in an article in the Star on Wednesday declared his intention to introduce a bill in Parliament that seeks to introduce the death penalty for corruption. He argued that corruption needs to be made a capital offence because its effect could be worse than those of murder, treason and robbery with violence.

Wambugu claimed that corruption can be seriously dealt with by sentencing people to death, implying that the death penalty is a solution to corruption. This is wrong. There is no credible evidence that the death penalty deters corruption - or any other crime.

Studies have consistently failed to find convincing evidence that the death penalty deters crime more effectively than other lawful punishments. In fact, authoritative studies conducted for the United Nations around the world have repeatedly found that the death penalty has no greater deterrent effect on crime than imprisonment.

Kenya has used the death penalty for murder and violent robbery for many years, yet both crimes remain prevalent. In fact, most death sentences imposed in Kenya are for these 2 crimes.

Until 2009, when former President Kibaki commuted the death sentences of more than 4,000 death row prisoners, Kenya had the largest known number of people sentenced to death in Africa. In 2016, it assumed that infamous position again as the number of death row prisoners reached 2,747, before President Uhuru Kenyatta commuted the death sentences. The ever-growing death row population in Kenya shows that the death penalty does not work as a solution to crime.

For Parliament to make corruption a capital crime will breach Kenya's obligations under international human rights law.

The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Kenya became a party in 1972, permits countries that have not abolished the death penalty to use the punishment only for the 'most serious crimes', which involve intentional killing. Corruption does not meet this threshold.

The death penalty is a violation of the right to life as declared in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It is the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment. Everyone has the right to life regardless of the nature or circumstances of the crime they have committed. This does not mean that people guilty of corruption should not face justice, and punishment. They absolutely should; the government has a range of options other than the death penalty it can legally use, including prison terms.

The government should immediately take steps to address the root causes of corruption and other crimes by ensuring that the Directorate of Criminal Investigation and Director of Public Prosecutions are well funded, trained and equipped to deal with crime. Proper investigations into alleged crimes, timely arrests of suspects and effective prosecution will go a long way towards reducing corruption.

The world is moving away from the use of the death penalty. Amnesty International's recent death penalty report shows there has been a decline in the global use of the death penalty with positive steps noted across sub-Saharan Africa in 2017.

Kenya has made good strides against the death penalty. It has not carried out an execution in 30 years, 2 Presidents have commuted the death sentences of entire death row populations in the last 10 years, and recently the Supreme Court declared that the mandatory use of the death penalty for murder unconstitutional.

Resorting to the death penalty for corruption goes against this positive trend and will entrench Kenya amongst a minority of countries that hold on to the death penalty.

Imposing the death penalty on the scourge of corruption is a knee-jerk reaction to appear tough on crime. Recourse to the death penalty is in reality a symptom of failure in governance. Rather than expanding the scope of the death penalty, Parliament should abolish it.

(source: Olutatosin Popoola, Amnesty International's advocate/adviser on the death penalty----the-star.co.ke)

JUNE 7, 2018:

TEXAS:

Attorneys attempt to get Andre Thomas another appeal

Editor's note: This article contains graphic descriptions of crimes.

Attorney Catherine M.A. Carroll spent about 30 minutes Tuesday attempting to get convicted murder Andre Thomas the right to an appeal before the entire Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.

If Carroll's argument succeeds, she and other attorneys working for Thomas could get another shot at making the court see Thomas as a man too mentally ill to execute. If she fails, Thomas could move one step closer to getting an execution date.

Thomas' trek through the ups and downs of death penalty litigation began in the spring of 2004 when he broke down the door of the apartment of his wife Laura Boren and fatally stabbed her, her infant daughter Leyha Hughes, and Andre Jr., the 4-year-old son she had with Thomas. After killing the 3, Thomas ripped organs out of each of the bodies to take with him. He then stabbed himself several times before he returned to his own home and talked with family and friends about what had done.

Thomas then turned himself in at the Sherman Police Department.

5 days later, Thomas, by then charged with capital murder, pulled out his own right eye. Despite that and this attorneys' arguments that Thomas was insane at the time of the murders, he was convicted of capital murder in the death of Leyha, and sent to Texas' death row.

In December 2008, Thomas pulled out his left eyeball and ate it.

Thomas is currently incarcerated at the Jester IV Unit in Richmond.

One of the trial attorneys who represented Thomas in the state capital case, Bobbie Peterson Cate, said she hopes the oral arguments Tuesday result in either a full appeal for Thomas or the commutation of his sentence to one of life in prison without parole based on his mental illness. She said she thinks he should spend the rest of his life in a mental hospital.

Thomas' other state trial attorney, R.J. Hagood, died in 2010.

The way Hagood and Cate handled the case makes up a large part of the appeal that Carroll supported with arguments on Tuesday. A Texas Monthly article, "Is Andre Thomas Too Crazy to Be Executed?" says his lawyers will argue Thomas didn't know right from wrong when he committed the murders and the jury that sentenced him to death row was racially biased based on the fact that 3 jurors said they didn't agree with interracial marriages like the one Thomas and Boren shared.

The article also said the appeal claims that Cate and Hagood "were constitutionally ineffective, failing to fight the change in his competency ruling, failing to keep the anti-mixed-marriage jurors off the jury, and failing to compile much evidence about Thomas' mental illness and hard-luck upbringing at the punishment phase of his trial."

But more than that Thomas' appellate lawyers are asking the court to end the use of the death penalty as punishment for the mentally ill, "arguing that the constitutionality accepted justifications for capital punishment - retribution and deterrence - don't work for the mentally ill and their diminished moral culpability."

The state has argued in most all of its filings that Thomas' most recent appeals are actually a second attempt at habeas corpus relief. They argue that Thomas might be crazy but that crazy is not insane by Texas law and that the courts have not extended protection from execution to the mentally ill. The state also argues that much of Thomas' behavior was brought on by his own choices to abuse substances from marijuana to cold medicine from an early age.

(source: Sherman Herald Democrat)

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

Texas Court of Criminal Appeals upholds death sentence for Bobby Moore, rejecting claim of intellectual disability----After the U.S. Supreme Court rejected Texas' method for determining intellectual disability in Moore's death penalty case last year, the Texas court decided on Wednesday to change its standards, but said Moore still didn't qualify.

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals has upheld the death sentence of Bobby Moore in a case over the definition of intellectual disability - despite pleas from both Moore and the prosecution to change his sentence to life in prison.

More than a year ago, the U.S. Supreme Court knocked down Texas' method of determining intellectual disability for death-sentenced inmates in Moore's case, ruling it used outdated medical standards and rules invented by elected judges without any authority. In a 4-3 ruling on Wednesday, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals accepted the use of current medical standards to determine intellectual disability but said Moore still fails to qualify - making him eligible for execution.

Moore was sentenced to death nearly 38 years ago, 3 months after he walked into a Houston supermarket with 2 other men and fatally shot James McCarble, the 73-year-old clerk behind the counter, according to court documents.

The recent fight over his mental deficiencies began after a lower Texas court ruled in 2014 that Moore was intellectually disabled and therefore ineligible for execution, basing its decision on current medical standards. The Court of Criminal Appeals overturned that ruling using its own test, which the Supreme Court later invalidated, sending the case back to Texas.

The Texas test created by the court included questioning whether a neighbor or family member would consider the person disabled, the person's ability to lie and the planning involved in the murder.

In a new evaluation using the current medical framework, the majority of the Court of Criminal Appeals ruled that Moore still did not show enough adaptive deficits to qualify as intellectually disabled, citing the fact that he learned to read and write in prison and buy items from commissary - the prison's store. The Supreme Court had warned against using strengths gained in a controlled environment like prison, but the Texas court said some of Moore's deficits were due to the "lack of opportunity to learn," according to the opinion written by Presiding Judge Sharon Keller.

The court's opinion also noted that before the Supreme Court ruled in 2002 that people with intellectual disabilities were exempt from execution, Moore had claimed in court that he did not have a disability and that his difficulties were due to an abusive childhood and his lack of learning opportunities.

In a 67-page dissent, death-penalty critic Judge Elsa Alcala, joined by Judges Bert Richardson and Scott Walker, said the court's majority erred in its use of the current medical standards, and that Moore is intellectually disabled. Alcala said the court disregarded the standards by improperly weighing Moore's strengths against his deficits in his adaptive functioning and put too much weight on his progress in a controlled death row environment.

She cited the decision by the lower Texas court that held a live hearing on the issue, Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg's request for a change of sentence based on Moore's deficiencies, and many observations in the Supreme Court ruling that appeared to agree Moore was disabled.

"I'm in good company in reaching this conclusion," Alcala wrote. "There is only 1 outlier in this group that concludes that applicant is ineligible for execution due to his intellectual disability, but unfortunately for applicant, at this juncture, it is the only one that matters."

In court, it has been shown that Moore lacked understanding of days of the week at 13 and struggled to tell time or do basic math. He dropped out of school after failing every subject in 9th grade, according to the Supreme Court ruling. Though it hasn't changed his sentence, the Supreme Court ruling in Moore's case has had repercussions throughout Texas. At least two men on death row had their sentences changed to life in prison after the ruling, and on Tuesday, the Court of Criminal Appeals halted an execution set for June 21 because of the Moore case. The judges sent the case of Clifton Williams back to a lower court to look into claims of intellectual disability given the Supreme Court ruling.

Though Moore will remain on the row in solitary confinement, it seems unlikely he will get an execution date set while Ogg is in office. Execution dates are set by convicting county courts after appeals have been exhausted, usually prompted by the district attorney's office. And Ogg asked the Court of Criminal Appeals to change Moore's sentence to life in prison last November, agreeing that he was intellectually disabled.

Ogg's office said Wednesday morning it was preparing a statement, but did not immediately have a response to questions.

(source: Texas Tribune)

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

Court upholds death sentence for Harris County death row inmate Bobby Moore

Harris County killer Bobby Moore - the man whose claims of intellectual disability sparked a groundbreaking Supreme Court decision - is set to stay on Texas death row after an appeals court on Wednesday ignored the district attorney's request and upheld his death sentence.

The high-profile case made waves in 2017 when the nation's highest court decided that Texas didn't properly consider whether the former carpenter was too intellectually disabled to face execution. The 5-3 ruling booted Moore's case back to a lower court, where prosecutors asked for a life sentence.

"I'm doing what I believe the law requires," District Attorney Kim Ogg said in a statement at the time. "The nation's highest court has ruled that intellectually disabled persons can't be subject to the death penalty."

But the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals didn't agree.

(source: Houston Chronicle)

MASSACHUSETTS:

Here's What Massachusetts' Moderate GOP Governor Has in Common With Trump----"Republicans may forgive him on other matters if he pursues the death penalty."

On April 12, Sean Gannon, a Yarmouth, Massachusetts, police officer went to serve Thomas Latanowich with a warrant for his arrest for a parole violation. While attempting to enter the room the suspect was in, Gannon was shot in the head and almost immediately died. The next day, Latanowich, who has a lengthy criminal rap sheet, was arrested and pleaded not guilty to murder.

While Gannon's family, friends, and fellow officers mourned his death, Republican Gov. Charlie Baker, seized the opportunity to renew calls for the death penalty for people who kill cops.

"I just can't think of anybody else who - literally every single day - puts themselves in a position where they're vulnerable to this sort of thing," Baker said in May about Gannon's death. "They deal with people who in many cases don't care, and that bothers me."

As a popular governor in a liberal state, where executions have been banned since 1984, his position might seem to be unusual. But it's not. "I am not surprised to see Charlie Baker to go after the death penalty for cop killers," explains Mary Anne Marsh, a Democratic political strategist. "Certain Republicans may forgive him on other matters if he pursues the death penalty."

Gov. Baker has enjoyed astronomical favorability ratings. In January, polling done by WBUR, a Boston radio station, found that 74 % of voters approve of the job he's doing. This is especially significant given that Massachusetts is considered to be a liberal stronghold, even though in the last 27 years, there has been only one Democratic governor - Deval Patrick who served 2 terms from 2007 to 2015.

Nonetheless, Donald Trump earned 33 % of the Massachusetts' vote in the 2016 election, so despite his personal popularity, Baker's reelection campaign must maintain traditional Republican support. With this support of the death penalty, Baker, who has positioned himself as a social liberal - he supports gay rights and is pro-choice - offers conservative voters some red meat. "This is a way to appease the flank of the Republican party who would maybe skip the governor's race," Marsh says.

Right now, Baker faces no real challenge in the primary, which will be held in September. Early polling shows the governor beating Democrat Jay Gonzalez by a landslide. As a moderate Republican governor in a blue state, Baker has had to carefully toe the line in dealing with President Trump. After Trump referred to Haiti and African countries as "shitholes" in January, Baker said the president should apologize. However, on the subject of sanctuary cities - localities that limit cooperation with federal immigration officers and turn over undocumented immigrants - which are widely criticized by the Trump administration, Baker punted, saying it was a decision best left to local leaders. There are several such cities in Massachusetts, including Boston, Amherst, and Cambridge.

But his call for death for people who kill police officers is straight from the Trump playbook. "The Trump administration has a policy and it's very clear: We will protect those who protect us." Trump said at the National Peace Officers' Memorial Service last month. He added, "we believe criminals who kill our police should get the death penalty - bring it forth."

Baker agreed. "It's so hard for me to think of [jobs] where people, literally every day, potentially walk into a life-threatening situation where someone can just take them out in what would seem to be the most routine circumstance of that particular job," Baker said during a radio interview on a local Boston station in May. "For that reason and that reason only, I believe that for people who take these people out, they deserve to be held to a very high standard, and for me, that standard would be death."

His plan would reverse decades of existing policy. The last execution in Massachusetts took place in 1947, when 2 men were electrocuted for the murder of Robert William. In 1972, the US Supreme Court ruled in Furman v. Georgia that the death penalty was unconstitutional, but 4 years later the high court reversed itself, ruling in Gregg v. Georgia that capital punishment was constitutionally sound. In 1982, Massachusetts voters voted to reinstate the death penalty, but before anyone could be executed, a state court ruled that the new capital punishment law was unconstitutional just 2 years later.

Today, Marsh says, the overwhelmingly blue Massachusetts legislature "would never let him bring back the death penalty, but the vote would be closer than people think." Death penalty support runs high in communities with police officers and Republican lawmakers.

"Massachusetts has a reputation for being soft on crime and unfortunately that hurts our public safety," said Republican state Rep. Shaunna O'Connell shortly after Officer Gannon was killed. "We need to send a message to criminals that 'you kill law enforcement officers you are going to get the death penalty.'"

In raising this as an issue, Baker has awakened the call for capital punishment for cop killers among others. O'Connell says she would support legislation that reinstates capital punishment. Boston Police Commissioner William Evans weighed in last month, telling Boston Herald Radio that while he has "mixed emotions" and isn't a "big supporter" of the death penalty in general, "we have to protect our cops and have it." There is no evidence that the death penalty deters crime, however, and states without capital punishment have lower murder rates.

Support for the death penalty nationwide remains low and Massachusetts is no exception. A 2015 Boston Globe poll found that only 30 % of the state's residents supported capital punishment. Even in the highly emotional case of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, one of the Boston Marathon bombers, only 18 % of those surveyed said he deserved to be put to death.

Over the last decade, several attempts to revive executions have failed. Harriette Chandler, the president of the Massachusetts Senate doesn't think capital punishment will be returning to the state. "I am personally opposed to the death penalty," she said, "and I do not foresee Massachusetts reinstating capital punishment.

But even with widespread disapproval of the death penalty, Marsh has a simple explanation for Baker's calls to bring executions back to the state: "This is one of several tactics to keep the 33 % of Trump voters happy."

(source: Mother Jones)

FLORIDA:

Appeals court: State can't seek death penalty in 2017 Boca Raton murder

An appellate court Wednesday upheld a judge's decision barring Palm Beach County prosecutors from seeking the death penalty against a 28-year-old man because of a missed filing deadline in a case where he is charged with killing a man who helped send him to jail.

In a 12-page ruling, Florida's 4th District Court of Appeal denied a request to overturn the December decision from Circuit Judge John Kastrenakes, which came after an attorney for Tashane Chantiloupe argued state prosecutors had missed the 45-day deadline after Chantiloupe's August arraignment to announce they intended to seek a death sentence against him for the May 2017 murder of Augustus "Gus" Byam in Boca Raton.

Statements Byam made to police in 2016 had led to Chantiloupe's May 2016 arrest in the attempted murder of another man. Court records show prosecutors allowed him to plead guilty to an aggravated battery charge in November of that year in exchange for a sentence that allowed him to go free a month before Byam's death.

Chantiloupe was arrested and arraigned in connection with Byam's shooting death in August, but in late October, Assistant Public Defender Joseph Walsh asked Kastrenakes to bar prosecutors from seeking a death sentence. In his request, he said 56 days had passed from the time of the arraignment.

Assistant State Attorney Aleathea McRoberts filed the death penalty notice three days later and asked Kastrenakes to deny Walsh's request.

The judge ultimately ruled that he had no discretion in the matter. But even if he did, he ruled, he would keep prosecutors from seeking the death penalty because McRoberts "failed to allege a good faith delay, excusable neglect, or any other circumstances" to justify the missed deadline.

The higher court concluded that although Kastrenakes did, in fact, have the legal right to extend the deadline if he wanted, he had not acted unlawfully by deciding against it, either.

"Because it sought to enlarge a lapsed deadline, the State needed to establish both good cause and excusable neglect," 4th District Court of Appeal Judge Jeffrey Kuntz wrote in the ruling released Wednesday.

Kuntz, agreeing with Kastrenakes, wrote that McRoberts failed to do that, both in a 4-paragraph initial objection to Walsh's request and a later 5-page petition to the judge.

In a separate case, prosecutors last month announced that they would no longer seek the death penalty in the case of Lajayvian Daniels. Daniels, 24, is accused of shooting Wellington gas station clerk Shihab Mahmud in May 2014. The shooting at the time was the 1st in more than 4 years in the village.

Court records in that case show Assistant State Attorney Jill Richstone filed the notice to seek the death penalty less than a month after Daniels waived his September 2015 arraignment, but in a short memo on May 8 she told Circuit Judge Samantha Schosberg Feuer that prosecutors would no longer be seeking a death sentence. The announcement offered no reason for the change in course.

(source: Palm Beach Post)

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

Death row inmate up for re-sentencing in brutal murder says he wants to be executed

Death row inmate Jonathan Lawrence has a chance to avoid execution for the murder of Jennifer Robinson - a victim who he and a co-defendant killed and mutilated in 1998 - but he has said he wants to die.

Lawrence, 43, has been on death row since 2000, when a Santa Rosa County jury convicted him of murder and recommended 11-1 that he should be sentenced to death. Now, a judge will decide whether to uphold the death sentence or instead sentence Lawrence to life in prison.

In 2016, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled death penalty recommendations that are not unanimous are unconstitutional, and since then, numerous death penalty cases have returned to local courts for re-sentencing. In those cases, the defendants' guilty convictions remain but a jury or judge is tasked with deciding whether that person should remain on death row or serve a life sentence.

What happened?

Lawrence and his co-defendant, Jeremiah Rodgers, 41, killed Robinson in 1998 at the culmination of a 2-month crime spree in Santa Rosa County. Another man, Lawrence's cousin Justin Livingston, was killed and a third victim, Leighton Smitherman, was shot, during the spree. Lawrence was sentenced to life in prison for Livingston's murder and 8.5 years for the non-fatal shooting of Smitherman.

Both Rodgers and Lawrence are on death row for Robinson's murder. The men brutally mutilated the woman's body after death and cut off her calf muscle and stored it in a freezer.

Lawrence's case returned to Santa Rosa County Court on Monday for a re-hearing of the penalty phase, but it was halted to allow for a court-appointed attorney to begin gathering mitigating evidence.

How are death penalty cases decided?

Death penalty cases are divided into 2 parts - the guilt phase and the penalty phase. During the guilt phase, a jury hears the evidence and decides if the defendant is guilty. If the defendant is convicted, the case moves to the penalty phase and the prosecution presents aggravating factors that may have played into the crime and the defense presents mitigating factors, such as a troubled upbringing or community involvement, that could influence a sentence.

Usually, a re-hearing of the penalty phase would be conducted before a jury, but Lawrence waived his right to have a jury decide his fate and instead chose for a judge to decide whether to uphold his sentence.

Why he wants the death penalty

In a letter addressed to Circuit Judge David Rimmer dated Aug. 14, 2017, Lawrence wrote he doesn't want his case to go back to court, and he wishes to die.

He wrote that he wants his death sentence reinstated and said that's what he deserves.

"I've had no intention of putting the families, friends and loved ones of the innocent people I deliberately helped murder through all these 20 long years of grief, suffering and loss to have to indure (sic) more," reads the letter, which was filed in court documents. "They deserve justice and every amount of peace my death sentence and conclusion might give them."

Prosecutor John Molchan said the letter was recently addressed in court, but Rimmer ruled it was necessary to hold the re-sentencing, regardless of Lawrence's wishes.

Molchan said Lawrence directed his attorneys not to gather mitigating evidence and not to present an active defense, but Rimmer appointed attorney Michelle Hendrix to present mitigating evidence on Lawrence's behalf.

Hendrix declined to comment on the case.

Molchan said there have been other death penalty cases in which defendants did not want a re-sentencing but courts have ruled they need to go through the proper processes.

"In essence, the courts have told us that while a person may want to die or want the death penalty, it's important that the court consider everything," Molchan said.

Lawrence's co-defendant, Rodgers, is not eligible for resentencing under the new law.

The Florida Supreme Court ruled that evidence in Rodgers' initial sentencing phase wasn't handled correctly and the case was sent back to Santa Rosa County Court in 2007, according to News Journal archives.

During that re-sentencing, Rodgers waived the right to a jury and instead had Circuit Court Judge Paul Rasmussen impose the sentence. Rasmussen maintained the death sentence.

Because at that 2nd sentencing Rodgers chose for a judge, rather than a jury, to hear the penalty phase, he is not eligible now to have his case reviewed under the new ruling.

Molchan said there has not yet been another hearing scheduled in Lawrence's case.

Lawrence remains out of Florida Department of Corrections custody while the local case is ongoing and is currently housed at the Santa Rosa County Jail.

(source: Pensacola News Journal)

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

1st degree murder charges filed against Lois Riess in April homicide of Pamela Hutchinson

1st-degree murder and related charges have been filed against Lois Riess in the April homicide of Pamela Hutchinson on Fort Myers Beach.

Riess is accused of killing Hutchinson, 59, who was found shot to death in a Fort Myers Beach timeshare on April 9. She's also accused of stealing Hutchinson's car, identity and money before fleeing to Texas.

Authorities found Hutchinson inside of room 404 at the Marina Village at Snug Harbor on April 9, but detectives believe she was likely killed on April 5 between 7:46 p.m. and 8:34 p.m.

Riess, a 56-year-old Minnesota grandmother, was arrested April 19 by U.S. Marshals at a restaurant in South Padre Island, Texas. Her husband, David Riess, 54, was found shot at their home in Blooming Prairie, Minnesota in March.

Riess had been on the run since then, driving south from Minnesota, with a stop at a casino in Iowa, and then arriving in Fort Myers Beach.

The State Attorney's Office convened a Lee County Grand Jury which indicted Riess Wednesday on charges of first degree murder with a firearm, grand theft of a motor vehicle, grand theft and criminal use of personal identification information of a deceased individual, $5,000 or More.

The charge of 1st degree murder with a firearm carries a mandatory life sentence in prison.

For the death penalty to be sought the State Attorney's Office would have to decide to convene a death penalty review committee, Samantha Syoen, communications director for the State Attorney's Office, said.

"That decision can also be guided by how the law applies to the case. The committee, made up of experienced prosecutors in our office, would review the facts of the case and the evidence and make a decision if they feel the death penalty is warranted," Syoen said. "That opinion would then be presented to State Attorney Steve Russell who would make the final decision on whether or not a motion to seek the death penalty would be filed."

A 1st-degree murder indictment was filed Wednesday The 1st degree murder with a firearm indictment supersedes a 2nd degree Murder charge filed earlier by the State Attorney's Office. In Florida, only a Grand Jury may charge 1st degree murder.

Riess' arraigned on these charges on Monday.

(source: News-Press)

ALABAMA:

Killer who twice avoided death penalty dies in prison infirmary

A 66-year-old man who killed a Birmingham woman and then escaped from prison and killed a 68-year-old man has died.

Donald Thigpen died Tuesday night in the William Donaldson Corrections Facility in Jefferson County after serving 45 years for the murders which happened in the 1970s.

Thigpen was found unresponsive in his infirmary bed at 7:55 p.m., according to the Jefferson County Coroner's Office, and pronounced dead 5 minutes later. There was no foul play in his death.

Thigpen was convicted in May 1972 shotgun shooting death of his girlfriend, Cassie Lee Davis. The shooting happened in one of Birmingham's public housing communities where the victim lived. Authorities said Birmingham Housing Authority officials had told Davis that Thigpen could not live with and that had been conveyed to Thigpen.

Witnesses testified that Thigpen, while gathering his belongings to leave, picked up the single-barrel, sawed-off shotgun from a table, pointed it at Davis and fired. He then left the apartment and returned a moment later, asking, "Did I kill her?" The shooting happened in front of a public housing manager.

Thigpen was convicted and sentenced to death. The Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals later reduced to the sentence to life in prison.

While serving that life sentence, Thigpen and 10 other inmates in April 1975 escaped from Alabama's Holman Prison. The next day, Thigpen and another one of the escapees, came across a 68-year-old farmer who was building a fence along a roadway way.

Authorities said 1 of the escapees killed Henry Lambeth with an ax or fence post and fled in his pickup truck. Again, Thigpen was sentenced to death but escaped execution when the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals ruled the death penalty statute under which Thigpen was sentenced.

(source: al.com)

OHIO:

Reagan Tokes' killer could still face death penalty

At Brian L. Golsby's murder trial this year, his attorneys labored not to prove his innocence but to save his life.

In the end, they succeeded.

A Franklin County jury convicted Golsby in March of the kidnapping, rape and murder of Ohio State University student Reagan Tokes but could not agree on the death penalty. He was sentenced instead to life without parole.

"You're standing here alive because of your lawyers," Judge Mark Serrott told him. "I hope you know that."

It seemed a trifle odd, then, that a little over a month later, Golsby's new appellate lawyers would file an appeal, which in theory could land him back where he started: facing another trial, the same mountain of evidence of his guilt, and another crack at the death penalty. It seemed odder still when they asked the appeals court last week to dismiss the appeal they had filed just a few weeks earlier.

In a memorandum supporting Golsby's waiver of his right to appeal, Franklin County Public Defender Yeura Venters explained only that "The waiver had been prepared by Mr. Golsby's trial attorneys, who mailed it to Mr. Golsby, who in turn mailed the document to (Venters).

"Mr. Golsby's attorneys have fully apprised Mr. Golsby of all the substantive and procedural rights (both state and federal) he gives up by waiving his appellate rights," Venters wrote. "Mr. Golsby has indicated that it is his wish to forgo an appeal in this matter."

The reason behind this sudden change of heart, or strategy, isn't any clearer than that. Venters and his appellate-unit chief, Timothy Pierce, could not be reached to comment.

And there might be nothing mysterious at work. As the wheels of justice routinely click past the stage of convictions, appeals are filed almost as a matter of habit. It might have been something as simple as that in the case of Golsby.

His decision to leave well enough alone doesn't mean, however, that he is in the clear.

Shortly after Venters and Pierce requested the appeal on May 3, Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O'Brien filed a 53-page motion, along with more than 100 pages of exhibits, requesting a cross-appeal.

When O'Brien learned on May 31 that Golsby was waiving his right to appeal after all, the prosecutor and Steven Taylor, the chief of his appellate division, responded: "The State does not oppose defendant's voluntary dismissal of his own appeal, but the State wishes to note that its own cross-appeal would remain pending."

In other words: You might be happy with the life sentence, Mr. Golsby, but we're not.

O'Brien said Wednesday that he had planned to seek the cross-appeal regardless. He and Taylor are arguing that Serrott erred in his instructions to the jury during the penalty phase of Golsby's trial.

"The State must emphasize that it is not appealing from any 'final verdict,'" the prosecutors wrote. "Defendant was not 'acquitted' from receiving a death sentence. The jury was deadlocked on whether to recommend a death sentence and therefore did not render any 'acquittal' in relation to the death penalty. A deadlocked jury does not render any 'verdict' at all on the deadlocked issue."

Therefore, O'Brien said, it would not be considered double jeopardy to hold another death-penalty hearing.

Prosecutors still need the approval of the appeals court for their cross-appeal to go forward.

"There were ample reasons to pursue the death penalty," O'Brien and Taylor wrote in their request. "Defendant is a remorseless recidivist violent offender prone to rape and robbery and now aggravated murder. In fact, given the many crimes committed by defendant, the life-without-parole sentence for the aggravated murder can be viewed as a failure of justice that warrants correction upon showing of legal error."

Reading a statement like that must set Golsby's cold heart thumping, the idea that his survival is still not ensured, that his death would be welcomed by some as a correction.

(source: Columbus Dispatch)

*********

Detective secretly recorded Warren County man facing death penalty

Lawyers for the 38-year-old South Lebanon man facing the death penalty in connection with the beating death of his adoptive sister want all his statements to police thrown out, citing the likelihood he was feeling the effects of heroin or withdrawal from it when he was questioned.

They also argued that a detective secretly recorded the man's statements during a "smoke break."

Assistant County Prosecutor John Arnold said the statements were all taken in keeping with state law, noting Christopher Kirby recited the Miranda warnings as he was given them by Henning.

Kirby and his wife, Jacqueline, were arrested on Sept. 15, 2017, after Debra Power and her husband, Ronnie Power, were found at the home they shared with the Kirbys in South Lebanon. Police had been summoned by a 911 call from an 8-year-old boy.

Debra Power was dead, her husband badly beaten.

On Wednesday, Christopher Kirby's lawyers urged Judge Donald Oda II to suppress statements made in a series of interviews, sometimes by detectives alternating between him and his wife.

While they re-interviewed his wife, a detective led an unrestrained Kirby outside and talked with Kirby, who was crying and expressing concern for his wife and children and expressing ignorance of who was responsible - all while a small recorder was running in the detective's pocket.

Kirby was first interviewed at West Chester Hospital, the day after the incident. At the hospital, Detective Jay Henning said he recovered the victims' truck and 3 credit cards allegedly taken from the Powers.

Henning said he knew Kirby had recently used heroin and was in the hospital, but indicated he determined Kirby was able to knowingly respond to questions there and at the sheriff's office in Lebanon.

Kirby's lawyer, Timothy McKenna, noted Henning was aware Kirby was having bladder problems that could be associated with a heroin high and moved his knees nervously, possibly indicating withdrawal, but no drug tests were given.

McKenna also pointed out another detective advised Kirby he needed to quit heroin, noting how it was aging him prematurely.

"The statements were involuntary," McKenna said Wednesday in Warren County Common Pleas Court.

Detective Paul Barger acknowledged Kirby was unaware he was being recorded during the smoke break.

"He was not. I had it in my pocket," Barger said.

Parts of 3 recordings, 2 including video, were played.

"Can Jackie go home?" Kirby asked as detectives urged him to say what happened.

Oda said he would rule on the suppression motion later. The capital murder trial is scheduled to begin on Oct. 22.

In April, Jacqueline "Jackie" Kirby, 31, was sentenced to 3 years on probation for her part in the case and ordered her to enter the Women's Recovery Center, an outpatient substance abuse program in Xenia.

(source: Dayton Daily News)

ARKANSAS:

Court filing: Ark.'s 2017 executions unveiled problems

18 condemned inmates say in new court filings that the executions of 4 men in Arkansas last year exposed problems that should render the state's lethal injection procedure unconstitutional.

The prisoners late Monday asked a federal judge to let them amend a lawsuit filed after Arkansas scheduled 8 executions in an 11-day period last year. Four inmates from the original lawsuit were put to death, 3 received stays and Gov. Asa Hutchinson granted clemency to 1.

The inmates initially claimed Arkansas' use of the surgical sedative midazolam might expose them to excruciating pain because it couldn't render them unconscious before 2 other drugs stopped their lungs and hearts. The revised lawsuit says the 4 executions last year support their view.

"During several of the executions, the condemned moved when they should have been anesthetized or paralyzed," lawyers for the inmates wrote, citing witness accounts from various media, including The Associated Press. "During Kenneth Williams' execution, Williams began bucking against his restraints so hard that it caused bruising to his head."

Jack Jones' lips continued to move after he made a final statement, and 5 minutes into his execution his lips moved another 3 to 5 times, the lawyers said, citing an AP report.

The amended lawsuit, which must be accepted by U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker, says it was never clear whether the Arkansas Department of Correction followed its guidelines. The lawyers say there was no way to tell when each drug was administered and that it wasn't clear an attendant performed proper consciousness checks on each inmate.

"The consciousness check is necessary to discern awareness but insufficient to determine whether the prisoner is insensate to pain," the lawyers wrote.

Arkansas uses midazolam to sedate inmates at the start of its executions. The lawyers said late Monday it would be unconstitutionally cruel to subsequently shut down the inmates' lungs and hearts if the prisoners weren't unconscious. The 2nd drug in a 3-drug sequence paralyzes inmates, rendering them unable to cry out.

"The person has the desire to breathe but no ability to do so," the lawyers wrote. "Once the paralysis is total, the recipient is unable to communicate and feels as if he has been buried alive."

The inmates' lawyers said a firing squad, an overdose of pentobarbital or the anesthetic gas sevoflurane might be better options.

Courts last year rejected the inmates' effort to have the midazolam protocol declared unconstitutional and the Arkansas attorney general's office said Tuesday that this year's effort would fail, too.

"The death row inmates' proposed amended complaint is yet another attempt to delay justice for the victims and their families," Jessica Ray, a spokeswoman for the attorney general, said in an email.

(source: Associated Press)

MONTANA:

Montana's GOP Just Nominated an Anti-Death Penalty Candidate----Rosendale wins in a state where Republicans overwhelmingly support capital punishment.

Winning 34 % of the vote in a 4-way race, state Auditor Matt Rosendale will be the Republican nominee facing Montana's Democratic senator, John Tester, this fall. In the waning days of the campaign, one of Rosedale's rivals, former judge Russ Fagg, attacked him for not supporting the death penalty. In a state where the overwhelming majority of Republican voters support capital punishment, Rosendale's win is notable.

Rosendale, who is Catholic, is one of a growing number of conservative leaders calling for an end to the death penalty. "Those who support the death penalty usually use the same, tired arguments: It saves money. It deters crime. Everyone who gets the death penalty is guilty and deserves to die," he co-wrote in an 2013 op-ed in the Billings Gazette. "We're here to say those arguments are wrong, wrong and wrong."

Heather Beaudoin, the national coordinator for Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty notes that his position, "is absolutely consistent with what we're seeing across the country with conservative leaders taking a stand and being able to withstand the pressure."

A 2017 CCATDP report found that Republican legislators were warming up to the idea of repealing the death penalty in their states. In 2000, only 4 Republican lawmakers introduced death penalty repeal bills in their states. By 2016, 40 conservative lawmakers had introduced such bills.

Conservatives against the death penalty consider their religious beliefs, the importance of consistency in championing pro-life principles, and the high financial cost of putting someone to death as their main arguments in favor of death penalty repeal. "Matt Rosendale is willing to stand on those principles," Beaudoin said.

Despite his long history of opposition to the death penalty, Rosendale never directly responded to the attacks against him.

(source: Mother Jones)

CALIFORNIA:

Death sentence upheld. 'Russian mafiosi' to pay for murders of Kingiseppskie gang leader and four businessmen in USA

Crimes committed by a 'Russian mafia group' in the early 2000s are often compared with the deeds of Charles Manson's Family by the severity of their felonies. Several natives of the USSR had kidnapped their compatriots and killed them after getting the ransom. The gang leaders have been sentenced to death in 2007 but still remain alive. In early May 2018, the US Court of Appeals has upheld their death penalty again. The CrimeRussia performed an inquest into the Californian manhunt on fugitive banker George Safiev, one of the leaders of Kingiseppskie organized criminal group, and the 'Russian trace' in this entire story.

On May 9, 2018, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, California has upheld the indictment and death penalties imposed on 2 Russian-speaking immigrants earlier found guilty of a series of kidnappings-for-ransom and subsequent murders of 5 people in 2001-2002.

The 3 judges have unanimously found the evidence against Lithuanian native Jurijus Kadamovas and former St. Petersburg resident Iouri Mikhel overwhelming. According to the indictment, 17 years ago, the 2 immigrants have devised an atrocious get-rich-quick scheme. In the course of its implementation, they have gained over $1.2 million in a few months by murdering 5 people and drowning their bodies in the New Melones reservoir. The funds received from victim's relatives as ransoms were siphoned off through a network of accounts belonging to various companies, including those incorporated in Latvia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). In 2007, both of them have been convicted to death for hostage taking and intentional murders and attempted to appeal the sentence since then. Other gang members - also natives of the former Soviet Union - were convicted to various prison terms depending on the severity of their crimes and collaboration with the investigation.

A report from the Court of Appeals published by The Associated Press in May hasn't caused much media hype - the case of Kadamovas and Mikhel was forgotten shortly after their conviction 11 years ago. But in the early 2000s, the story of cold-blooded murders of wealthy Russian-speaking immigrants in California became the basis for several documentaries and TV shows and was included into criminal investigation manuals alongside with other classic examples of grievous crimes committed in the USA.

Counting drowned bodies The high-profile investigation was launched on October 18, 2001 - after a discovery of the body of an elderly person with tied hands and a plastic bag on his head 20 m off the shore in an artificial lake not far from Yosemite National Park by a father and son from Stockton, CA returning from a fishing trip. The police have determined that the person was strangled prior to being thrown into the reservoir. There was a scar on the victim's leg from a weight bound to it - apparently, it was poorly attached because the body has ultimately come to the surface. The victim had no ID but his identity has been established through a review of the missing persons list. It was 58-year-old Meyer Muscatel, an immigrant from the USSR and successful developer specializing in renovations and sales of private homes in the San Fernando Valley. His wife Nancy Shapiro Muscatel has reported his disappearance to the Los Angeles police 7 days prior to the discovery of his body. In that period, a suspicious attempt to withdraw a large sum of money from his account was made - and the bank has blocked the Muscatel's card and requested the client to attend the branch in person. According to the American media, the thugs managed to get $50 thousand from Muscatel - a developer's partner has allegedly transferred this sum to a dummy company - but the court materials don't confirm this.

Bodies of 3 victims were tossed into the reservoir from the Parrotts Ferry Bridge

After the failed attempt to get money from Muscatel, the criminals started looking for new victims. Mikhel and Kadamovas were pretty wealthy persons having good homes and expensive cars - so they needed some really hardcore stuff with big money.

According to the indictment, in fall 2001, rich businessman George Safiev, who has recently relocated to Moscow, attracted the attention of Mikhel and Kadamovas. Safiev has launched Matador Media producing company in California with the purpose to make major investments into the film industry. Upon arrival to the USA, Safiev has purchased a home for $2.5 million and lived the high life in spheres inaccessible for the criminals. The malefactors had been watching Safiev for some time and identified the circle of his acquaintance. They decided to use 39-year-old Rita Pekler from Encino, CA as a bait. She was the owner of Pekler Group accounting company providing outsourcing services to a number of companies belonging to Russian-speaking immigrants. In particular, she was doing the bookkeeping for Safiev's Matador Media having the same legal address as Pekler Group.

Parents brought Rita Pekler to California from Leningrad when she was a child, she was fluent in English, received financial education in the USA - but retained close ties with the Russian community of Los Angeles. The Pekler's company was reportedly involved in some shady affairs as well, including laundering of funds transferred from Russia, but she never had problems with the law.

On December 5, 2001, Pekler did not return to her office from a business meeting; she was never seen alive since then. Later it became known that the bandits didn't even demand any money from her. After luring her to the home of Kadamovas pretending to be interested in her advice on a real estate transaction. Mikhel, Kadamovas, Altmanis, and Petro Krylov, a native of Kiev, told her at gunpoint that, if she brought Safiev to them, they would get her drunk with vodka or inject her with Dimedrol and leave her unharmed in a motel. The woman was unhappy with such a perspective and told them that she was pregnant and afraid alcohol or drugs would harm the baby. Undeterred, the criminals persisted in trying to use her to lure Safiev. Pekler eventually contacted Safiev, but he told her he was too busy to meet. Shortly thereafter, Safiev left Los Angeles for Russia. Mikhel and Kadamovas decided Pekler had outlived her usefulness; they injected her with Dimedrol, strangled her, and as with Meyer Muscatel, threw her body off the Parrotts Ferry Bridge.

According to the FBI, the selection of the next victim was determined by personal motives of one of the bandits. Petro Krylov used to work for a long time in Advanced Mobile Technologies car electronics shop belonging to 35-year-old Odessa native Alexander Umansky of Sherman Oaks, CA. His business was pretty successful - the turnover of a company installing TV sets and audio and alarm systems in luxury cars of Hollywood residents has increased by 200% since 1998. According to Dun and Bradsheet, the turnover of Advanced Mobile Technologies was $1.2 million in 2000. Umansky and Krylov had a conflict resulting in the termination of Krylov. Being well aware of the financial standing of his former boss, Krylov suggested abducting Umansky.

On December 13, 2001, the businessman was abducted. Mikhel, who posed as a customer needing audio systems installed in two cars, asked Umansky for a ride to one of those. Mikhel directed Umansky to Kadamovas's house, where Kadamovas, Altmanis, and Krylov were already waiting for him - Kadamovas with a gun and Altmanis with a stun gun. When Umansky arrived, Kadamovas sat him on a chair, handcuffed his hands behind him, and bound his legs with plastic ties.

In the morning, the father of Umansky has discovered in his son's office faxes providing details of an account in a New York Standard Chartered branch where a weird sum of $234,268 had to be transferred for further transfer to the Dubai branch. Later it became known that the faxes were sent from Russia. Umansky remained trapped in Kadamovas's home for three days, during which Mikhel and Kadamovas forced him to call his brother and plead for money to secure his release - concurrently warning him against addressing the police or FBI. In the meantime, Mikhel and Altmanis used Umansky's debit card to withdraw money from an ATM and were captured doing so on a surveillance camera (the record has been later attached to the case file).

In 2003, BBC reported that the relatives of Umansky had contacted the FBI that launched an investigation and advised them to pay just a part of the ransom to give the kidnappers a reason to keep Umansky alive.

The sum of $89,598 paid by the Umansky family in 3 installments has immediately been transferred to the Dubai branch of Standard Chartered. On that day, Alexander Umansky spoke with his brother for the last time.

On December 27, unknown persons called Mikhail Umansky again demanding the rest of the sum. Mikhail said that he won't pay anything until he hears the voice of his brother. 1.5 hour later, an ultimatum was delivered to him: neither Alexander, nor the intermediary, no abductors would call him anymore until the addressee receives the rest of the money. Then Mikhail Umansky has transferred the requested $145 thousand to an account belonging to Al-Shaza Sanitary and Building Materials TRD incorporated in Dubai. Later it became known that by that time, Alexander was dead for more than 7 days already. Mikhel shoved plastic bags in Umansky's mouth, duct-taped his mouth shut, and put a bag over his head, while Kadamovas held him down and pinched his nose shut. When these efforts proved ineffective, Mikhel and Altmanis twisted a rope around Umansky's neck and strangled him from behind. The killers then tied a weight plate specially purchased by Altmanis in a sporting goods store around Umansky's body and then drove him to the New Melones Reservoir.

'Russian trace'

The money transfers made by the Umansky family have given momentum to the stalled FBI investigation. The operatives found out that the above-mentioned account of Al-Shaza Sanitary and Building Materials TRD belongs to the company owner - UAE citizen Andrei Ageev. Ageev has immediately transferred the money from the corporate account to a personal account in the same bank belonging to himself and his wife Irina. FBI investigators have questioned Ageev in the UAE; he told that his former partner and employer Aleksander Afonin had arrived to Dubai from Barnaul and asked him to deliver the received funds to Andrei Lyapin, their common business partner from Barnaul.

Lyapin told the FBI agents that he used to work in Sharjah-based Saisam Tourism & Cargo belonging to Afonin and specializing in cargo transportation. He had lived in one Barnaul neighborhood with Afonin and knew him for many years. According to Lyapin, Afonin once asked him to receive money from New York and transfer those to various accounts in Latvian banks.

In December, Ageev and Lyapin have been arrested by the UAE authorities following a request from the USA and handed to the FBI. Afonin, who has already relocated to Russia by that time, was put on the international wanted list. During the searches, instructions left by Afonin were seized; one of these documents referred to an US-based company Designed Water World. Initially, Afonin had asked to transfer $32 thousand to its account in Bank of America but then changed his mind and redirected the funds to GlenstreamVentures, Inc. incorporated in Latvia. The FBI has checked the account of Designed Water World (a fish aquarium store in Sherman Oaks) and found out that the Californian company belonged to Iouri Mikhel and Jurijus Kadamovas. Prior to the first money transfer by the Umansky family, the store had only $78 on its account. On January 3, 2002, Designed Water World received $6,280 from Riga-based GlenstreamVentures, Inc. Two weeks later, the aquarium store received the above-mentioned $32 thousand that Afonin was afraid to transfer to the USA directly.

In the course of the investigation, it became known that GlenstreamVentures, Inc. belongs to Kadamovas and Mikhel in equal shares. And unlike Designed Water World having $78 on its account as of August 31, 2001 (i.e. prior to the abduction and murder of Meyer Muscatel), the Latvian company had assets worth some half-million dollars.

Iouri Mikhel and Jurijus Kadamovas were not poor at all. Back in 2000, Mikhel has purchased two adjacent apartments in Encino worth $430 thousand. Kadamovas owned there a home worth $714 thousand. In an interview to The Los Angeles Times, vendors operating next door to Designed Water World described its owners as 'new Russians' driving luxury cars and maintaining dangerous liaisons - "ferociously looking Russian guys" had visited the store on a regular basis. In 2003, Assistant United States Attorney Susan DeWitt told the court that abductions and murders were not of a novelty to the defendants - Kadamovas and Mikhel had earlier committed at least 2 murders in Cyprus and Turkey. Apparently, they were not going to settle down - according to their accomplices who have made a plea deal, the criminal duo had planned trips to Aspen ski resort and yacht show in Florida to scout for new victims.

The FBI was unable to find out how had Kadamovas and Mikhel become aware of the wealth of Safiev; according to one of the versions, the information about the fugitive businessman could likely be received from Russia.

Gang leader Iouri Mikhel, who was 36 at that time, had a criminal past. He arrived to St. Petersburg from Barnaul in the early 1990s and became a member of an organized criminal group. Reportedly, he was put on the wanted list by the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA) of the Russian Federation in 1993 for extortion - but managed to escape to the USA and obtain American citizenship. The FBI believes, however, that Mikhel continued maintaining criminal ties with his motherland. George Safiev, a criminal banker and one of the leaders of Kingiseppskie organized criminal group, who has fled to the USA from creditors and prosecutors in 1998, had plenty of enemies in Russia.

----Kingiseppskie criminal group was created in 1992 in Moscow on the basis of Pereval (Mountain Pass) Private Security Company by George Safiev, Imran Ilyasov, and Sergei Finagin - all of them were residents of Kingisepp, Leningrad region. The 2 latter ones were former boxers, while George Safiev, a cousin of Ilyasov, was running a business. By that time, Safiev has already established Rossiisky Kapital (Russian Capital) Bank and needed an enforcement division for business protection and criminal operations. For that purpose, they have invited to Moscow a few former athletes from Kingisepp who quickly switched from the protection of the bank and Manhattan Express Night Club belonging to Safiev to racketeering and contract killings. The organized criminal group had operated for more than 10 years after the death of Safiev. According to the investigation, it has committed at least 12 murders. An inquest against Kingiseppskie gang was launched in 2004, after the arrest and death of former submarine officer Aleksander Pumane, 'staff killer' of the criminal group. Pumane was beaten to death by police officers who had mistaken him for a terrorist plotting an assassination of Vladimir Putin after discovering mines in the car of Pumane. Killer's associate Aleksander Ivanov was arrested shortly after that; he has confessed to 5 murders and provided evidence against other gang members. In 2007-2008, 16 members of Kingiseppskie criminal group, including Finagin and Ilyasov, were sentenced to prison terms varying from 3 to 19 years behind bars. During the trial, Finagin and Ilyasov told the court that since the mid-1990s, the criminal group had been 'patronized' by Igor Izmestiev, Senator from Bashkortostan, who is currently serving a life term for masterminding murders.

(source: crimerussia.com)

PHILIPPINES:

FACT CHECK: A new death penalty law won't apply to De Lima's case----The 1987 Constitution of the Philippines also prohibits the passing of any retroactive law

Claim: Jailed senator Leila de Lima may get the death penalty once the Senate decides to reimpose capital punishment in the Philippines.

A post by trendingph.altervista.org ran the headline: (Leila de Lima will get the death penalty as soon as it's passed in the Senate. The link leads only to a YouTube video posted by 'Pro Duterte Ka Ba?' which features pro-Duterte blogger Trixie Cruz-Angeles who comments on the Napoles case, as well as the death penalty bill.

Four Facebook groups and pages have shared the link.

RATING: FALSE

The facts: Even if De Lima is found guilty, a new death penalty law passed by the Senate cannot be applied to her.

"That would constitute an ex post facto law. That would be unconstitutional," University of the Philippines constitutional law professor Dan Gatmaytan said when asked by Rappler.

The Philippine Constitution prohibits the passing of any retroactive law. Article III of the Bill of Rights, Section 22 says: "No ex post facto law or bill of attainder shall be enacted."

The embedded video also did not mention the death penalty for De Lima, contrary to what is stated in the post's headline.

The video is a trimmed version of a video blog by Cruz-Angelez that was originally posted on her Facebook page. In the trimmed video, Cruz-Angeles shared her thoughts about the Napoles case and the death penalty bill. On the topic of the death penalty, Cruz-Angeles only talked about her reservations about the bill being discussed in the Senate, such as the non-inclusion of plunder for crimes punishable by death.

This blog post joins other false articles that embed just an opinion video, then make a misleading claim in the headline, even if it isn't mentioned in the video.

(source: rappler.com)

TAIWAN:

Taiwan court sentences arsonist to death for fire which killed 9----Appeals against the district court verdict are still possible

A man who set fire in his apartment building in New Taipei City last year with the deaths of 9 people as a result received the death sentence Thursday, though he can still appeal.

Li Kuo-hui, an ethnic Chinese man from Myanmar, claimed he heard the sound of neighbors making fun of him at his apartment in Zhonghe, New Taipei City, the Central News Agency reported. Early in the morning of November 22 last year, he went out with an empty bottle to buy gasoline, and that day in the evening, he lighted the fuel on the staircase of his apartment building and fled, prosecutors said.

9 residents on the 4th and illegally added 5th floor lost their lives in the resulting blaze, with Li returning to the site to take a look and stealing clothes to change his appearance, reports said.

The New Taipei District Court said Thursday he was guilty of extreme evil, taking out his revenge on innocent people in the most brutal way possible. Appeals against the sentence are possible, and while capital punishment is still on the books, no executions have taken place since 2016.

Before last year's fatal arson, Li reportedly posted insults on the Facebook page of a woman after she broke up with him. As she apologized, Li asked a friend from Myanmar to remove his post, but instead, the man used it to mock him, enraging him to the point he used oil to light a fire outside the man’s apartment and under his motorcycle in May and June last year, according to CNA.

(source: Taiwan News)

SAUDI ARABIA:

Saudi Condemns 4 To Death For Forming 'Iran Cell'

A Saudi court has sentenced 4 people to death for links to regional rival Iran, alleging that they were plotting the assassination of "prominent figures", state media said Thursday.

"The criminal court has sentenced four terrorists to death for forming a cell for Iran," the state-owned Al-Ekhbariya TV reported.

"The terrorists were trained in camps in Iran" and "planned to assassinate prominent figures," Al-Ekhbariya said, without giving any more details on those convicted.

Sunni powerhouse Saudi Arabia and Iran, the predominant Shiite power, have a long history of rivalry. They today stand on opposing sides of conflicts in the Middle East, from Syria to Yemen.

In December 2016, a Saudi court sentenced 15 people to death for spying for Iran, according to local media. A source told AFP then that most of them were members of the kingdom's Shiite minority.

Earlier in 2016, regional tensions spiked when Riyadh executed prominent Sasudi Shiite cleric Nimr al-Nimr, a driving force behind anti-government protests, for "terrorism".

The ultra-conservative kingdom has one of the world's highest rates of execution, with suspects convicted of terrorism, homicide, rape, armed robbery and drug trafficking facing the death penalty.

Rights experts have repeatedly raised concerns about the fairness of trials in the kingdom, governed under a strict form of Islamic law. The government says the death penalty is a deterrent for further crime.

(source: radiofarda.com)

MAURITANIA:

Mauritania cracking down on apostasy with mandatory death sentence

There will no longer be mercy for those convicted of apostasy in Mauritania.

Previously, any Mauritanian who committed blasphemy or left the Muslim faith had 3 days to repent before they were punished. Penalties included prison terms or a death sentence.

However, a new law was passed on April 27th by the Mauritanian National Assembly. Todd Nettleton with The Voice of the Martyrs explains, "This new law sort of becomes more stringent - that 3 days to repent disappears. Everyone is going to be punished. Even if you do repent, you are still going to be punished. And in the case of blasphemous remarks or sacrilegious acts, according to the law, the death penalty is now mandatory.

"The other thing that was very fascinating to me is, in explaining this change in the law, the Minister of Defense said that 'what we had before was actually in contradiction with official Sharia code, the official Sharia law. We want to be as close to the real Sharia law as possible, so we needed to eliminate that discrepancy between the 2.'"

Mauritania is a Muslim nation and while no Christian has been given a death sentence yet, this law is especially concerning for new converts. A mandatory death sentence for apostasy could cause someone who is considering following Jesus to think twice.

Even though the CIA World Factbook reports that Mauritania is officially 100 % Muslim, there is an underground Church presence. The Holy Spirit cannot be stopped at the Mauritania borders, and Mauritanian believers are living out their faith in secret. One of their biggest needs is fellowship.

"What often happens to someone who comes to faith in Christ is they are cut off. They are cut off from their Muslim friends. They are cut off even from their families. So having fellowship with other believers, having a way to be encouraged and to be discipled, those are challenging things in a country where there are so few Christians."

There are a few things you can do to stand with our Christian brothers and sisters in Mauritania today.

First, Nettleton says, "People can call the Mauritania representatives in their home country and say, 'We would like you to consider not having this apostasy law.' The chances of that being effective are probably pretty slim, but it does send a message that the rest of the world is paying attention."

And especially, you can pray. "Let's pray that God's Spirit will move. The Bible talks about God directing the hearts of kings, God directing governments, and so let's pray that there is a change of heart and that Mauritanians would be free to choose their own religious path."

(source: mnnonline.org)

JUNE 6, 2018:

TEXAS----stay of impending execution

June execution stayed for East Texas man claiming intellectual disability

An East Texas killer scheduled for execution in June won a stay Tuesday after his lawyers argued he may be too intellectually disabled to put to death.

Clifton Lamar Williams - who has an IQ in the mid-60s - was scheduled to die on June 21 for a 2005 slaying, when he robbed 93-year-old Cecilia Schneider before stabbing her and setting her body on fire.

Last month, the 34-year-old's lawyers filed court papers begging for relief based on a groundbreaking 2017 Supreme Court decision that upended how Texas determines intellectual disability.

In that earlier decision, the high court ruled in favor of condemned Houston-area killer Bobby Moore, finding that the state had used a dated method of figuring out who qualified as too mentally disabled to execute.

Under a more up-to-date standard, Williams' attorneys argued he shouldn't be eligible for the state's harshest punishment.

On Tuesday, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals decided to bounce Williams' case back to a lower court for a hearing to consider the condemned killer's mental capacity.

"We remand this application to the convicting court for a live hearing to further develop evidence and make a new recommendation to this Court on the issue of intellectual disability," the court wrote. "Applicant's motion to stay his execution is granted."

Early this year, the case sparked a spat between the current legal team - Seth Kretzer and Wes Volberding - and another team of lawyers who wanted to get involved. The other legal team accused Kretzer and Volberding of abandoning their client when they didn't visit the condemned man for 3 years.

But a judge slapped down the request to knock the 2 Texas lawyers on the case, despite Williams' hand-written request for a new legal team.

The Lone Star State has executed 6 men this year. With Williams' death date off the calendar, Danny Bible - a Houston-area serial killer now in a wheelchair - is the next man scheduled to die.

(source: Houston Chronicle)

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

Executions under Greg Abbott, Jan. 21, 2015-present----33

Executions in Texas: Dec. 7, 1982----present-----551

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

34---------June 27----------------Danny Bible-------------552

35---------July 17----------------Christopher Young-------553

36---------Aug. 30----------------Joseph Garcia-----------554

37---------Sept. 12---------------Ruben Gutierrez---------555

38---------Sept. 26---------------Troy Clark---------------556

39---------Sept. 27---------------Daniel Acker------------557

40---------Oct. 10----------------Juan Segundo------------558

41---------Oct. 24----------------Kwame Rockwell-------559

(sources: TDCJ & Rick Halperin)

***********************************----new death sentence//foreign national

Border Patrol agent's killer gets the death penalty

A jury has decided Gustavo Tijerina Sandoval deserves the death penalty for the 2014 murder of a U.S. Border Patrol agent. Tijerina Sandoval, 34, was convicted last week in the death of Javier Vega Jr., the border agent who was shot to death while fishing with family in a rural area near Harlingen.

On Aug. 3, 2014, Tijerina Sandoval and another man attempted to rob the Vega family at gunpoint, when Vega Jr., a veteran of the Marine Corps., pulled out his weapon. After a brief exchange of gunfire Vega Jr. was shot in the chest and died on the way to the hospital.

In addition to receiving the death penalty, Tijerina Sandoval was sentenced to life for attempted capital murder regarding the others in the Vega party. The Border Patrol agent's father, Javier Vega Sr., was shot in the back during the firefight.

Ismael Hernandez Vallejo, accused of being the 2nd man in the robbery attempt, also is charged with capital murder and attempted capital murder. He will be tried later this year and also faces the death penalty.

Both Tijerina Sandoval and Hernandez Vallejo are Mexican citizens who were in the United States illegally at the time of the attack on the Vega family.

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

Harris County killer taken off death row, given 2 life sentences----Michael Wayne Norris was resentenced to life in prison after decades on death row.

After more than 3 decades on death row, a Houston man convicted of killing his ex-girlfriend and her 2-year-old son was resentenced to life following a federal appeal over flawed jury instructions that failed to consider mitigating evidence.

Michael Wayne Norris last week became the 4th Harris County killer taken off death row under the tenure of District Attorney Kim Ogg. With a new plea deal in place, the 60-year-old will serve 2 back-to-back life sentences - 1 for each victim.

"We decided that justice could be served by making sure he never saw the light of day," said Tom Berg, the county's 1st assistant district attorney.

The complications of decades-old evidence, the uncertainty of going before a jury again, questions about Norris's future dangerousness, and the survivors' consent all factored in the decision not to seek death again.

"This is how this case should have resolved," said Norris's attorney, Allen Isbell. "It's taken 3 decades to get here, but I'm just glad that eventually it did."

The former truck driver had already served 1 prison term for murder when he was originally sentenced to die for the 1987 killing of Georgia Rollins and her infant son.

After years of appeals, his case was ultimately bounced back to a lower court in 2015 after Houston attorney Patrick McCann won him relief as one of the so-called "Penry cases" named for Johnny Paul Penry.

Penry - a former Texas death row inmate now serving multiple life sentences - was spared the ultimate punishment after his case twice went to the U.S. Supreme Court, netting a pair of decisions that touched on flawed jury instructions. During the punishment phase of a capital trial, the courts said, juries needed to be specifically instructed on the role of mitigating evidence.

"It's not enough that a defendant be permitted to present evidence that could spare his life," said Robert Dunham of the Death Penalty Information Center. "The jury has to know what it can do with that evidence."

As with the other Penry cases, Norris won a new punishment phase. Since life without parole wasn't an option when he was first sent to death row, he wasn't eligible for it the 2nd time around. Instead, prosecutors stacked 2 life sentences, then added in 3 20-year sentences for aggravated assault.

"From the very first, Mr. Norris wanted something that would enable him to stay in prison but not be on death row," Isbell said. "He owes Pat McCann his life."

The killings came hours after Rollins incurred her ex's wrath by telling him he couldn't take care of the child during church, according to court records. Norris stormed home angrily, then began calling Rollins repeatedly.

When she hung up on him time and again, Norris headed over to her apartment with a high-powered deer rifle.

Family members who were home at the time later testified that Norris appeared outside the victim's window, broke the glass and fired a shot into the woman's bedroom before climbing inside and firing again.

"I hate to do this Georgia, but I told you. I told you you couldn't mess me over," he reportedly said. "I told you you couldn't leave me."

Norris then opened fire at his ex, left and went to another room, then came back and continued shooting, according to court records. 4 shots - including the 1st one from outside the window - hit the child, though Norris later said he never intended to kill the boy.

Afterward, he came back to his mother's house in tears, then called his pastor before phoning police to turn himself in.

At the time of his original trial, a jury found him to be a future danger - one of the requirements for a death sentence in Texas. Since then, he hasn't caused problems in prison, the assistant district attorney said.

"If the guy has been in prison 30 years and behaved himself that's a pretty compelling argument against future dangerousness," Berg said. In deciding not to seek death again, prosecutors also considered the wishes of the surviving family members, who didn't necessarily want to deal with the stress of another long trial and subsequent appeals.

"What is essentially life without parole means closure," Berg said.

Since Ogg took office in 2017, she's seen 4 men removed from death row.

First, in June 2017, Robert Campbell was given a life sentence after courts decided he was too intellectually disabled to execute. Then in October, Duane Buck was resentenced to life in prison after a Supreme Court decision reversed his punishment in light of allegations of racist expert testimony.

The following month, Calvin Hunter was spared as well, over claims of false expert testimony.

"The whole climate in which we manage our capital cases and in which we evaluate our capital cases has changed," Berg said. "Cases in which might have thought death 30 years ago we might not today."

(source for both: mysanantonio.com)

DELAWARE:

Democratic candidates for Attorney General debate

Democratic candidates vying to be Delaware's next Attorney General answered questions in Wilmington Monday night, sponsored by the state Democratic Party.

Chris Johnson, Lakresha Roberts and Kathy Jennings sought to differentiate themselves during the 2-hour event at the Kingswood Community Center.

The trio staked out positions on issues like cash bail, legalizing marijuana and taking on Trump administration policies.

The 3 candidates present oppose reinstating the death penalty. But Roberts said she would hear a victim's family out.

"I'm very comfortable having a difficult conversation explaining to a family why I would not pursue the death penalty in a case," she said.

Johnson, who previously served as Gov. John Carney's deputy legal counsel, said he would not seek the death penalty in any case.

Jennings successfully prosecuted a serial killer in 1989 during her decades-long stint in Delaware's Department of Justice. But she said she doesn't believe the death penalty deters crime.

Johnson said he's usually described as far to the left, but believes his views reflect what many people believe.

"But I believe as Democrats, we just need to be solid on our foundation," he said. "So, I am just one of those Democrats, that I'm just upholding the values that the community wants and our national party is pushing for."

Despite 2 decades in the Delaware Department of Justice, Jennings rejects any suggestion she's the establishment Democrat in the race.

"I have sought change," she said. "I have made change happen. Did away with three strikes and get a life sentence law. I did away with consecutive sentencing where it was safe to do so."

A 4th Democratic candidate, Tim Mullaney, was unable to attend.

(source: delawarepublic.com)

FLORIDA:

Steven Hayward, convicted in 2005 killing of newspaper carrier in Fort Pierce, off death row

After spending nearly 11 years on death row, convicted killer Steven Douglas Hayward was sentenced last month to life in prison without parole.

Hayward was convicted and sentenced to death in June 2007 for robbing and shooting Daniel DeStefano, a 32-year-old Fort Pierce Tribune newspaper carrier. DeStefano was shot in the chest and thigh as he delivered newspapers to convenience stores along Avenue D in Fort Pierce about 4 a.m. Feb. 1, 2005.

The state's newest death penalty law, enacted in March 2017, requires a jury to reach 12-0 vote to recommend death.

Rulings by the U.S. Supreme Court and the Florida Supreme Court retroactively invalidated death sentences that followed less-than-unanimous jury recommendations. It applies to those whose direct appeals were finalized after June 24, 2002.

Hayward's jury voted 8-4 for death in the sentencing phase.

Though prosecutors initially filed a notice of intent to seek the death penalty again for Hayward, Chief Assistant State Attorney Tom Bakkedahl said in January he would instead abide by the family's wishes to not to go through another death penalty hearing.

Bakkedahl said even if a new jury voted unanimously for the death penalty, that merely is the 1st step in a 15-year process of appeals.

"The family couldn't quite go through the process again, and I didn't have the heart to force them," Bakkedahl said.

With all appeals resolved, Hayward was given the life sentence on May 16 by Circuit Judge James McCann, who had issued the original death sentence in 2007.

The hearing did give DeStafano's family members some closure.

Some of them, including DeStafano's fiancee, Renee Mancini, read their victim impact statements to the judge for the record.

New sentencing hearings have been ordered for dozens of Florida death row inmates.

Hayward was the 1st of 6 Treasure Coast cases for which the resentencing has been completed. The other cases aren't that far along, Bakkedahl said.

"Those that have been sent back (for new sentencing hearings), we've filed notices of intent to seek death," Bakkedahl said. "We will consult with the families in each of those, and then made a decision based on the facts, the new law and the family's wishes."

(source: tcpalm.com)

ALABAMA:

Jerry Jerome Smith sentenced to death for 5th time

A Houston County judge agrees with the recommendation of a jury and believes convicted murderer Jerry Jerome Smith should die for his crimes.

Smith was found guilty 20 years ago of shooting 3 people to death at what police term a drug house in Dothan. 4 times his death sentences were overturned on appeal.

Judge Michael Conaway on Tuesday again gave Smith the death penalty after a jury last month recommended the punishment even though he wasn't bound by the recommendation.

The case will return to appeals courts where defense attorneys and prosecutors agree there's a chance the death sentence will again be overturned.

(source: WTVY news)

OHIO:

Judge upholds death penalty recommendation in Youngstown beating death, arson

A Mahoning County Judge has passed final judgment, ruling that the 48-year-old man convicted of a 2015 Youngstown beating death and arson case should face the death penalty.

In court on Tuesday, Judge Maureen Sweeney upheld the jury's unanimous recommendation that Lance Hundley face the death penalty.

The same jury previously convicted Hundley of aggravated murder, attempted murder, felonious assault, and aggravated arson.

Prosecutors say Hundley attacked Huff at her home on Cleveland Street, beat her to death, and then set the home on fire to cover up the crime.

Officials say when Hundley encountered Huff's mother, Denise Johnson outside the home, he attacked her with a claw hammer.

Officers responding to calls for help removed an air conditioner from the back of the home and rescued Johnson.

After that rescue, they found Huff's body. Huff was confined to a wheelchair, unable to walk because she suffered from MS.

Police originally said Hundley was living in the home and was inside when police arrived. Hundley was arrested and was also taken to St. Elizabeth Health Center for injuries.

Erika had a 6-year-old daughter who was not in the home at the time of the fire.

Huff's family has filed a civil lawsuit against an ambulance provider and 2 EMT's for alleged negligence on the night of Huff's death.

That lawsuit has been scheduled to continue later this year, after the conclusion of criminal proceedings against Hundley.

(source: WFMJ news)

WEST VIRGINIA:

West Virginia Senate candidate Patrick Morrisey supports the death penalty for drug dealers

Republican Senate nominee Patrick Morrisey, following in the footsteps of President Donald Trump, told the Washington Examiner Tuesday he is in full support of the death penalty for drug dealers.

"You can put me down for a resolute yes," Morrisey said.

Morrisey, who has served as West Virginia's attorney general since 2012 and is backed by the Senate Conservatives Fund and FreedomWorksPAC in his campaign for Senate, explained why he believes the death penalty is an appropriate punishment for drug dealers.

"You can count me very much all-in to make sure the death penalty applies to the drug traffickers that are knowingly and recklessly killing people in our society," he said.

As Conservative Review Senior Editor Daniel Horowitz has explained, the increase in drug trafficking in the United States is a direct result of the lack of border security enforcement. Because a large percentage of drug dealers are also illegal immigrants, treating drug dealership with the same seriousness as a petty crime encourages even more undocumented migrants to cross the border.

Morrisey said that when there "is specific intent on the part of an individual to distribute a product that you know is going to cause death," capital punishment is appropriate. West Virginia has the highest number of opioid-related deaths in the United States.

(source: conservativereview.com)

TENNESSEE:

Judge appoints new attorney in Howard Hawk Willis appeal

Despite an infamous death row inmate's desire to again represent himself as he seeks a new trial, a judge denied Howard Hawk Willis' request Tuesday.

Almost eight years after a jury convicted him, the double murderer returned to a Jonesborough courtroom. During Tuesday's court hearing, Judge Lisa Rice granted Willis' request to end his relationship with his current attorney, but denied his request to represent himself. Instead, she appointed him another lawyer.

Willis represented himself at trial after problems with multiple other attorneys. He's facing the death penalty for the 2002 murders of Samantha and Adam Chrismer.

Willis will return to court in November as he continues his quest for a new trial.

(source: WJHL news)

ARKANSAS:

Man pleads not guilty to murder, arson in deadly fire at Hot Springs apartment complex

A man is pleading not guilty to capital murder and arson in a fire that left 1 man dead and several injured at a Hot Springs apartment back in March.

Rayson Edward Clayton, 22 , is charged in the death of Wilibando Areyano Guerrero after police say he intentionally set fire to Polo Run Apartments after a dispute with a family member that lived there.

Clayton pleaded not guilty to the charges on Monday.

A gag order was also issued, restricting those who are involved in the case to share any information or comment publicly.

Prosecutors say they are still seeking the death penalty against Clayton.

(source: KATV news)

MISSOURI:

Death row inquiry on hold after Greitens' resignation

The fate of a Missouri death row inmate whose execution was halted last year after DNA evidence raised questions about his case is on hold as a result of former Gov. Eric Greitens' resignation.

Marcellus Williams, 49, was hours away from being put to death in August when Greitens halted the execution. Williams was convicted of fatally stabbing former St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporter Lisha Gayle during a 1998 burglary at her suburban St. Louis home, but DNA evidence found on the murder weapon matched another unknown person.

Greitens, a Republican, appointed a board of inquiry made up of five retired judges to look into the case. The board was scheduled to meet Tuesday in the governor's office but canceled, citing confusion about whether its authority continues after Greitens resigned last week.

Greitens left office after months of investigations related to a 2015 extramarital affair and his alleged use of a charity donor list for political purposes. He was replaced by Republican Lt. Gov. Mike Parson.

It's unclear whether Parson will keep the inquiry board intact. The board has suspended its work pending guidance from Parson, the governor's spokeswoman, Kelli Jones, said.

Nimrod Chapel, president of the Missouri State Conference of the NAACP and a supporter of Williams', urged the governor to allow the panel to continue its work.

"Gov. Greitens' issues are their own, but one thing he got right was ensuring that we are going to be dead certain that we are executing the right person for the right crime. I think that's a piece of leadership we need to hold onto in Missouri, and one that we need to continue," Chapel said.

Despite the DNA claim, St. Louis County prosecutor Bob McCulloch said last year that there was "zero possibility" Williams was innocent, citing ample amounts of other evidence.

Prosecutors said Williams broke a window pane to get inside Gayle's home on Aug. 11, 1998, heard water running in the shower, and found a large butcher knife. When Gayle came downstairs, she was stabbed 43 times. Her purse and her husband's laptop were stolen.

Authorities said Williams stole a jacket to conceal blood on his shirt. Williams' girlfriend later asked him why he would wear a jacket on such a hot day. The girlfriend said she later saw the laptop in the car and that Williams sold it a day or 2 later.

Prosecutors also cited testimony from Henry Cole, who shared a cell with Williams in 1999 while Williams was jailed in St. Louis on unrelated charges. Cole told prosecutors that Williams confessed to the killing and offered details about it.

Williams' attorneys responded that the girlfriend and Cole were both convicted felons who were out for a $10,000 reward.

Gayle, 42, was a reporter at the Post-Dispatch from 1981 to 1992. She left journalism to do social work.

(source: Associated Press)

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

NAACP, local advocates host rally to free Marcellus Williams

Around 25 people gathered Tuesday at the steps of the Missouri Supreme Court to rally for the exoneration of Marcellus Williams, a death-row inmate they say is innocent.

The rally, hosted by the NAACP and Missourians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, sought not only to bring attention to the case of Williams, but also the need for criminal justice reform in Missouri. Williams' only son, Marcellus Williams II, and a coalition of local advocates - including at least 2 Missourians who were exonerated after spending decades in prison - attended.

"We're here to support justice, equality and fairness in the state of Missouri," said Nimrod Chapel, Jr., president of the Missouri State Conference of the NAACP. "Today is a day for Marcellus Williams, a man who needs justice now more than ever."

Williams was convicted in 2001 for the murder of St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporter Lisha Gayle. In 2015, the Missouri Supreme Court stayed his initial execution date to test the DNA evidence from the scene for the first time. In response to public outcry maintaining Williams' innocence, former Gov. Eric Greitens stayed Williams' 2nd execution date in August 2017, just hours before he was set to be put to death. Greitens commissioned a 5-person board of inquiry to review Williams' case. The board was scheduled to meet early Tuesday, but the meeting was canceled after Greitens resigned last week.

In Greitens' final day in office, he issued 5 pardons - none included Williams.

Current Gov. Mike Parson has not commented publicly on the case, Chapel said.

Williams always has maintained his innocence. Rita Linhardt, senior staff associate at Missouri Catholic Conference, brought up multiple issues with Williams' case.

"Truth lies in the forensic evidence, none of which ties Mr. Williams to the crime," Linhardt said. "Neither the hairs on the victim, the fingernail clippings nor the bloody footprints tie Mr. Williams to the crime."

DNA tests conducted on the murder weapon did not incriminate Williams, Linhardt said.

The primary evidence against Williams came from 2 witnesses who were paid for their testimony. One admitted later that she "set up" Williams to get the money, according to a news release for the event.

Linhardt said that attendees seek justice not only for Williams, but also for Gayle, whose death was "senseless."

"Justice demands truth - the truth of what really happened that day to Ms. Gayle," Linhardt said.

Missouri Catholic Conference submits clemency applications to the governor for death-row inmates like Williams. They've submitted 87 so far - 2 of those for Williams, Linhardt said.

Williams' son attended Parson's swearing-in ceremony Friday, hoping to find out how Parson would respond to his dad's case, and to discuss prison reform.

Williams II was 9 years old when his dad was convicted. He's 27 now, but he said he still remembers the photos of Gayle's body - she was stabbed repeatedly - presented as evidence in court. When he saw them, he had to leave the room.

"It was really hard for me. I was a kid; it was painful," Williams II said. "I couldn't believe, and still don't, that my father was able to do something like this to this woman."

Williams II is now a professional fighter, but he said his battles happen daily, outside the ring.

"I've been fighting my whole life - that's just how it is, especially when you're a black man in America," Williams II said. "And people say that's the race card. But man, that's the 'real life' card. That's the world we live in. You've got to fight to be equal."

(source: myleaderpaper.org)

NEBRASKA:

'Screw this, I'm going on death row' The chilling story of the murderer who strangled his cellmate using a pair of socks because he was desperate to be executed

If you were sentenced to death, you'd imagine feeling nothing but horror. But for James Robertson, landing a place on death row was the ultimate goal You'd imagine that being sentenced to execution would be terrifying - but James Robertson was delighted when he heard that he was going to be killed for his crimes.

Robertson, a long-term prisoner, was sentenced to death in 2012 for murdering his cellmate, while already in a Florida jail for a string of robberies and assaults.

The 54-year-old has yet to be executed, and is now appearing on new documentary series I Am A Killer, where he talks candidly about his fight to earn the death penalty.

He looks like a TV villain, with a smooth shaven head and a wide smile with countless missing teeth.

And he is so relaxed about his sentence that he doesn't even mind whether it comes as a result of electrocution or lethal injection.

"I'd much rather have a needle stuck in me than be electrocuted but I could go either way," he says on the show, speaking in a deep southern accent. "You read how it's 'inhumane' but that's a load of bulls**t. You don't feel anything."

A reputation for violence

Looking at him with his hands cuffed in his lap and his eyes twitching, it would be natural to dismiss Robertson's death wish as a result of madness.

But the chilling truth is that he knows exactly what he's doing - and he's been deemed medically sane as part of his trial.

Robertson - AKA death row prisoner #322534 - has been behind bars for 37 years already, serving a sentence of over 100 years.

He was just 17 when he was found guilty of his first major crime - trying to rob a local shop to fund his cannabis habit, when he was caught in the act by a pair of security guards.

Robertson was arrested and given a late birthday present from the state: 10 years in jail for burglary, aggravated assault and his attempt to resist arrest.

But while he was inside Charlotte County prison, Robertson earned a greater reputation for violence, smuggling a knife into his cell and using it remorselessly in his many arguments with other inmates.

The brawler added years to his sentence with every stabbing, riot, and assault he carried out behind bars, and ended up facing a century in prison.

He was also transferred to "close management" - solitary confinement - where the most dangerous inmates are cooped up on their own for 23 hours a day, separated from the general population with fewer privileges and no company.

Desperate to die

When he asked to be transferred back to the general population, Robertson's enormous rap sheet was held against him.

"You just lose all motivation," he says. "The guards humiliate you all the time and treat you like you're a bug.

"You're sat in that cell all day. It's inhumane."

It seems that the prospect of a life in solitary confinement was too much for Robertson to bear, and he decided he'd rather be dead.

He says: "Finally, I got mad and said 'I'm going to go ahead and kill somebody.' It was premeditated. I wanted to get on death row."

Robertson wanted a permanent change of scenery, and in 2008 his opportunity came.

The repeat-offender was moved into a shared cell with Frank Hart, a middle-aged man jailed for committing lewd acts in the presence of a child.

"I felt pretty confident I could overpower him," Robertson says. "And I didn't want to have a child molester in my cell. "

Night fell, and Robertson worked out that the 25 minute window between the guards' rounds gave him an opportunity to pounce.

He tied together a pair of socks and nudged his cellmate awake, before leaping onto his bed and looping the homemade garrote around Hart's skinny neck.

There was a 5-minute struggle, and then Hart stopped gasping for air and fell limp back onto the bed.

"I don't feel bad about it," says Robertson, breaking into a morbid, hearty laugh.

Life on death row

In 2009, Robertson was charged with Hart's murder, but the death penalty wasn't on the table as a punishment and his attorney refused to ask for it.

Outraged, the killer hired a new lawyer and demanded execution - starting a landmark, 3-year legal battle which ended with him being sentenced to death in 2012.

In the years since Robertson was first jailed, grey hairs have started knotting in his beard, and deep lines have appeared beneath his intense eyes.

He told his lawyers that he was so set on dying sooner rather than later because of this - he's getting on now and he doesn't want to grow old in prison.

Having spent his life tormenting the vulnerable people around him, Robertson worried that, before long, he would become a target himself.

A prison nurse also explains in the show that death row is widely considered to be cushier than close management, where Robertson had spent the past few miserable years.

For a lonely, sun-starved man with no entertainment or company, the appeal of a ward with better food, TVs and a greater sense of camaraderie was obvious.

Meeting a murderer

Danny Tipping, one of the producers behind I Am A Killer, told Sun Online: "Very little of what you read online will tell you about the characters in the series.

"We weren't looking for anybody who denied their role in the crime, and these guys have had a lot of time to come to terms with what they've done.

"You may not feel sympathy or empathy for these guys, but you'll probably come to a level of understanding you hadn't expected before."

"I just got to the point where I said: 'f*** this - I'm going on death row," Robertson says.

But while he may have finally made it there, he's not dead yet.

He still doesn't have an execution date, and there could still be years standing between him and a lethal injection.

"I'm not angry or bitter," he says. "That's life and I accept full responsibility for the way my life turned out.

"I'm ready to go. It's over. But there's a long list on death row so I don't know how long I'll be waiting."

(source: thesun.co.uk)

CALIFORNIA:

Judge allows ACLU suit on California's death penalty law

A judge has refused to dismiss an American Civil Liberties Union suit challenging some of the state's new rules for executions, including procedures for determining whether a condemned inmate is sane enough to be executed.

The ACLU, on behalf of death row inmate Jarvis Lee Masters, sued state prison officials in February for approving rules for putting inmates to death without first submitting them to the public for comment.

2 previous versions of the execution standards drew thousands of public comments, mostly critical, and were rejected by a state administrative agency, which found they were inconsistent with state law. But in November 2016 state voters approved Proposition 66, an initiative sponsored by death penalty supporters to speed up executions and eliminate requirements of public notice and comment for procedures used to administer the lethal drugs.

State officials sought to dismiss the ACLU suit, arguing that Prop. 66 applied to all aspects of an execution. Requiring officials to invite and respond to public comment on procedures required to carry out an execution would delay the process, an "absurd result" in light of the ballot measure's purpose, a state lawyer said in a court filing.

Sponsors of Prop. 66 also argued for dismissal of the suit and said it was already causing delay in plans to resume executions. California has not conducted an execution since 2006 and has nearly 750 inmates on death row, of whom more than 20 have lost their final appeals of their death sentences.

But Marin County Superior Court Judge Roy Chernus ruled last week that the suit could proceed. Chernus did not decide whether public comment was required for any of the state's proposed procedures, but said the ACLU's allegations show "the existence of a present, actual controversy" to be resolved in legal proceedings.

ACLU attorney Linda Lye said the disputed issues include examinations to determine an inmate's sanity, methods of selecting witnesses from the public and the news media, the handling of execution warrants and disposition of an inmate's body.

Past regulations have drawn "extensive (public) comment on what's appropriate for a treating psychiatrist to do and not do," Lye said.

She said the judge's ruling allows the ACLU to seek evidence from the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation on the challenged regulations. If Chernus decided that any of the rules was exempt from Prop. 66, he could order the department to invite public comment and then to seek approval of the procedures from the state Office of Administrative Law, which rejected the earlier versions.

The department declined to comment on the ruling.

(source: Bob Egelko, San Francisco Chronicle)

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

3 Arrested, One At Large For Killing Young Father And Leaving His Body In Canyons

3 teens have been arrested in connection with the brutal kidnapping, robbery, and murder of a man whose body was dumped in a canyon on the outskirts of Los Angeles, and the victim’s mother is begging a fourth man to turn himself in.

Sheriff's deputies on Wednesday found the body of 20-year-old Julian Hamori-Andrade, who had a 9-month old baby and another child on the way, in a canyon along Highway 39 in Azusa, a town at the edge of Angeles National Forest and the San Gabriel Mountains, according to a KCAL in Los Angeles.

Authorities believe he was beaten unconscious inside an Azusa home occupied by the 4 suspects before they left him for dead in the canyon, authorities said.

Police on Wednesday night initially investigated a disturbance at the home of the suspects, where they found a large amount of blood inside the home and leading outside the building.

Police arrested Hercules Dimitrios Balaskas, Francisco Amigon, and Jacob Hunter Elmendorf, all 19. They also issued a warrant for Matthew Martin Capiendo Luzon, 21, who remains at large, according to the Los Angeles County District Attorney's office. Police said he helped killed Hamori-Andrade with a rock and a broken glass pipe.

In an emotional interview with KCAL, Hamori-Andrade's mother, Andrade, pleaded for Luzon to surrender.

"It's just brutal, brutal, and I can't believe that these kids that young are capable of doing such a horrific thing to my son," she said. "Do us all a favor, give me that closure, please."

The 4 were charged with 1st-degree murder, kidnapping, and robbery, with added "special circumstances" of lying in wait to commit the crime, authorities said.

All 4 suspects face the death penalty if convicted.

(source: oxygen.com)

USA:

Noted doctor's death could affect Fell trial

The shooting death of a prominent psychiatrist, who was involved in high-profile cases such as the 1996 death of JonBenet Ramsey, could have an impact on the Donald Fell case.

Fell, 38, is facing retrial in federal court for the carjacking and kidnapping of Terry King, 53, of North Clarendon.

On Monday, attorneys representing Fell filed a motion in U.S. court regarding the death of Dr. Steven Pitt.

According to the New York Times, police believe Pitt, who was shot outside his office in Phoenix, Arizona, was killed by Dwight Lamon Jones.

Police said Jones was connected to Pitt, and at least 4 others, through a divorce case.

Jones killed himself Monday after police tracked him to a Scottsdale hotel, the Times reported.

Prosecutors were planning to have Pitt, 59, evaluate Fell for the penalty phase of Fell's trial, if Fell were to be convicted.

The government has already announced plans to seek the death penalty if Fell is convicted.

Fell has been accused of kidnapping King from the Rutland Shopping Plaza in 2000. Police said Fell and his friend, Robert Lee, took King's car and brought her to New York, where she was bludgeoned to death.

Lee killed himself in prison.

Fell was convicted of the crimes in 2005 and sentenced to death in 2006. However, Fell's conviction was overturned in 2014 after Fell's attorneys learned one of the jurors had gone to the Rutland plaza independently and told the other jurors what they saw.

The start of a new trial for Fell has been delayed several times while his attorneys have challenged the constitutionality of the death penalty and whether Fell's rights would be violated if the lack of black Vermonters limits the potential perspectives of the jury pool.

The brief motion filed on Monday calls attention to Pitt's death because the "defense anticipates that the court may be working on an order regarding this issue."

A motion filed last June by the prosecution requested permission for Pitt to examine Fell. The information gathered would be used to create a report but that report would not be provided to prosecutors or defense attorneys unless Fell were convicted and his attorneys indicated they would present evidence of his mental health during the penalty phase of the trial.

A motion filed last June by Fell's attorneys said the government had not provided them reports or raw data from the examination because they said the reports had not been written.

No response has been filed to the motion naming Pitt.

However, the court scheduled arguments on July 23 and 24 at the U.S. court in Rutland to hear arguments about the death penalty and the available jury pool in Vermont.

(source: Rutland Herald)

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

The people rethinking methods of execution----The lethal injection brought an end to the macabre executions of the past. But after a string of botched deaths, its humanity is being brought into question. Is there another option?

Warning: This story contains details about methods of execution that some readers may find distressing.

His last words were "I love you", followed by a Muslim prayer. Then Charles Brooks Jr - a convicted murderer - looked away from his girlfriend and felt death creep in.

He was lying on a white stretcher, dressed head-to-toe in typical 80s fashion, including gold pants and a shirt with all the buttons open. He had an intravenous line in one arm and doctors hovered nearby. The man could have been a hospital patient.

Instead, his final moments were spent in the death chamber at a Texas prison. It was 1982 and this was the 1st time the lethal injection had been used to kill a criminal in the United States.

Before this pioneering moment, the nation's favourite mode of execution was the electric chair, which is today widely regarded as torture. It was so violent, sometimes the victim's eyeballs would pop out and rest on their cheeks. It regularly set hair on fire, leading guards to stash extinguishers nearby, just in case.

The lethal injection was hailed as kinder and more technologically advanced, with no blood and no screaming. One witness to Brooks' death said that he simply yawned and heaved his stomach. Minutes later, a doctor said "I pronounce this man dead."

To this day, the method is the 1st choice in every US state where capital punishment is legal. But it might not be quite as peaceful as it looks. The problem is, no one actually checked. There was no research or testing of any kind.

Back in 2005, when more than a thousand deaths-by-injection had already taken place, a team of scientists decided to take a look. Led by Leonidas Koniaris, a surgeon based in Indiana, Indianapolis, they studied execution records from Texas and Virginia and discovered that 44% of inmates may have been aware as they died - and likely in agonising pain. They weren't able to writhe or scream, because the toxic cocktail contains a muscle paralytic.

Several executions have been botched

Further research revealed one of the drugs, which was supposed to stop the heart, wasn't working. "What one comes away with based on the data is this very, very disturbing conclusion that the mechanism of death was suffocation," he says. "It's a nightmare scenario. If you step back, you might say we've just moved away from visually brutal methods of killing people." Though the majority of Americans agree with the death penalty, very few think that it should hurt.

Now an ongoing shortage of execution drugs has led some states to experiment with alternatives. As a result, several executions have been botched, including 1 in which the man reportedly took 2 hours and 640 gasps before he died. It's safe to say the lethal injection is in crisis.

Is there a more humane option?

For thousands of years, execution was a spectacle to be relished by the public. From drowning people in sacks with animals, to pulling out their lungs through their backs, humankind seemed to have no shortage of imaginative ideas - and few moral qualms about enacting them.

In ancient Persia, there was "schapism", in which the victim was sandwiched between 2 rowing boats - one on top of the other, with the person's arms and legs sticking out - then covered in milk and honey and left to be eaten alive by vermin. Meanwhile one traveller visiting Delhi, India, in the 14th Century, reported that elephants had been trained to slice prisoners to pieces using blades attached to their tusks.

The guillotine

However, interest in more humane capital punishment is hundreds of years in the making. The movement started in 1789, with the introduction of the guillotine. At the time, the French Revolution was just getting started and the heads of Parisian nobles were beginning to roll. After a series of gory, drawn-out executions - sometimes several blows of the axe were necessary - it was clear the process was in need of some modernising.

Enter Joseph-Ignace Guillotin, a doctor who was determined that executions should be conducted more humanely. He suggested using guillotines instead, boasting in a speech "Now, with my machine, I cut off your head in the twinkling of an eye, and you never feel it." They were later named after him, though he didn't actually invent them.

The guillotine involved a slanted knife, suspended over the victim by a wooden frame. Some models also featured a collection basket for their head. It proved to be quicker and more reliable than beheading by hand, due to the weight of the blade.

So how humane is it? Laboratory mice can provide some clues, because decapitation is a standard way of killing them for certain kinds of experiments, using tiny guillotines.

One study from 1975 reported that signs of conscious awareness persisted for between nine and 18 seconds after the animals were beheaded. This timeframe has since been demonstrated in other animals too, so it could be a reasonable proxy for humans.

Hanging

Beheading is still practiced to this day, particularly in Saudi Arabia where 146 people were executed by beheading in 2017. But by far the most widespread form of execution today is hanging.

There are 2 ways this is done: the 'short drop' and the 'long drop'. As the names suggest, the former involves dropping the person from a lower height and leads to death by suffocation. This is generally considered to be extremely painful.

The 'long drop' is thought to be the more humane option. In the :best-case" scenario, the rope will break the 2nd bone on the victim's neck. The 'hangman's fracture' also severs the spinal cord, causing their blood pressure to plummet to zero in less than a second. The victim usually loses consciousness immediately, though it may take up to 20 minutes for their heart to stop beating.

The catch is that the method requires scrupulous calculation. If the drop is too long, the person's head will come clean off. If it's too short, they'll choke to death. "In my experience there are so many administration errors that even though a method should work in theory, because of either errors or incompetence, mistakes happen," says Megan McCracken of the Death Penalty Clinic at UC Berkeley. No one has been hanged in the US since 1996.

At a time when prison numbers are rising throughout the world, BBC Future is exploring several misconceptions about criminals and crime.

If some of our ideas about criminals are wrong, this has lasting implications, both during prison and when they re-enter society.

Firing squads

Though it's often associated with war and military crimes, death by firing squad has recently been adopted by the State of Utah as a back-up, and it is already routinely used in North Korea.

In the typical set up, a criminal is strapped to a chair with a hood over their head. Then five anonymous marksmen fire shots at their chest. One gun contains a blank.

In 1938, the very same state used the method to execute a 40-year-old man, John Deering, who was convicted of murder. He took the unusual decision to have himself hooked up to an electrocardiogram while it happened, so we have an idea of how swiftly the method works.

The monitor revealed that Deering's heart stopped beating just 15 seconds after being hit. It's impossible to know for sure how long he was in pain, but once again rodents can provide some hints. A 2015 study of cardiac arrests in rats suggests that they're usually followed by a surge of brain activity that lasts around 30 seconds, which may explain why those who have survived near-death experiences report feelings of heightened awareness. Then the world goes dark.

Electric chair

The electric chair was first invented as a more humane alternative to hanging. Like the guillotine and the lethal injection, it was seen as civilised and scientific. It all started with a chilling report commissioned by the State of New York in 1887, which evaluated 34 ways to kill a human.

One of its authors, a dentist, recalled hearing about a drunken dock worker who had touched an electric generator some years before and died instantly. He came up with the idea for the electric chair, which was used to dispatch an axe murderer just 3 years later.

The honeymoon phase didn't last long. It soon became clear to the public that these deaths were often messy and drawn-out, with chairs acquiring nicknames such as "Gruesome Gertie" and "Sizzling Sally". 9 US States have retained the method as a back-up, though this is controversial.

Nitrogen hypoxia

Which brings us to the latest idea: "Nitrogen hypoxia", which involves replacing air with an inert gas such as nitrogen or helium. It first gained traction after a BBC documentary presented by former Conservative MP Michael Portillo. In How to Kill a Human Being, he declared that the method is "a perfect killing device".

For a start, air is 78% nitrogen anyway, so it's easy to get hold of. The method is also a surprisingly quick demise. One study from the 1960s found that volunteers breathing pure nitrogen lost consciousness in around 17-20 seconds. Based on animal studies, it's thought that they would have stopped breathing after 3 seconds.

And due to a quirk of biology it's apparently painless. That's because the body can't actually detect a lack of oxygen - just an excess of carbon dioxide, which acidifies the blood and causes that aching feeling in your legs after exercise. This means it doesn't feel like suffocation.

So what does it feel like?

John Levinson, a cardiologist and pilot based in Boston, Massachusetts, has some insights. Some years ago he was flying his prized Mooney plane at 23,000 feet (7km) , a height at which the Earth's atmosphere is thinner and pilots must use supplemental oxygen.

Then he did something risky: he tilted up a corner of his mask and kept breathing. "After about 30 seconds I felt truly weird," he says. "I didn't have hallucinations, or pain, or confusion, I just felt weird. It wasn't like alcohol or any other substance like that."

The subtle symptoms of hypoxia make it particularly deadly to pilots at high altitude, who may not recognise that anything is wrong. It's thought to have claimed the life of a man earlier this year, who appeared unconscious in his small plane before going missing over the Gulf of Mexico.

In Levinson's case, he was flying with his instructor, who would have brought the plane down safely in the event that he passed out. The idea was to get a sense of what hypoxia is like, so that he could recognise when it was happening in the future. Years later, while flying with his wife, he started to get the same weird feeling. He recognised it immediately and fixed a kink in his oxygen line before anyone got hurt.

3 US States have now authorised the method as a back-up. But is this just another mistake?

No pharmaceutical company wants its drugs used to kill people

Robert Dunham, a litigator and the Executive Director of the Death Penalty Information Center, certainly thinks so. "The American Veterinary Medical Association and World Animal Protection both say that nitrogen hypoxia is inappropriate for veterinary euthanasia," he says. "It's not quick as has been advertised - cats and dogs are aware of their impending death before they lose consciousness and it takes at least 7 minutes to put to death a pig."

One of the primary issues is that the method relies on the cooperation of the prisoner: if they hold their breath, or their breathing is too shallow, it might take much longer to kill them. "I understand, of course, the theory behind it, that suggests it would be a humane method," says McCracken. "But that is a far cry from how it would actually be performed in an execution chamber."

According to Dunham, in all likelihood the victim would have to be anaesthetised first. And this brings us back to the issues facing the lethal injection: no pharmaceutical company wants its drugs used to kill people.

"The key problem the United States has is that it doesn't want the gruesome or visceral aspects of capital punishment. It wants the prisoner executed, but it doesn't want on its conscience that it's brutally killing somebody. That's an internal contradiction," he says.

"When it comes to execution, I think people need to understand that the death penalty is not a humane act."

(source: BBC News)

MALAYSIA:

Brothers to hang for drugs

2 brothers were sentenced to death by the High Court in Kota Kinabalu for trafficking 293.04gm of syabu.

Judge Datuk Nurchaya Hj Arshad held that from the testimony of the investigating officer, it was apparent that Section 39B(2A)(d) of the Dangerous Drugs Act did not qualify and therefore both Tan Chun Cheng and Tan Choon Hui were sentenced to death.

On April 6, Chun Cheng, 41, and Choon Hui, 39, were found guilty of committing the offence at 7.25pm on Dec 19, 2016 at the Towering Industrial Centre in Penampang.

The investigating officer was re-called to give his statement whether the brothers have provided information that led police to foil a drug trafficking activity.

The matter arose pertaining to the sentencing as the amended law relating to Section 39B of the Dangerous Drugs Act 1952 comes in effect on March 15, this year.

Under the new amendment, any person who is found guilty of trafficking dangerous drugs can be punished with either the death penalty or life in prison and whipping with a minimum of 15 strokes.

Prior to the amendment, the offence carries the death penalty upon conviction.

They were found guilty as charged under Section 39B (1)(a) of the Dangerous Drugs Act.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Gan Peng Kun prosecuted while the brothers were represented by counsel PJ Perira.

Meanwhile, in the Magistrate's Court, a contractor was fined RM25 or one month's jail for behaving indecently in public by cursing a church pastor in Inanam.

Raymond Masuli, 28, admitted before Magistrate Afiq Agoes to committing the offence to one Bios Solingkin at 3pm on May 28 at SIB church at Metro Minintod.

He had committed an offence under Section 15 of the Minor Offences Ordinance, which provides for a fine of RM25 or jail on conviction.

(source: Daily Express)

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

EU must use GSP+ to end death penalty in Pakistan

Through the GSP+ programme, EU can reaffirm its commitment to abolishing the death penalty worldwide, says Barbara Matera.

Do some deserve to die for their crimes? Does capital punishment deter violent crime?

The European Union has evaluated the relevant scientific and philosophical arguments and come to a resounding conclusion: No.

The EU's official position on the death penalty is an ethical one. The Commission website states that "capital punishment is inhumane, degrading and unnecessary." It does not deter crime and is not an effective means of protecting citizens. As a result, universal abolition of the death penalty is a key priority of EU external policy.

This position stands in contrast with European trade policy, especially evident in the trade benefit programme GSP+ (generalised scheme of preferences plus).

Although none of the 'core conventions' required for GSP+ specifically prohibit the death penalty, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), says in Article 6(2) that in "countries which have not abolished the death penalty, sentence of death may be imposed only for the most serious crimes." The convention goes on to prohibit the execution of minors and pregnant women.

Furthermore, GSP+ is somewhat of a unique trade programme, in that it emphasises trade as a mechanism for incentivising the improvement of human rights in beneficiary countries.

Pakistan is not complying with the ICCPR. In 2014, the Pakistani government lifted a seven-year moratorium on the death penalty, as a response to the brutal Taliban attack on a school in Peshawar which left 141 dead. In that time, thousands of Pakistanis have been placed on death row (although official statistics are difficult to acquire, due to government resistance in releasing figures).

While China and North Korea are often considered to be some of the world's top executioners, Pakistan is believed to have the largest number of people sitting on death row. Amnesty International claims that as of June 2015, at least 8500 people were awaiting execution, some of whom have been in jail for decades.

The Pakistani government claims its application of the death penalty is a counter-terrorism measure. However, only 49 out of 389 convictions in 2016 were originally tried in the Anti-Terrorism Courts (ATCs). Evidence shows that as many as 90 % of detainees have no conclusive links to terrorism.

In addition, the death penalty is disproportionately levied against religious and ethnic minorities, like Asia Bibi, a Christian woman facing the death penalty over accusations of insults towards the Prophet Muhammad.

In Pakistan, 28 crimes carry the death sentence, including blasphemy, giving false witness and adultery. These crimes do not fit the category of the "most serious crimes," and are thus a violation of the ICCPR.

There have also been cases of minors being sentenced to death. Shafqat Hussain, for example, who was convicted of murder, was hanged despite the fact that he was 14 years old at the time of the alleged crime.

GSP+, as one of the only EU trade policies dedicated to improving human rights, must be used to its full extent. To date, all of the other GSP+ beneficiary countries have prohibited by law the use of the death penalty (although human rights groups assert it continues in secret in the Philippines and Mongolia). Why isn't Pakistan held to the same regard?

The EU is in a strong position to negotiate firmly with the Pakistani government. Through the GSP+ mechanism, and as one of Pakistan's largest trading partners, the EU can reaffirm its dedication to the universal abolition of the death penalty.

(source: Barbara Matera (EPP, IT) is a member of Parliament's civil liberties, justice and home affairs committee----theparliamentmagazine.eu)

LIBERIA:

CSO Condemns Liberia's Reintroduction of Death Penalty in Shadow Report

The Civil Society Human Rights Advocacy Platform of Liberia (CSO-HRAPL) has condemned Liberia's reintroduction of the cruel death penalty.

This was 1 of 18 issues with recommendations released in a shadow report to the United Nations Human Rights Committee (UNHRC) in March 2018 with support from the Center for Civil and Political Rights (CCPR) in Geneva.

According to CSO-HRAPL secretary-general Adama Dempster, they are grateful for the opportunity to address outstanding issues on behalf of Liberian human rights community.

Liberia ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) in 2004 but its 1st report, which was due in 2005, was submitted on 2nd November 2016.

Following the submission of the report, the UNHRC adopted a list of issues 26 key questions on August 21, 2017 with Liberia's 1st review scheduled at the 122 session from March 12 to 6 April 2018 in Geneva.

Liberia signed and acceded to the Second Optional Protocol (SOP) to the ICCPR in 2005 but Liberia remains the only country in the world that reintroduced the death penalty in 2008.

Dempster believes Liberia needs to repeal the clauses that sanction the death penalty and adopt a new clause that abolishes capital punishment.

"Unfortunately, there has not been the political will to translate this into reality. The reintroduction of the death penalty is in total contradiction with the SOP to the ICCPR.

"This protocol calls for state parties to place a moratorium on the application of the death penalty and work towards its abolition. The death penalty, according to the new Penal Code of 2008, may be imposed for the following three classified crimes: armed robbery, terrorism and hijacking.

"It is estimated that around 20 death sentences have been passed since the penalty resurfaced in 2008. The total number of convicts currently on death sentence is estimated at 7," Dempster recalled.

The human rights group called on the United Nations to recommend to Liberia to repeal the July 2008 law that allows the death penalty, in line with Liberia's obligations under the SOP to the ICCPR.

Commenting on the recommendations as released by defunct Liberia's Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the group called on the UNHRC to recommend to the government to set-up a panel to review progress made on the implementation of the report.

According to Dempster, the panel should comprise the government, civil society and Liberia's Independent National Commission on Human Rights with a view for retributive justice.

"We should consider the draft legislation to facilitate the establishment of an extraordinary criminal court to fairly and effectively prosecute past human rights violations and abuse or appeal to the UN and ECOWAS for the extension of the Sierra Leone war crime court to cover Liberia and West Africa in the case of lack of political will.

"We should ensure adequate support and funding for programs designed in view of the TRC recommendations to improve Liberia's judicial and criminal justice systems to ensure victims have access to effective legal remedies and reparation," he added.

On the INCHR, which was established by a 2005 act to monitor, investigate and report on human rights abuses and violations in Liberia as well as ensure the promotion and protection of human rights for all regardless of race, colors, age, gender, creed etc., the group conceded that the TRC's successor been challenged to fully undertake its responsibilities as a result of restrictions to, and interference in its operations and financial autonomy.

Dempster said they asked the UNHRC to emphasize the independence of the INCHR in line with the Paris Principles for the government to ensure its independence by removing the commissioner, who was appointed by former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf in contravention to the act.

He also called for the restoration of its financial autonomy and granting of free access to funding from alternative sources.

Dempster said the government should make no further move to amend the act on the basis of tenure.

FGM and violence against women

While Liberia's 2011 Education Law provides that no child shall be subjected to harmful cultural practice (including female genital mutilation or FGM) during school period, the group noted that many children of school-going age continue to undergo FGM.

A national working group against FGM was set to advocate and create awareness to secure the criminalization of FGM under component 16.21L of the Domestic Violence Act (DVA).

However, the 53rd Legislature struck out a criminalization clause on FGM in the DVA based on the culturally sensitive nature of the practice.

One week into the transition of the new government, an Executive Order #92 (EO #92) was issued by President Sirleaf seeking to ban FGM for girls under 18 years for a year.

The EO #92, nonetheless, leaves room for FGM to be performed with consent from adults, thus, undermining the commitment to protect women and children from all harmful traditional and cultural practices.

The group recommends to the UNHRC to remind the government of its international obligation in line with the implementation of the 2010 Universal Periodic Review (UPR) recommendations and specific obligations under ICCPR.

It wanted an amendment to the DVA to criminalize FGM before the expiration of EO #92.

"Liberia should embark on national awareness on the rights of women to combat discrimination against women, and in particular, reorient Liberians on the need for the abolishment of harmful traditional practices.

"We call on the government to do everything possible to attend the July 2018 final review by the UNHRC in Geneva to guarantee the full implementation of the recommendations on the ICCPR in Liberia," Dempster stressed at a formal presentation to Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister Deweh Gray on May 31, 2018.

Others issues captured in the report were rights of refugees and asylum seekers, freedom of expression and association, media rights, rights of the child, freedom of assembly, participation in public affairs, customary land, state of emergency and counter-terrorism measures, non-discrimination, gender equality, violence against women, voluntary termination of pregnancy, right to life, liberty and security of persons; trafficking in persons, forced and child labor, treatment of persons deprived of their liberty and rights to due process and fair trial.

(source: frontpageafricaonline.com)

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