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

JANUARY 19, 2017:

TEXAS----impending execution re-set

Execution of Dallas-Area Real Estate Agent's Killer Reset

Kosoul Chanthakoumanne's execution has been reset for July 19.

Next week's scheduled execution of a North Carolina parolee convicted of killing a suburban Dallas real estate agent more than 10 years ago has been postponed.

The lethal injection of 36-year-old Kosoul Chanthakoummane has been reset for July 19 by State District Judge Ben Smith.

Collin County prosecutors asked the scheduled Jan. 25 date be moved so courts had proper time to review new appeals in his case. The inmate's lawyers had asked the execution date be completely withdrawn.

Chanthakoummane had been paroled to Dallas to live with relatives after serving time for a Charlotte, North Carolina, abduction and robbery when he was arrested 2 months after the July 2006 slaying of real estate agent Sarah Walker. She was beaten and stabbed at a model home in McKinney.

(source: NBC News)

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IMPENDING TEXAS EXECUTIONS

Executions under Greg Abbott, Jan. 21, 2015-present----21

Executions in Texas: Dec. 7, 1982----present-----539

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

22---------January 26---------------Terry Edwards---------540

23---------February 2---------------John Ramirez----------541

24---------February 7---------------Tilon Carter----------542

25---------March 14-----------------James Bigby-----------543

26---------April 12-----------------Paul Storey-----------544

27---------June 28------------------Steven Long-----------545

28---------July 19-----------------Kosoul Chanthakoummane---546

(sources: TDCJ & Rick Halperin)

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Death row inmate talks about murder of Corpus Christi father

John Henry Ramirez has been on death row for more than 8 years. In 2004, he brutally killed a Corpus Christi father, Pablo Castro, stabbing him 29 times. Now Ramirez's execution is scheduled for February 2nd.

In his final days, Ramirez sat down to discuss life on death row and the tragic night of the murder.

The 32-year-old is waiting for his upcoming execution in solitary confinement in the Polunsky Unit, a top-security prison in Livingston, Texas. He is 1 of 237 condemned prisoners on death row.

13 years ago, Corpus Christi mourned the tragic loss of Castro.

Ramirez recalls the fateful night on July 19th. He was 20, and says after years of abuse as child, he got into a lot of trouble and heavily used drugs.

On a drug-fueled night, Ramirez and 2 women accomplices approached 45-year-old Pablo Castro as he was taking out the trash at the convenience store where he worked.

Ramirez attacked Castro, and stabbed him 29 times. He escaped with just a $1.25 from his victim's pockets.

"I was so high on all those drugs and on alcohol, and you know I got so mad I guess. It was so, so quick man. And I knew, I knew that I went too far when I saw him fall down bleeding," Ramirez said from behind the glass window in the prison's visitation center.

While the women accomplices were arrested soon after the murder, Ramirez spent the next 4 years on the run. He spent time in Mexico, and had a son who is now 10-years-old.

"He knows I messed up," Ramirez said. "I say you know, don't be nothing like me, man."

In 2008, Ramirez returned to Brownsville and was caught by police. Later that year he was convicted of capital murder and sentenced to death. At the time he asked his attorneys to not fight for his life, but rather to read a Bible verse during closing arguments. He says it is because he did not want to re-hash his family's history in the courtroom.

8 years on death row have made Ramirez think about what could have gone differently.

"I think about certain situations that could have went the other way, and it would have totally changed the outcome," he said.

Last year 2 appeals to the U.S. Supreme Court and a lower federal court were denied.

Ramirez is against the death penalty, but in 2 weeks he will pay the price for Castro's death.

Although his brutal act can never be undone, before his final walk Ramirez leaves a message for Castro's family.

"Just to say I'm sorry," he said. "I don't know how I would feel if someone killed a loved-one of mine. And I imagine it would be really, really hard to truly forgive that person. So I told them I'm not going to ask them to forgive me, I'm just going to let them know I'm sorry."

Ramirez will be moved to Huntsville for execution by lethal injection. He is 1 of 9 condemned Texas prisoners scheduled for execution this year, and will become the 17th inmate from Nueces County to be put to death by lethal injection since the process began in 1982.

(source: KRIS TV news)

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News Death Watch: A Future Danger?----Texas' death chamber is only heating up

Kosoul Chanthakoummane is the 2nd Texan to face state-sanctioned death this January. With no appeals pending, he is to be executed on Wednesday, Jan. 25.

In Oct. 2007, Chanthakoummane, now 36, was convicted of capital murder for a killing that occurred during a botched robbery. McKinney real estate agent Sarah Anne Walker was the victim. According to legal documents, Chanthakoummane entered a model home where Walker was working in the summer of 2006, struck her several times with a planter, then stabbed her repeatedly and bit her neck. Collin County prosecutors argued that Chanthakoummane attacked Walker in an attempt to steal her jewelry. Chanthakoummane was on parole at the time of the attack.

At trial, Chanthakoummane's counsel acknowledged their client's guilt and fought to secure him life in prison to no avail. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed the sentencing in April 2010. Chanthakoummane filed both state and federal petitions for relief arguing that because the missing jewelry was never recovered, prosecutors failed to prove the murder resulted from a botched robbery; that the trial court refused to properly define terms of his "future dangerousness"; and that jurors were not briefed on specific laws pertaining to the selection of the death penalty. Appeals attorney Carlo D'Angelo claimed that his client's right to counsel and right to due process were repeatedly violated. Both requests were denied.

Last February, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals denied Chanthakoummane's appeal, stating that his requests "failed to raise a debatable question as to the effectiveness of either his trial counsel or state habeas counsel." 6 months later, the U.S. Supreme Court denied his petition for writ of certiorari. His execution date was set days later. D'Angelo did not return the Chronicle's request for comment. Chanthakoummane will be the 540th Texan executed since the state's reinstatement of the death penalty in 1976.

Reasonable Doubts

After 2 stays in 2016, Terry Edwards, 43, is scheduled to follow Chanthakoummane to Huntsville's chamber on Thursday, Jan. 26. Edwards was convicted of capital murder in 2003. Prosecutors alleged that he shot his former Subway co-workers Tommy Walker and Mickell Goodwin during an attempt to rob the fast food restaurant with his cousin, Kirk Edwards.

U.S. District Judge Barbara Lynn first denied Edwards' efforts for relief in Aug. 2014. The Supreme Court refused to hear his case the following year. In April 2016, however, the Dallas County District Attorney's Office agreed to stay Edwards' execution (scheduled for that May) because his counsel ended all contact with him - without notification - upon receiving the Supreme Court's decision. Edwards wrote in a March 2016 letter to Lynn: "My plea to you is that you please look into this matter as I believe you and your court could get a response where as I can't. Please contact me immediately if you find out anything. As of today I have 10 weeks to fight for my life."

In June, new attorneys Jennifer Merrigan and Joseph Perkovich, of the Phillips Black Project, were appointed to Edwards' case. 3 months later, Dallas County prosecutors delayed Edwards' lethal injection a 2nd time so that his new counsel could properly review the trial and court proceedings. Merrigan has spent the past 5 weeks in a back-and-forth with the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, trying to file an "out of time opposition" for Edwards in hopes of getting a forensic expert to review the original findings from the case. On Jan. 10, Edwards' counsel filed a 631-page memorandum asking to reopen the case. Included is a statement from Edwards' appellate attorney, Richard L. Wardroup, acknowledging that 3 months after filing for relief, he accepted a full-time position with the Texas Criminal Defense Lawyers Association, and "generally stopped work on my cases in order to dedicate my time to TCDLA."

The memorandum also expresses concerns with the crime scene and forensics reports - most notably, that the State's negative testing for gunshot residue on Edwards' hands, taken "minutes" after the shooting, was never presented before the jury. Instead, the filing claims that during the trial's cross-examination of the trace evidence, the "prosecutor elicited false and misleading testimony that he then used against Mr. Edwards."

Also included are statements from Edwards' family and friends - including Tommy Walker's ex-girlfriend and mother of his children - defending Edwards' character and arguing his innocence. In fact, several family members express belief that Edwards' cousin Kirk - who pleaded guilty to robbing the Subway and is currently eligible for parole - was responsible for the shootings. Judge Lynn has ordered an expedited response from the TDCJ after Merrigan's filing of the sizable memorandum. On Jan. 13, Edwards' attorneys filed a motion to stay Edwards' execution.

Elsewhere in Livingston ...

-- The U.S. Supreme Court has chosen to hear the case of death row inmate Erick Davila and is expected to hold oral arguments by April. Davila, on death row for the 2008 double homicide of 47-year-old Annette Stevenson and her 5-year-old granddaughter, claims that a trial mistake pertaining to improper jury instruction, and the subsequent failure of Davila's state appellate lawyer to raise the original issue during his state petition for habeas corpus, have improperly landed him on death row.

-- Williamson County Judge Donna King approved a defense attorney's request to hire DNA and fingerprint analysts for a capital murder case currently pending in the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. Steven Thomas was convicted of the sexual assault and murder of 73-year-old Mildred McKinney in 1980. His appellate attorneys are arguing that "the DNA evidence presented at Mr. Thomas' trial indicates that at least some of that evidence was false."

(source: Austin Chronicle)

OHIO:

Killers' lawyers seek more info on Ohio's lethal drug supply

Lawyers for condemned inmates are trying to learn more about Ohio's supply of execution drugs at a time the state prisons agency is reluctant to give out that information.

At issue is whether Ohio has enough drugs for a handful of executions or a supply that could greenlight more than 2 dozen procedures over the next 4 years.

A filing this week on behalf of an inmate scheduled to die in July attempts to force the state to say more about the lethal drugs it possesses.

Lawyers for that death row prisoner, Robert Van Hook, asked a federal magistrate Tuesday to allow them to challenge the state's new 3-drug execution method.

The state said in October it had enough drugs for 3 executions, and then last week told a federal magistrate it had enough to put a fourth inmate, Alva Campbell, to death in May, the attorneys said in the filing.

Lawyers for Van Hook need time to prepare a challenge of Ohio's new lethal injection process, "assuming that the State has execution drugs beyond those needed for the execution of Alva Campbell," according to Tuesday's filing.

A response from the state is expected soon. Van Hook was sentenced to die for fatally strangling and stabbing David Self, a man he met in a bar in Cincinnati in 1985.

Last week, Magistrate Judge Michael Merz ordered the state to say more about its execution drug supply. That order came a day after The Associated Press reported - based on an open records request - that documents show Ohio has enough drugs for dozens of executions.

State attorneys responded by saying the news report of multiple executions didn’t take into account expiration dates of the drugs, which the state wouldn't previously disclose. The AP has requested those expiration dates.

The state also said without explanation that the prison system's "contingency planning" needed to be taken into consideration when looking at how many executions Ohio can carry out.

A state law and court rulings allow Ohio to shield most information about its drugs, including their manufacturers and how the state obtained them.

Ohio plans to put condemned child killer Ronald Phillips to death next month using the new 3-drug method. Lawyers for Phillips and inmates scheduled to die in March and April are challenging the method and, in particular, the 1st drug, a sedative used in disputed executions in Arizona and Ohio in 2014.

Attorneys argue the sedative, midazolam, won't render inmates fully unconscious and will put them at risk of experiencing severe pain and suffering.

The state says the new method is similar to one Ohio used previously to execute several inmates. The state also says a U.S. Supreme Court ruling last year in a case out of Oklahoma allows the use of midazolam.

Merz is expected to rule soon on the competing claims.

(source: therepublic.com)

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Ohio prisons to receive flumazenil, a reversal drug for lethal injections

Ohio is seeking a new drug for lethal injection executions, state officials announced at the beginning of January. However, instead of aiding in the execution process, the drug would be used to counteract the first drug in the state's current lethal injection method.

The drug, known as flumazenil, will only be given if complications arise from the sedative midazolam, the 1st part of Ohio's 3-drug lethal injection cocktail.

According to ABC News, Gary Mohr, director of the Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, said in a federal court testimony that he is "not confident that (Ohio), in fact, can achieve a successful execution. I want to reverse the effects of this."

The Death Penalty Information Center reports that 75 of the U.S.'s 1,054 lethal injection executions, which first started in 1982, have been botched. Lethal injection is the primary method of execution in the U.S currently, but it is also the most likely to be botched.

Michael Radelet, contributor for the Death Penalty Information Center, said the most recent lethal injection that produced serious issues for the prisoner was the Dec. 8, 2016, execution of Ronald Bert Smith, Jr. in Alabama.

"Smith heaved, gasped and coughed while struggling for breath for 13 minutes after the lethal drugs were administered, and death was pronounced 34 minutes after the execution began," Radelet said.

Dennis McGuire's 2014 execution was Ohio's last. His death made headlines and spurred criticism about the state's lethal injection process that relied partly on the drug midazolam because McGuire took 26 minutes to die.

Rep. Jay Edwards, R-94th District, believes the drug could be beneficial but needs further consideration.

"From my understanding, it is a drug to have on standby. It sounds like a good idea, but I have also heard the other argument that the initial problem is not the drugs but with the IV's not being done properly," Edwards said. "There needs to be more research done on the drug. We do not want to move back; we need to move forward."

Mistakes made by people administering the injections, rather than the drugs themselves, have resulted in execution problems.

Brandon Jones, Georgia's oldest death row inmate, was executed in February 2016 by lethal injection. According to Radelet, executioners took almost 30 minutes to administer the IV properly. The staff also inserted the IV into his groin, probably because they could not find an accessible vein elsewhere. Jones opened his eyes 6 minutes after they administered the drugs, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.

In an interview with ABC News, Columbus surgeon Jonathan Groner, a lethal injection expert, agreed the IV could be the main source of the problems executioners are experiencing.

"A reversal drug will not help with that problem and could make it worse - if the IV is not in the vein, giving more drugs may cause more pain," Groner said.

Despite these allegations, Ohio's prisons agency is still working to obtain the drug for future use in lethal injection executions. The next execution in Ohio is scheduled for February.

(source: thenewpolitical.com)

COLORADO:

Democrats launch effort to repeal death penalty in Colorado----Effort won't affect those currently on death row

Colorado lawmakers are getting ready to put the death penalty to rest once and for all.

Senate Minority Leader Lucia Guzman, D-Denver, introduced a bill late Wednesday to repeal capital punishment. Her proposal, SB17-095, would repeal the death penalty for offenses on or after July 1, 2017.

"Nothing in this section commutes or alters the sentence of a defendant convicted of an offense committed before July 1, 2017," the bill reads.

Stacy Anderson, of Better Priorities Initiative of Colorado, the group spearheading the repeal effort, said money is the big reason behind it all.

"We're spending an enormous amount of money on the death penalty and victim's services are falling by the wayside," she said. "If we could provide money for all victims to have the services they need, that would be better justice for all Coloradans."

Anderson told Denver7 that fewer prosecutors are seeking the death penalty and that fewer juries are deciding to impose it.

"We had 2 really high profile cases, (Aurora Theater shootings and Fero's Bar and Grill stabbings) really awful murders, and jurors were not willing to give death penalty sentences in those cases," she said.

There are 3 men currently on death row.

-- Nathan Dunlap murdered 4 people during a robbery at a Chuck E Cheese restaurant in Aurora.

-- Sir Mario Owens shot and killed 2 people. One of them was a witness who was going to testify in another murder case. The other victim was the witnesses' fiancee.

-- Robert Ray ordered the killing of that witness.

Last Execution

Gary Davis was the last person executed in Colorado.

He was put to death in October of 1997 for the 1986 kidnapping, rape and murder of a Byer's area housewife.

He shot the victim 14 times.

32 states still have the death penalty. 18 states have repealed it.

4 states, including Colorado, have moratoriums on the death penalty. Their governors will not sign death warrants.

(source: thedenverchannel.com)

CALIFORNIA----new female death sentence

Death penalty recommended for tribal shooter

A California jury has recommended the death penalty for a woman convicted of killing 4 people during a shooting at a tribal office in Alturas in 2014.

On Jan. 5 a Placer County jury recommended capital punishment for Cherie Lash Rhoades, 47, after convicting Rhoades of 1st-degree murder and attempted murder Dec. 19, 2016.

Rhoades is scheduled for sentencing April 10 before Judge Patricia Beason and, though California law grants Beason the authority to commute Rhoades' sentence to life in prison, Modoc County District Attorney Jordan Funk said the death penalty is warranted by the facts of the case.

"I think it was wholly justified or I wouldn't have sought the death penalty," said Funk.

4 killed

Rhoades was arrested Feb. 20, 2014, following an attack at the Cedarville Rancheria Tribal Office and Community Center. Rhoades, a former chairwoman of the tribe, killed 4 people including her brother, Rurik Davis, 50; her niece, Angel Penn, 19; her nephew, Glenn Calonicco, 30; and tribal administrator Sheila Ross, 47, who was not related to Rhoades.

2 others were injured during the attack, which involved 2 handguns and a kitchen knife.

Investigators believe the attack was retaliation by Rhoades after she was evicted from tribal land for being investigation by federal authorities for allegedly embezzling from the tribe.

The Cedarville Rancheria has not issued a statement publicly since Rhoades' conviction and has declined to comment on the matter.

'Crime of passion'

During trial, Funk said Rhoades tried to convince the jury the killings were a crime of passion rather than a deliberate attack. Funk said Rhoades testified she happened to be armed when Davis began mocking her and she shot him, and said she had no memory of attacking the others.

Funk said the jury didn't accept this explanation and convicted Rhoades of planning the killings, allowing them to impose the death penalty under California law. He said the jury's conviction and recommended sentence were "an absolutely reasonable and correct result."

Looking toward Rhoades' April 10 hearing, Funk said there is no guarantee her death sentence will not be commuted and said prosecutors and the defense will have opportunities to argue their case. Funk said Rhoades' lack of a prior criminal history will play a role and said it is unusual for such a defendant to be sentenced to death, but said the scope of the killings, including her relationship with the victims, and Rhoades' lack off remorse will also be factors.

"Courts retain the right and the power to see the case as they see it," said Funk. "... Who knows what the court will do."

Difficult trial

He said, even if jurors had not reached a guilty verdict, Funk believed their service to the court was exemplary despite a difficult trial in the middle of the holidays.

"I was extremely impressed with their civic-mindedness and their fidelity to their duty," said Funk.

As district attorney for Modoc County, Funk said it is difficult to take pride in successfully prosecuting such a case because of those who lost their lives and had their lives devastated.

"It's nothing, as a prosecutor, you gloat over," he said. "It's a solemn event."

(source: Herald and News)

WASHINGTON:

A Republican argument to ban Washington's death penalty

Rob McKenna spent years grappling with his stance on the death penalty. But 1 seminal event in the former attorney general's life cemented his view. It came with acceptance of the fate given to Gary Ridgway, Washington state's most notorious killer.

"While I would have been very satisfied to see Garry Ridgway get the needle or the gallows for all the incredibly horrible things he did," McKenna told KTTH's Todd Herman. "I find myself satisfied with the idea now that he is rotting in solitary confinement 23 hours a day."

"That's a kind of hell," he said. "I don't find myself thinking, 'God, justice wasn't served because he's still alive. I know he's gonna die there and he's gonna live a miserable existence until that point. And there's some satisfaction in that."

Washington's Attorney General Bob Ferguson announced a "bipartisan" agreement over eliminating the death penalty Monday. It came with the support of McKenna, a longtime public official and former Republican gubernatorial candidate. He told Herman about how his stance on the subject changed over the years, in part because of a "stalemate" within Washington's criminal justice system and also because of Gary Ridgway.

Gary Ridgway and the death penalty

Ridgway, known as the Green River Killer, was convicted of 48 separate murders that occurred in the '80s and '90s. He eventually confessed to nearly twice that many as part of a plea bargain to keep him off death row. McKenna said he supported the death penalty as a King County councilmember during the Ridgway investigation and prosecution. As attorney general, McKenna said he had 2 assistants who did nothing but handle appeals for individuals on death row - with at least 1 of those cases advancing up to the Supreme Court.

Despite the efforts, only one execution has been carried out since 2001 - Cal Coburn Brown in 2010 by lethal injection after spending 17 years on death row. Gov. Jay Inslee issued a moratorium on executions in 2014. There are currently 8 people on death row in Washington.

"Over time, I've become increasingly convinced that this is a system that just doesn't work anymore," McKenna said. "We have essentially fought to stalemate."

With that said, McKenna said he hears the counterpoints, including that eliminating the death penalty takes away a bargaining power of a prosecutor. He acknowledged that Ridgway presumably cooperated with the state by telling of other murders he committed to avoid the death sentence.

McKenna said evidence from both sides related to these issues should be debated in the public sphere. That debate includes ethical questions.

"Is it ethical to hold the death penalty over someone's head to persuade them to take life without (parole)?" McKenna asked. "Let's say you're innocent as an accused suspect but you're terrified that you are going to be put to death so yeah, you accept life without. There is no trial. The evidence doesn't come out, etc. So what are the ethical questions there?"

Eliminating the death penalty also strips the wishes of some victim's families. For example, Warren Clements, a Tacoma man whose step-daughter was recently the victim of a gruesome murder. Clements told KIRO Radio's Dori Monson that he favors the death penalty. The accused murderer in that case may face the death penalty.

McKenna, however, noted that not every victim feels that way and that the law can't cherrypick the wishes of certain families.

"We don't make these laws, and we don't impose these sentences and carry out these sentences based on the wishes of the victim's families," he said. "I hope that doesn't sound harsh ... But nevertheless, this is society's decision, it's not something we do for the family. You see what I mean?"

"Because it's the state that carries out the entire process of investigation, prosecution, conviction and then carrying out the sentence," McKenna said. "So I think the family's views should be taken into consideration but they can't be the final word on the subject. We don't do that for any criminal sentencing.:

Although McKenna presented the death penalty bill alongside Ferguson and Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee, he doesn't entirely agree with their stances. That includes a strong disagreement with Inslee's notion during the press conference that no one should get the death penalty because Ridgeway didn't.

"I disagree with that," McKenna said. "At the same time, you have to look at the overall system and you have to look at all the cases, and not just the 1 case. We don't make laws based on 1 case."

"For me, it's been a long, slow evolution and I think I take essentially a pragmatic view of this," he said. "I look at the enormous cost involved and I look at the endless delays that are bad for the victim's families, bad for moreover, for society and how we view our system of justice."

McKenna said the proposed legislation could also be the impetus for putting the capital punishment matter to vote. While letting people vote isn't specifically included in the bill, he said it does not have an emergency clause that would prevent it from being subject to a referendum vote. In other words, if the bill passes, if the voters feel strongly enough, they can gather signatures on a petition and send it to the ballot and let the voters decide. Legislators could also pass and attach a clause that would send it directly to the ballot, bypassing the end to get signatures on a ballot, he said.

"If the voters of this state voted against the repeal and in favor of keeping the death penalty, then I would say that's good enough for me, that's the final word," McKenna said. "But I also think this is an issue that the legislators in Olympia ought to be taking up because of the practical issues involved here and the issues of justice and ethics."

(source: mynorthwest.com)

USA:

The song remains the same: 40 years later, Mailer's book on capital punishment is startlingly relevant

The Executioner's Song By Norman Mailer

Grand Central Publishing

1136 pp; $29

On the 10th of January, 22-year-old white supremacist Dylann Roof was sentenced to death for the murder of 9 members of the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C., slain during Bible study in June 2015. Roof, who represented himself during his sentencing, had confessed to the murders and was convicted of 33 federal charges in December. With his sentencing, Roof became the 1st American to receive the death penalty for a federal hate crime.

It's a capital punishment milestone, and one that takes place alongside the anniversary of a similar milestone: 40 years ago this week, Gary Gilmore, with his famous last words "let's do it," became the 1st man executed in the United States in more than a decade.

The 1st execution in 1977 under the new statutes (which addressed the charges of execution being a cruel and unusual punishment and therefore unconstitutional) was always going to attract media attention, but Gilmore's actions following his conviction resulted in a media frenzy. Gilmore fired his lawyers and refused to appeal his sentence. In fact, over the 3 months following his trial, Gilmore repeatedly fought for his right to be executed as quickly as possible, even as family members, his former lawyers, the ACLU and others sought legal means to keep him alive.

Among the media drawn to Utah by the ongoing legal wrangling was Lawrence Schiller, a photojournalist and filmmaker who gained exclusive access to Gilmore. Several months after Gilmore’s execution, Schiller enlisted Norman Mailer to work on what became The Executioner's Song, which would win the Pulitzer Prize and be shortlisted for the National Book Award. A cultural phenomena as much as a book, the bestseller became the sort of dog-eared paperback that seemed to be on every bookshelf through the 1980s.

For all the pages of moral questioning and legal manoeuvrings, The Executioner's Song revolves around a single existential question: why do we do what we do?

As well regarded as it was upon its publication in 1979, The Executioner's Song is even more impressive today, a modern American classic and a unique portrait not just of a man, not just of a series of events, but, in critical ways, of the country itself.

Despite thousands of hours of interviews, The Executioner's Song has - like Truman Capote's In Cold Blood - always been referred to as a novel (its Pulitzer came in the fiction category). Rather than embracing journalistic conventions, Mailer approached the source material as a novelist, creating a voice for the book that is at once a perfect stylistic reflection of its world, and steps beyond even the boundaries and conventions of the New Journalism which he helped create.

The voice of The Executioner's Song will be familiar to anyone who has spent time in the American West, a flat, matter-of-fact tone that is neither coy nor reserved but somehow just enough - as if to say more would be wasteful, wrong. Early in the book, for example, Mailer describes Gilmore's grandparents' farm: "Right outside the door was a lot of open space. Beyond the backyard were orchards and fields and then the mountains. A dirt road went past the house and up the slope of the valley into the canyon." Rooted in the land itself, the culture and the witnesses and interviewees in whose words the story will be largely told, this voice serves as an entry into Gilmore's world.

Having been imprisoned for more than 20 of his 35 years (for charges including armed robbery and assault), Gilmore was paroled in April, 1976 with the assistance of his cousin Brenda, and moved to Provo, Utah where he attempted to re-enter society, first working with his uncle at his shoe repair shop, and later for an insulation company. But he soon gravitated back toward criminal activity, shoplifting beer, stealing guns and attempting to sell them.

He also became involved with 19-year-old Nicole Baker, a widow and divorcee with 2 small children. It was a heady, violent relationship, and it was shortly after Nicole ended it that Gilmore robbed and killed 2 men, a gas station attendant and a hotel clerk. His cousin Brenda assisted the police in capturing Gilmore, who stood trial for the 2nd murder. The trial took 2 days.

The story would likely have become little more than historical footnote - a batch of headlines and a grim anniversary - were it not for Mailer. Rather than focussing on the crimes, The Executioner's Song follows the last 9 months of Gilmore's life from his release to his execution with an almost excruciating amount of detail, and without any petty moralizing or easy explanations.

The image of Gilmore that emerges is awash in contradictions: he was a cold-blooded killer and kind to children. He was a shameless romantic and a cynical manipulator (the passages in which he urges Nicole into a suicide pact following his conviction are chilling). He was the violent product of a violent system and stubbornly resistant to help in breaking that cycle.

The great strength of The Executioner's Song comes not from its journalistic depth or Mailer's clear-eyed telling of Gilmore's story, but with the willingness to leave the reader with an open question. In fact, for all the pages of moral questioning and legal manoeuvrings, The Executioner's Song revolves around a single existential question: why do we do what we do? Whether it is Gilmore's crimes, Nicole's suicide attempt (despite her children), even Schiller's craven pursuit of Gilmore's story, the question is the same: why do we do what we do?

It is a question that echoes into the present, into another cold January morning - a question we, as individuals, as a culture, cannot escape. It will linger long after Dylann Roof's execution: the white supremacist reportedly had 2nd thoughts about his planned murder, having spent an hour praying with the parishioners. In the end, though, he went through with the attack.

Why do we do what we do?

It's a question that cannot be answered, only confronted.

(source: windsorstar.com)

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Life for a Life: Understanding the Higher Cost Death Penalty

While the death penalty only applies to the most heinous crimes, its existence is still considered as a sensitive issue. Research reveals that it has a long-term effect towards the victims and the people involved in the case.

Research suggests that an individual who went through a traumatic loss might find it hard to allow positive emotions to sink in. A person filled with anger and grief is often caught up in negativity, which can be passed on to his/her offspring. That being said, parents do not only pass on physical traits, but strong emotions as well.

Psychology Today discussed the story of Dylann Roof, a 22-year-old who was sentenced to the death penalty on June 2015 after he shot 9 people inside the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church. Roof open fired and killed his victims with no remorse. He even proclaimed in a statement that he did not feel sorry for taking nine lives.

As a result of what Roof did, he was sentenced to death, which turned out to have an emotional impact on his victims' families as they too, were filled with hate and anger. Some of the family members even voiced out that death was not enough to compensate for the crime that he did.

"And no verdict can heal the wounds of the five church members who survived the attack or the souls of those who lost loved ones to Roof's callous hand," Attorney General Lynch explained during an interview. "But we hope that the completion of the prosecution provides the people of Charleston-and the people of our nation-with a measure of closure."

The death penalty can still be tagged as a sensitive issue up to this date. Oxford Human Rights Hub mentioned that aside from the families of the victims and the accused, the lawyers are burdened as well, as they did their part in saving the life of the accused. The guards working on the death row are also facing the weight of walking into the cells of the prisoners that would soon lose their lives.

(source: Counsel & Heal)

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How Obama Disappointed on the Death Penalty ---- 2 commutations this week was less than many had hoped for.

On his way out of office this week, President Barack Obama took the rare step of commuting 2 federal death sentences - the 1st time a president has spared someone from execution since 2001. Abelardo Ortiz, a Colombian national convicted in 2000 of a drug trafficking murder, and Dwight Loving, convicted in military court in 1989 of killing 2 cab drivers in Texas, will now serve life sentences.

It was a victory for defense attorneys and anti-death penalty activists, but there was also disappointment in the air. While Obama could grant more clemency petitions in the hours before President-elect Donald Trump takes the oath of office on Friday, 2 commutations fell short of what some opponents had hoped they might see from a president who not that long ago called capital punishment "deeply troubling."

The White House did not respond to requests for comment on why Obama bestowed mercy on these particular men. Ortiz's attorney and others said the problems in his case weren't much different than those that bedevil many of the other 62 people still on federal death row - impaired mental capability, substandard trial lawyers, and geographic and racial disparities.

At one time, Obama seemed to agree. After high-profile botched executions in Oklahoma and Ohio in 2014, he instructed then-Attorney General Eric Holder to begin a broad assessment of capital punishment. A year later, Obama told The Marshall Project he found the death penalty "deeply troubling," leading some to speculate he planned to ramp up clemency.

But there is no indication that the Justice Department review will be finished before Obama leaves office, and the department has continued to pursue death sentences, most famously against Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and Charleston shooter Dylann Roof. (The federal government has carried out only 3 civilian executions since 1963, and no military executions since 1961. There are 5 people on military death row.)

Ortiz's attorney, Amy Donnella, said she was grateful for her client's commutation but hoped the president would extend relief to others. "A series of lucky coincidences related to Ortiz helped him get relief," Donnella said. "Luck shouldn't play a role."

Ortiz was1 of 4 men convicted of killing Julian Colon in Kansas City in 1998. All were tied to a network of Colombian cocaine traffickers. The ringleader, Edwin Hinestroza, believed that Colon had stolen $240,000 in drug profits and enlisted Ortiz and 2 others to recover the money. (The whole tale was reported by The Pitch in 2001.)

Either Ortiz or another co-defendant shot at and missed Colon's 17 year-old nephew, but neither was in the room when Colon was shot in the head and killed. Ortiz told police that he did not expect that anyone would be killed and had no direct involvement in Colon's death. 2 of the 4 men, including Hinestroza, were sentenced to life in prison; another was sentenced to death but died of a heart attack on death row in 2013.

After the Supreme Court ruled in 2002 that the intellectually disabled cannot be executed, Ortiz's appellate lawyers sparred with federal prosecutors over whether their client suffered from such a disability. A doctor hired by his lawyers assessed his IQ as below 60. He was unable to tie his shoes until age 10, according to his lawyers, and once in prison could not obtain a GED despite hundreds of hours of education. A prosecution-hired psychologist concluded that he was not disabled, arguing that some of his failures on the psychological tests could be explained by his having the "[profile] of an illiterate person, a person who comes from a low-socio economic background, a person unacculturated."

Ortiz's attorneys also argued that his trial defenders did not sufficiently investigate his childhood, which included exposure to brutal violence and racism - Ortiz is of African descent - in his hometown of Buenaventura, Colombia. The Colombian government, which abolished the death penalty in 1910, has supported Ortiz's efforts. Mexico and El Salvador have also aided the defense of nationals facing the death penalty in the U.S.

Donnella, Ortiz's attorney, said these factors all appeared to contribute to the Justice Department decision to review his claims, and last year, they hired a new psychologist, Daniel Martel, who found that Ortiz did in fact suffer from severe "intellectual and adaptive deficits." Lawyers from the Department of Justice announced in January 2017 that Ortiz was entitled to have his sentence reduced.

Donnella and other public defenders say others on federal death row have similar issues in their cases. She pointed to Bruce Webster, sentenced to death in 1994, who has also made claims of intellectual disability, and Daniel Lee, who like Ortiz, received the death penalty while a more culpable co-defendant did not.

The victim left behind a widow. Savanah Colon, who was pregnant at the time that her husband was killed, said Wednesday that she was not angry about the commutation. "I realized a long time ago that there is nothing that can bring him back," she said. Still, she supported the death penalty for Ortiz. "I think Obama wouldn't do this if it was 1 of his daughters that was murdered."

(source: themarshallproject.org)

PHILIPPINES:

What lawmakers say about reimposing the death penalty

Senator Manny Pacquiao has referenced the Scriptures in his pitch for the death penalty in the Upper Chamber as the debates continue on whether capital punishment should be restored.

"Even Jesus Christ, nasentensyahan ng kamatayan, dahil ang government nag-impose talaga ng death penalty," said boxer-turned-politician on Tuesday.

The Lower House, meanwhile, is divided on the death penalty ahead of debates scheduled in the chamber next week.

Siquijor Representative Ramon Rocamora told Mornings@ANC on Wednesday that the majority is "not comfortable with the numbers right now," and a good number of congressmen who are undecided will determine the actual vote.

Meanwhile, PBA Party-list Rep. Jericho Nograles, a member of the supermajority, said in a separate interview that he is against reviving capital punishment.

He hopes the House leadership will encourage healthy debates on the controversial issue.

For him, what should be prioritized instead is the improvement of the dispensation of justice. He noted that according to the Office of the Court Administrator, there are more than 720,000 active civil and criminal cases which are adding up by the day.

"We should add courts, we add prosecutors and we add public attorneys. When we do that, we bring down the waiting time for a decision and people will believe in the justice system again," he said.

Rocamora and Nograles both say government should prioritize these judicial reforms, speed up conviction, and the delivery of justice.

(source: abs-cbn.com)

BANGLADESH:

Attack on ex-UK envoy----SC releases full text of Mufti Hannan appeal verdict

The Supreme Court (SC) released on Wednesday the full text of its verdict that upheld the death sentence of Mufti Abdul Hannan, leader of the banned militant outfit Harkat-ul-Jihad, and two others in a case filed over the grenade attack on ex-British envoy to Bangladesh Anwar Choudhury in 2004, report agencies.

The full verdict was posted on the SC website.

On December 7, 2016, the SC upheld the death penalty of Mufti Abdul Hannan and 2 others in the case after rejecting the appeal filed by them seeking a review of the High Court (HC) verdict that upheld their death sentence.

A 4-member bench, headed by Chief Justice SK Sinha, passed the order.

(source: thefinancialexpress-bd.com)

JANUARY 18, 2017:

PENNSYLVANIA:

Execution warrant signed for Poplawski, guilty of killing 3 police officers

The secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections today signed a death warrant for the Stanton Heights man convicted of killing 3 Pittsburgh police officers nearly 8 years ago.

Richard Poplawski, 30, was sentenced to death in June 2011 after a Dauphin County jury found him guilty of killing Officers Paul J. Sciullo II, Stephen J. Mayhle and Eric G. Kelly on April 4, 2009.

The execution date of March 3, though, is just a formality. Poplawski still has a number of appellate avenues left before him, and next on the list should be a post-conviction relief act appeal before Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Jeffrey A. Manning who presided over the trial.

In addition, Gov. Tom Wolf, in January 2015, issued a moratorium on capital punishment in the state until recommendations from a bipartisan commission, formed 6 years ago to review the death penalty in Pennsylvania, can be reviewed and acted upon.

A final draft of that report is now being circulated among commission members, and it is expected the report will be released in coming weeks, according to the staff at the office of Sen. Stewart Greenleaf, R-Montgomery.

The state Supreme Court, in December 2015, said that the governor's actions were "constitutionally sound," and the moratorium remains in place.

Poplawski lost his 1st appeal to the state Supreme Court in December 2015. His attorneys had argued that Judge Manning admitted evidence for the prosecution that was prejudicial against Poplawski, including his statements to police, racial epithets he made in a 911 call and his visits to white nationalist websites.

Further, Poplawski's attorneys argued that there was prosecutorial misconduct because of emotional appeals made to the jury regarding the officers' deaths to their families.

The Supreme Court disagreed.

(source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

VIRGINIA----execution

Executed: Ricky Gray put to death for murders of Harvey girls ---- Ricky Javon Gray, 39, was sentenced to death for the 2006 murders of Harvey sisters Ruby, 4, and Stella, 9. Gray also killed the girls' parents and another Richmond family.

Ricky Javon Gray was executed by injection Wednesday night for the slaying of 2 young Richmond sisters on New Year's Day 2006.

Gray, 39, was pronounced dead at 9:42 p.m. at the Greensville Correctional Center. Asked if he had any final words, Gray said, "Nope," according to a prison spokeswoman.

It appeared to take an inordinately long time - more than a half-hour - to place the IV lines and do other procedures behind a curtain that blocks the view of witnesses.

At the conclusion of the execution, a physician came out from behind the curtain and listened to Gray's chest for a heartbeat.

Gray was sentenced to die for the Jan. 1, 2006, slayings of Ruby Harvey, 4, and Stella Harvey, 9. He and accomplice Ray Dandridge, 39, also killed their parents, Bryan Harvey, 49, and Kathryn Harvey, 39, in their Woodland Heights home.

A few days later, Gray and Dandridge killed Ashley Baskerville, 21; Baskerville's mother, Mary Tucker, 47; and stepfather, Percyell Tucker, 55, in their South Richmond home. Dandridge, Gray's nephew, was sentenced to life for those killings.

The Harveys were tied up, their throats cut and beaten with a hammer. Their house was set on fire by the killers when they fled and the victims were initially discovered by firefighters. Ultimately, Gray was sentenced to death, leading to years of appeals.

The Virginia Department of Corrections said that victim family members were expected to witness the execution. The state does not reveal the victim witnesses who view the proceedings through 1-way glass in a separate room from other witnesses.

On Tuesday, Gov. Terry McAuliffe turned down a clemency request to commute Gray's death sentence to life without possibility of parole. Later on Tuesday, Gray's lawyers asked the U.S. Supreme Court for an emergency stay, which the justices denied on Wednesday evening.

Outside Greensville Correctional Center on Wednesday evening, a half-dozen members of Virginians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty gathered with about 20 of Gray's family members to hold a vigil as the man was executed.

One women held a sign that said "Thou shall not kill." Several in the group said they object to the death penalty for religious and other reasons. They said there is no doubt that Gray killed the Harveys and Tucker-Baskerville families, but that no one else should die.

Also outside the prison was Chuck Troutman, of Staunton, who held a sign in support of the Harvey family.

Troutman said he had met Bryan Harvey, twice, and his wife Kathryn, once, while disc-jokeying at a local radio station in Harrisonburg.

Bryan Harvey's band, House of Freaks, played for a function the station was hosting. Bryan played bass and sang; Troutman said Bryan's "vocals had a John Lennon quality to them."

He held a sign with the names of the Harvey family. On the bottom, the sign read "Peace be with you."

"I felt compelled to be here," Troutman said of Gray's execution. "It's not about deterrance or retribution, it's justice."

Troutman said he wasn't sure what to expect or how he'd feel.

"I'll be happy to see justice done." 7-year-old Heidi Strong held a sign that says "Remember the victims. All of them. Stella and Ruby. Ricky Gray can rot.".

Her mother, Amy Strong of Blackstone, was living in Richmond and frequented Kathryn Harvey's popular toy store World of Mirth in Carytown, when the Harvey family was killed. She brought Heidi and her 2 other children, Robert, 9, and Alexsandra, 5.

"It sticks with you," Strong said. "This is a civics lesson. I want to protect my kids, of course, but I think they need to know what happened and that not everyone is a good person."

Earlier in the day, as the clock ticked down for Gray, Richmond Commonwealth's Attorney Michael N. Herring said, "I definitely think the city is going to be better off when we close the chapter on Ricky Gray."

"I think we will remember the Harveys and the Tucker/Baskervilles well - and it will be nice when Ricky Gray's name and memory are distant," Herring said.

He recalled the Sunday the Harveys were murdered. He had just been elected to office but had not yet taken the oath. "I was at the scene before I was sworn in," said Herring, who officially took office the next day.

"When I heard the news, I remember being in disbelief that we had a crime that involved 4 fatalities. That was just hard to come to terms with," said Herring. He and the 2 deputies who would prosecute Gray and Dandridge, Learned Barry and the late Matthew Geary, went to the Harveys' house.

Herring said, "That 1st week we really were struggling to come up with leads. It's one thing to have to reconcile the gravity of what's happened with the inability to identify the perpetrator."

"So we immediately went from the scope of what had (happened) to the fear that we had potential mass murderers roaming the city. And it turned out that that's what we had because they ended up killing the Tucker-Baskervilles. We became just totally preoccupied with trying to develop viable leads," said Herring.

The Harveys were murdered on Jan. 1 and the Tucker/Baskerville slayings were discovered on Jan. 6. Acting on a tip, police arrested Gray and Dandridge in Philadelphia on Jan. 7. Gray soon confessed. He also admitted he had murdered his wife, Treva Gray, in Pennsylvania in November 2005.

Herring did not attend the execution but Barry planned to be there to represent the office.

Wednesday was difficult for many in Richmond - particularly for those who knew the Harveys - as the execution approached and the stay request was still pending before the high court.

Phaedra Hise, whose daughter attended day care and later Fox Elementary School with Stella Harvey, said, "Kathy was the 1st person I met when I moved to Richmond in 1998."

"I knew Bryan because we were both on the PTA," she said. "They were just good friends. We spent a lot of time with them."

She said Kathryn Harvey was coming to a party Hise planned for Jan. 8. "Obviously that didn't happen ... I can't believe it's been 10 years," said Hise, her voice breaking. "I'm shocked that I'm this emotional, but you know, it's an emotional day."

Hise said she attended Gray's trial. "I just was hoping to understand more and, of course, there's some things you just can't really understand."

"I came home from the days at court and I couldn't even explain what I'd seen. I wasn't comfortable sharing it," Hise said. "It's hard. It brings it all back. Are they going to execute him? Are they not going to execute him? It's been 10 years."

"It's fair," she said of the last-minute court action. "It's a very serious thing and executing this man won't bring the Harveys back. I get that. But, what he did."

Gray's clemency petition to McAuliffe cited his physical and sexual abuse suffered as a child that led to his addiction to PCP, a drug his lawyers said he was high on while committing the murders.

The late court challenge stemmed from Virginia's 3-drug execution procedure. The 1st drug is intended to render the inmate unconscious, the 2nd to cause paralysis, and the 3rd stops the heart.

For Gray's execution the state planned to use midazolam and potassium chloride made by a licensed compounding pharmacy in Virginia as the 1st and 3rd drugs. The compounded chemicals are tested monthly to verify identity and potency, said state officials.

The chemicals are injected into 1 of 2 intravenous lines - the 2nd line is a backup - with a saline flush following the injection of each chemical. 2 minutes after the 1st saline flush, the inmate is pinched or otherwise tested to make sure he or she is unconscious.

Among other things, critics contend that if the 1st drug fails to render the inmates unconscious, they could be awake but paralyzed by the 2nd drug and unable to signal they are suffering pain.

Compounded midazolam has never been used in an execution before, complained Gray's lawyers.

Their bid for a stay of execution was rejected by a federal judge and a federal appeals court last week. On Wednesday evening the U.S. Supreme Court denied Gray's request for a stay without giving explanation.

Virginia's Catholic Bishops Francis X. DiLorenzo, of Richmond, and Michael F. Burbidge, of Arlington, released a statement Wednesday opposing the death penalty.

They said in part, "Knowing that the state can protect itself in ways other than through the death penalty, we have repeatedly asked that the practice be abandoned. Our broken world cries out for justice, not the additional violence or vengeance the death penalty will exact.

Gray becomes the 1st condemned inmate to be put to death this year in Virginia, and the 112th execution in Virginia since the U.S. Supreme Court allowed executions to resume in 1976. The toll ties Oklahoma's 112 executions for the 2nd most nationally. Texas leads the country with 539.

Gray becomes the 2nd condemned inmate to be put to death this year in the USA and the 1444th overall since the nation resumed executions on January 17, 1977.

(sources: Richmond Times-Dispatch & Rick Halperin)

SOUTH CAROLINA:

Death penalty isn't effective deterrent

The latest chapter in the case of death row inmate James Robertson is unlikely to mollify opponents of the death penalty and is likely to rile its supporters.

Robertson, a former resident of Rock Hill, was convicted of beating his parents, Terry and Earl Robertson, to death in 1997 in a plot to get access to their multimillion dollar estate. 2 years later, he was sentenced to death.

That means Robertson, now 43, has been languishing on death row at the Lieber Correctional Facility in Columbia for nearly 2 decades. Execution dates have twice been set and twice delayed.

In a new twist, the S.C. Supreme Court ruled recently in a split decision that Robertson is entitled to a new hearing because of competency questions about the lawyers who represented him in the sentencing phase of the trial. The attorneys may have lacked required experience in death-penalty trials and post-conviction relief experience, as well as lacking necessary continuing education on death penalty law.

Specifically, questions were raised about the defense attorneys' failure to pursue a guilty but mentally ill plea deal that might have spared Robertson's life.

The hearing could result in a new trial or sentencing hearing. But legal experts say either is a long shot, and that a new hearing is unlikely.

But legal scholars note that in death penalty cases, inmates often are given more leeway to pursue legal avenues that might change their status. After all, once the verdict is carried out, there is no recourse.

But the delay can be frustrating to those who knew the victims and those who think executions should be carried out more swiftly. How can the courts justify delaying Robertson's execution for 20 years after his conviction?

But those who oppose the death penalty note that enough innocent people have received death sentences to warrant the pursuit of any avenue that might reveal a death-row inmate is not guilty or other significant information that might affect the case.

From a purely practical point of view, this case raises serious questions about the efficacy of the death penalty. How could a death sentence be considered a deterrent when Robertson has not been executed after 2 decades and may yet have the penalty delayed?

Some mistakenly view a death sentence as a way to save the state the cost of housing and feeding an inmate for life. But the cost of Robertson's many legal hearings has been enormous.

Death penalty cases ordinarily are far more expensive than non-capital cases, and housing an inmate on death row is significantly more costly than housing a prisoner in the general population.

We think the value of the death penalty is tenuous for both practical and moral reasons. As noted, too many innocent people end up on death row. The numbers also clearly indicate that black defendants are far more likely to be sentenced to death than white defendants, indicating a prominent racial bias in the way the sentence is meted out.

But the issue can be persuasively argued on a purely practical level: Why waste money pursuing the execution of James Robertson? Wouldn't it be just as effective to require him spend the rest of his life confined to a cell?

(source: The Herald Editorial Board)

NEBRASKA:

Bill would let Nebraska prison officials hide identities of lethal injection suppliers

Nebraska prison officials would be allowed to hide the identities of their lethal injection suppliers under a proposal introduced Wednesday on the final day of bill introduction in the state Legislature.

The bill would allow authorities to withhold any information "reasonably calculated to lead to the identity" of an entity or individual that "manufactures, supplies, compounds or prescribes" drugs used to carry out an execution.

Sen. John Kuehn of Heartwell, who sponsored Legislative Bill 661, said it's the Legislature's responsibility to comply with the majority of Nebraska voters who cast ballots in favor of capital punishment in November. He suggested providing confidentiality to drug makers would remove one of the obstacles that makes capital punishment dysfunctional.

Most of the leading death penalty states shield the identities of the lethal drug suppliers, saying the information is used by capital punishment opponents to pressure suppliers not to make or sell the drugs for executions.

Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts, a strong supporter of the death penalty, is pursuing changes to the state's lethal injection protocol that include similar secrecy provisions. The governor also wants to withhold the type of drug the state plans to use until 60 days before the attorney general asks the Nebraska Supreme Court for a death warrant.

Kuehn's 2-page bill addresses no other issues except for shielding the identity of the drug supplier. He said Wednesday that Ricketts did not ask him to introduce it.

While the senator said he thinks the existing lethal injection law allows prison officials to shield information from public disclosure, he said addressing it specifically in statute would help keep the death penalty functional.

In 2015 the Legislature repealed the death penalty over the governor's veto. But in November, 61 % of voters overturned the repeal and reinstated capital punishment.

Ricketts has said he will make every effort to proceed with the executions of the 10 men on Nebraska's death row.

Death penalty opponents have argued that the state has an obligation to keep the execution process open to public scrutiny. They also have predicted confidentiality provisions will simply be subject to legal challenges.

(source: Omaha World-Herald)

COLORADO:

Advocates for repealing the Colorado death penalty will be back before the legislature

Advocates for repealing the death penalty in Colorado are back with a legislative effort for the 1st time in 4 years, motivated by their belief the issue is gaining traction in battleground and red states

But proponents still face an uphill battle in the legislature.

The Better Priorities Initiative of Colorado hopes to build off of work in the right-leaning state of Nebraska, where the legislature there repealed the death penalty in 2015, despite opposition led by Republican Gov. Pete Ricketts.

The Nebraska legislature repealed the death penalty over the governor's veto, becoming the 1st conservative state in more than four decades to abolish the death penalty.

But Nebraska voters in November reinstated the state's policy on capital punishment, with 61 % voting to "repeal the repeal."

Still, supporters of abolishing the death penalty in Colorado say the action by the Nebraska legislature offers hope that Colorado lawmakers can cross party lines to advance a repeal.

A bill from Senate Democratic Leader Lucia Guzman of Denver is expected to be introduced as early as Wednesday.

"We've seen a renewed energy around ending the death penalty," said Stacy Anderson, outreach director for the Better Priorities Initiative of Colorado, who helped run the repeal effort in Nebraska. "It's definitely shifting to be more of a Western states movement."

The Nevada legislature this year is expected to take up a bill that would make the state's maximum punishment life in prison without parole. And Utah is expected to take up the issue again this year after a repeal bill failed on the last day of the legislative session last year. Washington state also is working on a bipartisan effort to abolish the death penalty.

Efforts to repeal in Colorado have failed in the past, including in 2013, when Democrats controlled the legislature. This year the legislature is split.

It's also unclear where Gov. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat, stands on abolishing the death penalty.

In 2013, the governor expressed "conflicting feelings" and upset some by granting a stay of execution to Nathan Dunlap, who was convicted of murder for the 1993 deaths of four people at an Aurora Chuck E. Cheese.

In 2014, Hickenlooper outlined his reasons for opposing the death penalty, which opened him up to attacks from Republicans as he headed into re-election. But he has never pushed to abolish capital punishment in the state.

Last year, Republican lawmakers attempted to make it easier to impose the death penalty by requiring only nine out of 12 members of a jury to deliver capital punishment. Current law requires a unanimous agreement. Supporters of the bill attempted to compromise by requiring 11 of the 12 jurors to agree, but that effort also failed, with the vote crossing party lines.

Repealing the death penalty in Colorado would be a major victory for supporters, especially given high-profile cases. Jurors in Arapahoe County could not unanimously agree to sentence the 2012 Aurora movie theater gunman to die by lethal injection.

George Brauchler, the Arapahoe County prosecutor who sought the death penalty in the Aurora movie theater case, said a judicial issue as important as capital punishment should not be left to the legislature.

"This is an issue for the people of the state of Colorado to decide," Brauchler said, suggesting that it would be better to refer the question to voters.

The Better Priorities Initiative of Colorado - which is pushing the repeal effort this year - said they have no immediate plans for a ballot drive.

The coalition consists of many of the usual groups that fight capital punishment, including the American Civil Liberties Union and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. Religious organizations also are part of the coalition.

Anderson said she expects the coalition to have bipartisan support, with Republicans speaking out against the death penalty as well.

One of the talking points used by repeal advocates is that capital punishment is an expensive burden on taxpayers, though detailed costs have not been recently researched in Colorado. Some estimates put the cost between $5 million and $10 million per year thanks to the need for extensive legal work.

The last time someone was executed in Colorado was in 1997.

"We're wasting millions of dollars on a punishment we don't use, and arguably, that most Coloradans have lost interest in," Anderson said. "There are things that we could be spending our money on that could make us all safer and actually be more effective for all Coloradans."

Brauchler, however, questions whether seeking capital punishment actually costs millions, or if there would be much of a savings to taxpayers if it were repealed.

"They want to suggest that if we didn't have the death penalty, we wouldn't have had the cost, but what is ignorant about that analysis is if you take the death penalty away, and God forbid something like the Aurora theater shooting happened tomorrow, you think the public defender's office is going to come in and say, 'Well, we're ready to plead guilty and go to prison forever,'" Brauchler asked.

"No. We're going to have the exact same trial, minus the sentencing phase for the death penalty, and that exact same expense."

(source: The Gazette)

MONTANA:

Punishment concerns resurface for death row inmate

A look back on history of Montana's death penalty

The cruel and unusual punishment argument again surfaced in 2006 with the impending execution of David Thomas Dawson. Dawson kidnapped and killed Monica and David Rodstein along with their 11-year-old son Andrew in a Billings motel room in 1986; police rescued their 15-year-old daughter Amy who survived. Dawson fought his conviction for years, but gave up the fight in 2004 to become a willing participant in carrying out his death sentence.

A month before Dawson's scheduled execution, the American Civil Liberties Union of Montana led a coalition arguing that the state's method of administering lethal injection was cruel and unusual punishment. The law stipulates that the executioner need not be a physician, registered nurse or licensed practical nurse but only someone selected by the warden and trained to administer a lethal dose. The dissenting groups claimed that the lethal substance, if improperly administered, could cause excruciating pain and thus violate the U.S. and Montana Constitutions.

The Montana attorney general decided, however, that there was no indication that lethal injection had caused pain and that the groups had nothing personally at stake. They thus had no reason to be involved. Dawson wanted the execution to go forward and not to do so would infringe upon his constitutional rights. The courts had no right to infringe on Dawson's rights in the attempt to uphold the concerns of others. Dawson was executed by lethal injection on Aug. 11, 2006.

Montana has legally executed 75 individuals since Montana Territory carried out its 1st legal hanging in 1875. The Montana legislature considered abolishment of the death penalty in 2007, with the passage of a repeal bill in the Montana Senate, but the legislation died in State House committee by a single vote.

(source: Ellen Baumler is an award-winning author and the interpretive historian at the Montana Historical Society----Great Falls Tribune)

BAHRAIN:

Victims of horrific human rights abuses, not criminals - the stories of 3 men executed by firing squad on Sunday

On Sunday 15th January, 3 men were executed by firing squad in Bahrain. Their names were Ali Al-Singace, Abbas Al-Samea and Sami Mushaima.

The UN Special Rapporteur, Dr Agnes Callamard, called their executions "extrajudicial killings". Ali, Abbas and Sami were the first prisoners to be put to death by the Bahraini authorities since 2010.

Ali al-Singace

Ali was just 21 when executed. He had been harassed and tortured by Bahrain's police since he was 15, because of his family's links to political opposition.

The police wanted Ali to work as an informant. He refused.

When Ali was 18, a bomb exploded killing several policemen. Ali was sentenced to death without even appearing before a court and then arrested a year later.

He was tortured and electrocuted into making a false confession. His torture was never investigated.

The day before his execution, Ali's family came to visit him in prison. The guards refused to say if he was about to be executed, and Ali asked his family to arrange for him to resit school exams he had missed.

Abbas Al-Samea

Abbas was a school teacher, and was just 27 when executed. He was targeted because of his family's links to political opposition. He was sentenced to death despite presenting the court with an alibi letter from the school where he taught.

Abbas required hospital treatment after police tortured him during his interrogation, including electric shocks to his genitals and suspending him from the ceiling. He was later tortured again by guards in prison.

Although UK prison inspectors helped plan inspections of both the police station and prison just months after Abbas was abused there, his torture allegations were ignored.

Another UK-trained torture watchdog in Bahrain dismissed his complaint about ill-treatment without even arranging for a doctor to examine him for signs of torture.

The day before his execution, Abbas' family came to visit him in prison. The guards refused to say if he was about to be executed.

Sami Mushaima

Sami was targeted because of his family's links to political opposition. During his police interrogation, he was beaten, tortured with electric shocks and sexually assaulted. He was illiterate, but was forced to sign a confession that he could not read. He was 42 years old when he was executed.

Although UK prison inspectors helped plan inspections of the police station just months after Sami was abused there, his torture allegations were ignored.

The day before his execution, Sami's family came to visit him in prison. The guards refused to say if he was about to be executed.

(source: reprieve.org.uk)

PHILIPPINES:

1 more bill reimposing death penalty filed in Senate

A new measure that seeks to reimpose death penalty on persons involved in the illegal drug trade has been filed in the Senate on Wednesday.

Under Senate Bill No. 1294, Sen. Sherwin "Win" Gatchalian seeks to amend Section 11 of RA 9165 to impose capital punishment on persons convicted of possession, sale, distribution, importation, and manufacture drugs.

These include marijuana (10,000 grams or more), shabu (1,000 grams or more), opium, morphine, heroine, cocaine, cocaine hydrochloride, marijuana resin, marijuana resin oil, ecstasy, and LSD, and other drugs as determined by the Dangerous Drugs Board (200 grams or more).

The measure also seeks to increase fines and penalties imposed for offenses under RA 9165 involving smaller quantities of drugs.

Gatchalian, an ally of Pres. Rodrigo Duterte, said that his bill was his commitment to the Duterte administration's intensified campaign against illegal drugs.

The neophyte senator, who was also 3-time mayor of Valenzuela City, said that he and Pres. Duterte were both "mayors at heart" and had "the same perspective" in terms of solutions to eliminate drug trafficking.

"As local chief executives, we have both seen firsthand the kind of damage the illegal drug trade can do to entire communities if drug lords and king pins are allowed to continue their despicable operations with impunity," Gatchalian said.

"Passage of this law will stop the illegal drug trade in its tracks and make sure that these despicable people will pay the ultimate price for their crimes against the Filipino people," he added.

Aside from Gatchalian, Sen. Panfilo "Ping" Lacson, has previously filed a measure to revive death penalty. Some other senators who have openly expressed being in favor of the reinstatement of death penalty include Senate President Aquilino "Koko" Pimentel III, Senate Majority Leader Vicente "Tito" Sotto III, and Senator Emmanuel "Manny" Pacquiao.

Pimentel, however, said that the passage of the death penalty bill will not come easy in the Senate as in the House of Representatives where it expected to face less opposition.

Last December 7, the House Committee on Justice approved the committee report on the reinstatement of the death penalty bill or House Bill No. 1 in a vote of 12-6-1.

The measure is one of the priority bills of President Duterte.

(source: northboundasia.com)

THAILAND:

2 indicted in iPhone murder-robbery

Prosecutors have formally indicted the two men charged with stabbing a man to death and stealing his iPhone in Bangkok on Jan 4.

Jetsada Arunchaiphirom, a senior prosecutor for criminal litigation, said prosecutors had agreed to indict Kittikorn Wikaha, 26, of Sa Kaeo, and his alleged accomplice Supatchai Charnsri, 25, of Uthai Thani.

He was speaking Tuesday as he announced progress in the case at the Office of the Attorney-General on Ratchadaphisek Road.

The suspects are accused of killing Wasin Luangjaem, a former worker at Suvarnabhumi airport, on the night of Jan 4 in Lat Phrao district.

They have been charged with theft subsequently causing death, carrying a weapon in a public place, and murder to conceal a crime.

Mr Jetsada said prosecutors decided to indict Mr Kittikorn and Mr Supatchai as police have solid evidence, including security camera footage, that proves the suspects colluded to rob and kill Wasin.

The security camera footage shows Wasin, 26, being attacked by 2 men who approached him on a motorcycle.

Wasin is seen fighting back in the footage. One of the men, identified as Mr Kittikorn, is seen stabbing Wasin in the neck, upon which the victim falls to the ground. The attackers stole only the victim's iPhone 7 and left his wallet behind.

Last week, Khok Khram police overseeing the case submitted an investigation report to prosecutors for review.

A 3-member working panel was set up to consider the evidence provided by police and decide whether to indict the suspects.

Mr Jetsada said prosecutors had opposed the request for bail, saying the suspects posed a flight risk.

Mr Kittikorn and Mr Supatchai will face the strongest possible punishment, the death penalty, if convicted.

Such criminals pose a great threat to the public, Mr Jetsada added.

The suspects allegedly committed four crimes on the night of Jan 4 and in the early hours of Jan 5.

On Jan 4, they allegedly tried and failed to snatch a bag from a woman on soi Sukhonthasawat 27. 8 minutes later, they allegedly murdered Wasin and took his iPhone. A few hours later the suspects allegedly murdered Wasin and took his iPhone. A few hours later the suspects allegedly stole an iPhone from a woman on soi Sukhonthasawat 9.

They are also accused of later robbing another woman and making off with her mobile phone and 5,000 baht from outside Synphaet Hospital in Kannayao district.

(source: Bangkok Post)

MALAYSIA/SINGAPORE:

Anwar Ibrahim urges Malaysian government to intervene in case of death row inmate in Singapore

Former Deputy Prime Minister of Malaysia and opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim has called on his country's Foreign Ministry to look into the case of S Prabagaran, reported Malaysiakini. Prabagaran a Malaysian is facing the death sentence here for drug trafficking.

Anwar said that he would normally not want to comment on people facing drug trafficking charges, but he thinks this is a proper case to be brought to the International Court of Justice (ICJ).

Prabagaran was arrested on 12 April 2012 when he was just 24 years old, for a narcotic trafficking offence. He has been on death row for more than 4 years since 2012, and is awaiting the result of his clemency petition to the Singapore President.

The Singapore Anti-Death Penalty activists who have been fighting to save Prabagaran, allege that he is being deprived of his life in a manner that is in breach of the principles of the separation of powers, the fundamental rules of natural justice, and the rule of law.

"In respect of a person who has been convicted of a drug offence that is punishable with death under the Second Schedule of the Misuse of Drugs Act (MDA), Section 33B(2)(b) of the Misuse of Drugs Act (MDA) provides that the Public Prosecutor may certify that a person convicted of a drug offence punishable with the death penalty has substantively assisted the Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB) in disrupting drug activities. If the Public Prosecutor so certifies, and if the offender is also merely a courier, then the sentencing judge has the discretion to impose life imprisonment in lieu of the death penalty. If the Public Prosecutor does not so certify, then the sentencing judge must sentence the offender to the death penalty.

As discussed above, although in this case Praba has maintained his innocence, he has, in fact, done his best to provide CNB with credible leads that could well have resulted in persons involved in drug activities (i.e., Balu and Nathan) being apprehended."

They argue that the right to a fair trial is one of the most important fundamental human rights and that the death sentence imposed on Prabagaran violates the right to fair trial under customary international law.

The activists said "the Public Prosecutor's determination of whether or not substantive assistance was provided is too fluid and unstable a standard by which to determine the penalty which an offender should receive."

Anwar in seeming to agree with the activists, said that Prabagaran was denied a fair trial.

"There is allegedly a denial of key witnesses and this deprives opportunity for the defence to present its case. This is a proper case for the foreign minister and the prime minister to take to the ICJ," he said.

(source: The Independent)

PENNSYLVANIA:

Prosecutor: Death penalty defendant took shelter, food and then killed

Jeffrey Knoble was homeless and desperate, according to a prosecutor. He was running from police and had nowhere to go.

Andrew "Beep" White felt sorry for him. And that was his undoing, according to Northampton County First Deputy District Attorney Terence Houck.

White put the 27-year-old Riegelsville man up at the former Quality Inn in Easton on March 10, 2015. Early the next morning Knoble shot his 32-year-old benefactor.

"'Beep' as he was known was a gentle, giving person," Houck said. "He wanted nothing more than to see his family and friends have a roof over their heads and food in their stomachs and on March 11, 2015, that was his crime. That's what he was judged for, that's what he was convicted of and that's what he was put to death for."

Knoble faces the death penalty. The much-anticipated opening arguments in his trial came Wednesday after nearly 2 years of delays, complaints, outbursts and excuses from Knoble in court.

His defense strategy remains unclear. Defense attorney Gavin Holihan deferred his opening statement until later in the trial, which is expected to last at least 2 weeks.

Knoble called his former attorneys "corrupt" and used profanity previously in court. With Houck staring him down and pointing at him, Knoble didn't flinch Wednesday.

About 40 friends, family members and supporters of White crowded the left side of the courtroom. A handful of court employees and an overflow of White supporters took up the right side.

Houck said Knoble's 2-day crime spree started when he stole his then-girlfirend's rental car. Police found it abandoned in Williams Township with 4 bullet holes in the side.

Knoble knew police were after him. So he called "Beep," Houck said.

White was putting up a female friend and her child at his home. She refused to allow Knoble to join them, so White agreed to put Knoble up in the hotel. A surveillance camera at the Wawa across the street shows White bought Knoble a sandwich wrap so he would have something to eat.

A surveillance camera at the hotel shows the last moments of White's life as he heads for his room, Houck said.

"You'll see him so very full of life, oblivious of the fact that the person he is providing shelter to, the person he is feeding will be shortly ending his life," Houck told the jurors.

Police would later find 2 videos on Knoble's cell phone that show a naked, bound White covered in blood. Houck said Knoble shot him in the head through a pillow to muffle the sound. On the video, Knoble says, "I do what I want."

"Folks, they are 5 words that show intent to kill," Houck said.

On March 11 Knoble left the hotel room wearing White's coat and holding White's phone.

He called his mother, Lori Knoble, to get new clothes. She was horrified when he got in her car and, according to Houck, said, "We're safe. I killed him." She said she saw her son's video of White dead but wasn't sure whether it was a fake.

When he allegedly told her "I'm going to shoot this out with the cops. I'm going to kill them. I'm going to kill the police," a hysterical Lori Knoble kicked him out of the car and called police.

Jeffrey Knoble headed back to the hotel, where he stayed for three hours as police tried to make sense of Lori Knoble's tale.

"She was beside herself. The police don't know what to think. Is this woman crazy?" Houck asked.

Later, police tracked down Knoble at his mother's house in the 1200 block of Liberty Street, where a standoff occurred. They charged him with threatening police.

White's house guest saw the report on the news and called police wondering whether White was in danger. Police went to the hotel room and that's when they found the body and realized there had been a killing, Houck said.

"They get a room key, they go up, and there he is. Lying on the bed, a trail of blood from his head to the floor as he lay on the bed, naked," Houck said. "Now they know everything (Lori Knoble) said was true."

The case was further solidified when police found the murder weapon in a false wall in Lori Knoble's attic, authorities said. White's coat and phone were also in her house.

"You'll see the evidence. You'll see the ballistics," Houck told jurors. "I'm going to join you again at the end of this trial. I'm going to ask you to do what I wanted you to do from the first moment I met you. I'm going to ask you to return a verdict that his evidence screams for. Guilty."

Houck turned, pointed at Knoble and glared at him.

"Guilty. 1st-degree murder," he said. "You robbed this man. You terrorized police. You took this car without permission and you ruined it."

(source: lehighvalleylive.com)

VIRGINIA----impending execution

Emergency stay request from Ricky Gray before U.S. Supreme Court

The Virginia Attorney General's office is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to reject an 11th hour stay request from Ricky Javon Gray, set to die tonight for the 2006 slayings of 2 young Richmond sisters.

Gray's lawyers filed the request Tuesday alleging that 2 drugs made by a compounding pharmacy - not manufactured by a pharmaceutical company - that the Virginia Department of Corrections plans to use on Gray risk chemically torturing him in violation of his protection against cruel and unusual punishment.

But the attorney general's office complained in a brief filed with the high court that, "Despite the decade he has spent on death row, Gray waited until 35 days before his scheduled execution to challenge the compounded drugs Virginia procured for his execution."

The state argued that U.S. District Judge Henry Hudson held an evidentiary hearing and ruled that Gray was not entitled to a preliminary injunction stopping the execution so his drug concerns could be further litigated. Hudson's ruling was upheld without comment by the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday.

The wake of Ricky Javon Gray's murder rampage that claimed two Richmond families 11 years ago leads tonight to the death house at the Greensville Correctional Center.

"The timing of Gray's challenge left (Hudson) with 'little doubt that the real purpose behind his claim is to seek a delay of his execution, not merely to effect an alteration in the manner in which it is carried out,'" wrote the attorney general.

Gray's lawyers complained Wednesday that the attorney general's position makes it clear the state is "intent on 'running out the clock' on Mr. Gray, seeking to execute him before they are required to respond to his complaint challenging the method of execution that they seek to use to kill him."

"All that he seeks in this case is a stay to permit his constitutional claims to be fully and fairly litigated," argue Gray's lawyers.

The state's "accusation that Mr. Gray was late in bringing this constitutional challenge is stunning. It mischaracterizes the factual and procedural history of this case, and it wrongly suggests that this case is a last-minute act of desperation aimed at sparing his life," wrote Gray's lawyers.

They said Gray could not start his challenge of the drugs until the state revealed what it intended to use in October.

States that conduct lethal injections have been unable to obtain the necessary drugs from pharmaceutical manufactures which no longer make them available for executions. In response, Virginia law was changed allowing the state to obtain the required drugs from a compounding pharmacy and to keep the identity of the pharmacy confidential.

An expert testified for the state that compounding drugs was a safe and common practice and that the planned use of them in an execution should not cause a problem. Gray's experts testified compounded drugs represented a number of potential problems.

Virginia uses a 3-drug procedure, as do some other states. The 1st drug is intended to render the inmate unconscious, the 2nd to cause paralysis, and the drd stops the heart.

Chemicals authorized for use by the department of corrections' execution manual include midazolam, sodium thiopental or pentobarbital for use as the 1st drug; rocuronium bromide or pancuronium bromide as the 2nd; and potassium chloride as the final drug.

For Gray's execution the state plans to use midazolam and potassium chloride made by a licensed compounding pharmacy in Virginia and tested monthly to verify identity and potency.

The chemicals are injected into 1 of 2 intravenous lines - the 2nd line is a backup - with a saline flush following the injection of each chemical. 2 minutes after the 1st saline flush, the inmate is pinched or otherwise tested to make sure he or she is unconscious.

Critics contend that if the st drug fails to render the inmates unconscious, they could be awake but paralyzed by the 2nd drug and unable to signal they are suffering pain. Compounded midazolam has never been used in an execution before, say Gray's lawyers.

Carl Tobias, a professor at the university of Richmond School of law, said Tuesday that, "It seems unlikely that (the high court) will grant Gray's request for a stay for several reasons."

Tobias said, "The Justices might concomitantly take into account Judge Hudson's hearing and full decision denying Gray relief and the 4th Circuit's rapid, terse disposition of Gray's appeal from Hudson's ruling."

Gray, 39, was sentenced to die for the Jan. 1, 2006, slayings of Ruby Harvey, 4, and Stella Harvey, 9. He also killed their parents, Bryan Harvey, 49, and Kathryn Harvey, 39, in their South Richmond home.

Less than a week later, Gray and accomplice Ray Dandridge, 39, killed Ashley Baskerville, 21; Baskerville's mother, Mary Tucker, 47; and stepfather, Percyell Tucker, 55, in their Richmond home. Ray Dandridge, his nephew and accomplice, was sentenced to life.

(source: Richmond Times-Dispatch)

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

Virginia set to execute man with controversial drug

If death row inmate Ricky Gray is executed in Virginia on Wednesday evening, he will be injected with a controversial drug obtained as part of a process shrouded in secrecy.

Virginia's Department of Corrections has never used midazolam, which has been involved in several prolonged and apparently painful executions in other states. Virginia procured the drug from a compounding pharmacy whose name is shielded from the public.

Attorneys for Gray, who murdered a well-loved Richmond couple and their young daughters in 2006, filed an emergency application for a stay of execution Tuesday with the U.S. Supreme Court, after Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) declined to commute his sentence.

"It is the Governor's responsibility to ensure that the laws of the Commonwealth are properly carried out unless circumstances merit a stay or commutation of the sentence," said a statement from McAuliffe, who is opposed to the death penalty but has promised to uphold the state’s capital punishment law. "After extensive review and deliberation, I have found no such circumstances."

McAuliffe's refusal came after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuitdeclined last week to halt the execution.

"Ricky's execution will serve no purpose other than retribution," Gray's attorneys, Jon Sheldon and Rob Lee, said in a statement after McAuliffe announced his decision. "We regret that he will no longer be able to try to make amends for his past wrongs."

The execution of Gray, 39, would be the 1st since October 2015 and the 1st to take place since the state passed a law to keep secret the identities of pharmacies that produce the lethal drugs, as a way to protect them from political pressure.

Gray has admitted that, with help from his nephew Ray Dandridge, he beat his wife to death with a lead pipe and dumped her body on a hill in Washington, Pa. in October 2005. 3 months later, on New Year's Eve, they attacked Ryan Carey as he walked from his car to his parents' home in Arlington, stabbing him multiple times, according to Gray's confession. Carey ran into the home and survived, but he permanently lost the use of his right arm.

The next day, as the Harvey family in Richmond prepared for its New Year's Day party, Gray and Dandridge entered their home through an unlocked door. They brought Kathryn, Bryan, 9-year-old Stella and 4-year-old Ruby to the basement, tied them up and taped their mouths closed. After ransacking the house, Gray cut every family member's throat. He bludgeoned them with claw hammers. Then he poured 2 bottles of wine over an easel and lit a match, setting the basement on fire. The men left with some electronics, a wedding ring and a plate of homemade cookies.

The scene was so awful that when homicide detectives arrived, they cried.

Gray and Dandridge say 21-year-old Ashley Baskerville helped them target the Harveys and hide after the murders. A week later, they planned to attack Baskerville's mother and stepfather. They were bound, stabbed, then gagged and suffocated in their home. So was Baskerville, who Gray reportedly complained was nagging him for money.

Advocates against the death penalty argue that Gray's crimes are irrelevant to the concerns regarding midazolam, a drug normally prescribed for anxiety and minor surgery.

"One of the hallmarks of constitutional safeguards is that they exist to protect everybody," said Robert Dunham, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center. "One does not get to torture somebody because you don't like what they've been convicted of doing."

In 5 out of 19 executions in which midazolam has been used since its introduction in 2014, according to statistics compiled by the Death Penalty Information Center, the condemned person has shown signs of pain or difficulty breathing and has taken longer to die than expected.

Although use of the drug in executions was narrowly upheld by the Supreme Court, the pharmacologist who testified in favor of its use relied heavily on the consumer website drugs.com. Arizona has pledged to stop using midazolam.

Because of the way the drug affects the brain, experts say, there's a limit on how effective even a massive dose can be.

"It's used to decrease anxiety - it's not used by itself to produce anesthesia," said S. Stevens Negus, a professor of pharmacology at Virginia Commonwealth University and 1 of 16 pharmacologists who told the Supreme Court that midazolam was not being used appropriately in executions. "It will produce relaxation and that relaxation may be sufficiently severe to produce sleep, but in studies we've conducted, it does not eliminate sensation to pain."

In Virginia, midazolam will be used as the first drug in a three-drug protocol, along with rocuronium bromide to cause paralysis and potassium chloride to stop the heart. The 1st and 3rd drugs were produced by a compounding pharmacy; under a 2016 state law, the name and other particulars are kept secret.

A spokesman for the Virginia Department of Corrections said a similar protocol has "been used successfully ... many times in states like Florida."

Gray's lawyers also say his traumatic upbringing and drug use was not fully explained or appreciated when he was sentenced to death. In a video released last week, family members say that as a child, Gray was beaten by his father almost daily with cords, pipes, and a leather belt labeled with Ricky's name. He was violently raped by an older brother almost as often. Gray began using PCP as a small child and was high on the drug during his killing spree.

"Remorse is not a deep enough word for how I feel," Gray says in the video. "I robbed them of a lifelong supply of joy. I've stolen Christmas, birthdays, and Easters, Thanksgivings, graduations, and weddings, children. ... I'm sorry they had to be a victim of my despair."

2 of Gray's nieces say in the video that since going to prison, Gray has become a father figure, encouraging them to do well in school and stay out of trouble.

"If he was executed ... I would just lose all my motivation, I just wouldn't even have a purpose anymore," one niece says.

Last week, lawyers for Gray presented the evidence of abuse to Judge Henry Hudson, who ruled that Gray failed to prove that use of midazolam, compounded or otherwise, is unconstitutional. Moreover, he said that Virginia offers all prisoners a constitutional alternative: the electric chair.

(source: Washington Post)

NORTH CAROLINA:

Man faces death penalty if convicted in Iredell Co. homicide, kidnapping

A man accused of killing a woman and kidnapping her daughter in Iredell County last month faces the death penalty if convicted, sources confirmed Wednesday.

Gary Stephen Love, 47, faces the death penalty if convicted of murder, sexual assault and kidnapping.

Iredell deputies responded to a welfare check around 7:30 a.m. Dec. 26 at a home on Cool Springs Road, where they found 46-year-old Robin Denman dead and her 14-year-old daughter who said she'd been tied up for days.

Denman knew Love, deputies say.

Deputies made the trip to the Statesville home after the 14-year-old texted a friend saying she needed help.

When deputies arrived they talked to Love and asked about the whereabouts of Denman and her daughter. Love reportedly told them the 2 were at a funeral. Deputies said Love then ran from the house but was found, and taken into custody.

Deputies say they looked through the house and found Denman's body "concealed" inside.

While deputies were investigating, Denman's 14-year-old daughter was found in a "hysterical" state. She told officials she ran from the house when she heard cars pull up, not knowing it was law enforcement.

The teen told deputies Love tied her up and had been holding her in the house since Christmas Eve, which was the last time she saw her mother.

According to Iredell County detectives, Love has only been in North Carolina for about 90 days. They believe Love and Denman knew each other when they lived in New York.

Love is also accused of sexual assault in the case.

He had an outstanding warrant in Ohio for domestic violence related charges and had an active protection order against him.

(source: WBTV news)

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

Gary Love to face death penalty if found guilty

The man accused of murdering a woman and kidnapping and sexually assaulting her 14-year-old daughter will face the death penalty if found guilty.

Gary Love is accused of killing a 46-year-old woman, as well as binding and sexually assaulting her 14-year-old daughter inside the child's own home. Love, who was described as a family friend, had been staying with the family for several months when the incident occurred.

Initially arrested on held on the charge of murder, Love is now facing 10 counts felony statutory sex offense with a child less than 15-year-sold, 1 count of felony 1st-degree kidnapping, felony indecent liberties with a child, felony sexual servitude with child victim and one count of assault on a female.

In addition to being held without the opportunity for bond on the initial murder charge, Love received a $3 million secured bond for the new charges.

(source: WCNC news)

OHIO:

Death row inmate Jalowiec seeks new sentencing after court ruling

Lawyers for convicted killer Stanley Jalowiec have asked a county judge to order a new sentencing hearing for the death row inmate.

The request, filed last week in Lorain County Common Pleas Court, argues that a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling should render the process Ohio judges use to determine whether a death sentence should be imposed unconstitutional.

Richard Cline, chief counsel for the Ohio Public Defender's Office Death Penalty Department, wrote in his court filing that the Supreme Court has ruled that Florida's death penalty law was unconstitutional because it requires "the judge, not the jury, to make the factual determinations necessary to support a sentence of death."

Ohio follows much the same pattern with a jury recommending to a judge whether to impose a death sentence, he argued. If even 1 juror doesn't recommend death, the defendant in the case receives a life prison sentence.

If the jury unanimously recommends a death sentence, the final decision lies with the judge hearing the case, who can follow the jury's recommendation or decide not to impose a death sentence.

Cline said Tuesday that the law doesn't require the judge to make actual findings to support his decision, something he argued the new Supreme Court ruling requires.

Since such findings weren't done when Jalowiec was sentenced to death in 1996, he is entitled to a new sentencing hearing, Cline argued.

County Prosecutor Dennis Will said the difference between the Florida case and what happens in Ohio is that in Florida a judge imposed a death sentence despite a jury recommending against it. That can't happen under Ohio law he said, adding that Ohio courts have already rejected the arguments being raised by Jalowiec's legal team.

"I don't think there's any merit to his argument," Will said.

Jalowiec has long denied that he was involved in the killing of police informant Ronald Lally in 1994. The body of Lally, who had been shot, stabbed, beaten and run over by a car, was found in a Cleveland cemetery.

Jalowiec's lawyers unsuccessfully tried to have his conviction overturned by arguing there was police and prosecutorial misconduct in the case, but judges have rejected those allegations.

Jalowiec has claimed he was at his mother's home at the time of the killing, which also led the conviction of Raymond Smith, whose death sentence was reduced to a life prison term after he was found to be mentally handicapped.

Daniel Smith, Raymond Smith's son, also was charged in the killing but was acquitted in the case.

(source: The Chronicle-Telegram)

KENTUCKY:

Brice Rhodes an issue for execution foes

You see Brice Rhodes and his unnerving smirk on television and in the newspaper and you think of the things he's accused of doing. It's difficult not to despise him.

It's also hard not to think that the world would be better off without him.

The Rev. Pat Delahanty, Kentucky's leading death penalty foe, has been fighting to keep people like him alive for more than 3 decades.

Police and prosecutors say Rhodes is a 3-time killer - 2 of his victims teenage brothers whom he lured to his mother's apartment before stabbing the boys multiple times and then ordering 2 teenage accomplices to stab them more. They say he then dumped their lifeless bodies in an abandoned lot.

All so they couldn't snitch on him for the other murder he allegedly committed.

Prosecutors say Rhodes tried to throw urine on a corrections officer, threatened another one and assaulted an inmate. He allegedly spat on his former lawyer and threatened him. He told a judge in open court that he would track her down and kill her and her family once he gets out.

Most recently, prosecutors said he tried to dig his way out of his cell at Metro Corrections.

His evil is palpable.

His defiance so pervasive, he's got to be hauled into court wearing a Hannibal Lecter-type mask to keep him from spitting on people, and strapped to a chair so he can't attack anyone.

Prosecutors haven't said if they will seek the death penalty against him, but he seems like a perfect example of why some people believe the death penalty ought to exist. If he did what prosecutors claim, he is, by all appearances, an unrepentant killer.

Delahanty, who is chairman of the Kentucky Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, says none of that should matter. He argues that no one but God should take a life, that the death penalty is too expensive to impose and from a perspective that is designed to appeal to conservatives - if government has trouble keeping potholes filled, why should we trust it to make such life and death decisions.

The case of Rhodes is troubling. In 2013, his mother called the police after she said Rhodes beat her with his fists and his feet and then with a wooden chair. It wasn't the only time that he allegedly hit her.

A year later, he pulled her hair, grabbed her around the neck and threw her to the ground, she told police. He's had drug charges in the past as well as a theft charge. But the violence of a man who struggled to keep his temper allegedly exploded last year.

Brandon McLeod, the attorney who represented Rhodes briefly until he learned that the 2 dead teenagers were the grandchildren of a friend, said he doesn't know Rhodes well but has known his mother for years and isn't aware of anything in Rhodes' upbringing that would portend such wickedness.

"She is a very good person," he said of Shawna Rhodes, Brice Rhodes' mother. "She's just a nice, hard-working lady."

As death penalty opponents gear up for yet another attempt to end the death penalty in Kentucky during the 2017 General Assembly - this time with Republicans planning to sponsor bills in both houses - the specter of Brice Rhodes will hang over that effort, which remains unlikely to succeed in the near term. 6 states have abolished the death penalty since 2007, but Kentucky opponents have met with little success, getting a committee hearing on an abolition bill for just the 1st time last year.

Delahanty said for years, legislators have pointed to particularly heinous cases to justify their support for the death penalty, which hasn't been carried out in Kentucky since 2008 when Marco Allen Chapman was given a lethal injection for murdering 2 children and stabbing their mother and sister.

There have always been bad people who seem to cry out for death. The worst in Kentucky may be Robert Foley, who is serving 2 death sentences for killing 6 people in Laurel County more than 2 decades ago. 4 of them, Foley buried in a septic tank.

It's hard for someone who's a bit ambivalent about the death penalty - someone who worries about the inequities of it, who fears that the system isn't perfect and an innocent person could be killed, who just isn't sure government should be in the business of killing - not to pause when they think about someone like Foley or Rhodes.

But Delahanty argues that it really shouldn't matter, that the core problems with the death penalty still persist.

He doesn't even try to defend Rhodes or argue for his mercy. Some things are indefensible.

(source: The Courier-Journa;)

COLORADO:

On proposed Colorado death penalty repeal, some key questions

Senate Minority Leader Lucia Guzman, a Denver Democrat and a Methodist pastor, plans to introduce a death penalty repeal bill this week. It will be an uphill climb in Colorado. Here are some points to consider as the effort unfolds.

Elections

The opening will be gone in a flash. Elections season is barely behind us, but the next major legislative elections will be held in 2018 - or as the new old saying goes: "2 years is the new 2 weeks! Put down that coffee, fool, and start knocking doors!"

It will difficult to get Democrats in swing districts to go on the record in support of a death penalty repeal. It will be way more difficult to get Republicans to go on the record in support.

Guzman

Guzman may be exactly the right figure to lead the effort. Chosen by her Democratic colleagues to head the Senate caucus for the second year in a row, Guzman derives her strength as a leader for the personal respect and affection she engenders on both sides of the aisle. She is praised by lawmakers for the thoughtful approach she brings to issues and has been lauded for working hard to fully consider opposing views. With Guzman leading the repeal effort, the conversation might get the kind of head start through which it could shed hours of calendar time that otherwise would be filled with posturing and point making.

Guzman reportedly has been working for some time quietly behind the scenes building support. So, who has she brought around?

Hickenlooper

When Hickenlooper won the governorship, he supported the death penalty. Then, in 2013, he was faced with signing off on the execution of convicted killer Nathan Dunlap. Hickenlooper was deeply conflicted. Ultimately, he granted Dunlap a reprieve, a move that drew harsh criticism as soft for the fact that it signaled his opposition to capital punishment as it is practiced today even as it left Dunlap subject to the leanings of the state's next governor.

Hickenlooper has since firmed up his stance. He announced that he will not sign off on new executions. He is also term limited and so more free to make big statements on controversial issues. The governor might be all the more influential as a champion of the Guzman repeal for the fact that, out of conviction, he has endured the political slings and arrows of a very public evolution on the matter.

Fields

What about former Aurora state Rep. and freshman Democratic Sen. Rhonda Fields? Has Guzman won her over?

Fields is a dependably liberal lawmaker, but she has made repeat headlines for powerfully opposing efforts to repeal the death penalty in Colorado. Her opposition is passionate and articulate and tied to personal tragedy.

2 of the 3 inmates on death row in Colorado landed there for gunning down Fields' son, Javad Marshall-Fields, and his fiance, Vivian Wolfe. The 2 were killed on a street corner to prevent Marshall-Fields from testifying in a gangland murder case.

Fields told Westword that the 2012 movement to repeal the death penalty felt like a "slap in the face." She also noted that, in the wake of the chilling Aurora Theater massacre, the effort would send the wrong message to a shocked and reeling nation. "I think it's an insult to crime victims," she said. "I don't think the timing is right."

Maybe now the timing is right. It would be an enormous win for Guzman and the repeal effort if Fields came out in support.

Priola, and frustrated Republicans

What about quiet Republican Senate support? Republicans control the upper chamber and can see to it through committee assignment that any progress the bill might win early on is halted long before it can make it to the floor for a vote.

But Guzman may have at least 1 like-minded colleague across the aisle and, who knows, careful negotiation might bring support from unexpected quarters.

Former Henderson state Rep. and freshman Sen. Kevin Priola, a devout Catholic, in 2012 joined with Democratic House colleagues to sponsor a death penalty repeal bill. Priola has won election after election in tough districts in tough years and last year won a top legislative race for carefully watched swing Senate District 25.

Other Republicans are deeply frustrated with the current state of the death penalty in Colorado.

Sen. Kevin Lundberg a Berthoud Republican, is one of the strong veteran conservatives in the chamber. Last year he ran a bill that echoed frustration felt in many corners of the state when James Holmes, the Aurora Theater shooter, received a life sentence without parole. His Senate Bill 64 aimed to eliminate the state requirement that 12 jurors unanimously agree to impose a death penalty. The bill died in committee. Guzman strongly opposed it.

But the bill clearly came from Lundberg's heart. He told The Colorado Statesman after the hearing last year that the state's death penalty system no longer functioned and had become policy in name only. "Is the death penalty in Colorado a reality or is it a fiction?" he said, shaking his head.

The current state of the death penalty is surely a continuing, if not gnawing, source of dissatisfaction for him. There was a sense in the way Lundberg talked about it that suggested he felt the state was not being straight with its residents. That would still be the case in his mind, given that nothing in regard to the policy has changed, and so it might be the kind of sentiment in which Guzman could find a door to open onto an alternate reality Colorado Senate that might advance her bill.

(source: The Colorado Statesman)

IRAN----executions

4 Prisoners Hanged on Drug Charges

4 prisoners were reportedly hanged at Mashhad's Vakilabad Prison on drug related charges.

According to the human rights news agency HRANA, the executions were carried out on the morning of Tuesday January 17. 1 of the prisoners has been identified as Ahmad Shekarabi, sentenced to death on the charge of possession and trafficking 5 kilograms of heroin.

"Ahmad's first death sentence was quashed by the Supreme Court, but he was sentenced to death again by branch 8 of Mashhad's Revolutionary Court, presided by Judge Mazloom," a source close to Mr. Shekarabi's family tells Iran Human Rights. The source insists that Mr. Shekarabi was innocent.

The source adds: Ahmad was a cab driver who had a customer whom he would pick up packages forn at various addresses. The last time Ahmad did so, he arrived at the pick up location and noticed his customer had been arrested. As soon as Ahmad had arrived, he was also arrested, even though he explained that he's just the cab driver. However, the customer denied this and claimed that Ahmad was aware that the packages contained drugs and was involved in the operation. The customer's testimony had many inconsistensies to the point that Ahmad was first exonerated, but branch 2 of the court sentenced him to death anyway. After the Supreme Court quashed his death sentence [pending a new trial], he was sentenced to death again, and this time the Supreme Court confirmed the death sentence.

Iranian official sources, including the Judiciary and the media, have been silent about these executions.

The names of the other 3 prisoners are not known at this time.

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

Prisoner Hanged on Drug Charges

A prisoner was reportedly hanged at Bandar Abbas Central Prison on drug related charges. According to close sources, the execution was carried out on the morning of Tuesday Janaury 17. The prisoner has been identified as Ramezan Yousef Heydari, 36 years old.

Mr. Yousef Heydari was arrested on March 2, 2011 on the charges of possession and trafficking 900 grams of crystal meth and 2 kilograms and 200 grams of crack. He was sentenced to death on May 1, 2013 by the Bandar Abbas Revolutionary Court.

"Ramezan drove a Saipa vehicle, and the day they arrested him, they discovered the drugs in the tire of his car - but the drugs weren't his. He never once confessed that the drugs were his," a source close to Mr. Yousef Heydari tells Iran Human Rights.

Iranian official sources, including the Judiciary and the media, have not announced Mr. Yousef Heydari's execution.

(source for both: Iran Human Rights)

EGYPT:

Urgent Action

6 MEN AT IMMINENT RISK OF EXECUTION

6 men submitted their final appeal to the Supreme Military Court in December 2016. The men were sentenced to death by a military court in May 2016, in a case marred by enforced disappearances and torture. If the court rejects their appeal, the men could be executed at any time.

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

* Calling on the Egyptian authorities to retry all those convicted in the case before an ordinary, civilian court, without recourse to the death penalty, and in proceedings that respect international fair trial standards and exclude "confessions" and other evidence obtained through torture and other ill-treatment;

* Calling upon them to open an effective, independent and impartial investigation into the allegations of enforced disappearance, torture and other ill-treatment;

* Urging them to establish an official moratorium on executions with a view to abolishing the death penalty.

Contact these 2 officials by 1 March, 2017:

Important note: Please do not forward this Urgent Action email directly to these officials. Instead of forwarding this email that you have received, please open up a new email message in which to write your appeals to each official. This will help ensure that your emails are not rejected. Thank you for your deeply valued activism!

Defence Minister

Colonel General Sedqi Sobhi

Ministry of Defence

Cairo, Arab Republic of Egypt

Fax: +202 2 414 4248 / +202 2 414 4247

Email: mc@afmic.gov.eg, mod@afmic.gov.eg

Salutation: Your Excellency

Ambassador Yasser Reda, Embassy of Egypt

3521 International Ct NW,

Washington DC 20008

Fax: 202 244 4319 - OR- 202 244 5131

Phone: 202 895 5400

Email: ambassador@egyptembassy.net

Salutation: Dear Ambassador

(source: Amnesty International USA)

PENNSYLVANIA:

Jury seated for Easton death-penalty trial

After more than a week of jury selection, the death-penalty trial of a Riegelsville man accused of murdering another man inside a downtown Easton hotel room will begin Wednesday morning with opening statements.

It took the individual questioning of 130 potential jurors, but on Tuesday evening, Northampton County prosecutors and Jeffrey S. Knoble Jr.'s lead defense lawyer reached agreement on the last of the 12 jurors and 4 alternates who will preside over his fate.

Knoble, 27, is accused of murdering a man nearly 2 years ago, then recording cellphone video of the corpse. With prosecutors seeking a death sentence, jury selection was a lengthy process, since would-be panelists had to be questioned 1-by-1 over their views of capital punishment and their ability to be impartial.

Knoble is charged with homicide, robbery and firearms offenses in the March 11, 2015, shooting of Andrew "Beep" White, 32, of Easton at the former Quality Inn on South Third Street. Authorities have called White a good Samaritan who had rented a room for Knoble that night because he had no place to stay.

Knoble was arrested the day of the shooting, after his mother called police after her son showed her a video of a dead man he claimed to have shot, according to prior testimony. Police later discovered White's body with a bullet wound at the hotel.

Knoble's trial has been delayed several times. In the months leading up to it, he has often proved disruptive in court, with outbursts that included mocking White's family and swearing at Judge Emil Giordano.

His court-appointed defense team, Gavin Holihan and Matthew Deschler, are the second set of lawyers Knoble has had. In September, his public defenders were permitted to withdraw from his case, after he repeatedly clashed with them.

(source: The Morning Call)

VIRGINIA----impending execution

Virginia inmate facing execution argues against drug 'cocktail'

A Virginia inmate set to be executed on Wednesday for murdering 2 young sisters during a 2006 killing spree has asked the Supreme Court for a stay, arguing that the 1st-ever use of compounded lethal drugs violates his constitutional rights.

Ricky Gray, 39, is scheduled to die by lethal injection on Wednesday evening at the Greensville Correctional Center if the U.S. high court turns down his bid for a stay.

Gray's lawyers filed an emergency petition with the Supreme Court on Tuesday, saying that the 3-drug combination could cause Gray unnecessary suffering and thereby violate constitutional guarantees against cruel and unusual punishment.

The execution would mark the 1st time a U.S. state has used 2 of the drugs - midazolam and potassium chloride - provided by a compounding pharmacy, according to the court filing.

Gray's lawyers argue that compounding pharmacies typically follow an informal recipe attempting to approximate the patented process approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Midazolam is an anesthetic and potassium chloride stops the heart. The 3rd drug in the so-called cocktail, rocuronium bromide, causes paralysis

Gray's attorneys say that midazolam has already failed to render prisoners unconscious during executions in Alabama, Arizona, Ohio and Oklahoma.

Pharmaceutical manufacturers have stopped making some drugs available for use in executions, and Virginia state law allows the vendor's identity to remain secret.

Arizona last month reached a settlement with lawyers for death row inmates that would bar midazolam from use in executions.

Gray was sentenced to die for the 2006 slayings of sisters Ruby Harvey, 4, and Stella Harvey, 9, in Richmond. He also killed their parents, Bryan Harvey, 49, and Kathryn Harvey, 39.

His accomplice, Ray Dandridge, was sentenced to life. The pair also killed Ashley Baskerville, 21, who had been a lookout when Gray killed the Harveys as well as her mother, Mary Tucker, 47, and stepfather Percyell Tucker, 55.

Gray has said he is willing to die by firing squad, which is not an option for executions in Virginia.

If carried out, the execution will be second in the United States this year. The United States has executed 1,453 people since the Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

(source: One America News Network)

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

Gray Execution: Last Stop, Supreme Court

A Virginia inmate scheduled to be put to death this week for the slayings of two young girls has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to halt his execution.

Ricky Gray filed an emergency appeal with the high court on Tuesday. Gray is scheduled to be executed Wednesday for the slayings of 9-year-old Stella Harvey and her 4-year-old sister Ruby. Gray was convicted of killing the girls and their parents at their home on New Year's Day 2006.

Gray is challenging the state's plans to use lethal injection drugs from a secret compounding pharmacy. A federal court in Richmond and the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals have rejected Gray's efforts to put his execution on hold so that he can bring his legal challenge.

Gray says the use of compounded midazolam will cause him a cruel and painful death.

(source: Associated Press)

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

The view from a cell near death row

"Most of us would rather die."

I had to ask John to repeat that because I wasn't sure I'd heard him correctly. An ongoing case of tinnitus and the poor quality of phone service in the Virginia prison system mean I don't hear everything as well as I once did. John repeated what he had just said. "Seriously, Jimmy, most of the people I've talked to about this would rather get the death penalty than spend the rest of our lives in here."

For my stepson John, "here" is Greensville Correctional Center in Jarrett, in a cellblock next to the one that houses Ricky Gray, the inmate scheduled to be put to death today for the heinous 2005 murders of a family in Richmond. As you might imagine, John and his fellow inmates have a different perspective than most and virtually a front row seat to the what he described as a "circus." It's far and away a different description from the mundane routine of prison life John has described to me over the years.

John was rather adamant about his point of view. He is scheduled for release in July 2020. No matter what happens, he has that date to look forward to.

"It seems like a long way off, but I remember when I first arrived here and I know I'm closer to getting out than I was then, but I can't imagine how awful it would be, being where I am now with no hope of ever getting out."

Several other inmates, John said, would rather face a date with the executioner than the possibility of growing old inside a prison. With a life sentence, there's also the punishment of being forgotten.

When John was sentenced back in 2012, he boasted that his friends would "be there" for him, claiming that they'd keep in touch, would write and visit him often. Sadly, for John and many prisoners like him, this just doesn't hold true.

Once-close friends and even family members go on with their lives. For many of the so-called friends, the idea of sitting down and writing a letter or taking an entire day out of their busy lives to go through the process of visiting an inmate in a state prison becomes easier to excuse than it is to do.

Eventually, the letters stop coming, the visits become rare, then never happen and money is almost never sent. If an offender hasn't entirely alienated them, the day eventually comes when family is almost all that is left to the offender.

The only ones who can't ever forget are the loved ones of the victims and the offenders, their lives continually upended by the crime and its aftermath.

Then there's this paradox: Yes, Ricky Gray committed unspeakable crimes and his own choices brought him to where he is today. Gray deserves punishment. Just as no one wants their family or loved one to ever be the victim of violent crime, it is safe to assume that no one ever wants a family member or loved one to perpetrate a violent crime.

For both the families and loved ones of the victims as well as the offender, it is an unenviable emotional rollercoaster. One side demands justice, the other side seeks mercy. Our legal system stands between them and must render a decision that won't please everyone.

Perhaps that is one of the reasons why Lady Justice wears a blindfold; she just doesn't want to see the mess people make of not only of their victim's lives, but their own, as well, and the the lives of others who care about them.

I know exactly how she feels; the problem is, neither of us can turn away.

(source: Guest Column, Jimmy Frost----The Virginian-Pilot)

FLORIDA:

Markeith Loyd could face death penalty, legal experts say

The search for an accused police killed ended after 9 long days but the road to justice is far from finished, legal experts say.

Orlando, Orange County, state and federal law enforcement officers captured Markeith Loyd, 41, Tuesday evening at an abandoned house 5-minutes from where police said the suspect gunned down Orlando police Lt. Debra Clayton at Walmart on Jan. 9.

Clayton was attempting to contact Loyd at the John Young Parkway store because he was wanted on a warrant for the Dec. 13 shooting death of his former pregnant girlfriend.

Loyd will likely have a 1st appearance in Orange County on Wednesday where his bail will definitely be denied, News 6 legal expert Steven Kramer said.

"He will be kept in isolation in jail," Kramer said. "He has nothing to lose."

Loyd was held up in an abandoned Orlando house with 2 firearms, 1 with a 100-round drum attached, and was wearing body armor, according to Orlando police.

The man Crimeline offered a $100,000 reward for faces a slew of charges which could result in a death sentence, Kramer said.

Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings said deputies will serve warrants Tuesday night to charge Loyd with 2 1st-degree murder charges and 2 counts of aggravated assault with a firearm for the shooting death of his former girlfriend, 24-year-old Sade Dixon and her unborn child.

Loyd is also charged with 1 count of attempted homicide for allegedly shooting Dixon's brother, Demings said.

Orlando police have not yet announced the charges related to Clayton's death.

1st-degree murder of a law enforcement officer is punishable by death or life in prison without parole.

Kramer said it is unclear whether Loyd will also be charged with felony murder for Deputy First Class Norman Lewis, who was fatally struck while on his motorcycle attempting to aid in the search for Loyd.

Orlando police Chief John Mina said after Loyd's capture that more arrests are coming for people who aided and abetted Loyd on his run from the law.

Loyd's former boss, his niece and an ex-girlfriend were arrested this week and charged with helping Loyd avoid capture.

The property where Loyd was captured is tied to some of his known associates, Mina said.

As for a trial, it won't happen anytime soon, Kramer said. It could be months before all the evidence and witnesses are processed.

The prosecutor who is assigned to the case will be "a skilled pro who knows what they are doing with death cases," Kramer said.

Unless Loyd hires another defense lawyer, he will receive a public defender.

Loyd will be tried at the downtown Orange County Courthouse. Both Orlando and Orange County are in the Ninth Judicial Circuit Court.

(source: clickorlando.com)

OHIO:

Northern Ohio bishop asks governor to end death penalty

The head of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Toledo is calling on Ohio Gov. John Kasich to end the death penalty in the state.

The request comes as Ohio takes steps to carry out an execution in January that would be the state's 1st in 3 years.

Bishop Daniel Thomas has sent a letter to the Republican governor saying the Catholic faith opposes the death and affirms the sacredness of all life.

Thomas says there will be a candlelight prayer vigil next month for abolishing the death penalty.

The Toledo diocese serves 320,000 Catholics in 19 counties across northern Ohio.

(source: WHIO news)

NEBRASKA:

Chambers submits new bill to repeal Nebraska's death penalty

A Nebraska senator who opposes the death penalty is once again trying to abolish the punishment even though voters reinstated it last year.

Sen. Ernie Chambers of Omaha introduced the repeal bill on Tuesday. Chambers has tried to outlaw the punishment for roughly 4 decades.

Lawmakers voted to abolish the punishment in 2015 over Gov. Pete Ricketts' veto, but the law never went into effect. A group partially financed by Ricketts responded with a petition drive that suspended the law until voters decided whether to keep it.

In November, 61 % of voters who cast a ballot on the issue chose to overturn the Legislature's decision.

(source: KETV news)

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

Lotter challenging Nebraska 3-judge method on death penalty

A man convicted in the murder case that inspired the 1999 movie "Boys Don't Cry" has joined a fellow death-row inmate in challenging Nebraska's three-judge method for determining death sentences.

Attorneys for John Lotter argue that he had a right to have jurors, not judges, weigh his fate when he was sentenced to death in 1996. The attorneys cite a U.S. Supreme Court ruling last year that struck down Florida's death-penalty process, saying it gave too much power to judges to make the ultimate decision. After that ruling, Delaware's high court followed suit and threw out that state's death penalty-determining method.

Lotter was condemned for his role in the 1993 killings of Brandon Teena and 2 witnesses, Lisa Lambert and Philip DeVine, at a rural Humboldt farmhouse.

A similar appeal has been filed on behalf of Jeffrey Hessler, convicted in the 2003 rape and murder of 15-year-old Gering newspaper carrier Heather Guerrero.

The Nebraska attorney general's office has filed motions arguing that Nebraska's sentencing scheme allows jury participation and is not identical to the one struck down in Florida.

In Nebraska, when a defendant is convicted in a death penalty case, the jury that decided guilt also decides whether aggravating factors exist to justify the defendant's execution. If the jury finds such, a three-judge panel is convened to determine whether the aggravating factors outweigh any mitigating factors in the defendant's favor. The 3 judges also must determine if the death sentence is warranted and, if so, whether it is proportionate to the penalty imposed in similar cases.

The 3 judges ultimately determine whether the defendant gets death or life in prison.

Attorney Jerry Soucie, who has represented several Nebraska death-row inmates, said Friday that he expects the state's other 8 death-row inmates to challenge Nebraska's method, too.

"This issue has been floating around a long time," Soucie said.

(source: Associated Press)

WASHINGTON:

Area lawmakers react to proposed death penalty bill

The death penalty could be headed to the grave since Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson, along with former AG Rob McKenna, proposed bipartisan legislation to abolish it in Washington on Monday afternoon.

Instead the sentence would be life in prison without the possibility of parole.

McKenna says the death penalty costs taxpayers millions of dollars and often takes up to 20 years to happen because of delays for appeals.

It's a view shared by the Republican Rep. Terry Nealey: "The steps, the immense and extended time, and the incredible expense and resources it takes to impose and uphold this most severe form of punishment have made the death penalty nearly impossible to carry out. In recent years, even in the most heinous crimes, jurors have failed to impose the death penalty."

Republican Sen. Maureen Walsh is also for the bill: "It's the fiscal conservative in me that says we're spending a lot of money in an appeals process that's again, somewhat of a broken system."

But not all law makers agree with the proposal.

Republican Rep. Brad Klippert says he would totally and completely oppose abolishment of the death penaly, citing his background in law enforcement as to why he's against the proposal.

"I have seen people take other's people's lives in astounding ways horrific ways and I think we should always leave capital punishment, the death penalty as one of our options."

Republican Rep. Larry Haler echoed the position.

"Knowing that if you're going to commit a heinous crime a murder, you will get the death penalty. To me that is something that is a vital part of our criminal system and should remain."

The bill is expected to go to the Senate Law and Justice Committee and the House Judiciary Committee.

The Attorney General's office says the bill's prime sponsors are gathering signatures at this time.

It is expected to be formally introduced later this week.

Action News also reached out to the prosecutor offices of both Benton and Franklin counties about the proposal, but never heard back.

In February of 2014, Gov. Jay Inslee imposed a moratorium on executions in Washington state.

(source: KEPR TV news)

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

State's death penalty too costly, not applied fairly

The particular reasons they cite may differ, but the desired outcome is the same: an end to the death penalty in Washington state.

Gov. Jay Inslee and Attorney General Bob Ferguson, both Democrats, requested legislation to abolish capital punishment, codifying the moratorium that Inslee imposed in 2014, which he then invoked last month when he issued a reprieve to Clark Elmore, sentenced to death for the rape and murder of a 14-year-old girl in Whatcom County in 1995.

The Democrats, including two senators and a House member, were joined at a Monday news conference by prominent Republicans in seeking the legislation: former Attorney General Rob Mc-Kenna, who ran against Inslee in 2012, and Sens. Maureen Walsh of Walla Walla and Mark Miloscia of Federal Way.

In supporting the repeal of the death penalty, Inslee faulted capital punishment for being unevenly applied, frequently overturned and costly. McKenna said that the appeals process is so lengthy, "this is a system in which justice is delayed and delayed to the point where the system is broken," the Associated Press reported. That's a sentiment that was echoed by Walsh in a story by The Spokesman-Review: "It's the fiscal conservative in me that says we're spending a lot of money on what's basically a broken system," Walsh said.

The case against capital punishment has been building since the passage of the current law in 1981.

A 2006 report by the Washington State Bar Association, found that in the 79 death penalty cases brought between 1981 and 2006, the jury imposed the death sentence in 30 cases. Of those, 19 were reversed on appeal and 7 had appeals pending at the time. 4 cases resulted in executions, 3 of which involved defendants who waived their right to appeal.

The bar association report also found that during the initial trial and on direct appeal, the costs to prosecution and defense in death penalty cases were more than $750,000 more costly than non-capital punishment cases, costs that didn't include potential subsequent appeals to the state Supreme Court, the federal appeals court and the U.S. Supreme Court.

A 2015 study by Seattle University, reported by the Death Penalty Information Center, found that costs of prosecuting death penalty cases are now more than $1 million more on average than those where the death penalty is not sought. Defense costs were about three times as high for death penalty cases compared to cases were execution was not sought.

Beyond the cost savings, the bar association report found that an end to the death penalty would allow county prosecutor's offices, public defenders and the courts to redirect time and resources to other cases.

The 2006 bar association report was limited in scope to the costs associated with the death penalty, but it pointed to other issues worth the consideration of the public and state lawmakers.

The report notes the debate about whether the death penalty is applied fairly to racial and ethnic minorities, citing 2 studies that came to different conclusions. One study cited a 1995 state Supreme Court case that found that a review of 1st-degree aggravated murder cases found no racial pattern in the imposition of capital punishment. But a 2004 study cited statistics that showed that 18 % of death penalty defendants were black while comprising only 3 % of the population. By comparison, 67 % of death penalty defendants were whites, but comprised 82 % of the population.

The bar association report also touches on the issue of fair application of the death penalty, comparing how it has been applied to some of the state's most heinous mass murderers, among them the Green River Killer, Gary Ridgeway, who was responsible for at least 48 murders but was sentenced to life in prison.

The state Supreme Court, in a 2006 case where a defendant had killed his wife and her 2 daughters, found in a 5-4 decision that the state's use of the death penalty was not unconstitutional, regardless of the sentence allowed Ridgeway and others. But Justice Charles Johnson, in a dissenting opinion, compared the state's use of the death penalty to lightning, "randomly striking some some defendants and not others. ... No rational explanation exists to explain why some individuals escape the penalty of death and others do not."

The court's majority carried the day, but in its opinion noted: "We do not minimize the importance of this moral question. But it is a question best left to the people and to their elected representatives."

With respected Democrats and Republicans calling for an end to capital punishment - and no lack of relevant information - it's time to take up that question.

(source: Editorial, The Herald)

USA:

18 Arrested at Anti-Death Penalty Protest

On a wet January day - as the nation's capital preps for Inauguration Day and the Women's March on Washington - more than 80 anti-death penalty protesters sang, prayed, and chanted on the steps of the U.S Supreme Court. 18 were arrested for nonviolently proclaiming their beliefs.

The protestors held a large white banner with the words "Stop Executions" written on it as they stood on the highest steps on the Supreme Court building - forbidden to protestors.

Protestors on the lower steps held flowers and large red placards with the names of executed individuals on them.

"We are standing with families who have had their loved ones murdered and families who have had their loved ones executed or put on death row," said activist Shane Claiborne, who was arrested during the protest.

"Violence is a disease not the cure," he continued. "As families themselves say, remember our loved ones but not with more killing. That's our message today."

This protest brought together leaders from faith-based civil rights organizations including Sojourners, supporters of the cause, and people directly affected by the Supreme Court’s death penalty decisions.

1st-time death penalty protestor Don McCraw of Baltimore said he remembers being conflicted about death penalty.

"I didn't really think at first that I had an opinion about it," McCraw said, adding it was mostly due to his own ignorance about how the American government deals with people on death row.

"For me to have knowledge, I need to hear stories about people who have reasons to want the death penalty and still don't support it."

Stories like Bill Pelke's.

Death penalty issues are deeply personal for Pelke, co-founder of Journey of Hope, an organizing partner of the rally. His grandmother was brutally murdered by a 15-year-old girl who was later sentenced to death for the murder.

"Originally I supported that decision, but I became convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt that my grandmother would have been appalled," Pelke said. "I was convinced that she would have had love and compassion for this girl and for her family."

Pelke began working in justice and peace amid his own complex healing process. He began to understand how terribly the death penalty affects both the murder victim’s family as well as the people who commit the crime.

"The death penalty has nothing to do with the healing of the victim's family," Pelke said. "It continues the cycle of violence."

Tevyn East, a participant from Pennsylvania, said she believes her faith binds her to her beliefs about executions.

"Jesus died because of a state-sanctioned violence, so I see it as a faith issue," she said. "I believe it's in our best interest to turn towards more restorative justice."

This rally was organized by a group called Abolition Action Committee, an ad hoc group of activists dedicated to voicing their beliefs in highly visual, nonviolent ways. The group organizes a protest every 5 years on Jan. 17 - the anniversary of the 1st lawful execution in the U.S. Since Gary Gilmore's execution in Utah on Jan. 17, 1977 for the murders of Ben Bushnell and Max Jenson, there have been 1,442 executions in the United States - an issue that many protests find alarming.

Faith leader Tony Campolo said he believes this movement is a call for people of faith to take up their mantle and fight for justice and mercy.

"The thing that people think of when they think of evangelical Christians is that here's a group of people who are for the death penalty, who are opposed to immigrants, who are homophobic, who raise questions about the feminist movement, and we say to ourselves, is that who we are?" Campolo said.

"We are not sure we can be called evangelical anymore if that's what evangelicalism means to the general public."

(source: Sojourners)

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

Death Row Doctor----Dr. Carlo Musso took an oath to do no harm. So why does he take part in executions?

One of the core pillars of medicine is "do no harm." So how do the physicians who take part in the American institution of capital punishment rationalize their involvement? This film profiles Carlo Musso, a doctor who contemplates his moral compass as he participates in executions, though he personally opposes capital punishment.

In recent years, the discussion surrounding capital punishment has shifted from the application of justice to the practice of medicine. Nearly every professional medical organization, including the American College of Correctional Physicians, agrees that lethal injections are not the practice of medicine. The protocols are not scientifically sound and procedures vary widely from state to state. Yet many states require nurse or physician participation. Opponents of medicalized executions say that using facets of medicine (syringes, white coats, gurneys) simply serves to legitimize a practice that most other developed nations abandoned long ago.

Dr. Musso agrees that this may be the case, but is adamant that as long as the United States conducts executions, doctors should be involved. He argues that the involvement of doctors and their ability to ensure what he calls "end of life comfort measures" helps keep our capital punishment system as humane as possible. He is a pragmatist and a businessman, who has founded numerous companies, including CorrectHealth, a provider of correctional health care in Georgia. When I contacted him for this film, he was consumed by his newest venture: a nursing home that would care for geriatric parolees. He said he wanted to be known as someone who cared about end-of-life issues within corrections - whether in geriatrics, the terminally ill or even the condemned.

Though Dr. Musso says he ended his participation in Georgia's executions last year, I couldn't ignore the numerous ways he was inextricably tied to the institution within which he works. Since it was founded in 2000, CorrectHealth has expanded to more than 400 employees. He has faced a complaint for helping the Georgia Department of Correction illegally import execution drugs and sell them across state lines (after investigation, no action was taken). And he told me he planned to organize the patients in his nursing home, as prisons often do, considering past prison behavior and criminal history in addition to illness.

While working on this film, I was reminded of Stanley Milgram's experiments on authority from the 1960s, which revealed how quickly most people betray their own morality in deference to authority. Ultimately, I came to see Dr. Musso as an ordinary man in an extraordinary position - but not so different from the way we all justify flawed institutions to which we belong.

(source: Op-Ed; Lauren Knapp is documentary filmmaker who lives in Virginia. She is a graduate of Stanford University's Master of Fine Arts in Documentary Film and Video program----New York Times)

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

Grace in place of hate -- The death penalty is a coping mechanism for when justice is impossible

Justice is sometimes impossible.

Members of the Emanuel AME Church in South Carolina welcomed Dylann Roof into Bible study, where they discussed scripture before Roof shot and killed 9 people in defense of white supremacy. For the families of the 9 worshippers, courts will never be able to make things right.

Alicia Sanders, whose son was among the victims, said "Every fiber in my body hurts. I'll never be the same," according to USA Today. Nothing the justice system does to Roof can compensate Sanders for her loss.

The death penalty, the conclusion jurors reached in Roof's trial, tries to reconcile the fact that there are crimes for which the criminal cannot atone.

A poll from the University of South Carolina showed that while 64 % of white South Carolinians were in favor of executing Roof, only 31 % of black South Carolinians supported killing him. At first, I thought the racial divide was a result of black Americans' relationship with government - no group of Americans has been quite as exposed to the excesses of state violence.

2 months before Roof 's attack, just a few miles north of Emanuel AME Church, an unarmed man named Walter Scott was shot in the back as he ran away from Officer Michael Slager.

Despite graphic cell phone footage of the incident, and despite Slager being fired, arrested and charged with murder - unlike in many other recent police shootings - Slager was not convicted at his trial last December.

Black Americans are rightfully skeptical of the justice system, and this skepticism extends to the courts' crudest instrument: the death penalty.

But I don't think low support among black Americans for executing Roof reflects doubt in Roof 's guilt or the fairness of his trial. His guilt is evident, and court proceedings have duly dissected each moment of the horrific attack.

Rather, the families of the victims have shown they prefer forgiveness to the death penalty.

According to USA Today, a daughter of one of the victims said to Roof, "I forgive you. You took something very precious away from me ... but I forgive you."

A victim's sister said, "We have no room for hate. So we have to forgive.:

A granddaughter of one of the victims said, "Although my grandfather and the other victims died at the hands of hate, this is proof - everyone's plea for your soul is proof that they lived in love and their legacies will live in love."

Though the opportunity for justice has passed, these brave voices show that there is always a chance for grace. They show a level of integrity and moral clarity I wish politi- cians would match.

If anyone deserves the execution, it is Roof - and this the argument the state made when it decided to pursue the death penalty. Not killing Roof would set a dangerous precedent for not killing other heinous criminals.

But in the process of establishing precedents, procuring lethal injection drugs and crafting the administrative procedure for death sentences, we must not lose sight of the death penalty's role. It is not closure - before Roof 's execution, the state faces a gauntlet of appeals that will take years or decades. It is not justice, which is impossible given the harm Roof inflicted.

The death penalty will be a coping mechanism, the most the justice system can do in the face of Roof 's evil actions. The Emanuel AME Church community shows that a Christian message of grace might be just as effective.

(source: Danny Bugingo, uiargonaut.com)

BANGLADESH:

Thakurgaon court awards death penalty to man for murdering father

A man in Thakurgaon has been given death sentence after he was found guilty of murdering his father.

In its verdict on Wednesday, the court of additional sessions judge convicted 30-year-old Mozaharul Islam in the 2010 killing.

The court also slapped a Tk 10,000 fine on the convict.

Quoting court documents, Prosecutor Abdul Hamid said IdrisAli died on Dec 13, 2010 after his son hit him with a spade following an argument.

Ali's eldest son Ansarul started a police case accusing Mozaharul, after which police arrested him.

The next day Mozaharul confessed to the killing in a court.

(source: bdnews.24.com)

NORTHERN IRELAND:

Last man to be given death penalty clears court hurdle

The last man to be handed the death penalty in Northern Ireland has cleared the 1st stage in a High Court battle over disclosure of inquest documents. Liam Holden, 62, was sentenced to hang for the killing of a British solider in west Belfast in 1972.

The death penalty was then commuted to life in prison before a 40-year fight to clear his name resulted in his murder conviction being quashed in 2012. Mr Holden, who always maintained the military subjected him to water torture and death threats to extract a confession for the shooting of Private Frank Bell, is now claiming compensation for a miscarriage of justice.

He has also issued civil proceedings against the Ministry of Defence and the Chief Constable.The widowed father-of-two's legal representatives were seeking access to all material held on the Private Bell inquest as part of their case.

But before agreeing to disclose the file the Public Records Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI) wanted a binding undertaking that the documents would be kept in the strictest confidence.

Mr Holden's lawyers mounted a bid to judicially review the decision, arguing that the undertaking requirement is unreasonable and unlawful. The information requested includes details on the trajectory of the shooting of the 18-year-old soldier while on foot patrol in Springfield Avenue.

Ballistic evidence and the post-mortem report are also being sought.

Although documentation was later disclosed to Mr Holden's solicitor following an application under the Freedom of Information Act, the court heard 3 categories of redactions remained in the revised file.

Counsel for PRONI argued that the challenge had been rendered academic by last year's introduction of the Court Files Privileged Access Rules (Northern Ireland) giving Mr Holden all available information. Despite the 2016 rules, Mr Justice Treacy still decided to grant leave to seek a judicial review.

He said it involves a similar undertaking requirement and held that others may be affected.

The judge added: "The Freedom of Information Act continues in force, and it is in the public interest to see that redactions made to information supplied under that Act are properly made."

The case will now proceed to a full hearing later this year.

Mr Holden, who was not in court, had his murder conviction quashed by the Court of Appeal following a referral by the Criminal Cases Review Commission. The body set up to examine potential miscarriages of justice deemed the conviction unsafe after an investigative journalist supplied evidence to back claims that waterboarding torture techniques were used.

A confidential dossier was also found to contain relevant material about military rules in 1972 for arresting and questioning a suspect, and a statement of evidence from a soldier.

Appeal judges held that the non-disclosure impacted on the safety of Mr Holden's conviction and could have supported an application to exclude confession evidence.

(source: newsletter.co.uk)

PAKISTAN:

No more love for hangings----A death penalty is a brutal form of punishment which has no space in modern age, and it should be opposed worldwide

Anomalies in the criminal justice system of Pakistan are very common. The example of this could be the recent Supreme Court judgements where it had acquitted 2 convicts who had already been executed a couple of months agoor had ordered the release of persons who had spent long years on death row. These incidences have become routine matter now. How can one argue for keeping the death penalty in such a criminal justice system? To answer this question, we have to see that recently Pakistan chose to vote against the resolution of the general assembly of the United Nations that called for placing a universal moratorium on the death penalty across the world. The resolution had the backing of 117 member states; 41 opted for voting against it, and 31 abstained. From the recent voting trend, it appears that South Asian countries preferred to reject the universal moratorium resolution while some of the countries of this region such like Sri Lanka, Bhutan and Nepal chose to vote in favour of the resolution. Those who abstained included: Bahrain, Cameroon, Comoros, Djibouti, Indonesia, Jordan, Lebanon, Mauritania, Morocco, Niger, Nigeria, Uganda and the UAE. Further more, it is noticeable that 57 member states of (OIC) voted in favour of the resolution, while 13 abstained and 18 voted against, meaning thereby Pakistan was among the minority of 18 members of OIC that voted against the resolution. From the factuality it appears that majority member states of OIC opted for favouring universal ban on the death penalty, while a small minority preferred to vote against the universal ban on the death penalty which included countries like Iran, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Libya, Oman, Maldives, Pakistan, Yemen, Syria, etc.

It can be encapsulated from the voting trend that the majority of OIC member-countries couldn't find any faith-based bar or Islamic ground for accepting are solution that called for a universal ban on the death penalty. It is Pakistan, or I must take a name of Bangladesh as well where religious scholars find arguments in support of the hangings. The leading nations of the OIC - one of the biggest forums of Muslim nations - categorically accepted the general assembly resolution, while minority rejected it. It is also noteworthy that the Law Commission of India in August 2015vide its Report No.262recommended for abolition the death penalty for all crimes but keeping it for terrorism-relatedoffences and waging war. Despitethis, India opted for voting against the resolution that called for placing a universal moratorium on the capital punishment. I think India could have abstained from voting against the resolution instead of voting against.

Being a human rights activist and a criminal lawyer, I oppose the death penalty for numerous reasons and the uttermost one could be that it is irreversible once a convict is executed. The criminal justice system of Pakistan is so flawed that anything can happen. People may be held liable for a guilty of the capital punishment on the basis of frivolous and concocted evidence. The prosecution in order to prove their case beyond the reasonable doubt may drive the whole crime scene against a person standing trial in connivance with the authorities.

It is noted that Pakistan warrants the death penalty for 27 crimes and the number was at two at the time of independence in 1947 - even Islam warrants the capital punishment for only 2 crimes. The question which needs to be asked from the authorities of Pakistan is how it can defend the death penalty for 27 offences? The judiciary has also expressed that it is bound to pen down the death penalty as a punishment, as it is a part of the criminal justice system in circumstances that demands lesser punishment. It is not out of place to mention that the judiciary is bound by the provisions and law made by the Parliament to follow it in letter and spirit. As long as the death penalty is retained in the criminal justice system of Pakistan, the courts of Pakistan will have to follow it, and it cannot award lesser punishment.

In the wake of the Peshawar massacre in 2014,National Action Plan was launched to encounter terrorism and terror-related activities across Pakistan in lieu of which the civilian leadership in consultation with the military leadership, restored the brutal sentencing which was banned in Pakistan by the predecessor government of PPP in 2008. Since 2014, more than 400 convicts had been sent to gallows by the courts but even then, it has noted that the terror related activities and heinous offences in Pakistan had not decreased. This shows that the death penalty is not deterrence to crime at all. An adamant sentiment is to be builtin Pakistan against the abolition of the death penalty. The death penalty is not a social saviour or a way to make a country crime free. The leading nations of Europe, except Belarus, abolished the death penalty years ago, and there the ratio of crime is very low. Even some of American states have started thinking about abolishing the death penalty.

Pakistan must consider placing amoratoriumon death penalty so that juveniles or mentally ill persons are saved from this harsh punishment. Even all those 8,000 inmates who are languishing in violent and notorious jails of Pakistan must be given a chance to settle in as civil citizens instead of sending to them to gallows. A death penalty is a brutal form of punishment which has no space in the modernage, and it should be opposed worldwide.

(source: Opinion, Sarmad Ali; Daily Times)

IRAN----executions

20 Executions in 1 Day; 57 Executions Since the Start of 2017 ---- Maryam Rajavi urges referral of the clerical regime's dossier of crimes to the UN Security Council

The religious fascism ruling Iran has kicked off the New Year with merciless executions en mass.

The execution of at least 57 prisoners, mostly youths, has been registered in Iran since the beginning of 2017. 20 of the victims were hanged on Saturday, January 14, 2017, in Gohardasht Prison, the Central Prison of Karaj, the Lakan Prison of Rasht, and the Dizelabad Prison of Kermanshah.

4 prisoners were executed in Vakilabad Prison of Mashhad on January 17, 2017. Another prisoner was hanged in public in the city of Miandoab, and at least 2 prisoners were executed in Dastgerd Prison of Isfahan on January 16, 2017.

On January 15, 2 young men, 20 and 23, were hanged in the Prison of Kerman. Arman Bahrasmani who was executed in Kerman was only 16 at the time of arrest. 2 other prisoners were executed on the same day in the Central Prison of Qazvin.

3 prisoners in Qazvin and another prisoner in Hamedan were executed on January 12, 2017, and a 21-year-old prisoner was hanged on January 11, 2017, in the Prison of Sari.

The Iranian Resistance's President-elect Maryam Rajavi called on the UN Security Council and other relevant international authorities to condemn the wave of executions by the mullahs' inhuman regime and refer the dossier of the regime's flagrant and systematic violations of human rights to the UNSC.

Mrs. Rajavi added, "The crimes of the religious fascist regime ruling Iran including the massacre of 30,000 political prisoners in 1988 as well as the torture of political prisoners and the mass executions carried out on a daily basis in Iran, are examples of crimes against humanity and those responsible for these crimes must be brought to justice. The International Community's silence and inaction on such crimes against humanity have led to the continuation of executions and killings of prisoners over the past 2 decades."

Mrs. Rajavi called on the courageous youths of Iran to stage protests against the regime's repressive measures and mass executions, and support the families of execution victims. She said, "With such medieval savageries, the clerical regime seeks to prevent the revolt of the people who are fed up with poverty and unemployment, and the repressive regime's oppression and corruption. These crimes, however, will only fuel social fury and discontent and further accelerate the regime's movement towards its ultimate downfall.

(source: The secretariat of the National Council of Resistance of Iran)

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Juvenile Offender Executed in Kerman Prison, Another At Risk in Kermanshah

The Iranian judiciary has executed a juvenile offender who was just 16 years old at the time of the crime for which he received a capital sentence.

Arman Bahr Asemani was hanged the morning of Monday, January 16 in Kerman Prison along with an older co-defendant, Shams Allah R., despite the protest of his lawyer and civil society activists. Born February 10, 1997, Asemani was a legal minor at the time of the 2012 homicide for which he and Allah R. were arrested and charged.

The Iranian press has focused its coverage of the case on Allah R., the legal adult, with scarce reference to Asemani, reports HRANA.

The capital sentences were carried out as another juvenile offender (whose name has not been made public) at imminent risk of execution for his alleged role in a 2012 stabbing homicide has been brought to global attention by United Nations officials. Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in Iran Asma Jahangir, Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions Agnes Callamard, and Chairperson of the Committee on the Rights of the Child Benyam Dawit Mezmur sharply criticized the judiciary's conduct in a joint statement Monday: "The Iranian authorities must immediately halt the execution of this juvenile and annul the death sentence against [the juvenile defendant] in compliance with international standards for the imposition of this form of punishment."

Abdorrahman Boroumand Foundation has documented at least 122 executions of juvenile offenders in Iran since the beginning of 2000. Our juvenile offender project provides an in-depth look at the Iranian judiciary's continued policy of executing such offenders, a practice which clearly violates the country's international legal commitments.

(source: iranrights.org)

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Political Prisoners on Death Row in Iran Fear Reinstatement of Long-Term Visitations Ban

Political prisoners Zanyar Moradi and Loghman Moradi, both ethnic Kurds on death row in Rajaee Shahr Prison in Karaj, have been denied visitations since mid-December 2016 without reason and worry a previous ban that lasted for years has been reinstated.

"I don't have a good feeling about this visitation ban," Loghman Moradi told the Campaign for Human Rights in Iran in an interview from prison on January 12, 2017. "I don't know what's about to happen."

"After our arrest in 2009 and until 2013, we were banned from having any visits," he added. "In 2013, they allowed us visitations like all the other prisoners. Now the ban has been reinstated. I don't know what their intention is. Do they want to put pressure on us?

"A month ago, Mr. Haji-Moradi, who recently replaced Mr. Hajilou as deputy prosecutor of Tehran, decided he doesn't want to let us, meaning me and Loghman, to have visitations. I wrote letters to both Mr. Hajilou and Mr. Haji-Moradi, but neither has written back. I'm not optimistic. It can't be good if they have isolated us after 3 years of regular visitations," said Loghman Moradi.

Zanyar Moradi and Loghman Moradi (no relation) were sentenced to death in 2009 for "involvement in the murder of the Marivan Friday imam's (prayer leader's) son" and "moharebeh (enmity with God)." The men denied the charges in court and said they only confessed to the murder because agents of the Intelligence Ministry had tortured them.

Members of ethnic or religious minorities in Iran who engage in criticism of the government are singled out by the Judiciary for particularly harsh treatment, and there is a well-documented history of the Judiciary disproportionately meting out capital punishment to minority activists.

Zanyar Moradi, 27, and Loghman Moradi, 29, were held in 2009 for 9 months in the Intelligence Ministry's detention center in Sanandaj, the capital of Kurdistan Province, and 6 months in Sanandaj Central Prison before being transferred to Ward 209 in Evin Prison in Tehran.

On December 22, 2010 they were sentenced to death by Judge Abolqassem Salavati of Branch 15 of the Revolutionary Court and transferred to Rajaee Shahr Prison.

"We've been waiting for a new trial for more than 2 years now, but they won't try us because we have lots of witnesses and evidence that point to our acquittal, but that would be hard to accept for the Intelligence Ministry," Zanyar Moradi told the Campaign in December 2016.

"We have been held in prison for 8 years for what?" he added. "A civil servant went to the Friday prayer leader of Marivan and told him that we did not kill his son. There are other reasons why they won't release us and the main one is that the Intelligence Ministry doesn't want to be embarrassed."

"I demand a fair trial, a trial without bias where I can defend myself against any evidence the Intelligence Ministry wants to present," he said. "That's all I ask. I know myself and I insist on my innocence."

"We Were Tortured"

Speaking about the aftermath of their arrest on August 2, 2009 in Marivan, Kurdistan Province, Zanyar Moradi said: "We were tortured a lot. I still have the marks on my body. I was even operated on in 2012 and 2013 for my injuries. I have slipped discs. I was only 19. I didn't know anything about national security and I certainly didn't have the tolerance for torture. If they had told me to take responsibility for every assassination in Iran since 1970, I would have. I just wanted that terrible torture to end. They had my home address and threatened my mother and little sister. We had no choice. We said we'd accept everything they wanted. They wrote the scenario they were looking for and we signed it."

"Judge Salavati treated us very badly and told us that we should write down anything he says and ask for pardons," he added. "But we didn't trust the system anymore. We wrote the whole truth. But the judge rejected everything we wrote as nonsense."

The Supreme Court upheld the Revolutionary Court's ruling on July 9, 2011, but the men's fate has also been tied to parallel cases that have yet to convene in the Criminal Court.

(source: Iran Human Rights)

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Ordinary citizens in Iran rally to save death-row prisoners

Mahyaddin spent the final hours of 2016 in solitude, deciding whether to spare the life of a man on death row for killing his only son, Pouya. 5 years ago, Pouya was knifed to death by 17-year-old Hemin Oraminejad in a brawl over petty issues in the western Iranian city of Sanandaj. The Supreme Court rejected Oraminejad's appeal earlier last year and upheld the ruling, which was death by hanging with the consent of the victim's family under the retribution law known as "qisas." Oraminejad, now 22, was repentant and had asked for forgiveness from the family of his victim.

As the execution scheduled for Jan. 1 drew near, Simin Chaichi was in a state of anxiety. The 60-year-old poet was leading a campaign to save the killer's life by persuading the victim's family to forgive Oraminejad, which under Iranian law meant that he would avoid the gruesome execution chamber. It was 1 of many such grass-roots campaigns in Iran that have sprung up in recent years to prevent executions. In 2015, at least 262 people on death row for murder were spared thanks to campaigns organized by citizens, according to the Norway-based Iran Human Rights.

"I think violence fuels more violence," Chaichi told Al-Monitor via telephone from Sanandaj. "That is why I believe these kind of grass-roots campaigns are important," he added.

Despite the efforts of campaigners across Iran to halt executions of convicted murderers under the retribution law, the Islamic Republic continues to use the death penalty extensively. On Dec. 19, 2016, it joined 39 other countries in voting against a UN General Assembly resolution on a moratorium on the use of the death penalty.

"Let's be clear, we are not asking for those who committed murder to be freed," Chaichi said, adding, "Once a family exercises its right to forgive, then it is up to the government to apply the law and keep a murderer behind bars."

In the city of Sanandaj alone, campaigners numbering over 2,000 managed to convince seven families to opt for forgiveness over the noose last year, according to Chaichi - a testimony to the power and influence of these grass-roots activists. Last August, a mother whose son was killed spared the murderer at the last minute and removed the noose from his neck. "We were under tremendous pressure, and scores of people were coming to our house asking for [our] forgiveness," her husband, Aba Ahmadi - the victim's father - told Al-Monitor via telephone. "I think the campaign was effective in convincing us, and we don't regret our decision to forgive our son's killer."

Energized by this victory, Chaichi and hundreds of other concerned citizens of Sanandaj set about trying to persuade Pouya's family to forgive their son's killer. They focused on Mahyaddin, who is in his late 40s and is a dervish and follower of the Kasnazan Sufi order, a branch of the mystical dimension of Islam.

The campaigners, led by 5 individuals, stayed in regular contact with Mahyaddin's local spiritual leader, the "pir" (elder).

Pouya's mother - and his grandfather, who was also a dervish from the same Sufi order - were against the execution, but the ultimate decision rested with the father, who was still reeling from the loss of his only son. A group of whirling dervishes even visited from the main base of the Kasnazan Sufi order in Iraq's Kurdistan region to try to persuade the grieving father to forgive his son's murderer. The pressure on Mahyaddin was intense.

Under pressure from the campaigners, Mahyaddin spent the last day of 2016 in a place of worship for Sufis, known as a Takia, as around 2,000 people gathered in a mosque nearby. He refused to see any of the campaigners and was adamant that the execution would go ahead.

"My heart was sinking with anxiety; we were all holding our breath waiting for Mahyaddin's decision," said Chaichi, still tearful in recalling that night. What made Chaichi and others fearful was that Mahyaddin had shown no sign that he would forgive the prisoner. But they stayed hopeful, as they knew miracles could happen seconds before executions.

As Mahyaddin arrived in the central prison of Sanandaj before dawn on Jan. 1, accompanied by his spiritual leader, the guards prepared Oraminejad for execution. Terrified and repentant, Oraminejad, in a blue prison uniform, made his last plea, but to no avail.

Even the prison guards and the judge overseeing the execution pleaded with Mahyaddin to pardon the young man. But Mahyaddin was resolute. In the execution room, he placed the noose around Oraminejad's neck as the convict said his last prayer.

At that moment, the pir, who spoke to Al-Monitor but refused to be quoted, reminded Mahyaddin of the graveness of the act he was about to perform. It was only then that Mahyaddin paused and quietly removed the noose. According to Chaichi, when the family of the murderer offered to sell their house in order to pay the blood money, which was close to $100,000, Mahyaddin simply responded, "I don't want any money. I did not forgive him for money."

The following day, around 2,000 people, many carrying red roses, went to the main cemetery in Sanandaj where Pouya is buried, paying tribute to the young man who had lost his life in a senseless incident. "Had you had Hemin [Oraminejad] executed, you would have been sitting at home on your own a bitter man," Chaichi said she whispered in Mahyaddin's ear as he stood by his son's grave. She told him, "Look at the smiles you have put on these people's faces. They are celebrating your son's life."

(source: al-monitor.com)

JANUARY 17, 2017:

TEXAS----book review

Grace and Justice on Death Row: The Race Against Time and Texas to Free an Innocent Man, Reviewed ---- The new book from Alexandria-based lawyer Brian W. Stolarz chronicles the long road to getting an innocent man off death row.

According to Amnesty International, the death penalty is not a deterrent to violent crimes, and it claims innocent lives. Its research shows that 140 people have been released from death rows in the U.S. due to evidence of wrongful conviction since 1973, and the 14 states without capital punishment have homicide rates at or below the national rate. Harris County, Texas, leads the nation in death row executions, according to The Death Penalty Information Center, though capital punishment there is on the decline. Still, since 2010, 99.5 % of U.S. counties sentenced fewer people to die than Harris County. Alexandria-based lawyer Brian W. Stolarz was part of the legal team that got the most recent death row inmate in Harris County, Alfred Dewayne Brown, exonerated. And his new book, Grace and Justice on Death Row, walks readers through a detailed account of the 2003 double homicide for which Brown was sentenced to die - even though he wasn't even present at the crime scene.

Stolarz, a self-avowed Catholic, shines a spotlight on the injustices that landed Brown in prison and nearly took his life, including witness harassment, prosecutorial misconduct, withheld evidence, a now-defunct Grand Jury selection system that reeked of conflicts, and the disturbingly low wages paid to lawyers who defend the poor.

The book begins with the events of the April 2003 shooting - offering a detailed account of Brown's crime-ridden neighborhood and some of its inhabitants trying to survive by working for minimum wage, robbing stores, and dealing drugs.

From the beginning, it's clear Brown is innocent, but Stolarz takes the reader on an interesting and infuriating ride toward his incarceration. Brown's girlfriend says he was at her house at the time of the shooting, but she changes her story after the prosecution threatens her and locks her up on trumped-up perjury charges. Other supposed friends of Brown throw him under the bus for various reasons, including fear of their own incarceration and promises of reward money. Though Brown is ultimately determined to have mental disabilities, a supposed "expert" manipulates mental health assessment data to say what the prosecutors want to hear.

No spoilers here about how the case goes wrong and is eventually righted - Brown was held on death row until June 8, 2015 - but it's worth noting that Stolarz includes some chilling comments about capital punishment from the late Antonin Scalia, including this one: "One cannot have a system of criminal punishment without accepting the possibility that someone will be punished mistakenly. That is a truism, not a revelation."

But the book has its faults. It loses some steam when Stolarz writes about his own life, his Catholicism, and superfluous references to how horrible he's feeling during the years he works on the writ of habeas corpus - the process by which Brown is eventually exonerated. You sometimes get the impression that Brown's freedom is more about Stolarz than Brown, and the book suffers from too much self-congratulating.

There's also a dizzying telling and re-telling of what actually happened at the crime scene. It all gets a bit complicated and muddy, but this storytelling flaw doubles as a strength in light of the morass of a justice system that appears to be in place in Texas. If you get lost in the sequence of events - and the details surrounding the multiple miscarriages of justice - it's possible the witnesses, the families of the victims, and the jury were likewise mired in confusion and obfuscation.

Stolarz cites some star reportage by Lisa Falkenberg of the Houston Chronicle, who won a Pulitzer for her work on Brown's case. And the book's final plea to abolish the death penalty - or at least to establish reforms in all states that require DNA evidence linking the accused to the crime - seems like a no-brainer. Stolarz also makes a compelling argument for increased funding for attorneys who defend the poor, an improved social service system for death row exonerees, and disbarment and criminal investigation for prosecutors who deliberately withhold evidence in death row cases, as happened in Brown's case.

(source: washingtoncitypaper.com)

VIRGINIA----impending execution

Gov. McAuliffe declines clemency for Ricky Gray, who is set to be executed Wednesday

Governor Terry McAuliffe today declined to grant clemency for Ricky Gray, who will die by injection Wednesday night at the Greensville Correctional Center for the capital murders of 2 young sisters 11 years ago unless the U.S. Supreme Court steps in.

"I have decided not to intervene in this case. Mr. Gray was convicted in a fair and impartial trial, and a jury sentenced him to death in accordance with Virginia law. Federal and state appellate courts have extensively reviewed his case and denied his requested relief. Unless a court intervenes, the Department of Corrections will carry out the execution in accordance with the order of the sentencing court," said McAuliffe in a prepared statement.

The governor said, "It is the Governor's responsibility to ensure that the laws of the Commonwealth are properly carried out unless circumstances merit a stay or commutation of the sentence. After extensive review and deliberation, I have found no such circumstances. I will continue to pray for all of the individuals and families affected by these tragic and horrible crimes."

Gray's lawyers said Monday they intended to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Gray and his nephew and accomplice Ray Dandridge, shook the city of Richmond in January 2006, murdering seven people in six days and setting off a police manhunt that ended with Gray's capture in a Philadelphia basement on Jan. 7.

The execution is set for 9 p.m. at the prison located in Jarratt, just off Interstate 95, and would be the 2st in Virginia since October 2015 when serial killer Alfredo Prieto was put to death by injection.

(source: Richmond Times-Dispatch)

GEORGIA:

Georgia conservatives want to 're-think' death penalty

A group of Georgia conservatives on Thursday will call for the state to re-examine the death penalty but thus far will stop short of calling for a end to state-sanctioned executions.

The group, calling itself Georgia Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty, will hold a news conference at 2 p.m. Thursday. The organization includes Rep. Brett Harrell, R-Snellville.

"I am skeptical of our government's ability to implement efficient and effective programs, and so a healthy skepticism of our state's death penalty is warranted," Harrell said in a statement. "Many individuals have been wrongly convicted and sentenced to die. Meanwhile, taxpayers are forced to pay for this risky government program, even though it costs far more than life without parole."

Group spokesman Jon Crane said Thursday's event "is the state of the process of educating people about the problems with the death penalty and to have a candid discussion from a conservative perspective."

There is not yet, he said, a call for repeal.

Georgia executed more prisoners in 2016 than any other state in the nation, although it's been nearly 3 years since a Georgia defendant was sentenced to death.

Other members of the group meeting Thursday include David Burge, former 5th District Republican Party chair, Richard Lorenc, chief operating officer of Foundations for Economic Freedom, Austin Paul, co-chair of the Mercer University College Republicans, Jennifer Maffessanti, chair of the Atlanta chapter of America's Future Foundation and Marc Hyden, national coordinator of Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty.

(source: Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

USA:

Activists Arrested at U.S. Supreme Court Calling for an End to the Death Penalty

IMAGES FROM THE ACTION AVAILABLE HERE - Permission granted: https://goo.gl/fzfT0P

40 years after the first execution of Gary Gilmore under contemporary laws, 18 anti-death penalty activists were arrested at the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday.  The group unfurled a 30-foot-long banner that read "STOP EXECUTIONS!" on the steps of the Court. On the sidewalk, a crowd of over 80 supporters observed the action, carrying 40 posters (1 for each year) with the names of the other 1442 men and women executed since 1977. They also carried roses in 2 colors, a reminder that they are remembering both families of the murdered and families of the executed as they stand together saying, as one banner did, "We Remember the Victims, But Not With More Killing."

The group included several murder victim family members, a death row exoneree, family members of the incarcerated, pastors and religious leaders, and national leaders in the death penalty abolition movement. It was the largest act of civil disobedience against the death penalty in modern history.

One of the participants who was arrested was Randy Gardner, whose brother, like Gilmore, was executed in Utah by firing squad.

"My Brother Ronnie Lee Gardner was executed in 2010 by the same state and by the same method as Gilmore," Gardner stated. "I believed then, and I still believe now, that the death penalty is morally wrong. I never condoned what my brother did, but when the state executes someone, they create yet another family that is damaged and grieving. We don't have to kill to be safe from dangerous criminals and hold them accountable. It is time to abolish the death penalty."

Shane Claiborne, influential Christian author and activist, speaking of the significance of religious leaders, said this: "Sadly, the death penalty has succeeded in America not in spite of Christians but because of us. Over 80% of executions in the past 40 years have been in the Bible Belt. As a Christian, that is especially troubling because one of the tenants of our faith is this: No one is beyond redemption. Much of the Bible was written by murderers who were given a second chance. Moses. David. Paul. The Bible would be much shorter without grace. So it was a beautiful thing to stand alongside my fellow clergy and faith leaders ...  And, if you go to jail, it's good to have a nun and a priest next to you. As we look at history, we are reminded that we've got good company among the holy troublemakers who have gone to jail for justice. Abortion is not the only pro-life issue."

Claiborne continues: "When we try to kill those who kill, we mirror, and legitimize, the cycle of violence. We can deal with violent crime without resorting to the violence we want to rid the world of. As faith leaders and clergy, we stand together, with families of the murdered and families of the executed, and say NO to all killing. Violence is the disease, not the cure."

Scott Langley, a death penalty abolition organizer from New York, said "The national tide has turned against the death penalty with more and more states, counties, and juries refusing to continue this barbaric practice. We acted today to call on this Court to recognize that standards of decency and human rights have evolved to the point that this has to end now."

Those arrested were Peter Armstrong (Washington, DC), Leroy Barber (Portland, OR), Abraham J. Bonowitz (Columbus, OH), SueZann Bosler (Miami, FL), Shawn Casselberry (Chicago, IL), Shane Claiborne (Philadelphia, PA), John Dear (Santa Fe, NM), Randy Gardner (Taylorsville, UT), Lisa Sharon Harper (Washington, DC), Derrick Jamison (Cincinnati, OH), Art Laffin (Washington, DC), Scott Langley (Ghent, NY), Michael McBride (Oakland, CA), Tom Muther (Topeka, KS), Doug Pagitt (Minneapolis, MN), Jack Payden-Travers (Lynchburg, VA), Sam R. Sheppard (Oakland, CA), and Kelton Tupper (Cheverly, MD).

Background:  40 years ago, on January 17, 1977, the State of Utah shot to death Gary Gilmore, who "volunteered" to be killed in revenge for his murder of Ben Bushnell and Max Jenson. This state-assisted suicide was the 1st execution under the Supreme Court's upholding of the death penalty in 1976.  Since then, there have been 1442 more executions, with another scheduled on January 18 in Virginia. Nearly 3,000 prisoners are currently on death rows in 31 states.

The protest is organized by the Abolitionist Action Committee (AAC), an ad-hoc group of individuals committed to highly visible and effective public education for alternatives to the death penalty through nonviolent direct action.  The AAC also organizes a 4 day fast and vigil on the Supreme Court sidewalk every June 29 through July 2, and all are invited to participate.

Organizations endorsing/supporting this action include

Abolitionist Action Committee

Campaign for Nonviolence

Catholic Mobilizing Network

Center for Action and Contemplation

Consistent Life Network

Embrey Human Rights Program

Evangelicals for Social Action

Faith in Public Life

Journey of Hope ... From Violence to Healing

National Council of Churches

OPEN

People of Faith Against the Death Penalty

PICO Network LIVE FREE Campaign

RAW Tools

Red Letter Christians

Repairers of the Breach

Sojourners

We Stand With Love

Witness to Innocence

DONATE to support the action and those arrested. Funds needed for transportation, housing, legal support, court costs, etc. Pledge $40, $400 or whatever you can afford at www.SendASign.org.

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/fastandvigil

Twitter: @AbolitionAAC

Web: http://www.abolition.org

Email: ac@abolition.org

Mail: P.O. Box 89, Ghent New York 12075, USA

(source: Abolition Action Committee)

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Death penalty protesters arrested outside Supreme Court

Police arrested more than a dozen death penalty protesters outside the Supreme Court Tuesday.

The Abolitionist Action Committee organizes protesters to engage in civil disobedience every 5 years on Jan. 17, marking the date of the 1st execution after the Supreme Court allowed the death penalty to resume in 1977. This year is the 40th anniversary of Gary Gilmore's execution by firing squad in Utah. Gilmore, who shot and killed 2 people reportedly without a motive, volunteered for the death penalty.

The protesters' arrests outside the court come as the death penalty is resurfacing as a contentious issue at the Supreme Court. A split decision from the Supreme Court last month allowed the execution of an Alabama man to proceed after multiple stays. Justice Stephen Breyer, who favored granting a stay to block the Alabama man's execution, then delivered a public call for the high court to "reconsider the constitutionality of the death penalty" in a dissent from the court's inaction on a death penalty case from Florida.

The high court has heard oral arguments in a death penalty case this term in Moore v. Texas, in which the justices will look to answer whether the execution of an inmate after an elongated period of incarceration violates the Eighth Amendment's protection against cruel and unusual punishment.

Tuesday's arrests of anti-death penalty protesters also happened as the nation's capital braces for the arrival of thousands of protesters unhappy with President-elect Trump's looming inauguration. Protesters have made plans to disrupt the inauguration and spoil several inaugural balls beginning on Thursday.

(source: Washington Examiner)

JAPAN:

Japan is one of the few developed countries to still have the death penalty. Documentary filmmaker Mori Tatsuya looks at the issue of capital punishment and tries to answer the question of why 80% of the Japanese populace supports judicial executions.

Choosing Who Lives and Dies

In July 2016, Japan was shocked by the stabbing deaths of 19 residents of a disabled care facility in Sagamihara, Kanagawa Prefecture. Public outrage swelled when a letter surfaced that was written by the perpetrator, a former employee of the facility, shortly before the incident. In this, he brashly declared that killing the mentally disabled helped minimize misery and that his actions were for the good of Japan and world peace. People across Japan condemned the killer for his eugenic thinking, proclaiming that all life has meaning and that no person has the right to choose who should live and who should die.

I agree that all human life is precious. It defies being ranked or quantified. Yet, if the public outcry we heard after the Sagamihara murders is to be believed, then I am obliged to point out that Japanese society remains willfully ignorant of the eugenic undertones of capital punishment.

The death penalty is the intentional and unnatural taking of human life that a court of law has judged to no longer have meaning or value. In Japan there is broad public support for the system, with more than 80% of citizens approving of judicial executions.

What is important to consider here is not that there is capital punishment in Japan, but why so many people in the country avert their eyes to the reality it represents. People, of course, are cognizant that Japan enforces the death penalty. However, they only give it passing recognition. Hardly anyone in their daily lives ever stops to consider how an inmate is actually put to death, what passes through their mind at the end, or how they spend their final days. More significantly, very few people ever contemplate what having the death penalty means to society.

Aum Shinrikyo on Death Row

For many years my interest in capital punishment was the same as most other Japanese. I felt it was a just and fair punishment for a person who had committed the grave crime of murder. I never questioned why a person who had taken another's life should also die. My confidence began to waver, however, after I interviewed 6 leaders of Aum Shinrikyo sitting on death row while I was shooting a documentary about the cult. As I sat and talked with these individuals the reality that I was speaking with people who were waiting to be killed gradually sank in.

Of course, all of us will die someday. Perhaps it will be in an accident, from illness, or simply due to old age. However, these were not to be the fate of the six men I sat speaking to through thick, transparent acrylic panels. These individuals were slated to be legally murdered.

Each of the cult leaders I interviewed said they regretted what they had done in the name of religious fanaticism. Many choked back tears, saying that it was only fair when considering how family members of victims must feel that they too should be killed.

I met with them many times. We also exchanged letters. When we talked, their words were not always those of regret. There were times when we joked and smiled. When I misunderstood a particular detail of their crime one might shout reproachfully, "It wasn't like that at all, Mori!" In short, these men were normal human beings. In some respects you could even say they were kinder and more genuine and upright than many people I had met.

Somehow I could not make sense of it. It is a sin to kill. These men had broken this fundamental human law, and as punishment they would be legally put to death. The logic defied me. I could not understand why they had to die or why society seemed justified in killing them.

This experience led me to begin reporting on capital punishment. In my work I interviewed a wide variety of people and pondered countless aspects as I struggled to gain an understanding of the issue. After more than 2 years of reporting, I compiled my experiences and thoughts into the book Shikei (Capital Punishment).

Allow me to begin with my conclusion: there is no one overriding, logical argument that justifies the death penalty. Japanese who are in favor of capital punishment like to cite its effectiveness in deterring crime. By this logic, then, one would expect public safety in the 2/3 of the world's nations that have abolished the death penalty to be in decline. The statistics, however, do not clearly bear this out. In fact, sociological research overwhelmingly shows the death penalty serves no significant function as a crime deterrent.

Many advocates of abolishing capital punishment point to the risk posed by false convictions. Proponents of the system, however, argue that such risks exist for all forms of criminal punishment and that abolishing the death penalty based on such a premise would effectively undermine the very foundation of the criminal justice system.

This is a false argument as the 2 punishments could not be more different. Incarceration restricts a criminal’s freedom, whereas capital punishment results in their death. While behind bars there is hope that an offender can be rehabilitated and eventually rejoin society. Executing a prisoner eliminates any such chance. Imagine a legal system where the punishment for breaking a person's arm was to break the arm of the perpetrator. This would be no different than the eye-for-an-eye reprisals of the Babylonian Code of Hammurabi and would hardly be compatible with the spirit of modern jurisprudence. Yet the death penalty is the lone form of criminal punishment that is still based on this ancient idea of retributive justice. Its finality - once carried out a prisoner can never be freed if later found innocent - gives the potential of wrongful conviction weightiness far beyond that of other punishments.

Out of Consideration for Victim's Families

Ultimately, many death penalty advocates do not rely on logical arguments, but base their position on the feelings of the family of victims. When a heinous killing occurs in Japan, the media is quick to play up the bitterness and hatred of the victim's relatives toward the attacker. Exposed to this emotionally charged coverage, readers and viewers naturally feel sympathy toward the family, certain they would harbor the same thoughts if it was one of their own loved ones who had been murdered. Seen in this light, the death penalty serves to assuage the grief and anger of the victim's family. Its justification, then, does not have a logical foundation, but is based on the raw desire for retribution.

Society, of course, must do all it can to help and support family members in dealing with such an incomprehensible act of violence as murder. There is an endless array of issues that families face, many of which can be addressed through social programs providing emotional and psychological care. However, supporting survivors and vengeance against the perpetrator do not occupy the same space. If maturity is responding to calamity in a calm and logical manner, then we must say that Japan has yet to grow up when it comes to considering the death penalty.

When I make the case for ending capital punishment I am often asked if I would feel the same if my own child had been killed. I generally preface my response by acknowledging the sheer impossibility of knowing how I would react, and then follow by saying that instead of the death penalty I would prefer to kill the perpetrator with my own hands.

Understandably, many people are taken aback by this and some even accuse me of having double standards. My response is that it is only natural to have double standards. If my child was killed, I would suffer from the crime too.

It is important that we try to empathize with the victim and their family. Yet it is also important that we acknowledge that we can never truly understand their thoughts and emotions without experiencing a similar trauma in our own lives.

Many family members of victims that I have met are wracked by guilt, even while harboring a strong desire for retribution. They endlessly berate themselves, asking such questions as "Why did I let you go out that night?" or "Why did I take my eyes off you?" These are the things that while kneeling alone in front of the family Buddhist altar they repeatedly wail to their lost loved ones. Carrying such remorse must be a living hell. People who support the death penalty, however, have no way of understanding such heartrending agony. Even as they tell me in voices quivering with emotion how they understand the feelings of the survivors, all they can really relate to is a banal desire for revenge.

The truth is that more than 1/2 of all murders in Japan are committed by family members. In such situations it is difficult for others in the family to speak out, and the media, too, tends to tone down its coverage. As a result, a majority of murders in Japan go unnoticed by the public, and very few people are even willing to imagine that surviving family members of these killings exist.

Again, if one is going to hold up the feelings of family members as a pillar for maintaining capital punishment, then should we not seek a lighter sentence if the victim has no immediate family? This is not logical, of course, but such crimes actually occur. If such exceptions were made, however, the very cornerstone of modern criminal justice would collapse. In short, emotion would defeat logic, a situation that would invite innumerable legal inconsistencies. The 80% of the population who support the death penalty choose to remain oblivious to this contradiction. Instead of honestly and logically considering the issue, they avert their eyes. This is where Japan stands today regarding capital punishment.

(source: Mori Tatsuya, nippon.com)

PHILIPPINES:

50 congressmen raring to block death penalty bill

The absence of a solid stance on the death penalty bill among majority bloc lawmakers will kill its chances of passage, opposition congressmen declared Tuesday.

Representatives Edcel Lagman of Albay and Teodoro Baguilat of Ifugao claimed that about 50 lawmakers would line up to debate the bill’s proponents, even as Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez of Davao del Norte said he was confident the bill would hurdle Congress in just 30 days.

"If there will be a conscience vote, then definitely, it will not pass. But the Speaker wants a party vote, which is a pressure vote. So members of the House [from the majority]who are against the death penalty may be pressured to not attend the session anymore [when it is time to cast the vote]," Lagman told reporters.

Lagman is familiar with such maneuver, which led to the passage of his pet Reproductive Health (RH) bill in 2012 after some members of the then ruling Liberal Party (LP) did not show up during voting on the divisive birth-control measure.

At that time, the LP was overwhelmingly for the RH bill, which became Republic Act 10354.

In the current 17th Congress, the ruling party is President Rodrigo Duterte's PDP-Laban, of which Alvarez is a member. There are at least 62 PDP-Laban members in the House of Representatives, but the PDP-Laban is just one of the parties under the "Super Majority" coalition that includes the Nacionalista Party, Nationalist People's Coalition, National Unity Party, LP and Lakas-CMD.

Also part of the Super Majority coalition is the anti-death-penalty Makabayan bloc of party-list groups Bayan Muna, Gabriela, Kabataan, Alliance of Concerned Teachers and Anakpawis.

In a news conference, Alvarez admitted he had yet to talk with PDP-Laban's coalition partners but said he was confident the President's allies would toe the line.

"I am very confident that we can pass it because we have a coalition, the Super Majority. If ever there will be people who will deviate from that, their number would just reach to as much as 10," Alvarez said.

(source: The Manila Times)

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Death penalty seen harder to bring back to life in Senate----Reviving the death penalty would not be as easy in the Senate as it appears to be in the House of Representatives.

House Speaker Pantaleon D. Alvarez is confident there will be enough votes to secure the passage of the death penalty bill, with his chamber set to begin debates on the measure next week.

"We will allow the debate so we can hear the sides of the majority. Hopefully, 30 days is probably long enough to finish deliberations here in the House," Mr. Alvarez said in a news conference on Tuesday, Jan. 17.

"I am very confident that we can pass it. Well, we have the coalition, we have the supermajority, if there are some who will vote against it, probably around 5 to 10 only," he added.

Asked if there will be a "consequence" for majority members who will not support the revival of the death penalty, Mr. Alvarez said: "None. They're still congressmen."

Members of the majority who expressed opposition to the death penalty are House Deputy Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, PBA party-list Rep. Jericho Jonas B. Nograles, and the 7-member Makabayan bloc. Ms. Arroyo abolished the death penalty in 2006 when she was president.

House justice committee chairman Reynaldo V. Umali said on Monday the House may pass the death penalty on 3rd and final reading before the First Regular Session ends in June, together with another legislative priority of President Rodrigo R. Duterte to lower the minimum age of criminal liability to 9 years old from the current 15.

The House deferred last year the measure's approval on 2nd reading to give way for full debates this month of January.

In a statement, Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto C. Abella said Malacanang "respects the efforts of the House of Representatives, a separate co-equal branch of government, for prioritizing the death penalty bill."

The European Union (EU) is observing this development in Congress. On Monday, EU ambassador Franz Jessen said a monitoring team "will come later this month" to see if the country is compliant with conditions of the Generalized System of Preferences Plus (GSP+) scheme, which has accommodated tariff-free Philippine exports to the EU since December 2014.

Compliance with 27 international conventions under GSP+ includes a commitment against capital punishment, which the EU opposes.

As for the death penalty's approval in the Senate, its President Pro-Tempore Franklin M. Drilon told reporters before Tuesday's plenary: "You can never predict what the Senate will do."

The Liberal Party (LP) stalwart reiterated that the party has taken the position against the death penalty.

"So when it comes to the floor, we will state our position, and we will accordingly express our opposition," added the Liberal Party (LP) stalwart who, like his party allies Francis N. Pangilinan, Leila M. de Lima, Paolo Benigno A. Aquino IV and minority leader Ralph G. Recto, also oppose the death penalty.

Others against reviving the death penalty are Senate Committee on Justice Chair Richard J. Gordon, LP ally and Akbayan Senator Ana Theresia Hontiveros-Baraquel, and Minority Senators Francis G. Escudero and Antonio F. Trillanes IV.

Yet the death penalty bill is a priority in the Senate, according to Senator Panfilo M. Lacson, chairperson of the Senate committee on public order.

"Here in the Senate all 24 of us would like to be heard and would like to argue what our convictions are on a certain issue," said Mr. Lacson, who is one of the bill's authors.

With regard to the committee Mr. Gordon heads, Mr. Lacson suggested a separate sub-committee to tackle the bill.

"So I had a previous prior suggestion, if we can create [a] subcommittee, say, to be chaired by Senator [Emmanuel D.] Pacquiao because after all he is an author,...[t]hat would speed up hearings on the death penalty and whoever will defend the bill is really in favor of it," said Mr. Lacson, a former chief of the Philippine National Police.

Besides Senators Lacson and Pacquiao, Senators Sherwin T. Gatchalian, Joseph Victor G. Ejercito, and Senate Majority Leader Vicente C. Sotto III favor the bill.

"It's hard to get a read of the [other Senators], you can see that some of them are silent on the issue," Mr. Lacson said. "Which way it will go, we do not know."

(source: bworldonline.com)

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

Legislative battle on Death Penalty begins

The debate on the controversial death penalty bill takes center stage in the House of Representatives as Congress resumes session.

The House leadership said they intend to vote on the bill after 30 session days of debate.

But for such a controversial measure, its fate lies on public support and, eventually, on the number of votes it can gain from lawmakers.

House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez could only bank on the majority coalition to get the green light for the death penalty bill. He says he's confident it would pass the debates.

"We have a coalition, we have a supermajority. If there will be some who will take a different direction, there's only about 5 or 10."

Equally confident is the House Minority bloc - which believes the bill won't make it in Congress.

They claim they have the numbers to block its approval.

Lagman claims a number of members from the super majority, including allies of President Duterte are now rethinking their support for death penalty.

Among them, PBA Party-list Rep. Jericho Nograles. In a text message to CNN Philippines, Nograles explained, while he is pro-administration, he is also pro-life.

"I cannot support the death [p]enalty bill. I believe that Congress must prioritize legislation increasing the number of courts, prosecutors, and public attorneys so we can speed up the judicial process from the average of 7 years for the 1st decision down to hopefully less than a year trial," Nograles said.

"It is my duty to play an active role in the debates and I hope that the debates will be factual," he added.

Alvarez said he expects the bill would be voted on after a month of debates, but Lagman thinks it will take longer than that.

Lagman said at least 50 congressmen have signified their intent to ask questions about the bill.

He recalled it took him and then Cebu Representative Pablo Gacia about 3 weeks during the 13th Congress to finish their questions during debates on the abolition of the death penalty.

For his part, Ifugao Representative Teddy Baguilat said the leadership should make sure there is quorum during the debates.

"When we start the debates, if the interpellation will take long and there would be no quorum, the debates will cease."

Akbayan Party-list Rep. Tom Villarin also said the church, civil society groups, and even international parliamentarians are ready to go all out against the reimposition of death penalty.

(source: cnnphilippines.com)

VIRGINIA----impending execution

Death row inmate argues for firing squad days before lethal injection date

You may not care how a killer is killed. But what if there was a way to execute convicted murderers on death row with a cheaper and more effective alternative than lethal injection?

According to convicted murder Ricky Gray's attorneys, there is. The solution: a firing squad.

"[There is] a lot of support for the notion that it is more humane, and less painful than the lethal injection protocols, which we've seen time and again have resulted in botched executions all across the country," one of Gray's attorneys, Lisa Fried told reporters last week.

Gray was convicted of murdering Cox High School homecoming queen Kathy Grabinsky Harvey, her husband and their 2 young girls in their Richmond home over a decade ago.

Gray was sentenced to death for the crimes. His co-defendant, Ray Dandridge, was sentenced to life without parole by jurors.

"I've stolen something from the world," Gray says in a recorded YouTube video, speaking out publicly for the 1st time. "It's never left my mind, because I understand exactly what I took from the world by looking at my 2 sisters."

On Wednesday, Gray will become the 112th person executed by the Commonwealth of Virginia since 1976, when the death penalty was reinstated by the Supreme Court.

"I'm sorry they had to be a victim of my despair," Gray continues in the video. "I robbed them of a lifelong supply of joy."

Recently, Gray's attorneys argued for execution by firing squad, but the request was denied by the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Now, Gray is facing death by lethal injection - a controversial drug cocktail which Gray's attorneys say is "chemical torture".

Court records say the state spent over $66,000 dollars to not only acquire the hard-to-get drugs, but to also help hide the identity of the pharmaceutical companies involved.

Additionally, Gray's attorney cite sources which show lethal injection has a 7 % botched execution rate, the highest out of any execution option. The same sources show firing squads have a zero % botched execution rate.

Now, only the Supreme Court or the Governor remain able to postpone Wednesday night's execution.

In an odd procedural circumstance, Gray's attorneys say his lawsuit alleging that lethal injection is cruel and unusual punishment is still pending in court. The Virginia Department of Corrections is supposed to respond to his allegations by January 24, 6 days after Gray's scheduled execution.

"If [he] is executed on [Wednesday], the method of execution will be used without the court ever resolving whether Gray's allegations that it is a cruel and unusual punishment are true," Rob Lee, one of Gray's attorneys, told News 3 on Monday.

In the past, Virginia governors have not stepped in until all court proceedings are resolve, and Governor McAuliffe is likely to follow this practice.

(source: WTKR news)

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Years after slayings, killer of Va. family faces execution

The 2006 murders of a well-known Richmond couple and their young daughters as they were preparing to host a New Year's party sent shock waves through Virginia's capital city.

More than 11 years later, some hope the execution of a man convicted in their deaths will close a painful chapter of this community's history.

"I do not think we should be saddled with the cost of keeping that heinous murderer alive," said Steve Tarrant, who lived near the slain family and still gets emotional when he talks about watching their bodies being carried out of their home.

"I think his execution will help effect a closure," the 76-year-old said.

(source: Associated Press)

NORTH CAROLINA:

There is no true justice in death penalty

On Jan. 10, self-avowed white supremacist Dylann Roof, who was convicted of the murder of 9 African-Americans while they prayed, was sentenced to death. His sentence should come as no surprise to those familiar with the overwhelming amount of polling data showing majority support for the death penalty. One need look no further than the comments section of any article on the Dylann Roof saga to see that support for the ultimate criminal punishment is alive and well.

Our uniquely American affinity for the death penalty is tragic for the simple reason that capital punishment is both morally and intellectually indefensible. When subjected to any level of academic scrutiny, the common arguments in support of the death penalty: deterrence, fairness and closure for victims' families, quickly crumble. Now more than ever, on the heels of what many would call a model death sentence, it is worth examining the sad fact that there is no logical argument in support of capital punishment.

The only argument that attempts to claim a measurable societal benefit to retaining the death penalty goes as follows: the death penalty should be kept because its very existence deters would-be murderers. If this "deterrence" argument strikes you as ascribing an uncomfortable amount of logic to the process by which one person decides whether to murder another, you can probably already see why it fails. In a 2006 meta-analysis of the many different ways in which researchers have sought to measure the deterrent effect, if any, of the death penalty, professors from Yale and the University of Pennsylvania concluded that "[n]one of these approaches suggested that the death penalty has large effects on the murder rate. Year-to-year movements in homicide rates are large, and the effects of even major changes in execution policy are barely detectable." It is accordingly unsurprising that, when surveyed, 88 % of the leading criminologists in the United States stated that death penalty was not "a deterrent to the commitment to murder."

Most commonly, death penalty supporters rely on the difficult to quantify assertion that there is just something inherently fair about a murderer being punished by death. The "eye for an eye" argument is premised upon the belief that all human life is equal, and that the fair punishment for killing another is for murderers themselves to be killed. While this defense is perhaps morally righteous in the abstract, it fails to hold up in practice. The flaw in this argument stems from the fact that American justice systems are woefully incapable of treating all life as equal. Focusing just on North Carolina, researchers at UNC have concluded that "[a] defendant is significantly more likely to get the death penalty if the victim is white rather than non-white." Specifically, the UNC study found that the odds of a defendant being sentenced to death were 3.5 times higher if their victim was white. The "eye for an eye" argument falls apart rather quickly in the context of a justice system that arbitrarily treats blue eyes as more valuable than brown. The last of the common pro-death penalty arguments is that the punishment is necessary in order to afford the families of victims a sense of closure. As recently seen in testimony from the Dylann Roof trial, however, not all families of victims are in favor of their family members' killer being put to death. Notwithstanding recent research from Marquette University that challenges the idea that executions can provide a sense of closure, there is undeniably some subset of individuals who both want to see, and will derive some sense of satisfaction out of seeing their loved ones' killers put to death. Their interests must be weighed against the dramatically increased litigation costs that accompany capital cases. According to researchers at Duke University, "[t]he extra cost per execution of prosecuting a case capitally is more than $2.16 million." A separate Duke study concludes that it costs North Carolina taxpayers roughly $11 million annually to continue to use the death penalty.

Taking all available facts together, the question becomes whether it is logical to retain a form of punishment that is administered in a racially biased manner, yields no generalized social benefits, and costs taxpayers a small fortune, solely for the purpose of indulging the fraction of Americans who both lose a loved one to murder, and wish to see that loss repaid by another death. Because I cannot believe that a majority of Americans are so morally bankrupt as to answer that question in the affirmative, I am left to conclude that the continued majority support for the death penalty is due to a pervasive ignorance of the issue. Until that changes, each death sentence meted out, even Mr. Roof's, provides another occasion to reflect on the sad state of affairs that is the American use of capital punishment.

(source: Guest Columnist; Eric Edgerton is a graduate of the George Washington University School of Law and a practicing attorney at Roberts & Stevens, P.A., in downtown Asheville----Asheville Citizen-Times)

FLORIDA:

Convicted killer gets 2nd chance at life

A convicted killer, sentenced to death at the Orange County Courthouse, will get a 2nd chance at life. This comes after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled Florida's death penalty law unconstitutional.

Rafael Zaldivar wants Bessman Okafor dead for killing his son Alex Zaldivar. In 2015 he heard the sentence he'd been hoping for, death. But a few days ago, Rafael met with the prosecutor in the case. He says, he told him, they'll have to do the death penalty phase of the trial again.

"He's got hope and hope is the only thing that's keeping him alive today and I want to take that hope away," said Zaldivar. "Unfortunately in our case it was 11 to 1. If that particular juror would have decided to vote guilty we wouldn't be talking today. So by one juror, we've gotta start all over."

Zaldivar says he and his family will have to take the stand again and re-live the unimaginable pain that began back in 2012, when Okafor, murdered Alex before he could testify against him in a home invasion case.

"19 years old and in college. He put him on the ground and shot him twice. I always wonder what was he thinking."

Now, Zaldivar wonders what will happen next.

"Do you think he has another chance? Sure. He's coming back. It's a 50/50. He's coming back. And we're gonna have to tolerate this guy at taxpayers expense."

Zaldivar says he plans to fight in court.

Okafor is scheduled to have a hearing in Tallahassee in March.

(source: Fox News)

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

Make death penalty - and justice for victims - swift and sure

ernard L. Welch, a longtime death-penalty opponent, wrote a My Word column in the Jan. 7 Orlando Sentinel questioning this country's use of the death penalty to punish those who murder. He asked whether the death penalty "mimics the cowardice of the killer."

As a retired prosecutor, I once dealt with our death-penalty law, and I have seen the handiwork of the murderers I prosecuted. I have participated in presenting to a judge and jury the facts regarding what these murderers did so that, based on the law, the judge and jury could determine whether the defendant in fact deserved to be put to death. This is a determination the defendants in these cases did not bother to make regarding their victims.

I have also litigated the post-conviction motions that inevitably follow a sentence of death.

Murder defendants are entitled to legal process - something they did not afford their victims. One good example of the care that is taken to make sure a murder defendant receives the death penalty only when he truly deserves it would be the case of Bryan Jennings, a Brevard County murderer.

Jennings was convicted of kidnapping 7-year-old Rebecca Kunash from her bedroom on May 11, 1979, while her parents slept nearby. He smashed her head into a curb, raped her several ways, and then drowned her and left her body floating in a canal.

Jennings has been tried, convicted and sentenced to death 3 times for this murder, and today he is still alive on death row awaiting the outcome of yet another appeal by his court-appointed attorneys. Rebecca is still dead.

While Welch suggests the importance of the defendant coming to realize "the truth of his actions" and postulates that spending time in prison is more punitive than receiving the death penalty, the lack of a waiting line to be executed in the most humane and painless way the state can provide contradicts that assertion.

The continued appeals by those on death row is another clear rejection of that misguided assertion. Murderers on death row want to live - something they denied their victims. I submit it is much more important that we provide the victim's family justice than it is for the defendant to come to some realization of "the truth of his actions."

Welch questions whether the government's right to kill is any more respectful of the right to life than "the maniacal actions of a Dylann Roof." In light of the requirements that must be met to allow a death-penalty sentence, it would clearly seem so.

Some of those requirements include: probative evidence obtained illegally is excluded from being presented by the state; guilt must be proved beyond a reasonable doubt; if a conviction results, the state must then prove aggravating circumstances exist, which outweigh any mitigating circumstances that exist; a jury and judge must consider whether the death penalty is warranted under the law and must agree that it is; and, review of the case may continue more than 37 years before such murderers are executed.

What do you think?

(source: Op-Ed; As assistant state attorney in the 18th Judicial Circuit, Chris White prosecuted numerous capital murder cases. He is retired----Orlando Sentinel)

OHIO:

Ohio killer asks to be spared from death penalty

Attorneys for a death row inmate sentenced to die for fatally stabbing a 67-year-old man are asking the Ohio Parole Board for mercy for their client.

Raymond Tibbetts is scheduled for execution in April. He was convicted of killing Fred Hicks at Hicks' Cincinnati home in 1997.

The parole board meets Tuesday to hear arguments for and against clemency for Tibbetts.

Records show that Tibbetts first killed his wife, 42-year-old Judith Crawford, by beating her with a bat and stabbing her during an argument over Tibbetts' crack cocaine habit. Tibbetts then killed Hicks, who had hired Crawford as a caretaker and allowed the couple to stay with him.

Tibbetts was sentenced to death for the killing of Hicks and life imprisonment without parole for Crawford's death.

(source: Associated Press)

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

Man convicted of murdering Warren couple wants death sentence thrown out

A man who has been on Ohio's death row for 30 years for murdering an elderly couple in their Warren home has asked the Ohio Supreme Court to vacate his death sentence.

Charles Lorraine was sentenced to die for the 1986 stabbing deaths of 80-year-old Doris Montgomery and her 77-year-old husband Raymond.

He was convicted on 2 counts of aggravated murder, 2 counts of burglary, 2 counts of complicity to commit burglary, and 1 count of robbery.

The last execution date for Lorraine was set in 2012.

Even after state officials said that Lorraine had exhausted all appeals and Governor John Kasich refused to grant clemency, a federal judge stopped the execution, saying Ohio had failed to follow its own rules for executions.

Lorraine's attorney has now filed a motion with the Ohio Supreme Court citing a U.S. Supreme Court decision handed down last year ruling that a jury must evaluate and weigh all factors required by law to impose the death penalty.

The motion says that an earlier ruling by the Ohio Supreme Court found errors in the sentencing phase of Lorraine's case, and argues that the matter should be sent back to the trial court in Trumbull County for re-sentencing.

The Trumbull County Prosecutor's Office has yet to file a response to the motion.

Background

According to court records, the Montgomerys had been friendly and generous to Lorraine in the past and they had hired him to perform tasks around their home.

On May 6, 1986, investigators say Lorraine got Raymond Montgomery to go to the 2nd floor of his home on the pretense that he had forgotten an item.

Upon entering the room, Lorraine, while wearing rubber gloves, stabbed Montgomery 5 times with a butcher knife.

After killing the husband, police say Lorraine returned to the first floor, where Mrs. Montgomery was confined to bed, and stabbed her 9 times.

He then burglarized the residence.

Showing no remorse, Lorraine went to a bar and bought drinks with the stolen money, according to court documents.

He and a friend returned to the Montgomerys' home to steal again.

(source: WFMJ)

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

Opponents of death penalty urge Kasich to commute sentences to life----Executions scheduled through end of 2017, with 2 dozen other dates set through 2021

Opponents of capital punishment urged Gov. John Kasich to postpone the state's scheduled executions and commute the death sentences of Ohio inmates to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Ohioans to Stop Executions and other like-minded groups also want lawmakers to move legislation barring death sentences for the mentally ill and implementing additional supports for the families of murder victims.

"You need not execute dangerous offenders in order to feel safe from them or hold them accountable," said Abraham Bonowitz, a spokesman for Ohioans to Stop Executions. "As the courts are still sorting out Ohio's execution protocol, I want to make it clear that Ohioans to Stop Executions does not take a position on how we kill our prisoners. Our concern is that we kill prisoners in light of the many problems that exist with the morality, the fairness and the accuracy of Ohio's capital punishment system."

The groups had planned to protest the execution of Ronald Phillips, who was sentenced to die for the 1993 rape and murder of a 3-year-old girl in Akron.

He was supposed to face lethal injection on Jan. 12, but the procedure was postponed until Feb. 15. Ohioans to Stop Executions and others instead gathered Jan. 12 at the Statehouse to call for an end to the death penalty and to visit lawmakers to discuss the issue.

There are 7 other executions scheduled through the end of this year and 2 dozen other dates set through 2021.

Executions in Ohio have been on hold since the lethal injection of Dennis McGuire in January 2014. McGuire, who received a capital sentence for the rape and murder of a pregnant Preble County woman, gasped for breath during what witnesses described as a prolonged procedure under the state's former 2-drug execution method.

In early 2015, state prison officials abandoned that combination, switching to 2 different drugs, though that protocol has not been used.

The state and others have struggled to find supplies of execution drugs, after manufacturers blocked their use for lethal injections. State law changes have since enabled the purchase of drugs from compounding pharmacies, under legislation that allowed the names of those businesses to be kept secret.

And pharmacy logs released by state prison officials late last month show sufficient supplies of lethal injection drugs on hand for coming executions.

Last year, the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction announced it would restart executions in 2017, using a new 3-drug combination that was similar to the method the state relied on for past executions.

During meetings with lawmakers' offices Thursday, capital punishment opponents urged passage of legislation implementing recommendations of a Supreme Court task force that studied ways to improve the administration of the death penalty.

"We have been saying fix it or end it," Bonowitz said. " It's pretty clear that few Ohio legislators want to concern themselves with this issue. We will keep pushing on the reforms Our mission is to end executions in our state once and for all. That is our goal, and we will achieve it."

(source: twinsburgbulletin.com)

NEBRASKA:

Lotter challenging Nebraska 3-judge method on death penalty

A man convicted in the murder case that inspired the 1999 movie "Boys Don't Cry" has joined a fellow death-row inmate in challenging Nebraska's 3-judge method for determining death sentences.

Attorneys for John Lotter argue that he had a right to have jurors, not judges, weigh his fate when he was sentenced to death in 1996. The attorneys cite a U.S. Supreme Court ruling last year that struck down Florida's death-penalty process, saying it gave too much power to judges to make the ultimate decision. After that ruling, Delaware's high court followed suit and threw out that state's death penalty-determining method.

Lotter was condemned for his role in the 1993 killings of Teena Brandon, a 21-year-old woman who lived briefly as a man, and 2 witnesses, Lisa Lambert and Philip DeVine, at a rural Humboldt farmhouse.

A similar appeal has been filed on behalf of Jeffrey Hessler, convicted in the 2003 rape and murder of 15-year-old Gering newspaper carrier Heather Guerrero.

The Nebraska attorney general's office has filed motions arguing that Nebraska's sentencing scheme allows jury participation and is not identical to the one struck down in Florida.

In Nebraska, when a defendant is convicted in a death penalty case, the jury that decided guilt also decides whether aggravating factors exist to justify the defendant's execution. If the jury finds such, a 3-judge panel is convened to determine whether the aggravating factors outweigh any mitigating factors in the defendant's favor. The 3 judges also must determine if the death sentence is warranted and, if so, whether it is proportionate to the penalty imposed in similar cases.

The 3 judges ultimately determine whether the defendant gets death or life in prison.

Attorney Jerry Soucie, who has represented several Nebraska death-row inmates, said Friday that he expects the state's other 8 death-row inmates to challenge Nebraska's method, too.

"This issue has been floating around a long time," Soucie said.

(source: Associated Press)

UTAH:

Death penalty bills to return to the Utah State Legislature

Bills for and against the death penalty are expected to be debated in the 2017 session of the Utah State Legislature.

Capital punishment bills are being considered on the 40th anniversary of Gary Gilmore's execution. The Utah inmate was the 1st to be executed following a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that reinstated the death penalty. Gilmore was executed by firing squad.

Death penalty supporters and opponents are expected to be back on Utah's Capitol Hill to argue for bills.

"I feel very compelled that I have to do this," said Randy Gardner, the brother of condemned killer Ronnie Lee Gardner, who was the last man to be executed in Utah (who also died by firing squad).

Randy Gardner spoke to FOX 13 from Washington, D.C. where he was participating in protests against capital punishment. He said he would be pushing the Utah State Legislature to favor a repeal of the death penalty.

"I say to my kids, 'Why do we kill people to show people that killing is wrong?' I believe it makes murderers out of us," he said.

There are 9 people on Utah's death row. The state has firing squad as a method of execution, if lethal injection is not available. Right now, the Utah Department of Corrections has said it does not have the ability to carry out a lethal injection execution.

Lawmakers spent the summer discussing the cost of implementing the death penalty, versus life in prison without the possibility of parole. Last year, a bill to repeal the death penalty failed on the last day of the legislative session when the House wouldn't consider the bill. It is unknown who will run a repeal bill this year, but death penalty opponents said they are planning for one to be filed.

Rep. Paul Ray, R-Clearfield, said the death penalty serves as a deterrent and gives prosecutors bargaining power. He is running a bill that would mandate that anyone convicted of targeting and killing a law enforcement official face a capital offense.

"This is, 'I'm going to kill a cop.' Mandatory death penalty," Rep. Ray said in an interview Monday with FOX 13. "Prosecutors have to file it."

Rep. Ray acknowledged he expected prosecutors to oppose his bill, but believed it was important to have "teeth" in the law and protect police officers, firefighters and paramedics.

"They don't like being told what to do," he said. "It's very difficult, very expensive - according to them - to prosecute death penalty. I think you have to look at the overall act and make the punishment match."

(source: Fox News)

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Gilmore Execution Sees Death Penalty Reinstated

On 17th January 1977, Gary Gilmore became the 1st person to be executed in the United States in almost 10 years. His death by firing squad marked the end of a ban on the death penalty which had been in place since 1972.

Capital punishment has long been controversial. Globally it's been in decline for a long time, yet it remains a feature of the US justice system. Throughout US history attempts have been made to eliminate the use of the death penalty. Undoubtedly, the most successful came in the 1970s, resulting in the 4 year ban.

The key to the ban was the 1972 Furman v. Georgia case. William Henry Furman was accused of killing a resident in a house during a burglary. Furman's statement changed, from having killed the resident unintentionally by blindly firing a shot while fleeing, to his gun firing accidentally after he'd tripped.

Seeing as the death occurred as part of a burglary, Furman was eligible for the death penalty if found guilty. He was convicted, although his defenders say the verdict was reached purely on the basis of Furman's own statement. Furman was ultimately sentenced to death, but the punishment was never carried out.

The case was brought before the US Supreme Court, who ruled that the imposition of the death penalty would have constituted a "cruel and unusual punishment" under the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments. The Supreme Court ruled that Georgia's death penalty statute which gave juries full discretion could lead to arbitrary sentencing. The verdict immediately freed several other criminals on Georgia's death row from the death sentence.

In June 1972, the Supreme Court voided 40 death penalty statutes, commuting the death sentences of some 629 inmates across the United States and effectively suspending the death penalty in the country.

Despite the ban, polls showed that by 1976 some 66% of Americans still supported the death penalty. Ultimately, the case of Gary Gilmore provided a precedent for the return of capital punishment.

A career criminal who by the age of 35 had already spent 1/2 of his life in jail, over the course of 2 days in July 1976 Gilmore killed 2 men: gas station attendant Max Jensen and motel manager Ben Bushnell. Both men had been robbed by Gilmore and despite complying with his demands, were killed.

Gilmore was quickly found guilty of murder and sentenced to death, reigniting the debate around capital punishment in the USA. The American Civil Liberties Union and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People united to launch campaigns to prevent his execution, fearing the precedent it would set. Gilmore himself accepted the sentence. Firing his legal team who'd attempted to have his sentence overturned, he then took the unusual step of campaigning for a hasty execution; launching a hunger strike in protest at the delay in carrying out the sentence and having a letter published in the press asking his mother to stop trying to intervene on his behalf.

The Supreme Court set basic requirements that needed to be met if the death penalty was to be reinstated in a state:

1. Capital sentencing must be based upon objective criteria to direct and limit the exercise of discretion.

2. The adjudicator must take into account the character and record of the individual defendant.

Any state complying with those criteria was allowed to enact new death penalty laws, something 37 states of the USA have done since 1976.

Gilmore meanwhile, was executed by firing squad on 17th January 1977. Supposedly, his last words were: "Let's do it."

(source: newhistorian.com)

WASHINGTON:

AG Ferguson proposes bipartisan bill to end Washington's death penalty

Attorney General Bob Ferguson today proposed bipartisan legislation to abolish the death penalty in Washington.

In a demonstration of broad, bipartisan support for ending capital punishment in the state, former Attorney General Rob McKenna joined Ferguson at a press conference in the Capitol announcing the proposal.

The Attorneys General were joined by Governor Jay Inslee and a group of legislators from across the aisle and around the state.

"There is no role for capital punishment in a fair, equitable and humane justice system," Ferguson said. "The Legislature has evaded a vote on the death penalty for years. The public deserves to know where their representatives stand."

"The current system is not working," said McKenna. "There is too much delay, cost and uncertainty around the death penalty, which is why I stand today with Attorney General Ferguson and this bipartisan group of legislators in support of this change."

Ferguson articulated some of the many reasons for opposition to the death penalty, including:

--Moral opposition to the state taking lives in the people's name

--The possibility of executing an innocent person in our imperfect system

--The increased cost of seeking death sentences versus life in prison - over $1 million on average in Washington state

--The concentration of capital cases in the counties with the most resources to pursue them, and

--The ineffectiveness of the death penalty as a deterrent.

Sen. Mark Miloscia, R-Federal Way (30th District), is sponsoring the Attorney General-request legislation in the Senate. Rep. Tina Orwall, D-Des Moines (33rd District), will introduce the companion House bill.

Several legislators from both political parties joined Ferguson, McKenna and Inslee at Monday's press conference.

"The public is slowly changing on the death penalty. I think now is the time to sit down and have a real conversation on how we administer justice in this state," said Sen. Miloscia.

"We recognize that the death penalty is a painfully difficult and profoundly serious public issue," said Sen. Reuven Carlyle, D-Seattle (36th District). "With heavy consideration, we believe the time has come to end this practice in Washington and ask that our colleagues in the Legislature join us in making our criminal justice system reflect our deepest held values."

"As a means of effective punishment, the death penalty is outdated," said Sen. Maureen Walsh, R-Walla Walla(16th District). "Our legal system imposes enormous costs on prosecutors who try death penalty cases, the appeals process costs millions more, and the punishment is ultimately so uncertain that it is difficult to claim that justice is served. Not only is life-without-parole more cost-effective, it also offers the certainty that is an essential element of justice."

"Over the last 4 decades, 156 people have been exonerated from death row across the nation. How many more continue waiting for new evidence to prove their innocence, and will they get it before their lives are taken?" said Rep. Orwall, who also led the way to pass legislation to get compensation for those wrongfully convicted in Washington. "If we truly want to serve justice, the state should avoid irreversible punishment to individuals who were wrongly convicted and would have otherwise been executed."

"As a former prosecuting attorney for Columbia County, my heart remains with the families of the victims who suffered horrific acts that would justify the death penalty," said Rep. Terry Nealey, R-Dayton (16th District), who was unable to attend the announcement in person. "Their feelings should never be minimalized. That is why it has taken so long for my thoughts to evolve against the death penalty in Washington state. However, the steps, the immense and extended time, and the incredible expense and resources it takes to impose and uphold this most severe form of punishment have made the death penalty nearly impossible to carry out. In recent years, even in the most heinous crimes, jurors have failed to impose the death penalty. In the meantime, families suffer for years with the angst of having to go through trials, court proceedings, appeals and more, not knowing if the death penalty will ever take place."

The bill is expected to go to the Senate Law and Justice Committee and the House Judiciary Committee.

In February of 2014, Gov. Jay Inslee imposed a moratorium on executions in the State of Washington, finding that executions in the state are "unequally applied" and "sometimes dependent on the size of the county's budget." The governor did not propose legislation to abolish the state's death penalty, but his moratorium has remained in place since.

In the wake of Gov. Inslee's moratorium announcement, newspapers across the state have encouraged the state to eliminate capital punishment, including the editorial boards of The Seattle Times, Spokane's Spokesman-Review, the News Tribune in Tacoma and the Daily Herald in Everett.

The Office of the Attorney General is the chief legal office for the state of Washington with attorneys and staff in 27 divisions across the state providing legal services to roughly 200 state agencies, boards and commissions. Visit www.atg.wa.gov to learn more.

(source: wa.gov)

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

Washington AG seeks to get rid of death penalty----The effort was announced Monday at the Capitol

Gov. Jay Inslee and Attorney General Bob Ferguson have announced proposed legislation to abolish the death penalty in Washington state.

The effort was announced Monday at the Capitol. Inslee imposed a moratorium on capital punishment in 2014, but repeal bills introduced since that time have stalled in the Legislature.

Last month, Inslee invoked the moratorium as he reprieved Clark Elmore, who was sentenced to death for the rape and murder of a 14-year-old girl.

Reprieves aren't pardons and don't commute the sentences of those condemned to death. Under Inslee's system, death-row inmates will remain in prison rather than face execution. Elmore is the 1st of Washington's death row inmates to exhaust his appeals since the moratorium was put in place. He remains at the state prison in Walla Walla, along with 7 other death row inmates.

(source: Associated Press)

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

The Move To Kill The Death Penalty In Our State

There's a funny thing about the death penalty. Not funny in a stand-up comic way, but funny in an odd, sad way.

The thing is, the DP is rock-solid permanent. Once it goes down, it's down for good. If you hang or electrocute in ol' sparky some poor schmuck who ended up there due to a corrupt prosecutor or cop or both, or some dimly lit public defender with a booze problem, or send some other person to meet her maker with chemicals or blow them away via firing squad, you can't go back later and say you're sorry if you find out you snuffed an innocent person.

No do-overs pal. It is what it was.

And with DNA revelations being what they are - more and more innocent people being freed after 25 or more years in the slam for crimes they did not do - it's a fair bet this country over the years has snuffed its share of folks who did not do the crime.

Yet some people - particularly those hangin' judges down Texas way - just love the DP.

"Well, ya'all must have done somethin' in the past to warrant your sorry bass being here so tough luck pal. Have a nice trip to meet Jesus," you could imagine a Texas hangin' judge spouting from the bench prior to setting off for a few rounds of golf at the country club with somebody that looks a lot like Rick Perry.

It is the permanency of that sentence that sticks in many craws. It just is not right, they say.

DNA, innocent schmucks in prison, hacksaw users

Over the years, with all those DNA revelations, more and more people have jumped on the anti-death penalty bus, although such a bus might be anti-American. After all as a culture we do seem to like the thought of killin' folks in a variety of ways, most often with an AR-15 in a crowded movie theater or elementary school.

Thus it was that Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson Monday proposed bipartisan legislation to abolish the death penalty in this state.

In what appeared to be a decent demonstration of broad, bipartisan support for ending capital punishment in Washington state, former Attorney General Rob McKenna joined Ferguson at a press conference in the Capitol to announce the proposal.

They in turn were were joined by Governor Jay Inslee and a group of legislators from across the aisle and around the state.

"There is no role for capital punishment in a fair, equitable and humane justice system," Ferguson said. "The Legislature has evaded a vote on the death penalty for years. The public deserves to know where their representatives stand."

And then McKenna: "The current system is not working. There is too much delay, cost and uncertainty around the death penalty, which is why I stand today with Attorney General Ferguson and this bipartisan group of legislators in support of this change."

Sounds like Barack Obama a few years back. Change has come to ol' sparky. Yes we can! Ferguson talked about some of the reasons we need to kill (pardon the pun) the death penalty.

There's that "moral" thing (the state snuffing somebody in the people’s name) the "possibility of executing an innocent person in our imperfect system," the fact that it costs taxpayers a humpload of money (over $1 million on average in Washington state) and the rampant ineffectiveness of the death penalty as a deterrent.

No deterrent at all

That fact that it doesn't work as a deterrent should be quite obvious. If it was a deterrent people wouldn't be doing those horrendous crimes that got them the DP at trial.

Fact is, right at the point some 7-time felon all covered in tats is using a hacksaw to cut the head off some poor wretch, his is not thinking, "Gosh, I might get the death penalty for this. I should stop right now."

No. He's thinking what a swell thing that ol' Jimbo won't be on earth anymore to cause him anymore problems or tick him off. In fact, he's already thinking about where to drop off the head and the headless body. Usually those 2 things end up in different locations.

Sen. Mark Miloscia, R-Federal Way (30th District), is sponsoring the Attorney General-request legislation in the Senate. Rep. Tina Orwall, D-Des Moines (33rd District), will introduce the companion House bill.

"The public is slowly changing on the death penalty. I think now is the time to sit down and have a real conversation on how we administer justice in this state," said Sen. Miloscia.

Amen brother.

(source: skyvalleychronicle.com)

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

In an enlightened age, the death penalty is still justice

Whether the death penalty is a deterrent to murder is disputed, but it is indisputable that most murderers seek desperately to avoid it. This gives prosecutors needed leverage.

See if you agree with a Bellingham jury:

In 1995, Kristy Lynn Ohnstad, a 14-year-old Bellingham girl, was taken to a secluded area by her mother's boyfriend, dragged to the back of a van, and told to remove her clothes or be "seriously hurt." At just over 100 pounds, she had no chance to fight back. Her cries for mercy were ignored. He raped her, choked her, cinched a belt around her neck and drove a metal spike through her ear into her brain. She was still alive, so Clark Richard Elmore covered her head with a plastic bag and beat her skull with a sledgehammer.

Elmore gave a full confession to police and pleaded guilty. When the jury was asked whether they were "convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that there are not sufficient mitigating circumstances to merit leniency," they were unanimous. Elmore deserved the ultimate punishment for his crimes.

But Gov. Jay Inslee gave this child-murderer what the jury and dozens of judges after 21 years of appeals did not - a reprieve.

Is that justice? Were the jury and a number of courts wrong? Did Elmore instead deserve to live a full life with free health care, recreation and 3 square meals?

The death penalty is often caricatured as barbaric revenge that an enlightened society should have nothing to do with. But this argument is always made in the abstract. Let us consider another argument.

As Alexander Hamilton observed, "the 1st duty of society is justice." So what is the just punishment for this crime? The answer turns on what the crime deserves.

We all believe that each life is precious, unique and irreplaceable. The death penalty is the only penalty that approximates the value of what was taken. It does not reduce the value of life, but affirms the supreme value of innocent life. There will only be 1 Kristy Lynn Ohnstad.

Critics claim the death penalty has lost favor with the public. But the 2016 elections saw red-state Oklahomans pass a state constitutional amendment aimed at its preservation and blue-state Californians pass a measure (Proposition 66) aimed at speeding up death penalty trials.

Whether the death penalty is a deterrent to murder is disputed, but it is indisputable that most murderers seek desperately to avoid it. This gives prosecutors needed leverage. While we might be dismayed that the Green River killer could avoid the death penalty, we can understand why it was traded away for families to have loved ones' remains returned and long unanswered questions resolved.

Some oppose the death penalty for fear of executing the innocent. This is not a relevant concern in Elmore's case, who had pleaded guilty. But the finality of the death penalty inspires urgency for an ultra-thorough re-examination of evidence. Does a 40-year sentence do the same - even when the inmate is likely to die in prison? We have a system of appeals to safeguard against execution of the innocent. We also have the Clemency and Pardons Board to examine evidence and advise governors, and we give governors broad authority to act on those recommendations.

The death penalty is expensive, and may be out of reach for some counties. It can also take far too long. But these are reasons to reform, not to abolish.

The governor claims the reprieve for Clark Richard Elmore was not about the individual case, but about the system. This is wrong. The law prescribes that each case be considered individually with the recommendations of the Clemency and Pardons Board. Instead, Inslee has been going rogue, ignoring the legal process, and undermining justice. The board has not considered Elmore's case and did not recommend a reprieve.

When Inslee announced his moratorium he cited the costs. Yet Elmore had exhausted his appeals. The expense had already been incurred. The governor complained the death penalty wasn't applied to the most heinous offenders. This man raped and murdered a child. Inslee complained that death sentences are not swift or certain, but he has further delayed justice that's already waited 21 years for a man who has never even denied his own guilt. The governor's actions are not a call to re-examine the death penalty but for legislators to call on the governor to abide by the limitations of his office and to follow the law.

(source: Opinion; State Sen. Steve O'Ban, R-University Place, represents the 28th Legislative District----Seattle Times)

USA:

Airport shooter to be held before potential death-penalty trial

The gunman who opened fire on Fort Lauderdale airport travelers, leaving a trail of questions about his motive for killing 5 people and injuring 6 others, is expected to be ordered held before trial by a federal magistrate judge on Tuesday.

Prosecutors and defense attorneys are likely to agree to the detention of Esteban Santiago rather than go forward with a hearing in Fort Lauderdale federal court that might reveal possible details about the shooter's state of mind - a key factor if the military veteran mounts an insanity defense to challenge a potential death-penalty prosecution.

Santiago, 26, who was born in New Jersey and raised in Puerto Rico, is scheduled to be indicted this week on murder charges for the Jan. 6 deaths at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport before his arraignment next Monday. Prosecutors could file a notice of seeking the death penalty along with the indictment, the 1st step toward a decision that must ultimately be made by the U.S. attorney general.

Since the deadly rampage, FBI agents have been investigating Santiago's social media sites and questioning witnesses from South Florida to Puerto Rico to Alaska, where he most recently lived before purchasing a one-way ticket to Fort Lauderdale to carry out the apparently random shooting.

Agents have discovered that Santiago, a former Army reservist who did a tour of duty in the Iraq war, had a recent history of domestic violence and a psychiatric evaluation after approaching the FBI in Anchorage to tell them that he was hearing voices urging him to join the Islamic State terrorist group. Anchorage police confiscated his handgun but then a returned it to him last month. It was the same weapon Santiago was suspected of using in the Fort Lauderdale airport shooting.

However, agents don't believe Santiago is a lone wolf, radicalized by extreme Islamist propaganda on the internet, according to sources familiar with the investigation. Instead, they are still trying to figure out what caused him to snap and why he chose the Fort Lauderdale airport as his target.

On Monday, authorities disclosed that Santiago had registered at least four handguns in Puerto Rico, including a 9mm pistol, the same caliber as the suspected murder weapon.

Puerto Rican police said they couldn't rule out that Santiago had initially registered the Walther 9 mm - used in the Fort Lauderdale airport shooting - in his hometown of Peñuelas.

"We cannot confirm that it was the same weapon," Puerto Rico police spokesman Edward Ramirez said. "But we do know he had a license to carry [a 9 mm pistol] and we understand that it’s highly probable that it was the same weapon."

(source: Miami Herald)

NIGERIA:

The Lagos State anti-kidnapping law

It is commendable that in a bid to curb the rising wave of kidnappings in the state, the Lagos State House of Assembly has sent a bill against the menace to Governor Akinwunmi Ambode for assent and passage into law.

To underscore the inhumanity of those who perpetrate the crime, "A Bill for a Law to provide for the Prohibition of the act of kidnapping and other connected Purposes," understandably proposes the death penalty for offenders whose captive (s) died in their custody and a life sentence for those whose victims came out alive. In the light of an upsurge in this heinous crime, the Lagos State House of Assembly deserves praise for taking this action against such a murderous scourge as kidnapping. It is also time the Federal Government took a decisive action in tandem with the three states -Anambra, Delta and Lagos - that have enacted or are in the process of passing specific laws to deal with abductions.

In October last year, kidnappers struck at the Lagos State Model College in Epe and took away six persons, made up of staff and students. They were released after days in captivity upon payment of a ransom. The trauma of that violent encounter still lingers among all persons. Before then, 4 residents of Lekki Gardens in Isheri were violently abducted and taken to the creeks. They were also later released, perhaps after the abductors had received a ransom. Indeed, there were other cases of kidnappings which did not catch the big headlines in Lagos and across the country. In some cases, the kidnappers would collect the ransom after killing their victims and many victims have also been known to suffer heart failure during the encounters. Their bodies are usually buried in shallow graves by the criminals. Those who are lucky to return from the captivity of kidnappers tell horrendous stories of torture, starvation and humiliation. In a few cases, the police were able to arrest the criminals.

Last week over half a dozen civic groups in Lagos called on the state government to frontally confront kidnapping. In their view, the era of denial was over. They listed the cases of different persons from 2012 who had been kidnapped in Lagos and concluded that the government was not willing to publicly acknowledge the problem. Recently, indeed, on Friday, January 13, 2017, 5 persons, 3 students and 2 members of staff of Turkish International School Isheri, a border town between Lagos and Ogun states, were kidnapped by armed men. In most, if not all the cases, these criminals demand a ransom which loved ones manage to raise and pay. So, for the kidnappers, it is an avenue to get quick wealth and, therefore, an attractive venture.

The scourge shot up in the last 10 odd years as kidnappers who called themselves militants picked up foreigners, particularly in the Niger Delta, and asked for huge sums of money. To avoid the death of victims, families and companies as well as governments often paid the ransom. Different groups and persons then took to the nefarious trade and made a profession of it. In Delta State, the reign of the notorious Kokori-born Kelvin Oniara, the kingpin of kidnappings in that region was brought to an end in 2013 when he was arrested by men of the State Security Service in Port Harcourt. He and some members of his gang are currently facing trial in Abuja for the abduction of 1-time Deputy Governor of Anambra State, Dr. Chudi Nwike, Chief Michael Ozekhome (SAN) and Professor Hope Eghagha (then Commissioner for Higher Education, Delta State). Sadly, Dr. Nwike was killed and his body abandoned on a roadside near Agbor. Also in 2013, another kingpin who operated between Ghana and Lagos, Benjamin Osinachi, (aka China) met his waterloo in the hands of the Special Anti-robbery Squad of the Nigeria Police, after years of terrorising innocent families through kidnapping. Anambra State took the special step of demolishing any house that was used as a hideout or safe haven by kidnappers.

The truth, therefore, is that kidnapping is now a national problem. It requires concerted efforts of all stakeholders in Nigeria and sometimes across the border. This is where intelligence gathering in a proactive manner becomes crucial. The criminals involved use their mobile phones to make calls before, during and after kidnapping their victims. A synergy between the Nigeria Police and the network providers should provide a platform to track the scoundrels. The Federal Government should play a definite and coordinating role in this regard. An effective intelligence structure should be created in order to either nip the crime in the bud or arrest perpetrators of the crime.

The banks also have a role to play. Some of the huge ransoms paid by victims usually end up in the banks. Through proper monitoring, banks should be able to report to the appropriate authorities if a customer starts making cash deposits that are not generated by any known business transactions. Also, with the proper infrastructure in place, people of suspicious character who suddenly start living above their means should be brought to the attention of the authorities. Kidnappers are human beings. They live in communities. They belong in families. In some cases, neighbours and friends suspect them but fear of reprisals prevents them from exposing the crooks.

With fear of kidnapping in the air, people are usually afraid to move around and exercise their God-given, constitution-guaranteed freedoms. For example, businessmen and women would live in perpetual fear as long as kidnappers carry out their criminal activities without fear of being arrested. Also, investors are likely to shun areas where kidnapping is frequent. This would have a terrible effect on the economy of the country, which is already in a recession.

While the Lagos State government's adoption of the death penalty may be an unfashionable extreme measure, in the circumstance, the Federal Government and other state governments should follow suit with laws that will contain permanently the menace of kidnapping. Trials should not be tedious and unduly long. Witnesses and whistle blowers against kidnappers should be guaranteed protection as part of the efforts to guarantee the safety of citizens and halt the activities of kidnappers.

(source: Editorial Board, guardian.ng)

BENIN:

14 Benin prisoners 'abandoned' in death row despite scrap of death penalty

14 prisoners on death row in Benin's Akpro-Misserete Prison close to the capital Port Novo are still being held in terrible conditions separately from other inmates despite last year's abolishment of the death penalty.

Their plight was documented by Amnesty International in a report on Monday which says the inmates who have already served 20 years on death row have not had their sentences commuted.

"They face an unclear fate in appalling detention conditions, without adequate food and medical care," Amnesty International's Adviser on the death penalty, Oluwatosin Popoola said in the report.

The inmates were only informed by prison authorities that they will not be executed, the report added.

"The fear of death is often worse than death itself. For years, I woke up wondering: will I be executed today, tomorrow, in a few months or in a few years?" 54-year-old Azonhito Yaovi who has been on death row for 18 years told Amnesty International.

Another inmate, 52-year-old Fatai Bankole said: "When we are sick, we rely on the help we can get from outside. If you have money and family to provide you with treatment, you survive. If you don't, you die."

Oluwatosin Popoola called on the Benin government to commute their sentences officially and "ensure that the conditions they are being held in comply with minimum international standards."

"Benin is the 104th country in the world and the 19th country in sub-Saharan Africa to abolish the death penalty for all crimes and we applaud its efforts. However, it needs to formalize the abolition in its laws to make absolutely sure there's no chance of sliding backwards on this achievement," Oluwatosin Popoola added.

The last known execution in Benin was carried out in 1987. A recent 2016 judgement makes it impossible for the courts to impose death sentences, effectively abolishing the death penalty in Benin, Amnesty International said.

(source: africanews.com)

PAKISTAN:

Man gets death penalty for murdering navy policeman

An anti-terrorism court (ATC) has awarded capital punishment to a man involved in the murder of a navy policeman during an attempted robbery back in 2014.

The court noted on Monday that the prosecution had proved the murder case against Muhammad Yasir but had failed to prove any of the charges against his alleged accomplice Muneer, who was acquitted from the case. The ATC also sentenced Yasir to 10 years in prison for robbery.

On April 30, 2014, a security guard belonging to the Pakistan Navy was gunned down in an attack on the car of a senior navy officer in Defence Phase II. Police claimed that the incident was not a target killing but a robbery attempt.

35-year-old Fayyaz Qayyum was wounded in the attack and was pronounced dead on arrival at the PNS Shifa hospital. Resident of Sultanabad in Karachi, the victim hailed from Abbottabad, KP.

Another ATC expressed displeasure over the "lethargic" role of state attorneys in the Zahra Shahid murder case and issued an arrest warrant against a prosecution witness for failing to record his statement in court.

The court fixed January 26 as the date to hear the case again and ordered producing the prosecution witness in the next hearing.

The ATC-VIII, headed by Imdad Ali Khoso, noted that the prosecution witness, a government employee, had failed to appear in court despite repeatedly being issued with summons.

The state attorneys were directed to assist the court in the literal sense and ensure that the prosecution witness is brought in to record his statement.

Muhammad Rashid, alias Master, Zahid Abbas Zaidi, Irfan, alias Lamba, and Kaleem are on trial for the murder of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Sindh senior vice-president Zahra Shahid.

She was killed outside her residence by 2 motorcyclists in the upmarket Defence Housing Authority locality on May 18, 2013, on the eve of re-election at 43 polling stations in the NA-250 constituency, where the atmosphere had remained tense for several days.

Police initially said it was apparently an act of mugging and street crime, as the armed suspects "tried to snatch a purse from Zahra Shahid", who was in her 60s, and, on resistance, fired a single shot under her chin, killing her instantly.

However, the police subsequently said they were investigating the matter further in the light of statements claiming that it was a target killing.

(source: The News)

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

ATC hands down death penalty to a man

An anti-terrorism court handed down the death sentence to a man in a murder case.

Muhammad Yasir alias Kala was found guilty of murdering Pakistan Navy's gunman Fayyad Ali during an attempted robbery in DHA on April 30, 2014.

The ATC-III sentenced Kala to death adding payment of a fine of Rs 500,000 to the legal heirs of the deceased. It also awarded 10 years imprisonment to him in the robbery case and directed him to pay fine of Rs 50,000. "He would undergo an addition of 1 year imprisonment if he fails to pay the fine."

The court exonerated another suspect, Muneer, for lack of evidence. It announced its verdict after recording evidence and statements of the defense and prosecution sides. According to the police, Yasir and his accomplice robbed Pakistan Navy captain Iftikhar Ahmed at a traffic signal near DHA Central Library. When the suspects saw gunman Fayyaz Ali picking up his gun, they opened fire at him, severely injuring him. The wounded man succumbed to injuries and was pronounced dead by doctors at the PNS Shifa Hospital.

(source: dailytimes.com.pk)

IRAN----executions

5 Prisoners Executed

5 prisoners were reportedly executed in various Iranian prisons.

2 PRISONERS EXECUTED

According to close sources, 2 prisoners were executed on drug charges on the morning of Saturday January 14 at Dizel Abad Prison in Kermanshah.

The prisoners have been identified as:

Seifollah Hosnian, 33, arrested on December 29, 2010 for possession of two kilograms and 200 grams of crack and 1 kilogram and 80 grams of crystal meth, sentenced to death on May 28, 2011 by the Javanrud Revolutionary Court, presided by Judge Hekmati.

Tofigh Bahramnejad, 31, arrested in 2012 on drug charges, sentenced to death on March 4, 2014 by branch 2 of the Kermanshah Revolutionary Court.

1 PRISONER EXECUTED

According to the website Iran Online, a prisoner was hanged at Shahab Kerman prison on SundayJanuary 15 on murder charges. The prisoner has been identified as Shamsoldin, 23.

2 PRISONERS EXECUTED

According to Mehr News, 2 prisoners were hanged on drug related charges. The prisoners have been identified as Akbar K., 36, accused of possession and trafficking 194 grams and 50 centigrams of heroin and Morteza H., accused of possession and trafficking 2 kilograms.

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

Iranian authorities continue to implement death sentences for drug related offenses at a high rate, even when an urgent plan was approved in the Iranian Parliament recently calling for a halt to the execution of prisoners on death row for drug related offenses. Additionally, Iranian Parliament members have sent a joint letter to the head of Iran's Judiciary asking for the imminent execution of approximately five thousand drug-related prisoners to be stopped pending further review of their cases.

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

Prisoner Hanged Publicly In Northwestern Iran

1 prisoner was hanged in the village of Bektash near Miandoab (Northwestern Iran) reported the official Iranian news agencies.

The public hanging was carried out Monday morning January 16. The man who was not identified by name was convicted of murdering 5 members of a family in the summer 2016.

According to the Prosecutor of Miandoab, Adel Gol Hosseini, the man was senteced to death within two months after his arrest.

Pictures published in the Iranian media show several hundred people watching the execution.

The website of "Kurdistan Human Rights Network" identified the prisoner as Ali Aghayan (24 years old).

At least 32 prisoners have been executed in different Iranian cities the last 6 days.

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

UN calls on Iran to halt juvenile execution

In a statement released today, 3 of the United Nations' rights experts called on the Iranian authorities to stop execution of the juvenile offender Sajjad Sanjari who is reportedly in imminent danger of execution and to institute a moratorium on the use of the death penalty in Iran.

The rights experts include Asma Jahangir, Special Rapportueur on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran, Agnes Callamard, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions and Benyam Dawit Mezmur Chairperson of the Committee on the Rights of the Child.

According to the reports collected by Iran Human Rights (IHR) more than 32 prisoners have been executed during the last 6 days in Iran.

UN experts today urged the Islamic Republic of Iran to halt the possibly imminent execution of a juvenile offender.

"We are deeply concerned that the life of a juvenile offender remains in danger and that he may be executed at any moment," said the experts, Asma Jahangir, Special Rapportueur on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran, Agnes Callamard, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions and Benyam Dawit Mezmur Chairperson of the Committee on the Rights of the Child.

The offender was 15 years old when he was sentenced to death in 2012 for stabbing a man. In February 2014, he was granted a retrial on the basis of the new juvenile sentencing provisions of the 2013 Islamic Penal Code.

However, in June 2015 the Provincial Criminal Court of Kermanshah Province found that, at the time of the commission of the crime, he was mature enough to understand the nature of his crime. The court therefore confirmed his death sentence and rejected his argument that he had acted in self-defence following a rape attempt. The death sentence was upheld by Iran's Supreme Court in August 2016.

Iran remains one of several States which execute juvenile offenders despite its strict prohibition under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, to which Iran is a party.

"The Iranian authorities must immediately halt the execution of this juvenile and annul the death sentence against him in compliance with international standards for the imposition of this form of punishment," the experts stressed.

Several other juveniles were retried under the revised juvenile sentencing guidelines of the 2013 Islamic Penal Code, and also found to be mature enough to be sentenced to death. 15 others were reportedly sentenced to death for the 1st time under these guidelines.

In January 2016, the Committee on the Rights of the Child urged Iran to end the execution of children and persons who committed a crime while under the age of 18. However, at least 5 juvenile offenders were executed in 2016 and, to date more than 78 juveniles are reported to be on death row.

"Iran must observe its international obligations by putting an end to the execution of juvenile offenders once and for all," the experts said.

Ms. Jahangir and Ms. Callamard also expressed outrage at the reported execution of 16 alleged drug offenders on Saturday 14 January.

"Under international law, countries which have retained the death penalty may only impose it for the most serious crimes, that is, those involving intentional killing. Drug related offences do not meet this threshold," the experts highlighted.

"Moreover, information we received show that the trials of some of these people marred by violations of due process guarantees and that the proceedings fell short of international fair trial standards," the experts said. "Any death sentence undertaken in contravention of a Government's international obligations is unlawful and tantamount to an arbitrary execution."

Over the past 2 years, more 1,000 people have reportedly been executed for drug related offences in Iran and currently some 5,000 people are reported to be on death row for drug offences.

"Until the death penalty for drug related offences is abolished in Iran, a moratorium on these executions should be instituted and all scheduled executions for drug- related offences halted," the 2 experts stressed.

The experts also noted that human rights defenders campaigning against the death penalty in Iran are being increasingly targeted. Several anti-death penalty activists were sentenced to long prison sentences in 2016.

(source for all: Iran Human Rights)

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

Prisoner Executed Before Flawed Judicial Process Ends

A prisoner incarcerate in central prison of Karaj was executed on drug related charges in an incomplete trial and before the vague and flawed judicial process ends.

According to the prisoner's wife, the amount of drug he was carrying was much less than what was recorded in the court's secretariat. On the other hand, his case was still under investigation in the Supreme Court and the death sentence was neither confirmed nor communicated to the prisoner.

Hadi Moghaddam, 31, married and father of one child, has been in prison for 5 years before being executed on January 3rd 2017.

The prisoner's wife in an interview with a Persian (Farsi) language news agency about the ambiguities in the case said: "In the case of my husband, the amount of discovered drugs was registered to be 416 grams. On the other hand, the death sentence was neither confirmed nor announced. The court has said that in no way a death sentence will be issued for (carrying) drugs under 0.5 kg. Now, I wonder how they could hang my husband for this amount of drugs. They must answer me why they executed him?"

She also explained about the institutions she approached to stop and cancel the execution and said: "I received a letter from Khamenei's office and also from the head of the Judiciary, because I am a martyrs' family member. I also received a letter form Martyrs foundation and put them on the case to reduce the sentence by one degree. Even prosecutor approved all the letters and the case to be returned for reconsideration. But before the case was returned, they gave my husband the confirmation order."

It should be noted that last week the death sentence of a prisoner identified as Nosratollah Khazaei was carried out in Qazvin prison while his family said the case was still under investigation and review by the prosecution office and his death sentence was not finalized.

(source: NCR-Iran)

SAUDI ARABIA----execution

Saudi carries out first death sentence of 2017 ---- Kingdom puts prisoner to death for shooting dead another Saudi in 1st of year by one of world's most prolific executioners.

Saudi Arabia, one of the world's most prolific executioners, on Tuesday carried out its 1st death sentence of the year, after more than 150 in 2016.

Authorities put Mamdouh al Anzi to death following his conviction for shooting dead another Saudi in a dispute, the interior ministry said.

He was executed in Arar, a city near Iraq.

Beheading with a sword is the most common form of execution in the kingdom.

According to an AFP tally based on official announcements, Saudi Arabia executed 153 locals and foreigners last year under its Islamic legal code, down slightly from the previous year.

Rights group Amnesty International said Saudi Arabia carried out at least 158 death sentences in 2015, coming 3rd after Iran and Pakistan.

Amnesty's figures do not include secretive China.

Rights experts have raised concerns about the fairness of trials in the kingdom but the government says the death penalty is a deterrent.

(source: middle-east-online.com)

UNITED KINGDOM/BAHRAIN:

3 executed in Bahrain - Boris Johnson's Bahrain response 'woefully inadequate'

International human rights organization Reprieve has criticised the response of the UK Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, to Bahrain's execution this morning of 3 men.

The 3 men, Ali Al-Singace (21), Abbas Al-Samea (27) and Sami Mushaima (42), were executed by firing squad after being convicted on the basis of forced 'confessions'.

A statement from the Foreign Secretary did not confirm whether the Government took steps to prevent the executions. The statement also did not address concerns, raised by Reprieve, over the risk of UK complicity in the executions and other abuses such as torture.

Mr Johnson said: "The UK is firmly opposed to the death penalty, and it is our longstanding position to oppose capital sentences in all circumstances. The Bahraini authorities are fully aware of our position and I have raised the issue with the Bahraini Government."

The UK Foreign Office has spent over 5 million pounds in aid money on reforming Bahrain's human rights record since protests swept the Gulf kingdom in 2011. Reprieve has gathered information that suggests the assistance programme failed to protect the 3 men from torture.

Documents obtained by Reprieve, and reported in the Observer today, reveal that Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Prisons helped plan inspections of custody facilities in Bahrain; including the police station where all 3 men were tortured. Their abuse continued after inspections took place. The 6-page inspection report failed to mention their allegations of torture.

The FCO has also funded a UK state-owned body, NI-CO, to train 2 oversight institutions in Bahrain, an Ombudsman and a Special Investigations Unit. Both bodies rejected Mr al-Samea's complaint about his torture, without conducting a proper investigation.

The 3 men are the first people executed in Bahrain since 2010, and the 1st Bahrainis executed since 1996.

There are now concerns about 2 other men on Bahrain's death row who are also at imminent risk of execution, Mohammed Ramadan and Husain Moosa. Both say they were tortured into providing false confessions at the same police station as the 3 men who were executed today.

Commenting, Maya Foa, a director of Reprieve, said:

"The UK is one of Bahrain's biggest backers - last year Boris Johnson's Department oversaw 2m pounds of support to the Kingdom's prisons and wider criminal justice system. Unfortunately, the Bahraini bodies trained by the UK repeatedly failed to properly investigate appalling torture allegations lodged by the men who were executed today. Given this fact - and the grave miscarriages of justice that have taken place today - the Foreign Secretary's statement is woefully inadequate. It fails even to confirm whether HMG had opposed the imminent executions during recent high level meetings with Bahraini officials.

"The Government should immediately suspend its involvement with Bahrain's criminal justice system and Ministry of Interior, and make clear to the Kingdom's leaders that the UK unequivocally condemns its actions."

(source: reprieve.org.uk)

PHILIPPINES:

Some Duterte allies also against death penalty: Lagman

Not everyone in President Rodrigo Duterte's camp is backing his proposal to revive the death penalty.

House opposition leader and Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman today revealed some administration stalwarts are among those opposed to the death penalty bill, with as many as 50 lawmakers ready to debate the bill.

"The debates will be very extensive particularly from those who are going to interpellate. I think we can produce even 50 interpellators. Matagal yun pero you know the leadership can always find ways under the rules of the House to stop the lengthy interpellation but were going to oppose that," Lagman said.

Lagman named Duterte's own allies, Davao City Rep. Karlo Nograles and PBA party-list Rep. Jericho Nograles, as among those opposing the bill.

"Yesterday Koko Nograles approached me and told me that he is against the reimposition of the death penalty and he has very good arguments why it should not be reimposed," he said.

Jericho Nograles confirmed this in a text to message.

"I am pro-admin. However, I am also pro-life. I cannot support the death penalty bill," he said.

Lagman said former president and now House Deputy Speaker Gloria Macapagal is also opposed to the death penalty. Arroyo abolished the death penalty when she was president.

"She has made her announcement already that she is against the reimposition of the death penalty. It was former president Arroyo who signed the bill which became law abolishing the death penalty," he said.

Arroyo has said she remains steadfast against the death penalty but would not debate with the administration on the measure.

Ifugao Rep. Teddy Baguilat, another opposition leader, said the Makabayan bloc, which is also supportive of the Duterte administration, is opposed to the death penalty.

Baguilat added long debates can test the existence of a quorum during the plenary session.

ROUGH SAILING AHEAD

Lagman believes the bill faces rough sailing at the Senate.

Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III, president of Duterte's PDP-Laban party, admitted on Monday that the upper chamber is divided on the issue.

Oriental Mindoro Rep. Reynaldo Umali, chairman of the House Justice Committee which is tasked to handle the bill, said the Lower House will work on passing the bill regardless of the developments at the Senate.

Lagman said that, based on his experience fighting for the equally controversial reproductive health bill, debates for a single interpellator can drag on for weeks.

With some House lawmakers belonging to the supermajority showing opposition to the death penalty, Lagman urged the ruling PDP-Laban party and other major political parties to allow a conscience vote.

"If there would be a conscience vote then definitely it will not pass. But the Speaker wants a party vote which is a pressure vote so that is where some members of the House who are at present against the death penalty maybe pressured not anymore to attend the session in order to deny a negative vote," he said.

(source: abs-cbn.com)

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

Pimentel: Senators divided over death penalty revival

Senators are split over the proposed restoration of the death penalty, a "non-negotiable" issue for those who are opposing it, Senate President Aquilino "Koko" Pimentel III said on Monday.

Pimentel said he himself is against the revival of the capital punishment but he would keep an open mind just to show his support for President Rodrigo Duterte.

"It's split," he told reporters when asked about the senators' sentiments on the issue, which is now considered a priority measure in the House of Representatives. "What's good about the Senate is that for some, it's non-negotiable. You can't sway their stand against death penalty so it would be a very interesting discussion here in the Senate," he said.

The House was reportedly considering the passage of a measure, seeking the revival of the capital punishment, before the adjournment of the 1st regular session of the 17th Congress in June.

Pimentel said the House's target was "realistic," saying it would be enough time for the Senate to also come up with its own recommendation. "We have 41 session days. I think that's good enough time for us to discuss the death penalty and also come up with a decision by June. I think that's a realistic timetable," he said.

The Senate leader said the Senate committee on justice chaired by Senator Richard Gordon has already started its deliberations on various bills on the revival of the death penalty.

(source: newsinfo.inquirer.net)

INDONESIA:

Veloso family visits Mary Jane in Indonesian jail on her birthday

With high hopes that their loved one would be freed soon and spared from execution, the family of Filipino drug convict Mary Jane Veloso paid a visit to her last week at the Wirongunan Lembaga prison in Jogjakarta, Indonesia to celebrate her 32nd birthday.

In a statement, Migrante International said Veloso's parents Cesar and Celia and her 2 children, Mark Daniel and Mark Darren, flew to Indonesia last Thursday for a 4-day visit coordinated by the group, the Department of Foreign Affairs, and Philippine Embassy officials. Mark Daniel was only 1 year old while Mark Darren was 3 months old when Mary Jane was arrested in 2010.

"It was a happy reunion for Mary Jane and her family who last saw each other in January 2016. The children clung to their mother making up for all the time that they were separated from their mother not wanting the moment to end," Migrante said.

"Mary Jane cheerfully shared her experiences and skills she learned in prison and will use these in the future to help her family. She professed her innocence from the charges against her, and that in her heart, she has already forgiven her recruiters but fervently wished that the recruiters will admit what they did to her.... She became emotional as the end of the visiting hours came nearer. The visit, cum birthday celebration, was capped by a simple lunch," it added.

Migrante said Mark Darren rendered a song for her mother, and Mary Jane also delivered a translated version of "Hatiku Perkaya" or "My Heart Believes" and the Philippine National Anthem. The visit ended at around 11:30 a.m. with a closing prayer.

"She (Mary Jane) was asked to read the gospel taken from John 15: 4-7, and gave a brief reflection. She said the message of the gospel reading gave her hope and inspiration. She also led in reciting the Lord's Prayer and the Rosary. While she still can converse in Filipino, she is now much fluent in Bahasa," the group said.

"As she bade goodbye to her family, she wished that she can soon enjoy their company outside the prison walls and without prison guards hovering around them. She longingly told her expectant children that she is praying hard for her to come home by December to celebrate Christmas with them," Migrante added.

Veloso was spared the firing squad in April 2015 after her alleged trafficker surfaced back home and admitted duping her into smuggling drugs.

In September last year, Indonesian President Joko Widodo said President Rodrigo Duterte gave the "go ahead" for Veloso's execution, during the Philippine leader's working visit to Jakarta. Duterte said he told Widodo that "we will respect the judgment of your courts," but added that "it would have been a bad taste in the mouth to be talking about having a strong posture against drugs, and here you are begging for something."

(source: globalnation.inquirer.net)

BANGLADESH:

Elite Bangladesh police among 26 sentenced to death for 2014 murders

A Bangladeshi court on Monday sentenced 26 people, including 16 members of the country's elite anti-terrorism force, to death, after a former member of the ruling Awami League party hired them to kill political rivals.

The ruling was the 1st time that members of the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) had been handed the death penalty, Shakhawat Hossain Khan, a lawyer for the victims, told reporters.

RAB commander Tarek Sayeed, son-in-law of a minister in Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's government, was among those sentenced to hang for the abduction and murder of seven people in 2014 in the city of Narayanganj.

"We are happy with the verdict," Hossain said outside the court in Narayanganj, following a trial that shocked the nation of 160 million people.

Lawyers for the defendants said they would appeal the verdict in the high court.

International human rights groups have accused Bangladeshi security forces of carrying out extra-judicial killings, abductions and detentions of suspects without charge. RAB denies the allegations, saying it follows the law.

Opposition parties also say hundreds of their activists have disappeared during Hasina's 8-year rule. The government says it was not behind the disappearances, and denies that security forces were involved.

The court found all 35 defendants in the trial guilty of involvement in the murder of 7 people after they were kidnapped outside a cricket stadium in Narayanganj in April, 2014. 9 of the 35 were given prison sentences.

Witnesses reported seeing the victims being bundled into an unmarked van. The victims' bodies, their bellies slashed, were later found floating in a river.

According to the court, politician Nur Hossain, at the time a member of Hasina's Awami League, paid RAB members to kill a political rival and 4 of his aides.

A lawyer who filmed the abductions and his driver were also kidnapped and then killed.

23 of those convicted were in court, while 12 remain at large.

The bitter rift between the Awami League and mainly Islamist opposition in Bangladesh is widely seen as contributing to militant violence that has targeted foreigners, free thinkers and members of religious minorities.

The authorities lay most of the blame on local insurgents, although Islamic State and al Qaeda have claimed responsibility for some of the deadly attacks carried out over the last 2 years.

(source: Reuters)

JANUARY 16, 2017:

FLORIDA:

Ending death penalty is right in every way

There are a myriad of compelling reasons for abolishing the death penalty in the United States. What are we waiting for?

I'm no bleeding heart. I worked in Dade County Homicide for 16 of my 30 years on the job, and saw it all: dead babies, mutilated bodies, multiple murders, torture deaths, random killings, and hundreds of autopsies. I arrested or assisted in arresting hundreds of murderers and rapists.

Those who were truly guilty of the crimes deserved the harshest of punishments and more so, to be permanently harnessed away from society.

Now, the state of Florida, after a new Supreme Court ruling, must revamp its sentencing process in capital cases, which will entail millions of dollars in case investigations in order to resentence over 200 cases retroactive to 2002.

It's complicated. It's heart wrenching. It's costly.

But there's another solution, less complicated, less costly. Just do what most of the free world has already done.

Many folks (and politicians) believe being tough on crime is synonymous with killing killers. But, is death really a punishment? Politicians must get elected, so they politick according to how they want to be perceived. But there are facts people might not know.

Politicians, take note:

1) Every study ever conducted on capital punishment has shown it is not a deterrent to crime.

2) Of 196 countries in the world, the United States ranked 5th for confirmed executions in 2015, behind China, Iran, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. Good company. Virtually all of Europe and most of the Americas no longer execute criminals.

3) Studies have shown that the death penalty is 2-3 times more costly than if capital punishment did not exist. Much of the cost stems from endless appeals.

4) Economic inequities often dictate the level of legal defense and thus, fairness of criminal trials. Indigent defendants are destined to minimal representation while wealthy or celebrity defendants have unlimited funds for teams of lawyers and investigators.

5) The chances of innocent persons wrongly executed are too great. To date, 156 death row inmates have been exonerated and released from prison since 1973, some had spent over 30 years on death row. Legal technicalities may have been a factor in some dismissals, but the overwhelming majority were convicted by tainted or false evidence. The only way to ensure no innocent person is ever executed is to abolish capital punishment.

6) Then there is the torture factor. America considers waterboarding as torture. Records indicate that a total of 3 terrorist suspects were waterboarded during the Bush II years. Compare a death row cell, where 2,905 inmates dwell, 55 of whom are women. I submit that living on death row is punishment beyond humane.

I interviewed a Florida death row inmate, Jim, 12 years ago. The conditions: The concrete cell is 7 feet by 9 feet, dimly lit, with toilet, bed and sink. Steel mesh is welded to the bars so an inmate cannot reach through. There is no air conditioning and very little ventilation. Temperatures in summer reach 120 degrees and above.

Jim said he often soaks his sheet in the toilet and drapes himself to tolerate the heat. Inmates remain in the cell 24-7, except for 2 showers a week and 2 1-hour walks in a small yard, alone. No socialization allowed except for visitors.

If a convict is not crazy, he may likely go crazy on death row. Jim was convicted in 1987. He's still there.

Did Jim really kill that 11 year-old girl? I think so. But to be honest, the evidence was pathetic, flimsy and in part, false. His court-appointed lawyer never even took depositions from key witnesses.

So what's the message? The system is too fragile and imperfect to risk anyone - not a single person - being put to death by the state or made to suffer 24-7 in a sweltering death row chamber for 20 or 30 years.

19 states have abolished it. What is Florida waiting for?

(source: Column; Marshall Frank is a retired Miami-Dade police detective----Florida Today)

OHIO:

Defense: Man shouldn't face death penalty in 2014 slayings

Defense attorneys for a man accused in the 2014 shooting deaths of a pregnant woman and 3 others in Cleveland say he's intellectually disabled and shouldn't face the death penalty.

Cleveland.com reports (http://bit.ly/2iZO67Z ) court records filed by attorneys for 20-year-old James Sparks-Henderson II cite school records that show his IQ was measured at 73 in 2010.

Court records say Sparks-Henderson's lawyers found a mental health expert to examine him last year. The report was filed under seal in November.

A judge has scheduled a March 10 hearing to decide if the case should remain a death penalty case.

Police have said a masked gunman killed 3 people in a home and then fired into a car, killing a woman and her unborn child.

(source: Associated Press)

WASHINGTON:

Washington state has 8 people on death row - and no plans to ever execute them ---- Family argues against reprieve for death penalty cases.

20 years ago, Dwayne Anthony Woods was convicted of murdering 2 women, sentenced to die and sent to Washington's death row at the state penitentiary in Walla Walla.

Claiming he was innocent, he launched a series of appeals that kept him alive and denied the victims' families the justice they wanted. The appeals came to an end this month when Woods, 46, died of a heart attack.

It was the only death on death row since Gov. Jay Inslee issued a moratorium on executions in 2014. At the time of his edict, there were 9 inmates on death row.

If Inslee has his way, the 8 who remain will also die of disease or old age.

In the broadening fight against capital punishment, his strategy for clearing death row now plays a key role, with similar moratoriums in place in Oregon, Colorado and Pennsylvania.

Opposition to the death penalty has grown in recent years amid concerns over whether some innocent people have been put to death, discrimination against African Americans in sentencing, the costs of appeals, and the methods states use to carry out killings.

"The fact is that the death penalty is not anywhere close to being used in an equitable measure," Inslee said at the time he announced the moratorium. "1 person gets life, the other person gets death - it depends on which side of the county line you are."

Nationwide, the number of executions has fallen dramatically, from a peak of 98 in 1999 to 20 last year, according to the nonprofit Death Penalty Information Center. There are about 2,900 people on death rows across the country, down from a peak of nearly 3,600 in the year 2000.

Over the last decade, New York, New Jersey, Illinois, New Mexico, Connecticut, Maryland and Delaware have abolished capital punishment, placing them among the 18 states, along with the District of Columbia, where the most severe punishment is life in prison without the possibility of parole.

The moratoriums are a way for governors to halt executions without putting the issue directly to voters in a referendum or to state legislatures.

Although public support for the death penalty is at a 40-year low, 56% of U.S. residents are still in favor of it, according to a poll last year by the Pew Research Center. Despite California's liberal credentials, voters there narrowly rejected one ballot proposition in November to abolish capital punishment and approved another to speed up executions.

Washington, where appeals can take 20 years, has executed just 5 people in the last 54 years, most recently in 2010. Nonetheless, Inslee has failed to persuade the Legislature - where Republicans narrowly control the Senate and Democrats narrowly control the House - to abolish capital punishment.

The political risks of his stance became apparent as Inslee faced reelection last year. His Republican challenger, Bill Bryant, made the death penalty an issue, saying that a governor shouldn't choose which laws to enforce and vowing that if he were elected, "so as long as it is the law in Washington state, I will enforce it."

Inslee won with almost 55% of the vote.

The victory will allow him to delay executions through 2020, when his term expires. It has also made him optimistic that the next governor would keep his moratorium in place. That the state has not elected a Republican governor in more than 30 years only bolsters that hope.

"Any Dem who follows Jay will be hard put to coming in and reversing the moratorium," Nick Brown, Inslee's general counsel, said.

"My sense is we have ended the death penalty and will not see another execution in Washington state," he said.

A similar dynamic is in play in Oregon, which has had only Democratic governors over the last 3 decades.

Gov. John Kitzhaber, a doctor who saw the death penalty as a "perversion of justice" that went against his medical oath, imposed a moratorium in 2011, and his successor elected last year, Gov. Kate Brown, continued it. Currently, 34 inmates are on death row there.

In Colorado, where there are only 3 inmates on death row, Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper, citing costs and concerns about fairness, imposed a moratorium in 2013 and extended it upon reelection the following year.

In Pennsylvania, where Gov. Tom Wolf suspended the penalty in 2015 for the same reasons, 186 inmates are on death row, but there have been only 3 executions in the last 40 years, the most recent in 1999.

As effective as moratoriums can be, death penalty opponents view them as a stepping stone to laws that offer a more permanent end to executions. That happened in Illinois, which eliminated the death penalty in 2011 after a long moratorium.

The moratoriums do not prevent prosecutors from seeking the death penalty, though given the difficulties of carrying out executions, some have backed away from it.

Inslee's effort to clear death row is a race against mortality. 6 of the 8 inmates on Washington's death row were born in the 1950s.

The youngest inmate there is 35-year-old Conner Michael Cross, who was convicted in 2010 of killing a woman, her sister and 2 young sons.

The oldest is 65-year-old Clark Richard Elmore, who was convicted in 1995 of raping and murdering a 14-year-old girl after she threatened to report him for having molested her.

His appeals reached the U.S. Supreme Court in October. It chose not to hear the case despite concerns from Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who pointed out that his defense lawyer never investigated his questionable mental state or told the jury about his life growing up around pesticides or handling Agent Orange in Vietnam.

With his appeals run out, Elmore was sentenced to die this month.

Under the moratorium, the governor must act to stop each execution. Inslee has said he will not commute sentences or pardon death row inmates, and instead will issue reprieves that keep inmates on death row but delay their executions as long as he remains in office.

That is what he did in the case of Elmore.

Dave McEachran, the Whatcom County prosecutor who handled Elmore's case and met with Inslee in hopes of changing his mind, said he was "disappointed that after 21 years of appeals in which the sentence of death has been upheld by the highest courts in the state and the United States, the governor has derailed the sentence."

Inslee issued a statement assuring that Elmore will "remain in the State Penitentiary in Walla Walla for the rest of his life."

That will be true even if the next governor lifts the moratorium.

(source: Los Angeles Times)

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

The death penalty: Some crimes deserve death

Re: "Governor's quiet reprieve of death-row murderer draws ire from many directions." (TNT, 12/31)

Our governor, Jay Inslee, has rejected the effectiveness of the death penalty. Is that the result of decades of research, or, is it the result of cowardice on the part of our state's justice system? Maybe it is the slowness of the justice system that creates such a costly and undesirable procedure.

If a person is found guilty of a heinous crime, why do we take so much time to carry out the required penalty? Decide what it means to commit a capital crime, then perform the punishment in a reasonable time period. Stop delaying the death penalty for years and decades.

There are 2 problems: One, the crime requires legitimate witnesses. If there are no witnesses, there is no capital crime. Two, there must be supporting circumstantial evidence. When witnesses and evidence agree, then there is reason for the death penalty.

All crimes deserve full investigation. Some deserve leniency. Some deserve the full weight of the law. Please do not reject the need for the death penalty.

Douglas Leander, Tacoma

(source: Letter to the Editor, The News Tribune)

USA:

A Racial-Justice Argument Against Killing Dylann Roof----When we grant states the right to kill its citizens, we are accepting all forms of state-sanctioned violence.

On Wednesday, January 11, white supremacist Dylann Roof was sentenced to death for the mass murder he perpetrated on June 17, 2015, taking the lives of nine innocent black parishioners at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina.

Many are lauding what may feel like true justice. The atrocity Roof committed is beyond appalling. His total lack of remorse only compounds the horror. And, in a nation where all too often white killers of black people walk free, it's understandable that some might feel a measure of satisfaction at Roof's receiving the ultimate punishment.

And yet, I am firmly against the death penalty for Dylann Roof. It's not a matter of Roof's innocence or guilt - clearly, he is guilty. It's not a question of the gravity of his crimes, or whether Roof epitomizes the "worst of the worst." My opposition is rooted in the deep belief that as a society, we will not be better off for executing Roof. In fact, by killing Roof, we will have further endangered the very black and brown communities that Roof so brutally attacked.

10 weeks before Roof committed mass murder, Walter Scott, an unarmed black man, was killed by police officer Michael Slager. The killing of Scott (just miles away from where Roof wreaked mayhem) illustrates the core reason I oppose the death penalty: When we grant states the right to kill its citizens, we are accepting all forms of state-sanctioned violence. Police killings, mass incarceration, surveillance, immigration raids, stop and frisk, and other methods of repressive social and racial control are part of the same destructive system in which capital punishment is the sharpest edge.

I am aware that the families of Cynthia Hurd, Susie Jackson, Ethel Lance, DePayne Middleton-Doctor, Clementa Pinckney, Tywanza Sanders, Daniel Simmons Sr., Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, and Myra Thompson (Roof's victims) do not hold one opinion about Roof's sentence. Some feel justice has been served, others have spoken out against the decision, and many are deeply conflicted. But having been closely connected to multiple death-penalty cases (including that of Troy Davis and Reggie Clemons), I have seen all too closely the additional harm that the death penalty inflicts on all of the families involved.

In Roof's case, the victims' families can expect to be continually re-traumatized as the appeals drag on. Rather than the case being closed and healing allowed to begin, the justice they were promised will take years - perhaps decades - to be delivered. And in the end, if the state is successful in putting Dylann Roof to death, I dare imagine that the families - even those who wanted this outcome - will feel the loss of their loved ones just as acutely. Perhaps most tragically, we will be continuing on a national trajectory that ensures more families will feel their pain, because executing Roof will not deter future racist murderers - it will embolden them.

Though Roof is white, the system that would kill him disproportionately targets black and brown bodies. Violence by the state, which all too often is used as a form of racial and social control, paves the way for civilians to perpetrate the same violence. If our society did not permit, for example, the police killing of Aiyana Stanley-Jones, a black 7-year-old who was killed while in her bed in Detroit, vigilante George Zimmerman may not have accosted and killed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in Florida. Had Joseph Weekley (the officer who killed Jones) and Zimmerman been held accountable for their actions, perhaps Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, and Deborah Danner would be alive today. Perhaps Jordan Davis, shot and killed at a gas station by Michael Dunn, would be as well.

Capital punishment is the most premeditated form of state homicide and the most chilling. The precise time, place, and exact method of taking a human's life is determined in advance, and announced for public consumption. Each moment leading up to the execution is scripted in meticulous detail. Multiple agents of the state are involved in the killing - many of whom report symptoms of post-traumatic stress in its aftermath.

This pinnacle of state violence has deep-reaching tentacles. It is no coincidence that states with the death penalty have higher rates of homicide than states without capital punishment, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. And when examining who the death penalty impacts the most severely, the same patterns emerge as when examining other forms of state violence: Black and poor people are disproportionately targeted. The violence of our state is expressed towards certain communities and citizens - and is embodied by others.

The state-sanctioned killing of Dylann Roof will enable us as a society to breed more Michael Slagers, more Joseph Weekleys, more George Zimmermans, and more Dylann Roofs.

(source: Jen Marlowe, The Nation)

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

Judge grants prosecutors their own evaluation of alleged Pa. CO killer----Recent claims Jessie Con-ui could have a mental condition will be vetted by federal prosecutors' own experts following a judge's ruling

Recent claims Jessie Con-ui could have a mental condition will be vetted by federal prosecutors' own experts following a judge's ruling Friday in the convicted killer's upcoming capital murder case. Federal prosecutors last year announced their intention to seek the death penalty against Con-ui, 39, if he's convicted later this year for the 2013 murder of Corrections Officer Eric Williams, of Nanticoke, inside U.S. Penitentiary at Canaan.

Con-ui, a New Mexican Mafia gang member who was serving life behind bars for murdering a rival gang member in Arizona, killed again when he ambushed Williams and kicked him down a flight of stairs before he beat and stabbed him to death, federal prosecutors allege.

Con-ui's attorneys haven't disputed that Con-ui killed Williams, but are vying to spare him from being put to death.

In laying the groundwork for a defense against the penalty, Con-ui provided notice he'd introduce evidence relating to a potential "mental disease or defect" in November and has since been evaluated by multiple experts, but prosecutors now say they want their own doctors to weigh in.

"In order to independently determine the merits of (Con-ui's) claim, and to prepare for possible rebuttal testimony, the United States needs to have its experts evaluate (Con-ui)," prosecutors said in the federal court motion, granted Friday afternoon by U.S. District Judge A. Richard Caputo.

Con-ui's trial is slated for April 27 at the federal courthouse in Wilkes-Barre.

Con-ui remains jailed at ADX Florence, a supermaximum federal prison in Colorado.

(source: correctionsone.com)

BAHRAIN:

Statement on executions carried out in Bahrain

The EU reiterates its strong opposition to the use of the death penalty in all circumstances. This case is a serious drawback given that Bahrain had suspended executions for the past 7 years, and concerns have been expressed about possible violations of the right to a fair process for the 3 convicted.

The EU rejects violence as a political tool and fully supports the stability and development of the Kingdom of Bahrain, but believes this can only be achieved through a sustainable and inclusive national reconciliation process.

(source: eureporter.co)

NIGERIA:

Nigeria state governors responsible for high number of condemned inmates -Prison Service

The Nigeria Prison Service (NPS) has accused state governors of being responsible for the high number of condemned inmates in prisons across the country as they were unwilling to approve the execution of inmates on death penalty. The Service Public Relations Officer (PRO), Francis Enobore stated this at the weekend in Abuja during a parley with journalists.

While revealing that 1,640 condemned persons were presently in prison formations across the country, Enobore appealed to the state governors to do the needful by either signing the condemned persons death execution or commuting their death sentences to terms of imprisonment.

"The problem of condemned prisoners is still a very big challenged to NPS and we have been appealing to the relevant authorities especially to the Chief Executives" he said. "When someone gets to his last bus stop and is condemned to death and he has exhausted his appeal to the Supreme Court, the only opportunity he has to escape the death is the Chief Executive commuting his death sentence to a term of imprisonment or sign the death warrant for this person to take his last breath.

"But there is a kind of silent moratorium that most governors are not too willing to endorse death sentences.

"You are not signing their execution, yet you are not commuting their death sentences to terms of imprisonment, so that we can get them transferred to a place where they can be remodelled or rebranded for the society.

"So they create a very big problem for us. But we keep appealing that governors to do the needful so that we will be able to really manage these people effectively."

While disclosing that the present management of the NPS was ready to take the Service to greater heights, Enobore said apart from massive promotion of personnel, the government had provided more logistics to the Service.

"10, 979 officers across board who were stagnated for several years have been promoted. As a result, there is high motivation now in the Service.

"Government provided 400 vehicles and infrastructure. We are currently expanding cells too," he said.

(source: nigeriamasterweb.com)

BANGLADESH:

Narayanganj 7-Murder Case----Ex-AL men, Ex-RAB officials among 26 handed death penalty

A Narayanganj court on Monday awarded death penalty to 26 people including former Awami League leader Nur Hossain and 16 ex-RAB officials in the sensational 7-murder case.

9 others were also sentenced to different terms in the verdict handed down by Narayanganj district and sessions judge Syed Enayetur Rahman.

Out of a total of 35 accused in the gruesome murder, 23 were present before the court while delivering the verdict.

1 of the prime convicts Nur Hossain was a leader of ruling Bangladesh Awami League (AL) and a councillor of the Narayanganj city corporation at the time of the murder.

The suspended RAB officials who were awarded death penalty are: lieutenant colonel Tarek Sayeed, major Arif Hossain, commander lieutenant Masud Rana, habildar Emdadul Haque, ROG-1 Arif Hossain, lance nayek Hira Mia, lance nayek Belal Hossain, sepoy Abu Toiyob, constable Md Shihab Uddin, SI Purnendo Bala, sainik Asaduzzaman Nur, sainik Abdul Alim, sainik Mohiuddin Munshi, sainik Al Amin, sainik Tajul Islam and sergeant Enamul Kabir.

All of them were in the RAB-11 officials when the murder took place and later they were sacked when their involvement was found in the preliminary investigation.

The other convicts who are now behind the bars are: Nur Hossain and his accomplices-Ali Mohammad, Mizanur Rahman Dipu, Raham Ali, Abul Bashar and Mortuza Zaman (Charchil).

The absconding convicts are: corporal Mokhlesur Rahman, sainik Abdul Alim, sainik Mohiuddin Munshi, sainik Al Amin, sainik Tajul Islam, sergeant Enamul Kabir, ASI Kamal Hossain constable Habibur Rahman and Nur Hossain's cohorts--Selim, Sanaullah Sana, Shahjahan and Jamal Uddin.

Those who have been convicted to different jail terms are: Nasir Uddin, Bazlur Rahman, constable Habibur Rahman Habib, sub-inspector Kamal Hossain, Abdul Alim, Ruhul Amin, Syed Nuruzzaman, sub-inspector Abul Kamal Azad and Babul Hossain.

On 27 April in 2014, 7 people, including Narayanganj city corporation panel mayor Nazrul Islam and senior lawyer Chandan Sarker, were abducted from the Dhaka-Narayanganj link road.

On 28 April 2014, a case was filed over case filed over kidnapping Narayanganj panel mayor Nazrul Islam, his 3 associates and driver were abducted from Fatullah area.

3 days after the abduction, bodies of 6 of the missing people were found floating in the Shitalakkhya river on 30 April 2014 while the body of the rest abducted man was found floating in the river on 31 April.

(source: prothom-alo.com)

PAKISTAN:

Mother gets death penalty for burning daughter in Pakistan

An Anti-Terrorism Court in Lahore on Monday sentenced a mother to death for burning her daughter alive in June 2016 after she contracted a 'free-will marriage'.

Zeenat Rafiq, 18, of Lahore's Factory Area was set on fire by her mother Parveen Bibi more than a week after the girl reportedly eloped with Hasan Khan to marry him in a court in Lahore, Dawn reported.

Parveen Bibi confessed she murdered her daughter for "bringing shame to the family".

(source: business-standard.com)

INDIA:

Women activists want death penalty for arrested paedophile ---- The 38-year-old is accussed of targeting several minor girls aged between seven and 11 years of age.

Women rights activists have demanded a death penalty for serial rapist and paedophile Sunil Rastogi, who was arrested from the national capital on Sunday, said reports. Rastogi was arrested from Delhi's Kondli Village and is said to have confessed to his crime.

The 38-year-old is accussed of targeting several minor girls aged between seven and 11 years of age.

Former DCW chief Barkha Shukla termed the arrest as a 'big acheivement' and demanded that a the accused should be 'hanged' for such heinous crime, reported news agency ANI.

Emminent lawyer and activist Abha Singh expressed shock over the fact that Rastogi had been committing these acts for years and was caught only now. She said that it failure on part of the police to have let him roam free for years.

According to reports, the accused is said to have molested around 500 children not only in Delhi but also in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand.

His confession has baffled officials who say that he would target young girls and would tell them that their father had sent something for them and would then take them to an isolated place.

Preliminary inquiry shows that he was beaten and thrown out of his home in 2004 after he attacked a neighbour's daughter. He has also been charged with drugs, theft and molestation. First 2 instances when he assaulted girls, no complaint was filed against him. Thinking that he could get away with his crime, he continued assaulting minor girls.

He told police officials that he would prey on young girls and enjoyed it for sexual satisfaction.

(source: oneindia.com)

MALAYSIA/SINGAPORE:

Death row inmate's judicial review bid not interfering with Singapore affairs, says lawyer

The judicial review bid by a Malaysian death row inmate in Singapore to compel the Malaysian government to take his case to an international court is not an "interference" in Singapore affairs, his lawyer N. Surendran said today.

S. Prabagaran, 29, who is facing death sentence for drug trafficking in Singapore, and his mother V. Eswary, both filed the judicial review at a High Court here today, seeking leave to obtain a mandamus for the Malaysian government to institute legal action against Singapore at the International Court of Justice (ICJ).

"We are not entering Singapore's affairs. It's just wanting justice done for a Malaysian citizen," he told reporters after filing the judicial review here today.

"Malaysia has the right to raise any cases regarding the treatment of its citizens abroad," he added.

Surendran said that such a case has never been filed by Malaysia before, but there have been precedents elsewhere in the world, such as Mexico taking United States to the ICJ over Mexican citizens in death row in the US.

Prabagaran, who allegedly drove a car with drugs to a Singapore immigration checkpoint in 2012, has exhausted all his appeals, but his lawyers said that he has not received a fair trial.

Prabagaran has claimed he did not own the car he was driving and had identified individuals who are the original owners of the car, but Singapore authorities reportedly have not sought the other individuals with the assistance of Malaysian authorities.

"It is customary international law for an individual to receive fair trial.

"The aspect of a fair trial has been contravened in Prabagaran's case," he added.

Prabagaran is facing execution in just a few weeks and the judicial review filed today is his last resort to get the case brought to the ICJ.

Meanwhile, Amnesty International Malaysia director Shamini Darshini, who was also present, said the human rights watchdog will start a petition to stay Prabagaran's execution and abolish the death penalty, directed towards both Malaysian and Singapore governments.

(source: Yahoo News)

PHILIPPINES:

Passage of dealth penalty bill within 4 months eyed

House Justice Committee Chairman Rey Umali hopes the bill that seeks the revival of death penalty will pass the 3rd and final reading before the 1st regular session of the 17th Congress ends in May.

Umali says, he used to be against the reimposition of the measure but he changed his mind.

"I'm not in favor of passing death penalty but after the Bilibid hearings, I'm now in favor of the death penalty for heinous drug crimes," he explains.

Umali is referring to the recent House inquiry on the proliferation of illegal drug trade in New Bilibid Prison (NBP).

He notes, lawmakers will have to finalize the decision on whether or not to lower the age of criminal liability that will be covered by the bill.

"When you lower the juvenile age, may corresponding rehabilitation (there is corresponding rehabilitation). It is still evolving and we cannot yet say what it will be," he says.

Umali says, the seeming lack of interest of the Senate in passing the bill does not bother him.

"We respect that. We will do what is needed to pass it in the House," he adds.

Umali spoke at a press briefing in the House of Representatives on Monday morning.

Under the consolidated bill of the House, 21 heinous crimes are punishable by death penalty.

These include penalties relating to terrorism and illegal drugs.

(source: Manila Standard)

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

Death penalty for terrorists - Senator Manny

Senator Emmanuel "Manny" Pacquiao on Monday said terrorists should be penalized with death penalty. This was stressed by Pacquiao in his speech during the celebration of the 38th anniversary of the Philippine National Police (PNP) Intelligence Group in Camp Crame, Quezon City where he was guest of honor.

Paquiao said Senate Bill No. 186, which imposes death penalty for terrorism and other heinous crimes, would be a big help in the PNP's anti-crime drive.

He added it is now time to restore the death penalty because criminals, especially the terrorists, seem to have nothing to fear anymore.

The senator said the terrorism has 4 reasons such as hatred, katuwaan (just for fun), opposition to the government and religion.

Nevertheless, Pacquiao said the crime of terrorism is not only against some individuals, but rather, against mankind.

Hence, he said, everybody should unite against terror threats.

(source: update.ph)

BENIN:

Death row prisoners held in cruel limbo

Prisoners on death row in Benin are languishing in a cruel limbo after a court decision last year effectively abolished the death penalty, but failed to commute existing death sentences, said Amnesty International in a new report today.

The 14 remaining death row inmates have been informed by prison authorities that they will not be executed but are still being held in terrible conditions separately from other inmates at Akpro-Misserete Prison, close to Port Novo, Benin's capital.

"These men have already suffered almost 20 years on death row, unsure every day that they wake whether or not it will be their last," said Oluwatosin Popoola, Amnesty International's Adviser on the death penalty. "They face an unclear fate in appalling detention conditions, without adequate food and medical care."

"The Benin authorities must urgently commute their sentences officially and ensure that the conditions they are being held in comply with minimum international standards. This would bring to a close the cruel uncertainty that the men have been living with for nearly 2 decades and demonstrate Benin's commitment to eliminating the last vestiges of the death penalty in the country."

Azonhito Yaovi, aged 54, has been on death row for 18 years after being sentenced to death in August 1998. He told Amnesty International:

"The fear of death is often worse than death itself. For years, I woke up wondering: will I be executed today, tomorrow, in a few months or in a few years?"

According to Amnesty International's new report, prisoners on death row have very limited contact with the outside world. They are only allowed out of their cells 5 times a week when they have access to a small courtyard separate from the larger one used by other inmates. They are given just 2 small meals a day which they have to supplement where possible with food brought by their families.

If 1 of the death row prisoners is disciplined for misconduct, the whole group is locked up in their cells for several days as a collective sanction.

Death row detainees were convicted for a range of offences including armed robbery and assault, which do not meet the threshold of "most serious crimes", which is the only category of crimes for which international law allows the death penalty.

Additionally, many of the men said they have been unable to properly appeal their convictions as they could not afford lawyers or never heard the result of their appeal procedure. All the men were convicted in either 1998 or 1999. The authorities must ensure they are provided with legal aid to pursue any outstanding appeals or seek judicial review against their convictions.

The report also highlights how the prisoners had suffered from life-threatening diseases, including malaria and tuberculosis, and that 3 death row prisoners had died due to inadequate medical care when held in Cotonou Prison, before they were transferred to Akrpo-Missérété Prison in 2010.

Death row prisoners said that they had to rely on relatives bringing them medication from outside. The prison authorities acknowledged that medical care for the inmates is limited.

Fatai Bankole, 52, told Amnesty International:

"When we are sick, we rely on the help we can get from outside. If you have money and family to provide you with treatment, you survive. If you don't, you die."

In addition to commuting the death sentences of all death row prisoners, Amnesty International is calling on the National Assembly of Benin to adopt legislation to remove death penalty provisions from its books.

"Benin is the 104th country in the world and the 19th country in sub-Saharan Africa to abolish the death penalty for all crimes and we applaud its efforts," said Oluwatosin Popoola.

"However, it needs to formalize the abolition in its laws to make absolutely sure there's no chance of sliding backwards on this achievement."

Background

The last known execution in Benin was carried out in 1987. In 2012 the country acceded to the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, aiming at abolishing the death penalty (ICCPR-OP2). The treaty commits Benin not to carry out executions and to take all necessary measures to abolish the death penalty within its jurisdiction. Benin has fulfilled its obligation, under the treaty, not to carry out executions.

In addition, 2 landmark decisions of the Constitutional Court have entrenched abolition of the death penalty in Benin. A recent 2016 judgement makes it impossible for the courts to impose death sentences, effectively abolishing the death penalty in Benin.

Death penalty provisions have already been removed from the Criminal Procedure Code while a bill is pending at the National Assembly which would revise the Criminal Code and completely remove death penalty provisions.

Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all cases without exception, regardless of the nature or circumstances of the crime; guilt, innocence or other characteristics of the individual; or the method used by the state to carry out the execution. The death penalty is a violation of the right to life and the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment.

(source: Amnesty International)

JANUARY 15, 2017:

TEXAS:

DNA evidence to be analyzed again in death penalty case appeal

A lawyer for Steven Thomas, who faces the death penalty after being convicted of capital murder in Williamson County, says some of the DNA evidence presented at the trial was false, according to court documents. A district judge approved payments this month for the lawyer to hire a DNA analyst and a fingerprint analyst to review the evidence in Thomas' case, court orders showed.

Thomas was convicted Oct. 31, 2014, in the death of 73-year-old Mildred McKinney, who was beaten, sexually assaulted and strangled at her Williamson County home in 1980. He was 56 when he was convicted. He was arrested in 2012 after DNA he was required to provide for a federal drug charge matched DNA found at the crime scene.

A DNA analyst from the Texas Department of Public Safety testified at Thomas' trial that his sperm was found on a ribbon wrapped around one of McKinney's thumbs. Thomas' fingerprint also was found on a clock at McKinney's home, according to another DPS analyst.

Thomas, who worked for a pesticide service that had been to McKinney's house, appealed his case in January 2015 to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, where it is pending.

As part of the appeal, 1 of Thomas' attorneys, Joanne Heisey, filed requests with Williamson County's 26th District Court in November requesting money to hire a DNA analyst and a latent print examiner. Latent fingerprints - such as the one prosecutors said Thomas left on the clock - aren't visible to the eye but are left behind by oils or perspiration on a finger.

"Mr. Thomas's trial counsel did not seek expert assistance to independently review any of the forensic evidence the State used to convict him," the requests said. "A preliminary review of the DNA evidence presented at Mr. Thomas' trial indicates that at least some of that evidence was false."

Recent research, the requests said, "has called into question the reliability of various forensic methods, including latent fingerprint analysis." The research shows that latent fingerprint analysis has a false positive rate that could be "as high as 1 error in 18 cases," the requests said.

A lawyer who works with Heisey said their office had no comment about the case. Lytza Rojas, a former prosecutor involved in Thomas' trial, didn't return requests for comment last week. Williamson County District Attorney Shawn Dick said Thursday he couldn't comment on pending litigation.

State District Judge Donna King on Jan. 3 approved Heisey's requests to hire a DNA analyst for $5,500 and a fingerprint analyst for $3,000, according to court orders. Under state law, Williamson County will be repaid by the state for the expenses, according to the requests filed by Thomas' lawyer.

Another one of Thomas' lawyers, Ariel Payan, said in his appeal to the Court of Criminal Appeals in August that the evidence presented at the trial showed McKinney was killed by more than one person. No evidence at the trial showed Thomas had killed McKinney or helped commit any other crime against her, Payan said.

Evidence at the trial showed that a throat swab taken from McKinney's autopsy showed male DNA that didn't belong to Thomas and also ruled out other suspects in the case, including serial killer Henry Lee Lucas and his partner Ottis Toole. The ribbon wrapped around one of McKinney's thumbs not only had DNA on it from Thomas but also from an unknown man, according to a DNA analyst who testified at the trial.

(source: Austin American-Statesman)

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Last Lake Waco triple murder defendant dies in prison

The Lake Waco triple murders sent shock waves across Central Texas almost 35 years ago. Terrified parents kept their children close and made Lake Waco off-limits for their teenagers.

After all these years, perhaps the final chapter of the controversial saga was closed Friday with the death of Anthony Melendez, the last of 4 men implicated in the grisly slayings of Jill Montgomery, Raylene Rice and Kenneth Franks, whose bodies were found in July 1982 at Koehne Park.

Melendez, 57, died Friday in a prison hospice at the Michael Unit in Tennessee Colony, near Palestine. Prison spokesman Jason Clark confirmed Saturday that Melendez died but said privacy guidelines preclude the prison from revealing a cause of death.

Melendez, who was serving 2 life prison terms, died as some, including the ex-wife of former McLennan County District Attorney Vic Feazell, worked to exonerate him, although those efforts stalled in the past few years.

Melendez, who pleaded guilty to 2 counts of murder in the case and testified against David Wayne Spence at his trial in Bryan, also petitioned the governor for a reprieve, commutation or pardon after he recanted his confession.

Other defendants

Spence, who was tried in Waco and Bryan, was executed in 1997. Melendez's brother, Gilbert, who also pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 2 life prison terms, died in prison in 1998 of HIV complications. The 4th defendant, Muneer Deeb, also was sentenced to death after a trial in Cleburne. But his conviction was set aside, and Deeb was acquitted at a 1993 retrial in Fort Worth. He died from cancer 6 years after being released.

Prosecutors said Deeb hired Spence to kill a teenager named Gayle Kelley so he could collect on a life insurance policy he had on her. She worked for Deeb at a convenience store he owned near the Methodist Children's Home.

But Spence botched the job, mistaking Montgomery for Kelley, prosecutors said.

Montgomery, 17, was at Koehne Park at Lake Waco with her friends Rice, 17, and Franks, 18. They were killed because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time, authorities said.

The Melendez brothers helped Spence carry out the murders, as well as rape the girls, according to trial testimony. The bodies of the teens, who were stabbed a total of 47 times, were dumped at Lake Waco's Speegleville Park.

Former investigator

Truman Simons, who investigated the triple murder initially for the Waco police and later as a sheriff's deputy, said Saturday he was not concerned about efforts to clear the Lake Waco defendants' names because he knows the right men were convicted.

He said Anthony Melendez initially denied his involvement in the murders but failed subsequent polygraph tests. After Melendez started cooperating with investigators and said he wanted to testify against Spence because he got him and his brother caught up in the tragedy, he passed polygraphs, Simons said.

Simons said Anthony Melendez also told him he wanted to testify against Spence because he never told his mother he and Gilbert were involved in the killings. By testifying, she would know, sparing him the pain of telling her directly, Simons said.

"I didn't have any warm, fuzzy feelings for Tony," Simons said. "He was a bad boy. He was a bad boy all his life. But when he was caught, he was the most forthcoming one of all, and he finally told the truth. I do feel sorry for his family, though. There are so many victims on both sides of this case."

Simons said before prosecutors agreed to let Anthony Melendez plead guilty and spare him a possible death sentence, they required him to take them to Koehne Park and show them what happened and where it happened. It was during Spence's 1st trial and 2 years after the murders.

Melendez pointed to a tree where Montgomery was raped and killed. In a subsequent search of the area Melendez pointed out, former investigator Willie Tompkins found a bracelet buried under leaves that matched a custom-made necklace the girl was wearing, Simons said.

The unique necklace later was returned to Montgomery's mother, who identified it as her daughter's, Simons said.

"There are just so many facts in that case that you can't get around it," Simons said. "There is no doubt that they did it."

Trying to clear name

Despite Simons' feelings, others, including Waco attorney Walter M. Reaves Jr., were working to try to clear Melendez's name as recently as 3 years ago.

Reaves fought on several judicial levels to get DNA testing ordered on shoelaces used to tie up one of the victims.

Those helping Melendez hoped the DNA evidence would prove that someone else was responsible for the killings, but after the evidence was transferred to several labs around the country, nothing definitive has been reported from the testing. They hoped not only to set Melendez free and collect on a huge payday from the state when he was exonerated, but they also thought it might prove that Spence was not guilty when he was put to death by the state.

Reaves did not return phone messages Saturday.

Feazell, who prosecuted the Lake Waco cases and now has law offices in Waco and Austin, called questions about the defendant's guilt "BS" when asked about the efforts 3 years ago.

"Anyone who's read the trial transcripts . . . would know better and wouldn't give this story the time of day," Feazell said.

(source: Waco Tribune)

PENNSYLVANIA:

Death penalty to be sought against 2 in deaths of man, woman

Prosecutors say they will seek the death penalty against 2 men accused of having killed a young couple in their western Pennsylvania home before fleeing with a safe.

19-year-old Justin Stevenson and 18-year-old Nathaniel Price are charged in Indiana County with homicide, conspiracy and robbery in the October deaths of 26-year-old Timothy Gardner and 20-year-old Jacqueline Brink.

The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (http://bit.ly/2jiyuzs ) reports that District Attorney Patrick Dougherty said Friday that capital punishment will be sought if the 2 are convicted of 1st-degree murder.

A 3rd defendant is ineligible for the death penalty because he was 17 at the time of the Cherryhill Township slayings.

The county coroner said Gardner was assaulted with a pipe and Brink struck with a baseball bat.

(source: Associated Press)

VIRGINIA----impending execution

ACLU asks governor to stop Ricky Javon Gray execution

The ACLU of Virginia has asked Gov. Terry McAuliffe to grant a clemency request from death row inmate Ricky Javon Gray.

In a letter to the governor Friday, ACLU-VA Executive Director Claire Guthrie Gastanaga referred to the civil rights organization's blanket opposition to the death penalty, calling it "demonstrably ineffective and cruel and unusual punishment that should not be imposed in a just society, particularly where the penalty is applied arbitrarily and the procedure itself is inhumane." She suggested Gray's sentence be commuted to life in prison.

Gray is scheduled to be executed by lethal injection on Jan. 18. In the letter, Gastanaga also criticized the method of execution being deployed by the state, which intends to use drugs developed in secret, and at great expense, that have been used in botched executions in other states.

"No matter the circumstances, the method of execution, or the rarity of the death penalty being carried out, however, executions are inhumane, torture and cruel and unusual punishment that should not be exacted by a moral government," the letter states. "The acts of the individual that placed them on death row do not erase that and should not be used to condone state-conducted killing with the false promise of deterrence, justice or even retribution."

(source: Augusta Free Press)

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As we hear Ricky Gray's pleas for life, remember those he violently killed

Wait for it.

Over the next 3 days you're going to hear about Ricky Gray as the 39-year-old desperately tries to escape death.

He's scheduled for execution Wednesday in Virginia's death chamber. His lawyers are grasping at legal straws. They're calling lethal injection cruel and unusual punishment, and, having worked their unsuccessful way through lower courts, are now begging the U.S. Supreme Court and the governor to spare him.

Meanwhile the usual anti-death penalty types are telling anyone who will listen about Gray's allegedly abusive childhood, his drug use, his apologies.

But this column isn't about Gray, who's been in prison since 2006, getting 3 squares a day, watching the seasons pass, reading, working out, meeting with lawyers or doing whatever it is prisoners do to pass the time.

It's about the forgotten people in Gray's story. The good people. The people whose story abruptly ended on Jan. 1, 2006.

It's almost always this way. In the aftermath of a killing, the news is about the murderer, not the murdered.

Name one of Ted Bundy's victims.

So today let's remember the young Harveys: Bryan, 49, Kathryn, 39, Stella Ann, 9, and Ruby May, 4.

A family who reportedly brought enormous joy to each other and those around them died in a barbaric fashion.

They were murdered on New Year's Day, 2006. According to various news reports, the family was held hostage in their basement for several hours while Gray and an accomplice burglarized their Richmond home. The perps had been cruising the neighborhood, looking for a house to rob.

The Harveys - who, according to court papers were bound with electrical cords and packing tape - died of multiple causes: blunt force trauma to their heads from a claw hammer, stab wounds and smoke inhalation.

Is there a horror worse than the thought of children watching their parents bludgeoned to death and waiting their turn? Or of parents watching helplessly as their little ones are slaughtered?

No, there isn't.

The basement of the Harvey house was set ablaze. Firefighters first found the bodies.

In a 2015 story about the killings and a song inspired by the crimes, the online arts magazine Salon reported that "So pitiful and appalling was the state of the bodies that hardened cops and firemen reportedly cried at the scene."

That song, incidentally, is "2 Daughters and a Beautiful Wife," by Drive-By Truckers. Salon noted that it was the opening track on the band’s 2008 "Brighter Than Creation's Dark" album.

Bryan Harvey was himself a talented musician. His death merited a mention in Rolling Stone on Jan. 4, 2006, where it was noted that "Bryan Harvey, singer/guitarist for the 80s blues-based rock duo House of Freaks, was found dead with his wife and 2 young daughters in the basement of the family's Richmond, Virginia, home over the weekend."

Kathryn Harvey was a Virginia Beach native who grew up in the Kings Grant neighborhood. A Virginian-Pilot story days after the slayings reported that she was the 1984 Cox High School homecoming queen. In Richmond, Kathryn was best known as part-owner of a "quirky toy boutique" called World of Mirth.

We don't know much about the girls. They weren't on Earth very long. But in a 2006 piece on the crimes, The Richmond Times-Dispatch noted that the older daughter was in the 3rd grade and took "twice a week Spanish lessons and classes on ancient Greece, Rome and Mali."

The younger girl was a preschooler who "made a turkey out of a potato, feathers, toothpicks and glitter glue."

If they were alive today, Bryan would be 60. Kathryn would be 50, Stella would be 20 and little Ruby would be 15.

Instead, they're frozen in time. Most recognize their faces from a single photo of the tousled foursome on a beach that accompanied most news stories.

The Harveys weren't the only ones to lose their lives to Gray. There were more killings.

But it's capital-murder convictions in the Harvey case that put Gray on death row.

In that poignant Jan. 16, 2006, piece about the Harvey memorial service at Richmond's Byrd Theatre, the Times-Dispatch reported that "Old bandmates of Bryan Harvey took the stage to sing one of his songs, 'Remember Me Well':"

"When I'm gone from this world, please remember me well.

You can dance on my grave, you can ring out the bells.

After all's said and done, please remember me well."

(source: The Virginian-Pilot)

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Death penalty on the table for 2 Louisa men

2 men accused of killing a Louisa resident now face the possibility of the death penalty.

A grand jury meeting on Monday in Louisa County Circuit Court found there was evidence to support a charge of capital murder brought by the commonwealth's attorney's office against Darcel Murphy and Dion Phoenix.

The charge against the 3rd defendant in the March 2015 murder, Tobias Owens, remains 1st-degree murder.

Kevin Robinson, the victim, was found dead in his home on March 30 with multiple gunshot wounds. Murphy, Phoenix and Owens were arrested within a week afterwards and have been in jail since then. Owens's trial is currently scheduled to begin on February 21, with Murphy's to start in July.

A date for Phoenix to be tried has not been set. A psychological evaluation in November found that Phoenix was fit to go to trial, after his previous attorney, Reed Amos, had suggested his client showed signs of not understanding the charges against him.

(source: The Central Virginian)

WEST VIRGINIA:

West Virginia Should Not Reinstate Death Penalty

West Virginia formally abolished the death penalty in 1965, with the last execution being in 1958.

There had been a de facto moratorium before abolition, so there was only 1 man on the "row" when I was a guard at the old Moundsville Penitentiary in 1963. I forget his name now but I clearly remember the man. He was an African-American from Huntington who had been convicted of raping a white woman.

I had several long conversations with him when I worked the midnight shift in what was called South Hall. His cell was close to the guard shanty, so if he was awake, I would go over and "fraternize" a little, which of course was forbidden but the corporal in charge really didn't care. As the inmates would say "It helped to pass the time." Anything that helps to pass the time is by definition good, both for inmates and guards.

Consequently, it came as an enormous shock a few months later when that I heard my name read off at roll call. I was one of 10 or 12 names assigned to the "Execution Squad"!

The next day I went to protest to Lt. Barlow, who was in charge of the squad. He told me not to worry because the Legislature was going to abolish the death penalty. However, he said that he had to form a squad every year and we had to go through one dry run. When I went on to protest about being on the squad in the first place, he leaned back in his chair and gave me a long hard look before saying softly, "You'd be surprised at how many guards come in here and volunteer. That's why we draw the names out of a hat. Besides, what sort of man would volunteer for a thing like that?"

A couple decades later, as a reporter for the old Graffiti newspaper, I attended the first execution in Ohio, after the reinstatement of the death penalty. Nosing around, I found that Ohio only accepted volunteers and they didn't give them any extra pay! At the last press conference before the execution, I asked the warden about this and he confirmed it.

Then I asked: "Isn't there a possibility that a guard who would volunteer to kill a helpless human being would be too sadistic to be a prison guard in the first place? In West Virginia, for example, they ..."

"Thank you, warden. Ladies and gentlemen, the press conference is over," a spokesman for Corrections swiftly interjected.

According to West Virginia University political science chairman John Williams and many other observers and political figures (including Democratic stalwarts such as James M. Sprouse and Darrell V. McGraw), it took a "perfect storm" of Gov. Hulett Smith, Senate President Howard Carson, and House Speaker Laban H. White to abolish the death penalty in West Virginia.

The question for today, however, is not why we abolished it but rather, over the intervening half century, why a bill to reintroduce the death penalty was never hit the floor of either house of the West Virginia Legislature.

Certainly we are as "redneck" as any state in the Union and almost everyone I know can come up with a theoretical set of facts that would merit execution. For example, Gaston Caperton favored the death penalty for "multiple murders" but was unwilling to specify to me just what the "thumbs down" number would be.

Certainly, the national trend is away from the implementation of the death penalty, but the remaining death rows are filled up. For example, in Pennsylvania some 200 men (and one woman) are awaiting execution, but the Commonwealth has only executed 3 men (all volunteers) since the re-imposition in 1978.

According to a 2014 story in the Reading (Pa.) Eagle, the "out-of-pocket" cost for the death penalty are in excess of $800 million.

In Pennsylvania, a couple of men have been on the "Capital Unit" for over 30 years. They are kept under solitary confinement conditions, indistinguishable from the "hole" which is used from disciplinary purposes. This leads to a curious argument by one resident: "I was sentenced to die, not spend 22 years in solitary confinement." This inmate has a pending request to be executed.

Many people expect our Legislature in the coming session to re-enact the death penalty as part of the conservative legislative agenda. This would be ill-advised, in my opinion, since we are actually in the vanguard of the abolitionist movement, a state that done away with the death penalty and stuck with it. It is nice to see West Virginia for once in the forefront for something positive.

This fits in with our Biblical heritage, since the "mark of Cain" in Genesis is for the protection of the "man slayer" and not a call for punishment.

(source: Guest Column, H. John Rogers----He is the corresponding secretary for CLOFIA, INC., a West Virginia nonprofit dedicated to ending "death rows" by placing these prisoners in the general population of the states' maximum security prisons; The Wheeling Intelligencer)

NORTH CAROLINA:

State seeks death penalty in Iredell homicide ---- Search warrant details grisly crime; Suspect Gary Love due in court this week

As new details emerge in the case against the man charged with killing a Cool Springs woman over Christmas weekend, attorneys are preparing for a hearing to discuss the possibility he could face the death penalty.

The hearing in Gary Love's case is expected to be held Tuesday in Iredell County Superior Court, according to Love's attorney, Ken Darty of Statesville.

Love, who is accused of killing Robin Denman in her Cool Springs Road home Dec. 24, will be brought from Raleigh to Iredell for the hearing.

At the hearing, district attorney's office representatives will present evidence that the state will seek the death penalty. Superior Court Judge Julia Gullett is scheduled to preside.

Denman, 46, a veteran and mother of three, was found beaten to death after deputies responded to her home on Dec. 26. A teenage family member living with Denman texted a friend for help earlier that morning, and later reported she was held captive and sexually assaulted by Love over the same weekend.

A search warrant application investigators filed seeking a saliva swab from Love describes details about what deputies found at the home that day.

When the 2 deputies came to the home about 7:30 a.m., Love opened the door and told deputies Denman and the juvenile were at a funeral, the document said. Deputies asked for a phone number to contact Denman, and noticed that Love's hands were shaking.

Love then said he had to let his puppies outside, ran out the back door and jumped over a chain link fence, according to the warrant. He was taken into custody shortly after.

One of the deputies saw the juvenile running down the street away and onto a neighbor's porch, trying to get inside. When she noticed the deputy's uniform, she approached and explained that she thought Love hurt the deputies, stole the patrol car and was chasing her.

She then stated was raped and last saw Denman tied up on a bed 2 days earlier, the warrant application stated.

Denman's body was found inside the home's master bathroom, in the tub, hidden under a pile of clothes.

The warrant states the juvenile was held in a closet over the weekend and only let out to be raped.

Iredell Sheriff Darren Campbell said the juvenile managed to get a hold of her phone without Love noticing at the time. After texting for help, she deleted the message, a move Campbell said was "clever."

Love was charged with murder, 10 counts of statutory sex offense with a child, sexual servitude of a child, indecent liberties with a child, 1st degree kidnapping and assault on a female.

Amanda Driver, a family friend Denman, said the girl is now living with family in Greensboro and is attempting to adjust to her new life.

"She's a trooper," Driver said. "She's trying to push through and see the bright side of things."

Love lived with Denman for around 3 months after moving to the area from Ohio, investigators said. He previously lived in New York, where he originally met Denman.

(source: statesville.com)

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Suspect in November Asheville murder makes 1st court appearance

1 of the 2 suspects in the November shooting death of Travis Mayfield made his 1st court appearance in Buncombe County Friday.

Travoscia Brown, 25, is charged with 1st-degree murder and could face the death penalty or life in prison if found guilty of killing 40-year-old Mayfield.

Police say the homicide happened in the early morning of November 10, 2016, at Deaverview Apartments, after an argument between the suspects and Mayfield.

Mayfield was found shot in the back of the neck and later died at the hospital.

Family members hope the court proceedings will shed light on exactly what happened that night.

Israel Mayfield, cousin of Travis Mayfield, "I hope that these guys get the justice that they deserve. There was no need for this to happen. We don't know what the story was and would like to get a better idea of what happened."

Brown's next court date is February 3, 2017.

He also faces several other charges, including breaking and entering a motor vehicle and financial card theft.

The other suspect in this case, 23-year-old Frederick Simpson, Jr. was arrested in Georgia.

Asheville Police say he is awaiting extradition and a court date in Buncombe County has yet to be set.

(source: WLOS news)

SOUTH CAROLINA:

James Robertson, York County's only death row inmate, gets new shot at avoiding sentence

Just when it appeared that Rock Hill's James Robertson had run out of options in trying to avoid the death penalty, the S.C. Supreme Court has offered 1 more legal maneuver.

The S.C. Supreme Court ruled recently in a split decision that lawyers in death penalty cases must have a combination of death penalty trial experience, post-conviction relief experience, plus other continuing education. Robertson's lawyers did not have that, the supreme court says. So, in an effort to reverse his conviction and sentence, Robertson gets a chance to argue that his lawyers blew the case in 1999.

Legal experts say Robertson's chances are small. The ruling does mean a slim chance at avoiding the death penalty, said Kennth Gaines, a criminal law expert and professor at the University of South Carolina law school.

"The chances of success are low, Gaines said. "Really low."

James "Jimmy" Robertson, 43, was sentenced to death in 1999. He was found guilty of killing Terry and Earl Robertson in their Rock Hill home in November 1997 in an attempt to get their multi-million dollar estate. He fled to Pennsylvania, leaving a trail of credit card purchases and evidence, including the murder weapons, and was caught by police in Philadelphia. The 1999 trial was broadcast live nationwide on Court TV. All of Robertson's appeals have failed. Execution dates have twice been set for Robertson, the only death row inmate with York County roots.

But the S.C. Supreme Court ruled in 2016 that Robertson is entitled to a new hearing because of the qualifications of his lawyers in a failed 2008 lawsuit. Robertson claimed in that 2008 post-conviction relief lawsuit that his trial lawyers botched the case in 1999 by not pursuing a guilty but mentally ill plea deal, among other alleged errors. A judge had a 3-day hearing in 2008 and ruled against Robertson.

Robertson and an anti-death penalty group from Columbia, and Cornell law school in New York, say in court documents that Robertson's lawyers in the 2008 lawsuit, Michael Brown and the late Joe Matlock, did not have the required experience.

It took the S.C. Supreme Court 14 months to make a decision after hearing arguments in October 2015.

"It is a technical decision, but the supreme court ruling says the law wasn't followed," Gaines said.

The ruling does not free Roberson or give him a new trial. If he wins his lawsuit, Robertson could get a new trial or sentencing hearing.

No date has been set for the new hearing, said Hayley Thrift Bledsoe, spokesperson for the S.C. Attorney General's Office, which will again argue that Robertson does not deserve another appeal and should be executed.

Efforts to reach Robertson's current lawyers, Keir Weyble of Cornell Law school in New York and Emily Paavola of Columbia , were unsuccessful.

"In capital cases, courts are very careful about the rights of a defendant," Gaines said. "The lawyers for Robertson seemed like they left no stone unturned when trying to seek a new hearing, and they got one."

(source: The Herald)

OHIO:

Ohio seeks drug reversing lethal injection process if needed

Ohio's prisons agency is trying to obtain a drug that could reverse the lethal injection process if needed by stopping the effects of another drug previously used in problematic executions.

The request to use the drug would come if executioners weren't confident the 1st of 3 lethal drugs would render a prisoner unconscious, Gary Mohr, director of the Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, said in federal court testimony Jan. 6.

Mohr said he would inform Republican Gov. John Kasich and ask for a reprieve at that point.

"Governor, I am not confident that we, in fact, can achieve a successful execution. I want to reverse the effects of this," Mohr testified, describing the language he would use in such a circumstance.

Mohr testified that Ohio planned to order the drug, flumazenil, but didn't currently have it.

Prisons spokeswoman JoEllen Smith declined to comment Thursday on Mohr's testimony, a copy of which was reviewed by The Associated Press.

Flumazenil is used to reverse the effects of a sedative called midazolam when that drug causes bad reactions in patients.

Midazolam is the 1st drug in Ohio's new three-drug execution method. Magistrate Judge Michael Merz is weighing a challenge to this method's constitutionality, following a weeklong hearing.

Ohio plans to put child killer Ronald Phillips to death next month with midazolam and 2 other drugs.

On Friday, the state acknowledged it has enough drugs for a fourth execution this year, in May, while staying tight-lipped about its supply beyond that.

On Monday, the AP reported that documents show Ohio has obtained enough lethal drugs to carry out dozens of executions. Merz then ordered the state to provide "a statement of its intentions" when it came to drugs used in future executions.

State attorneys said in a Friday court filing that the news report of multiple executions didn't take into account expiration dates of the drugs, which the state wouldn't previously disclose.

The AP requested those expiration dates Friday.

The state also said without explanation that the prison system's "contingency planning" needed to be taken into consideration when looking at execution numbers.

On Oct. 3, state lawyers told Merz that Ohio planned to execute Phillips and death row inmates Raymond Tibbetts and Gary Otte this year.

"The state regrets if this response left the Court with the impression that such efforts had only resulted in a supply of drugs sufficient to proceed with the executions of Inmates Phillips, Tibbetts, and Otte," state attorneys said Friday.

Messages were left with attorneys representing Phillips.

Ohio appears to be the 1st state using midazolam as a lethal drug to seek a reversal drug for it, according to experts at the Washington, D.C.-based Death Penalty Information Center, Berkeley Law School's Death Penalty Clinic and Reprieve, a London-based human rights organization that tracks capital punishment issues.

Florida and Oklahoma have used midazolam as the 1st in a 3-drug protocol. Alabama and Virginia have proposed it as part of a 3-drug protocol.

Executions have been on hold in Ohio since January 2014, when Dennis McGuire gasped and snorted during the 26 minutes it took him to die, the longest execution since the state resumed putting prisoners to death in 1999.

The state used a 2-drug method with McGuire, starting with midazolam, its 1st use for executions in the country.

Attorneys challenging the method say midazolam is unlikely to relieve an inmate's pain. The drug, which is meant to sedate inmates, also was used in a problematic 2014 execution in Arizona. But last year, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the use of midazolam in an Oklahoma case.

The state says the 3-drug method is similar to its past execution process, which survived court challenges. State attorneys also say the Supreme Court ruling last year makes clear the use of midazolam is allowable.

Columbus surgeon Jonathan Groner, a lethal injection expert, said past problems with Ohio executions have come about because executioners didn't properly connect the IVs.

"A reversal drug will not help with that problem and could make it worse - if the IV is not in the vein, giving more drugs may cause more pain," Groner said.

(source: Associated Press)

UTAH:

40th anniversary: Gary Gilmore's death a milestone in nation's capital punishment saga ---- The state-sanctioned execution by a firing squad on Jan. 17, 1977, became the 1st one in U.S. in 10 years.

Gary Gilmore was 36 years old when he welcomed the bullets from a 5-member firing squad at the Utah State Prison, becoming the 1st inmate killed following a 10-year national moratorium on capital punishment.

His death on Jan. 17, 1977, which reopened the gates to the death penalty, has been memorialized in American culture through widespread news coverage at the time, followed by books, a movie and even a new documentary that will air 2 days before the 40th anniversary of Gilmore's execution

. The documentary, "Dead Man Talking: The Execution of Gary Gilmore," airs in Utah on REELZ at 7 and 9 p.m. on Sunday, 2 days before the 40th anniversary of his execution.

Raised by an abusive, alcoholic father outside Portland, Ore., before spending much of his life in state custody and eventually coming to Utah and killing 2 people, Gilmore was a man the state deemed fit to kill. He agreed.

"The way he got to the front of the line - there were obviously many more people who committed murders in states that had state-of-the-art death penalty statutes," said Paul G. Cassell, a law professor at the University of Utah, who was interviewed for the documentary. "He was a volunteer, which meant they didn't have the full appellate delays."

Gilmore became a household name after he used a stolen Browning .22-caliber automatic pistol to kill 25-year-old Bennie Bushnell, the manager of Provo's City Center Inn, and 24-year-old law student Max Jensen.

Cassell says Gilmore's case has persisted, in part, because he was the first person executed after the U.S. Supreme Court ended its own ban on executions in 1976.

Gilmore decried attempts to prolong his life through appeals to state and federal court. When the process wasn't quick enough for Gilmore, he tried to kill himself.

Trying to persuade federal courts to prevent Utah from killing Gilmore was the hardest case former trial attorney Virginius "Jinks" Dabney was ever involved in. And it's a case that made him change his opinion of the death penalty.

When the Utah chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union approached Dabney in 1976, he remembers them asking him to monitor the Gilmore case for a week or two while another attorney on the case was out of town.

"I said, 'Well, I'm kind of in favor of the death penalty,' " the 73-year-old Dabney, of St. George, said Thursday.

Still, the ACLU needed help and Dabney was known in legal circles for having recently won a criminal trial in Salt Lake City. So he accepted the assignment, he said, not knowing the impact that trying to save the life of a man who wanted to die would have on him.

Dabney, who was also interviewed for the documentary, believes courts waived rules and deadlines for hearings, which sped up the process that led to Gilmore's execution. He also believes state officials and Robert B. Hansen, Utah's attorney general at the time, wanted the Beehive State to be the 1st in a decade to execute a prisoner.

In the hours before Gilmore's impending death, Dabney asked the U.S. District Court in Utah to grant a motion that would halt the execution.

"What case would be more stressful than this? Knowing I could say one thing wrong, get a motion denied and a man could die because of it," said Dabney, who argued the state was misspending tax dollars by unconstitutionally killing a prisoner.

While Gilmore was pleading with anyone who would listen that he wanted to die, the court agreed with Dabney and ruled hours before the scheduled execution to temporarily halt Gilmore's death.

The win was short-lived, however, as state prosecutors quickly flew to Denver to ask the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals to overturn the order. The state's motion was approved. Utah could kill Gilmore, who welcomed the news.

"Let's do it," Gilmore famously said moments before he was executed.

His death preceded hundreds of other prisoner executions.

"Death penalty foes were correct in that once Gilmore was executed, a 'barrier' both political and psychological was broken and those states that wanted to actually [use] the death penalty had a path towards using it," Joshua Marquis, a district attorney in Oregon who, like Cassell, is a proponent of the death penalty, said in an email.

While Gilmore's case may have forged the path back to capital punishment, Ralph Dellapiana, a defense attorney who is director of Utahns for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, says the number of prisoners killed in recent decades has declined.

But Dellapiana said that as long as the death penalty remains an option, there is a possibility that an innocent prisoner is executed.

"Some people point to these types of cases as ones where [they say] 'See, that's why we have to have the death penalty,'" Dellapiana said. "But the problem is that it's not just those few cases where the death penalty is applied."

Having entered the case as a proponent of capital punishment, Dabney says he now opposes it, saying if prosecutors and judges didn't slow down the death of one man on death row, there are likely others - potentially innocent - who face the same fate.

"Even if some guy says, 'I don't want an attorney,' to go through that many courts, somebody should have said, 'Look, we need to slow this down,'" Dabney said. "It was a very dark day for the Utah legal system. It was just a sad day."

(source: Salt Lake Tribune)

WASHINGTON:

Wasahington legislators should end death penalty

The reprieve for death row inmate Clark Richard Elmore on Dec. 29 fulfilled Gov. Inslee's promise to maintain a moratorium on the death penalty. But, the governor's reprieve should not have been necessary. Washington state legislators should find the courage to abolish the death penalty in our state.

Elmore's crime was heinous, and his victims deserve resolution, but the death penalty is not about any 1 particular crime. Rather, the death penalty is an institution, and as an institution it is riddled with inequalities. Nationally, African-Americans make up approximately 14 % of the general population, but 42 % of the death row population. Washington is no exception to this disparately. A 2014 study from the University of Washington found that jurors in the state were 3 times more likely to recommend a death sentence for a black defendant than they were for a white defendant guilty of a similar case.

Globally, America's use of the death is a scandal. For the past 7 years, the United States has been the only country in the western hemisphere to execute its citizens. It shares company with China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan as 1 of the top 5 executioner countries in the world.

Marco Rosaire Rossi, Olympia

(source: Letter to the Editor, The Olympian)

USA:

ID Orders Joe Berlinger Docuseries, Maria Elena Salinas News Magazine Show

ID has ordered docuseries "Killing Richard Glossip" from Joe Berlinger ("Paradise Lost"), the Discovery-owned cable channel said on Saturday. Investigation Discovery has also hired investigative journalist Maria Elena Salinas for a new news magazine show, "The Real Story."

Both announcements were made this afternoon during the network's Television Critics Association press event.

"Killing Richard Glossip" dives into the 1997 Oklahoma City murder of Barry Van Treese. Glossip, a man with no prior felony convictions, has consistently maintained his innocence, insisting that he had no knowledge that anyone planned to kill Van Treese. He's now towards the end of his death row stay. Justin Sneed, who admitted to killing the victim and whose fingerprints were found in the room, cut a deal for a life sentence instead of risking the death penalty by telling the police that Glossip hired him to do it.

"9 out of 10 times, the American justice system gets it right. Sadly, it's the unpredictability of that 1 time it goes astray that has resulted in a staggering amount of people who claim their innocence as they sit on death row," said Henry Schleiff, group president, Investigation Discovery, American Heroes Channel and Destination America. "There is a growing consensus of people worldwide that believe Richard Glossip is innocent. Consequently, this convergence of forces - including the support of filmmaker Joe Berlinger, who is no stranger to reporting on flaws in the criminal justice system - is why our team at ID feels it's imperative to provide a platform for the public to hear all sides of the story."

"Even if you think Richard Glossip might be guilty, his 3 separate trips to the execution chamber is reason enough to deeply question the sanity of the death penalty," added Berlinger. "But when you add to the mix that the case for his innocence is so compelling, then Richard Glossip’s cruel odyssey through the justice system is a wake-up call for how broken capital punishment is in this country."

"Killing Richard Glossip" is produced for ID by RadicalMedia. Berlinger, Dave O'Connor, Jon Kamen, Justin Wilkes and Lorna Thomas are executive producers. Betsy Wagner is the co-executive producer and Kevin Huffman is the supervising story producer.

The 2-night world premiere event of "Killing Richard Glossip" debuts Sunday, March 5 at 9/8c on ID.

(source: Yahoo News)

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Netflix documentaries worth watching

"Into the Abyss" is narrated and directed by the renowned Werner Herzog. He asks the questions no one else seems to be asking to a vast array of characters. The film centers around a debate about the death penalty while appearing unbiased enough for viewers to develop their own opinions. Priests, retired executioners, death penalty prisoners and families of victims play parts in constructing a full story about life in the face of death.

(source: redandblack.com)

TRINIDAD & TOBAGO:

Murder must have deadly consequences

The year 2017 has not got off to a good start in terms of murders. The numbers continue to grow, with more murders occurring than days - about 15 as at the 13th. There's no letting up from where we left off in last year.

In addition to undertaking an analysis of the demographic, psychological and criminogenic circumstances surrounding murders and then dealing with them - which should lead to long-term solutions - a key recommendation is ensuring there are appropriate consequences which are implemented.

First, we have to ensure that the penalty for murder, which is death by hanging in Trinidad and Tobago, is implemented after a complete and fair criminal trial - with appeals - within the stipulated 5-year time frame. The entire criminal justice system must be on board. The legislators in Parliament must play their critical part, too.

If murderers know they can be prosecuted, convicted and executed within the 5-year time frame, it's more likely this can be a deterrent.

We must recognise that a decision to engage in crime is a psychological matter. Other than those who are insane temporarily or permanently, all other murderers make a decision to kill another person. They also know there is an almost 100 % chance they will not suffer the death penalty. They have the upper hand on crime.

If murderers know for sure they will be executed, it will serve as a deterrent. Don't be fooled, many of those murderers are afraid to die via State execution. The very thought of the ritual of walking out of a cell to be put to death by hanging can be enough of a deterrent.

Further, we need to move into the direction of classifications for murder, for example, 1st degree and 2nd degree. And let us agree on the range of punishments for these various levels of murder, with probably the death penalty for 1st-degree murders, life imprisonment for 2nd-degree murders, etc. Other jurisdictions have done it, so why do we feel that it cannot be done here?

Human beings are afraid of physical pain unless they have some serious psychological disorder. We should also consider prescribing corporal punishment alongside the death penalty. It can be an appetiser before the main course. If potential murderers know they will be whipped with the cat-o'-9-tails as well, we are almost certain this can be a deterrent.

Murder is a very gruesome crime where there's no recuperation on the part of the victim. There's the need also for the murderer to feel similar or worse pain and suffering. For some crimes, we can entertain rehabilitation, but for murder where you take away the life of an individual, where it is proven beyond a reasonable doubt that person A, B or C is guilty, that person should suffer badly.

That's the only way we can expect a reduction in murders in the short term.

(source: Ian Ramdhanie; Letter, Trinidad Express)

PHILIPPINES:

Philippine : Do not revive the Death Penalty

ADPAN strongly urges all members of the Philippine House of Representative and Senate to reject the reinstatement of the death penalty and uphold the rights to life as enshrined in the Constitution.

Reinstating the death penalty would violate Philippine's international legal obligations, in particular, the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which the country has ratified.

The reasons behind the reinstatement of the death penalty are ill founded and purely a political one. Numerous studies and analysis have concluded that death penalty does not deter crime. Indeed, there has been no existing reliable evidence to prove otherwise.

ADPAN also wishes to highlight that the UN Office on Drugs and Crime has consistently called for the abolishment of death penalty on drug related offences, citing that such irreversible and oppressive laws are not an effective prevention and solution and it is not supported by international drug conventions.

It is also to be noted that on 11th January 2017, Deputy Prime Minister of Thailand Mr Wisanu Krea-ngarm had said that Thailand would eventually do away with death penalty by trying to amend the law to find alternative to the capital punishment, taking into consideration the global trend on abolition. The Malaysian government has also announced its intention to abolish the mandatory death penalty on drug offences while a comprehensive study is now underway that may also see the total abolition of the death penalty.

Philippine, if successfully revive the death penalty, would not only move backward in its human rights standards and obligations, and would also not be in line with the progress made by its neighboring countries towards the eventual abolition of death penalty.

ADPAN states its disappointment that this Bill to reinstate the death penalty is being rushed on 16 January 2017 when the House of Representative resumes, and urges all members of the House of Representative and Senate to consider it carefully and reject it, respecting and upholding the right to life.

Ngeow Chow Ying

For and on behalf of the ADPAN Executive Committee

15 January 2017

Email: contactadpan@gmail.com

The Anti-Death Penalty Asia Network (ADPAN) is an independent cross-regional network committed to working for an end to the death penalty across the Asia Pacific region. ADPAN is made up of NGOs, organizations, civil society groups, lawyers and individual members, not linked to any political party, religion or government and campaigns against the death penalty. It currently has members in 28 countries: Afghanistan, Australia, Bangladesh, China, Denmark, France, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, Mongolia, Nepal, New Zealand, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Singapore, Spain, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Thailand, Tonga, Vietnam, UK, USA.

(source: ADPAN)

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

Solons tackle revival of death penalty

The proposed revival of the death penalty and the initiative to amend the Constitution are on top of the House of Representatives' priority measures this year.

After a month-long Holiday break, congressmen will buckle down to work today, Monday, in a bid to approve the 2 priority measures of the Duterte administration.

House majority leader Rodolfo Farinas said House leaders will consult their Senate counterparts first before the 2 measures are put to a vote.

"We will first discuss that (death penalty revival, Charter change), among others, with our Senate counterparts," said Farinas, a stalwart of the ruling Partido Demokratikong Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban).

Farinas could not say yet if the proposed reinstatement of the capital punishment will be approved this month.

The measure, which is principally authored by Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, is set to be sponsored in the plenary for floor debates.

Farinas said the leadership will also continue consulting with the senators on the proposed constitutional amendments which is geared towards shifting to a federal form of government.

President Duterte has formed a 25-man consultative body to craft the proposed amendments and submit it to Congress which will sit as a Constituent Assembly to revise the Constitution.

The panel, which, like the Constitutional Commission is composed of experts, has six months to draw up the proposed amendments.

LIMITED

The House leadership is open to the proposal to limit the number of criminal acts to be punishable by death under the substitute bill approved by the committee on justice last month.

House leaders aborted their plan to have the measure approved on final reading before the Christmas break following vehement opposition from some lawmakers and the Catholic Church.

Deputy Speaker Rep. Fredenil Castro of Capiz defended the measure, saying its purpose "is to protect life."

Castro, one of the bill's authors, said he is anticipating long and intense plenary debates on the measure.

"I am anticipating a long arduous hours of debate but, I welcome it so that no issues are left untouched," said Castro. "I am ready all the time."

Castro surmised that the measure may be approved on 3rd and final reading on or before the end of February.

"If the debate is protracted, I am not confident that it could be passed on 3rd and final reading this January. Perhaps, on or before the end of February 2017 considering the other equally important measures that has to be acted upon by the House," he said.

BY A THREAD

Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, an opposition lawmaker, said he and colleagues who are against the measure will surely give the administration a "good fight" in the plenary.

Lagman expressed confidence that the measure will be defeated, saying even the supermajority bloc is not solidly behind it since many of its members are against the revival of capital punishment.

Lagman said the margin will be slim in the event that the measure is defeated.

House Bill No. 1 filed by Alvarez seeks to punish offenders convicted of drug felonies, murder, rape, robbery, carjacking, kidnapping, bribery, plunder, parricide, infanticide, destructive arson, piracy and treason.

It also seeks to impose capital punishment on the following: importation of dangerous drugs and paraphernalia; sale, trading, distribution and transportation of dangerous drugs; maintenance of a drug den, dive, or resort; manufacture of dangerous drugs; possession of dangerous drugs; cultivation or culture of plants classified as dangerous drugs; unlawful prescription; criminal liability of a public officer or employee for misappropriation, misapplication, or failure to account for the confiscated, seized and/or surrendered dangerous; criminal liability for planting evidence concerning illegal drugs.

There are 22 crimes that will be punishable by capital punishment under the measure but lawmakers have decided to lower it when the bill is amended in the plenary.

(source: malaya.com.ph)

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

The rush to execute

Days before the lower chamber starts the full debates on the death-penalty bill, a member of the so-called legitimate minority bloc said there is a growing support among members of the House of Representatives against the reimposition of capital punishment.

Liberal Party Rep. Teodoro B. Baguilat Jr. of Ifugao said his group, along with other lawmakers, is now preparing for a healthy and protracted debate on the proposal.

"Well, we're consolidating the antideath-penalty groups in Congress, [and] this is across party lines; galvanizing public support against death penalty; and compiling our research on reasons to oppose it," Baguilat told the BusinessMirror.

Speaker Pantaleon D. Alvarez has said No. 1 on the agenda of the lower chamber when session resumes on January 16 is the full debates on death penalty and other anticrime measures.

The death-penalty bill was principally authored by Alvarez.

Season of love

Baguilat, in a separate news statement, said he hoped his colleagues in Congress, both in the House of Representatives and the Senate, would resolve to be more independent thinkers this year, and not pass the death-penalty bill.

"This is the season of love, salvation and hope; and I wish that my colleagues will be touched by the love of God and align their position against the death penalty," Baguilat said.

For his part, Majority Leader and PDP-Laban Rep. Rodolfo C. Farinas of Ilocos Norte assured lawmakers they can all express their support, as well as their opposition, during the plenary debates of the bill.

"Of course, [we will allow all lawmakers to express their opposition, as well as their support to the bill]," Farinas said in a text message.

Hasty moves

Moreover, Baguilat has urged the public to add their voice to the growing chorus calling for a stop to "hasty moves" in Congress to re-impose the death penalty.

He said the Commission on Human Rights, as well as the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), have already taken a firm stance against the death penalty with the CBCP, saying that the abolition of the death penalty by the 1986 Constitution was "a very big step toward a practical recognition of the dignity of every human being created to the image and likeness of God, and the value of human life from its conception to its natural end."

"Indeed, the Constitution says there must be a compelling reason to reimpose the death penalty, and there is none today," Baguilat said.

He added that the plan to railroad the passage of the death penalty was a grave cause for concern, considering that it had already been established that death penalty would not deter the proliferation of crime.

"It is not a deterrent. There is no reliable and credible data to show that it is," Baguilat said. "That is why I am again appealing to my colleagues in Congress to not rush into passing such a bill and instead allow extensive and intelligent discussion."

The Ifugao representative also said the better move to undertake was to strengthen the justice system to make sure that justice is served quickly and that the criminals will go to jail.

Flaws

"As it is, everybody is saying that the justice system is flawed. That means what we need is more reform to avoid wrongful convictions. Without reforms, what will happen is that the poor will again bear the consequence of the weakness and inconsistency in the application of the criminal justice system. We need to strengthen that first to make a more lasting impact on criminality. I have never believed in legislating this ultimate retribution," Baguilat said.

Capital punishment was last suspended in 2006 by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. At that time, Congress was overwhelmingly supportive of the tenet that life has value. President Duterte, however, has consistently said he wanted it back as part of the package of measures to supposedly stop the proliferation of drugs and criminality.

Wrongful executions

Meanwhile, Party-list Rep. Lito Atienza of Buhay said Duterte's plan to send more than 2,000 men to the gallows within 12 months could easily result in hundreds of wrongful executions.

"The last time the country experimented on the death penalty, the wrongful execution rate was around 15 %. We expect this rate to shoot up, considering the administration's apparent plan to quickly put to death a lot of people inside a very short period," Atienza said.

Earlier, Duterte stressed the urgency to reimpose capital punishment. "Restore it [death penalty] and I will execute criminals every day - 5 or 6 [and] that's for real."

Atienza warned that "the country's criminal justice system, with all its flaws and imperfections, is severely ill-equipped to handle another experiment on the death penalty."

"We have a corrupt and bungling police force. Both our prosecution service and trial courts are prone to sleaze and haphazardness. We have an overworked Public Attorney's Office. And even the Supreme Court is weighed down by mounting docket pressures," he said.

According to Atienza, these factors, when combined, would make the next experiment on capital punishment "highly dangerous."

The lawmaker said the country's law enforcement and prosecution arms still abound with illegal methods and rotten practices, including arbitrary arrests and searches, torture, intimidation, evidence-planting and the filing of defective charge sheets.

Offenses

Under the death-penalty bill, crimes punishable with death through hanging, firing squad or lethal injection are treason; qualified piracy; qualified bribery; parricide; murder infanticide; rape; kidnapping and serious illegal detention; robbery with violence against or intimidation of persons; destructive arson; plunder; importation of dangerous drugs and or controlled precursors and essential chemicals; sale, trading, administration, dispensation, delivery, distribution and transportation of dangerous drugs and/or controlled precursors and essential chemicals; and maintenance of drug den.

Also punishable by death are manufacture of dangerous drugs and/or controlled precursor and essential chemicals; possession of dangerous drugs; cultivation or culture of plants classified as dangerous drugs; unlawful prescription of dangerous drugs; criminal liability of public officer for misappropriation; misapplication or failure to account for the confiscated seized or surrendered drugs; criminal liability for planting evidence and carnapping.

But Alvarez said the lower chamber may change the scope of the death-penalty bill, as they may focus only on illegal-drugs-related crimes.

(source: Jovee Marie de la Cruz----businesssmirror.com.ph)

PAKISTAN:

Executions may affect GSP-Plus status: envoy

Pakistan may jeopardise its Generalised System of Preferences-Plus (GSP-Plus) status if it does not restore the moratorium on the death penalty, a Dutch diplomat said on Saturday.

The European Union granted Pakistan GSP-Plus status on textile exports in 2013, allowing duty-free access to Pakistani products in European markets.

"Pakistan may face problems in the GSP scheme because of the death penalty, but we hope that a moratorium on death penalty will be restored," Dutch Ambassador Jeannette Seppen said.

Pakistan has already ratified all United Nations conventions relating to the GSP-Plus status, besides improving human and labour rights, environmental protection, climate change and good governance.

She told media persons that international experience had clearly demonstrated that the death penalty did not work. She said that every human being had a right to justice.

Pointing out that the trade volume between Pakistan and the Netherlands currently stands at $1 billion, she said: "We want Pakistan to maintain the quality of textile products high and be competitive to get a fair market share."

She said that her country would continue to work with Pakistan for improving the quantum of trade and investment, especially in the dairy sector.

She said that a Dutch company, Friesland Campina, had made major investment in the dairy sector and expressed the hope that more Dutch companies would follow suit.

She said that companies such as Shell, Unilever and Philips were already working in Pakistan and her country would encourage more Dutch companies to invest in Pakistan.

According to her, scholarships would be offered to Pakistani students in agricultural universities in the Netherlands. "We will work with farmers to increase productivity," she said.

"Our companies also have (considerable) experience in the maritime sector, ports and shipping, energy infrastructure and especially renewable energy," she said.

She recalled that a Dutch company had developed a masterplan for expanding the port of Karachi, saying that Amsterdam was interested in investing in the Gwadar port.

She said that the Dutch government was willing to join China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), adding that Dutch companies would like to avail emerging opportunities after the completion of CPEC.

"We will be happy to see more Dutch companies joining the CPEC project," she said.

Expressing concern over human rights violations everywhere, including Indian-occupied Kashmir, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, Balochistan and Punjab, the Dutch envoy said that her country believed in the freedom of expression and her government was concerned about the disappearance of digital rights activists and bloggers in Pakistan.

She expressed hope that Islamabad would ensure freedom of expression.

(source: Express Tribune)

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

Pakistani Senate group to debate how to prevent misuse of blasphemy laws

A Pakistani Senate committee is set to debate how to prevent the country's blasphemy laws being applied unfairly, despite opposition from religious conservatives who support legislation that carries a mandatory death penalty for insulting Islam. Senator Farhatullah Babar told Reuters that the Senate Committee on Human Rights, of which he is a member, will start discussions on blasphemy laws as early as next week, based on recommendations from a 24-year-old report. He said it would be the 1st time in decades that any parliamentary body had considered a formal proposal to stop the abuse of the blasphemy laws.

According to Babar, the committee would consider a proposal making it binding to investigate complaints before registering a case, to ensure "genuine blasphemy" had been committed and the law was not being used to settle scores, as critics say it is. He also said the committee would debate whether life imprisonment was an adequate punishment, instead of the mandatory death penalty.

Many conservatives in Pakistan consider even criticizing the laws as blasphemy, and in 2011 Governor Salman Taseer of Punjab Province, was assassinated by his bodyguard after calling for reform of the laws. His killer, Mumtaz Qadri ,was hailed as a hero by religious hardliners, and tens of thousands of supporters attended his funeral after he was executed last year. A shrine has been built over his grave.

A Christian woman, Asia Bibi, is in jail for 7 years on charges of blasphemy. She was sentenced to hang in 2010 for insulting the Prophet Muhammad during an argument with Muslim women which began over a cup of water. She denies the charge. Pakistan's Supreme Court adjourned her death row appeal on October 13 last year, after 1 of the 3 judges recused himself from the case.

Christian minorities minister Shahbaz Bhatti and Muslim politician Salmaan Taseer, the governor of Punjab Province, were both assassinated in 2011 for advocating on her behalf and opposing the blasphemy laws. Hundreds of Pakistanis are on death row for blasphemy convictions, and at least 65 people, including lawyers, defendants and judges, have been murdered over blasphemy allegations since 1990, according to figures from the Center for Research and Security Studies based in the capital Islamabad.

Pakistan's religious and political elites almost universally steer clear of speaking against blasphemy laws, but a small group of lawmakers has been looking for ways to reduce abuses. However, powerful religious conservatives who have millions of followers strongly support the laws. Last week, Pakistani police arrested 150 hardline activists rallying in support of the blasphemy laws on the anniversary of the assassination of Taseer. Police have also resisted a demand by hardliners to register a blasphemy case against Shaan Taseer, the slain governor's son, over a Christmas message calling for prayers for those charged under the "inhumane" legislation.

(source: Vatican Radio)

INDONESIA:

Alleged child rapists in Sorong may face death penalty: Police

3 suspects in the rape and murder of a 5-year-old girl in Sorong, West Papua, may face the death penalty if found guilty of the crimes, a police chief has said.

Sorong Police chief Adj.Sr.Comr. Edfrie R.Maith said the 3 suspects would be charged under the 2016 Child Protection Law.

Article 81 (5) of the newly passed law carries a maximum sentence of the death penalty. It also carries sanctions of life imprisonment and a prison sentence ranging from 10 to 20 years.

"In the 2016 Child Protection Law, there is an article that stipulates the death sentence [for perpetrators of crimes against children]. This law is new and has never been used. We will use it for this case," Edfrie told The Jakarta Post on Saturday.

Various societal elements in Sorong have staged rallies over the crimes, demanding authorities to punish the suspected child rapists with the death sentence, which they deemed "most suitable" for the alleged perpetrators.

Apart from death penalty, the law also carries additional sanctions for perpetrators of sex crimes against children, including the reveal of their identities as stated on Article 81 (6). It is stipulated in Article 81 (7) that the perpetrators may face chemical castration and the assembling of electronic detection tools in their bodies.

The rape and murder victim was found dead in a mud hole in a swamp on Jl.Basuki Rahmat near the runway of Domine Eduard Osok Airport in Klasabi subdistrict, Sorong Manoi district, on Tuesday. She had been reported missing.

The victim's sibling reportedly saw the 3 alleged perpetrators take the victim toward a swamp near the tip of the airport's runway. Based on the information, the police, the victim's family and locals searched the area, where they finally found the dead body.

"The alleged perpetrators are the victim's neighbors. They kidnapped the victim while her parents weren't home," said Edfrie.

The 3 suspects, Donald Wanggaimo, 20, Lewi Gogoba, 20, and Nando Kinombae, 19, are being detained at the Sorong Police.

Edfrie claimed the alleged perpetrators were under the influence of alcohol while committing the crimes. "When they were arrested, they were still drunk," he said.

(source: The Jakarta Post)

THAILAND:

Majority for retention of death penalty: Poll

A large majority of people say the death penalty should continue to exist and rape-murder is the crime that deserves it the most, according to a survey by the National Institute for Development Administration, or Nida Poll.

The poll was carried out on Jan 9-11 on 1,250 people aged 18 and over of various levels of education and occupations throughout the country to compile their opinions on whether the death penalty should be reviewed.

To the question of whether the death penalty should stay, a huge majority, 87.12%, said it should continue to exist; only 8% said it should no longer be in force; and, 4.88% were uncertain.

Asked what type of crime they think most deserves the death penalty, the majority, or 56.57%, pointed to rape-murder; 22.04% mentioned repetition of serious crimes; 10.65% pre-meditated murder; 3.12% drug abuse; 2.48% robbery-murder; 1.47% physical assault resulting in death; and 1.1% corruption.

Asked whether the death penalty should be executed without being commuted, 86.32% said "yes", reasoning that commuting the death sentence would only invite a repetition of violent crimes; 11.2% said "no", saying that wrongdoers should be given a chance to make amends; and, 2.48% were uncertain.

Asked whether those who repeat a serious crime should be subject to a harsher penalty, 92.4% said "yes"; 4.56% "no"; and, 3.04% were uncertain.

(source: Bangkok Post)

CHINA:

China to formulate judicial exclusionary rule of illegal evidence

China will formulate and issue a judicial interpretation on the throwing out of illegally-obtained evidence.

At a meeting attended by the heads of higher people's courts nationwide on Saturday, courts were asked to implement policies regarding the death penalty.

They were told to learn from the case of Nie Shubin, an innocent man who was wrongfully executed over 20 years ago.

Stricter punishments will be given to crimes of murder, robbery, kidnapping, women trafficking and telecom fraud, according to the meeting.

Violations in the securities market will also be handled according to law, and more should be done to educate minors involved in school bullying, it was stressed at the meeting.

The courts were also called to intensify the analysis and study of the root causes of corruption and loopholes in the supervision system to improve anti-corruption systems.

Chinese courts at all levels received over 23 million cases in 2016 and concluded the trial or enforcement of about 19.8 million cases, statistics revealed at the meeting showed.

(source: ecns.cn)

INDIA:

President converts 4 tribals' death sentences to life terms

President Pranab Mukherjee has disposed of all mercy petitions of death penalties pending before him till date. The latest was the case of Bara massacre accused of Gaya district, where 32 Bhumihar Brahmins were killed by the Maoist Communist Centre (MCC), a banned outfit.

President Pranab Mukherjee has disposed of all mercy petitions of death penalties pending before him till date. The latest was the case of Bara massacre accused of Gaya district, where 32 Bhumihar Brahmins were killed by the Maoist Communist Centre (MCC), a banned outfit. In 2001, Krishna Mochi along with 3 others, Nanhe Lal Mochi, Bir Kuer Paswan and Dharmendra Sing, alias Dharu Sing, were awarded capital punishments by a sessions court in connection with the massacre.

They were tried under the provisions of Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act. In 2002, the Supreme Court upheld the death penalty by a majority of 2:1 in a 3-judge Bench. Justice M B Shah differed from the view of the majority. He acquitted Sing and commuted the death sentences of the 3 others to life.

All the 4 convicts have been lodged at Bhagalpur Central Jail. Their mercy petitions were dispatched from the jail on March 2, 2003. Since then, it was pending with the Union Home Ministry. Only in the month of August last year, the Home Ministry sent the mercy petition to President Mukherjee for his consideration.

The President sought legal opinion on the matter because of a recent landmark judgment of the Apex Court which overturned an earlier judgment and drew a distinction between murders related to terrorism and other kinds of murders.

After considering the merit of the case carefully, the President endorsed the view of the dissenting judge except for the acquittal of the accused. In the month of January this year, the President reduced the death sentences of those convicts to life imprisonment. This was the last mercy petition pending before him. During his tenure, President Mukherjee has accepted 4 mercy petitions and rejected 28.

Among them were high profile cases including dreaded Pakistan terrorists Ajmal Kasab, Yakub Abdul Razak Memon and Afzal Guru of Jammu and Kashmir which drew international interest and was debated widely.

(source: milleniumpost.in)

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

Budding lawyers debate sedition and death penalty at moot court

The classrooms were converted into courts, the students were public prosecutors and counsels, the judges were senior advocates of Supreme Court and the High Court.

Though it was a moot court organised at Delhi University's Campus Law Centre, the temperament of the court proceeding was nothing less than those in real courts.

Delhi University's Campus Law Centre organised the 13th K.K. Luthra moot court on the law of sedition and the propriety of death penalty as a punishment for the offence.

The 3-day event that lasts till Sunday has students from 75 colleges participating from across the country and abroad. The final result of the competition will be declared on Sunday.

On Saturday, there were Toby Chandler, Sorcha Dervin and Kieran Freear from Bristol University in the shoes of public prosecutor defending the state and against them were students of Rajiv Gandhi National University of Law in Patiala, Mittul Singh Rana, KS Roshan and Vikram Choudhary.

The budding lawyers from Punjab submitted before the court that Article 124A which advocates that whoever, by words, either spoken or written, or by signs, or by visible representation, or otherwise, brings or attempts to bring into hatred or contempt, or excites or attempts to excite disaffection towards state shall be punished, should be struck down. They gave examples of how sedition was invoked on a great leader like Mahatama Gandhi.

In March 1922, Gandhi was tried before Mr Broomfield, District & Sessions Judge of Ahmedabad, for sedition in respect of two articles, which he had written in his paper "Young India".

Basing their argument on the theme - dissent is essence of democracy - they said that freedom of speech means that right to say things which some people regard as dangerous, a robust and nature democracy should be expected to absorb unpalatable ideas without prosecuting them.

Enacting the role of public prosecutor, the students from Bristol University said that any act that leads to violence needs to be contained.

They said that if an act of delivering speech, calling for supporters to break government into pieces and burning public property are in pursuant of the common intention to overthrow the government and should be dealt harshly, according to the law of land.

(source: Hindustan Times)

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

In his new book, Gopalkrishna Gandhi turns every possible stone to attain a fine understanding of the history of death penalty in India, voicing the concerns of abolitionists, writes Keith A. Gomes.

Abolition of the Death Penalty

By Gopalkrishna Gandhi

Publisher: Aleph Book Company

Pages: 124

Price: Rs 399

Former governor of West Bengal, diplomat, professor of history and politics at the Ashoka University, and student of English literature, Gopalkrishna Gandhi has recently written a book-length essay, published by Aleph Book Company. The essay is titled Abolishing the Death Penalty: Why India Should Say No To Capital Punishment, and deals with the distressing subject of where a state stands when it declares the time of one's death as a punishment. The book can be approached in 2 key ways. First via impression: by what it impresses upon the mind and thus evokes within the reader in sentimental terms. Secondly, it can be approached via inference: drawing an understanding from all that Gandhi has put into 1 essay. Either ways, the one critical statement within the text is, "Birth and death happen; murder is committed" (p.12).

The death penalty has been observed by many thinkers as "judicial murder", and especially so by the law. But Gandhi turns to Shakespeare's Hamlet and concludes murder as being nothing other than "a thing most foul". His work divides itself into varieties as per its form; it can be considered an argument drawn at length, yet not seeming like an argument at all. It can be considered an encyclopedia of murder due to the prolific collection of data over the matter; he reaches with his palms to the writings of George Orwell, Thomas De Quincy and Albert Camus, the paintings on the death of Socrates, the final words of those implicated in the assassinations of Mahatma Gandhi and Abraham Lincoln, and the ideas of Bhagat Singh which border into political theory. It can also be understood as a congenial expression, in its attempts to reach a certain and stable truth as to what murder can truly imply when decreed by the body of the law.

, "Abolishing the Death Penalty as a well researched and voraciously analytical essay displays a movement from insight to foresight. From the beginning through the very heart of the text, all information is gathered and then it is observed, studied and analysed by Gandhi until he is able to provide a stable understanding to the reader."

The work is finely divided into chapters where each one tries to hold down a facet over the matter of death penalties and begins with the updated information about those nations which have abolished the death penalty and those nations which still retain it: nations like the USA, India, Pakistan and China. His approach to the matter is much organised, since he tries to treat the available knowledge in terms of its cause and its effect. He explains that the main cases in which the death penalty is carried out are murder and treason/terrorism. The book demarcates that in India the "rarest of rare" crimes deal out the death penalty and that a lot of focus is laid on these cases. The entire process of how the death penalty is carried out and who all, including the President and the government, are involved is clearly explained. Gandhi has put in the meticulous effort of enumerating some of the better-known Presidents of India and how their response has been to the death penalty - President Radhakrishnan was an abolitionist, and so were Kalam and Patil who were disinclined to mete out the death penalty.

Gandhi also shows sensitivity in his essay as he tries to understand the response mechanism of those who are victims or are related to the victims. He tries to wear their shoes and speak out their own woes, like Nirbhaya's family. He realises the necessary need for retribution, another matter which becomes a key subject for discussion. Through this extended essay, matters like retribution, are not simply understood for their objective reality but also just as well for their psychological scaffolding. The study of retribution gathers much appeal as it takes one further into understanding the conditions of power: the fact that the judicial body carries out the need of a mass which seeks justice and must be pacified. Thus, what Gandhi pays attention to in his essay is his pace; he treads carefully around the quagmire of deep and troubling matters and gives time to assessing his own awareness of various topical issues.

Abolishing the Death Penalty, as a well researched and voraciously analytical essay, displays a movement from insight to foresight. From the beginning through the very heart of the text, all information is gathered and then it is observed, studied and analysed by Gandhi until he is able to provide a stable understanding to the reader. And it is in the final 2 chapters that he gives us a final word of his position, his grounds for arguing and his prophetic message of India's choice. Gandhi states that he is a 100% abolitionist and he argues for abolition on grounds of human rights to life, right to self-defense against battery, assault, homicide and murder. He also adds to this a very well argued "plain truth" which is based on the purpose of punishment, he says that one of the purposes of punishment is the experiential outcome of the punishment wherein the criminal is able to learn from the experience of the punishment. This clearly cannot happen in the case of capital punishment since once death takes place there is no space for thought let alone learning. Gandhi makes clear that India shall not turn abolitionist due to one reason only: its sovereignty.

In this work, Gopalkrishna Gandhi has attempted to lay out, for an average reader, the fierce debate over a grave matter, which has been taking place for decades and has a vast history. As we read, the realisation, that there are many who fight for the life of strangers, some of whom are severe criminals, on the grounds of humanity, settles in. A noble endeavor undertaken by Gandhi in this essay makes for a reading full of knowledge and awakening.

(source: sundayguardianlive.com)

BAHRAIN----executions

Bahrain executes 3 Shiites in 1st capital punishment since 2010

3 Shiites convicted for being involved in a deadly police bombing in 2014 that killed 1 Emirati and 2 Bahraini officers have been executed in Bahrain.

The executions come less than a week after the Court of Cassation - the country's highest - has confirmed the death sentences originally handed out to the 3 suspects in 2015.

As a result of fears the authorities may go through with the sentences, hundreds of Bahrainis took to the streets in protest in capital Manama on Saturday. Word spread quickly over social media after the parents of the 3 were summoned to the prison to see their loved ones, Reuters reports.

The attack of March 3, 2014 saw 3 policemen killed while dispersing a protest in the village of Daih, west of the capital, when the attack took place.

The 3 men convicted in 2015 - Abbas al-Samea, Sami Mushaima and Ali al-Singace – have continued to maintain their innocence, and have had rights groups speaking on their behalf, alleging that their original confessions had been obtained under torture.

Executions are normally rare in the Western-allied kingdom, and are mainly aimed at suppressing dissent by the Shia minority that fights Sunni discrimination.

Although Bahrain denies the use of torture, its famed human rights activist Nabeel Rajab alleges he was a victim of the tactic in his several stints in prison for speaking up against the government.

As recently as 2 weeks ago, Rajab had been released from prison, before being taken back within hours.

Human rights groups have reported on the plight of dissenters in Bahrain, particularly in the aftermath of the 2011-12 government crackdowns. Allan Hogarth, Amnesty International's head of policy and government affairs, said last November that the Gulf Kingdom is continuing its "shocking crackdown on protesters."

The organization has also recently criticized the British government for praising Bahrain for improving its human rights situation through reforms that Amnesty has referred to as "woefully inadequate." They include 2 UK-supported Bahraini institutions created in the wake of the 2012 crackdown that Amnesty calls a "PR exercise."

"5 years after Bahrain's shocking crackdown on protesters, its peaceful human rights activists are still being jailed after unfair trials. Yet, to listen to UK ministers, one would think the country had long ago turned a corner and put these human rights abuses behind it," Hogarth said.

(source: rt.com)

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

First executions in more than 6 years a shocking blow to human rights

In response to the execution today of 3 men accused of killing 3 police officers in Bahrain Amnesty International's Deputy Director for Campaigns in Beirut, Samah Hadid said:

"This is a dark day for human rights in Bahrain. These executions - the 1st to be carried out since 2010 - are a deeply regressive step for a country whose authorities' have repeatedly trumpeted their commitment to human rights.

"The death penalty is the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment and the fact that this execution was carried out after an unfair trial and despite claims from the men that they were tortured in custody makes this news even more shocking. Instead of stepping up executions Bahrain's authorities should establish an immediate moratorium on executions and work on abolishing the death penalty once and for all."

On 9 January Bahrain's Court of Cassation in Bahrain upheld death sentences for Ali Abdulshaheed al-Sankis, Sami Mirza Mshaima' and Abbas Jamil Taher Mhammad al-Samea. It also upheld life sentences against 7 others and the revocation of the nationality of 8 of them. All 10 men were convicted following an unfair trial in relation to the March 2014 killing of 3 policemen.

(source: Amnesty International)

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

Bahrainis protest against death penalty for anti-regime demonstrators

People have taken to the streets of two Bahraini villages to denounce a latest court ruling that upheld death sentences against 3 anti-regime demonstrators.

The protests, called by Bahraini clerics, took place in the northern villages of Abu Saiba and Shakhurah on Saturday, the website of Bahrain's LuaLua TV reported.

The demonstrators were holding placards reading, "No to execution" and "We are not afraid of execution."

In a statement, Bahraini clerics had earlier called on people to take part in Saturday's "demonstration of rage" in a bid to save the lives of innocent youths facing death in an unfair trial.

On January 9, Bahrain's Court of Cassation found Sami Mushaima, Abbas Jamil Tahir al-Sami' and Ali Abdulshahid al-Singace guilty of killing a member of Emirati forces assisting Manama in its suppression of Bahraini protesters in the northern village of al-Daih back in March 2014. The defendants have denied the charge.

The court also sentenced 7 other defendants to life imprisonment and stripped 8 others of their nationality.

Earlier this week, Human Rights Watch released its 2017 world report, accusing Bahrain of having stepped up its suppression of activists and those critical of the Manama regime's conduct in 2016.

On Thursday, the New York-based rights organization accused Bahraini authorities of having prevented several activists from leaving the island and deporting 6 nationals after arbitrarily stripping them of their citizenship.

Home to US Navy's 5th Fleet, Bahrain has witnessed a wave of anti-regime demonstrations since mid-February 2011.

Scores of people have been killed and hundreds of others wounded or detained amid Manama's ongoing crackdown on dissent and widespread discrimination against the country's Shia majority.

(source: Albawaba News)

IRAN----executions

26 Prisoners Including 2 Women Hanged

In the last few days, at least 26 people, including 2 women, were reportedly executed in various Iranian prisons.

14 PRISONERS EXECUTED

According to close sources, at least 14 prisoners were reportedly hanged at Karaj Central Prison on Saturday January 14 on drug related charges. Iran Human Rights has obtained the names of 10 of these prisoners: Mohammad Soleimani, Ali Ebadi, Ali Reza Moradi, Majid Badarloo, Omid Garshasebi, Ali Yousefi, Seyed Ali Sorouri, Ebrahim Jafari, Ali Mohammad Lorestani, and Mohsen Jelokhani.

12 of these prisoners were reportedly transferred to solitary confinement on the morning of Sunday January 8 in preparation for their executions. In a recent joint statement, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch called on Iranian authorities to halt these executions. Iran Human Rights had also released a statement calling on the Iranian authorities to halt these executions.

According to a family member of 1 of the executed prisoners, 2 women were among these prisoners. They were reportedly transferred from Gharchak Prison to Karaj Central Prison for execution. The names of the 2 women are not known at this time.

AT LEAST 5 PRISONERS EXECUTED

At least 5 prisoners were reportedly executed at Karaj's Rajai Shahr Prison on Saturday January 14. According to close sources, these prisoners were sentenced to death on murder and Moharebeh (enmity against God) charges. Iran Human Rights has obtained the names of four of these prisoners: Siamak Shafiee, Abouzar Alijani, Saeed Teymouri, and Reza Naghizadeh.

1 PRISONER EXECUTED

On Thursday January 12, a prisoner was reportedly hanged at Hamedan Central Prison on drug related charges. Iran Human Rights has identified the prisoner as 37-year-old Babak Asghari.

"Babak was arrested in July 2011 and was sentenced to death in May 2013 for possession and trafficking of 4 kilograms of crystal meth and 3 kilograms of hash," a confirmed source tells Iran Human Rights.

AT LEAST 3 PRISONERS EXECUTED

According to the human rights news agency, HRANA, at least 3 prisoners were hanged at Qazvin's central prison on Thursday January 12. HRANA has identified 1 of the prisoners as Akbar Kabiri, sentenced to death on drug related charges. The names and charges of the 2 other prisoners are not known at this time.

2 PRISONERS EXECUTED

According to a report by Iranian state-run media, IRIB, 2 prisoners were hanged at Rasht's central prison on Saturday January 14 on drug related charges. The report does not identify the names of the prisoners, but mentions other details about them. One of the prisoners was identified as 31 years old, charged with trafficking 2 kilograms of crystal meth. The other prisoner was reportedly charged with trafficking 1 kilogram and 766 grams of crystal meth.

1 PRISONER EXECUTED

According to the Iranian state-run media, Rokna, a prisoner was hanged at a prison in the city of Sari on Wednesday January 12 on murder charges. The report does not identify the name of the prisoner, but cites the age of the prisoner as 21 years.

(source: Iran Human Rights)

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

French Organization Calls for a Boycott of Iran Regime's Football

A French organization called for total boycott of Iranian regime's football because of the regime carrying out executions in football stadiums. The request was sent to the International Football Federation (FIFA) and the FIFA's secretary general has also supported the call.

According to state-run ISNA news agency, on January 12, French news site SOfoot wrote that FIFA has recently added an article (provision) to its statutes emphasizing on human rights according to which the organization will deal with countries that implement death penalty in sports stadiums.

The name of Iran regime is included in the FIFA's report as a country that carries out death penalty in sport stadiums. In recent years, a number of executions by hanging have been carried out in sport stadiums in Iran. However, a death penalty carried out in the football stadium in Neyriz in Fars province (southern Iran) on September 22, 2016, was reported to FIFA.

In this regard, the human rights organization ECPM in France, protesting implementation of death penalties in sport stadiums in Iran, has sent a letter to Gianni Infantino, president of FIFA, to inform him about executions in sport (football) stadiums. The human rights organization particularly called on FIFA to boycott Iranian regime and remove the regime football from the international competitions.

Raphael Chenuil-Hazan, director of ECPM, in his letter to FIFA's president wrote: "FIFA cannot ignore this behaviour. If I was a player, I would not play (football) in a place where a human being is executed."

Following the letter, FIFA has finally reacted to these events and Fatima Samoura, FIFA's secretary general, in a letter responded: "...FIFA condemns any such action which by its nature fundamentally violates the dignity inherent to every human being. In this regard, I am committed to raise this topic in my future exchange with Iran Football Federation ... We will prevent such actions through our programs...."

"According to Article 3 of our statues, FIFA is committed to respect internationally recognized human rights and promote protection of these rights. These commitment included efforts to prevent such actions that have adverse human rights impacts," she added.

(source: NCR-Iran)

IRAQ:

Iraqi court convicts 47 Hashd al-Shaabi memebrs of charges including murde

47 members of the mainly Shiite Hashd al-Shaabi paramilitary were convicted for murder, kidnappings and possessions of weapons in Iraqi court, a top Iraqi judge announced.

Majid al-Aaraji, head of Iraq's Central Criminal Court, said that their sentences ranged between the death penalty, life imprisonment and 15 years imprisonment.

The media office for the Iraqi court told Rudaw on Thursday that these cases did not all happen in 2016, but since the foundation of the paramilitary force in 2014.

"The Central Criminal Court issued verdicts against 47 defendants from the Hashd al-Shaabi after they were convicted of murder, kidnapping and possession of weapons," Aaraji told reporters in a press conference in Baghdad this week.

Amnesty International accused the paramilitary, also known as the Popular Mobilization Units, of human rights violations earlier this month.

"Since June 2014, Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) militias have extra-judicially executed or otherwise unlawfully killed, tortured and abducted thousands of men and boys," Amnesty said.

Hashd al-Shaabi denied the accusations, accusing the rights organizations of having hidden agenda funded by foreign parties.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced in late October that his government does not tolerate human rights violations in battlefields.

"We will not allow violations of human rights," he said via videoconference during an international meeting hosted in Paris to discuss the future of Mosul, 2 days before the launch of the offensive. "So we have set up investigation committees. We have brought some people to trial, some of them for violations of human rights during the course of battles."

The PMU were created in June 2014 when Grand Ayatollah al-Sistani, Iraq's highest Shiite religious authority, called for able-bodied men to join the fight against ISIS.

In December the Iraqi parliament approved a law recognizing Hashd al-Shaabi as an official force under the umbrella of the army.

(source: rudaw.net)

JANUARY 14, 2017:

TEXAS:

Supreme Court to review Texas death penalty case----The U.S. Supreme Court said Friday it would review the legal complexities in a Texas death penalty case, where a man killed a 5-year-old and her grandmother.

The U.S. Supreme Court will review the death penalty case of a Fort Worth man who shot and killed a 5-year-old girl and her grandmother at a children's birthday party. The high court said Friday it would look into a legal distinction between ineffective lawyering in the trial court and during state appeals.

Erick Davila, 29, received the death penalty for the 2008 shooting deaths of Annette Stevenson, 47, and her 5-year-old granddaughter, Queshawn, according to Davila's brief filed to the U.S. Supreme Court. Davila, a gang member, drove up to a house where he knew a rival gang member, Jerry Stevenson, was and shot into the house and front porch. Instead of killing the man, Davila killed Stevenson's daughter and mother.

During his trial, defense attorneys said Davila didn't intend to kill multiple people, only Jerry Stevenson, which would make the case ineligible for a capital murder conviction and the death penalty. To be convicted of capital murder in this case, Davila must have knowingly and intentionally killed multiple people.

In his brief to the high court, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said Davila did intend to kill multiple people because he said after his arrest that he wanted to shoot "the guys on the porch and ... [was] trying to get the fat dude." Aside from Jerry Stevenson, only women and children were at the party, the brief said.

The trial jury seemed to hesitate on the intent issue, submitting a question to the court during deliberations asking: "Are you asking us did he intentionally murder the specific victims, or are you asking us did he intend to murder a person and in the process took the lives of 2 others."

The court sent legal definitions and included a charge that said Davila would be responsible for a crime if the only difference between what happened and what he wanted was that a different person was hurt, the brief said. The defense objected, saying it was an improper jury instruction, but the court overruled the objection. Within an hour, the jury came back with a capital murder conviction, later sentencing Davila to death.

The crux of Davila's current legal argument rests on this jury instruction and how his subsequent appellate lawyers dealt with it.

Davila's direct appeal began after his sentence, but his appellate lawyer didn't raise improper jury instruction as an issue - a mistake Davila's current lawyer says was "life-threatening."

"The judge gave a bad instruction. The lawyer on direct appeal did not raise it," said Seth Kretzer, Davila's federal appellate attorney. "Had she attacked it and won, he might have gotten a new trial, not death-eligible."

After his direct appeal, Davila's state habeas appeal, where one raises issues outside of the trial, didn't argue that his lawyer in the direct appeal was ineffective for not raising the jury issue - another mistake, Kretzer said.

Paxton said in Texas' brief that Davila's arguments are meritless, that a federal district court looked into the jury instruction in question and found no fault against it.

Death row inmates can also appeal their case in the federal courts system, but it is generally ruled that issues that could be raised at the state level - like the jury instruction - can't be reviewed at the federal level until they have gone through the state courts. One exception to this rule is if the state habeas lawyers failed to raise the issue of ineffective trial counsel.

Now, Kretzer is trying to argue that exception should also apply to state habeas lawyers who fail to raise the issue of ineffective appellate counsel as well. In that case, Davila could argue that because his state habeas lawyer didn't fault his direct appeals' lawyer for not bringing up the jury instruction, the federal courts can now hear it.

"The way the law works right now is if the trial counsel made a mistake, the federal court could save the inmate's life, but if the appellate counsel made the mistake, they would have to go ahead and execute," Kretzer said.

The Supreme Court has gotten involved because different federal appeals courts have ruled differently on the distinction between ineffective trial counsel and appellate counsel. In previous rulings, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has said that there is no distinction between the 2, but the 5th Circuit, which covers Texas, as well as the 6th, 7th, 8th and 10th circuit courts, all have ruled that the 2 shouldn't be treated the same, the state's brief said.

"If the Court was willing to address a potential circuit split, Davila's case is not an appropriate vehicle for doing so," Paxton wrote, re-emphasizing that the federal district court rejected the case based on both procedure and merit.

The Supreme Court will review the case soon, however, according to Kretzer. He said the court told him it wished to fast-track the merits review and hold oral arguments as soon as April.

(source: Texas Tribune)

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

Erick Daniel Davila was convicted in 2009 of killing Annette Stevenson and her 5-year-old granddaughter, Queshawn Stevenson, at a 2008 birthday party in Fort Worth, Texas.

Davila, a member of the Bloods gang, opened fire on guests who were on the porch using a semiautomatic assault rifle.

He confessed to driving by and deciding to "shoot 'em up," saying he was "trying to get the fat dude," whose name he did not know. Multiple children and adults were shot, but only Stevenson and her granddaughter died from their injuries.

Prosecutors introduced aggravating evidence at Davila's punishment phase, claiming he tried to escape from jail and committed another murder just 2 days before the birthday party shooting.

Unconvinced by the defense's mitigation arguments, the jury returned a sentence of death. Davila's requests for a writ of habeas corpus were denied by the trial court and the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals.

He then sought federal habeas corpus relief, arguing that his trial, appellate and state habeas counsel were ineffective. The district court denied him habeas relief and the Fifth Circuit denied him a certificate of appealability last May.

Davila filed a petition for writ of certiorari with the Supreme Court in September, arguing that the jury was improperly instructed on intent for capital murder. His attorneys argued he only intended to shoot his rival, not the grandmother and the little girl.

He argued the trial judge gave misleading jury instructions for intent, and his appellate counsel did not raise the charge-error claim. He also says his state habeas counsel did not raise the issue of ineffective appellate counsel.

Davila claims in his certiorari petition that a circuit split exists over whether defaulted ineffective assistance of appellate counsel claims can be considered in federal habeas court, based on two prior Supreme Court rulings - Martinez v. Ryan and Trevino v. Thaler.

On Friday, the Supreme Court agreed to answer whether the rule established in those cases - that ineffective state habeas counsel can overcome the procedural default of an ineffective assistance of trial counsel claim - also applies to procedurally defaulted ineffective assistance of appellate counsel claims.

Per its custom, the high court did not comment on its decision to take up Davila's or McWilliams' cases.

(source: Courthouse News)

VIRGINIA----impending execution

Ricky Gray's final day looms; federal court denies stay of execution

The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals late Friday afternoon denied an emergency appeal for a stay of execution for convicted killer Ricky Gray.

Earlier this week Judge Henry Hudson denied a request from Gray's attorneys to delay his execution. Gray's legal team argued the lethal injection that will be used to execute Gray amounted to cruel and unusual punishment.

Gray's execution is scheduled for January 18.

He is a central figure in one of the most horrific crime sprees the Richmond area has ever seen. Gray is on death row for the killings of Kathryn and Bryan Harvey and their 2 young daughters, Ruby, age 4, and Stella, age 9. On New Year's Day 2006, the Harveys were found bound, beaten, and stabbed inside the basement of their Woodland Heights home.

The home was also set on fire.

Gray was also involved, though not convicted, in the murders of Ashley Baskerville, 21; her mother, Mary Tucker, 47; and stepdad, Percyell Tucker, 55.

Several groups have petitioned Governor Terry McAuliffe for executive clemency for Gray.

A video released recently by Virginians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty shows Gray apologizing for the deaths of the Harvey family.

"It's never left my mind, because I understand exactly what I took from the world by looking at my 2 sisters. I'm reminded each time I talk and see them that this is what I took from the world. You know, the potential for greatness in those kids."

The 18-minute video also examines the impact of the severe childhood sexual abuse Gray suffered, and the group argued that the jury never heard testimony detailing the abuse, nor did they hear about the drug use that ensued from said abuse.

Gray's lawyers requested that Governor McAuliffe commute Gray's sentence to life in prison without parole - the same sentence the Commonwealth agreed to for Dandridge.

The ACLU also asked the governor for clemency.

In a letter to the governor, ACLU-VA Executive Director Claire Guthrie Gastanaga referred to the civil rights organization's blanket opposition to the death penalty, calling it "demonstrably ineffective and cruel and unusual punishment that should not be imposed in a just society, particularly where the penalty is applied arbitrarily and the procedure itself is inhumane." She suggested Gray's sentence be commuted to life in prison.

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

Ricky Gray apologizes for Harvey murders as groups urge clemency

"I've stolen something from the world," says death row killer Ricky Gray, at the start of a video created by attorneys seeking his clemency.

Earlier this week Judge Henry Hudson denied Gray's request to delay his execution. Gray's legal team argued the lethal injection used to execute Gray amounted to cruel and unusual punishment.

Gray's execution is scheduled for January 18, but it remains unclear if the execution will take place on that date. His legal team has 30 days to file an appeal after the recent court ruling by Judge Hudson.

Gray is a central figure in one of the most horrific crime sprees the Richmond area has ever seen. He is on death row for the killings of Kathryn and Bryan Harvey and their 2 young daughters, Ruby, age 4, and Stella, age 9. On New Year's Day 2006, the Harveys were found bound, beaten, and stabbed inside the basement of their Woodland Heights home.

The home was also set on fire.

Gray was also involved, though not convicted, in the murders of Ashley Baskerville, 21; her mother, Mary Tucker, 47; and stepdad, Percyell Tucker, 55.

The video, released by Virginians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, shows Gray apologizing for the deaths of the Harvey family.

It's never left my mind, because I understand exactly what I took from the world by looking at my 2 sisters. I'm reminded each time I talk and see them that this is what I took from the world. You know, the potential for greatness in those kids.

The 18-minute video also examines the impact of the severe childhood sexual abuse Gray suffered.

In the video, Gray's family members and the experts who have met with him since his trial describe and explain the evidence that jurors who sentenced Gray to death did not hear. Gray became addicted to drugs as a child as a way to cope with the horrific sexual and physical abuse he suffered for years at the hands of his family members, they said. In addition, he was high on PCP and other drugs at the time of his crimes with Ray Dandridge, they said in the video.

Gray became addicted to drugs as a child as a way to cope with the horrific sexual and physical abuse he suffered for years at the hands of his family members, according to the video. In addition, he was high on PCP and other drugs at the time of his crimes with Ray Dandridge. Dandridge was convicted in the Tucker-Baskerville murders and is serving a life-prison sentence.

The video was provided to Governor Terry McAuliffe by Gray's lawyers, along with other materials, in support of a petition for executive clemency. Gray's lawyers requested that Governor McAuliffe

Gray's lawyers requested that Governor McAuliffe commute Gray's sentence to life in prison without parole - the same sentence the Commonwealth agreed to for Dandridge.

(source for both: WTVR news)

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

Urgent Action

MENTAL HEALTH EXPERTS SUPPORT CLEMENCY FOR VIRGINIA MAN FACING EXECUTION

Ricky Gray is scheduled to be executed in Virginia on 18 January. More than 50 mental health professionals have written to the state governor in support of clemency in view of the prisoner's childhood of severe sexual and physical abuse and its impact on him.

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

* Calling for Ricky Gray to be granted clemency and for his death sentence to be commuted;

* Noting his childhood of physical and sexual abuse and his use of alcohol and drugs from an early age;

* Noting that dozens of mental health professionals have called for clemency for Ricky Gray;

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

Contact below official by 18 January, 2017:

Important note: Please do not forward this Urgent Action email directly to these officials. Instead of forwarding this email that you have received, please open up a new email message in which to write your appeals to each official. This will help ensure that your emails are not rejected. Thank you for your deeply valued activism!

Governor Terry McAuliffe

Common Ground for Virginia

PO Box 1475

Richmond, VA 23218

USA

Fax: +1 804-371-6531

Email (via website):

https://governor.virginia.gov/constituent-services/communicating-with-the-governors-office/

Salutation: Dear Governor

(source: Amnesty International)

GEORGIA:

Catholic Bishops calling to remove death penalty in case of murdered priest

3 Catholic bishops from Florida and Georgia are asking the district attorney to reverse her decision to seek the death penalty in the case against Steven Murray, accused priest killer.

They are holding an 11 a.m. joint news conference on Tuesday, Jan. 31, outside the Richmond County Courthouse. That's when Bishop Felipe J. Estevez of the Diocese of St. Augustine, Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory of the Archdiocese of Atlanta and Bishop Gregory J. Hartmayer, OFM Conv. of the Diocese of Savannah, will ask Ashley Wright, district attorney for the Augusta Judicial Circuit to reverse her decision to seek the death penalty in the case against Steven Murray in the Superior Court of Burke County.

Steven Murray was indicted on May 25, 2016 by a Burke County Grand Jury for the April 11, 2016 killing of Father Rene Robert, a priest from St. Augustine, Florida.

District Attorney Wright filed a notice of intent to seek the death penalty citing four aggravating circumstances in the retired priest's murder including that it was committed during the commission of a kidnapping with bodily injury and that it was "outrageously or wantonly vile, horrible, or inhumane in that it involved torture, depravity of mind, or an aggravated battery to the victim."

On May 26, Bishop Estevez wrote to Wright explaining that Father Robert left a signed and notarized 4-page "Declaration of Life" declaring that should he die as a result of a violent crime, he does not want the person or persons found guilty of homicide for his killing to be subject to or put in jeopardy of the death penalty under any circumstances, no matter how heinous their crime or how much he may have suffered.

Bishop Estevez says he did not receive a reply to his letter from Wright.

In December, Bishop Estevez says he received signatures from nearly 7,000 Catholics in his diocese asking that Father Rene's request in his "Declaration of Life" be honored by the Georgia courts.

The collected signatures will be taken to Wright following the news conference.

(source: WRDW news)

FLORIDA:

Accused killer moves to strike death penalty

A man accused of killing 3 people has asked a judge to strike the death penalty in his case.

Investigators say Derrick Thompson killed Steven and Debra Zachowski of Milton and then murdered Allen Johnson in Bay County all within a week.

He's been charged with 1st degree murder and faces the death penalty.

However, the state Supreme Court recently required the legislature to clarify the state's death penalty laws.

That could happen as soon as April.

However, the Supreme Court could ultimately decide the issue before then.

Even if a judge removes the death penalty from this case, Thompson is still eligible for life in prison.

(source: WEAR TV news)

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Court stays trial of Kimberly Lucas in Jupiter tot's drowning

With myriad questions swirling around Florida's capital punishment law, the 4th District Court of Appeal has stayed the upcoming trial of Kimberly Lucas, who could be sentenced to death if convicted of drowning her former Jupiter partner's 2-year-old daughter and trying to kill her 10-year-old son.

The Florida Attorney General's Office asked the appeals court to delay the Jan. 26 trial after Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Charles Burton said he would not ask the jury to impose the death penalty against Lucas as state prosecutors wanted.

But, Burton declined to take the death penalty off the table. If Lucas is convicted and the legal issues are resolved, he said he would summon another jury to decide if the 43-year-old Jupiter woman should die for the May 2014 drowning of toddler Elliana Lucas-Jamason and alleged drugging of Ethan Lucas-Jamason.

In an appeal to the West Palm Beach-based appeals court, Assistant Attorney General Leslie Campbell said Burton overstepped his powers.

"Such a ruling was an improper interference with the State Attorney's discretion to try (Lucas's) case as a death penalty case," she wrote. "Additionally, the trial court departed from the essential requirements of the law by refusing to develop new jury instructions."

Noting that the Florida Supreme Court in October struck down a new state death penalty law as constitutional, Burton said he couldn't simply write a new one. Until a new law is passed, there is no way to sentence someone to death, he said.

However, state judges elsewhere have taken different views.

The state's high court is considering 2 cases in which judges have decided to fashion new ways to implement the death penalty. Florida's death penalty was struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court in January 2016 because juries were only asked to make recommendations. It was up to judges to decide if a person was sentenced to death.

The Legislature then passed a new law, requiring that 10 out of 12 jurors agree to impose death. The state Supreme Court rejected it, saying such decisions must be unanimous.

In staying Lucas' trial, the appeals court gave attorneys until next week to explain whether her trial should be delayed until the Florida Supreme Court decides the pending cases. It could rule that Lucas' trial should be held as planned.

Assistant State Attorney Terri Skiles said she is preparing for trial. On Friday, she got the go-ahead to hire Dr. Wade Myers, a psychiatrist who is a professor at Brown University, to evaluate Lucas. Her attorneys are planning an insanity defense.

(source; mypalmbeachpost.com)

ALABAMA:

Death-Row Inmate Granted High Court Review

The Supreme Court said Friday it will decide the fate of a death-row inmate whose case hinges on procedural questions about ineffective legal assistance and court-appointed psychiatric experts.

James Edmund McWilliams Jr. challenges his death sentence for robbing, raping and killing convenience store clerk Patricia Reynolds in Tuscaloosa, Ala., in 1984.

Months before he murdered Reynolds, McWilliams attended couple's therapy with his pregnant wife and underwent psychological testing, which found that he is "extremely disturbed" and "has much internal anxiety."

While e doctors nevertheless concluded he was competent to stand trial, his defense counsel portrayed McWilliams during the penalty phase of his trial as someone who grew up with significant psychological problems. McWilliams and his mother testified that he sustained head injuries as a child and had a history of blacking out and hallucinating.

An expert appointed by the trial judge reported his findings simultaneously to the court, the prosecution and the defense 2 days before McWilliams' sentencing hearing.

The expert diagnosed McWilliams with organic personality syndrome, but defense counsel did not have a chance to discuss the findings with the expert or learn what the diagnosis meant for the purposes of mitigation.

In July, McWilliams petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court for a writ of certiorari, arguing he was "precluded from meaningfully participating in the judicial sentencing hearing and did not receive a fair opportunity to rebut the state's psychiatric experts."

"Defense counsel had no opportunity to consult with the expert or have him review voluminous medical and psychological records that were not made available to the defense until the start of the sentencing hearing," the petition states.

The Supreme Court agreed Friday to decide whether an expert helping an indigent defendant in his defense should be completely independent of the prosecution.

(source: Courthouse News)

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Madison County DA's office seeking death penalty in 2 upcoming murder trials

The Madison County District Attorney's office will be seeking the death penalty in 2 cases that are set for trial in the next few months.

Stephen Marc Stone is set to go on trial March 6 on capital murder charges in the February 2013 killings of his wife, Krista Stone and their 7-year-old son, Zachary.

Richard Burgin has a May 1 trial date in the May 2013 stabbing deaths of 2 elderly brothers, Terry and Louis Jackson. The 2 men were volunteering at a church food bank when they were fatally stabbed.

Tim Gann, chief trial attorney for the Madison County DA's office, said the state is seeking the death penalty for Stone because of the nature of the offense.

"It happened in their home, the basic facts were he came home late one morning, he and his wife Krista had words, and he strangled her in the living room," Gann said. "And then went into his son Zachary's bedroom, as he was sleeping, and strangled and then drowned him in the bathtub."

The couple had no history of domestic violence, Gann said.

"As a parent you can't imagine doing this to any child, much less your own. So we are ... we are definitely seeking the death penalty in this case," he said.

Stone is represented by court-appointed attorneys Brian Clark and Larry Marsili. Gann said he expects the defense to use an insanity defense - that Stone was suffering from a mental disease or defect that left him incapable of telling right from wrong at the time of the offense.

Marsili said the defense is still working on its trial strategy. Stone appeared disturbed at a hearing a year ago, rocking back and forth and paying little attention to the proceedings.

Burgin's trial had been set for September, but has since been moved back to May 1.

Madison County Assistant DA Jay Town said the killing of the 2 brothers at West Huntsville United Methodist Church on May 21, 2013 meets the state's definition of "heinous, atrocious and cruel."

"It was operated by 2 brothers, Terry and Louis Jackson," Town said. "And Mr. Burgin is accused of coming into that church early, prior to the kitchen opening, and literally slaughtering these 2 brothers in a very heinous way.

Town said the manner of their deaths justifies seeking the death penalty for Burgin.

"They did so slowly and with fear of impending death," he said.

Unlike in the Stone case, where he admitted the killings to investigators, Burgin maintains his innocence.

Defense attorney Larry Marsili, who represents Burgin with co-counsel Chad Morgan, said the defense is straightforward.

"Mr. Burgin has been very clear from the beginning that he didn't commit the crime and that he denies that he had any involvement in it, and that's why we're going to forward on trial with this," Marsili said.

(source: WHNT news)

OHIO:

Death penalty sought in Lorain homicide

Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for a Lorain man accused of killing Jimmie Holland Jr. during a burglary last year.

Elliott Kirkland, 27, had been facing aggravated murder, murder, aggravated robbery, aggravated burglary and other charges in the killing, but Lorain County Prosecutor Dennis Will said new information learned in the investigation led to the decision to take the case back to a grand jury and seek a death specification.

"We were able to identify him as the shooter," Will said.

Lorain police were called to Holland's Lexington Avenue apartment Aug. 29 by Jasmine Schafer, who told officers she had gone to the apartment to braid Holland's hair. She said when she arrived, she grabbed 2 cans of root beer out of the fridge before she found Holland's body.

She told police she tried to given Holland CPR before she fled the scene and called 911. Police have said the relationship between Holland and Schafer is unclear.

Police have said Schafer was initially cooperative, but said their investigation revealed she was lying about key parts of her story and was involved in stealing from Holland's ransacked apartment.

Police recovered several missing items, including electronics and 2 cans of A&W root beer, from the borrowed Jeep Liberty that Schafer and a second woman, Latrice Thomas, were driving that night.

When officers confronted Schafer, she blamed Kirkland and Mark Sanchez for the robbery. A witness reported seeing Kirkland, who told police he had been with his girlfriend the entire night, enter the apartment armed with a handgun.

Will said because the robbery was planned, it elevated the killing to the level where prosecutors could seek the death penalty.

Sanchez is facing similar charges to those Kirkland faces, although he doesn't have a potential death specification attached to his case.

Schafer is facing aggravated robbery, aggravated burglary and obstructing justice charges, while Thomas is charged with obstructing justice in the case.

(source: The Chronicle-Telegram)

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Ohio officials seek drug that reverses lethal injection process----Executions have been on hold in Ohio since 2014; Death sentences decline sharply as public attitudes shift

Ohio's prisons agency is trying to obtain a drug that could reverse the lethal injection process if needed by stopping the effects of another drug previously used in problematic executions.

The request to use the drug would come if executioners weren't confident the first of three lethal drugs would render a prisoner unconscious, Gary Mohr, director of the Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, said in federal court testimony on Jan. 6.

Mohr said he would inform Republican Gov. John Kasich and ask for a reprieve at that point. "Governor, I am not confident that we, in fact, can achieve a successful execution. I want to reverse the effects of this," Mohr testified, describing the language he would use in such a circumstance.

Mohr said that Ohio planned to order the drug, flumazenil, but didn't currently have it.

(source: KRMG news)

INDIANA:

2 men to face death penalty in Indiana County killings

Indiana County District Attorney Patrick Dougherty said Friday his office will seek the death penalty for 2 Indiana men accused of killing a Cherryhill couple in October.

Justin T. Stevenson, 19, and Nathan R. Price, 18, were charged with killing Timothy J. Gardner and Jacqueline I. Brink following an alleged drug deal, according to court documents.

Both are charged with criminal homicide, conspiracy and robbery and are being held in the county prison without bond.

Isaiah Treyvon Scott, who was 17 when he was arrested, is ineligible for the death penalty because he was a juvenile at the time of the slaying. In 2005, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the death penalty for those who had committed their crimes at under 18 years of age was cruel and unusual punishment and barred by the constitution.

Affidavits of probable cause detail how troopers believe the teens planned the robbery and drove to the Hillside Drive home where Brink, Gardner and his 2 young sons lived.

A neighbor told investigators he heard a knock on Gardner's door about 12:30 a.m., followed by a fight. The neighbor called 911.

Troopers found Gardner dead in the doorway and Brink dead in an upstairs bedroom.

Coroner Jerry Overman indicated Gardner was assaulted with a pipe and Brink was struck with a baseball bat, police said.

(source: Tribune-Review)

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The rarity of the death penalty in Indiana

It is alleged that Marcus Dansby, on Sept. 11, 2016, shot to death Consuela Arrington, 38, and 2 of her 3 children - Traeven Harris and Dajahiona Arrington, both 18, and attempted to murder the 3rd, Trinity Hairston, 14. Dansby had been the boyfriend of Dajahiona, who was 8 1/2 months pregnant with a son. When it was determined that the baby would have lived if his mother had not died, a 4th murder charge was added.

And now, Dansby is going to pay a price - perhaps the ultimate one. The Allen County Prosecuting Attorney's Office has requested to add the death penalty to his charges. Capital punishment is so rarely turned to, that it is worth reflecting on how the state of Indiana handles it.

Dansby is only the 4th man in 20 years to face the death penalty here. 2 of the other 3 plea-bargained their charges down to life without parole. Joseph Corcoran, convicted of murdering his brother, James Corcoran, and 3 other men in 1988, is the only person sitting on death row, courtesy of Allen County.

There are 2 main reasons for the rarity.

One is that just plain old murder isn't enough to merit the death penalty in Indiana. It must be murder with one or more "aggravating circumstances," such as a murder committed during the commission of arson, a burglary, kidnapping or rape. Murder for hire would count, as would murder of a law enforcement officer. So would a murder if the victim were dismembered, burned or mutilated - or younger than age 12.

The other is the cost. A fiscal impact report by the nonpartisan Legislative Services Agency for the 2010 General Assembly, found that the average cost of a death-penalty trial and direct appeal was more than $450,000, compared to $42,658 for a life-without-parole case.

We can take pride in the fact that Indiana is not promiscuous in its use of capital punishment. This state only executes the worst of the worst.

Or we can ask ourselves if there is really any point to keeping a penalty so rarely used that it can't possibly be a deterrent. Are we really seeking justice or just exacting revenge because we can?

That's a worthy subject for discussion. Legislators looking for a topic for a summer study sessions could do a lot worse.

(source: Opinion; (Fort Wayne) News-Sentinel)

OKLAHOMA:

Advocate: No reason to celebrate Oklahoma's death penalty

Despite voters in November approving State Question 776, which enshrined the death penalty in the Oklahoma Constitution, our state's death penalty remains a mess. Botched executions and wrongful convictions have plagued the Oklahoma death penalty, putting the practice on hold. Due to such practical problems with capital punishment, there is mounting evidence that we'd be better off without it.

We've learned that it's much less costly to imprison people for life than to execute them because of the death penalty's mandated legal costs. According to most reports, the death penalty costs millions more than life without parole.

The death penalty's inconsistency with fiscal responsibility isn't its only shortcoming. Oklahomans would also be shocked and dismayed by the wrongful convictions and racial disparities found in capital punishment's application. More than 155 people nationally and 10 in Oklahoma have been wrongly convicted and sentenced to die due, in large part, to prosecutorial misconduct, junk science and mistaken eyewitness testimony. That's a high error rate given the death penalty's finality. Furthermore, race plays a major role in who receives a death sentence. If the victim is a white female, then there is a much higher likelihood of an execution compared with a crime with a black male victim, which seems to suggest that some lives are more valuable than others.

And Oklahoma has had its share of difficulty when it comes to the death penalty. The "win at all costs" mentality was confronted by the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which said former Oklahoma County District Attorney Bob Macy's "persistent misconduct ... has without doubt harmed the reputation of Oklahoma's criminal justice system and left the unenviable legacy of an indelibly tarnished legal career."

And that's not all. Consider the case of the disgraced forensic scientist, Joyce Gilchrist. She had worked for the Oklahoma City Police Department but was accused of perjury and falsifying forensic evidence. Consequently, she was fired, but she had been involved in more than 3,000 cases, and 23 resulted in death sentences. These kinds of things are littered throughout our justice system. If the justice system in America and Oklahoma is this flawed, it shouldn't be issuing punishments of death to those convicted.

The wrongly convicted aren't the only ones to suffer because of the death penalty. A study was performed by researchers from a death penalty state, Texas, and from a non-death penalty state, Minnesota. They found that Minnesota family survivors' fared better in "physical, psychological, and behavioral health." This runs counter to the "closure" argument offered by pro-death penalty advocates. In fact, some of the bereaved report the death penalty to be a psychological burden on survivors.

If we have such terrible death penalty results, then should we keep it? This deserves an answer. The death penalty appears to be more about vengeance, not justice. What is justice then? Justice is restoration of the victims. It is using the state to separate the criminal from society for many, many years, perhaps life without parole. It is making a person confront the harm they have done. America needs less vengeance and more justice.

(source: Craig Dawkins organizes Liberty on Tap OKC, an informal ongoing meeting of liberty activists, and is a professor of economics and finance at Rose State College----The Oklahoman)

NEBRASKA:

John Lotter files appeal over state's use of judges to weigh death sentence

John Lotter has joined a fellow death row inmate in lodging a challenge to Nebraska's 3-judge method for determining whether a killer should receive a death sentence.

And a veteran death penalty attorney expects the other eight members of Nebraska's death row to follow suit.

A 3-judge panel made the decision to send Lotter to death row in 1996 for his role in a 1993 triple murder near Humboldt that inspired the film "Boys Don't Cry." The now-45-year-old targeted Teena Brandon for being transgender and reporting a rape to police.

Lotter's attorneys argue that Lotter had a right to have jurors, not judges, weigh his ultimate fate, following a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling that declared Florida's scheme unconstitutional.

Lotter argues that a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling "renders the Nebraska capital sentencing scheme unconstitutional and void."

The Nebraska Attorney General's Office disagrees - and has filed motions resisting a similar attempt in another death row inmate's appeal.

The U.S. Supreme Court overturned Florida's capital punishment scheme, noting that defendants didn't have the right to have jurors be the finder of every fact necessary for the death penalty.

After the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Florida's sentencing scheme, Delaware's high court followed suit and threw out that state's scheme.

Attorney Jerry Soucie, who has represented several death row inmates, said Friday that Nebraska's death penalty scheme has been ripe for challenge.

Soucie's reason: Nebraska has jurors weigh only aggravating factors that lead to death and not mitigating circumstances that might weigh in a defendant's favor. And a defendant doesn't have the right to have jurors, rather than judges, make the ultimate determination of death or life.

"It is really a big deal," Soucie said. "This issue has been floating around a long time."

Omaha attorney Alan Stoler filed a similar appeal on behalf of Jeffrey Hessler, convicted in the rape and murder of 15-year-old newspaper carrier Heather Guerrero.

State officials have argued that Nebraska's sentencing scheme allows jury participation and is not identical to the one struck down in Florida.

In Nebraska, a 2nd trial takes place after a defendant is convicted in a death penalty case. The same jury that decided guilt also decides whether aggravating factors exist to justify the defendant's execution.

If the jury finds that aggravating factors were present in the murder, a 3-judge panel is convened to determine whether they outweigh any mitigating factors in the defendant's favor. The 3 judges also must determine if the death sentence is warranted and, if so, whether it is proportionate to the penalty imposed in similar cases.

After making the necessary determinations, the judges impose the sentence.

"The State of Nebraska denies that Nebraska's capital sentencing statutes violated the defendant's ... right to a jury," Assistant Attorney General Doug Warner wrote in a recent filing in the Hessler case.

Lotter's attorneys, Rebecca Woodman and Tim Noerrlinger, wrote that Nebraska's sentencing setup doesn't go far enough in requiring jury determinations.

"Nebraska (law) unconstitutionally permits a judge, rather than a jury, to find facts necessary to impose a sentence of death," they wrote.

Both challenges currently are at the district court level; it could be months before they reach the Nebraska Supreme Court.

(source: Omaha World-Herald)

MONTANA:

A look back on history of Montana's death penalty

This is adapted in 2 parts from my Montana chapter in Gordon Bakken's book "Invitation to an Execution."

Montana's last hanging was in 1943. In 1983, the legislature amended the law to allow the condemned to choose hanging or lethal injection. Changes also made county executions obsolete and specified the Montana State Prison as the place of execution. These changes essentially overhauled Montana's death penalty. These changes were untried until the execution of Duncan Peder McKenzie Jr. in 1995. Sentenced in 1975 for the murder of teacher Lana Harding, McKenzie appealed numerous times. Governor Marc Racicot wrestled with his pleas for clemency. A converted house trailer at the Montana State Prison at Deer Lodge became the death chamber. Wearing orange prison overalls and lying on a gurney, McKenzie had no last words. He was the 1st in Montana to die of lethal injection.

When the 1997 Legislature further amended the law to eliminate hanging as an option, Terry Allen Langford had already been on "death row" - a symbolic term as there has never been a formally designated "death row" in the Montana State Prison - for 9 years. He received the death penalty in Powell County for the kidnapping and brutal slayings of Edward "Ned" and Celene Blackwood at their ranch near Ovando in 1988. Langford's execution was set for Jan. 17, 1992. He chose hanging but then moved for the District Court to declare hanging cruel and unusual punishment and a violation of his constitutional rights under the Eighth Amendment. The court declared the position moot since Langford himself elected the method.

Years passed. As Langford initiated further proceedings, the legislature removed hanging as an option in 1997. Hanging passed into the annals of the state's history. Langford then argued that the amending of the law deprived him of his choice of death by hanging - and the final opportunity to avoid the death penalty. If the Supreme Court had agreed that hanging was cruel and unusual punishment, the law would not have allowed his execution. Langford, also convicted of the murder of an inmate during a prison riot in 1991, lost this argument and became the second person in Montana to die by lethal injection in the converted house trailer on Feb. 24, 1998.

(source: Ellen Baumler is an award-winning author and the interpretive historian at the Montana Historical Society----Great Falls Tribune)

CALIFORNIA:

First he yelled that he was guilty. Now suspect in cop killing wants to be his own lawyer

Luis Bracamontes, accused in the killing of 2 deputies, is trying to fire his defense lawyers and represent himself in his death penalty case, a move his attorneys fear would allow him to attempt to plead guilty or no contest and then try in court to consent to a death sentence.

The latest legal drama in the case is spelled out in motions filed in Sacramento Superior Court in the last several days. They describe the difficulty Bracamontes' lawyers - Jeffrey Barbour and Norm Dawson - have had in trying to craft a defense for their client.

A hearing over Bracamontes' desire to act as his own lawyer is scheduled for next Friday before Judge Steve White, and Barbour and Dawson are again trying to close the proceedings to the media and the prosecution.

"Counsel requests that this court close the proceedings and exclude all persons, except defense counsel and necessary court personnel," a motion filed Friday states. "The prosecution in this case, though permissibly filing a memo on the issue, is not a party to the issue of whether Mr. Bracamontes is permitted to represent himself."

Bracamontes is accused in the October 2014 slayings of Sacramento County sheriff's Deputy Danny Oliver and Placer County sheriff's Deputy Michael Davis Jr. during a bloody daylong crime spree. A Mexican citizen who was in this country illegally at the time of the slayings, Bracamontes has proved to be a challenge to his lawyers as he has alternately joked in court proceedings and once blurted out that he was guilty and wanted to be executed.

His lawyers already have unsuccessfully challenged their client's mental state in court and now say "he may not be competent to act as his own attorney."

"As this court is aware, it is anticipated that Mr. Bracamontes will ask this court to waive counsel in the case and proceed pro per (representing himself)," they wrote. "As this court is also aware, defense counsel will not consent to Mr. Bracamontes' anticipated desire to plead guilty in this case."

Prosecutors Rod Norgaard and David Tellman responded by filing court papers noting that "criminal defendants have a constitutional right to defend themselves."

They cited a December finding by the California Supreme Court in a similar case in which Andy Mickel represented himself in a death penalty trial over the 2002 ambush slaying of Red Bluff police Officer Dave Mobilio.

Although there were questions about Mickel's mental state, he was found to be competent to act as his own attorney. He was convicted and sentenced to death. Mickel also testified during trial that he committed the crime.

Lawyers say any defendants who try to represent themselves are making a grave mistake, but they note that it is a defendant's right and is not that unusual.

"It never goes well," said veteran Sacramento defense attorney William Portanova, a former prosecutor. "It happens more than it should, and it goes wrong every single time it does.

"In prosecutors' offices, there's a phrase to describe it: it's called a slow-motion guilty plea."

Portanova added that a defendant who tries to enter a guilty plea - even in a death penalty case - needs to be found to be making the decision as "the product of a knowing, intelligent and voluntary waiver of constitutional rights."

(source: Sacramento Bee)

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California killer of 9-year-old commits suicide on death row

Authorities say a California death row inmate who killed a 9-year-old Oceanside boy has hanged himself in his cell.

State corrections officials tell the San Diego Union-Tribune (http://bit.ly/2jggvtH ) that Brandon Wilson was found dead Thursday at San Quentin State Prison.

The 33-year-old was convicted of slitting the throat of Matthew Cecchi in an Oceanside Harbor restaurant in 1998.

The Oroville boy was in town for a family reunion.

Wilson, a drifter from Wisconsin, said he'd taken LSD and believed God had told him to kill people.

He was captured 2 days later after stabbing a woman during a robbery in Hollywood. She survived.

At his murder trial, Wilson told jurors he had no remorse and told them to recommend the death penalty or he would kill again.

(source: Associated Press)

USA:

Access to dead man's files granted

The attorneys representing Donald Fell were given access this week, about a month before his 2nd capital trial is expected to begin, to statements made by a man who police said was his partner in 3 murders.

Fell, 36, was tried in 2005 for the 2000 murder of Terry King, 53, of North Clarendon.

Police said Fell and Robert Lee, a longtime friend, killed Fell's mother, Debra Fell, and her friend, Charles Conway, in Rutland in November 2000. To escape, Fell and Lee allegedly carjacked King in the parking lot of the Rutland Shopping Plaza then took King to New York state and killed her, according to police.

Lee killed himself while in prison on Sept. 20, 2001.

In August, Fell's defense team requested access to information possessed by Burlington attorneys John Pacht and Bradley Stetler, who had represented Lee. Fell's attorneys said Lee's father had agreed to let them have the information, which included police reports and a letter Lee is said to have written to his family. But Pacht and Stetler said they believed the material was privileged and couldn't be released without a court order.

The request filed by Kerry DeWolfe, a Corinth attorney who is part of Fell's defense team, said the information was necessary to Fell's defense because the prosecution's theory of the case was that "a domineering Mr. Fell manipulated his submissive and compliant friend Mr. Lee."

"Even if the Government was not taking the position that Mr. Fell was the more blameworthy mastermind, the defense would have a substantial need for information about Mr. Lee and the circumstances of the crime. Such evidence could not only contradict the government's theory that Mr. Fell manipulated his submissive and compliant friend Mr. Lee, but could also show that Mr. Lee was actually themajor or sole participant in the crimes, or that it was actually Mr. Lee who manipulated Mr. Fell into committing the crimes," DeWolfe wrote.

Nothing in the motion suggests there is evidence that Lee was the leader in the alleged murders, or even that the defense plans to make that argument.

On Monday, U.S. District Court Judge Geoffrey Crawford granted the defense request because of the "exceptional circumstances" of the Fell case.

"Other statements by Mr. Lee are very likely to be introduced in any penalty phase. These statements are significant because they relate to the relative responsibility of Mr. Lee and Mr. Fell for the charged conduct. Mr. Lee's statements may tend to identify Mr. Fell as the leader in that relationship," the judge wrote.

However, the decision was not a complete victory for the defense. Crawford noted that the prosecution had been given permission to use some of that evidence if Fell is convicted while the jury considers sentencing.

Prosecutors have already said they plan to ask for the death penalty.

Fell was already sentenced to death in 2006, but his conviction in that case was overturned based on juror misconduct.

Fell's defense team filed another motion Monday asking the court to reconsider its decision to allow prosecutors to use Lee's statements, even during the sentencing hearing and not during the trial.

Prosecutors also filed a motion this week asking Crawford to reject Fell's attempts to delay the trial over issues related to the death penalty.

The death penalty has not been used in Vermont for about 60 years, but Fell is being prosecuted by the federal government, not by the state of Vermont.

The death penalty has been the subject of a number of motions in the case as recently as December, and Crawford has rejected requests to rule against the possibility that Fell will be sentenced to death.

Fell's trial is approaching soon. Orders issued this week said that orientation of prospective jurors and completion of juror questionnaires will begin at the federal courthouse in Rutland on Feb. 9.

The drawing of a jury will begin Feb. 27 and the trial will start immediately afterward and will be held each day from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., another order in the case said.

(source: Rutland Herald)

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When is it time to abolish the death penalty in the Unites States?

7 of the 12 jurors who convicted Ronald B. Smith of murder of a convenience store clerk in Alabama voted to not invoke the death penalty. Unlike other states, Alabama allows the judge to make the ultimate ruling on invoking that supreme penalty. He elected to sentence Smith to death. Alabama is the only state in the union that permits such an override of a jury.

The case slowly wound its way through the Appellate Courts until it reached the United States Supreme Court. We now have only 8 Justices, thanks to Mr. McConnell not permitting a hearing of President Obama's nominations some 10 months ago. When the vote was final, it was 4 to 4. To reverse the lower court's decision and appellate affirmations, a 5th vote was required to overrule the death penalty judgment. There would be no reversal nor stay of execution. Mr. Smith was executed 2 days after the opinion was released.

Most people do not realize America is the only 1st-world nation that still has a death penalty. Not even Russia has it any longer. When I was privileged to go to Russia a few years back with other lawyers and judges from across the United States, we met with Russian judges, law professors, law students, and even the Chief Justice of the Russian Supreme Court. I remember clearly during a question and answer session in a law school, one student asked us, "If America is the land of the free and is so into the rights of man, how can your country retain your death penalty?"

I remember smiling to myself and thinking we shouldn't let the lawyer from Texas answer because, at the time, Texas executed as many people per year as the rest of the other 49 states combined. Fortunately, a lawyer from New York fielded the question the best he could.

But that does not answer the question that student asked. The two schools of thought on the death penalty are still miles apart, much like the schools of thought on abortion. I do find it most interesting those who are in favor of the death penalty are anti-abortion proponents. In one case one can kill and in another it should not be permitted.

I understand our prisons are totally overcrowded. I have read we have more people in custody than any other nation. But the time between a death sentence and the execution is now years and years apart. The expenses of the appeals and post-trial motions are mind boggling. It is cheaper to keep the convicted person in prison the rest of his or her life than to impose the death penalty and go through all the legal processes.

As we all know, while Governor of Illinois, Kankakeean George Ryan wrestled with this issue and decided to put a moratorium on executions. He commuted the sentence of death on all the persons on death row to life without parole. One of the more than 100 of those given this reprieve was the killer of Gov. Ryan's next door neighbor. It was not an easy decision and was hated by many law enforcement personnel. Very early in his term as Governor, Mr. Ryan had a young man awaiting execution. The man's father came and begged Mr. Ryan to spare his son with his gubernatorial power. He did not, and that man's son was the last person executed in Illinois. Mr. Ryan has expressed the pain involved with that situation and vowed he would not face it again.

About the same time that Gov. Ryan was wrestling with imposing a moratorium, a program through Northwestern University Law School was started. Composed of faculty and students, this group, called the Center for Wrongful Convictions, was obtaining the release and retrial of several men originally sentenced to death. With new evidence and DNA now available, several of those men who might have been executed before the moratorium not only were spared but were released from prison.

The governors of Illinois have followed Mr. Ryan's lead and have maintained the moratorium since it was first initiated under his governance. To sentence a person to death, regardless of the alleged crime, has a finality that cannot be reversed.

One of the opponents of the death penalty is U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer. He continued his push for its abolition in a recent death penalty case from Ohio. The appeal involved the death sentence of a man named Henry Sireci. In writing his dissent last month, Breyer went a bit further saying the court also should have considered the fact Sireci has served 4 decades on death row awaiting execution, and wasn't that really a violation of the Eighth Amendment and its ban against cruel and unusual punishment?

Each state has the right to have a death penalty or not. The involvement of the United States Supreme Court comes not with the right to so sentence a person to death but whether that state has violated any of the defendant's rights under the U.S. Constitution. The federal government does not have the right to ban the death penalty. It is a state's right under the division of power between a state and the federal government. The 1 caveat on that is the Supreme Court someday could hold that the death penalty is a per se violation of the Eighth Amendment and that would end the death penalty everywhere in the United States.

Perhaps it is time. Civility demands respect for the worst citizen even when the citizen does not deserve it. The right to a jury trial, to have a lawyer, to remain silent and not testify if one so chooses are some of the rights given to us all by the U.S. Constitution. Perhaps some day the right not to be executed in any form or manner could be based on being cruel and inhumane punishment under the Eighth Amendment as suggested by Justice Breyer. This finally would banish the death penalty in all 50 states. I would bet, however, that any new justice nominated by Mr. Trump probably will not agree with that philosophy.

(source: Dennis Marek; Kankakee Daily-Journal)

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

Faith leaders, anti-death penalty groups to mark 40th anniversary of executions at Supreme Court

Faith leaders and members of the anti-death penalty group Abolitionist Action Committee (AAC) will convene at the U.S. Supreme Court on Jan. 17 to mark the 40th anniversary of the 1st modern death penalty execution.

The demonstration, which is organized by the AAC, will start at 10 a.m. and will include the unveiling of a 30-foot long banner and 40 posters listing by year the names of all the men and women executed in the United States since 1977, according to a press release from the AAC.

"We are prayerfully calling on the new president and leaders in the few states where it is still used to stand down on the death penalty," Bill Pelke, spokesman for the ACC, said in the press release.

The demonstration marks 40 years since Utah executed Gary Gilmore, the 1st execution after the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the death penalty in Gregg v. Georgia - a ruling that signaled the start of the new death penalty law in the U.S.

According to the press release there has been 1,442 executions since Gilmore's. The press release also states that there are 5 more executions scheduled for this month. Christopher Wilkins was executed in Texas on Jan. 11 and the execution of Ricky Javon Gray is scheduled for the following day, Jan. 18, in Virginia.

Dozens of faith-based and civil rights oriented organizations are expected to attend the demonstration, including the Catholic Mobilizing Network, Center for Action and Contemplation and PICO National Network. The press release states that arrests are expected as the organizations participate in "non-violent civil disobedience." The group, which has hosted the event every 5 years since 1997, has had 48 arrests associated with the event.

The AAC will also be hosting a program the day before at the Lutheran Church of the Reformation in Washington. The program, titled "Voices of Experience," will feature Derrick Jamison, who was exonerated after being on death row for 20 years, family members of murder victims and Randy Gardner. Gardner's brother was executed in Utah.

"I believed then, and I still believe now, that the death penalty is morally wrong. I never condoned what my brother did, but when the state executes someone, they create yet another family that is damaged and grieving. We don't have to kill to be safe from dangerous criminals and hold them accountable. It is time to abolish the death penalty," Gardner said in the statement.

(source: National Catholic Reporter)

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

Prosecutors want their experts to mentally evaluate alleged prison guard killer

Federal prosecutors want to have their own doctors evaluate gang assassin Jessie Con-ui, who is seeking to claim a "mental disease or defect" defense against the death penalty if convicted of murdering a correctional officer at U.S. Penitentiary at Canaan.

Con-ui, 39, is accused of kicking Nanticoke native Eric Williams down a flight of stairs before beating and slashing him to death with 2 shanks in February 2013 because he was angered over a cell search. If convicted at his trial in April, Con-ui's attorneys are seeking to claim a "mental disease or defect" defense in an effort to save him from the death penalty.

In a filing Friday, prosecutors say Con-ui has already been evaluated by 2 neuropsychologists as well as radiologists and an expert in image analysis.

"In order to independently determine the merits of defendant's claim, and to prepare for possible rebuttal testimony, the United States needs to have its experts evaluate the defendant," prosecutors wrote, seeking a court order to perform their own tests.

Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty against Con-ui for committing what they have characterized as a cold, calculated murder in which Con-ui paused to rinse a cut on his hand during the attack that inflicted more than 200 stab wounds on Williams. When it was over, Con-ui stopped to sit and chew a piece of gum he stole from the officer's pocket, prosecutors say.

Con-ui's defense alleges he snapped and killed Williams in a fit of rage because of mistreatment by guards in the federal Bureau of Prisons. His attorneys are seeking to limit the number of aggravating factors jurors will consider when deciding whether to put him to death if he is convicted.

Con-ui is already serving 25 years to life for the 2002 murder. As part of his initiation into the Arizona Mexican Mafia, Con-ui lured a gang member who had fallen out of favor with gang leadership to a Phoenix laundromat in 2002 and shot him 4 times in the head, according to prosecutors.

Con-ui remains imprisoned at ADX Florence, the supermaximum security prison in Colorado.

(source: citizensvoice.com)

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

Death the right sentence for remorseless Roof

It took the jury slightly less than 3 hours to sentence Dylann Roof to death for murdering 9 men and women at Emanuel AME Church 18 months ago.

The jury - 2 men and 10 women - made the correct decision.

If ever there was a case in which the death penalty was fully deserved, this was one.

The trial of the 22-year old white supremacist showed him to be methodical in his preparation for the mass murder and carefully selective as to his target. He had visited the historic black church on Calhoun Street three times before the massacre.

He was merciless as he shot those in the Bible study group, who had invited him into their discussion, and with whom he spent almost an hour before killing them. He pulled the trigger more than 75 times, reloading 7 times and shooting his victims repeatedly.

Roof showed no remorse in the courtroom, no repudiation of his ideology of race hatred, no shame for having committed a hideous crime of devastating consequences. Indeed, he appeared virtually without emotion throughout the trial, even when he acted as his own legal counsel during the sentencing portion.

There will be opponents of the death penalty who will argue that Roof should have been spared the death penalty on moral grounds, or that spending a life behind bars is a greater punishment than execution.

But the law makes execution the ultimate penalty, and the jury rightly decided it was the penalty Roof deserves. The judge is required to follow through on the jury's unanimous decision.

One question remains: Should the state now pursue its murder case against Roof following the completion of the federal hate crimes trial?

Circuit Court Judge J.D. Nichols last week suspended the state trial indefinitely. State prosecutors should weigh their options regarding his pending murder trial, recognizing the burden that another trial would put upon the survivors of the massacre, and the families of those slain.

There will most likely be appeals of the sentence, or at least attempts to appeal.

Certainly, there is no question as to Roof's guilt. He admitted it from the outset, though he initially sought a deal that would give him life imprisonment.

He returned briefly to that theme on Tuesday in his closing remarks, reminding jurors that it would take only one of them to spare his life.

But all the facts of the case and all the testimony in his trial inexorably led to the conclusion reached by the jury in its sentence.

(source: Post and Courier, Charleston)

AUSTRALIA:

Brother speaks out against death penalty at world premiere of Bali 9 member Myuran Sukumaran's art show

The brother of executed Bail Nine member Myuran Sukumaran joined community leaders to speak out against the death penalty at the emotional world premiere of an art exhibition featuring his paintings in Campbelltown last night.

Chintu Sukumaran choked back tears as he told the hundreds of people who attended the opening night of the Myuran Sukumaran: Another Day in Paradise exhibition that he and his family felt a cross between pride and anger to see his brother's emotive and thought-provoking artworks on display.

"We are proud that Myru’s work is being shown to the world but we are angry that he is no longer with us," he said.

"Our family feel great sadness that his life was cut short so violently. We miss him all the time.

"It's important to stand up against the death penalty."

Mr Sukumaran, who attended the opening night with mum Raji and sister Brintha, said art gave his brother an outlet and the paintings showed the power of redemption.

Myuran Sukumaran found a passion for art and painted hundreds of portraits, including a series featuring each Bali 9 member, while incarcerated in Bali's Kerokoban Jail and from his final incarceration on Nusa Kunbangan Island.

Sukumaran and fellow Bali 9 member Andrew Chan were executed by Indonesian authorities on Nusa Kumbagan Island in April 215.

Chan's brother Michael also attended the opening night of the exhibition, which is on display at Campbelltown Arts Centre as part of the Sydney Festival.

Mr Chan said the paintings were excellent and showcased what Sukumaran tried to do.

"He made mistakes but he rehabilitated and this is what you see," he said.

Mr Chan said he and his family had their good days and bad days and he hoped something good would come out of the situation.

Sukumaran's lawyer Julian McMahon also attended the launch and described how he watched his client mature from a naive and angry young man to a person who reformed and found a passion for art and tried to make life better for the other prisoners in the jail.

Campbelltown Mayor George Brticevic offiically opened the exhibition and became emotional as he commended the bravery of the Sukumaran family for attending the event.

He said he had served as a police officer for 22 years and the attendance of the family at the opening night was the bravest thing he had seen.

Macarthur Federal Labor MP Mike Freelander and Fowler Federal Labor MP Chris Hayes, who served on the group Australian Parliamentarians against the Death Penalty, also attended the event and spoke out against capital punishment.

The exhibition was co-curated by Sukumaran's mentor, Archibald Prize winning artist, Ben Quilty, and Campbelltown Arts Centre director Michael Dagostino.

The series of self portraits are on display at Campbelltown Arts Centre as part of the Sydney Festival.

One of the paintings featured in the series, The Final 72 Hours.

Quilty became emotional at the launch and thanked the arts centre and Campbelltown Council for being brave enough to stage the exhibition.

He said he hoped the exhibition blew the "haters" out of the water.

Dagostino said he was keen for the arts centre to show thought-provoking works and become a vessel to discuss issues.

"This exhibition is proof that art can change lives," he said.

Alongside Sukumaran's paintings, the arts centre commissioned works by 6 leading Australian artists which also explore the exhibition's themes and are displayed alongside his work.

The exhibition is free to enter and will be on show at Campbelltown Arts Centre until March 26.

(source: Daily Telegraph)

IRAN:

Watchdogs Urge Iran to Halt Rushed Executions of 12 Alleged Drug Offenders----Human rights watchdogs said that Iran should immediately halt the execution of 12 convicted drug offenders, as the decision to give the death penalty to drug offenders does not comply with international legal standards, and is not effective at resolving the nation's drug problem.

Iran should immediately halt the execution of 12 convicted drug offenders, as the decision to give the death penalty to drug offenders does not comply with international legal standards, and is not effective at resolving the nation's drug problem, 2 human rights watchdogs said in a joint statement Friday.

"Packing prisons with drug offenders and rushing to send them to death row without due process in highly flawed trials will just worsen Iran's justice problem while doing nothing to solve Iran's drug problem,"

Human Rights Watch (HRW) Middle East Director Sarah Leah Whitson said in the statement. The HRW and Amnesty International noted in their statement that some of the convicted offenders were not even guilty of their crime, but were nevertheless convicted due to improper court proceedings, refusal of courts to grant legal counsel, or fear to appeal.

The Rights groups called on Iran to condemn the execution of these 12 people, and establish an "official moratorium on executions", and focus on abolishing the death penalty in Iran.

"[The use of the death penalty] is abhorrent in any circumstance, but carrying out these executions would be particularly tragic given ongoing discussions in the Iranian parliament that could lead to the abolition of the death penalty for nonviolent drug offenses," Amnesty International research and advocacy director Philip Luther noted in the statement. In Iran, the death penalty may be given in the case of trafficking, possession, or trade of as little as 30 grams of drugs like heroin, morphine, or cocaine.

Between January and July 2015, Amnesty International said that some 694 people were executed in Iran, compared to 743 executions in the previous year.

In 2016, the majority of executed Iranians were drug offenders. There are currently 5,000 people in death row for drug related offenses in Iran, the statement added, citing member of Iranian parliament Nassan Noroozi.

(source: sputniknews.com)

BELARUS:

4th Death Sentence Issued Before New Year (Belarus: UA 16/17)

Urgent Action

Kiryl Kazachok was sentenced to death by the Gomel Regional Court, in southeast Belarus, on 28 December. His was the 4th death sentence to be issued in Belarus in 2016.

Kiryl Kazachok was sentenced to death by the Gomel Regional Court, in southeast Belarus, on 28 December. He was found guilty of killing his two children on 31 January 2016. He called the police following the incident, before trying to kill himself.

His lawyer will appeal the death sentence. If the sentence is upheld by the Supreme Court, Kiryl Kazachok will appeal directly to the President for clemency. It is highly probable that the sentence will be upheld and his clemency denied, leaving him at risk of execution shortly afterwards.

No warning is given of the date or time of execution and no final meeting with relatives is granted. Death row inmates are executed with a shot to the back of the head. In accordance with Belarusian law, their bodies are not returned to their families for burial, nor is the location of the burial site disclosed.

Belarus is the only country in Europe and Central Asia which continues to use the death penalty.

Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all cases without exception. It violates the right to life, as proclaimed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It is the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment.

TAKE ACTION

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

-- Urging President Alyaksandr Lukashenka to commute the death sentence of Kiryl Kazachok and all those on death row in Belarus;

-- Calling on the President to establish an immediate moratorium on executions with a view to abolishing the death penalty;

-- Stress that whilst we are not seeking to downplay the seriousness of the crime, research shows that the death penalty does not deter crime more than other forms of imprisonment and is the ultimate denial of human rights.

Contact these 2 officials by 24 February, 2017:

President

Alyaksandr Lukashenka

Vul. Karla Marksa 38

220016 Minsk, Belarus

Fax: +375 17 226 06 10

+375 17 222 38 72

Email: contact@president.gov.by

Salutation: Dear President Lukashenka

Charge d'Affaires Mr. Pavel Shidlovsky

Embassy of Belarus

1619 New Hampshire Ave NW

Washington DC 20009

Fax: 1 202 986 1805 -- Phone: 1 202 986 1606 -OR- 1 202 986 9420

Email: usa@mfa.gov.by

Salutation: Dear Mr. Shidlovsky

(source: Amnesty International USA)

PHILIPPINES:

VACC sees IS-style executions If death penalty not passed

Anti-crime advocates on Friday warned that without the death penalty, heinous crimes would continue and get worse, to the point that criminals would start Islamic State-style executions.

Dante Jimenez, founding chairman of the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC), claimed criminals have become ruthless - beheading, mutilating and burning their victims.

"Criminals eliminate victims through beheading or burning the bodies to use the legal principle of 'corpus delicti' or no crime, no case," Jimenez said in an interview.

Jimenez again called on Congress to prioritize the passage of the death penalty bill to deter heinous crimes.

Congress, particularly the Senate, appears to be not interested in expediting the passage of the bill, one of the priority legislative measures of the President, Jimenez said.

The House Committee on Justice passed House Bill 1 restoring the death penalty last month. The Senate Committee on Justice and Human Rights, headed by Sen. Richard Gordon, has yet to start discussions on the measure.

In the Senate, there are at least seven proposals calling for the revival of the death penalty for heinous crimes and drug-related crimes, filed by Majority Leader Vicente Sotto 3rd and Senators Joseph Victor Ejercito, Sherwin Gatchalian, Panfilo Lacson and Emmanuel Pacquiao.

"Why is the Senate taking so long to begin discussion on the bill? Do they want vigilantism to continue instead of having a state-sanctioned penalty of death for heinous crime cases?" Jimenez said.

Jimenez pointed out that Duterte got 16 million votes after promising to eliminate illegal drugs, crime and corruption as well as restore the death penalty.

Several senators including those from the Liberal Party (LP) are against the revival of the death penalty, unconvinced that it would deter heinous crimes.

Jimenez pointed out that death penalty failed to deter crimes in the past because of the failure of previous administrations to implement it properly and continuously.

Previous presidents gave in to pressure from the Church and other groups who are against capital punishment, he claimed.

Not a priority

Sotto, in a separate interview, said the passage of the death penalty bill was not among the measures expected to pass the Senate by March.

The majority leader said senators, during a caucus Wednesday night, agreed to focus on the passage of their pet bills during the 2-month legislative session and tackle the remaining bills in May. "But we will also tackle [the death penalty]. We expect a long debate on the bill, that is why we are not optimistic that we can pass it by March," he explained.

(source: Manila Times)

SINGAPORE:

Urgent Action: Malaysian National Faces Imminent Execution (Singapore:UA 12/17)

Urgent Action

MALAYSIAN NATIONAL FACES IMMINENT EXECUTION

Prabagaran Srivijayan, a Malaysian national, was convicted and sentenced to the mandatory death penalty on 22 July 2012 in Singapore. The execution could take place as early as next week.

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

* Urging the President to immediately halt any plans to carry out Prabagaran Srivijayan's execution and grant him clemency;

* Calling on the authorities to immediately re-impose an official moratorium on all executions with a view to abolishing the death penalty, and commute all existing death sentences;

* Reminding the authorities that drug-related offences do not meet the threshold of the "most serious crimes" to which the use of the death penalty must be restricted under international law, and that the imposition of the death penalty as a mandatory punishment is also prohibited.

Contact these 2 officials by 24 February, 2017:

Important note: Please do not forward this Urgent Action email directly to these officials. Instead of forwarding this email that you have received, please open up a new email message in which to write your appeals to each official. This will help ensure that your emails are not rejected. Thank you for your deeply valued activism!

President of Singapore

His Excellency Tony Tan Keng Yam

Office of the President of the Republic of Singapore

Orchard Road,

238823 Singapore

Fax: +65 6735 3135

Email: istana_feedback@istana.gov.sg

Twitter: @govsingapore

Salutation: Your Excellency

Ambassador HE Ashok Kumar Mirpuri

Embassy of Singapore

3501 International Place NW

Washington DC 20008

Fax: 1 202 537 0876 -- Phone: 1 202 537 3100

Email: singemb_was@mfa.sg

Salutation: Dear Ambassador

(source: Amnesty International)

 

JANUARY 13, 2017:

TEXAS:

The Texas death penalty is dying

The Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty (TCADP), a statewide grassroots organization working to end the death penalty, recently published its annual death penalty report, which illustrates that some Texans are re-thinking their views on capital punishment. TCADP's findings reveal that prosecutors and jurors are losing interest in sentencing defendants to die. Given that Texas' death penalty has been plagued by inequity, inefficiency, and inaccuracy, it makes sense that capital punishment is falling out of favor.

2016 marks the 2nd year in a row of Texas juries sentencing the fewest number of people to death since 1976. Death sentences peaked at 48 in 1999, while there has been a total of 3 this year. Executions in Texas have also steadily declined to the lowest number in 20 years; last year, there were 7.

Harris and Dallas counties have traditionally been known for their high number of death sentences. However, prosecutors in these counties have increasingly elected not to pursue that punishment, and jurors have chosen alternative sentences such as life without parole. Consequently, no one has been sentenced to death in either county in 2 years.

Moreover, when Texas has executed people, it hasn't been pretty. Texas is America's leading death penalty state, executing 538 individuals since 1982, and the state has faced a number of controversies.

Rather than punishing only the worst of the worst, the death penalty has disproportionately singled out poor, mentally handicapped, and minority defendants. People who cannot afford a private attorney are at a of receiving a death sentence in Texas, according to the Death Penalty Information Center, a U.S. non-profit national organization that provides information on the death penalty. The TCADP report found that almost 1/2 of those executed in Texas over the last 2 years had severe and mitigating impairments such as mental disabilities. The report also found that 80% of those executed in Texas over the last 5 years were people of color.

In October, the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments over the case of Duane Buck, who had been convicted of murder and sentenced to die. He is languishing on Texas' death row, in part, because of allegedly tainted testimony that Buck presented a higher risk of future danger because he is African American. When confronted by problems like these, capital punishment begins to look less like a solution and more like an injustice.

There were 7 stays of execution in Texas in 2016 - one for a man named Charles Flores. The primary evidence against Flores was a hypnotized eyewitness. Jeff Wood also received a stay, and the case against him included testimony from a discredited psychologist who did not bother to even interview the accused. Another stay was issued for Robert Pruett, who was scheduled for execution despite the existence of unexamined evidence, as well as conflicting DNA evidence, from the crime scene.

Texas is no stranger to the high price of the death penalty. Costs of a single death penalty trial run close to $3 million dollars, according to some studies, and it is 'we the people' who pay. Jasper County, Texas, increased property taxes by 7% to pay for 2 capital trials, while Kaufman County, Texas, is expected to pay $500,000 for expert witnesses in a single capital trial. In fact, it is only because Kaufman County is a part of the Capital Defense Fund Program that they are not expected to pay an additional $1.3 million dollars.

We have poured millions into the death penalty, but the return on our investment has been minimal at best. Texas has wrongly convicted and sentenced at least 13 people. Others have been executed who might have been innocent. Meanwhile, studies show the death penalty doesn't protect society, and many murder victims' families say the complex and lengthy process doesn't offer them the swift justice or closure that they seek. Some feel the system forces them to constantly relive the murders of their loved ones as they endure ongoing legal wrangling and incessant media attention.

Given the facts, it should not surprise anyone that Texans are losing faith in the death penalty. We like solutions that work. Capital punishment does not work, and that may be why Texas' death penalty is in a steep decline.

(source: Texas Tribune)

NEW HAMPSHIRE:

Sampson's 2nd sentence could renew NH execution issue

Twice sentenced to death in a federal court, carjacker and murderer Gary Sampson will now have to wait to find out whether he will be executed in New Hampshire.

Earlier this week, a federal court jury in Boston found Sampson, 57, guilty of murder and sentenced him to death for his 2001 spree, in which he killed 2 people in Massachusetts and 1 New Hampshire.

A 2003 trial on the same charges - a trial in which the verdict was later thrown out - also found Sampson guilty of capital murder. At the time, federal Judge Mark Wolf ordered that Sampson be executed in New Hampshire, a ruling that took Granite State officials by surprise.

"Of all other states, New Hampshire has a uniquely strong interest in the punishment imposed on Sampson," Wolf wrote back then.Wolf later disqualified himself from the 2nd Sampson trial, which took place in Boston over the past 7 weeks in front of federal Judge Leo Sorokin.

Although the latest jury issued the death penalty, Sorokin has yet to schedule a sentencing hearing to announce details of the execution, including where it will take place, said Christina Sterling, a spokesman for Massachusetts U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz, whose office prosecuted Sampson.

"It's unclear whether or not it's going to be in New Hampshire or up to the (federal) Bureau of Prisons," Sterling said.

Federal prosecutors can bring capital murder cases in any state, even states that prohibit the death penalty. But executions cannot take place in those states. In such cases, federal law allows a judge to select a death-penalty state, such as New Hampshire, to carry out the execution.

Earlier this week, New Hampshire officials said the issue of Sampson's New Hampshire execution went away when the verdict from the 2003 trial was thrown out.

When Sampson was sentenced to death in early 2004, capital punishment in New Hampshire amounted to a political issue, brought up occasionally in the Legislature. It would be 4 years before Michael Addison was sentenced to death for the 2006 killing of Manchester police officer Michael Briggs.

Even though Addison remains on death row - it's actually a cell in the maximum security unit - the state still has no execution chamber, said Corrections Department spokesman Jeffrey Lyons. Estimates to build one range as high as $1.8 million.

"It's more than putting a bed out there," Lyons said about a death chamber. It must be secure, and spaces must be available for family and media to witness the execution, he said.

In his 2004 ruling, Wolf said he ordered Sampson's execution in New Hampshire for 2 reasons: First, a New Hampshire execution would consolidate all appeals to the First Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston; 2nd, Wolf said he did not want an execution reduced to an invisible, bureaucratic function.

"There is ... strong public interest in Sampson's execution being as accessible as possible to the people most interested in it and impacted by it," Wolf said at the time. "Sampson's execution in New Hampshire will serve that public interest." One of Sampson's murders took place in New Hampshire. Sampson broke into a cabin at Lake Winnipesaukee and strangled to death the caretaker, Concord resident Robert "Eli" Whitney. Sampson pleaded guilty to that murder in New Hampshire courts in 2004.

Because of that guilty plea, Sampson was not tried for Whitney's murder in the Boston. Sterling said jurors did hear about the murder when considering the death penalty.

New Hampshire law designates lethal injection as the preferred means of execution. Lyons said the Corrections Department is working with the attorney general on details, because some chemical manufacturers have refused to deliver drugs for execution; others have stopped making them altogether.

As an alternative, state law also allows execution by hanging.

(source: unionleader.com)

PENNSYLVANIA:

9 jurors selected for death penalty trial in Easton

Attorneys are more than halfway to their goal of selecting the jurors and alternates they need for the death penalty trial of Jeffrey Knoble.

So far 9 jurors have been selected for the trial of the 27-year-old Riegelsville man. The attorneys need 3 more plus 4 alternates.

Knoble is charged with fatally shooting Andrew "Beep" White in March 2015 in the former Quality Inn hotel in Easton.

First Deputy District Attorney Terence Houck and defense attorney Gavin Holihan agreed on 2 jurors Thursday to add to the 7 selected earlier in the week. They've questioned about 70 people so far.

Jury selection in a death penalty case can be lengthy because the attorneys question each prospective juror individually to make sure each has no moral aversion to sentencing a defendant to death.

Jeffrey Knoble is charged with killing Andrew "Beep" White at a Downtown Easton hotel in 2015.

Northampton County Judge Emil Giordano hopes jury selection can wrap up by Friday, allowing testimony to begin Tuesday, Jan. 17.

Jury selection resumes at 8:30 a.m. Friday.

(source: lehighvalleylive.com)

GEORGIA:

DA seeks death penalty for man accused of killing 2 Georgia deputies

A middle Georgia District Attorney said Thursday he will seek the death penalty against Ralph Stanley Elrod Jr., accused of killing 2 Peach County deputies.

"Those who intentionally take the lives of law enforcement officers who are peaceably and lawfully carrying out their sworn duty to protect the public should expect to be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, and to face the ultimate penalty," DA David Cooke said.

Earlier this week, a grand jury indicted Elrod on multiple charges, including malice murder and felony murder, in the November deaths. Elrod, 57, allegedly shot both Deputy Daryl Smallwood and Sgt. Patrick Sondron at close range while the deputies were responding to a call regarding a dispute between neighbors.

Elrod appeared calm when the deputies confronted him, the GBI previous said. But when the deputies told Elrod he would be arrested for threatening to shoot a neighbor, Elrod pulled out a handgun from his waistband, GBI Special Agent in Charge J.T. Ricketson said in November.

"The deputies were not on any kind of alert," Ricketson said. "It appears to us that their guard was not up when they were confronting this guy."

Sondron, 41, a married father, died the same day at Medical Center of Peach County. Smallwood, 39, died 2 days later. He was also married father.

Elrod has been jailed without bond since his arrest the day after the shootings. The grand jury indicted him on 2 counts each of malice murder and felony murder, 3 counts of aggravated assault on a peace officer and 2 counts of aggravated assault.

(source: Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

FLORIDA:

New Harvard report questions constitutionality of death sentence for Duval inmates

A report released Thursday details how some Florida death row inmates suffer from impairments sufficiently severe to make them ineligible for the death penalty when they are resentenced as required by a court ruling.

Harvard Law School's Fair Punishment Project, which has previously studied the use of the death penalty in Duval County and across Florida, released its report focusing especially on the mental impairments of those on death row.

The Harvard report found that 1/3 of the cases are concentrated in 5 counties: Duval, Hillsborough, Miami-Dade, Orange, and Pinellas.

"A sizable majority of individuals on death row from these five Florida counties suffer from crippling mental impairments, or are so young in age, that they appear to be nearly indistinguishable from the categories of people whom the Supreme Court has said it is unconstitutional to execute due to their diminished culpability," said Rob Smith, director of the Fair Punishment Project, in a statement.

The Florida Supreme Court recently ruled that a unanimous jury decision is necessary before sentencing someone to death. Previously, the state imposed the death sentence based on a judge's decision, even if only 7 of 12 jurors voted for the death sentence. That law was later amended after a United States Supreme Court decision to require 10 out of 12 votes, but even that law was struck down.

Now all death row inmates who were sentenced since 2002 must be sentenced anew. State Attorney Melissa Nelson has said she will require prosecutors get approval to seek the death penalty from an internal review panel.

The study looked at the 48 death row inmates who come from the 5 counties.

Nearly 2/3 of them, the report said, "exhibit signs of serious mental illness or intellectual impairment, endured devastatingly severe childhood trauma, or were not old enough to legally purchase alcohol at the time the offense occurred. ... What our research reveals, however, is that a substantial majority of the individuals on death row from these 5 counties in Florida have evidence of a similar level of impairment, which lessens their moral culpability and makes the death penalty constitutionally inappropriate."

The report found:

--About 13 % of the inmates were 20 or younger when they committed the crimes, and 27 % were 24 or younger.

--About 35 % had low IQ scores or some form of brain damage.

--At least 23 % suffered some known form of severe childhood or emotional trauma.

The report details cases from Duval County, where inmates endured childhood sex abuse, suffered brain trauma and had been hospitalized for psychiatric disorders.

"These findings have raised a legitimate question as to whether Florida's capital punishment scheme - even one with a unanimous jury requirement - is capable of limiting application of the death penalty to the most culpable offenders."

(source: jacksonville.com)

ALABAMA:

Death to judicial override

During my years as an editorial writer for The Birmingham News, I spent much of that time opposed to the death penalty. The death penalty should be abolished; clearly, innocent people have been killed by the State of Alabama. A number have been released from death row after being exonerated at some point, barely dodging the electric chair or, now, the needle.

Eventually, my colleagues and I wrote a week-long series telling readers why The News was changing its position on the death penalty. We explained our reason for transforming from a newspaper that supported the death penalty into one that now strongly opposed it.

That series was a finalist (top 3) for a Pulitzer Prize in 2006.

There are many reasons I oppose the death penalty, including the belief that the State should never take anything from a person it can't give back; the death penalty is cruel, as demonstrated most recently by the botched execution of Alabama inmate Ronald Bert Smith last month; and, pragmatically, it costs the State more to execute an inmate (lengthy, necessary appeals are among the highest costs) than it does to keep an inmate in prison for life.

No, I don't see Alabama dropping the death penalty anytime soon. But I must say I was encouraged to read Alabama Political Reporter editor in chief Bill Britt's story Monday, that a bill has been proposed for the upcoming legislative session that will end the terrible practice of judicial override in capital murder cases in Alabama.

That is at least one tiny step in the right direction toward keeping at least some politics out of death penalty decisions.

As it stands now, a jury can recommend a life sentence in a capital murder case, but a judge - an elected judge, at that - can overrule that decision. True, a judge can also overrule a decision by a jury to sentence somebody to death. But that decision, rarely, if ever, occurs.

Elected judges certainly don't want to be seen as soft on crime. There are some judges who never overrule a jury's recommendation. But many have no qualms about being the hanging judge.

Indeed, according to the Equal Justice Initiative, Britt reports, in 92 percent of judicial overrides in Alabama, "elected judges have overruled jury verdicts of life [in prison] to impose the death penalty."

In election years, some judges are particularly under pressure to override a jury's recommendation for a life sentence because the judge (a politician, after all) doesn't want to appear soft on crime.

The bill, sponsored by State Sen. Dick Brewbaker (R-Montgomery) in the Senate and State Rep. Christopher England (D-Tuscaloosa) in the House, probably has a long way to go.

However, considering recent decisions by the US Supreme Court, the days of judicial override in Alabama are likely numbered.

"The US Supreme Court has made it pretty clear that they do not like it and think this is a bad practice," Brewbaker said in his interview with APR's Britt. "Now that Delaware and Florida have gotten rid of it, Alabama is the only State that still practices it."

Brewbaker's and England's bills are long overdue. They're not enough, but in Alabama, we take what we can get.

"It doesn't seem to make sense to me to wait until the Supreme Court strikes down our death penalty statute just because we want to hold on to what arguably is a bad practice anyway," Brewbaker said. "I think a lot of people, even if they think judicial override is a good idea, realize that in the long run, it will cost us the whole death penalty statute."

That would be fine with me, but unlikely to happen. Ironic, in a way, that it would take a law to make application of Alabama's State killing machine more fair to save it from its deserved abolition.

(source: American Political Reporter)

OHIO:

Groups call on Ohio governor to end executions

Kwame Ajamu was 17 years old when he was convicted of murder and sent to death row.

"I had to grow up real fast because I'd been sentenced to die and now I'm in this box that I can literally touch each wall with my hands and the ceiling," he said.

Ajumu, his brother, and a friend were all convicted in Cuyahoga County in 1975 of a robbery and murder based largely on the testimony of a 12-year-old witness. Decades later, the witness recanted and all 3 men were released from prison and exonerated.

42 years later, Ajamu is now an outspoken opponent of the death penalty and he joined other death penalty opponents at the Ohio Statehouse Thursday to lobby lawmakers.

"Mentally, emotionally, and spiritually - putting a man or a woman in a cell having knowledge that they will be executed on a certain date does destroy that individual totally," Ajamu said.

Death penalty opponents hope to convince state lawmakers to do away with executions in favor of life sentences with no chance for parole. They point to a state Supreme Court task force report that recommended dozens of changes in the state's use of the death penalty.

Ohio plans to put condemned child killer Ronald Phillips to death next month with a new 3-drug method similar to one the state used several years ago. It plans to use the same method to put inmates to death in March and April. The state has 4 additional executions scheduled this year but hasn't said what drugs it will use.

A federal judge weighing whether Ohio's new execution method is constitutional ordered the state this week to clear up whether its supply of 3 lethal injection drugs is enough to carry out far more executions than it claimed 3 months ago.

The directive from Magistrate Judge Michael Merz comes after The Associated Press reported inventory logs show Ohio has enough supplies of lethal injection drugs for dozens of executions - more than the 3 it told Merz about last year.

Attorneys for the Ohio prisons system told Merz in October the state had enough drugs to proceed with 3 executions this year. Until the AP report, it was unclear how much of the 3 lethal drugs the state possessed and whether it had enough for more executions. The judge set a Friday deadline for the response.

Abraham Bonowitz with Ohioans to Stop Executions says the state should, at a minimum, put executions on hold.

"We would like the governor to say, 'I'm not going to sign any more death warrants, we're not going to have any more executions, I will reprieve anyone who comes along until we make sure the system is fair and accurate'."

Executions have been on hold in Ohio since January 2014, when Dennis McGuire gasped and snorted during the 26 minutes it took him to die, the longest execution since the state resumed putting prisoners to death in 1999. The state used a 2-drug method with McGuire, starting with midazolam, its first use for executions in the country.

Attorneys challenging Ohio's new 3-drug method say midazolam is unlikely to relieve an inmate's pain. The drug, which is meant to sedate inmates, also was used in a problematic 2014 execution in Arizona. But last year, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the use of midazolam in an Oklahoma case.

The state says the 3-drug method is similar to its past execution process, which survived court challenges. State attorneys also say the Supreme Court ruling last year makes clear the use of midazolam is allowable.

(source: Associated Press)

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

Ohio death penalty opponents urge end to executions of mentally ill

Ohio death penalty opponents on Thursday urged Gov. John Kasich and state lawmakers not to resume executions next month after 3 years of delays.

Recent legislative efforts to scrap the death penalty, backed by largely by minority Democrats, have gone nowhere. But Ohioans to Stop Executions, the Ohio Council of Churches, ACLU of Ohio and other advocates have hope lawmakers will take the death penalty off the table for people suffering major mental illness.

Last year, Ohio senators failed to pass a bipartisan bill that would have prohibited death sentences for persons with schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, bipolar disorder, severe depression and delusional disorder at the time the crime was committed. The bill's lead Republican sponsor, Bill Seitz, is now in the House, and death penalty opponents hope he will champion the legislation there.

"Persons with serious mental illness lack the culpability associated with death sentences," Betsy Johnson, legislative and policy advisor for D.C.-based Treatment Advocacy Center, said during a Thursday news conference at the Statehouse.

The organizations had planned to protest the execution of Akron killer Ronald Phillips, scheduled for Thursday. But Kasich postponed it until Feb. 15 after a court magistrate said the state couldn't move forward with January executions because of a pending U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals decision on a lawsuit brought by more than 65 death-row inmates.

Phillips' execution date has been pushed back several times due to concerns with changes to the state's lethal injection procedure.

Phillips was convicted in 1993 of raping and killing his girlfriend's 3-year-old daughter. Kasich previously declined to grant him clemency.

Rev. Rebecca Tollefson, executive director of the Ohio Council of Churches, said thousands of Ohioans have sent postcards to Kasich urging him to "lead Ohio in a direction of grace, mercy and hope" by indefinitely suspending future executions.

"Ohio does not need to resume executions," Tollefson said. "We can hold dangerous offenders accountable and protect ourselves from them without more killing."

(source: cleveland.com)

INDIANA:

Isom death penalty case back before Indiana Supreme Court

A Gary man sentenced to death for murdering his wife and 2 stepchildren in 2007 may lose a final chance for state court review of his case because he refuses to sign a document required to seek post-conviction relief.

Attorneys for Kevin Isom, 51, asked the Indiana Supreme Court on Thursday to overrule Lake Superior Judge Samuel Cappas, who last year concluded that Isom's refusal to sign, on multiple occasions, meant that he was forfeiting any opportunity for post-conviction proceedings.

"This is a death penalty case. Here we have a heightened need for due process. We simply, as a state, our values do not want us to allow someone to proceed to execution because of a missing signature," said Anne Kaiser, deputy state public defender.

According to court records, Isom refused to sign the document because he believed his attorneys were incompetent to represent him, and persisted in his refusal even after being offered other attorneys at no cost to him.

Deputy Attorney General Kelly Loy urged the high court's five justices, who unanimously affirmed Isom's three murder convictions and death sentence in 2015, not to reward Isom's efforts to postpone final justice.

"There is no incentive for a capital defendant to quickly proceed through collateral review. In fact, the incentive is the opposite, and that is to delay the proceedings," Loy said.

That argument appeared to resonate with Justice Robert Rucker, a Gary native, who suggested Isom is trying to game the system.

"He doesn't make the rules. Either you sign it, or there are consequences," Rucker said. "It seems to me that he wants to be in control of how the rules are written, and I have trouble with that."

On the other hand, Chief Justice Loretta Rush and Justices Steven David and Mark Massa each asked what harm there would be in allowing Isom's post-conviction petition to proceed absent his signature.

"I think it's pretty clear he does want to go forward. He just doesn't want to sign that until he gets the lawyer he wants," Massa said.

David suggested he would be much more comfortable denying post-conviction relief if Isom explicitly declared he had no interest in proceeding, as others awaiting execution have done in the past to speed their path to the death chamber.

"It seems like we're almost being asked to resolve an internal conflict between the state public defender's office and your client. Not our lane," David said to Kaiser.

Kaiser responded that she believes Isom has mental illness that prevents him from fully understanding that failing to sign the document could end his legal remedies in Indiana's courts.

The Supreme Court is expected to decide in a few months; after that, Isom likely will be able to seek federal court review.

(source: nwitimes.com)

NEBRASKA:

5 Questions you've asked about Nebraska's Death Penalty

After showing overwhelming support for the death penalty in November's election, many Nebraskans expected executions of those on death row would get underway promptly.

It's not that easy.

Gov. Pete Ricketts and the Department of Correctional Services created new rules and procedures required to carry out the process of lethal injection. A public hearing was held on the last day of 2016. It appears doubtful there will be many significant changes. The governor's signature on the final draft is expected soon.

Here are some of the questions often asked about the next steps needed to proceed with a legal execution.

When will Nebraska schedule its next execution?

There is no public speculation among state officials about when the next execution will take place in Nebraska. The state's attorney general told NET News there are too many steps in the process to project ahead. That includes likely legal challenges to the proposed revised protocols in general and new appeals put forward by individual death row inmates.

"The 1st logical step is to get the rules approved and implemented," Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson told NET News.

When the rules are signed by the governor, it will be up to the attorney general to take the 1st step: select which case to present to the Nebraska Supreme Court to request a death warrant. The justices review the merits of the case and, if advanced, set a date for the execution.

Who will be the next person executed?

If the date is uncertain then you can expect that identifying which of the men on death row will be chosen 1st is another topic of speculation which state officials avoid.

Peterson said when the protocols are enacted "the most logical and legal approach is to examine where each one of the death row inmates stand with regards to their appeals and whether their appeals have been exhausted."

That criteria shortens the likely list considerably. Cary Dean Moore, sentenced to death in for the 1979 murders of 2 Omaha cab drivers, has spent the longest time on death row.

Over the decades Moore repeatedly found ways to successfully delay his death sentence. While it's expected, the new protocols will provide several avenues for new appeals, Moore would provide the state with its most expedient option.

The death by cancer of cult-leader and double murderer Michael Ryan in 2016 makes the 2nd likely choice for the attorney general less clear.

2 other inmates have exhausted their state and federal appeals according to the attorney general's office

It has been 30 years since John Lotter took part in the triple murder of transgendered Teena Brandon and 2 of her friends. Lotter's insistence that his role in the murder does not raise to the level of a capital crime may further delay his execution.

Jose Sandoval has been on death row for nearly 14 years. He was convicted of killing 5 people at a Norfolk bank.

A 4th less likely candidate would be Raymond Mata. He tortured and murdered a 3-year-old boy in Scotts Bluff County in 2000. One of his successful appeals led to the state replacing the electric chair with execution by lethal injection.

How will the method of execution differ?

Lethal injection remains the only legal method of execution in Nebraska since it replaced the electric chair in 2009. However, the specially-equipped room for the procedure, built at an estimated cost of $25,000, has never been used.

The most significant change is in the type of drugs used for the execution. The current protocol restricts corrections to a specific 3 drug process. Those drugs proved impossible to obtain legally. New procedures proposed by the Department of Correctional Services gives the corrections director the decision on what drugs to use. The only criteria, whether a single substance or a mixture, is that it meets a constitutional requirement to avoid "cruel and unusual punishment."

Will the state be able to get the drugs needed for a lethal injection?

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

Bonus Question 6: Why are licensed pharmacists upset with the new policy?

One interesting flank in the opposition to the proposed protocols came from the Nebraska Pharmacists Association, representing licensed pharmacists in the state. At the December 2016 public hearing, chief executive director Joni Cover testified the person given responsibility for the execution drugs in the new protocol is listed as pharmaceutical chemist. She said no such job title receiving training or accreditation exists in Nebraska state law.

Cover and other pharmacists read the protocols to say it would allow a member of the execution team without education in pharmacology to help obtain, prepare and administer drugs to the inmate during an execution. They asked the section be removed.

The pharmacist's concern may be of importance, as it provides attorneys for death row inmates and those opposing the death penalty a significant new line of defense in the courts.

Pharmacists and other members of the medical community often decline to participate in the execution process, viewing it to conflict with their ethical charge to "1st do no harm."

Whether the state can find a provider is not yet known, but corrections officials have hinted they may have 1 willing to sell. Corrections officials have also consulted with other states successfully obtain drugs used in executions through confidential providers.

By not specifying a drug in the proposed protocols the state also has greater flexibility in finding a provider. The proposed protocols state corrections officials can get the drugs through "any appropriate source, including pharmaceutical or chemical compounding."

Unlike drug companies that mass produce their pharmaceuticals, compounding pharmacies prepare medications in small doses based on the specifications of a client or doctor.

States allowing lethal injection have found drug companies increasingly reluctant to sell their products when they are being used in executions. Nebraska ran afoul of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration by using a broker in India as a source for its drugs. Ultimately the drug's "use by" date expired as challenges to their use extended for months.

Why is there an extra effort to keep parts of the process confidential?

States successfully advancing death penalty convictions find keeping the process discrete limits avenues for opponents to challenge methods used.

Gov. Ricketts said during a news conference the changes were only about giving "the state flexibility to carry out the execution."

"We're really not changing anything about confidentiality," Ricketts said.

Prison officials would no longer be bound to specific types or numbers of lethal substances. It would be up to the corrections director to decide what drugs to use and in what doses. The director also could opt for a single drug, as long as it rendered the inmate unconscious and resulted in death "without the unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain."

60 days prior to the execution the condemned inmate of the type drug to be used. This would provide defense attorneys a very narrow window to prepare any objections to the specific drug or compound.

An attorney representing newspapers and broadcasters in the state (including NET News) and another from the Nebraska Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union sharply disagreed.

Danielle Conrad, executive director of the ACLU of Nebraska, said in a prepared statement "this process would implicate grave constitutional, legal and policy questions."

During the public hearing attorney Shawn Renner, representing a group of the state's newspapers and broadcasters, called the proposal "illegal" and claimed it ran contrary to the intent of the goal of open and transparent government.

Attorney General Peterson told NET News he found no aspect of the protocols in violation of the open records law.

(source: netnebraska.org)

ARIZONA:

Arizona Supreme Court throws out death sentence for Joel Escalante-Orozco----In wake of U.S. Supreme Court decision, Arizona high court sends back death sentence because court did not allow defense to say that the defendant would not be set free if not sentenced to death.

The Arizona Supreme Court on Thursday threw out the death sentence in a brutal 2001 Phoenix rape and murder because the court did not allow defense attorneys to tell the jurors that the defendant would never be set free if they brought back a life sentence.

The case was returned to Maricopa County Superior Court for a new sentencing trial because of a precedent set by another Arizona murder case that was knocked down by the U.S. Supreme Court in June.

Joel Escalante-Orozco was a maintenance worker at a Phoenix apartment building who attacked a young mother living there in front of her toddler son.

On March 10, 2001, Maria Garza-Rivera was found dead in her apartment. She had been stabbed repeatedly, beaten and sexually assaulted. The day before, Escalante-Orozco's supervisor had witnessed a strange conversation between Garza-Rivera and Escalante-Orozco that he did not understand because it was in Spanish. After the murder, Escalante-Orozco fled to Mexico.

In 2007, Escalante-Orozco was apprehended in Idaho. He was returned to Arizona, convicted of 1st-degree murder and sentenced to death in 2013.

In his mandatory "direct appeal" to the Arizona Supreme Court, defense attorneys alleged prosecutor misconduct and that Escalante-Orozco's low IQ made him ineligible for the death penalty, among other things. The Arizona justices instead seized on "future dangerous," the suggestion that the defendant could be too dangerous for a life sentence because he could potentially be released sometime in the future.

Attorneys for the state argued that prosecutors had never made that assertion, though the Supreme Court opinion cited transcripts in which one of the two prosecutors (who was not identified), said, "Sometimes in life there are people who have done so much evil they give up their right to live. This defendant has done just that."

The case that set precedent

The rationale for throwing out the death sentence comes from a U.S. Supreme Court decision in the case of Shawn Lynch, who murdered a Scottsdale man in 2001. In that case, the high court noted that there is no parole for murderers in Arizona, except for those who committed their crimes as juveniles or committed murder before 1994. It said the defense should have been allowed by the court to say that the defendant, were he sentenced to life rather than death, would never be released unless granted clemency by the governor.

Arizona's life-sentence statutes have not included possibility of parole since 1994. Instead, there are 2 sentencing options short of death for the crime of 1st-degree murder: natural life in prison, in which there is no chance of release, and life with the chance of release after 25 years. But the latter requires petitioning the board of clemency, which can then recommend pardon or commutation to the governor. The unlikelihood of such a pardon is tantamount to a sentence of natural life.

Therefore, the U.S. Supreme Court posited that jurors may have sentenced the defendant to death instead of life in prison for fear that he would someday get out and commit more crimes.

The Arizona Supreme Court had initially upheld Lynch's death sentence but the decision was overruled by the U.S. Supreme Court. Subsequently, using Lynch as a precedent, the Arizona court remanded Escalante-Orozco's case back to Superior Court.

It let stand the murder and other convictions and the sentences for the other crimes for which Escalante-Orozco had been convicted. However, it asked the trial court to conduct a new sentencing phase to determine whether Escalante-Orozco is still deserving of the death penalty.

(source: Arizona Republic)

CALIFORNIA:

Gang member convicted of 2 Indio murders to be sentenced to death

A judge is expected to uphold a jury's recommendation and formally sentence a gang member to death for the execution-style killings of 2 men in Indio more than a decade ago.

Jurors in October recommended capital punishment for Elias Carmona Lopez, 30, who was convicted of 2 counts of 1st-degree murder for the shooting deaths of Erineo Perez and Martin Garcia on Oct. 10 and Oct. 26, 2004, respectively.

In the guilt phase of the trial, the panel found true special circumstance allegations of lying in wait, multiple murders and committing the murder for the benefit of a criminal street gang, making Lopez eligible for a death sentence.

Defense motions for a new trial and modification of the jury's recommended sentence were denied this week by Riverside County Superior Court Judge Richard A. Erwood. According to Deputy District Attorney Scot L. Clark, Lopez was paid to kill Perez, who was shot several times while sitting inside his vehicle near Indio City Hall. The defendant snuck up on the 25-year-old victim from behind, the prosecutor said.

Garcia, 18, was found dead in an Indio alley, where Lopez lured him under false pretenses, claiming no animosity over their rival gang status before killing him, Clark said. Both victims were shot several times, including in the face.

During the penalty phase of the trial, Clark argued death was the appropriate punishment for a defendant who demonstrated that he's a danger to others even while imprisoned. Clark read transcripts of recorded phone calls that Lopez made while in prison in 2010, in which he gave out the home addresses of his ex-girlfriend and her boyfriend, and the boyfriend's work address to other gang members.

Lopez also expressed anger over the ex-girlfriend testifying against him. Clark said Lopez had told her that he'd committed both murders, providing her details that only the killer would have known.

Shell casings taken from both crime scenes came from the same gun, a .22-caliber Smith & Wesson found beneath Lopez's mattress, Clark said.

Defense attorney Demitra Tolbert argued that the evidence did not prove the murders were committed by the same person, only that the same gun -- which her client claimed he had been holding for a friend he refused to identify -- was used.

Clark said a number of other potential suspects suggested to be the killer by the defense could easily be ruled out.

According to the prosecutor, none of the supposed killers had connections to both Perez and Garcia, and none of them could have managed to get the murder weapon underneath Lopez's mattress.

Tolbert maintained that detectives did not fully pursue the connections between those suspects and the victims to the extent necessary, saying "law enforcement failed miserably'' in its investigation, dismissing potential suspects and not following through with DNA testing or witness interviews at both crime scenes.

Lopez was an early suspect in both killings, but there was insufficient evidence to prosecute the case until July 2008, according to the prosecution. He was serving an eight-year sentence for armed robbery at an Arizona prison when the murder case was filed against him.

During his 1st trial in early 2016, jurors deadlocked 11-1 in favor of conviction after about 6 weeks of testimony.

(source: KESQ news)

OREGON:

Lawyers argue Oregon's death penalty

Most Oregon lawyers never deal with cases involving the death penalty.

But as part of their requirement by the Oregon State Bar for continuing legal education, a group of them heard from 2 lawyers experienced in it during a session at bar offices in Tigard.

Josh Marquis has been a county prosecutor for four decades, the past 23 years as the elected district attorney of Clatsop County.

Jeff Ellis is a Portland lawyer who specializes in criminal defense, and as director of the Oregon Capital Resource Center, has been involved in cases in Oregon and other states.

Oregon is among the 31 states, plus the federal government, with the death penalty. Oregon is also 1 of 4 states where the governor has called a temporary halt to executions.

33 men and 1 woman await execution in the Oregon State Penitentiary. 2 men were executed by lethal injection most recently 20 years ago; both waived further appeals.

Oregon voters have gone back and forth on the death penalty since the state took over responsibility for executions in 1903. A repeal measure may appear again on a statewide ballot, although death penalty opponents have not advanced it.

When Oregon voters reinstated the death penalty in 1984, it applies to aggravated murder - circumstances are specified by law - and it is exempt from the state constitutional ban on vindictive justice.

"It is a rare sentence, and very few murderers deserve it," Marquis said. "But there are some people who I believe are beyond redemption."

He described them as "people who have such deep sociopathic, antisocial personalities that either they do not care about anybody - or worse, they actually like to inflict pain, particularly on vulnerable people."

Despite his outspoken support for the death penalty, Marquis said he has sought it for only 2 offenders during 40 years as a prosecutor.

He sought it 3 times for Randy Lee Guzek, who was convicted of a double murder in Terrebonne in 1987, when Marquis was chief deputy district attorney in Deschutes County. The Oregon Supreme Court upheld Guzek's death sentence in 2015; Guzek's appeal is pending in federal courts.

"I suspect that Mr. Guzek will probably outlive me on death row," said Marquis, who is 17 years older. "I will probably die of natural causes before he dies of natural causes."

He also sought it for Anthony Scott Garner, convicted in 2001 of the 1997 murder of an informant in Warrenton. But the jury sentenced Garner to life imprisonment without parole.

"That is really what the death penalty process attempts to do," Marquis said. "It allows 12 jurors to decide whether a person has any possibility of either being redeemed or redeeming himself."

Under current procedure, jurors must first decide an offender's guilt, then in a separate penalty phase, answer "yes" to four questions before imposing the death penalty.

Ellis, who has taken part in Guzek's case, also has a strong belief on the death penalty.

"I think it is morally wrong. I think the state should not be in the business of killing individuals in our name," he said. "But that does not get us very far, because reasonable people can disagree about that position."

He took issue with Marquis' argument that Oregon's death penalty should apply only to criminal offenders beyond redemption.

"I guess he has a vision of an Oregon death penalty system that is not the system that has been operating since the mid-1980s in Oregon. Instead we have a system that is chockfull of problems," Ellis said.

Of the offenders sentenced to death, Ellis said, the only two actually executed waived appeals - and no other case (until Guzek) has moved on to federal appellate review.

"Eventually we will have a small and random group of individuals who were sentenced to death, who lost on appeal and in post-conviction, and lost in (federal) habeas corpus," he said. "Are these people the worst of the worst? Absolutely not."

Penalty is final

According to the Death Penalty Information Center, 1,442 executions have taken place since the U.S. Supreme Court allowed the death penalty to resume in 1976. Marquis said that number is a fraction of about 600,000 murders during that period.

Texas leads with 538 executions, and according to the center's definition of the region, the South accounts for a total of 1,175. (Ten of the 11 states in the former Confederacy are in the top 14 states for executions; the exception is Tennessee.)

"Unlike any other punishment, the death penalty is irreversible when inflicted," Ellis said.

He mentioned the case of Cameron Todd Willingham, who was executed in Texas in 2004 for the 1991 arson murder of 3 children. A subsequent report disputed whether the fire was arson, although the fire agency says the report overlooked some points.

"The criminal justice system does not do a good job with claims of innocence," Ellis said.

Marquis said it is the "worst nightmare" of prosecutors to convict an innocent person.

"Innocent people have been on death row," Marquis said. "Anyone who denies that is not being honest."

But Marquis said even the most ardent opponents of Oregon's death penalty have yet to make a case for absolving any of the 34 on Oregon's death row.

Marquis cited the case of Roger Coleman, who was executed in Virginia in 1992 for the rape and murder of his sister-in-law, despite death-penalty foes raising doubts. A DNA test performed in 2006 confirmed Coleman's guilt.

"The story sank faster than dropping a 10-pound weight into the deepest part of the Columbia River channel," he said.

Which way?

According to a 2016 report by the Death Penalty Information Center, the past year resulted in the fewest death sentences imposed in the United States in the past 40 years, and the fewest executions since 1991.

Seven states in the past decade have abolished the death penalty. But Marquis said all of them occurred because of legislative or court actions - and when the question was put Nov. 8 in California, Nebraska and Oklahoma, voters upheld the death penalty.

(In Nebraska, voters overturned a 2015 legislative repeal. In Oklahoma, 2nd only to Texas in executions since 1976, voters approved a measure allowing any form of execution not specifically barred by the U.S. Supreme Court.)

When then-Gov. John Kitzhaber issued a temporary reprieve to Gary Haugen, who was within 2 weeks of execution in 2011, Kitzhaber also imposed a moratorium on executions. Haugen won a challenge to his unsought reprieve in circuit court, but the Oregon Supreme Court in 2013 upheld the governor's broad constitutional authority to grant clemency - including the reprieve.

"I think the declaration of a reprieve and a moratorium was undertaken by Gov. Kitzhaber for very serious and real reasons," said Ellis, 1 of 4 signers of a letter that Kitzhaber considered before announcing a moratorium on Nov. 22, 2011.

The 2013 Legislature gave only a single hearing to Kitzhaber's proposed constitutional amendment to substitute life imprisonment for the death penalty.

Gov. Kate Brown continued the moratorium upon succeeding Kitzhaber in February 2015, and it will last as long as she holds office. She was elected Nov. 8 to the 2 years remaining in Kitzhaber's term.

"If she thinks it is so wrong, that it is so egregious and she believes there are innocent people on death row, she has the power of commutation. Good luck," said Marquis, who has been an outspoken critic of the moratorium.

Were she to commute death sentences to life imprisonment, he added, "If she stands for office in 2 years, I suspect she would not get re-elected."

A ballot question?

Oregonians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty is conducting a campaign to raise awareness, but so far, the group has not petitioned for any ballot initiative to abolish it. They say they are determining lawmakers' attitudes in the 2017 session, which gets down to business Feb. 1.

"I can assure you that the Oregon Legislature does not have the guts to change the Constitution - they will refer it to the voters," Marquis said, although the Legislature is required to refer any constitutional amendment to a statewide vote.

"I've been part of this conversation for the past 17 years in this state. We have talked this to death. If the voters choose to abolish the death penalty, so be it."

Voters shifted 14 years later, but Oregon in 1964 was the most recent state to repeal the death penalty by popular vote. Marquis said he remembers that at 12 years old, he put a pro-repeal sticker on the rear bumper of his father's Ford Falcon.

Although no one has been released so far under a "true" life-imprisonment law for aggravated murder took effect in 1991, Marquis said he believes opponents would challenge it based on the federal constitutional guarantee against "cruel and unusual punishment."

But Ellis said life imprisonment without parole is a good alternative to the death penalty - and he would not challenge it for adults.

"If a person is innocent and we have sentenced him to life, we cannot give back the years he lost, but we can release him and given him some compensation," Ellis said. "We can keep our communities safe with life without parole - and I think we can keep prisons safe even with individuals who have committed murder."

(source: pamplinmedia.com)

USA:

Arrests Expected at U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, DC on 40th Anniversary of First Execution----Activists call on Nation to End the Death Penalty as State Executions hit Historic Lows

Members of the anti-death penalty Abolitionist Action Committee (AAC) and many faith leaders will stage a highly visual demonstration at the U.S. Supreme Court in the 10:00 am hour, Tuesday, January 17 to mark the 40th anniversary of the 1st execution under contemporary laws. A program featuring death row exonerees, murder victim family members and others, will take place the evening before.

"Executions, death sentences and capital indictments are at record lows across the nation, and only a handful of jurisdictions still use it aggressively," said Bill Pelke, a spokesman for the Abolitionist Action Committee. "We are prayerfully calling on the new president and leaders in the few states where it is still used to stand down on the death penalty."

40 years ago, on January 17, 1977, the State of Utah shot to death Gary Gilmore, who was executed in revenge for his murder of Ben Bushnell and Max Jenson. This was the 1st execution under the Supreme Court's upholding of new death penalty laws in its 1976 ruling in Gregg v. Georgia. Since then there have been 1442 more executions. 5 more executions are scheduled in January already, including 1 in Virginia on January 18.

Dozens of participants from across the United States and representing numerous faith-based and civil rights oriented organizations (listed below) are expected to peacefully and visibly call for an immediate cessation of all executions in the United States through non-violent civil disobedience and the risk of arrest.  They will display a 30-foot long banner and 40 posters - each poster listing by year the names of all the men and women executed in the United States since 1977.

Among the participants will be:

* Numerous family members of homicide victims

* Derrick Jamison, a member of Witness to Innocence, survived 20 years on Ohio's death row for a crime he had nothing to do with

* Randy Gardner, whose brother, like Gilmore, was executed in Utah by firing squad.  "My Brother Ronnie Lee Gardner was executed June 18, 2010 by the same state and the same method as Gilmore," says Gardner. "I believed then, and I still believe now, that the death penalty is morally wrong. I never condoned what my brother did, but when the state executes someone, they create yet another family that is damaged and grieving. We don't have to kill to be safe from dangerous criminals and hold them accountable. It is time to abolish the death penalty."

* Shane Claiborne, a leader in the Red Letter Christian movement and author of the book, Executing Grace. Claiborne will be joined by numerous other evangelical and other faith leaders.

Since 1997, a total of 48 arrests have been made of death penalty abolitionists for unfurling banners that read "STOP EXECUTIONS!" on the plaza or stairs leading to the front doors of the U.S. Supreme Court. This action has been repeated every 5 years. The tradition continues, and this year participation is increasing significantly.

This protest is organized by The Abolitionist Action Committee, an ad-hoc group of individuals committed to highly visible and effective public education for alternatives to the death penalty through nonviolent direct action. Participating organizations and individuals include:

Abolitionist Action Committee

Campaign for Nonviolence

Catholic Mobilizing Network

Center for Action and Contemplation

Consistent Life Network

Embrey Human Rights Program

Evangelicals for Social Action

Faith in Public Life

Journey of Hope ... From Violence to Healing

National Council of Churches

OPEN

People of Faith Against the Death Penalty

PICO Network LIVE FREE Campaign

RAW Tools

Red Letter Christians

Repairers of the Breach

Sojourners

We Stand With Love

Witness to Innocence

(source: Abolitionist Action Committee)

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The State of the Death Penalty in 2017

2016 was a landmark year in the movement to end the death penalty. The U.S. had the lowest number of executions, 20, in 25 years - down 28 % from 2015. And states imposed the fewest death sentences, 30, since the Supreme Court struck down the nation's death penalty laws in 1972 - down 39 % from 2015. For comparison, in 1996, there were 315 death sentences.

As the death penalty continues to collapse, we see the arbitrariness of it even more clearly. Of the roughly 3,000 counties in the United States, only 27 imposed death sentences this past year. A zip code can determine who lives and dies. A zip code can determine who lives and dies.

And one more record worth noting: For the 1st time in more than 40 years, no single state imposed more than 10 executions. In fact, there were only 5 states that executed anyone at all in 2016.

Just 2 states (Texas and Georgia) accounted for 80 % of the executions this past year. Even America's deadliest state when it comes to executions - Texas - had the fewest executions in more than 2 decades, and set unprecedented record of only 4 new death sentences this past year. Granted, Georgia was the exception, setting a record the other direction by killing more people than it has since the 1950s, but juries in Georgia did not impose a single death sentence in 2016 (or 2015). So this is big.

For the 1st time in a generation, Pew Research Center found that less than 1/2 of Americans favor capital punishment. State-level polls confirm that support for the death penalty continues to decline across nearly every demographic category.

This is the time to pull the final plug on the death penalty in America.

That's why we are about to set another record: On Jan. 16-17, hundreds of us will gather at the Supreme Court. We will hear from voices of experience - survivors of death row who were wrongfully convicted, families of the executed, and the growing number of murder victims family members who have found better ways forward than execution. After the words, we will put our bodies on the line, marching to the Supreme Court and calling for our highest court to stop executions, once and for all.

We march on Jan. 17 because it is the 40th anniversary of the 1st "modern-era" execution, after our courts ruled in favor of the death penalty following a decade-long moratorium. On that day, Gary Gilmore was executed by firing squad in Utah in revenge for his murders of Max Jenson and Ben Bushnell. Since then there have been 1,442 other executions. We will hold 40 signs, one for each year since 1977, with the names of those executed each year. We will also carry roses for the victims - both those who have been murdered and those who have been executed - declaring that violence is the disease ... not the cure.

And we will kneel in prayer that God would help us end this terrible practice of trying to kill to show that killing is wrong. Because it is illegal to assemble on the steps of the Supreme Court, we will likely set one final record - the most people arrested protesting capital punishment in America. But what we want is not just another record. We want to make history. We want to make capital punishment history. And we will not stop until the executions stop.

(source: Shane Claiborne is a Red Letter Christian and a founding partner of The Simple Way community, a radical faith community in Philadelphia. His forthcoming book, Executing Grace: Why It is Time to Put the Death Penalty to Death, comes out June 2016----Sojourners)

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Airport shooter faces death penalty but actual execution appears a long shot

Federal death penalty cases are exceedingly rare, but prosecutors are already exploring the possibility of seeking execution for a military veteran who flew from Alaska to Fort Lauderdale to gun down nearly a dozen airport travelers.

For federal prosecutors, the contemplated capital case against 26-year-old Santiago Esteban won't be so much a whodunit - after all, he surrendered immediately after the deadly attack at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport.

Rather, they will have to prove the former Army reservist premeditated the violent assault - and disprove the defendant's likely insanity defense that he didn't know right from wrong when he opened fire in a baggage claim area last Friday.

The decision to pursue the death penalty against Santiago, accused of killing 5 people and injuring 6 others, carries such gravity that it must be made by the U.S. Attorney General, with significant input from the U.S. Attorney's Office as well as the defendant's lawyers in South Florida.

Prosecutors will be weighing the pros and cons, deciding whether to put a federal grand jury on notice of their plans to pursue the death penalty when it considers an indictment before Santiago's arraignment on Jan. 23.

"There just aren't that many murder cases that lend themselves to the federal system and so almost all of them go to the state," said Miami defense lawyer Allan Kaiser, who worked as a federal prosecutor in South Florida for 16 years. "And as rare as these cases are, you can't just jump at the prospect of seeking a death penalty."

Even if Santiago were convicted and sentenced to die, an execution may be unlikely. The U.S. government, using lethal injection, has only executed three inmates since the federal death penalty was brought back in 1988. The last execution came in 2003, when Gulf War veteran Louis Jones was put to death for raping and murdering a teenage Army recruit in Texas. The feds earlier executed Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh, and Juan Raul Garza, a drug trafficker who murdered three rivals in Texas. For now, there are only 59 federal inmates awaiting execution, a small fraction of the hundreds on state death rows across the country. They are housed at a penitentiary in Terre Haute, Ind.

The 60th will likely be Dylan Roof, who shot and killed 9 black worshipers at a church in Charleston, S.C. A federal jury convicted him of hate crimes, and later recommended the death penalty. He is awaiting his final sentencing.

Federal prosecutors have only considered or sought the death penalty in a handful of Florida cases in the past decade.

Getting juries to go along isn't easy.

In 2003, prosecutors asked a jury for death against Jose Denis, a former Florida State University student accused of fatally shooting a cocaine dealer, point blank in the head, during a drug rip-off in a Hialeah motel room. But jurors, unsure if he was was the one who pulled the trigger, sentenced him to life in prison instead.

The outcome displeased U.S. District Judge Federico Moreno, who said he would have imposed death - but federal law prohibits a judge from overruling the jury.

In another high-profile case in 2007, federal prosecutors filed notice of charging the death penalty against two men who shot and killed the four-person crew of the Joe Cool charter boat, dumping their bodies overboard on the high seas. But ultimately, the attorney general did not authorize the death penalty. One defendant struck a plea deal before trial, resulting in life imprisonment. The other went to trial and was convicted, then sentenced to life.

Only one Florida federal case has resulted in the death penalty being meted out since the U.S. government reinstated the punishment almost 30 years ago. The defendants: Daniel Troya and Ricardo Sanchez Jr., who are now on federal death row for the 2009 slaying of a family, including 2 children, on the side of the Florida Turnpike in Palm Beach County.

While most death-penalty murder cases unfold in state court, Santiago is charged federally because the violent rampage took place at an international airport. Under federal law, he could be be punished by death if convicted of the 3 federal felonies.

Federal prosecutors have already announced they may seek the death penalty, saying the shooter admitted after his arrest that he planned the attack and bought a one-way ticket from Anchorage via Minneapolis to Fort Lauderdale. They will try to show his premeditation and intent to kill multiple victims who were elderly and vulnerable to make their case for the death penalty.

Defense lawyers must now begin compiling "mitigation" - the details of Santiago's biography that may spare him the possibility of execution.

In Santiago's case, his mitigation will undoubtedly focus on his history of mental illness, his stay in an Alaska psychiatric facility and his military experience in Iraq, including possible post-traumatic stress disorder.

2 months ago, Santiago went to the FBI in Anchorage to tell agents that he was hearing voices urging him to support the Islamic State terrorist group and that the CIA was pressuring him to watch training videos. Agents referred him to local police, who took his handgun from him while he underwent a psychiatric evaluation for a few days and then gave the firearm back to him in December.

Santiago is now accused of using that same weapon, a Walther 9mm, in the deadly attack at the Fort Lauderdale airport.

"This guy was clearly mentally ill. He reached out to the FBI because of his paranoia," said Miami capital-litigation lawyer Terry Lenamon, who is not involved in the case. "There will be a lot of mitigation to work with."

Kaiser, the former federal prosecutor who was involved as a defense attorney in the 2007 Joe Cool case, agreed with him.

"It's a tough death case," Kaiser said, citing Santiago's mental health problems, his approaching the FBI and his recovering the firearm from police. "Once you start peeling back the onion, you never know what you're going to find."

Miami defense attorney Bruce Fleisher, who has been involved in more than 80 capital and homicide cases, said no one should jump to conclusions about Santiago's state of mind based soley on his cold, calculating demeanor shown on an airport surveillance video of the shooting.

Fleisher said Santiago's defense team - including the federal public defender's office assigned to represent him this week - will have to conduct a complete historical, medical and psychiatric evaluation to assess his profile and gauge what made him snap.

"I don't think anyone can offer their opinion until they do their due dilligence," Fleisher said. "It's the ultimate due dilligence to investigate every aspect of your client's life. ... Does he have a viable insanity defense?"

Santiago's lawyers are expected to present mitigating factors to Miami's U.S. attorney, who must decide whether to recommend execution as a possible sentence. Then, a Department of Justice committee in Washington D.C. would meet to decide whether to recommend the ultimate punishment.

The process requires that defense lawyers fly to Washington D.C. to present their mitigation again.

That's what happened when Lenamon flew to D.C. on behalf of Reginald Mitchell, who was accused of killing an armored-car courier at the Calder Casino and Race Course. Prosecutors decided against the death penalty, and Mitchell wound up sentenced to 30 years in prison.

Ultimately, the decision will be up to the U.S. Attorney General, likely to be Sen. Jeff Sessions, who many expect to take a harder line on capital punishment than his predecessors under President Barack Obama. "We're going to be in a Republican administration," Lenamon said. "I think it's a distinct possibility that they may authorize the death penalty for him."

For the defense team, building that psychological and medical profile of Santiago will go hand-in-hand with preparing for the inevitable insanity defense.

But insanity defenses are notoriously difficult - lawyers must prove that a killer was insane enough that they didn't know right from wrong at the time of the crime.

1 prominent example: Miami's Liset Hernandez, who was driven to stab her 9-month-old baby to death by voices in her head warning her of the arrival of the Antichrist. Days after the 2006 murder, Hernandez was found covered in blood, hiding inside her closet with her older daughter.

Prosecutors agreed that Hernandez didn't know right from wrong, and she was acquitted by reason of insanity. Today, she remains at a home for the mentally ill, under court supervision.

But in Santiago's case, prosecutors would likely be able to prove a methodical premeditation: He packed his gun in a case, flew cross-country on a 1-way ticket, loaded his gun in an airport bathroom and cooly opened fire - before encountering a deputy while exiting the airport, then surrendering to police.

Santiago's "goal-directed" behavior will make an insanity defense difficult to prove by "clear and convincing evidence," said G.P. Della Ferra, a Miami death-penalty defense lawyer.

"You would presume if someone were in a full-blown manic episode - and didn't know right from wrong - they wouldn't have the capability to check in a gun, bring it to Florida, get it off the plane, load it and start firing," Della Ferra said. "All that shows he was acting pretty rationally."

(source: miamiherald.com)

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Bishop opposes death sentence for man convicted of killing churchgoers

Jurors unanimously agreed to sentence Dylann Roof to death for killing 9 black churchgoers, but the local Catholic bishop has reiterated the Catholic Church's opposition to the use of capital punishment.

"We are all sinners, but through the father's loving mercy and Jesus's redeeming sacrifice upon the cross, we have been offered the gift of eternal life," said Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone of Charleston, S.C.

"The Catholic opposition to the death penalty, therefore, is rooted in God's mercy. The church believes the right to life is paramount to every other right as it affords the opportunity for conversion, even of the hardened sinner," he added.

"Sentencing Dylann Roof to death conflicts with the church's teaching that all human life is sacred, even for those who have committed the most heinous of crimes. Instead of pursuing death, we should be extending compassion and forgiveness to Mr. Roof, just as some of the victims' families did at his bond hearing in June 2015," the bishop added.

The jury had to reach a unanimous decision to sentence Roof to death. In closing statements before the deliberation Jan. 10, the unrepentant 22-year-old Roof told jurors that "I still feel like I had to do it," the Associated Press reported.

Had they disagreed, he would have been automatically sentenced to life in prison. He was convicted of 33 federal charges last month, including hate crimes. Roof acted as his own attorney and did not question any witnesses. In his FBI confession, he said he hoped the massacre would bring back segregation or start a race war, the Associated Press reported.

Guglielmone offered prayers of support for those who were killed and their families.

"Our Catholic faith sustains our solidarity with and support for the victims of the Emanuel AME Church massacre and their relatives. We commit ourselves to walk with these family members as well as the survivors as they continue to heal from the trial and this tragedy," he said.

The bishop asked people to continue to pray for the victims, survivors and families connected with the shooting. He also encouraged people to pray for Roof and his family.

"May he acknowledge his sins, convert to the Lord and experience his loving mercy," Bishop Guglielmone said.

Reverend Clementa Pinckney, pastor of Emanuel AME Church, Tywanza Sanders, Reverend Sharonda Singleton, Reverend DePayne Middleton-Doctor, Reverend Daniel Simmons Sr., Reverend Cynthia Hurd, Myra Thompson, Ethel Lance, and Susie Jackson were killed in the shooting.

(source: cruxnow.com----Contributing to this report was The Catholic Miscellany, newspaper of the Diocese of Charleston, S.C.)

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Once 'near genius,' Marvin Gabrion's path to death row marked by abuse, mental illness, violence

Death-row inmate Marvin Gabrion may have been born into poverty, abuse and neglect. But in his early years, he showed promise, having a strong intellect and tender side for others.

He routinely helped elderly family, and cared for a cousin with mild mental disabilities while others shied away.

Described by a classmate as "very smart - near genius," he had an IQ of 121, which is at the lower end of the "very superior intelligence" category.

These descriptions and more are outlined in an incredibly detailed report, now filed with the court, that examines Gabrion's life and family stretching back four generations. It includes sobering vignettes about mental illness, mental and physical abuse, poverty, substance abuse and violence.

It's being used by his attorneys in Gabrion's quest to set aside his death penalty and conviction stemming from the murder of Rachel Timmerman, 19, of Cedar Springs, who was bound and drowned in 1997 before she could testify against Gabrion at a rape trial.

Despite his smarts, Gabrion didn't want to act like he was better than anyone else, the report said. Mostly, he was a loner, though he did stand up for other kids getting picked on. He stayed out of trouble. His presence in the school lunchroom could easily go unnoticed.

He was a miler on the track team. He wasn't the fastest - his best time was 5 minutes, 16 seconds - but he worked hard and helped the team. He had a young niece and nephew who adored him.

After he graduated from high school, he began a downward slide. He suffered an incredible number of head injuries, and struggled with mental illness and substance abuse.

His behavior became increasingly bizarre.

Now 63, Gabrion, is awaiting execution for the slaying of Timmerman, a teenage mom who'd accused him of rape the year before.

While Michigan law does not allow capital punishment, he was convicted under federal law - which allows executions - after prosecutors showed the young woman was slain on federal land in Newaygo County.

With his direct appeals exhausted, Gabrion has filed a civil procedure, or "collateral attack," seeking a new trial or sentence.

As part of that, his attorneys filed the 152-page document that examines Gabrion's life.

One of his 3 attorneys, Scott Graham of Portage, asked that the investigative report on Gabrion's family - extending from his parents to grandchildren of his cousins - be filed under seal because it contains highly sensitive personal information.

However, Assistant U.S. Attorney Timothy VerHey, who tried the case in 2002, said court records are presumed to be open. Filing the documents under seal would prevent public access to the Gabrion's arguments seeking to set aside his conviction and death sentence.

U.S. District Judge Robert Holmes Bell agreed. He said Gabrion's case has drawn significant public interest.

"Gabrion's collateral attack on his conviction and sentence raises numerous issues, including whether he received a fair trial, whether he received effective assistance of counsel, whether the death penalty is fairly administered, and whether his execution would violate the Eight Amendment (as cruel and unusual) in light of his mental illness and organic brain impairments," the judge said.

He said Gabrion's attorneys could redact names, which was not done.

"Marvin did not escape this family tree unscathed."

Gabrion, the 5th of 6 children, was born into a "family plagued by poverty" near Newaygo County's Round Lake.

Their father, who had a rocky relationship with their mother, questioned whether he was the biological father of all of the kids, the report said.

"To understand what catapulted him off his life's trajectory, it is important to know the many risk factors that were at play in his genetic and environmental make-up," the report said. "Several of Marvin's relatives suffer from mental illness, substance abuse and chaotic environments. Marvin did not escape this family tree unscathed."

The report said Gabrion's father gave his children "lickings," and once beat Marvin Gabrion's head into a wall until a brother rescued him.

When he was 4, Marvin Gabrion had to box an older brother as the rest of the family cheered them on, the report said.

Marvin Gabrion said that as a child, he did not get the same quality of clothes as his siblings, so he would steal them. "My mother would beat me up in stores when I asked for clothes," he said.

When he was about 12, 2 brothers held him down and "tried to smash his head with a large rock. Around that time, a brother fired a gun at him, the report said.

"When the family was short of money, Marvin Sr. complained they should have sold Marvin."

The family lived in a small cabin built by the father. The six children shared a bedroom partitioned by curtains.

They later moved to White Cloud. That house was described as "disgusting," with chickens and turkeys wandering inside and out.

A classmate recalled that Marvin Gabrion's shoes were 2 or 3 sizes too big, and split down the back. He had holes in his socks.

"Marvin was dirty and kids made fun of him," the report said. "The classmate felt bad for Marvin (and a brother), and tried to stop kids from teasing them. Marvin's whole family was dirty."

An "astonishing number" of brain injuries

The report said Gabrion's mother, Elaine, encouraged drug use by her children, and was busted trying to smuggle marijuana into jail for a son in 1980. She also taught her grandchildren to steal, the report said.

Meanwhile, Gabrion was being treated for bipolar disorder.

After he graduated from high school, Gabrion suffered an "astonishing number" of brain injuries in up to 14 car or motorcycle crashes. He went through the windshield more than once. Once, during a carjacking, he was hit in the head with an object.

A family friend hit Gabrion in the head with a baseball bat during a fight.

The head injuries took a toll, the report said.

He had trouble with everyday tasks. Tests showed he was in the "border-line range for a possible organic mental disorder ..." the report said.

Gabrion had lived in Arizona for a time in the 1970s. When he returned in 1979, his family noticed that he had "changed." He was "suspicious" and "acting paranoid."

He also drank excessively.

He frequented a bar where an in-law worked. Invariably, he would end up in a confrontation.

"Marvin would ... one by one ... piss off everyone in the bar ... it happened all the time," she said.

An evaluation in 1993 found "dramatic cognitive and behavioral impairments," the report said.

He was homeless, sometimes living on a roof on South Division Avenue, or in a shed in Comstock Park. His aggressive behavior got him thrown out of a shelter.

In 1996, he attended a high-school reunion where he was "completely nuts," a classmate told investigators.

He had a pencil mustache and had changed the pronunciation of his name.

By that time, he had racked up nine arrests for drunken driving. He got "even crazier" while drinking, the report said.

After he was arrested for Timmerman's killing, he wrote odd letters, in what sometimes appeared to be "indecipherable code."

He wrote the judge, prosecutors, the victim's family, penned letters to executed Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh, and the owner of the Dallas Mavericks, despite pleas by his attorneys to stop.

He tried to kill himself and heard voices, the report said. He attacked his attorney, in front of the jury, during the sentencing phase of his trial.

"During more than 15 years of incarceration and for about 40 years in total, Marvin Gabrion has behaved like a man suffering from severe mental illness," the report said.

(source: mlive.com)

JAMAICA:

Capital punishment and justice

Opponents of capital punishment often put forward the proposition that it doesn't deter murder. That proposition is unprovable. But more than that, it disregards the reason for capital punishment persisting throughout history: the need for retributive justice.

Inasmuch as a concern to prevent crime is noble, it being the reason for not executing murderers minimises the gravity of murder; and it denies the survivors of victims the psychic satisfaction that condign punishment has been suffered for their loss. To me, that isn't justice.

So what is justice? Russel Kirk, writing for the Heritage Foundation in 1993, gave this as the classical definition of justice: "The classical definition, which comes to us through Plato, Aristotle, Saint Ambrose, and Saint Augustine of Hippo, is expressed in a single phrase: suum cuique, or to each his own."

As this is put in Justinian's Corpus Juris Civilis, "Justice is a habit whereby a man renders to each one his due with constant and perpetual will." (The meaning of justice).

This means that justice must be constant, being 'a habit'; and it is about punishing the offender, not deterring crime or rehabilitating the offender. That kind of justice is obvious and retributive. It validates the enduring maxim from Chief Justice Lord Hewart that, "It is not merely of some importance, but of fundamental importance that justice should not only be done, but should be manifestly and undoubtedly seen to be done."

DETERRING CRIME

Those who insist that executing a man for murder doesn't deter other men from committing murder, because murders continue despite executions, should tell us why we should punish people for any crime. For crimes continue despite punishment. People are punished every day for theft, child abuse, and a host of other crimes, yet other people continue to do them, well knowing of the punishment.

To argue that the death penalty doesn't deter murder, and insist on giving life sentence instead, implies that life sentence is a deterrent; but despite life sentences, murder continues. Since life sentence is a deterrent in the view of those who oppose execution on the ground that it isn't a deterrent why don't we just catch a bunch of people and lock them up for life, to prevent murder?

C.S. Lewis, British thinker and apologist, said of the deterrence argument: "If deterrence is all that matters, the execution of an innocent man, provided the public think him guilty, would be fully justified."

Another argument against the death penalty is that it is cruel and unusual punishment. That is, it is too severe for a human being. But is it cruel and unusual for a man who has taken the life of another human being, in a most brutal fashion, as is murder, to be given the same or equivalent treatment he gave to his victim?

MERCIFUL PUNISHMENT

I believe there is an element of mercy in the application of the death penalty, especially today in the Western world. Convicts are no longer drawn and quartered, devoured by animals, crucified, burned at the stake, stoned, and have their heads chopped off by the guillotine. Lethal injection and electrocution are clean and efficient methods: the convict gets his dessert in minutes, not suffering the agonising ordeal to which he subjected his victim or victims.

And a man who knows he will be executed at a set time has the opportunity to make things right between himself and his Maker before his execution. In light of this, execution could be an instant passage into eternal bliss.

Contrast that with having a man in prison for life, sometimes for decades, in the most inhuman conditions, where he is denied contact with the outside world. That is cruel and unusual punishment.

Finally, to those who insist that DNA has shown that sometimes innocent people have been executed, I say that since DNA is so precise, it means the chance of executing an innocent person, where DNA evidence is available, is almost nil. That is even more reason for executions.

Following the reasoning that since innocent people have been executed we should not have capital punishment, we should then dispense with all types of punishment, for innocent people are mistakenly punished for crime every day.

(source: Ewin James is a freelance journalist; Jamaica Gleaner)

IRAN----executions

Prisoner Hanged on Murder Charges

A prisoner was reportedly executed at Urmia Central Prison on murder charges. According to the news agency, Kurdistan Human Rights Network, the name of the prisoner is Nasser Soltani.

According to the human rights news agency, HRANA, Mr. Soltani's execution sentence was carried out on Wednesday January 11 while 3 other prisoners, including a woman, who had been transferred to solitary confinement along with Mr. Soltani on Tuesday, were returned to their cells after their death sentences were postponed.

The Kurdistan Human Rights Network has also identified 2 of the prisoners whose execution sentences were postponed: Mohammad Rasoul Hashtiani and Zahra Mohammadpour.

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Prisoner Hanged on Drug Charges

A prisoner was reportedly hanged at Maragheh Prison on drug related charges. According to close sources, the prisoner, who has been identified as Morteza Heydari, was executed on Tuesday January 10. Close sources say Mr. Heydari is the father of a 5-year-old child.

"Morteza was arrested on May 11, 2012 for possession of 3 kilograms of crystal meth and 3 kilograms and 600 grams of heroin. He was sentenced to death by the Malekan Revolutionary Court on June 10, 2013 and then he was exiled to Maragheh Prison," a confirmed source tells Iran Human Rights.

According to reports received by Iran Human Rights, there are 4 other prisoners in Maragheh Prison who are in imminent danger of execution. They are:

1. Iraj Ghaffouri, sentenced to death on drug related charges

2. Akbar Moradi, sentenced to death on murder charges

3. Hossein Fatemi, sentenced to death on drug related charges

4. Ali Mosloufi, sentenced to death on drug related charges

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12 Prisoners in Imminent Danger of Execution for Drug Charges

Iran Human Rights has obtained information about 1 of the 12 prisoners who were transferred to solitary confinement in Karaj Central Prison on Sunday January 8 in preparation for their executions. All 12 prisoners are reportedly sentenced to death for alleged drug related offenses and are still being held in solitary.

Close sources say Mohammad Soleimani was arrested 18 months ago by Iranian drug enforcement agents based solely on the testimonies of 2 prisoners. These 2 prisoners, who were caught with a total amount of 820 grams of crack, claimed to Iranian authorities that the crack was delivered to them by Mohammad Soleimani. 1 of the prisoners was sentenced to a 15-year prison term and the other to life imprisonment while Mr. Soleimani was sentenced to death by the Karaj Revolutionary Court.

"Mohammad is father to 3 children ages 1, 2 and 6. If he is executed, his children will become orphaned. They didn't even find 1 gram of drugs on him. He was sentenced to death based solely on the claims of others," a source close to Mr. Soleimani tells Iran Human Rights.

"The 12 prisoners were supposed to be hanged by now, but because of Mr. Rafsanjani's death, their execution sentences have been postponed for a couple days."

(source for all: Iran Human Rights)

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Halt Imminent Executions ---- 12 Alleged Drug Offenders at Risk of Death

Iran should immediately halt the execution of 12 men convicted of drug offenses, scheduled for January 14, 2017, in Karaj Central Prison, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International said today. The human rights organizations expressed concern that, despite repeated government promises, Iran has not made any tangible progress in reducing its alarming execution rate.

On January 8, officials at the prison, located in Alborz province, west of Tehran, transferred at least 12 people sentenced to death on drug charges to solitary confinement, notifying them that their execution was imminent. However, the execution was postponed due to the death of Iran's former President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani. Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have been able to confirm the identities of 4 of the 12: Ali Mohammad Lorestani, Mohammad Soleimani, Ali Ebadi, and Majid Badrlou. Sources familiar with the cases of these men said that those accused did not have access to a lawyer during interrogations, and that the verdicts for Lorestani, Soleimani, and Ebadi were based on other prisoners' confessions.

"Iranian officials should end all executions and outlaw the use of the death penalty for drug offenders, which does not meet international legal standards," said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. "Packing prisons with drug offenders and rushing to send them to death row without due process in highly flawed trials will just worsen Iran's justice problem while doing nothing to solve Iran's drug problem."

Iran's drug law mandates the death penalty for the trafficking, possession, or trade of as little as 30 grams of synthetic drugs such as heroin, morphine, cocaine, or their chemical derivatives. Iran executed hundreds of people in 2016, the majority for drug offenses. According to Hassan Noroozi, a member of parliament, there are 5,000 people on death row for drug offenses in Iran, the majority between ages 20 and 30.

The Iranian authorities arrested Soleimani, who is from the city of Kermanshah and the father of 3 children, in Karaj in March 2015, in connection with the alleged possession of between 700 and 800 grams of heroin. Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have communicated with an informed source who has said that Soleimani was not in possession of any drugs at the time of his arrest. According to the source, his sentence was based on the confessions of 2 men who implicated Soleimani after they themselves were caught in possession of drugs.

Another informed source said that the Supreme Court quashed Soleimani's death sentence in July 2016 and granted him a retrial. However, he was later re-sentenced to death after a summary retrial, which was limited to one brief session, before a revolutionary court in Karaj. In a 2nd review of Soleimani's case, the Supreme Court rejected his appeal and upheld the death sentence.

Sources close to Lorestani told Human Rights Watch that authorities in Alborz province arrested him in October 2012, detaining him for at least 18 days at a police detention center and interrogating him without access to legal counsel. "His family had no idea where the authorities took [him]," a source said. "1 of his fingers was broken when he was transferred to prison."

Authorities arrested Badrlou, a 29-year-old taxi driver, and seized 990 grams of heroin from his car on July 15, 2011. A source familiar with his case told Human Rights Watch that Badrlou did not appeal, as he feared it would worsen the legal outcome. The source also reported that "authorities severely beat Badrlou when he was detained for interrogation at Iran's Drug Control Office's detention center."

"The death penalty is a cruel, inhuman, and degrading punishment that violates the right to life. Its use is abhorrent in any circumstance, but carrying out these executions would be particularly tragic given ongoing discussions in the Iranian parliament that could lead to the abolition of the death penalty for nonviolent drug offenses," said Philip Luther, research and advocacy director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International.

Instead of condemning 12 people to the gallows, Iran should immediately establish an official moratorium on executions and focus on working to abolish the death penalty in Iran once and for all, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International said.

In December 2015, members of parliament submitted a proposal to eliminate the death penalty for drug offenses, except for armed smuggling, but the initiative did not move forward. On November 23, 2016, 100 members of parliament introduced new draft legislation that is weaker than the 2015 attempt, as the bill only forbids the use of the death penalty in the case of nonviolent drug offenses and maintains several categories of drug offenses that will still attract the death penalty. The new draft bill is currently under consideration by several parliamentary commissions.

Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have repeatedly documented serious due process and fair trial violations, including the use of torture and other ill-treatment and summary trials, in capital drug cases in Iran.

The United Nations Human Rights Committee has stated that a death sentence passed after an unfair proceeding violates both the right to life and the prohibition of torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment. Even in countries that retain the death penalty, international human rights law states that the use of death penalty should be limited to the "most serious crimes" - crimes involving intentional killing - which does not include drug offenses. Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International oppose the death penalty in all circumstances because it is inherently irreversible and is the ultimate cruel, inhuman, and degrading punishment.

(source: Human Righs Watch)

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Hangings in 2017 and 26 Prisoner Facing Imminent Execution

On January 11, the inhumane mullahs' regime executed a prisoner in Urmia Prison, northwest Iran. The day before another prisoner was sent to the gallows in Maraghe Prison, northwest Iran. On January 8, 2 other prisoners were hanged in public on charges of theft in the town of Sarpol Zahab in Kermanshah Province, western Iran. Youths are being hanged in public at a time when senior regime officials, their family members and close friends are involved in the largest embezzlement cases of Iran's history. One example amounted to nearly $3 billion, and those involved in such thefts and plundering of the Iranian people's God-given riches remain safe and sound from any accountability.

At least 21 executions have been registered from January 1 to this day.

In the meantime during the past few days 22 prisoners in Central and Gohardasht prisons of Karaj have been transferred to solitary confinement in preparation for their executions. 4 inmates in Maraghe Prison are scheduled to be executed shortly. The Iranian Resistance calls for urgent action by international human rights organizations to save the lives of these 26 prisoners.

The Iranian Resistance calls on all people across Iran, especially the brave youth, to protest barbaric executions and rise to the support of the families of those executed, families of prisoners.

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

INDIA:

"Death sentence for honour killing will act as a deterrent"

The death sentence awarded to a couple who were found guilty of murdering a Dalit woman would discourage people from indulging in honour killing, said Evidence executive director A. Kadir here on Thursday.

Speaking to reporters, he said that though death penalty was opposed by many organisations who even demanded for scrapping the capital punishment, the death sentence awarded to the couple would send a strong signal to people who committed crimes and roamed scot free.

A Tirunelveli court had sentenced death penalty to a couple after they were found guilty of killing a woman, Kalpana, in May 2016. The judgement was not only delivered in a record time, but also came as an eye-opener to many such honour killing crimes pending before various courts in the country,

In Tamil Nadu alone, there were 148 honour killing crimes reported in the last 3 years. "Only the Tirunelveli court had expedited the case and awarded death penalty to the killers...We will certainly take this judgement as a precedence and impress upon other courts to deliver justice," he said.

The victim's husband said that the court had delivered a "historical judgement" and through this order honour killing should come to an end. Thanking the judge, the district administration, the public prosecutor, the Tirunelveli police and others for their cooperation during the trial, he said that the 2-year-old child, which was witness to the cold-blooded murder, was also given compensation as per the Supreme Court order.

(source: The Hindu)

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SC to hear death row of Sonu Sardar, accused of killing 5 in 2004

The Supreme Court on Thursday will hear the appeal field by Sonu Sardar, who has been awarded death penalty for killing 5 persons of a family, including a woman and 2 children, during a dacoity bid in Chhattisgarh's Cher village in November 2004.

In November last year, the top court had asked Delhi High Court to decide on a plea of the Chhattisgarh Government challenging its jurisdiction to hear and grant a stay on the execution of Sonu.

The convict has been awarded death penalty by a trial court in Chhattisgarh, the decision was later upheld by the state high court and the Supreme Court as well.

The execution was stayed by the Delhi High Court on March 2, 2015. Challenging the decision, the state government told the apex court that Delhi High Court had no jurisdiction to stay the execution of convict Sonu Sardar as the offence had taken place in Chhattisgarh. The apex court had on September 2 sought response from the Centre on a plea of Chhattisgarh government challenging the jurisdiction of Delhi High Court.

It had also stayed the proceedings in the case pending before the Delhi High Court.

The state government had said that just because there was a delay in deciding on his mercy petition, it cannot be a ground for the matter to fall in the jurisdiction of Delhi High Court. It had also sought transfer of the matter from the Delhi High Court to Chhattisgarh High Court.

(source: newkerala.com)

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Chouhan bats for death to rapists

Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan has made a pitch for capital punishment to rapists in the backdrop of rise in heinous crimes against women.

"Deliberations should be made across the country for a stringent law that allows awarding death penalty to rapists. Political parties, saints and social activists should initiate action in this direction," Chouhan said addressing the ongoing 'Namami Devi Narmade - Seva Yatra' at Sandiya village of Hoshangabad district yesterday.

"A law (in this regard) should be enacted by bringing amendments in the Constitution," he said here referring to women safety in general.

On the de-addiction campaign, Chouhan assured that liquor shops won't be opened on banks of Narmada.

"Along with towns situated on the banks of river Narmada, the campaign will be conducted across the state," he added.

Chouhan also administered a pledge to the people for conserving Narmada.

"Life is not possible without water and Narmada has made a remarkable contribution in the development of Madhya Pradesh. Damage has been caused by felling trees on both the banks of Narmada. If this situation continues, we will not be able to see water in the lifeline of Madhya Pradesh in the next 50 years," Chouhan said exhorting people to save the river.

(source: Business Standard)

PAKISTAN:

Syed suggests death penalty for politicians consuming alcohol

Awami National Party (ANP) Senator Shahi Syed Friday suggested death penalty to politicians who drink alcohol, while Rehman Malik demanded a mandatory DNA test for them.

Senate Standing Committee on Interior met on Friday here, with Senator Rehman Malik in the chair. The meeting had discussions on local and foreign booze.

"Parliamentarians represent the people and if they are not punished for doing a wrong thing then why should poor people be?" he questioned, adding that politicians should be hanged to death for consuming liquor, while a lay man should face 6 months or a year in prison.

Asked about marijuana, he said, "People call it darwesh's intoxicant, but that too is wrong and should also be prohibited".

On the occasion, Rehman Malik said that all politicians should undergo a DNA test, adding, "It should be declared whether someone ever consumed alcohol, marijuana or opium, prior to contesting an election".

He was complimented by Syed that if this happened then majority of politicians would be disqualified. The ANP senator regretted that a Hindu is named for selling and consuming liquor, but it is actually done by a Muslim.

Javed Abbasi said whoever produces and sells moonshine it is illegal.

Consuming and selling liquor is prohibited in Pakistan; it's sale, however, is permitted to people of other religions through licensed liquor stores.

There have also been numerous casualties in the wake of locally-prepared toxic moonshine on a number of occasions.

(source: geo.tv)

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Pakistan Court Stays Execution of Mentally Ill Convict

A Pakistani court on Thursday stayed the execution of a mentally ill convict who was sentenced to death in 2003 for murdering a fellow police officer over a land dispute, a rights group said.

The order from the Lahore High Court came just days before the scheduled execution of 55-year-old ex-police officer Khizar Hayat, said Wassam Waheed, a spokesman for the Justice Project Pakistan.

The court order also asked the government to provide a new report on the convicted man's health by Jan. 30, said Waheed, adding that the group was "relieved to hear" of the temporary reprieve.

Hayat's mother, Iqbal Bano, urged President Mamnoon Hussain to pardon her son. She said she visited her son in prison and that he "doesn't know what is going to happen to him, he is not in a stable state of mind."

"My son needs medical treatment, not execution," she told The Associated Press.

Last year, Pakistan's Supreme Court stayed the execution of Imdad Ali, a convict diagnosed with schizophrenia. Pakistani and international rights groups have also pleaded for a pardon for Ali.

A court-mandated medical board in July confirmed that Hayat suffers from a mental illness.

Sarah Belal, the executive director of Justice Project Pakistan, said Hayat's execution would be "unlawful and inhumane."

Pakistani and international rights groups have for years called for a ban on executions in this South Asian country. Pakistani authorities have executed 427 prisoners since 2014, when they lifted that ban on the death penalty following a Taliban attack on a school in Peshawar that killed 150 people, nearly all of them schoolchildren.

Pakistan is now considered to be one of the world's top executioners.

Maya Foa, the director of the London-based rights group Reprieve, welcomed Thursday's court ruling, but said the case was "yet another example of how Pakistan's death penalty system is broken. Since the authorities' execution spree began 2 years ago, there have been disastrous miscarriages of justice, including the hanging of juveniles and innocent people."

(source: Associated Press)

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Court Stays Execution of Mentally Ill Ex-Policeman in Pakistan

A Pakistani court has stayed the execution of a severely mentally ill man, who had been due to be hanged next week.

At a hearing in Lahore today, the court granted a stay of execution for Khizar Hayat - a former policeman who has been diagnosed with schizophrenia - until January 30th. Mr Hayat's lawyers at the Justice Project Pakistan (JPP) had argued that his hanging would be illegal.

Mr Hayat's execution had been set for Tuesday (17th), even though proceedings in his case are still pending before the Lahore High Court. Presiding today, Justice Shahid Hameed Dar reportedly said it would be "unjust" if the Court did not wait for an upcoming Supreme Court judgment in a similar case - that of mentally ill prisoner Imdad Ali - to determine how to proceed with Mr Hayat.

Mr Hayat is detained in isolation in a prison hospital ward. In 2015, the courts halted an initial government plan to execute him after seeing jail records documenting his severe mental illness. The documents include comments from doctors that Mr Hayat "is suffering from active symptoms of severe psychosis".

The execution of mentally ill people is prohibited under Pakistani and international law. Pakistan has faced criticism from the UN, and from countries including the UK, over its plans to hang mentally ill prisoners such as Mr Ali and Mr Hayat.

Concerns have also been raised over wrongful executions in Pakistan, after 2 brothers who had already been hanged were found to be innocent by the Supreme Court. As in Mr Hayat's case, a warrant was issued for their execution by the lower courts, despite the pending proceedings in a higher court.

Pakistan's 8,000-strong death row is the largest in the world, and the government has hanged over 421 prisoners since resuming executions in December 2014.

Commenting, Maya Foa, a director of Reprieve - which is assisting Mr Hayat - said:

"The court's decision to stay the execution of Khizar Hayat is extremely welcome. However, Khizar's case - like that of Imdad Ali - is yet another example of how Pakistan's death penalty system is broken. Since the authorities' execution spree began 2 years ago, there have been disastrous miscarriages of justice - including the hanging of juveniles and innocent people. The Pakistani government has issued execution warrants for Khizar 3 times despite ongoing legal proceedings, in clear breach of international law. The authorities should establish a moratorium on executions, and stop any further injustices from being carried out their name."

(source: Reprieve is a UK-based human rights organization that uses the law to enforce the human rights of prisoners, from death row to Guantanamo Bay.)

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Inhumane to hang a mentally ill prisoner

Hanging a prisoner, and that too one diagnosed as mentally ill, is inhumane and does not serve the objectives of criminal justice. Warrants being repeatedly issued for mentally ill prisoners expose serious anomalies in the justice system.

Served with his 3rd term after 14 years on death row for killing a policeman, Khizer Hayat is scheduled to be hanged on Jan. 17.

Disturbingly, despite his counsel filing an application in the Lahore High Court to stay the execution, the prison authorities approached the sessions court for the warrant.

Because Hayat's case is under review at the National Commission for Human Rights, issuing a black warrant demonstrates negligence and perverts the course of justice.

Diagnosed with schizophrenia in 2008, his medical reports were never presented as evidence to the Supreme Court by jail authorities in 2009. Again, when he was examined by a court-appointed medical board in May 2016, it was concluded he suffered from delusions and psychosis.

This lack of coordination between jail authorities, lawyers and the judicial system demonstrated on several occasions is unpardonable.

Given the irrevocable nature of the death penalty - a punishment this newspaper does not endorse - there is a critical need for the judiciary to comprehend the nature of mental illness.

In Imdad Ali's case, the Supreme Court's controversial verdict ruled schizophrenia is a "recoverable" disease in contrast to universal medical evidence stating it is incurable. That said, why have the jail authorities failed to approach the home department to hospitalize Hayat for treatment? Because the system is rigged against the poorer mentally ill prisoners, the latter's cases hinge on inept state prosecutors and jail authorities.

Given that the Ghulam brothers were wrongfully hanged - executed before their appeals were decided - the state must review capital punishment keeping in mind that there is no place for it in a society that upholds human rights as a supreme value.

(source: Editorial, Dawn)

PHILIPPINES:

Catholic dictionary entry on death penalty

The current proposed legislation seeking to reimpose the death penalty is yet again being debated on in Congress which, I understand, is evenly divided on the issue. Weighing in on the controversy, the Catholic Church now airs forcefully its opposition to the proposal which has roused my curiosity about what the Bible says on the matter. And so, I forthwith looked up the Holy Bible (Catholic version) and found appended thereto this very revealing entry in the Catholic Dictionary:

"Punishment, Capital. Inflicting the penalty of death for grave crimes. That the state has a right to inflict this severe penalty has always been the teaching of Christian theologians. The death penalty seems to be sanctioned in Gen. 9:6. 'Whosoever shall shed man's blood, his blood shall be shed.' In the Law proclaimed on Mount Sinai the death penalty was prescribed for some offenses. (Ex. 22:18 ff). Saint Paul speaks of the Roman policy of capital punishment without disapproval. (Rom. 13:4). x x x."

Interesting food for thought!

May it now be safely asserted that since time immemorial, the death penalty has always enjoyed a biblical underpinning?

BARTOLOME C. FERNANDEZ JR., retired senior commissioner, Commission on Audit

(source: opinion.inquirer.net)

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Duterte not pressuring Congress to reimpose death penalty, president's office says----Reimposing death penalty was among President Duterte's poll promises.

Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte is not pressuring lawmakers in the country to reimpose the death penalty, the presidential office said in a statement in response to recent allegations.

"The president respects the independence of Congress as a separate co-equal branch of government," Communications Secretary Martin Andanar said in the statement.

Reintroducing the death penalty was among Duterte's poll promises and he has backed the move saying it would help in fighting crime in the country. But similar to his bloody drug war, his support for capital punishment also came under fire from opposition parties and political leaders.

On Wednesday (12 January), Buhay Party List lawmaker Lito Atienza alleged that Duterte was putting pressure on the Congress to pass the reimposition of death penalty bill.

"This is the administration's initiative, not the Congress'. The death penalty is an imposition of the leadership of this administration. We congressmen, sad to say, are under pressure. Everyone is joining their majority, a mix of politicians, following the order from the higher office," Atienza was quoted by the Inquirer as saying.

In response to the allegations, Andanar said Duterte "trusts the wisdom of our lawmakers to see that the enactment of such law would benefit the nation not only by instilling respect for the law among our people but also by ending impunity and ensuring that those who commit heinous crimes are prosecuted to the full extent of the law".

The Philippine Congress has already approved a bill to bring back capital punishment, which is due to be presented to the plenary session when the Congress resumes sessions next week.

The death penalty has been a controversial issue in the country for decades with many heads of state imposing it and others abolishing it through new legislation. Former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo abolished capital punishment in June 2006, which was retained by Duterte's predecessor Benigno Aquino III.

(source: ibtimes.co.uk)

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Duterte leaves death penalty's fate to lawmakers

President Rodrigo Duterte respects the independence of Congress, communications secretary Martin Andanar stressed Thursday, January 12 following accusations that Malacanang is exerting undue pressure to members of the House of Representatives to support the re-imposition of death penalty in the country.

In a statement, Andanar said that although the revival of death penalty is a campaign promise of President Duterte and one of the priority legislative measures of his administration, "the president respects the independence of Congress as a separate co-equal branch of government."

He also stressed that the president is leaving it up to the collective wisdom of the lawmakers for the enactment of the proposed law.

"President Duterte trusts the wisdom of our lawmakers to see that the enactment of such law would benefit the nation not only by instilling respect for the law among our people but also by ending impunity and ensuring that those who commit heinous crimes are prosecuted to the full extent of the law," Andanar said.

The presidential communications secretary made the statement after a pro-life lawmaker claimed that congressmen are under pressure to pass the proposed bill to reinstate the death penalty because no less than President is advocating for it.

Buhay party-list Rep. Lito Atienza said the move to revive death penalty is an initiative of the Duterte administration and not of Congress, and thus, members of the supermajority at the House are obliged to follow orders.

In the meantime, House leaders have repeatedly denied the allegations.

The proposed bill's co-author, deputy speaker Fredenil Castro, said there is no pressure from the Palace and that the Justice Committee has yet to submit the bill to plenary.

"In fact, the bill has not yet been certified as urgent by the President," the Capiz lawmaker said.

Earlier, justice committee chair Rep. Reynaldo Umali said the proposal to re-impose the death penalty would still be subjected to a long deliberative process.

"It will still undergo a long legislative process. I am certain that what the House will eventually pass will be different from what we have approved in the committee," the Oriental Mindoro lawmaker said.

House Bill No. 1, which was filed by Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez was passed by the House Committee on Justice before Christmas and will be sent to the plenary when Congress resumes sessions next week.

Under the substitute bill, the following crimes will now be punishable by death:

--treason

--qualified piracy

--qualified bribery

--parricide

--murder

--rape

--kidnapping and serious illegal detention

--robbery with violence

--destructive arson

--plunder

--importation, selling and manufacturing of illegal drugs

--maintenance of a drug den

--possession of illegal drugs

--cultivation of plants classified as dangerous drugs

--unlawful prescription of dangerous drugs

--criminal liability of public officer for misappropriation, misapplication, or failure to account for the confiscated, seized or surrendered drugs

--criminal liability for planting evidence

--carjacking

The bill must pass the House and the Senate before it can be signed into law by the President.

(source: Manila Bulletin)

JANUARY 12, 2017:

TEXAS----execution

Texas carries out nation's 1st execution in 2017

Texas has executed death row inmate Christopher Wilkins, who was convicted of killing 2 men after one of them mocked him for falling for a phony drug deal.

The lethal injection of the 48-year-old Wilkins Wednesday is the nation's 1st execution this year. 20 were carried out in the U.S. last year, the lowest number since the 1980s.

Wilkins was declared dead at 6:29 p.m. local time.

Wilkins explained to jurors at his capital murder trial in 2008 how and why he killed his friends in Fort Worth 3 years earlier, saying he didn't care if they sentenced him to death.

The Supreme Court declined to block Wilkins' execution about 3 hours before the scheduled lethal injection. Wilkins' attorneys had argued to the Supreme Court that he had poor legal help at his trial and during earlier appeals and that the courts improperly refused to authorize money for a more thorough investigation of those claims to support other appeals and a clemency petition.

In their unsuccessful appeal to the high court, Wilkins' attorneys contended he had poor legal help at trial and during earlier appeals and that the courts improperly refused to authorize money for a more thorough investigation of his claims.

State attorneys said courts have rejected similar appeals and that defense lawyers are simply employing delaying tactics.

Wilkins was released from prison in 2005 after serving time for a federal gun possession conviction. He drove a stolen truck to Fort Worth, where he befriended Willie Freeman, 40, and Mike Silva, 33.

Court records show Freeman and his drug supplier, who wasn't identified, duped Wilkins into paying $20 for a piece of gravel that he thought was a rock of crack cocaine. Wilkins said he shot Freeman on Oct. 28, 2005, after Freeman laughed about the scam, then he shot Silva because he was there. Wilkins' fingerprints were found in Silva's wrecked SUV and a pentagram matching 1 of Wilkins' numerous tattoos had been carved into the hood.

Wilkins also testified that the day before the shootings, he shot and killed another man, Gilbert Vallejo, 47, outside a Fort Worth bar in a dispute over a pay phone, and about a week later used a stolen car to try to run down 2 people because he believed 1 of them had taken his sunglasses.

"I know they are bad decisions," Wilkins told jurors of his actions. "I make them anyway."

Wes Ball, 1 of Wilkins' trial lawyers, described him as "candid to a degree you don't see," and had hoped his appearance on the witness stand would have made jurors like him.

"It didn't work," Ball said.

While awaiting trial, authorities discovered he had swallowed a handcuff key and fashioned a knife to be used in an escape attempt.

"This guy is the classic outlaw in the model of Billy the Kid, an Old West-style outlaw," said Kevin Rousseau, the Tarrant County assistant district attorney who prosecuted Wilkins.

20 convicted killers were executed in the U.S. last year, the lowest number since the early 1980s. That tally includes 7 executions in Texas - the fewest in the state since 1996. Wilkins is among 9 Texas inmates already scheduled to die in the early months of 2017.

(source: Associated Press)

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Condemned killer of San Antonio woman loses appeal

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals has rejected an appeal from a man sent to death row for fatally stabbing a disabled woman at her San Antonio home after she refused to give him and his girlfriend money to support their $1,000-a-day drug habit.

Lawyers for 40-year-old Armando Leza contended he was innocent of the 2007 slaying of a neighbor, 57-year-old Caryl Jean Allen, and that his deficient trial lawyers contributed to a Bexar County jury's decision to convict him and give him the death penalty. The appeals court sent the appeal back to the trial court, which held a hearing and recommended the arguments be rejected.

The appeals court ruling Wednesday supports the trial court's findings.

Leza's girlfriend also was charged and testified against him in a plea deal.

(source: foxsanantonio.com)

PENNSYLVANIA:

Still only 7 jurors selected for Easton death penalty case

Attorneys in the death penalty case of Jeffrey Knoble added a juror but they also lost a juror Wednesday.

Jury selection continues in the trial of the 27-year-old Riegelsville man. He's charged with fatally shooting Andrew "Beep" White in March 2015 in the former Quality Inn hotel in Easton.

The total number of jurors holds steady at 7. The attorneys made their way through a pool of 40 prospective jurors on Monday and Tuesday. They started questioning a new pool of 56 one by one on Wednesday.

Jeffrey Knoble is charged with killing Andrew "Beep" White at a Downtown Easton hotel in 2015.

They need 12 jurors and 4 alternates before testimony can begin.

Northampton County Judge Emil Giordano hopes jury selection can wrap up by Friday, allowing testimony to begin Tuesday, Jan. 17.

(source: lehighvalleylive.com)

VIRGINIA----impending execution

Federal judge declines to delay execution over drug controversy

A judge for the US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia on Tuesday declined to delay the execution of convicted killer Ricky Gray, which is scheduled to take place January 18. Gray's attorneys argued in December that the drugs to be used during the execution were untested and potentially torturous. Judge Henry Hudson concluded that "any discomfort experienced by Gray in the execution process is unlikely to cause serious pain or suffering." He also concluded that the possibility of pain was outweighed by the harm done if the execution was delayed. Gray's attorney, Lisa Fried, stated that "it is unconstitutional ... to carry out an execution that risk chemically torturing a prisoner to death." No other state has used the mixture of drugs to be used at Gray's execution. His attorneys plan to appeal.

Capital punishment remains a controversial issue in the US and worldwide. Last Wednesday the Florida Supreme Court issued a 1-paragraph order informing judges and prosecutors that the state's death penalty procedure is unconstitutional, marking the 2nd such order in 3 months. In October the US Supreme Court vacated the death sentence of an Oklahoma man convicted of killing his girlfriend and her 2 children in a case where the trial judge permitted family members to recommend the sentence to the jury. In May a Miami judge ruled that Florida's revamped death penalty law is unconstitutional because it does not require a unanimous agreement among jurors to approve executions. In April Virginia's General Assembly voted to keep secret the identities of suppliers of lethal injection drugs. In 2002 the Supreme Court held in Atkins v. Virginia that the Eighth Amendment's proscription on cruel and unusual punishment makes the execution of individuals with intellectual disability unconstitutional, which was considered in the Moore v. Texas case. In November, Oklahoma became the 1st state to have the death penalty explicitly added to their state constitution as legal. According to a report by the Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC), only 5 out of 31 states that have the death penalty held executions in 2016.

(source: jurist.org)

FLORIDA:

House panel reviews Supreme Court death decisions

In December, the Supreme Court of Florida ruled that death row inmates sentenced before 2002 would not get a new hearing, while those given death afterwards would, even though all were sentenced under a sentenced under a law declared unconstitutional;. Law professor Michael Allen told the house committee reviewing the opinion that it made no sense whatsoever.

"The Florida Supreme Court's decision to make the rule retroactive to some people but not others, finds absolutely no support in anything I'm aware of anywhere in the country says the law professor.

Prosecutors have opposed giving all death row inmates a 2nd bite at the sentencing apple. State Attorney Brad King, who prosecutes cases in west central Florida says death is the only appropriate sentence for some crimes.

"Sometimes you can only know that difference if you've been a cop like me and been to scenes or been the state attorney and been to scenes, and see the hole that a little girl was buried in, after she was put in a plastic bag alive, after she was rapped and then she was buried and left to suffocate to death and then the question of the death penalty I think becomes a little more real" said an emotional King.

Last Thursday, the state's high court issued an option saying no death cases can be prosecuted until lawmakers re-enact a unanimous jury requirement, but the court quickly withdrew the opinion, calling it premature.

(source: flanews.com)

OHIO:

New details revealed in killing of 89-year-old Northside man

A woman facing the death penalty in the killing of an 89-year-old man told detectives she "snapped" before stabbing him with a large kitchen knife, prosecutors said.

Margaret Kinney, 41, and her boyfriend, 43-year-old Michael Stumph, then used a pillow to try to suffocate Otto Stewart, according to prosecutors.

Hamilton County Assistant Prosecutor Seth Tieger said Wednesday at Kinney's arraignment that the couple wrapped a cord around Stewart's neck, tightening it "like a tourniquet with a letter opener."

Prosecutors say the killing happened Nov. 19 at Stewart's Northside home. Stewart's body was found nearly a month later by his landlord. The couple was homeless and Tieger said they had befriended Stewart, a military veteran.

They lived with him "for a period of time," Tieger said, and were "taking advantage of him."

Prosecutors have previously said Stewart was lending money to the couple, who were homeless, but eventually told them to find jobs and pay him back.

Tieger said Kinney told homicide detectives that "she snapped...got a large knife and stabbed him."

Prosecutors say Kinney and Stumph then took cash and other items from Stewart, including his vehicle.

Both Kinney and Stumph were arrested last month in Kentucky.

At Wednesday's hearing, Kinney's attorneys, Elizabeth Agar and Tim McKenna, entered a not guilty plea on her behalf. Hamilton County Common Pleas Judge Lisa Allen set her bond at $5 million.

Both Kinney and Stumph, who also is being held on a $5 million bond, face charges including aggravated murder and aggravated robbery. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty against both.

(source: cincinnati.com)

INDIANA:

Judge Lets Death Penalty Appeal Go To High Court

A northern Indiana judge has ruled that a man who faces the death penalty can appeal claiming the state's death penalty law is unconstitutional.

The (Gary) Post-Tribune reports that a Lake County judge made the ruling Friday in the case of 45-year-old Darren Vann, who is charged in the deaths of 7 women. Last year Vann's attorneys made the argument in a case filing but a judge denied their claim. On Friday the attorneys asked the judge if they could appeal the ruling to the Indiana Supreme Court and the judge allowed it.

Officials with the Lake County prosecutor's office said they agree with the judge's ruling but don't object to the defense's appeal.

Lake County prosecutors requested the death penalty in Vann's case.

(source: WBIW news)

ILLINOIS:

The death knell for the death penalty in Illinois

Nobody paid much attention to the date Wednesday and the significance it has in Illinois history. January 11, 2003, then Governor George Ryan cleared out death row in Illinois by declaring it unfair. With the stroke of a pen, George Ryan, a Republican, spared the lives of 163 men and 4 women.

Among liberal groups, he was called a hero. He was even nominated for a Nobel Prize. Among conservatives who like nothing more than a good execution, he was called a closet liberal and other terms too crude to repeat.

Among George haters, and there were and are a lot of them to this day, it was said he made the move to curry favor with African-Americans to taint a jury pool prior to his being indicted on corruption charges. When you think about it, that is a pretty racist statement. To think African-Americans would be so overwhelmed by ending the death penalty that they would give someone a pass is a slap in the mouth to African-Americans.

African-Americans are used to being slapped in the mouth although the sting never lessens. The fact the insult came from many liberals is even more insulting.

I'm not in the hate George camp although it is fashionable to hate him. See, unlike so many who hate the man without knowing him, I know George personally. I know his kids; I knew his wife and I have a deep love for his family. For George, my emotions are mixed and here is why.

When I was a child growing up in Kankakee, Illinois, my neighbor was George Ryan. I lived on Cobb Boulevard in the middle of the block. The Ryans lived up the alley on the corner of Park and Greenwood. We were neighbors and although his kids were younger than me, they were the same age as my young sister so we all knew one another.

I well recall one winter night when I was very sick. I could hardly breathe and had a high temperature. My Mom called Dr. Burnett, our family doctor who would give me a prescription in the morning. I was very sick, so at 2 AM, my Mom called George Ryan.

The Ryans own Ryan's Pharmacies in Kankakee. And George went at the wee hours of the morning and filled a cheap prescription for a young kid who was sick. However, that wasn't good enough. The next day, George Ryan came by to see how I was doing.

I know about all the terrible things that happened with license scandal. I know George inherited the McBroom political machine and continued to use it for power. I know those things and as those who know me know, I am dedicated to ending political corruption.

I also know there is goodness in George Ryan. It may have gotten lost somewhere, but it is there. I know, because I have been witness to it first-hand.

I don't think George Ryan pardoned those people and set Illinois on the path to ending the death penalty. I believe George did it because regardless of all else that happened, there is goodness in George Ryan.

I'm proud to know him, and for those in the future, who want to bash him, remember the story of the sick child and the medicine. That story was not unique. It is uniquely George because he is a good man in spite of the scandal.

If you want to read about corrupt political machines in Illinois, author Jim Ridings has a book out named, Kankakee Confidential. He chronicles the machine Governor Ryan ran, which dates back to Al Capone and perhaps the most corrupt Governor of all, Governor Small, of Kankakee. He has a book about Governor Small named Governors and Gangsters that studies the relationship between Al Capone and Governor Small. Both are an interesting history of Illinois crime where it meets power in Springfield.

(source: Bob Schneider, chicagonow.com)

USA:

Dylann Roof's Death Sentence Is A Tragedy... For A Lot Of Other People

Yesterday, Dylann Roof got the death penalty for walking into a church, being accepted by the African-American congregation, and then murdering them. And once again, America has to look itself in the mirror and consider its comfort with what Justice Blackmun called "the machinery of death."

Most people are going to be pretty cool with it today.

And why wouldn't they be? Finally, we've got someone who deserves the death penalty. A nasty little s**tbag who literally got Burger King after he killed nine innocent people (even if he didn't actually get driven there). Eric Garner gets killed for selling cigarettes and this mass murderer gets a burger. That pretty much sums up justice in America.

Maybe this will balance the scales just a bit.

It won't, of course, but that's how the argument goes. Fundamentally poisoned systems rely on moments like this to thrive - it's what keeps the whole affair from collapsing under its own weight. Offing the unrepentant killer who absolutely, positively murdered these people provides that neat and tidy legitimization of America's barbaric and racist fascination with the death penalty. Roof is a sacrifice at the altar of the death penalty to forgive all of its sins.

Never mind that nationally, African-Americans are around 3 times more likely to end up on death row than demographics would suggest, while other killers are more likely to be shunted off into punishments with a longer life expectancy. Or that miscarriages of justice are supercharged in capital cases because the death penalty is an irrevocable punishment that doubles down on the often racially driven failures of the criminal justice system writ large. Occasionally you can get a few people to focus on these problems. Mostly when innocent folks get exonerated years after the fact and get high-profile media coverage. Those stories plant seeds of doubt in the minds of the public. You can actually see the polls start ever so slightly to shift.

But now, bad people are getting what they deserve again! Who can take any death penalty critic seriously when the face of death row is no longer someone like Glenn Ford - innocent man exonerated after 30 years - but Dylann Roof? Just watch that support for the death penalty tick right back up again. It's the life cycle of injustice - nobody cares about the doing the right thing when it helps the wrong people.

That's why this sentence is ultimately a tragedy. Dylann Roof deserves the worst punishment imaginable. But, as they say, it's not what you do, it’s what you justify. And sentencing Roof to death is going to justify a whole lot of state-sponsored injustice.

(source: Joe Patrice is an editor at Above the Law and co-host of Thinking Like A Lawyer----abovethelaw.com)

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

Anguish, Rage and Mercy as Dylann Roof Is Sentenced to Death

In an extraordinary culmination to the federal death penalty trial of Dylann S. Roof, 35 family members and friends of his nine African-American victims confronted him directly at a sentencing hearing on Wednesday. Some forgave him with Christian grace. Others damned him to hell. But almost all proclaimed defiantly that his murderous church rampage had failed in its mission to sow division and racist hate.

"The hate that you possess is beyond human comprehension," Melvin Graham, a brother of one of the victims, Cynthia Hurd, told the young white supremacist seated across the courtroom. "You wanted people to kill each other. But instead of starting a race war, you started a love war."

At the close of the nearly 5-hour hearing, Judge Richard M. Gergel of Federal District Court formally sentenced Mr. Roof, 22, to death, in accordance with the verdict that a jury quickly delivered on Tuesday. Although they were not required to do so, most of the jurors who heard the case attended Wednesday's proceedings.

"This trial has produced no winners, only losers," Judge Gergel said. "The defendant will now pay for his crimes with his life. But the trial has not been a futile act because the jury, acting as the conscience of this community, has stated clearly and unequivocally that his hate, his viciousness, his depravity will not go unanswered."

Mr. Roof, who presented no defense during his trial and denied any mental incapacity, declined an offer to speak before Judge Gergel imposed the sentence: death on 18 counts, and life in prison for an additional 15. Mr. Roof, whose case will probably be appealed for years, had no family members in the audience.

Throughout the hearing in the courtroom, where the victims' loved ones spent more than 2 weeks reliving the June 17, 2015, massacre at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, one family member after the next demanded, sometimes with raised voices, that Mr. Roof turn his head to look at them. He refused to do so, sitting as he did through most of his trial as if in a trance, motionless, staring ahead and exhibiting no expression.

"I wish you would look at me, boy," said Janet Scott, an aunt of Tywanza Sanders, who, at 26, was the youngest victim of the attack during a Bible study session. "But I know you hear me."

In legal terms, Wednesday's hearing was a formality, as Judge Gergel was bound by the unanimous sentencing decision of the jury, which on Dec. 15 found Mr. Roof guilty of 33 counts. But it afforded family members, many of them dressed in funereal black, an unfettered opportunity to express the full measure of their grief and fury in ways not allowed when some testified during the penalty phase of the trial. They had been limited then to characterizing their relatives and the impact of their loss, and could not advocate a particular punishment.

Wednesday's session served as something of a reprise, or at least a bookend, to the bond hearing held 2 days after the killings, in which 5 family members stunningly offered Mr. Roof a measure of public forgiveness. They had since learned much more about Mr. Roof, including the vehement nature of his white supremacist beliefs, as expressed in a confession and a variety of writings, and his utter lack of remorse.

At both hearings, nearly 19 months apart, however, the deep faith of the bereaved - and the value placed on forgiveness and repentance by African Methodism - played prominent roles.

"Know that God will forgive you. Know that you can change your life," Daniel L. Simmons Jr., the son of the Rev. Daniel L. Simmons Sr., urged in a preacher's cadence on Wednesday. "Feel that awesome power of God. Feel it. Feel it. Feel it. Feel it."

Sheila Capers, Ms. Hurd's sister-in-law, told Mr. Roof she hoped God would open his heart so that he would go to heaven after his execution. "If at any point before you're sent to prison, you want me to come to pray with you, I will do that," she said.

But just as the group was divided, including within families, about whether Mr. Roof should be put to death, many who spoke could not disguise their disdain. Some said they could not bear to look at him or to speak his name. But others spoke it emphatically, in full - Dylann Storm Roof - as if to hold him to full account.

"To you, Dylann, I know you will be burned in hell," Gary Washington, the son of Ethel Lee Lance, said through a sign language interpreter.

Gracyn Doctor, a daughter of the Rev. DePayne Middleton Doctor, suggested that the killings qualified as "the one sin that I'm not even sure God can look past." Marsha Spencer, a church member, likened Mr. Roof to Judas and described him as a "subhuman miscreant." Tyrone Sanders, Mr. Sanders's father, said he wished the law required Mr. Roof to lose a limb each time he filed an appeal.

And Malcolm Graham, another of Ms. Hurd's brothers, described Mr. Roof as the embodiment of racism. "There's just no place for forgiveness in this community for racism, hatred and discrimination," he said. "There's no room for it. There's no room for him."

Felicia Sanders, 1 of 3 survivors of the attack and Mr. Sanders's mother, told Mr. Roof how she continued to use the Bible she carried that night, only partly cleaned of bloodstains. But Ms. Sanders, in her 3rd round of testimony during the proceedings, said the percussion of gunfire, which began as the worshipers closed their eyes in benediction, haunted her each day.

She could not watch fireworks, she said. She could not hear "something as small as an acorn drop from out of a tree." Mr. Roof and his rampage were constantly in her head.

"Most importantly," she continued, "I cannot shut my eye to pray. I cannot shut my eye to pray. Even when I try, I cannot, because I have to keep my eye on everyone that is around me."

Despite such personal trauma, the speakers vowed that the shooting had bent families but not broken them; had unified their community along racial lines, not rived it; had reinforced their confidence in God, not shaken it.

"You can't have my joy,' Bethane Middleton-Brown, Ms. Doctor's sister, told Mr. Roof. "It's simply not yours to take. You can't have it. So I guess you will spend the rest of your time being angry because you can't have it. The other thing that you will be angry about is because you didn't win."

Then she added: "You couldn't make me hate you. May God bless you."

(source: New York Times)

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

With no sincere remorse comes death sentence

If Death lingers in courtroom corridors awaiting sentences, this historic city's federal courthouse was surely a top destination. On Tuesday, the Reaper's patience was rewarded with the jury's return of the death penalty for Dylann Roof.

Roof, who insisted on representing himself during the sentencing phase of his 33-count murder trial, was found guilty last month for the slaughter of 90 black parishioners at Mother Emanuel A.M.E. Church in June 2015.

Roof's self-lawyering is still mystifying when he had at his disposal one of the nation's best death-penalty lawyers, David Bruck, who did represent Roof during the guilt phase that ended last month. Bruck was allowed only to advise Roof during the penalty phase, which began last week, but briefly addressed the judge Tuesday when Roof requested that Bruck address objections.

While the government's case seemed airtight in covering all the requirements for the death penalty, Roof's remarks Tuesday took fewer than 5 minutes.

Wearing slacks and a blue cable-knit sweater - his bowl-cut hair obviously recently shaped - Roof approached the lectern with a single, yellow, letter-sized sheet of paper for his closing argument.

Barely audible - and his pauses were longer than his sentences - he made essentially two suggestions seemingly aimed at creating doubt about his alleged hatred of black people and his intent in carrying out his mission, which he himself previously identified as wanting to incite racial violence.

"I think it's safe to say nobody in their mind wants to go to a church and kill people," he began. Then he contradicted other confession statements that he had to do what he did. "In my (FBI confession) tape I told them I had to do it. ... Obviously that's not true. Nobody made me do it. I felt like I had to do it, and I still feel like I had to do it."

Clarity isn't his strong suit.

Next, Roof challenged the prosecution's claim that he's filled with hatred, one of the statutory-required aggravating factors in capital cases. He referred to his confession when an FBI agent asked him if he hated blacks. Roof's reply was, "I don't like what black people do."

To the jury, he posited: "If I was really filled with as much hate as I allegedly am, wouldn't I just say, 'Yes, I hate black people'?"

Finally, Roof said it's fair to say that the prosecutors hate him since they're seeking the death penalty. Then he tutored the court that people hate because they've been misled. He also said that people think they know what hatred it is, but "they don't know what real hatred looks like."

Does Roof? Is this because some hate-filled person misled him? Or did he merely look in the mirror?

Not once during his very brief remarks did Roof say he regretted his actions, which might have elicited some empathy from those burdened with determining his fate. Indeed, in a jailhouse journal, he wrote that he isn't sorry and that he hadn't shed a tear for the "innocent people I killed."

Tuesday, as he attempted to take on a battery of lawyers hell-bent on ultimate justice, he seemed ever the evil child who, rather than acknowledging the horror and the agony of what he did, was somehow above the process. Expressionless and aloof, as he had been throughout the trial, he was anything but a sympathetic character and certainly no advocate for his continued access to life.

Throughout the proceedings, my mind kept wandering to an earlier case I covered when Bruck was fighting another death penalty - the 1994 trial of Susan Smith, the young mother who rolled her car into a Union, South Carolina, lake, drowning her 2 small children.

The crime was heinous and the trial heart-wrenching. At one point during the father's testimony, the judge had to call for a break because nearly everyone in the courtroom, including the media, was weeping. The father had been talking about his 3-year-old's favorite Disney movie, which the child called, "1-o-1 Dalma-hay-tions."

Susan Smith threw herself across the defense table, loudly sobbing with the agony of regret and the sorrow of inconsolable loss. Yes, she was responsible for her children's death, but there was no questioning her remorse or doubting that her life in prison would be an endless night of piercing pain.

For death penalty opponents like me, this seemed a far more just end than death would have been. With Roof, there's plainly no sense of sorrow now - or to come.

In the end, evidence of sincere remorse, which is to say, humanity, can be the difference between life and death.

(source: Column, Kathleen Parker, Washington Post)

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

Friends of Slain Pastor React to Death Sentence

The friends of the slain pastor of Mother Emanuel have mixed emotions about the death sentence for the convicted killer and white supremacist.

"The verdict does bring about some closure in the sense that we don't have to be in court every single day anymore," Dr. Kylon Middleton, Rev. Clementa Pinckney's best friend explained. “It really continues a process that facilitates you know mixed emotions on both sides, because some people are for the death penalty and some people are against the death penalty."

Middleton said it's not necessarily a time to celebrate over the fact that Dylann Roof, the man convicted of killing and shooting 9 Black worshippers at Mother Emanuel in 2015 will get death.

"This is a day that brings some finality to a long, very painful chapter, it's certainly not a day of celebration," Middleton said.

"This is not a jubilant time. This is not a time to say this is a celebration. This is a sad time. It does not end well. We have still lost a loved one," Senator Gerald Malloy, Pinckney's friend and lawyer echoed.

Malloy said it's a very challenging time for everyone involved.

"We have the loss of 9 lives at a church of people that are ages from 87 to 26 years of age. The 87-year-old woman took at least 11 shots in her body," the senator said of the tragedy.

"Senator Pinckney was a great man, one of the most decent people you would ever meet in your life," Malloy said of his friend. "We don't know what he would have become."

Malloy also shared how Pinckney was truly a man who supported the voiceless. He said his friend had great plans for Mother Emanuel.

"I still can't imagine life without him although he's been gone for 18 months. At this point you know giving me a sense of peace," Middleton said. "When I'm still you know kind of taking his children to dance and or piano, and dealing with 2 little girls who don't have a father and a wife who no longer has a husband, there's no peace there."

Middleton said he forgives Roof and is committed to continuing Pinckney's legacy and believes his friend is smiling on them from heaven.

"I think he's smiling when we walked out of the courtroom, although it's still chilly, the sun was shining brightly, I look at all of those things as you know almost a sign, if you will of affirmation," Pinckney's best friend said. "And just him in the universe sort of supporting the fight that we continue and that we're going to continue."

(source: WLTX news)

INDIA:

Decide death row convicts plea in 2 months: SC to Delhi HC

The Supreme Court today asked the Delhi High Court to decide within 2 months the plea of a death row convict seeking commutation of his sentence to life imprisonment on the ground of delay to decide his mercy petition.

A bench comprising Justices Dipak Misra and R Banumathi passed the order after taking into account the submission of Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi who said if the apex court would go into the legal issues concerning jurisdiction of high courts the delay would benefit the death row convict.

The apex courts direction came while disposing of the transfer petition of the Chhattisgarh government which alleged that the Delhi High Court has no jurisdiction to stay the execution of a man held guilty of murder of 5 persons, including 2 children, in 2004 in its territory.

The high court in its December 6, 2016 order had said the rejection of mercy petition by the President "does give rise to a cause of action at Delhi".

It had on March 2, 2015 stayed the execution of Sonu Sardar after which the Chhattisgarh government approached the Supreme Court challenging its jurisdiction to hear the matter.

The state government had told the apex court that the high court had no jurisdiction to stay the execution of convict Sonu Sardar as the offence had taken place in Chhattisgarh.

The Supreme Court had in February 2012 concurred with the findings of 2 courts below and upheld the punishment. His mercy petition was also dismissed by both the state Governor and the President of India.

In February 2015, the apex court had also rejected his review plea.

Sardar in his plea before the high court had contended that there was a delay of 2 years and 2 months by the President in deciding his mercy plea.

He had also sought commutation of his death sentence to life imprisonment on account of delay in deciding his mercy plea as well as for allegedly keeping him in "solitary confinement illegally".

Sardar, along with his brother and accomplices, had killed 5 members of a family, including a woman and 2 children, during a dacoity bid in Chhattisgarhs Cher village on November 26, 2004. The trial court had awarded death penalty to him which was upheld by the Chhattisgarh High Court.

(source: indiatoday.in)

PHILIPPINES:

Palace denies pressure on Congress to pass death penalty bill

Malacanang denied Thursday that President Rodrigo Duterte is pressuring Congress to immediately pass a measure seeking to revive the death penalty in the country.

Communications Secretary Martin Andanar said Duterte respects the independence of Congress and trusts its judgment in approving a measure that would revive the capital punishment, which was abolished in 1987.

"The revival of death penalty is a campaign promise of President Duterte and part of the priority legislative measure of his administration [but] the President respects the independence of Congress as a separate co-equal branch of government," Andanar said in a statement.

"He trusts the wisdom of our lawmakers to see that the enactment of such law would benefit the nation not only by instilling respect for the law among our people but also by ending impunity and ensuring that those who commit heinous crimes are prosecuted to the full extent of the law," he added.

On Wednesday, Buhay party-list Representative Lito Atienza accused the President of pressuring the lawmakers to re-impose death penalty.

"This is the administration's initiative, not Congress'. The death penalty is an imposition of the leadership of this administration so we, congressmen, sad to say, are under pressure," Atienza said.

"No less than President Duterte is directing the passage of the bill," he added.

House Bill 1, which seeks to revive the death penalty on all heinous crimes as defined by previous laws, was approved by the House committee on justice before Christmas and will be sent to the plenary when Congress resumes its sessions next week.

(source: sunstar.com.ph)

GUYANA:

Why did Guyana vote against moratorium on executions at United Nations when it had previously told UN a de facto one was in place

Dear Editor,

In an Addendum dated 2nd July 2015 subsequent to Guyana's Universal Periodic Review, Guyana informed the United Nations that in relation to the death penalty, "A de facto moratorium has been in place since 1997..." A statement to the Human Rights Council of the United Nations General Assembly should not be lightly made. It is fair to assume that our Ministry of Foreign Affairs understood the significance of giving this assurance to the United Nations.

In December 2016, the UN General Assembly voted on a moratorium on executions. Guyana was one of 40 (out of 195) states who voted against the resolution. Why did we vote against the moratorium when we have one in place? On what grounds did our government conclude that it was the wisest possible course for Guyana's vote to contradict our previous assurance to the Human Rights Council that a moratorium is in place?

An examination of the UN resolution provides no clue to the rationale for the Guyana vote. The key provision was for states, "to establish a moratorium on executions with a view to abolishing the death penalty." Guyana is a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). Article 6 protects the right to life. It does not make the death penalty illegal, but it imposes a treaty obligation on states to proceed to complete abolition of the death penalty. On what grounds did our government conclude that the best course was to vote inconsistently with our international treaty obligation?

Guyana has incorporated the ICCPR into the Constitution. To what extent, if at all, did our government consider the Constitution?

The UN resolution called upon states to respect international standards set by the Economic and Social Council. Some of these international standards are already in Guyana's laws - we do not allow death sentences for pregnant women, minors or insane persons. Does our government object to the other international standards? Does our government disagree with the principle that the death penalty should be restricted to 'intentional crimes with lethal or other grave consequences' or to cases in which there is no doubt about the guilt of the offender, or that there must be a fair trial and a proper appeals process to a final court, or that if an execution is carried out it must be done with the minimum possible suffering? Guyana already allows offenders under sentence of death to apply for a pardon or a commutation of their sentence. Does our government object to the principle that such procedures should be fair and transparent?

The UN resolution called on states to provide information on death row prisoners and on compliance with international standards. Guyana provides such information in the Universal Periodic Review. In 2016 the administration gave the Justice Institute Guyana information on death row prisoners. Does this vote imply that information which was previously available will now be secret?

The UN resolution called on states to comply with Article 36 of the 1963 Vienna Convention on Consular Relations regarding communication and contact for foreigners in prison. Does our government suddenly have concerns about complying with this longstanding treaty obligation?

Since President Granger has said he will not authorise any executions we already meet the UN's call to 'progressively restrict' the use of the death penalty. Does this 'no' vote imply a change?

The UN resolution called for states to reduce the number of offences for which the death penalty may be imposed. Guyana extended the death penalty to new offences in the Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism Act (2009) and in the Anti-Terrorism and Terrorist Related Activities Act (2015). Arguably these laws conflict with the Constitution. The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) does not require the death penalty. Is our government refusing to replace the death penalty with 'effective, proportionate and dissuasive sanctions whether criminal, civil or administrative' as required by FATF?

The UN resolution called for states to 'consider acceding to or ratifying' the Second Optional Protocol to the ICCPR which aims at the abolition of the death penalty. Is our government refusing point blank to 'consider' this?

During the vote Guyana appears to have aligned itself with the English-speaking Caribbean. Is our government aware that Antigua, St Lucia, Belize and Jamaica have no death row prisoners, having been forced by judicial decisions to replace death sentences with prison terms and even to free death row prisoners? On what grounds did our government consider that it was wiser to join a retentionist bloc of small islands hundreds of miles across the sea rather than adopt the progressive position of our immediate neighbours (Suriname, Brazil and Venezuela) and the rest of the vast continent of South America where civilians are free of the death penalty? Why did Guyana, a constitutional democracy which has not executed anybody for nearly 20 years, vote 'no' with the repressive regimes comprising the top 10 executioners on the planet - China, Iran, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, USA, Iraq, Somalia, Egypt, Indonesia and Chad? Why did Guyana not take an enlightened position like the United Kingdom and the other 27 (for now) states of the European Union and vote 'yes'? If post-apartheid South Africa and post-genocide Rwanda can get rid of the death penalty, why couldn't we take a tiny first step and admit publicly in a UN resolution that we do not carry out executions?

Prior to the vote the Minister of Foreign Affairs received a plethora of correspondence asking for Guyana to vote in favour of this UN moratorium. Members of the diaspora wrote to our Permanent Representative to the UN requesting that Guyana vote in favour of the resolution. Letters went to the President and other Ministers, and civil society and lawyers wrote a joint letter to the press, all asking for Guyana to vote in favour of the moratorium. In October 2016, the Justice Institute Guyana and the Death Penalty Project (England) submitted to the President a detailed Memorandum arguing for replacement of the death penalty and requesting that Guyana vote in favour of the moratorium. Copies went to the Prime Minister, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Attorney-General and Minister of Security. The memorandum was supported by leading international jurists. The prestigious Solicitors International Human Rights Group wrote to the Foreign Minister asking that Guyana exercise its sovereignty to vote in favour of the UN resolution. What compelling reason did our government have for ignoring the expressed wishes of citizens and the views of highly respected international and national legal experts?

Death penalty advocates have consistently failed to make a case for capital punishment. They have failed to provide any convincing evidence that executing people is a more effective deterrent than life imprisonment. No rational person believes the death penalty will stop terrorists, the very people who see judicial execution as certain martyrdom. Death penalty advocates cannot explain away the lethal absurdity of the state killing its citizens to prove that killing citizens is wrong. Neither death penalty advocates nor the judges who impose death sentences, can guarantee that Guyana's criminal justice system will not execute an innocent person. Why then does the Government of Guyana cling so stubbornly to this grim relic of the colonial (in)justice system?

There is growing consensus that the state must respect the right to life. Ask people, 'Should the state kill its own citizens?' and they say 'No.' Ask how to reduce the murder rate and they usually say the police must do their job, the courts must convict and punish criminals even if they are rich and powerful, and the state must deal with the social conditions that cause crime. The death penalty is not the answer. We will undoubtedly replace it.

But for now we are left with the vexed question: 'Why did this government make Guyana vote against the moratorium?'

Yours faithfully,

Melinda Janki

Executive Director

Justice Institute Guyana

(source: stabroeknews.com)

INDONESIA:

6 drug traffickers sentenced to death in West Java

The Cirebon District Court in West Java handed the death penalty on Wednesday to 6 of 9 defendants for dealing 40 kilograms of crystal methamphetamines and 180,000 ecstasy pills in March last year in a case that involved an international drug ring.

Presiding judge Mukhlis said the six defendants were proven guilty of smuggling drugs into the country for distribution.

"The defendants have violated Article 114( 2), Article 113(2), Article 112(2) and Article 132(1) of Law No. 35/2009 on narcotics," said Muklis, when reading out the verdict as quoted by Antara.

The death sentence was what the prosecutors demanded.

The 6 defendants were Ricky Gunawan, 34, Jusman, 52, Karun, aka Ahong, 40, Yanto, aka Abeng, 50, Sugianto, aka Acay, 29 and M. Rizki, 30. 2 other defendants, Hendri Unan, 28 and Gunawan Aminah, 60, avoided capital punishment but were both sentenced to 8 years in prison and fined Rp 1 billion (US$75,414).

In March last year, National Police detectives arrested 9 drug traffickers at a rest area by the Cikampek toll road.

(source: The Jakarta Post)

TAIWAN:

Mama Mouth killer has death sentence repealed----A new Leaf ? 2 witnesses called by Hsieh Yi-han's defense team said that her chances of rehabilitation were high, and the court paid heed to their testimony

The High Court yesterday overturned Hsieh Yi-han's death sentence, sentencing her to life imprisonment after she was convicted of committing a double murder at Mama Mouth Cafe in 2013.

Hsieh was sentenced to death by 3 lower courts, with the Supreme Court returning the case to the High Court twice for retrial over the murder of businessman Chen Chin-fu and his wife Chang Tsui-ping in February 2013.

At that time, Hsieh was a manager of the Mama Mouth Cafe in New Taipei City's Bali District. She was accused of killing the couple for money and dumping their bodies into Tamsui River, where their bodies were found washed up on shore a few days after they were killed.

Hsieh's defense lawyer called on 2 expert witnesses in the 2nd retrial, a psychiatrist and a Christian pastor, who had provided counseling to Hsieh during her incarceration, the court said.

The expert witnesses testified that the chances of Hsieh's rehabilitation were high. The court overturned her death sentence based on this testimony, it said.

The ruling can be appealed.

Several family members of the victims attended the ruling and afterward said that they felt distraught and could not accept the decision, vowing to appeal to the Supreme Court.

In a separate civil case in 2014, the High Court ruled that Hsieh must pay NT$9.99 million (US$312,823 at current exchange rates) compensation to Chen's siblings and Chang's mother.

Chen's sister said it was clear that Hsieh was greedy and after learning that Chen was wealthy planned to kill the couple.

"She killed 2 people for money. She deserves the death penalty. It is the only way justice can be served," she said.

Although Hsieh was found guilty and the court fined her, the families have not received any payments, Chen's sister said.

Chen family lawyer Wei Yi-lung said the ruling did not meet society's expectations.

Hsieh committed a heinous crime for money and fabricated stories about why she did it, even laying blame on the victims, Wei said.

In another ruling yesterday, the High Court upheld a death sentence for Huang Lin-kai, who was convicted of murdering his girlfriend and her mother in October 2013.

Huang, who was 19 and in compulsory military service at the time, went to his girlfriend's house and strangled the mother to death, before raping his girlfriend and strangling her to death with rope.

The retrial judgement said Huang had no regard for human life and committed highly vicious acts.

Given that he is likely to reoffend if released, the court said it decided to uphold the death sentence from a lower court's decision.

(source: Taipei Times)

THAILAND:

Prosecutors Seek Death Penalty in iPhone Stabbing Case

Police submitted their case Thursday to the prosecutor's office against 2 men accused of stabbing a young man to death to steal his iPhone in northern Bangkok earlier this month.

The 2 suspects, 26-year-old Kittikorn Wikaha, and 25-year-old Supattanachai Chansri, are charged with several offenses, including fatal armed robbery. They face the death penalty if convicted.

"The maximum penalty for the most serious charge [against them] is execution," Sarawut Jindakham, chief of Kok Kram Police Station, said by telephone.

Footage of the gruesome Jan. 4 murder shocked many and raised discussion about public safety.

Police said that footage showed Kittikorn stabbing his victim, 26-year-old Vasin Lueangcham, to death while his accomplice looked on from a getaway motorcycle. Kittikorn later told police he didn't intend to kill Vasin, and that the robbery went awry only because the victim resisted.

Col. Sarawut said Kittikorn and Supattanachai are being held at Bangkok Remand Prison, their bail denied. The prosecution will schedule court dates and arrange pro bono lawyers for the 2 suspects if they cannot afford to do so, Sarawut said.

The killing captivated headlines and social media attention for days, not only because of its brutality, but because Kittikorn is a former convict who had served separate prison terms for drug charges. Kittikorn's recidivism prompted some on social media to demand tougher prison terms and less chances of royal pardon for convicts.

(source: khaosodenglish.com)

IRAN----execution

A Prisoner Executed Before His Trial Ends

A death row prisoner was executed in Qazvin last week while his family says his case was still under consideration and review by the prosecution office and his sentence was not confirmed and put on hold. On Monday, January 2, the death sentence of Nasrollah Khazaei, on the charges of "carrying and keeping drugs" was implemented in Qazvin prison before dawn.

After the family of the executed prisoner followed his case, several Judiciary officials of the Iranian regime's Prosecution Office in Tehran said that the prisoner should not have been executed.

The prisoner's brother in an interview with a Persian language news agency explained: "My brother had no previous record (of committing a crime). The case was sent to Tehran according to Article 20 requesting a review but no answer was given yet. They said the case would take 2 years. Since then, implementation of the sentence was halted in his case, upon an order."

"I called the prosecutor and requested an answer in this regard. They said your brother's case is still under review and told me to call back next month. I said they have executed my brother and today is the 7th day of his memorial ceremony. They answered why did they execute him? His case is still open here and is not transferred to Qazvin. He should not have been executed. Then, they connected the phone to a number of other rooms and officials, all of whom said they shouldn't have executed him. They said this case has received a halt of the sentence and Qazvin's prosecution should not have done it without our permission," he said.

Nasrollah Khazaei's brother emphasized: "On Sunday (January 1), when we went for a meeting with my brother, they neither told us nor my brother that they are going to hang him. On Monday, at around 6 a.m., my brother called us and said they are taking him for execution. I screamingly said but the case in still being reviewed. My brother said no matter how much I tell them, they do not accept. After that, they took him away and hanged up the phone."

(source: NNCR-Iran)

JANUARY 11, 2017:

TEXAS----execution

Texas executes Christopher Wilkins

A Fort Worth jury sent Christopher Wilkins to death row for killing 2 men he admitted shooting over a $20 phony drug deal after Wilkins said he didn't care whether he was sentenced to death.

"Look, it is no big deal," Wilkins calmly said from the witness stand at his 2008 trial.

On Wednesday, more than 11 years after the killings, the 48-year-old Wilkins was put to death by lethal injection at The Walls Unit, in Huntsville, Texas.

Christopher Wilkins was pronounced dead at 6:29 p.m.

The U.S. Supreme Court declined to block the execution. The court's ruling on appeals for Wilkins came about three hours before his scheduled lethal injection.

Wilkins' attorneys had argued to the Supreme Court that he had poor legal help at his trial and during earlier appeals. State attorneys argued courts had rejected similar appeals and that defense lawyers were simply employing delaying tactics.

Wilkins' execution is the nation's 1st this year.

In 2005, after serving time in prison for gun possession, Wilkins drove a stolen truck to Fort Worth, where police tied him to several aggravated assaults and burglaries. There he befriended 2 men, 40-year-old Willie Freeman and 33-year-old Mike Silva, who duped him into paying $20 for a piece of gravel he thought was a rock of crack cocaine.

According to court records, Wilkins said he shot Freeman on Oct. 28, 2005, for laughing about the scam, then he shot Silva because he was there.

Their bodies were found in a ditch. Wilkins' fingerprints were found in Silva's wrecked SUV, and a pentagram matching one of Wilkins' numerous tattoos had been carved into the hood.

"When I get wound up, I have a fuse that is short," Wilkins testified. "I don't think about what I am doing."

He also admitted that a day earlier he had shot and killed another man, Gilbert Vallejo, 47, outside a Fort Worth bar in a dispute over a pay phone, and about a week later he used a stolen car to try to run down 2 people because he believed 1 of them had taken his sunglasses.

"I know they are bad decisions," Wilkins said of his actions. "I make them anyway."

"I think subconsciously, I've been trying to kill myself or get myself killed since I was probably 12 or 13 years old," he added.

Kevin Rousseau, a Tarrant County assistant district attorney, described Wilkins as "a professional criminal. Very violent. He used violence as a means of achieve his means on a routine basis."

Wilkins' attorneys had asked the U.S. Supreme Court to halt the execution, saying he had poor legal help at trial and during other appeals, and that the courts should have authorized money to his current lawyer to support other appeals and a clemency petition.

"He has never had a meaningful opportunity at any stage to develop that claim, to have any court address it on the merits, or even to have it considered as part of a petition for executive clemency," attorney Seth Waxman, told the justices in his appeal.

Stephen Hoffman, an assistant Texas attorney general, said investigation of those arguments "would either be redundant or fruitless," and called the appeals a delaying tactic.

In his appeals, Wilkins had argued that his attorney ignored his wish to plead guilty and did not put on a vigorous defense and that an appellate lawyer had a huge conflict of interest, having already accepted a job with the prosecutor's office.

30 convicted killers were executed in the U.S. last year, the lowest number since the early 1980s. 7 were carried out last year in Texas, the fewest since 1996.

9 Texas inmates have already been scheduled to die in the early months of 2017.

Wilkins becomes the 1st condemned inmate to be put to death this year in Texa and the 539th overall since the state resumed capital punishment on December 7, 2017.

Wilkins becomes the 1st condemned inmate to be put to death this year in the USA and the 1443rd overall since the nation resumed executions on Januarty 17, 1977.

(sources: Dallas Morning News, Associated Press & Rick Halperin)

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

Executions under Greg Abbott, Jan. 21, 2015-present----21

Executions in Texas: Dec. 7, 1982----present-----539

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

22---------January 25---------------Kosoul Chanthakoummane----540

23---------January 26---------------Terry Edwards---------541

24---------February 2---------------John Ramirez----------542

25---------February 7---------------Tilon Carter----------543

26---------March 14-----------------James Bigby-----------544

27---------April 12-----------------Paul Storey-----------545

28---------June 28------------------Steven Long-----------546

(sources: TDCJ & Rick Halperin)

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

Texas Killer Christopher Wilkins Tries to Stop Year's 1st Execution

A Texas man who claims his lawyers did a bad job of defending him against charges he callously murdered 2 men could become the 1st prisoner executed this year if the U.S. Supreme Court doesn't call off his Wednesday night lethal injection.

Christopher Wilkins, 48, is set to die for fatally shooting Willie Freeman, 40, and Mike Silva, 33, because he was angry that he was tricked into paying $20 for a rock disguised as a chuck of crack cocaine.

Wilkins admitted to the 2005 double slaying - and claimed he had committed another murder and other crimes - during the sentencing phase of his trial.

"I tend to want to take the easy way out," the ex-con truck driver told the court. "I make bad decisions. I know they're bad decisions when I'm making them. I make them anyway.

"I think subconsciously, I've been trying to kill myself or get myself killed since I was probably 12 or 13 years old," he added.

In his appeals, Wilkins has argued that his attorney ignored his wish to plead guilty and did not put on a vigorous defense and that an appellate lawyer had a huge conflict of interest, having already accepted a job with the prosecutor's office.

Executions hit a 30-year low in the United States last year, in part because some states were unable to obtain the needed drugs or put lethal injections on hold after executions that did not go as planned.

Texas has a supply of drugs, but the number of lethal injections in the state fell by nearly 1/2 to to s7 last year. Georgia had the most executions - 9 - in 2016.

(source: NBC news)

USA:

Charleston bishop opposes death sentence for man convicted of killing churchgoers

Jurors unanimously agreed to sentence Dylann Roof to death for killing 9 black churchgoers.

In closing statements before the deliberation Jan. 10, the unrepentant 22-year-old told jurors that "I still feel like I had to do it," the Associated Press reported.

Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone said in a statement that the Catholic Church opposes capital punishment and reminded people that all life is sacred. "We are all sinners, but through the father's loving mercy and Jesus' redeeming sacrifice upon the cross, we have been offered the gift of eternal life. The Catholic opposition to the death penalty, therefore, is rooted in God's mercy. The church believes the right to life is paramount to every other right as it affords the opportunity for conversion, even of the hardened sinner," Bishop Guglielmone said.

"Sentencing Dylann Roof to death conflicts with the church's teaching that all human life is sacred, even for those who have committed the most heinous of crimes. Instead of pursuing death, we should be extending compassion and forgiveness to Mr. Roof, just as some of the victims' families did at his bond hearing in June 2015," the bishop added.

The jury had to reach a unanimous decision to sentence Roof to death. Had they disagreed, he would have been automatically sentenced to life in prison. He was convicted of 33 federal charges last month, including hate crimes. Roof acted as his own attorney and did not question any witnesses. In his FBI confession, he said he hoped the massacre would bring back segregation or start a race war, the Associated Press reported.

Bishop Guglielmone offered prayers of support for those who were killed and their families.

"Our Catholic faith sustains our solidarity with and support for the victims of the Emanuel AME Church massacre and their relatives. We commit ourselves to walk with these family members as well as the survivors as they continue to heal from the trial and this tragedy," he said.

The bishop asked people to continue to pray for the victims, survivors and families connected with the shooting. He also encouraged people to pray for Roof and his family.

"May he acknowledge his sins, convert to the Lord and experience his loving mercy," Bishop Guglielmone said.

The Rev. Clementa Pinckney, pastor of Emanuel AME Church, Tywanza Sanders, the Rev. Sharonda Singleton, the Rev. DePayne Middleton-Doctor, the Rev. Daniel Simmons Sr., the Rev. Cynthia Hurd, Myra Thompson, Ethel Lance, and Susie Jackson were killed in the shooting.

(source: catholicregister.org)

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

U.S. Seeks Death Penalty for Fort Lauderdale Airport Gunman

The Iraq war veteran accused of killing 5 travelers and wounding 6 others at a busy international airport in Florida was charged Saturday and could face the death penalty if convicted.

Esteban Santiago, 26, told investigators that he planned the attack, buying a 1-way ticket to the Fort Lauderdale airport, a federal complaint said. Authorities don't know why he chose his target and have not ruled out terrorism.

Santiago was charged with an act of violence at an international airport resulting in death - which carries a maximum punishment of execution - and weapons charges.

"Today's charges represent the gravity of the situation and reflect the commitment of federal, state and local law enforcement personnel to continually protect the community and prosecute those who target our residents and visitors," U.S Attorney Wifredo Ferrer said.

Authorities said during a news conference that they had interviewed roughly 175 people, including a lengthy interrogation with the cooperative suspect, a former National Guard soldier from Alaska. Flights had resumed at the Fort Lauderdale airport after the bloodshed, though the terminal where the shooting happened remained closed.

Santiago spoke to investigators for several hours after he opened fire with a Walther 9mm semi-automatic handgun that he appears to have legally checked on a flight from Alaska. He had two magazines with him and emptied both of them, firing about 15 rounds, before he was arrested, the complaint said.

Americans are 15 pounds heavier, on average, then they were 20 years ago, which tells only part of the story. That increase in weight equates to 2/3 of people living in the U.S. designated as overweight and obese. What is that doing to EMS professionals?

"We have not identified any triggers that would have caused this attack. We're pursuing all angles on what prompted him to carry out this horrific attack," FBI Agent George Piro said.

Investigators are combing through social media and other information to determine Santiago's motive, and it's too early to say whether terrorism played a role, Piro said. In November, Santiago had walked into an FBI field office in Alaska saying the U.S. government was controlling his mind and forcing him to watch Islamic State group videos, authorities said.

"He was a walk-in complaint. This is something that happens at FBI offices around the country every day," FBI agent Marlin Ritzman said.

U.S. Seeks Death Penalty for Fort Lauderdale Airport Gunman

On that day, Santiago had a loaded magazine on him, but had left a gun in his vehicle, authorities said. He bought his newborn child with him into the office. Officers seized the weapon and local officers took him to get a mental health evaluation. His girlfriend picked up the child.

On Dec. 8, the gun was returned to Santiago. Authorities wouldn't say if it was the same gun used in the airport attack.

Santiago had not been placed on the U.S. no-fly list and appears to have acted alone, authorities said.

The attack sent panicked witnesses running out of the terminal and spilling onto the tarmac, baggage in hand. Others hid in bathroom stalls or crouched behind cars or anything else they could find as police and paramedics rushed in to help the wounded and establish whether there were any other gunmen.

Mark Lea, 53, had just flown in from Minnesota with his wife for a cruise when he heard 3 quick cracks, like a firecracker. Then came more cracks, and "I knew it was more than just a firecracker," he said.

Making sure his wife was outside, Lea helped evacuate some older women who had fallen, he said. Then he saw the shooter.

"He was just kind of randomly shooting people," he said. "If you were in his path, you were going to get shot. He was walking and shooting."

Over the course of about 45 seconds, the shooter reloaded twice, he said. When he was out of bullets, he walked away, dropped the gun and lay face down, spread eagle on the floor, Lea said.

By that time, a deputy had arrived and grabbed the shooter. Lea put his foot on the gun to secure it.

Lea went to help the injured and a woman from Iowa asked about her husband, who she described. Lea saw a man who fit his description behind a row of chairs, motionless, shot in the head and lying in a pool of blood, he said. The man, Michael Oehme, was identified as one of the dead victims on Saturday.

Santiago had been discharged from the National Guard last year after being demoted for unsatisfactory performance. Bryan Santiago said Saturday that his brother had requested psychological help but received little assistance. Esteban Santiago said in August that he was hearing voices.

"How is it possible that the federal government knows, they hospitalize him for only 4 days, and then give him his weapon back?" Bryan Santiago said.

His mother declined to comment as she stood inside the screen door of the family home in Puerto Rico, wiping tears from her eyes. The only thing she said was that Esteban Santiago had been tremendously affected by seeing a bomb explode next to 2 of his friends when he was around 18 years old while serving in Iraq.

Santiago will make his 1st court appearance Monday.

It is legal for airline passengers to travel with guns and ammunition as long as the firearms are put in a checked bag - not a carry-on - and are unloaded and locked in a hard-sided container. Guns must be declared to the airline at check-in.

Despite his mental evaluation, U.S. Attorney Karen Loeffler said Santiago would have been able to legally possess a gun because he had not been judged mentally ill, which is a high standard.

Santiago arrived in Fort Lauderdale after taking off from Anchorage aboard a Delta flight Thursday night, checking only 1 piece of luggage - his gun.

(source: Associated Press)

BAHRAIN:

Urgent Action----3 Men Face Imminent Execution

January 11, 2017

On 9 January the Court of Cassation in Bahrain upheld death sentences against three Bahraini men. It also upheld life sentences against 7 others and the revocation of the nationality of 8 of them. All 10 men were convicted following an unfair trial in relation to the March 2014 killing of 3 policemen.

On 9 January the Bahraini Court of Cassation upheld death sentences for Ali Abdulshaheed al-Sankis, Sami Mirza Mshaima' and Abbas Jamil Taher Mhammad al-Samea. The court also upheld the life sentences of 7 other men and the revocation of the nationality of 8 of them. The 10 men were convicted on 26 February 2015 by the Criminal Court of offences that included "organizing, running and financing a terrorist group (Al-Ashtar Brigade) with the aim of carrying out terrorist attacks"; "possession and planting of explosives with the intention to kill security forces and causing disorder"; and the "killing of 3 police officers and attempted killing of others". The Appeal Court upheld the convictions on 31 May 2016 and on 17 October 2016 the Court of Cassation overturned them and ordered a retrial by the same Appeal Court, which subsequently upheld the sentences again on 4 December 2016. The convictions will now go to the King for ratification.

According to the statement made by some of the men, during 3 weeks of interrogation at the Criminal Investigation Directorate (CID), the 10 men had no access to their families or lawyers, and were tortured. Sami Mshaima' and Abbas al-Samea later told their families that they were given electric shocks, beaten, burnt with cigarettes, deprived of sleep, and sexually assaulted. All 10 men are currently held in Jaw prison, south of Manama.

TAKE ACTION

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

-- Urging the Bahraini authorities not to execute the 3 men and to order a full retrial of all 10 men that fully complies with international fair trial standards, excludes evidence obtained under torture and without recourse to the death penalty; and to carry out an independent and impartial investigation into their allegations of torture;

-- Acknowledging the authorities' duty to prevent crime and bring those responsible to justice, but insisting that this should always be done in accordance with international law and Bahrain's international human rights obligations;

-- Urging them to commute all death sentences to terms of imprisonment and immediately establish an official moratorium on executions with a view to abolishing the death penalty.

Contact these 2 officials by 21 February, 2017:

King Shaikh Hamad bin 'Issa Al Khalifa

Office of His Majesty the King

P.O. Box 555

Rifa'a Palace, al-Manama

Bahrain

Fax: +973 1766 4587

Salutation: Your Majesty

**

H.E. Ambassador Shaikh Abdullah Bin Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Khalifa

Embassy of the Kingdom of Bahrain

3502 International Dr. NW, Washington DC 20008

Phone: 1 202 342 1111 // Fax: 1 202 362 2192

Email: ambsecretary@bahrainembassy.org

(source: Amnesty International USA)

IRAN:

Child bride faces execution by hanging

Zeinab Sekaanvand Lokran comes from a poor, conservative Iranian-Kurdish family, and ran away from home at 15 to marry Hossein Sarmadi in the hope for a better life.

Soon after the wedding, Hossein started beating Zeinab - she asked for a divorce, but he refused. She told police, but they ignored her. She ran away, but her family disowned her.

She was 17 when her husband died. Zeinab was arrested and "confessed" that she killed her husband after he'd abused her for months and refused her requests for divorce.

She was then held at the police station for the next 20 days and repeatedly tortured by police officers.

After a grossly unfair trial, in which she was denied access to a lawyer during her entire pre-trial detention, Zeinab was sentenced to death by hanging.

Execution delayed during pregnancy

In 2015, Zeinab married a fellow prisoner in Oroumieh Central Prison and became pregnant.

Her execution was delayed while Zeinab was expecting. Last month she gave birth to a stillborn baby, and is now at risk of execution.

Doctors said her baby died in her womb 2 days earlier due to shock, around the same time her cell mate and friend was executed on 28 September. She was returned from hospital to the prison the very next day - denied any postnatal support or care since.

Raped by her brother-in-law

Zainab only met her state-appointed lawyer for the first time at her final trial session. It was then that she retracted confessions made when she'd had no access to a lawyer.

She told the court that her husband's brother, who she said had raped her several times, was responsible for the murder and had coerced her into confessing, promising he would pardon her (under Islamic law, murder victims' relatives have the power to pardon the offender and accept financial compensation instead).

This statement was ignored by the court, which instead relied heavily on her old "confessions" to reach its verdict.

A child at the time of the crime

Zainab was just 17 at the time of the crime she is accused of. The courts completely failed to apply juvenile sentencing from Iran's Islamic penal code in her case.

They also failed to tell her that she could submit an application for retrial. Iran's penal code falls woefully short of what's required for juvenile offenders under international human rights law, and even the limited safeguards that do exist are not adhered to by the authorities.

The use of the death penalty for crimes committed by people under 18 is also completely prohibited under the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which Iran has signed up to.

Thank you

More than 80,000 of you signed our petition urging the Iranian authorities to halt Zeinab's execution and throw out her death sentence. Her execution, which was scheduled to go ahead as early as 13 October 2016 is no longer imminent. Zeinab now has a new lawyer working on her case. Together they will submit an application for a retrial - which is Zeinab's right under Article 91 of Iran’s Islamic Penal Code.

While this is extremely good news, her death sentence remains in place until a retrial is granted by the authorities.

Unfortunately, Zeinab's case is not an isolated case in Iran. We have recorded at least 74 executions of juvenile offenders between 2005 and 2016 in Iran. Scores of young people in Iran remain on death row for crimes committed when they were under 18.

(source: amnesty.org.uk)

SINGAPORE:

Mother of man set to hang in Singapore urges PM to intercede

A woman today pleaded with Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak to intercede on behalf of her son, Prabagaran Srivijayan, who was convicted of drug trafficking in Singapore and sentenced to die.

V. Eswary, 54, said in an open letter to the PM that she was told her 29-year-old son received an "unfair trial".

She said that the car he drove when he was arrested did not belong to him, but to a friend who lent it to Prabagaran. Prabagaran only used the car as he was afraid his motorcycle would be repossessed due to delinquent payments.

"Prabagaran was caught by the police because there was 'stuff' in the car," Eswary said in the letter read out by a representative at a press conference here.

"I was told by the lawyers that the proceedings and trial in Prabagaran's case were unfair. All his cases in the Singapore courts were rejected," she said.

Eswary said she last met her son on Monday, when he broke down and maintained his innocence.

"He's always cries, saying he didn't do it and said he is being forced to admit," Eswary added.

According to the Berita Daily news portal, Prabagaran was arrested in 2012 after 22.24g of diamorphine, a banned opiate was discovered wrapped in 2 bundles in the centre console of the car he drove at the Woodlands Checkpoint.

He was convicted in 2014 and given the death sentence that is mandated by the republic's drug laws.

Concerns about possible unfairness in the trial arose when it emerged that the conviction was secured without the testimony of 2 purportedly key witnesses.

Prabagaran has exhausted all legal avenues to appeal his conviction in Singapore.

His case was taken up by M. Ravi who professed to be an international human rights advocate and established the Singapore Anti-Death Penalty Campaign.

Ravi is working with Malaysian lawyers Latheefa Koya and N. Surendran to urge Putrajaya to try and stop Prabagaran's execution.

At the press conference, Ravi said that he submitted a memorandum to the Malaysian government via its consulate in Singapore on December 22, but has not received any response despite being promised one.

The memorandum was in relation Singapore's obligation to uphold the right to a fair trial.

He said that the Malaysian government could file an immediate complaint with the International Court of Justice on Prabagaran's case.

"I think Singapore, in my respectful opinion, will abide by the decision," he said.

Ravi later told Malay Mail Online that he was a former lawyer who had previously represented Prabagaran in the Singapore courts.

(source: themalaymailonline.com)

MALAYSIA:

2 drug pushers sentenced to death

The High Court here sentenced 2 men to death for trafficking 745.6gm and 52.1gm of syabu respectively on Wednesday.

High Court Judge Datuk Nurchaya Arshad delivered the sentence on Andy Majudil, 35, a local, and Mohd Noor Jumat, 38, a Brunei national after finding that the prosecution had proven its case.

They appeared calm upon hearing the verdict.

Andy and Noor were found guilty of committing the offence at a house in Taman Nelly, Inanam at 9.30pm on Nov 19, 2013.

They were convicted under Section 39B(1)(a) of the Dangerous Drugs Act which carries the death penalty upon conviction.

Andy and Mohd Noor had on Nov 29, last year, respectively gave unsworn statements in their defence.

They were represented by counsel Ram Singh and Datuk Seri Rakhbir Singh respectively, while Deputy Public Prosecutor Wan Farah Farriza Wan Ghazali appeared for the prosecution.

(source: thestar.com.my)

TEXAS----impending execution

Texas man set to die for killing pranksters who told him gravel was crack cocaine

A Fort Worth jury sent Christopher Wilkins to death row for killing 2 men he admitting shooting over a $20 phony drug deal after Wilkins said he didn't care whether he was sentenced to death.

"Look, it is no big deal," Wilkins calmly said from the witness stand at his 2008 trial.

On Wednesday, more than 11 years after the killings, the 48-year-old Wilkins is scheduled to die by lethal injection, pending the outcome of an appeal in the U.S. Supreme Court. If the execution goes ahead, it will be the nation's 1st this year.

In 2005, after serving time in prison for gun possession, Wilkins drove a stolen truck to Fort Worth, where police tied him to several aggravated assaults and burglaries. There he befriended 2 men, 40-year-old Willie Freeman and 33-year-old Mike Silva, who duped him into paying $20 for a piece of gravel he thought was a rock of crack cocaine.

According to court records, Wilkins said he shot Freeman on Oct. 28, 2005, for laughing about the scam, then he shot Silva because he was there.

Their bodies were found in a ditch. Wilkins' fingerprints were found in Silva's wrecked SUV, and a pentagram matching one of Wilkins' numerous tattoos had been carved into the hood.

"When I get wound up, I have a fuse that is short," Wilkins testified. "I don't think about what I am doing."

He also admitted that a day earlier he had shot and killed another man, Gilbert Vallejo, 47, outside a Fort Worth bar in a dispute over a pay phone, and about a week later he used a stolen car to try to run down 2 people because he believed 1 of them had taken his sunglasses.

"I know they are bad decisions," Wilkins said of his actions. "I make them anyway."

Kevin Rousseau, a Tarrant County assistant district attorney, described Wilkins as "a professional criminal. Very violent. He used violence as a means of achieve his means on a routine basis."

Wilkins' attorneys have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to halt the execution, saying he had poor legal help at trial and during other appeals, and that the courts should have authorized money to his current lawyer to support other appeals and a clemency petition.

"He has never had a meaningful opportunity at any stage to develop that claim, to have any court address it on the merits, or even to have it considered as part of a petition for executive clemency," attorney Seth Waxman, told the justices in his appeal.

Stephen Hoffman, an assistant Texas attorney general, said investigation of those arguments "would either be redundant or fruitless," and called the appeals a delaying tactic.

30 convicted killers were executed in the U.S. last year, the lowest number since the early 1980s. 7 were carried out last year in Texas, the fewest since 1996, but Wilkins is among 9 Texas inmates already scheduled to die in the early months of 2017.

(source: Dallas Morning News)

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

Executions under Greg Abbott, Jan. 21, 2015-present----20

Executions in Texas: Dec. 7, 1982----present-----538

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

21---------January 11---------------Christoper Wilkins----539

22---------January 25---------------Kosoul Chanthakoummane----540

23---------January 26---------------Terry Edwards---------541

24---------February 2---------------John Ramirez----------542

25---------February 7---------------Tilon Carter----------543

26---------March 14-----------------James Bigby-----------544

27---------April 12-----------------Paul Storey-----------545

28---------June 28------------------Steven Long-----------546

(sources: TDCJ & Rick Halperin)

PENNSYLVANIA:

Mother, boyfriend now charged in death, dismemberment of Montgomery County teen

A Montgomery County couple acted out a hate-fueled rape and murder fantasy on 14-year-old Grace Packer, authorities said, charging the girl's mother Sara Packer and her boyfriend Jacob Sullivan in a conspiracy to kill her and dismember her body.

The information Bucks County prosecutors used to charge Jacob Sullivan came in Sullivan's hospital bed confession Saturday as he recovered from a failed suicide pact with Packer a week earlier as authorities increased pressure on the couple following the discovery of Grace Packer's body near a Luzerne County reservoir last year, District Attorney Matthew Weintraub said Sunday.

Weintraub said that although Sullivan's statement cannot be used against Packer, investigators have a strong case alleging that she was complicit in the plot to kill the girl, who she adopted as a toddler. Packer purchased sedatives allegedly used in an attempt to poison her daughter and the bow saw allegedly used to remove her limbs, court documents say. She also stored the body for three months packed in kitty litter in an attic closet one floor above her bedroom, authorities allege.

"Unfortunately, she was just a disposable child to them," Weintraub said.

Packer, 41, of Horsham, is a former caseworker with Northampton County's Children and Youth agency, working with children from troubled homes, according to court records. She was named in a 2007 lawsuit against the agency along with several other case workers which was later dismissed. Packer left the agency at some point after her husband David W. Packer was arrested on charges of child sex abuse. He pleaded guilty to indecent assault of someone under 13-years-old age in 2011.

Packer was arraigned in district court in Newtown, Bucks County, at noon Sunday on 17 charges including criminal homicide, rape conspiracy, kidnapping and abuse of a corpse.

Sullivan, 44, was charged and arraigned after midnight Sunday. He faces 19 charges including criminal homicide, rape, kidnapping and abuse of a corpse. He could face the death penalty, according to Larry King, a spokesman for the Bucks County District Attorney's office.

District Judge Michael Petrucci denied bail for both Sullivan and Packer.

Charging documents say Sullivan told investigators the couple had planned to murder the girl for nearly a year before killing her in July.

"We never have to prove motive, but it's certainly helpful," Weintraub said. "This is one of the most shocking stunning motives I've ever heard of in my career as a prosecutor."

Charging documents describe in gruesome detail Sullivan's admission of the rape, killing and cover up. He told investigators he and Sara Packer drove Grace Packer in the wee hours of July 8 to a rented Richland Township home. There, Sullivan allegedly physically and sexually assaulted Grace Packer while her mother watched.

The couple then allegedly drugged Grace Packer and left her bound and gagged in a closet of the stiflingly hot attic, expecting her to die. When they returned hours later and found her still alive, Sullivan got down on the floor behind her and "slowly squeezed the life out of her," charging documents say.

Sara Packer reported her daughter missing several days later. Sullivan told investigators they stored Grace Packer's body in kitty litter in the attic until October, when, fearing police would discover it, they dismembered it in a bathtub and drove north on back roads to a Luzerne County reservoir where they dumped the body parts.

"It was a cold blooded crime that was calculated and planned with deadly detail," Weintraub said.

Timeline in death of Grace Packer

--July 4: Sara Packer's father, Franklin Pielaet, tells police that Grace Packer attended a family picnic in Laurys Station.

--July 8: Jacob Sullivan and Sara Packer drive with Grace Packer from Abington Township, Montgomery County, to new home in Richland Township, Bucks County.

--July 11: Sara Packer files missing persons report on Grace Packer with Abington Township police

--Sept. 7: Abington Township Detective Pettinato discovers Grace Packer's brother is enrolled in Quakertown Community School District, but Grace is not.

--Oct. 11: Pettinato tells Sara Packer that he is going to enter Grace into a national database for missing and unidentified persons.

--Oct. 31: Grace Packer's body is found in Bear Creek Township, Luzerne County.

--Nov. 11: Sara Packer charged with child endangerment and obstruction of the administration of law.

--Dec. 30: Sullivan and Sara Packer attempt suicide by overdose of pills. Both survive.

--Jan. 7: Sullivan admits to several hospital personnel his role in the murder of Grace Packer.

--Jan. 8: Sullivan is charged with homicide, rape, kidnapping and abuse of a corpse. Sara Packer is charged with homicide, rape conspiracy, kidnapping and abuse of corpse.

[source: Bucks County District Attorney's office]

(source: Morning Call)

VIRGINIA----impending execution

Judge declines to halt Virginia inmate's execution

A federal judge has refused to halt the execution of a man convicted of killing a family of 4 in Virginia.

Ricky Gray's attorneys had asked U.S. District Judge Henry Hudson for a delay to enable him to challenge the state's plan to use lethal injection drugs from a secret compounding pharmacy. Gray's attorneys say the state risks "chemically torturing" the man.

Hudson ruled Tuesday that Gray failed to show he's likely to win that challenge. Gray's execution remains scheduled for Jan. 18. His attorneys can appeal Hudson's decision to the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Gray was convicted of killing Bryan and Kathryn Harvey and their young daughters at their Richmond home on New Year's Day 2006.

(source: Associated Press)

OHIO:

Lawyer to address ethics of capital punishment

Jeff Gamso surveys the infliction of capital punishment across the country and sees a series of problems.

There are the ethical dilemmas of whether the state can justifiably take a convicted offender's life. Questions of innocence still remain in some cases. And the logistics of administering lethal drugs have proved difficult.

"We should not be in the business of executing," Mr. Gamso said.

Mr. Gamso, an assistant Cuyahoga County public defender and former defense attorney in Toledo, will address the topic at 7 p.m. Thursday. His speech, The Death Penalty in Ohio and the Nation: Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow, details capital punishment's history since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated it in 1976.

The forum will take place at First Unitarian Church of Toledo, 3205 Glendale Ave. Toledoans for Prison Awareness and the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio are hosting the free event.

Mr. Gamso said use of the death penalty, capital prosecutions, and support for capital punishment are trending downward.

"When we choose to execute people, it seems to me we're saying something about ourselves. When we choose not to execute people, we're also saying something about ourselves," Mr. Gamso said.

Capital punishment is not a necessary response for these criminal cases, Mr. Gamso said. An alternative sentence of life without parole provides the same result in which an inmate dies in prison, he said.

On California's death row, more people die from natural causes and suicides than executions, he said.

Permitting capital punishment shows a society that outlaws premeditated killing but does so itself, Mr. Gamso said.

"I think that's something we need to think about as a state, because it's done in our names, after all," he said.

The Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction lists 32 inmates scheduled for execution through 2021, including 7 Lucas County cases. Ohio has executed 393 convicted murderers in its history.

(source: Toledo Blade)

USA:

What's next for Dylann Roof?

Dylann Roof will be formally sentenced Wednesday after jurors recommended the death penalty for killing 9 people in a 2015 massacre at a historically black church in Charleston.

Roof will become the 1st federal hate crime defendant to be sentenced to death, a Justice Department spokesman said.

US District Judge Richard M. Gergel, who has presided over the trial, will hold the formal sentencing Wednesday at 9:30 a.m. ET.

Roof, who had chosen to represent himself during the penalty phase, has told the judge he wants to file a motion for new lawyers. Gergel said Roof can argue that on Wednesday but the judge is not inclined to let that happen.

The avowed white supremacist was convicted last month of federal murder and hate crimes charges. During the penalty phase, he cast his defense attorneys aside, telling jurors that he chose to represent himself to "prevent my lawyers from misrepresentation."

On Tuesday, he expressed no remorse during his closing argument. Roof reiterated that he had no choice but to kill 9 people at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in June 2015.

"I felt like I had to do it, and I still do feel like I had to do it," he said.

His statement followed the prosecutor's impassioned, 2-hour argument. Assistant US Attorney Jay Richardson reminded jurors that Roof sat with the church members for 40 minutes before opening fire. He pulled the trigger "more than 75 times ... reloading 7 times" as he stood over his victims, shooting them repeatedly, Richardson said.

Jurors had the option to recommend life in prison without the possibility of parole, but the 10 women and 2 men delivered a unanimous vote for the death penalty.

Yet, the jury's recommendation and the sentencing phase may not mean the end for the case.

Case could go on for 'very long time'

Death penalty cases are notorious for their complexity, often spending years in appeals and processes.

A group of defense attorneys and others who worked on Roof's behalf issued a statement, saying the death penalty decision means the case will not be over for a "very long time."

A former prosecutor in South Carolina, Holman Gossett said it's possible for Roof could ask for a new trial.

"He didn't have any attorneys helping him in the penalty phase so he may make that motion after reflecting on it," Gossett told CNN affiliate WSPA. "Then it would go through the process of automatic hearings with appellate courts to see if there's any reason under the law that it should not stand legal grounds."

Federal executions rare

Since the federal death penalty was reinstated in 1988 after a 16-year moratorium, 3 federal inmates have been executed in the United States. There are 63 federal prisoners awaiting execution.

And Roof's court appearances may be far from over.

He is also set to be tried on state murder charges, and prosecutors have said they'll also seek the death penalty in that case.

(source: CNN)

THAILAND:

NRSA approves death penalty for corruption exceeding 1 billion baht worth of ill-gotten gains

The National Reform Steering Assembly unanimously endorsed by 155 votes with 7 abstentions a report by its political reform panel which proposed stiffer penalties, including death, against corrupt politicians.

Mr Seri Suwanpanont, chair of the NRSA's political reform committee, clarified after the assembly meeting that corruption has been a serious problem that has undermined the country for a long time.

He claimed that his panel did not initiate the capital punishment but merely complied with the Criminal Code without any intention to hurt any particular group of people but merely intended to discourage people from getting involved in corruption.

Besides, he noted that only a handful of people who amassed more than 1 billion baht in ill-gotten gains from corrupt practices.

The report proposed varying degrees of punishments in accordance with the amount of money amassed from corruption: 5 years for amount less than 1 million baht; 10 years from amounts over 1 million baht up to 10 million baht; 20 years for amounts over 10 million baht up to 100 million baht; life imprisonment for amounts over 100 million baht up to 1 billion baht; and death penalty for amount exceeding 1 billion baht.

Seri defended that the report was meant to make it clear to political office holders of the consequences they would face if they are corrupt.

Mr Kasit Bhiromya, an assemblyman, rejected the death penalty, saying that as a Buddhist, he disagreed with the capital punishment.

The report will be fine-tuned before it is sent to the cabinet, the National Legislative Assembly, the Constitution Drafting Committee, the National Anti-Corruption Commission, the Constitutional Court, the Election Commission and the National Human Rights Commission for consideration.

(source: pattayamail.com)

PAKISTAN:

Pakistan sets execution date for mentally ill man----The United Nations has previously called on Pakistan to protect mentally ill inmates.

A Pakistani judge has issued a death warrant for a schizophrenic man, his lawyers said, months after the country's top court halted the execution of another mentally ill prisoner.

Khizar Hayat, a 55-year-old former police officer, was sentenced to death in 2003 for shooting a colleague.

The United Nations has previously called on Pakistan to protect mentally ill inmates, singling out Hayat as having "psychosocial disabilities".

The Justice Project Pakistan (JPP), which is managing his case, said Hayat's lawyer in September 2015 had challenged the execution in light of his mental illness.

Hayat was diagnosed by government doctors in 2008, when a de facto moratorium on the death penalty was in place.

But Lahore jail authorities pressed ahead with seeking the death warrant, which was granted by a sessions court, and the execution has been set for 17 January.

Another mentally-ill man, Imdad Ali, was given a last-minute reprieve from execution by the Supreme Court in October, which said it was "inappropriate" to hang someone in his condition. A final decision on his fate remains pending.

Sarah Belal, executive director of JPP, said:

"Expert medical opinion and Pakistan's international obligations makes Khizar's execution not only unlawful but also inhumane."

Knowingly hanging a mentally ill man would signal to the world that Pakistan does not uphold the fundamental rights of its citizens or abides by its international obligations.

Since lifting its moratorium on executions in December 2014, Pakistan has hanged some 420 prisoners, overtaking Saudi Arabia to become the world's 3rd largest executioner nation after China and Iran.

But according to a report by British charity Reprieve, 94% of Pakistan's executions have been for non-terrorism offences, despite the government's claim that capital punishment was reinstated to combat Islamist militancy.

(source: Agence France-Presse)

INDIA:

The love of hanging: There's one thing that India and Pakistan agree on

Last month, Pakistan joined India, Afghanistan, Bangladesh and the Maldives in rejecting a global moratorium on the death penalty at the UN.

Pakistan chose to vote against the recent resolution in the United Nations General Assembly that had called for a global moratorium on the death penalty and was adopted by the majority of member states.

The gist of this resolution has been adopted by the UN General Assembly every 2 years since 2007. The resolution adopted on December 19, 2016, was backed by 117 member states, while 40 voted against it and 31 abstained. As against the voting pattern in 2014, the new supporters of the moratorium call were Guinea, Malawi, Solomon Islands, Sri Lanka and Swaziland.

South Asia maintained its fondness for the death penalty as Pakistan joined Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India and Maldives in rejecting a universal moratorium, while Bhutan, Nepal and Sri Lanka voted in favour.

Pakistani authorities have an aversion to any scrutiny of the rationale for retaining the death penalty.

Those who defend the death penalty as a principle enjoined by Islam may look at the division among the Muslim states (the category includes all members of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, an association of 57 Islamic states).

How Muslim states voted

Those voting in favour of a moratorium included: Albania, Algeria, Azerbaijan, Benin, Bosnia Herzegovina, Burkina Faso, Chad, Cote d'Ivoire, Eritrea, Gabon, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Mali, Mozambique, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Suriname, Togo, Tajikistan, Tunisia, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.

Those who abstained included: Bahrain, Cameroon, Comoros, Djibouti, Indonesia, Jordan, Lebanon, Mauritania, Morocco, Niger, Nigeria, Uganda and the United Arab Emirates.

The Muslim states that voted against the resolution were: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Brunei, Egypt, Guyana, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Libya, Malaysia, Maldives, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

We find that 24 of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation's 57 member states voted in favour of the moratorium, while 13 abstained and only 18 voted against. In other words, Pakistan is in the minority group of 18 Organisation of Islamic Cooperation member countries that opposes the moratorium.

It is for Pakistan's government and its Islamic scholars to ponder as to why the majority of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation members do not find any faith-based bar to the acceptance of a moratorium on capital punishment. They may also consider the possibility that, as in the case of some international treaties, reservations expressed in the name of religion are in fact dictated by the culture or custom of the countries concerned.

What is more distressing for human rights activists, abolitionist groups and promoters of humanitarian laws in Pakistan is the authorities' aversion to any scrutiny of the rationale for their love of the death penalty regime.

What one hears of references to the death penalty during the Universal Periodic Review [a process in which the human rights records of all 193 UN member states are reviewed periodically] or at talks with the European Union on the GSP+ [Generalised Scheme of Preferences] status is not the result of any serious deliberation. Indeed, one doubts if any discussion on the subject has ever taken place in Pakistan. That there is an urgent need for such a discussion can easily be established.

The recent cases in which the Supreme Court acquitted 2 individuals who had already been executed, or ordered the release of persons who had spent long years on death row, have strengthened the call for abolition of the death penalty on the ground of high risk of miscarriage of justice. A number of other issues that have surfaced over the past many years also need to be addressed. These are:

-- The view that the death sentence is not a deterrent to crime has not been challenged nor has the view that hangings brutalise society.

-- The Qisas [retribution] law has prevented the Pakistan president from pardoning death convicts or commuting their sentence although his power to do so under Article 45 of the Constitution remains intact. How does one explain the fact that the Army chief can pardon a person awarded the death sentence by a military court while the president cannot do so?

-- The scholars agree that Islam prescribes the death penalty in only 2 instances. How does the state of Pakistan defend the fact that capital punishment is prescribed for 27 offences in the name of religion?

-- The judiciary has pointed out the problems it faces in cases in which capital punishment is mandatory if the evidence on record warrants a lesser penalty.

-- The possibility of a minor or a mentally challenged person being executed keeps cropping up every now and then.

The case in India

One ventures to suggest a look at the Indian response to the issue of the death penalty in view of our shared legal tradition.

The Law Commission of India recommended in August 2015, vide its Report No 262, that "the death penalty be abolished for all crimes other than terrorism-related offences and waging war". The commission agreed to retain capital punishment for certain offences in view of a plea by parliamentarians that "abolition of death penalty for terrorism-related offences and waging war will affect national security", although in the commission's view "there is no valid penological justification for treating terrorism differently from other crimes".

The commission noted the significant steps taken during India's decades-long efforts to restrict the use of the death penalty: removal of the requirement of giving special reasons for awarding life imprisonment instead of death (1955); introduction of the requirement of imposing the death penalty (1973); and the Supreme Court's decision that the death penalty should be restricted to the rarest of rare cases (1980). The conclusion reached by the commission was:

"Informed also by the expanded and deepened contents and horizons of the right to life and strengthened due process requirements in the interactions between the state and the individual, prevailing standards of constitutional morality and human dignity, the commission feels that time has come for India to move towards abolition of the death penalty."

During the latest debate in the UN General Assembly, however, India again voted against the resolution calling for a moratorium although it could have shown some respect for the Law Commission's recommendation by abstaining. Which only goes to show that in developing countries state policies are often determined by authorities that are too timid to disturb the status quo or too proud of their conservatism to heed the counsel of experts who are conscious of the call of the age.

(source: scroll.in)

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

Couple awarded death penalty for killing Dalit woman

A Sessions Court here on Tuesday awarded the death sentence to a couple, holding them guilty of killing a Dalit woman after her brother eloped with their daughter.

After Viswanathan, a railway employee from Vannarpet in Palayamkottai eloped with Kaveri, a caste Hindu girl from Thatchanallur last May, the girl's father, P. Sankaranarayanan (48), is said to have visited Viswanathan's house on several occasions and threatened the youth's kin, demanding that they hand over his daughter. However, the family maintained that they were unaware of the couple's whereabouts.

Growing agitated over this, Sankaranarayanan and his wife Chellammal (42) went to Mr. Viswanathan's house on May 13 last year and picked-up a quarrel with his sister Kalpana (25), who was at home along with her 18-month-old son at the time. As the heated exchange got out of hand, Sankaranarayanan, in a fit of rage, hacked Kalpana to death and fled the spot. Later in the day, he was arrested along with his wife.

'A honour killing'

During the trial, B. Rajaprabhakaran, Special Public Prosecutor, cited 7 verdicts of the Supreme Court and produced 17 prosecution witnesses to strengthen his case. Terming the murder as a honour killing, he prayed for capital punishment to be awarded to the accused.

Holding that the prosecution had proved the charges against the couple beyond reasonable doubt, the Second Additional Sessions and Special Court Judge, Abdul Khader, awarded the death sentence to Sankaranarayanan and Chellammal.

(source: The Hindu)

EGYPT:

Ibrahim Halawa vows to stay on hunger strike until he's released from Egyptian jail----Ibrahim was arrested in August 2013 after he attended a demonstration in Cairo supporting the Muslim Brotherhood

Ibrahim Halawa has vowed to stay on hunger strike until he is released from prison in Egypt, his sister has revealed.

The Irishman has been surviving on just milk and water for 15 days but his family are "very hopeful" a visit to the country by 8 TDs yesterday will finally lead to him returning home.

His sister Nasaybi said: "He has been on hunger strike before and we try every time to stop him from doing it by convincing him it is only going to harm his body.

"Sometimes he listens to my mother and father and he will stop but we got a message yesterday that this time he has said, 'I can't handle this any more so I'm not going to stop my hunger strike until I'm back home'.

The TD delegation led by Ceann Comhairle Sean O Fearghail met with their Egyptian counterparts and discussed the case of the 21-year-old, who has been imprisoned for 40 months.

Nasaybi, 35, said the family are pleased by the multi-party approach as the Government strategy over 3 years "has not worked".

Ibrahim, from Firhouse, South Dublin, was arrested in August 2013 after he attended a demonstration in Cairo supporting the Muslim Brotherhood, which had been ousted from power by the Egyptian military.

He is being tried alongside more than 490 others on charges which could ultimately see him face the death penalty.

However, the trial was postponed for the 17th time last month and has been rescheduled for next Tuesday.

Ibrahim's family claim he has been tortured, suffered electric shocks, beatings, been spat on and moved without their knowledge during his time in custody.

Nasaybi added her mother Amina Mostafa travelled to Egypt in recent weeks, while a family member is due to meet the multi-party delegation for an update on Ibrahim's case.

She said: "He was so upset because I had twin baby boys [Salaman and Ismil] at the beginning of December and they are getting bigger.

"Everybody's life is moving on and he is missing out. My daughter Aisha is nearly four and when he left she was only a few months old."

Speaking about the multi-party delegation, Nasaybi added: "We are very happy about that and we are very hopeful this will bring Ibrahim home.

"It doesn't matter how, we just want him home.

"We have been dealing with the Irish Government involving Ibrahim's case and we really find that has not worked so well, but we really hope because it's the parliament now that that will bring Ibrahim home.

"It's not only the Government's view now, it's not one group's view. It's different people from different groups so hopefully it's a parliament [view] and they are representing the people of Ireland and they should give them our voice.

"Hopefully they will bring something different than what the Government has been doing for us over three years. For me the Irish Government's strategy is not working.

"I hope the parliamentary group will be able to see the condition my brother is in as well. He is destroyed physically and mentally because of what he went through until now, it's terrible."

(source: Irish Mirror)

THE NETHERLANDS:

Dutch Protestant fundamentalists debate the reintroduction of death penalty

The Dutch Protestant Fundamentalist Party SGP is proposing the reintroduction of the death penalty.

Heading towards the March legislative elections the chairman of the Zwartewaterland branch of SGP told AD that party should include the death penalty in its March 2017 manifesto, making references to the Old Testament and "God's Sword." The same pledge was in the party's 2012 manifesto, although the national party spokesman said they would recommend against this position in the forthcoming legislative elections.

The debate and takes place in theological terms.

SGP promotes the idea of a theocratic state and has 3 MPs in the 150-seat Dutch Parliament. It gains most of its support from the so-called Dutch "bible belt" of deeply conservative constituencies from Zeeland to West-Betuwe and Veluwe. The central role of the Church in these tightly knit communities also means a socially conservative stand that goes against the liberal mainstream on many issues, including euthanasia, gay rights, abortion, and gender equality, The party traditionally is against the right of women to vote. Currently, SGP does not allow women to stand for office, although they can be members. In 2001, the United Nations declared that the Netherlands is discriminating against women for accepting SGP within its parliamentary ranks.

(source: neweurope.eu)

JANUARY 10, 2017:

USA----new federal death sentence

Jury sentences Dylann Roof to death for Charleston church slayings----'I still feel like I had to do it': Dylann Roof makes chilling closing argument

A federal grand jury sentenced Dylann Roof to death on Tuesday for killing 9 black parishioners during a massacre inside a church here last year.

Roof was convicted last month of 33 counts of federal hate crimes. The same jury that found him guilty on all counts last month deliberated Tuesday for just under 3 hours before deciding his sentence.

Earlier Tuesday, Roof, 22, had stood before the jury and delivered a halting and cryptic closing argument, suggesting that the prosecution "hates me" and that his murders of nine parishioners at a Bible study meeting in 2015 were not motivated by hatred of black people.

"Anyone that thinks I’m filled with hatred has no idea what real hatred is," said Roof, a self-described white supremacist who has said he hoped his high-profile killings would incite a race war in America. "They don't know anything about me. They don't know what real hatred looks like. They think they do, but they don't."

"I would say that in this case, the prosecution and anyone else who hates me, are the ones that have been misled," Roof said in a soft voice, standing before the 8 women and 4 men who, shortly after, were to begin deliberating whether he will be sentenced to death or life in prison without the possibility of parole.

"Wouldn't it be fair to say that the prosecution hates me?" Roof said, noting that prosecutors were seeking the death penalty.

Roof told the jury they might think, "'Of course they hate you; everyone hates you. They have good reason to hate you.' I don't deny it."

For the 1st time, Roof also seemed to obliquely raise the possibility that some emotional or mental condition may have led to his killing spree. Previously, Roof had clashed with his court-appointed attorneys who wanted to introduce evidence of mental illness.

"Um, I think it's safe to say that no one in their right mind wants to go into a church and kill people," said Roof, wearing a light blue cable-knit sweater and gray khakis, at the start of his seven-minute closing argument.

Roof pointed out to the jury that in his confession to the FBI, "I told them I had to do it. ... Obviously that's not true. Nobody made me do it."

Without directly explaining his meaning, Roof then said, "I felt like I had to do it, and I still feel like I had to do it."

Roof also noted that he had a right to ask the jury to spare his life, but "I'm not sure what good that would do."

Roof said FBI officials in his interrogation asked him, "So is it safe to say that you don't like black people?"

"My response to them was, 'Well, I don't like what black people do,'" he said.

If he hated black people, Roof said, "wouldn't I have just said, 'Yes, I don't like black people'?"

He noted that imposition of the death penalty required a unanimous decision by the jury.

"Only 1 of you needs to disagree," he said, noting that each of them has said during jury selection that they would stand up for what they thought was right.

With that, Roof paused, looked up and said:

"That's all, thank you."

Roof's closing statement followed a detailed 2-hour closing argument by prosecutor Jay Richardson, who recapped the facts of the case, which have been uncontested by Roof.

Roof's guilt was never in doubt; he admitted to FBI interrogators that he had planned for months to kill black worshipers at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, known as Mother Emanuel, because of the church's historic significance in the black community - he said it would "make the biggest wave" and hopefully inspire other white people to kill black people.

The only question was whether Roof, a 9th-grade dropout, would be sentenced to death or to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Roof seemed to all but guarantee his fate by choosing to fire his court-appointed lawyers - including a respected death penalty specialist - and represent himself during the penalty phase of the trial.

Richardson told the jury how Roof had planned the shootings for months and had become a radicalized racist online in recent years - especially since the killing of black Florida teenager Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman, a white man.

"He feels no remorse because it was worth it to him," Richardson said.

Richardson displayed photos of all 9 victims, who ranged in age from 26 to 87 - contrasting photos of them smiling in life and lying crumpled and bloody on a church basement floor after being shot by Roof.

Richardson also noted that Roof considered Adolf Hitler "an icon, someone to be emulated," and even loaded 88 bullets into his gun's magazines - a common white supremacist symbol: H is the 8th letter of the alphabet, and 88 represents "Heil Hitler."

Richardson urged the jury to "speak the truth and hold this defendant accountable for his actions. Sentence this defendant to death."

(source: Washington Post)

FLORIDA:

State waits out death penalty legislation

The state dismissed a murder charge Monday against an inmate accused of beating his cellmate to death amid concerns about procedures used in the death penalty.

The Office of the State Attorney released a statement Monday saying it was deferring prosecution on a 1st-degree murder charge against Shawn Rogers, a Santa Rosa Correctional Institution inmate that was accused of killing his cellmate Ricky D. Martin in 2012.

The release said concerns raised about procedures used in death penalty cases was the primary reason for dismissing the case, but it also said the state will re-indict and again seek the death penalty once legislation has been reviewed.

State Attorney Bill Eddins said this is a particularly unique case, and there are few, if any, others he would consider a similar filing with.

Rogers already is serving a life without parole sentence for armed robbery, and was imprisoned for that crime when the death occurred. With no chance of him walking free with a deferred prosecution as he's still serving the other sentence, Eddins said it makes more sense to wait out the Florida Legislature's review of the death penalty before proceeding.

Some death-row inmates could get new sentences

A Nolle Pros filing means the case is dismissed, but it doesn't prohibit the state from again seeking prosecution in the future. With a death penalty procedure that Eddins said is currently 'muddled', the state will wait until lawmakers have ironed out the procedure before continuing with the murder case. Eddins said he expects that to happen in March or April.

"While we can technically still seek the death penalty, until that ruling is reissued and becomes final, it makes sense to wait," Eddins said.

The Nolle Prosequi filing is a tactic Eddins said has successfully been used previously in homicide cases locally, but it's not common.

The state sought the death penalty for Rogers when he pleaded guilty to the murder in 2015. Eddins said that as Rogers was already serving life in prison without parole for an unrelated offense, requesting a life sentence for Martin's death when Rogers already was serving one would in essence leave Rogers unpunished for the crime.

Rogers was originally charged with one count of 1st-degree premeditated murder and one count of kidnapping for the incident.

Reports said Rogers had an extensive history of violence prior to Martin's death, and had been involved in around 30 incidents at various correctional institutions between 2002-12.

A report by the Inspector General's Office about the March 30, 2012, murder said several inmates in nearby cells said the attack had been racially motivated.

Reports say Martin was found bleeding on the floor of the 2-man cell with extensive injuries to his head and face. Martin's hands and feet had been tied with strips of bed sheet, and his pants and underwear were down to his knees. Martin died of his injuries close to a week after being removed from life support at a Pensacola hospital.

A U.S. District Court case filed by Martin's family last March claims that the attack was a result of systemic failures in the correctional institution and at the state level. The suit alleges that Martin filed a grievance roughly 4 months before his death asking to be placed in protective custody because he believed his life was threatened, but it wasn't approved.

The court documents also state that inmates reported the threats on Martin's life to prison officers, but no action was taken.

The District Court case filed by Martin's family is ongoing.

Once the state's murder charge is dismissed against Rogers, he will be returned to the Department of Corrections and will remain incarcerated on the robbery life sentence. He will not be released at any time.

(soruce: Pensacola News Journa;)

OHIO:

Ohio obtains hundreds of vials of lethal drugs

Ohio has obtained hundreds of vials of lethal injection drugs, allowing it to put a condemned child killer to death next month and conduct multiple executions after it, records show.

Inventory logs obtained by The Associated Press through a public records request show the state received supplies 3 times in September and October for the 1st drug used in the process, a sedative called midazolam that's been at the center of several lawsuits over lethal injection.

The records show the state obtained supplies twice in September and October for the second drug used in the process and three times in September for the t3rd drug.

The state has said the drugs it plans to use on the first 3 executions this year are standard drugs approved by the Food and Drug Administration, though it won't say where they came from. Attorneys for death row inmates have raised concerns the state may have to resort to drugs from compounding pharmacies, which produce specialty batches and aren’t subject to the same type of federal regulation as FDA-approved drugs.

Attorneys have been unable to identify the suppliers or producers because of the 2015 law and because recent federal court rulings bar them from obtaining the information through usual evidence channels.

The logs show the state could conceivably carry out dozens of executions with these supplies. What's unclear is the drugs' expiration dates - information not provided on the logs - which could control whether they're available for future executions.

JoEllen Smith, a spokeswoman for the Ohio prisons agency, declined to comment.

The state plans to execute Ronald Phillips on Feb. 15 for the 1993 rape and murder of his girlfriend's 3-year-old daughter in Akron. 7 other executions are also scheduled this year.

The logs obtained by the AP show:

-- The Department of Rehabilitation and Correction received 750 vials of midazolam on Sept. 9; 750 vials again on Oct. 3; and 100 vials on Oct. 27. That could be enough for as many as 40 executions.

-- The state received 150 vials of rocuronium bromide, a paralytic drug and the 2nd drug administered, on Sept. 9; and 80 vials of the drug on Sept. 30. 10 of those vials would be enough for 1 execution.

-- The state received 12 vials of potassium chloride, a drug that stops the heart and the last drug administered, on Sept. 9; 12 vials on Sept. 23; and 150 vials on Sept. 30. That could be enough for dozens of executions.

Ohio and other states have struggled to find legal supplies of execution drugs.

Drugmakers have by and large put their drugs off-limits for executions. Last year, Pfizer put 7 drugs off-limits, including the 3 drugs to be used by Ohio. But drugs like midazolam are widespread, found everywhere from dental offices to veterinary clinics, making it difficult to trace the origin.

Executions have been on hold in Ohio since January 2014, when Dennis McGuire gasped and snorted during the 26 minutes it took him to die, the longest execution since the state resumed putting prisoners to death in 1999.

The state used a 2-drug method with McGuire, starting with midazolam, its 1st use for executions in the country.

Attorneys challenging Ohio's new 3-drug method say midazolam is unlikely to relieve an inmate's pain. The drug, which is meant to sedate inmates, was also used in a problematic 2014 execution in Arizona. But last year, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the use of midazolam in a case out of Oklahoma.

The state says the method is similar to Ohio's past execution process, which survived court challenges. State attorneys also say the Supreme Court ruling last year makes clear that the use of midazolam is allowable.

A trial challenging the state's execution method was wrapping up Monday in federal court in Dayton. Testifying for the state last week, a member of the execution team that put McGuire to death said he was puzzled by McGuire's reaction and "was wondering what was going on."

Another execution team member testified he didn't believe McGuire suffered.

(source: Associated Press)

IOWA:

Remember Iowa's history before seeking capital punishment

Whenever brutal murders happen in Iowa, there's often a call for a return to capital punishment. The ambush slayings of Des Moines Police Sgt. Tony Beminio and Urbandale Police Officer Justin Martin are the latest examples.

Iowa has had a long history with capital punishment, stretching over more than 100 years, from the earliest days of settlement in the 1830s, to 1965 when the death penalty was repealed. 46 men were executed. There were no women.

As a group, these 46 committed some of the most gruesome murders Iowa has ever seen, killing children, police officers, wives, complete strangers and on and on.

I've looked closely at each case - and written a book about them - and have come away feeling that Iowans, overall, were relieved when capital punishment came to an end.

Did Iowa execute the insane? Yes, at least once.

In 1931, Joseph Altringer, a 23-year-old Dubuque sexual predator, was convicted of murdering 12-year-old Earl Robert Fuller whose body was found down near the Mississippi River in Dubuque. Altringer confessed after 15 hours of interrogation and was hanged on Nov. 6, 1931.

In the subsequent autopsy, Dr. Andrew Woods, head of the Iowa Psychopathic Hospital in Iowa City, wrote in the Journal of the American Medical Association that "this prisoner was insane (from a seriously diseased brain, most likely from syphilis) and ought to have been confined in a hospital and not executed."

Did Iowa execute the developmentally disabled? Yes, it appears so, at least twice, in a single execution.

On March 29, 1946, Phillip Heincy, 72, and his son, William, 45, were hanged together for murdering Robert Raebel, a West Lake Okoboji resort owner.

Testimony showed that neither murderer knew much about the world around them. For instance, Philip Heincy hadn't gone to school much past the second grade, couldn't read or write, didn't know the significance of Easter or the Fourth of July, nor the number of months, or days, in a year. Their defense attorney told the jury the opportunities for the two "were limited because their intelligence did not permit them to get into proper society."

Did Iowa hang a man who had murdered as a juvenile? Yes, on May 13, 1892, 16-year-old James Dooley murdered his aunt, Lucinda Coons, and his 10-year-old cousin, Nellie Coons, on a farm near Corning in Adams County. By the time Dooley was executed, he was 18.

Did those Iowans who probably knew capital punishment the best - prosecutors, judges, sheriffs, wardens - support it? It often didn't seem so.

Dubuque County Attorney John Duffy rued the day he won a murder conviction of Marlo Heinz in 1938 for killing his 6-year-old nephew David Fox. Duffy subsequently served in the Iowa Legislature and told his fellow legislators he'd been haunted by the conviction and execution ever since. "I don't think he (Heinz) got a fair trial and I am not proud of the role I had in his hanging," he said.

Pottawattamie County Judge John Tinley said, after overseeing the conviction and execution of Allen Wheaton in 1938, that $10,000 wouldn't be enough to bring him back to again perform his judicial duty as a witness to the execution.

Iowa's county sheriffs were required by law to carry out the hanging, a duty that just about caused Polk County Sheriff William Robb, also an ordained minister and pastor of the Urbandale Federated Church, to come unhinged. He executed 2 in 1922, Eugene Weeks 1st, and Orrie Cross 2 months later, for the murder of prominent Des Moines grocer George Fosdick. After the 1st hanging, people speculated the sheriff would resign before doing the second, but he held it together and was able to do what the law required.

And Iowa State Penitentiary Warden Percy Lainson talked about what it was like in the prison as an execution neared. "The hanging wasn't the bad part," he said. "It was waiting for days, then hours, that was bad."

Did Iowa find a fail-safe method for carrying out its executions? No, never.

The only method Iowa ever used was hanging and it often went awry. In 1858, the rope snapped, requiring William Hinkle to be hanged twice; in 1924, the rope snapped again, but this time, Roy Maupin was dead by the time he hit the floor; in 1941, Ivan Sullivan gasped for breath for about 10 minutes before doctors finally detected no pulse; in 1945, the rope severed the jugular vein of William Jarrett, allowing blood to spurt down his body. Some witnesses thought he'd been decapitated.

Iowa ended the death penalty in 1965. Gov. Harold Hughes was an outspoken foe of capital punishment, and repeal passed both houses of the Iowa Legislature easily. In the House, the vote was 89 to 29, with 7 Republicans joining 82 Democrats in support. In the Senate, it passed 35 to 20, with six Republicans voting with 29 Democrats.

(source: DICK HAWS is a retired journalism professor at Iowa State University----Des Moines Register)

COLORADO:

New DA McCann says Denver is done with the death penalty

Denver is done with the death penalty. It dies as District Attorney Mitch Morrissey leaves office on Tuesday.

His successor, Democrat Beth McCann, sat down with Next, and said she'll make good on her campaign promise to remove Denver from the list of the few remaining judicial districts in the state to seek capital punishment.

"We are (done) under my administration," she said. "I don't think that the state should be in the business of killing people."

McCann believes life in prison gets the point of a punishment across, and "the millions and millions of dollars" the state spends on capital punishment cases can be saved to prosecute others.

Morrisey sought the death penalty once. It was for Dexter Lewis, who was found guilty of stabbing 5 people to death in a Fero's Bar.

Gary Davis is the only person put to death in Colorado since the Supreme Court reinstated it in 1976. Davis was put to death in 1997.

McCann is not looking to lead a statewide repeal of the death penalty, and she says she'd support a voter referendum on the issue, or repeal in the legislature.

Tuesday, 9NEWS will talk to McCann about how she plans to handle prosecution of police officers accused of breaking the law, and how her work as a gun control advocate will impact how she prosecutes gun crimes in Denver.

(source: 9NEWS)

NEW MEXICO:

GOP to revive death penalty proposal during session

The death penalty will again be an issue in the state Legislature when it reconvenes next week.

A capital punishment bill, sponsored by Rep. Monica Youngblood, R-Albuquerque, is identical to what was perhaps the most divisive piece of legislation in last fall's special session of the Legislature.

But unlike last year, Republicans - who lost control of the House in the November election - will have a much harder time getting a capital punishment bill to the House floor.

"It's my hope that people don't see it as a full reinstatement of the death penalty," Youngblood said Monday.

The state abolished the death penalty in 2009.

Youngblood said her bill, House Bill 72, targets "only the most heinous criminals, the ones that prey upon our children and our police officers."

Like last year's bill, which she co-sponsored, Youngblood's new bill would make murdering a law enforcement officer, corrections personnel or a child the only crimes that would be eligible for a death sentence.

Youngblood said polls show most New Mexicans favor capital punishment for certain crimes.

But Rep. Matthew McQueen, D-Galisteo, said Monday the death penalty is riddled with problems.

"There have been numerous examples around the country as well as in New Mexico of people who were sentenced to death later being exonerated," McQueen said. "And it's tremendously expensive. I believe it's a waste of resources. I'm hopeful this year we'll make short work of it."

Bringing back capital punishment would bring additional costs to a judicial system already strapped by the state's budget crunch.

Sen. Pete Campos, D-Las Vegas, in an opinion piece submitted to various news organizations, wrote, "New Mexico's courts face a funding crisis that threatens to undermine the judiciary's ability to protect our rights by delivering timely justice. ... The prosecution of criminal cases is being impaired. Some courts confront the possibility of dismissing cases because the state's public defender office lacks the staff and budget it needs to handle more cases."

A fiscal analysis by the Legislative Finance Committee of last year's death penalty bill said reinstating executions could cost the state up to $7.2 million a year over a 3-year period.

"The cost to the judicial system to process one individual through the death penalty process, which historically has taken an average of 11 years, is about $105,000 per year," the report says. "The cost to incarcerate one individual on death row is $51,100 a year."

In the analysis, the Administrative Office of the Courts estimated that a death penalty jury trial would cost $12,000 to $17,000 more than a nondeath penalty case. More jury costs would be incurred because after finding someone guilty in a death penalty case, a jury would have to determine whether to impose capital punishment.

The report also said that in cases stemming from the 2007 Santa Rosa prison riot - in which prosecutors initially sought the death penalty for three inmates in the killing of a corrections officer - the state Public Defender's Office spent $474,600 on contract defense attorneys, $1 million on expert witnesses and $76,800 on other costs before trial. The total expense to the department was $1.6 million.

In that case, the state Supreme Court ruled that unless the Legislature appropriated funds in addition to the $1.1 million previously allocated for the case, the death penalty could not be imposed. The Legislature didn't approve those funds, so prosecutors dropped the death penalty from the case.

HB 72 includes a number of mitigating circumstances - such as the defendant's age, mental capacity and prior criminal record - that could be weighed by a jury in considering imposing the death penalty. Executions would not be allowed if the defendant suffers "intellectual disabilities." And if a condemned inmate is pregnant, the execution would be held until the baby is born.

At the end of October's special session, the House voted 36-30 along party lines to reinstate the death penalty, with Republicans in the majority. This followed a debate that started after midnight and ended just before 6 a.m. Many critics, including state religious leaders, blasted House leaders for holding the debate during the wee hours without any public notice. Hours later, the Senate voted to adjourn without considering the bill.

Last year was the 1st time that capital-punishment supporters made a serious effort to bring back the death penalty. The push came following several cases of police killings and child murders, including the rape and dismemberment of 10-year-old Victoria Martens.

Democrats criticized the idea of considering the capital punishment bill during the special session, which originally was meant to deal with the state's budget crisis. Some said it was nothing but a political ploy for Republicans to use during the general election.

If so, that plan backfired. Republicans lost control of the House after 2 years of being the majority. Though Republican Gov. Susana Martinez's political team was successful in bringing down Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez, D-Belen - who opposed the death penalty bill - the GOP suffered a net loss in the Senate.

Between 1979 and 2007, when the death penalty was an option to prosecutors, there were more than 200 death penalty cases filed, but only 15 men sentenced to death and only 1 execution.

Though the death penalty was repealed in 2009, 2 inmates who previously were convicted for murders remain on death row. They are Timothy Allen, convicted in 1995, and Robert Fry, convicted for a murder in 2000.

(source: The New Mexican)

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

New Mexico rekindles efforts to reinstate death penalty

A Republican state lawmaker in New Mexico is reviving efforts to reinstate the death penalty as an option for convicted killers of police, children and corrections officers.

Rep. Monica Youngblood of Albuquerque has pre-filed a bill that would bring back punishment by lethal injection to New Mexico. A spokesman for GOP Gov. Susana Martinez said Monday she supports the measure.

A similar bill was approved by the state's Republican-controlled House of Representatives in October during a special legislative session but never taken up by the Senate. Democrats retook majority control of the Legislature in November elections.

Last year's proposal became fodder for election-season mailers accusing Democratic candidates of being weak on crime. Leading Democratic lawmakers including Senate majority leader Peter Wirth say they are disinclined to take up the legislation.

(source: Associated Press)

USA:

120-day Delay Requested in Dzhokhar Tsarnaev Death Penalty Appeal

As a 2nd man rejoins Massachusetts' short list of convicts sentenced to death, lawyers are reportedly seeking another delay in the appeals process that would spare the life of convicted Boston Marathon bomber Dhzokar Tsarnaev.

The Boston Herald's Laurel Sweet reports Monday that the team appealing Tsarnaev's sentence is requesting another two-month delay to build their case.

Those arguments were initially due last October, but the team received a 120-day delay at that time. They requested another today, according to Sweet.

Tsarnaev was sentenced to the death penalty in summer of 2015 for his role in the 2013 bombings that killed 3 people and injured 250 more. He also killed a police officer in the ensuing manhunt. The jury's unanimous decision followed 14 hours of deliberation.

Also on Monday, convicted killer Gary Lee Sampson lost his 2nd bid to avoid death row. A jury added him back to a short list of federal convicts on death row and an even shorter list of people from Massachusetts receiving the sentence. The death penalty is illegal in Massachusetts, but both Sampson and Tsarnaev's cases are federal, and therefore an exception.

(source: Boston Patch)

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Convicted killer Gary Lee Sampson sentenced to death

After a jury deliberated for more than 16 hours, admitted serial killer Gary Lee Sampson was sentenced to death for the murder of Jonathan Rizzo.

In addition, Sampson will receive an automatic life term for the murder of Philip McCloskey because the jury could not come to a unanimous verdict. It was Sampson's 2nd death penalty case following his 2001 killing spree.

Prior to the verdict, a mysterious letter included with the verdict forms by 1 of the jurors added a new wrinkle to the case. Judge Leo T. Sorokin said the letter came to his attention through a question from the jury, who said a juror placed a letter in the packet after the jurors had all signed the verdict forms. It is unclear what the contents of the letter are, but Sampson defense attorney Michael Burt said the letter should be preserved for the record, including possible appeals.

Burt speculated the letter could be evidence of coercion, which assistant United States Attorney Zachary Hafer dismissed as speculation.

"Let's stop the speculation," Hafer said. "It could be evidence of coercion, it could be a juror sickened by the 20-day defense presentation."

Sorokin answered the question by reiterating instructions given to the jury prior to the start of deliberations and telling the jury they "speak through the verdict form." He later ruled that the letter would be preserved.

7 men and 5 women began deciding the life or death question last Thursday.

Sampson was sentenced to death in 2003 for the carjacking murder of Boston gas retiree Phillip McClosky, 69, and George Washington University sophomore Jonathan Rizzo, 19. Sampson was also convicted of killing Robert "Eli" Whitney, but because he was not carjacked, that particular killing is not punishable by death.

Attorneys for the Abington native argued a death sentence would be "redundant," saying Sampson has end-stage liver disease, type 2 diabetes, heart problems and hypertension. Burt said Sampson will likely be dead in less than 3 years anyway.

Sampson, 57, bears little resemblance to photos taken shortly after his arrest that show a physically fit individual with defined muscles showing as he wore a sleeveless shirt. The convicted killer is now balding and significantly overweight.

(source: Boston Herald)

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

Prosecutors rest death penalty case against Dylann Roof

After 4 days of testimony, prosecutors rested their death penalty case Monday against convicted Charleston church shooter Dylann Roof, calling more than 2 dozen people during the trial's penalty phase.

Most of the testimony consisted of heartwarming stories about each of the 9 people Roof killed in the 2015 attack at Emanuel AME Church. Witnesses also talked about the heartrending tales of loss in the wake of the deaths.

Roof, 22, was convicted last month on 33 federal charges, including hate crimes and obstruction of religion. The same jury that found him guilty has been back in court this month, tasked with deciding if he gets the death penalty or life in prison.

Jennifer Pinckney was the government's 1st witness, testifying about the life of her husband, church pastor and state Sen. Clementa Pinckney. She also spoke about the harrowing minutes she spent huddled underneath a desk with her youngest daughter as shots rang out in the next room, unsure if the shooter was coming her way.

Survivor Felicia Sanders, who also gave powerful testimony during the guilt phase of Roof's trial, wrapped up prosecutors' case at sentencing, talking about her creative, 26-year-old son, the youngest victim, and his commitment to his faith and Emanuel.

"That night they were getting basic instruction before leaving Earth," Sanders said. "I did not know that was going to be the life of them."

Roof is representing himself and has said he plans to call no witnesses in his own defense. U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel says he expects jurors to begin deliberating as early as Tuesday.

(source: Associated Press)

JAPAN:

Former Aum cultist publishes memoir on gas attacks, cult leader

The sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway system on March 20, 1995 killed 13 and left more than 6,000 people injured.

A former executive of the Aum Shinrikyo cult who helped manufacture the sarin gas that killed 13 people and sickened more than 6,000 on the Tokyo subway system in 1995 has published a memoir.

In it, Tomomasa Nakagawa, 54, a former medical doctor and now death-row inmate, reveals the method used by the cult to manufacture the deadly nerve gas and also discusses former Aum leader Shoko Asahara, whom he cared for.

"He was a criminal before (being regarded as) a religious leader in that he transformed a religious organization into a criminal enterprise," Nakagawa noted about Asahara, whose real name is Chizuo Matsumoto.

Matsumoto, 61, is also on death row.

Nakagawa published the memoir in the November issue of Gendai Kagaku (Chemistry Today), urged by Anthony Tu, professor emeritus at Colorado State University and an authority of toxicology.

Tu, who wrote a book on the subway attacks and also a 1994 sarin attack in Matsumoto, Nagano Prefecture, that killed 8 people and sickened about 600, has interviewed Nakagawa many times.

The cultist, whose death sentence was finalized in 2011, was involved in both sarin atrocities and also the abduction and murders of anti-Aum lawyer Tsutsumi Sakamoto and his family members in 1989.

At the beginning of the memoir, whose main theme was "Why was (Aum) able to manufacture sarin?" Nakagawa apologizes to victims of the series of crimes committed by Aum cultists.

As for Asahara's skill as a leader of yoga and meditation sessions, Nakagawa writes, "His capability was extremely high."

"There were no people who joined Aum to commit murders. Including me, those who put absolute trust in Asahara in the fields of yoga and meditation became involved in the (fatal) incidents," Nakagawa recalls.

He also reveals the chemical formulas he says were used to manufacture the sarin, which the cult began producing in around 1992.

In January 1995, the media reported that police suspected Aum was behind the sarin attack in Matsumoto. The gas was sprayed in a residential area in June the previous year.

Aum members hurriedly disposed of several hundreds of tons of sarin and other chemical substances to prevent police from finding the stockpile, Nakagawa writes in the memoir.

"All of us were poisoned by sarin (while doing that). I was just about able to stand," he recalls.

The sarin attacks on the Tokyo subway system were carried out on March 20, 1995.

Nakagawa was one of the cultists who manufactured it, utilizing chemicals that were not disposed of in the January clearing out.

Nakagawa said in court that Yoshihiro Inoue, 47, also a former Aum executive and a death-row inmate, was responsible for storing the chemicals.

However, in a court ruling on a different former executive of Aum, it was stated keeping the chemicals was Nakagawa's job.

"Whatever the reason, terrorism is always intolerable," the memoir reads.

It concludes with, "The background (of the act) of joining dangerous religious or terrorist organizations and the background (of the act) of carrying out terror acts after joining those organizations should be distinguished."

Minoru Kariya, 56, the eldest son of Kiyoshi, a notary public who was also abducted and killed by Aum in 1995 at the age of 68, said that many bereaved families still have questions after listening to the remarks made by various Aum members in court.

"If former executives of Aum release their memoirs, it could help clarify the facts (of the series of crimes committed by the organization)," said Kariya, who has repeatedly interviewed Inoue and Nakagawa.

(source: Asahi Shimbun)

BAHRAIN:

Bahrain uses torture evidence to sentence 3 more to death

Bahrain's highest court has Monday upheld the death sentences of 3 men, despite allegations that they were tortured into making false confessions. Their executions are now imminent.

Abbas al-Samea, Sami Mushaima, and Ali al-Singace were originally sentenced to death in February 2015.

All 3 were tortured into signing false 'confessions' that were used against them in court.

Mr Mushaima was forced to sign documents despite being illiterate. He is a relative of a prominent opposition politician, but has never been involved in activism.

Mr al-Samea was admitted to hospital for surgery as a result of his interrogation. He is a PE teacher and aspiring photojournalist who had taken pictures at a protest.

The 3 men's death sentences were overturned in October 2016 after a court ruled that their initial sentences were "misjudgements."

However, in December 2016, the appeals court reinstated their death sentences.

Human rights organization Reprieve wrote to Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May asking her to raise the issue of police torture and the death penalty ahead of her meeting in Bahrain last month.

Millions of pounds in UK government aid have been spent on training Bahrain's police, prison guards and torture watchdog in recent years.

Commenting, Maya Foa, a director of Reprieve, said:

"It is extremely alarming that Bahrain, a close ally of Britain, is gearing up to execute 3 people, all of whom were convicted on the basis of false 'confessions' extracted through torture. Abbas al-Samea, Sami Mushaima, and Ali al-Singace will be the first people to be executed in Bahrain in 6 years. All 3 were charged with political offences and tortured into signing 'confessions' that were used against them in court - despite 1 of them being illiterate and not able to read the document. On her recent visit to Bahrain, Theresa May said that the UK 'does not uphold our values and human rights by turning our back on this issue' yet apparently declined to raise the cases of these prisoners facing imminent execution. The UK must do more to ensure its close allies do not render them complicit in the gravest abuses."

(source: Reprieve)

PAKISTAN----execution

Man hanged over judge's murder in Adiyala Jail

A death row prisoner was executed in Adiyala Jail on Tuesday morning over murdering 2 people, which included a judge, ARY News reported.

According to details, the murderer Naveed Hussain executed in the wee hours of Tuesday morning. After execution, the body was handed over to the relatives.

Jail sources said that Hussain had murdered a anti-terrorism court judge Jamshed Khan in 2006. He had escaped from Skardu Jail in 2013 and killed another person during that period.

Pakistan lifted a moratorium on the death penalty - on 17th December 2014 - a day after Taliban gunmen attacked Army Public School Peshawar, killing 132 students and 9 teachers.

The bloodshed had shocked the nation and put pressure on the government to do more to tackle the Taliban insurgency.

A moratorium on the death penalty was imposed in 2008 after the Pakistan People's Party (PPP) government took reins of power in the country and only 1 execution took place during its 5-year tenure.

(source: arynews.tv)

NIGERIA:

Lagos lawmaker explains reason behind death penalty law for Kidnappers

The chairman of Lagos state House of Assembly committee on public account has explained why the state passed the death penalty law for kidnappers

According to Hon Moshood Oshun, the law was passed to reduce criminal acts in Lagos

The chairman of the Lagos State House of Assembly committee on public account, Hon Moshood Oshun, says the inclusion of a death penalty in the recently passed bill against kidnapping by the Assembly was to deter people of the state from taking up such vices.

(source: naij.com)

INDONESIA:

Mixed Messages on the Death Penalty in Indonesia's Drug War

Indonesian authorities are sending mixed messages on the death penalty. The country abstained on a UN resolution for its abolition, and the president hinted at ending it, but some senior political figures are calling for the increased execution of drug offenders.

On December 19, 2016, Indonesia was one of 31 countries that abstained from voting on a UN resolution that called for a moratorium on the use of the death penalty, the Jakarta Post reports. The UN has voted on a resolution on abolishing the death penalty every 2 years since 2008. Indonesia has abstained on every such resolution since 2012; prior to this, it had consistently voted against the measures.

Human rights advocates, including the Human Rights Working Group, praised the government's abstention, as Indonesia has built a reputation as a prolific executioner of non-violent drug offenders under President Joko Widodo.

Between 2010 and 2014, despite numerous people being sentenced to death in Indonesia, no executions took place. This changed after Widodo entered office in October 2014, since which 18 people have been executed - all for drug trafficking.

Many of those executed were foreigners whose respective governments engaged in futile diplomatic efforts to reduce their citizens' sentences. At least 2 death row inmates, including one who was executed last year, accused law enforcement of torture during their interrogation.

Despite Widodo's renewal of the death penalty, he recently hinted at potential reform. In an interview with ABC News in November 2016, the president said, "We are very open to options. I don't know when but we want to move towards that direction [of abolishing capital punishment]."

While Widodo's remarks suggest that human rights progress may be on the horizon for Indonesia, statements from other authorities paint a far darker picture of the future of the country's drug policy.

Attorney General Muhammad Prasetyo stated in early December that executions were planned "in the near future", and that the state would be prioritising people convicted of drug-related crimes.

In December, Budi Waseso - chief of the country's National Narcotics Agency (BNN) - told members of a new regional counter-narcotic taskforce, "Don't hesitate to shoot drug traffickers, drug dealers and drug users. Anyone involved in drug trafficking should be punished harshly, including traitors in the BNN body".

With echoes of President Rodrigo Duterte's calls for the slaughter of alleged drug offenders in the Philippines, Waseso's remarks suggest that a striking intensification of the Indonesian approach to drug policy may occur.

Indonesian NGOs have repeatedly urged the government to officially end the death penalty, pointing out the lack of evidence for its supposed deterrent effect, and arguing that it contributes to societal harms.

Ardhany Suryadarma, Policy Manager for the EU-funded project, Asia Action on Harm Reduction, proclaimed: "These executions only exacerbate the stigmatisation of people who use drugs, driving them underground, and away from [harm reduction interventions, which] ... keep individuals safer and curb the HIV epidemic."

The country has, seemingly, reached a crossroads, and the next step that it takes in regard to the death penalty will clarify its place in a region that is increasingly divided on the matter.

For example, Malaysia seems to have introduced a secret moratorium on capital punishment for drug-related offences.

Conversely, President Duterte's state-mandated violence against people allegedly involved with drugs has left at least 6,000 people dead in the Philippines since July 2016. Despite international condemnation, his government advocates the continuation of his lethal campaign.

There are clearly conflicting ideologies between different authorities in Indonesia, and it is unclear which path the government will take. The country is currently at a crossroads: will Widodo stay true to his word and move towards adherence to the UN resolution? Will Indonesia return to its traditional approach of state-mandated executions? Or will it begin implementing extrajudicial killings as seen in the Philippines?

(source: talkingdrugs.org)

UNITED ARAB EMIRATES:

Dubai attorney general 'will not rest until Obaida's killer is dead'

Dubai's attorney general said that he would not rest until the death penalty against the man who raped and killed 9-year-old Obaida Al Aqrabawi was carried out.

Essam Al Humaidan posted the statement on Dubai Public Prosecution's official Twitter account after Dubai Court of Appeal said it would announce its verdict in the case on January 22.

His comments were triggered by the defence argument in court in which Nidal Eisah Abdullah Abu Ali's appointed lawyer said that the defendant's mental assessment report did not clarify whether him being an antisocial person was a disease or not.

The attorney general said this was an attempt by the lawyer to convince the court that the defendant suffers from a mental illness, in the hope of earning a reduced sentence.

"Bringing justice after what happened to Obaida is our responsibility. We carry the heavy weight of his blood, and Dubai Public Prosecution will not accept less than the death penalty. We will follow this case through appeal, cassation and until the moment the killer is executed," Mr Al Humaidan said.

Jordanian Obaida was kidnapped on May 20 last year while playing outside his father's garage in Sharjah's industrial area. His body was found 2 days later in Al Warqa, Dubai.

The killer, 48-year-old Abu Ali, who is also Jordanian, was handed the death penalty by Dubai Criminal Court on August 15 last year on charges of kidnap, rape, premeditated murder and consuming alcohol, as well as driving while under the influence of alcohol.

(source: The National)

IRAN----executions

2 Prisoners Executed in Public

2 prisoners were hanged in public in the city of Sarpol-e Zahab (Kermanshah province, western Iran) on Moharebeh charges (enmity against God).

According to a report by the Iranian state-run media IRIB, the executions were carried out in public on the morning of Sunday January 8. The prisoners were reportedly charged with armed robbery and the murder of a police officer. Although the state-run media has not identified the names of the prisoners, the unofficial news agency, Kurdpa, has identified the 2 prisoners as Rouhollah Koshtemad and Sajjad Zarsineh.

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Urgent: More than 20 Prisoners in Imminent Danger of Execution in Iran

According to close sources, more than 20 prisoners at Rajai Shahr and Karaj Central prisons have been transferred to solitary confinement in preparation for their executions.

At least 11 prisoners in Rajai Shahr Prison were reportedly transferred to solitary on Saturday January 7. "Most of these prisoners are charged with murder," a close source tells Iran Human Rights.

At least 12 prisoners in Karaj Central Prison were reportedly transferred to solitary on Sunday. According to the close sources, these prisoners are all in danger of execution for alleged drug related offenses.

(source for both: Iran Human Rights)

JANUARY 9, 2017:

INDIANA:

Indiana judge lets death penalty appeal go to high court

A northern Indiana judge has ruled that a man who faces the death penalty can appeal claiming the state's death penalty law is unconstitutional.

The (Gary) Post-Tribune reports (http://trib.in/2iRdVd3 ) that a Lake County judge made the ruling Friday in the case of 45-year-old Darren Vann, who is charged in the deaths of 7 women. Last year Vann's attorneys made the argument in a case filing but a judge denied their claim. On Friday the attorneys asked the judge if they could appeal the ruling to the Indiana Supreme Court and the judge allowed it.

Officials with the Lake County prosecutor's office said they agree with the judge's ruling but don't object to the defense's appeal.

Lake County prosecutors requested the death penalty in Vann's case.

(source: Associated Press)

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

The rarity of the death penalty

It is alleged that Marcus Dansby, on Sept. 11, 2016, shot to death Consuela Arrington, 38, and 2 of her 3 children - Traeven Harris and Dajahiona Arrington, both 18, and attempted to murder the 3rd, Trinity Hairston, 14. Dansby had been the boyfriend of Dajahiona, who was 8 1/2 months pregnant with a son. When it was determined that the baby would have lived if his mother had not died, a 4th murder charge was added.

And now, Dansby is going to pay a price - perhaps the ultimate one. The Allen County Prosecuting Attorney's Office has requested to add the death penalty to his charges. Capital punishment is so rarely turned to that it is worth reflecting on how the state of Indiana handles it.

Dansby is only the 4th man in 20 years to face the death penalty here. 2 of the other 3 plea-bargained their charges down to life without parole. Joseph Corcoran, convicted of murdering his brother, James Corcoran, and three other men in 1988, is currently the only person sitting on death row courtesy of Allen County.

There are 2 main reasons for the rarity.

1 is that just plain old murder isn't enough to merit the death penalty in Indiana. It must be murder with 1 or more "aggravating circumstances," such as a murder committed during the commission of arson, a burglary, kidnapping or rape. Murder for hire would count, as would murder of a law enforcement officer. So would a murder if the victim were dismembered, burned or mutilated - or under the age of 12.

The other is the cost. A fiscal impact report by the nonpartisan Legislative Services Agency for the 2010 General Assembly found that the average cost of a death-penalty trial and direct appeal was more than $450,000, compared to $42,658 for a life-without-parole case.

We can take pride in the fact that Indiana is not promiscuous in its use of capital punishment. This state only executes real monsters, the worst of the worst. Or we can ask ourselves if there is really any point to keeping a penalty so rarely used that it can't possibly be a deterrent. Are we really seeking justice or just exacting revenge because we can?

That's a worthy subject for discussion. Legislators looking for a topic for a summer study sessions could do a lot worse.

(source: Editorial, News-Sentinel)

USA:

Dylann Roof does not testify in own defense, call witnesses as jury prepares to consider death penalty

Dylann Roof confirmed Monday he will not fight for his life as a jury prepares to decide whether he should be put to death for the racially motivated massacre at a South Carolina church.

Roof told U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel he would call no witnesses or testify in his own defense shortly after the government rested its case.

Both sides will have the opportunity to deliver closing remarks to the jury tomorrow before the 12-person panel begins deliberations.

Last month, the same jury found Roof, 22, guilty on all 33 counts stemming from the racially motivated massacre of 9 black parishioners at Emanuel AME Church.

Prosecutors called 25 witnesses over 4 days during the sentencing phase of trial. They also introduced excerpts from Roof's journal, in which he said he had shed no tears for the 9 victims of the June 2015 mass shooting.

Roof acted as his own lawyer during the sentencing phase and sought to keep out any evidence regarding his mental health or family history. He did not put on a defense.

(source: New York Daily News)

TEXAS----impending execution

Inmate Set to Die for Fort Worth Killings Loses Appeal

Christopher Wilkins, 48, is set to be executed for fatally shooting 2 men in Tarrant County in 2005.

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals has rejected an appeal from a 48-year-old man set for execution this week for the slayings of 2 men in Fort Worth more than 11 years ago.

Christopher Wilkins faces lethal injection Wednesday evening in what would be the nation's 1st execution of 2017.

Wilkins contends his lawyer at his 2008 trial in Tarrant County was deficient. The appeals court says the appeal is improper and has dismissed it without ruling on its merits.

Wilkins has another appeal before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Evidence showed Wilkins fled a Houston halfway house in October 2005, stole a truck and drove to Fort Worth. He was convicted of fatally shooting 2 men there for duping him into buying a phony rock of crack cocaine.

(source: nbcdfw.com)

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

2 deserving of death penalty

In the last few years I had begun to question the true value of the death penalty, especially after an East Texas man whom I believe was innocent was executed. I began to wonder if solitary confinemenet for the rest of a murderer's miserable life might even be worse, sort of a punishment that keeps giving.

But if the death penalty ever had merit, it is deserved for 2 people now fighting it. They, themselves, want to continue living in spite of having blatantly killed others.

One is Dylann Roof in South Carolina, who shot church parishioners who had welcomed him into their Bible study with open arms and were rewarded for their goodness by meing murdered.

The other is John Battaglia from Dallas, who shot his little girsl in cold blood while they begged him not to and their mother listened helplessly on the phone.

I feel both of these men are pure evil and they knew exactly what they were doing, althought Battaglia is trying to prertned he doesn't remember it.

Roof brazenly says he has no regrets, while Battaglia has gone on to live the 15 years that he denied his duaghters. Neither man deserves to live another day.

Beverly Rigsby, Richardson

********

Let's abolish the death penalty

I find the statistics disturbing, alarming - and encouraging. Death at the hands of our criminal justice system remains abhorrent by any measure; its finality is chilling. Disturbing is the fact that even in Texas, we have executed people who have later been proved innocent -- too late for Cameron Todd Willingham in 2004. Especially alarming are the statistics regarding a "racial disparity" in both death sentences and in executions.

Encouraging is the fact that the number of death sentences and executions have declined dramatically. Prosecutors, judges, juries and the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals have been sending us a clear message for the past few years: It is now time for Texas to abolish the death penalty. Our legislators gather in January. It can be done!

Bob Michael, Carrollton

(source for both: Letters to the Editor, Dallas Morning News)

PENNSYLVANIA----female faces death penalty

Prosecutors to seek death penalty for woman accused of killing son, sending photo to father

Prosecutors plan to seek the death penalty for a McKeesport woman accused of killing her son, the Allegheny County district attorney's office announced Thursday.

Christian Clark, 21, remains jailed awaiting trial on homicide, attempted homicide, assault and endangerment charges.

Police say Clark sent her son's father photos of the 17-month-old boy's lifeless body during hours' worth of angry text messages Nov. 1 because she believed he planned to be with another woman.

"Ya kids ain't safe here I don't want them here" and "Answer me or im going to jail for child endangerment" were among dozens of texts listed in the criminal complaint. Then came a message about an hour into the rant that said, "I'm killing them," followed by a laughing emoji with tears coming from its eyes, police said.

Clark called 911 more than an hour later and police found the lifeless boy. Clark first claimed not to know how he died, then confessed to smothering him, police said.

Clark is also charged with trying to smother the couple's 2-year-old daughter.

If she's sentenced to death, she'll become only the 3rd woman on death row in Pennsylvania.

Andre Price Jr., 24, of McKeesport, who is accused of not calling 911 when he received the messages, waived a preliminary hearing Monday and will go to trial.

(source: WXPI news)

DELAWARE:

Dover murder retrial begins for former death row inmate

A former death row prisoner has rejected a plea offer and will proceed to trial Monday morning on allegations that he killed a man during a Dover drug deal.

Isaiah McCoy, 29, told Superior Court Judge Robert B. Young that he is innocent and would not take a deal in which he would plead guilty to manslaughter and a gun charge, which would carry a 5- to 50-year sentence.

Instead, a non-jury trial before Young is scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. in the Kent County Courthouse. The trial could last all week.

McCoy was arrested in May 2010 in connection with the killing of 30-year-old Jeffrey Munford during a drug deal gone awry in the rear parking lot of the Rodney Village Bowling Alley in Dover.

A jury found him guilty of murder in June 2012, but the Delaware Supreme Court overturned his conviction and death sentence.

The justice did so because of the prosecutor's conduct at McCoy's 1st trial. Former Deputy Attorney General R. David Favata belittled McCoy, who was representing himself, and lied to a judge during the trial, leading the Supreme Court to order a retrial and suspend Favata from practicing law for 6 months and 1 day, the court said.

(source: delawalreonline.com)

VIRGINIA:

Welch murder defense in Lyon case likely to invoke lingering death penalty questions

When one of Central Virginia's most closely watched criminal trials in years opens in Bedford County, so will an old legal can of worms: how the often confusing case law on Virginia's death penalty affects the sentencing if jurors return a guilty verdict.

Prosecutors want the option kept on the table to put Lloyd Lee "Michael" Welch Jr. to death if he is convicted in the murders of Sheila and Katherine Lyon, 2 young sisters who disappeared en route to a Maryland shopping mall in 1975.

But the legal defense for Welch, a former carnival worker with ties to Bedford County, cried foul in legal papers filed months ahead of the trial.

? First his lawyers called for Virginia's death penalty to be declared unconstitutional. His attorneys also said even if it stands, the punishment cannot be used on Welch due to the legal status of the death penalty in Virginia at the time the alleged crimes were committed.

Welch, 60, faces 2 charges of 1st-degree murder in a trial scheduled to begin April 18 in Bedford County Circuit Court.

He is accused of abducting the sisters on or around March 25, 1975 and eventually killing them and disposing of their bodies in Bedford County. The bodies have never been found.

Welch also was indicted in December on an unrelated charge of rape involving a 6-year-old girl in northern Virginia in 1996. That indictment charged him with rape, aggravated sexual battery, indecent liberties and object sexual penetration.

While he faces prosecution in Prince William County on those charges, the murder charges are still pending in Central Virginia.

Lawyers in Bedford County have spent hours in recent months making arguments before Judge James Updike Jr., who will preside over the April trial, on pre-trial motions affecting the proceedings.

Welch's lawyer in the murder case who filed the motion to strike the death penalty, Aaron Houchens, of Moneta, did not return a call seeking comment.

The judge already has ruled out declaring the death penalty unconstitutional, but signaled he would consider a motion saying it could not be used in the Welch case.

Both sides will argue over Supreme Court rulings and Virginia case law on capital punishment, reviving hotly contested legal issues.

At its core the defense says the death penalty was unconstitutional throughout the United States at the time of the alleged offenses.

They pointed in court papers to a 1972 U.S. Supreme Court ruling, Furman v. Georgia, and a later state decision, Huggins v. Commonwealth, which applied the high court decision to the state statute.

Due to these decisions, Virginia's death penalty statute from March to April 1975 when the alleged offenses took place was unconstitutional, they argued.

Virginia later in 1975 amended state law to align it with the court decisions, reinstating the death penalty, but that was effective after the alleged crimes, they said. Using it retroactively, Welch's lawyers argued, would be unconstitutional as ex post facto law.

Based on the legal status of Virginia's death penalty at the time of the Lyon sisters' vanishing, "the maximum penalty the defendant is eligible to receive is life imprisonment" if convicted, Welch's attorneys said in their motion to strike the death penalty.

Responding in court filings, the commonwealth argued the "statute which outlawed the crime was still in place and enforceable" at the time of the alleged offenses.

Calling up their own case law, prosecutors cited 2 cases regarding the death penalty in which courts upheld the punishment.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Dobbert v. Florida (1977) that while that state made changes to its death penalty statute between the time of a murder and the trial, the changes were "procedural" and "ameliorative" so did not trigger the prohibition on ex post facto laws.

In Smith v. Commonwealth (1978), the Virginia Supreme Court upheld the death penalty for a defendant convicted of capital murder after rape, when challenged in a similar manner to Welch's motion.

Pre-trial motions will continue to be heard in Circuit Court ahead of Welch's trial scheduled in April, some of which could change the evidence jurors hear and the penalties if Welch is convicted.

Bedford County Commonwealth's Attorney Wes Nance, the lead prosecutor, said he could not comment on the case before trial.

Court records show the next step before trial is a hearing on pre-trial motions Jan. 24 at 9 a.m.

(source: newsadvance.com)

ALABAMA:

Jeff Sessions, the Grim Reaper of Alabama

When Jeff Sessions was Alabama's attorney general, he supported the death sentence for a Ku Klux Klan member convicted of lynching a black teenager. Mr. Sessions, whose confirmation hearings for attorney general begin on Tuesday, points to this to rebut the charges of racism that have followed him for decades.

Yet we learn more about Mr. Sessions' legal mind-set from a look at the 40-plus death sentences he fought to uphold as Alabama's attorney general from 1995 to 1997. He worked to execute insane, mentally ill and intellectually disabled people, among others, who were convicted in trials riddled with instances of prosecutorial misconduct, racial discrimination and grossly inadequate defense lawyering. Mr. Sessions' eager participation in an unjust Alabama capital system makes him a frightening prospective civil rights enforcer for the nation.

Mr. Sessions secured the execution of Varnall Weeks, who believed he was God and would "reign in heaven as a tortoise" after his death. After the Supreme Court banned executions of insane people, Mr. Sessions persuaded a federal court to defer to an Alabama court's findings that Mr. Weeks was competent enough to be killed even though he met "the dictionary generic definition of insanity."

Mr. Sessions also pushed for the death penalty for Samuel Ivery, a black man convicted of decapitating a black woman. At his trial, Mr. Ivery claimed insanity and presented evidence that he was a paranoid schizophrenic and believed himself a "ninja of God." The prosecutor countered during closing arguments that "this is not another case of niggeritous," that is, racism. Mr. Ivery later argued that the slur tainted his conviction with racial bias, but the appellate court sided with Mr. Sessions in upholding his death sentence.

By contrast, a state appellate court ruled against Mr. Sessions when it reversed the conviction and death sentence of Levi Pace, a black man. His trial was tainted with racial discrimination during the selection of the grand jury foreman, and the trial court failed to strike two prospective jurors who "felt it was their duty to recommend a sentence of death, regardless of the circumstances."

Many of the people Mr. Sessions worked to execute had received abysmal representation at trial. Holly Wood and Eugene Clemons, 1 black men, were both classified as "educable mentally retarded." Yet their lawyers failed to present any proof of their intellectual disabilities, even though mitigating evidence of this type can be crucial to avoiding death sentences. At the time of their trials, Mr. Wood's lawyer had practiced law for less than a year and Mr. Clemons's jury didn't have a single black member. In 1996, Mr. Sessions rebuffed both of their initial appeals. Alabama executed Mr. Wood in 2010, even after a federal court found that his I.Q. met "the definition of mental retardation."

Mr. Sessions also enforced the death penalty against James Wyman Smith, whose appointed lawyer had admitted in court that he hadn't "even read the statute" about the penalty phase of the trial the night before that phase started. To be fair, the lawyer was being paid only "$4.98 per hour to prepare for the defense of a human's life." That's because until 1999, Alabama law capped at $1,000 the compensation court-appointed capital lawyers could receive for out-of-court preparation.

Even when juries rejected death sentences, judges often overrode them. It is the only state that allows such judicial overrides. 11 death sentences that Mr. Sessions defended were imposed by judges over the will of the jurors.

For example, Larry Padgett's jury voted 9-3 for life imprisonment, in part because of residual doubt over his guilt. The trial judge overrode the decision, but his conviction was eventually reversed because the prosecutor failed to promptly turn over DNA-related evidence pointing to his innocence. Mr. Sessions appealed the reversal, but Mr. Padgett was ultimately exonerated.

Although Mr. Sessions participated in a capital system stacked against defendants, his main policy concerns seemed to have been that Alabamians were being executed neither quickly enough nor for enough types of crimes. He promoted a bill seeking to eliminate a stage of the capital appeals process and another to execute people convicted twice of drug trafficking. Neither passed.

Mr. Sessions' support for the death penalty, even in troubling circumstances, remains unwavering. Last August, he praised Mr. Trump's 1989 newspaper ads calling for the reinstatement of the death penalty in New York, which appeared shortly after 5 black and Latino teenagers were charged with raping a white jogger. The men, known as the Central Park 5, were exonerated in 2002 and awarded a $41 million settlement, but for Mr. Sessions, the ads proved that Mr. Trump "believes in law and order."

Surely, Mr. Sessions isn't to blame for all the flaws in Alabama's capital system that pervaded the cases he litigated, many of which involved horrific crimes. But his pursuit of executions in spite of racial bias, defendants' mental disabilities and other injustices raises concerns about how he will oversee federal capital prosecutions, and shows his lack of commitment to due process and equality. Mr. Sessions' ugly record in Alabama makes clear that his nomination to be the attorney general should be swiftly rejected.

(source: Op-Ed; John J. Donohue III is a professor and Max Schoening is a student at Stanford Law School----New York Times)

MISSOURI:

Missouri Execution Drug Purchases Revealed----Death row inmates spent years fighting over Missouri's use of compounded pentobarbital. A sealed court filing obtained by BuzzFeed News says they may have been fighting the wrong thing.

Missouri purchased manufactured drugs for use in recent executions that were made by a company that enacted stringent measures to prevent any state from doing so, BuzzFeed News has learned.

A sealed court document obtained by BuzzFeed News shows that the state had, at least sometimes in the past 6 years, bought manufactured pentobarbital - as opposed to the compounded version of the drug inmates spent years fighting over in court - for use in its executions.

For years, Missouri death row inmates have waged a legal battle with the state over the use of compounded pentobarbital. Manufactured drugs are subject to Food and Drug Administration regulation, while compounded drugs - which have a significantly higher failure rate - are regulated largely by the states.

But a discussion between Attorney General Chris Koster's office and a federal judge in a sealed courtroom indicates that the state previously purchased a manufactured version of the drug. The sole FDA-approved manufacturer of the drug Missouri uses, pentobarbital, is Akorn. Akorn has stringent measures in place in an attempt to keep it out of the hands of executioners, making companies that wish to sell their drug sign an agreement that it will not go to death penalty states. Despite those efforts, it appears the state has been able to obtain some anyway.

Akorn did not respond to a request for comment.

The revelation comes months after Mississippi death row inmates attempted to subpoena records from the Missouri Department of Corrections, in an effort to discover a better method of execution than used in Mississippi. Missouri successfully quashed the subpoena after the supplier said it would no longer sell the drugs if its identity were revealed.

In a July court hearing, lawyers with Attorney General Koster's office argued that even acknowledging they had documents on some of the requests in the subpoena would reveal too much information about its supplier.

"I'm going to order a sealed proceeding and banish anyone from the courtroom who is not a party or counsel," Judge Stephen Bough said. "And order confidential restrictions not to discuss or file with the clients or in any other way the information that's discussed in this proceeding, subject to contempt order."

After the court was cleared, an attorney with the Attorney General's office laid out his concerns with revealing whether the state had the documents.

"I'm primarily focused on request number 2 for documents about pentobarbital," Assistant Attorney General Greg Goodwin said, according to an excerpt in a later court filing.

"If [we] identified whether or not there is a responsive document to that request, that answers the question of whether it is or is not manufactured or compounded pentobarbital because manufactured pentobarbital has that information, and compounded pentobarbital does not have a package insert."

"So by merely saying that there exists a document that proves it's manufactured or proves that it's compounded, that answers the question does Missouri use compounded or manufactured pentobarbital," Goodwin said.

The judge then stated that there were 3 responsive documents to that request, according to the court filing.

The court filing was marked that it should be sealed, but for some reason was available on the federal courts' website, PACER. Shortly after BuzzFeed News approached an attorney representing the execution drug supplier, the filing became sealed.

The now-sealed court filing does not identify the supplier of the drug. When Missouri first began using pentobarbital in Nov. 2013, the state bought the drug from an out-of-state compounding pharmacy called the Apothecary Shoppe. The pharmacy was not licensed to sell in Missouri, which under normal circumstances could be a felony.

After its identity was revealed, a death row inmate sued the pharmacy in early 2014. The pharmacy settled out of court, agreeing to no longer sell execution drugs. BuzzFeed News later revealed that the pharmacy had admitted to committing more than 1,000 pharmaceutical violations.

When the Apothecary Shoppe dropped out, Missouri discovered a new supplier that it has referred to only by the pseudonym "M7," and has attempted to keep all information about the supplier secret.

Under M7, the state has mysteriously built up a considerable stockpile of execution drugs, something that does not fit with using compounded drugs. Compounded drugs have a shelf-life measured in weeks, while manufactured drugs can last for years.

Using pentobarbital from the Apothecary Shoppe and M7, Missouri has executed 19 death row inmates. The leadership that oversaw those executions - Gov. Jay Nixon, Attorney General Chris Koster, and Director of Department of Corrections George Lombardi - are on their way out.

Nixon was term-limited out, Koster lost his bid to replace him as governor, and both leave office on Monday. Additionally, Lombardi announced his resignation after accusations that his employees retaliated against women who alleged they were sexually harassed by superiors.

The 3 offices did not return a request for comment.

Missouri is scheduled to carry out another execution at the end of the month.

(source: BuzzFeedNews)

SOUTH DAKOTA:

Evaluation ordered for South Dakota man sentenced to death

A South Dakota circuit judge is asking the attorney for convicted prison guard killer Rodney Berget to submit a report about whether his client is mentally disabled.

State Attorney General Marty Jackley says the judge wants to review the findings before ruling on a motion by prosecutors to dismiss Berget's death penalty appeal. Berget told Judge Doug Hoffman in September that he wanted to drop the appeal.

Berget and another inmate, Eric Robert, were convicted of killing guard Ronald Johnson in 2011. Robert was executed in 2012.

Jackley says that testing throughout Berget's life has shown him to be a person of "at least ordinary intelligence" and there's no evidence to suggest that he isn't competent.

Berget's attorney, Eric Schulte, was not immediately available for comment.

(source: Associated Press)

CALIFORNIA:

California's top court to decide whether planned speed-up in executions is legal

California voters in November legalized marijuana, approved a plan to reduce the prison population and enacted gun controls.

But on one key issue - the death penalty - the liberal tide shifted. Voters rejected a measure to ban capital punishment and instead approved an initiative intended to hasten executions.

That measure is now before the California Supreme Court. If the court allows it to go forward, executions are likely to resume this year, lawyers on both sides of the debate agreed.

The court voted 5 to 0 in closed session last month to put a hold on Proposition 66, sponsored by prosecutors and passed by 51% of voters.

The measure established strict legal deadlines for death penalty appeals and shifted some capital punishment reviews from the state high court to county trial courts.

Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye and Justice Ming W. Chin removed themselves from the case because they both serve on the Judicial Council, the policy-making body of the courts and a defendant in the lawsuit.

Depending on which appellate justices are appointed to take their places, the recusal could be good news for opponents of the death penalty. Both Chin and Cantil-Sakauye are among the more conservative members of the court.

Death penalty opponents argue the measure violates separation of powers requirements because the voters, acting as lawmakers, stripped authority from the judicial branch.

Government is divided into 3 equal branches - executive, legislative and judicial - and the Constitution says no branch may usurp the responsibilities of another.

"The Legislature doesn't get to tell the courts how to do their job," said Christina Von der Ahe Rayburn, who is representing former Atty. Gen. John Van de Kamp and former El Dorado County Supervisor Ron Briggs in the lawsuit.

The measure requires appeals to be decided within 5 years of sentencing. It can now take a decade or longer for a condemned inmate to have his or her automatic appeal decided by the California Supreme Court.

In automatic appeals, condemned inmates challenge their convictions and sentences based on evidence in the trial record. Rulings by the judge and how the jury was picked may be closely examined in these appeals to the California Supreme Court.

Condemned inmates also are entitled to a habeas corpus challenge, which is based on evidence outside the trial record. Did the prosecutor withhold exonerating evidence? Was the defense lawyer incompetent? Did jurors engage in misconduct?

Getting lawyers to take death penalty appeals, particularly habeas cases, has been a huge hurdle in California.

Relatively low pay and the emotional toll the cases take on lawyers are only part of the problem.

They say the $50,000 the state provides for a habeas investigation is much too low to hire the experts needed to investigate the crimes and the inmates' lives.

In 2014, 352 inmates on death row had no habeas lawyer, said UC Berkeley law professor Elisabeth Semel.

To resolve the lawyer shortage, Proposition 66 would require attorneys appointed to defend low-income criminal defendants also to represent condemned inmates in the automatic appeals.

The California Supreme Court now decides both the automatic appeal and the habeas petitions and appoints the lawyers.

Under Proposition 66, the sentencing judge would decide the habeas challenge and appoint a lawyer to represent the condemned.

Kent Scheidegger, legal counsel for the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation and an author of Proposition 66, said trial judges will have better luck than the state high court in getting lawyers to take the cases.

"There are individual provisions of this measure that raise serious constitutional issues. - Gerald Uelmen, Santa Clara University law professor emeritus

"Lawyers who do criminal work need to stay in good" with Superior Court judges, he said.

The death penalty advocate predicted the challengers' separation of powers argument would fail.

"There are a large number of statues that direct how the courts process cases and what priority they give them, and they have never been struck down," he said.

Scheidegger said the new deadlines for deciding appeals are needed because the cases are lingering in the courts too long.

He blamed defense lawyers for asking for too many extensions of time to file their written arguments and the California Supreme Court for granting the requests.

"Basically, the court needs to get tough on these people," he added. "You read a docket of capital cases today and see 23 extensions of time. They need to start saying no."

The law allows for extensions, and the court can decide whether to grant them. Under Proposition 66, the court generally could grant extensions under only extraordinary circumstances.

Semel, on the other hand, said the California Supreme Court would be spending virtually all its time on death penalty cases if Proposition 66 were allowed to take effect.

"The court can only handle a certain number of these cases a year," Semel said.

At the pace envisioned by Proposition 66, the court would have little time to decide civil disputes, she said, adding, "It is not feasible. There are just too many cases."

The backlog of fully briefed cases already is large. As of November, 77 death penalty appeals and 89 habeas petitions were completed and ready for the California Supreme Court to decide, Semel said.

Chapman Law School professor John Eastman said the California Supreme Court can move faster on the cases.

Judges "sit on them because they don't like the death penalty," the constitutional law professor said. "They don't sit on them because they are overwhelmed with work."

Gov. Jerry Brown appointed 3 of the state high court justices. Republican governors appointed the other 4, who include 3 former prosecutors.

For decades prior to January 2015, the court, with only 1 Democratic appointee, was considered moderately conservative.

Santa Clara University law professor emeritus Gerald Uelmen, who served as the chief executive of a state commission that examined California's death penalty system, said the court's decision to put the measure on hold shows the justices believe it needs a thorough examination.

Should California execute these 749 death row inmates?

"There are individual provisions of this measure that raise serious constitutional issues," Uelmen said. "I would expect the court is going to strike down at least some provisions."

California has more than 750 inmates on death row - the largest in the country - and legal challenges over lethal injection have prevented executions since 2006.

After completing state appeals, inmates can challenge their sentences in federal court, which also can take several years.

In addition to the separation of powers argument, the challengers say the measure violates a rule that limits ballot measures to a single subject.

Besides setting deadlines, the measure changes the law to make it easier for the state to adopt a method of execution.

In their lawsuit, the challengers said the change would result in the "near immediate" execution of 20 inmates.

The court has asked for more written arguments on the case by the end of the month and may decide to hold a hearing.

Rayburn estimated the case probably would be decided by early June. Scheidegger said he hoped it would be sooner.

(source: Los Angeles Times)

USA:

Which Moral Principle Should Prevail In Case Of Dylann Roof?

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

We're going to turn back now to that disturbing story out of South Carolina. You'll remember that Dylann Roof was found guilty of killing nine members of the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C., in 2015. The U.S. Justice Department charged Roof with a hate crime and is now seeking the death penalty. During the sentencing hearing last week which will determine Roof's sentence, Roof told jurors that he had dismissed his lawyers and was representing himself because he rejected any claims that he is psychologically impaired.

Prosecutors are arguing that Roof deserves death because of his obvious lack of remorse, his blatant racial animus and his stated desire to start a race war. But there are other points of view. A number of the family members of the victims have publicly expressed their opposition to the death penalty. Some have said that the years of appeals that accompany a death sentence will be an additional burden to the family and to the community trying to heal.

So that prompted us to want to consider the competing moral and ethical claims here. Which moral principle should prevail? So to think this through, we called Jack Marshall. He's an ethicist lawyer and the founder of the blog Ethics Alarms, and he was kind enough to join us in our studios in Washington, D.C. Jack Marshall, thanks so much for joining us.

JACK MARSHALL: Thank you, Michel. Always an honor.

MARTIN: So what are the ethical questions here?

MARSHALL: You know, ethics is the matter of society trying to decide what's right and what's wrong, and we learn over time. And the idea is to come up with standards that will lead to a more healthy society. And it's different from the moral position. I mean, the moral position may be held by the families that killing anyone is wrong. Society shouldn't kill people. It's hypocritical for them to do that. It's really a Christian position.

The ethical position is a little bit more tricky, and that is isn't it important that society express absolute revulsion at something? There is some level that actually justifies the ultimate penalty. And we have to get by all sorts of legal problems and basic problems, fairness problems. You don't want to have capital punishment where it's going to be handed out in disparate ways or on racially biased ways and you don't want to execute the wrong person. But, you know, in a situation like Dylann Roof, there's no question that he did it, so...

MARTIN: But when you have a situation where you have a group of people, those who were primarily affected by this...

MARSHALL: Yes.

MARTIN: ...Whose family members were murdered, who have a moral objection, what weight should that be given in this decision about what sentence Roof should be given?

MARSHALL: The death penalty is not for the victims. It's not for the victims' families. It's for society, and it's to make a statement. And it's to set a standard. One of the important things about having a death penalty for something - be it Osama bin Laden or Hitler or Jack the Ripper or whatever we want - it means that then we can calibrate other heinous acts down from that. So we can't delegate the decision to them, and we can't overweigh their particular take on it. It's part of the consideration, but I think it can't be given undue weight.

MARTIN: Do you feel at the end of the day - are you satisfied that the appropriate ethical questions are being asked in this case?

MARSHALL: I think we have to ask our self what - looking at this case, what is in the long range best interests of society as a whole? And therefore, what is the message we need to send to all citizens to say we are drawing a strong line in the sand that say this will not be tolerated and people that do this will no longer have a right to anything, including life, in our society? We have to decide if there is going to be some behavior that we are willing to say that about, and that's the ethical issue.

MARTIN: That was Jack Marshall. He is an ethicist. He is an attorney. He's the founder of the blog Ethics Alarms. He was kind enough to join us here at our studios in Washington, D.C. Jack Marshall, thank you so much for speaking with us.

MARSHALL: Thanks, Michel.

(source: KERA/NPR)

SINGAPORE:

Putrajaya urged to save Malaysian on Singapore death row----The argument put forward by activist groups in Singapore, led by lawyer M Ravi, is that core elements involving prevention and protection of right of life were ignored.

Hindraf has come out in support of the call to have a Malaysian on death row in Singapore be given a reprieve.

Hindraf chairman P Waytha Moorthy also urged Putrajaya to intervene and "ensure that a Malaysian life is not short-lived or falls prey to antics of Singapore without having an opportunity to preserve their life".

"Singapore with its statutory presumption has failed to do what is necessary and in line with customary international law, where a notion of prevention is an important part of protection of the right to life.

"They have an obligation to provide and facilitate this right including the duties to take reasonable measures to prevent such capital punishment rather than relying on a slapstick statutory presumption," he said in a statement released today.

Waytha was referring to the case of Prabagaran Srivijayan, 29, who is on death row in the island republic and is set to be executed in a few weeks.

He was convicted in 2012 after drugs were found in the car he was driving to enter Singapore.

According to Waytha, Prabagaran had during the trial claimed that he did not know of the existence of the drugs in the car, which he said he had borrowed from a man called Nathan.

"During investigations, he had also positively identified Nathan and another man Balu from photographs shown to him by the Singapore police but for unknown reasons the Singapore authorities failed to seek their Malaysian counterpart's assistance to secure the arrest of Nathan and Balu," Waytha said.

He added that the Singapore Court of Appeal had rejected Prabagaran's appeal based on circumstantial evidence and after having failed to note that material witnesses were not produced in court by the prosecution in the original trial.

Meanwhile, it was reported yesterday that a prominent Singaporean lawyer and 2 of his Malaysian counterparts are racing against the clock to save Prabagaran's life.

Singaporean M Ravi, who founded the Singapore Anti-Death Penalty Campaign, is working with human rights lawyers Latheefa Koya and N Surendran to stop Prabagaran's execution.

Both Latheefa and Surendran are members of PKR. Surendran is also the Padang Serai MP.

According to Singapore website The Independent, the Malaysian lawyers may file for a judicial review in the Kuala Lumpur High Court for an order to compel Putrajaya to file an immediate complaint at the International Court of Justice (ICJ).

"The argument put forward by activist groups in Singapore, led by lawyer Ravi, is that the core elements involving prevention and protection of right of life are ignored.

In contrast, statutory presumptions are prioritised without affording a prompt, thorough and effective investigation and securing all relevant evidence concerning the event to prevent a violation of the right of life for Prabagaran," Waytha, who is a former deputy minister in the prime minister's department, said.

Waytha added that Malaysia, like Singapore, are signatories to bilateral and multilateral agreements such as the International Drug Control Conventions of 1961, 1971 & 1988 which allows the infringed party to raise the grievances for their own citizens.

"These treaties envisage reference of disputes to the ICJ that opens a door for the Malaysian government to bring forth a case against Singapore when it involves the Malaysian citizen as it is reflected in Article 36 in the statute of ICJ," he said.

Meanwhile, Waytha noted that almost 70% of the prisoners on death row in Singapore are Malaysians.

(source: The Independent)

BAHRAIN:

Cassation Court upholds death sentence for officers' killers

The Court of Cassation upheld the death sentence against 3 defendants in the case of murder of First-Lieutenant Tariq Mohammed Al Shehi and policemen Mohammed Raslan and Ammar Abdu Ali Mohammed, Advocate General at the Public Prosecution's Technical Office Haroon Al Zayani said.

The crime took place on March 3, 2014 when the defendants planted an explosive device, lured the policemen and detonated it, killing 3 policemen.

8 terror suspects, including five in custody, were referred to the Criminal Court.

They were charged with forming a terror group to undermine the provisions of the Constitution and to stall official institutions, and caused terror blasts to achieve their aims.

They recruited other suspects, made and detonated explosive devices and targeted public security men to kill them in order weaken the state, stir unrest and topple the regime.

6 suspects were charged with joining the terror group. They along with the 2nd suspect carried out terrorist activities, killed and attempted to kill policemen, damaged public properties, and possessed, stored, handled and used explosive substances. Their aim was to carry out acts of terror, fund their terror group and finance its activities.

The High Criminal Court deliberated the case and sentenced 3 defendants to death and the remaining suspects to life in jail. Some of the defendants were stripped of their nationality.

The verdicts were later upheld by the Court of Appeals.

The case was referred to the Court of Cassation in compliance with the provisions of the Bahraini law which considers a death sentence automatically subject to referral to the Court of Cassation.

The Court of Cassation cancelled the sentence and referred the case back to the Court of Appeal to consider it anew.

The Court of Appeals deliberated the case a 2nd time and upheld the sentence "in view of the incontestable material and verbal evidence" and referred it to the Court of Cassation which kept the death and jail sentences.

(source: Bahrain News Agency)

THAILAND:

Thailand moves closer to death penalty for corrupt politicians

Thailand on Monday moved one step closer to approving the death penalty for politicians found guilty of corruption, Amnesty International in Thailand said on Monday.

It appointed National Reform Steering Assembly passed a proposal under which politicians found guilty of corruption involving more than 27.9 million dollars could face the death penalty.

Politicians involved in corruption to the tune of 2.8 to 27.9 million dollars could face a life sentence, and those involved in cases between 27,900 dollars could be imprisoned for 5 years.

The proposal would be submitted to the cabinet and then to parliament for further deliberations, the assembly said.

Thailand has been under military rule since a May 2014 coup.

Some coup leaders cited the need to rid the government of corruption as one of the reasons for staging it.

Critics blasted the proposal, saying it could be exploited by the country's military rulers to further stifle dissent.

"The death penalty is first of all, a human rights issue.

"It is never right and is never the solution; the death penalty can be used as a political tool.

"The authorities in some countries for example, Iran and Sudan use the death penalty to punish political opponents," the Amnesty International said.

Thailand last carried out the death penalty in August 2009.

(source: dailytrust.com.ng)

PAKISTAN:

Pakistani Christian faces the death penalty after being accused of ripping pages out of a Koran by a Muslim involved in a business dispute with the arrested man's family

A Pakistani Christian faces the death penalty after being accused of ripping pages out of a Koran, it has emerged.

Shahbaz Babu was accused of desecrating the holy book by writing his name on it and scattering torn-up pages in front of a mosque in Kamahan, near Lahore.

The 41-year-old was thrown in jail on blasphemy charges following a complaint by a man who is in a business dispute with the married father-of-three's family, it has been claimed.

Activists from the British Pakistani Christian Association (BPCA) say Badu, an evangelical Christian, is illiterate and cannot have written his name on the Koran.

The organisation reports that Badu was taken to Nishtar police station before being moved to Model Town station to avoid 'possible reprisals' arising from the charges against him.

There were no eyewitnesses to him writing his name on the book while his accuser, is said to be in dispute with Badu's brother who owns a 'thriving' grocery store, the BPCA said.

Others have pointed out inconsistencies in the accusations.

Badu was accused of desecrating the Koran in secret - but ripping up the pages would have left public clear evidence of his alleged activities.

According to Asia News, Babu was arrested on December 30 under Article 295B of the Pakistan Penal Code.

Wilson Chowdhry, Chairman of the BPCA. said: 'This latest blasphemy case highlights the little progress made by the Government of Pakistan towards improving the rights of minorities under their protection.

'Wholly biased laws such as the notorious blasphemy laws of Pakistan have no place in egalitarian modern democracies, suggesting that the nation has moved forward little from its feudal past.

'In every blasphemy case in Pakistan common-sense flies out of the window as a corrupt and incredibly inadequate police force goes about it's business with prejudice and avarice.'

(source: dailymail.co.uk)

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

Military courts awarded 161 death penalties----Constant attacks forced special constitutional arrangements to effectively check militants

The atmosphere of constant and devastating terrorism forced an amendment in the constitution that would establish the military courts.

The routine judicial system was under stress and the judges were also threatened, forcing unlawful verdicts.

Therefore, special constitutional arrangements were made to effectively check the militants and the terror they were spreading.

During the period of its validity, 274 cases were referred to military courts, 161 cases among these, ended with death penalty (12 executed) and 113 were awarded imprisonment of various durations.

The cases were dealt through law's due process. The disposal through military courts yielded positive effects towards the reduction of terrorism. But the military courts have now expired, due to the 'sun-set clause' in the amendment.

(source: Daily Times)

JANUARY 8, 2017:

FLORIDA:

Bill calls for unanimous juries in death penalty cases

After the Florida Supreme Court ruled that a new death-penalty law was unconstitutional, the chairman of the Senate Criminal Justice committee Friday proposed requiring unanimous jury recommendations before defendants could be sentenced to death.

The proposal (SB 280), filed by Sen. Randolph Bracy, D-Orlando, was an opening move as lawmakers prepare to grapple with the death-penalty sentencing system during the legislative session that starts March 7.

The U.S. Supreme Court last January ruled that the sentencing system was unconstitutional because it gave too much power to judges, instead of juries, in determining whether inmates should be put to death.

The Legislature quickly passed a law to try to address that ruling. As part of that law, the Legislature required at least 10 of 12 jurors to recommend the death penalty, a departure from a longstanding law that required a simple majority.

But the Florida Supreme Court in October ruled that jury recommendations must be unanimous for the death penalty to be imposed.

Bracy's bill would match that requirement. Senators last year backed requiring unanimous jury recommendations but ran into opposition in the House and from prosecutors.

That led to a compromise to require recommendations by at least 10 jurors.

(source: news4jax.com)

INDIANA:

Vann can file death penalty appeal, judge says

A Gary man facing the death penalty can make an appeal with his claims that Indiana's death penalty statute is unconstitutional, a Lake County judge decided Friday.

Darren Deon Vann, 45, is charged in the deaths of 7 women, and he is 1 of 2 defendants in Lake County potentially facing the death penalty. Last year, Vann's attorneys argued that Indiana's death penalty statute is unconstitutional, but Judge Samuel Cappas denied that claim, following suit with rulings on previous challenges in other prior Indiana death penalty cases.

Vann's defense team appeared in a Lake County court Friday morning without its client and asked Cappas to be able to appeal that ruling to the Indiana Supreme Court. While prosecutors believed that Cappas was correct in his ruling last year, they didn't object to the defense attorneys being able to appeal, said Michelle Jatkiewicz of the Lake County prosecutor's office. Cappas granted the defense's motion.

The Friday hearing also addressed the state's request for Vann to provide a handwriting sample. Vann allegedly wrote a letter to Lake County Prosecutor Bernard Carter that "makes statements pertaining to the state's case," according to a court filing, and the state wants a handwriting sample to compare to the letter. The defense and state have gone back and forth about the request for a handwriting sample for months, and Cappas set a hearing for March 31 on the matter where each side can call experts and witnesses.

His case continues as discovery is still being sorted through, Jatkiewicz told the court Friday, including DNA hair analysis, cellphones and the handwriting sample.

Lake County prosecutors previously requested the death penalty for Vann, as he faces charges in connection with the deaths of Anith Jones 35, of Merrillville; Afrikka Hardy, 19, of Chicago; Teaira Batey, 28, of Gary; Tracy Martin, 41, of Gary; Kristine Williams, 36, of Gary; Sonya Billingsley, 52, of Gary; and Tanya Gatlin, 27, of Highland.

(source: Chicago Tribune)

CALIFORNIA----new female death sentence

Former tribal chair sentenced to death for slaughtering family members during hearing to evict her

A Placer County jury has decided that Cherie Louise Rhoades should be sentenced to death for the 2014 murder of 4 people, 3 of them her relatives.

The decision late Thursday came after 3 days of testimony before the same jury that convicted Rhoades in December of 4 counts of 1st-degree murder and 2 counts of attempted murder. It took the jury about 3 1/2 hours on Thursday to decide to impose the death penalty.

Rhoades, 47, of Cedarville, used a 9 mm semi-automatic handgun in a shooting rampage Feb. 20, 2014, at the Cedarville Rancheria Tribal Headquarters, where she and her son were the focus of a hearing to decide whether they should be evicted from tribal housing.

A former chairwoman of the 35-member tribe, Rhoades emptied a gun and then grabbed a butcher knife to stab people during the hearing, according to police reports.

Rhoades had been suspended as chairwoman pending a federal investigation into allegations that she embezzled at least $50,000 from the tribe.

Pronounced dead at the scene were Rurik Davis, 50, Rhoades' brother; Angel Penn, 19, her niece; Glenn Calonicco, 30, her nephew; and Shelia Lynn Russo, 47, a tribal administrator who managed evictions. Melissa Davis and Monica Davis were both injured.

The trial, which was moved from Modoc County to Placer County, was delayed by the death of Judge John T. Ball. Judge Candice Beason was assigned to the case and has presided over the trial held in Roseville.

She is scheduled to sentence Rhoades on April 10 in the Modoc County Courthouse.

(source: Sacramento Bee)

USA:

US seeks death penalty in airport shooting----The shooting killed 5 and wounded 6 Friday in Florida

While investigators try to figure out the motive of an Iraq war veteran accused of killing five travelers and wounding six others at a busy international airport in Florida, the suspected gunman was charged and could face the death penalty if convicted.

Esteban Santiago, 26, was charged with an act of violence at an international airport resulting in death - which carries a maximum punishment of execution - and weapons charges.

Santiago told investigators that he planned the attack, buying a 1-way ticket to the Fort Lauderdale airport, a federal complaint said. Authorities don't know why he chose his target and have not ruled out terrorism.

"Today's charges represent the gravity of the situation and reflect the commitment of federal, state and local law enforcement personnel to continually protect the community and prosecute those who target our residents and visitors," U.S Attorney Wifredo Ferrer said.

Authorities said during a news conference that they had interviewed roughly 175 people, including a lengthy interrogation with a cooperative Santiago, who is a former National Guard soldier from Alaska. Flights had resumed at the Fort Lauderdale airport after the bloodshed, though the terminal where the shooting happened remained closed.

FBI Agent George Piro said Santiago spoke to investigators for several hours after he opened fire with a 9mm semi-automatic handgun that he appears to have legally checked on a flight from Alaska.

"Indications are that he came here to carry out this horrific attack," Piro said. "We have not identified any triggers that would have caused this attack. We're pursuing all angles on what prompted him to carry out this horrific attack."

Investigators are combing through social media and other information to determine Santiago's motive, and it's too early to say whether terrorism played a role, Piro said. In November, Santiago had walked into an FBI field office in Alaska saying the U.S. government was controlling his mind and forcing him to watch Islamic State group videos, authorities said.

"He was a walk-in complaint. This is something that happens at FBI offices around the country every day," FBI agent Marlin Ritzman said.

Santiago had a loaded magazine on him, but had left a gun in his vehicle, along with his newborn child, authorities said. Officers seized the weapon and local officers took him to get a mental health evaluation. His girlfriend picked up the child.

On Dec. 8, the gun was returned to Santiago. Authorities wouldn't say if it was the same gun used in the airport attack.

U.S. Attorney Karen Loeffler said Santiago would have been able to legally possess a gun because he had not been judged mentally ill, which is a higher standard than having an evaluation.

Santiago had not been placed on the U.S. no-fly list and appears to have acted alone, authorities said.

The attack sent panicked witnesses running out of the terminal and spilling onto the tarmac, baggage in hand. Others hid in bathroom stalls or crouched behind cars or anything else they could find as police and paramedics rushed in to help the wounded and establish whether there were any other gunmen.

Mark Lea, 53, had just flown in from Minnesota with his wife for a cruise when he heard three quick cracks, like a firecracker. Then came more cracks, and "I knew it was more than just a firecracker," he said.

Making sure his wife was outside, Lea helped evacuate some older women who had fallen, he said. Then he saw the shooter.

"He was just kind of randomly shooting people," he said. "If you were in his path, you were going to get shot. He was walking and shooting."

Over the course of about 45 seconds, the shooter reloaded twice, he said. When he was out of bullets, he walked away, dropped the gun and lay face down, spread eagle on the floor, Lea said.

By that time, a deputy had arrived and grabbed the shooter. Lea put his foot on the gun to secure it.

Lea went to help the injured and a woman from Iowa asked about her husband, who she described. Lea saw a man who fit his description behind a row of chairs, motionless, shot in the head and lying in a pool of blood, he said. The man, Michael Oehme, was identified as one of the dead victims on Saturday.

Santiago had been discharged from the National Guard last year after being demoted for unsatisfactory performance. Bryan Santiago said Saturday that his brother had requested psychological help but received little assistance. Esteban Santiago said in August that he was hearing voices.

"How is it possible that the federal government knows, they hospitalize him for only four days, and then give him his weapon back?" Bryan Santiago said.

His mother declined to comment as she stood inside the screen door of the family home in Puerto Rico, wiping tears from her eyes. The only thing she said was that Esteban Santiago had been tremendously affected by seeing a bomb explode next to two of his friends when he was around 18 years old while serving in Iraq.

Santiago, who is in federal custody with no bail, will face federal charges and is expected to appear in court Monday, Piro said.

It is legal for airline passengers to travel with guns and ammunition as long as the firearms are put in a checked bag - not a carry-on - and are unloaded and locked in a hard-sided container. Guns must be declared to the airline at check-in.

Santiago arrived in Fort Lauderdale after taking off from Anchorage aboard a Delta flight Thursday night, checking only one piece of luggage - his gun, said Jesse Davis, police chief at the Anchorage airport.

(source: Associated Press)

SINGAPORE:

Lawyers from both sides of Causeway cooperate to save Malaysian citizen sentenced to die in Singapore

The Singapore Anti-Death Penalty activists, led by human rights advocate M Ravi, are collaborating with lawyers and lawmakers from across the Causeway to save the life of a convict currently on death row, Prabagaran A/L Srivijayan (Praba).

Praba (age: 29) a Malaysian citizen was arrested on 12 April 2012 when he was just 24 years old, for a narcotic trafficking offence. He has been on death row for more than 4 years since 2012, and is awaiting the result of his clemency petition to the Singapore President.

Writing in his Facebook Mr Ravi said that he was extremely grateful to prominent Malaysian Human Rights Lawyers Latheefa Koya and N Surendren (also a Member of Parliament in Malaysia) for agreeing to represent Prabagaran in Malaysia.

They are considering filing an urgent application for Judicial Review in the High Court in KL for a court order to compel the Malaysian government to file an immediate complaint at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to save Prabagaran from being unlawfully executed under customary international law on account of breach of right to a fair trial in Singapore. Mr Ravi said that he also met with Malaysia’s ambassador-at large for human rights, Tan Sri Dr Shafee Abdullah and briefed him on his ICJ memorandum addressed to the Malaysian government.

The Ambassador assured Mr Ravi that he will speak to the Malaysian Minister of Foreign Affairs on Monday and do his level best to assist.

The Singapore Anti-Death Penalty activists allege that Praba is being deprived of his life in a manner that is in breach of the principles of the separation of powers, the fundamental rules of natural justice, and the rule of law.

"In respect of a person who has been convicted of a drug offence that is punishable with death under the Second Schedule of the Misuse of Drugs Act (MDA), Section 33B(2)(b) of the Misuse of Drugs Act (MDA) provides that the Public Prosecutor may certify that a person convicted of a drug offence punishable with the death penalty has substantively assisted the Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB) in disrupting drug activities. If the Public Prosecutor so certifies, and if the offender is also merely a courier, then the sentencing judge has the discretion to impose life imprisonment in lieu of the death penalty. If the Public Prosecutor does not so certify, then the sentencing judge must sentence the offender to the death penalty.

As discussed above, although in this case Praba has maintained his innocence, he has, in fact, done his best to provide CNB with credible leads that could well have resulted in persons involved in drug activities (i.e., Balu and Nathan) being apprehended."

They argue that the right to a fair trial is one of the most important fundamental human rights and that the death sentence imposed on Praba violates the right to fair trial under customary international law.

The activists said "the Public Prosecutor's determination of whether or not substantive assistance was provided is too fluid and unstable a standard by which to determine the penalty which an offender should receive."

In an earlier statement, they further strongly suggested that the matter should compel the Malaysian government to lodge a complaint with the International Court of Justice (ICJ) and urged the Malaysian government to safeguard the life of its own citizen who is facing impending death.

The activists also urged the Malaysian government to consider several factors including the irreversibility of the death penalty and make submissions to ICJ without delay.

"In light of the punishment's irreversibility, the very limited time available may not be enough for preparing submissions to the ICJ. Therefore, if a submission to the ICJ is to be ultimately made, that submission should ideally be made as soon as possible."

In speaking to this publication, the activists say that Praba is likely to be executed by the State in the third week of January.

(source: independent.sg)

PHILIPPINES:

Solon wants smuggling punishable by death

An administration ally wants Congress to ensure that smuggling will be included in the list of crimes to be punishable by death penalty.

Ako Bicol party-list Rep.Rodel Batocabe said smuggling should be considered a heinous crime "because it strikes against the very core of the blood and life of the government - taxes."

"If you smuggle, you are like a termite and a leech which sucks our coffers dry, deprive our poor the needed social services and kill our jobs and industries. For his sins against the country and ordinary Filipino, a smuggler deserves to die not only once but many times over," he said.

The House of Representatives is expected to open debates on the proposal to reinstate capital offense when session resumes this month.

Batocabe, a lawyer, said smugglers are like "vampires' who suck government resources and take away the opportunities and services for the people.

'He made the call after said Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) chairman Martin Dino asked the National Food Authority's (NFA) to clarify if it has resumed granting permits for rice importation amid the discovery of an estimated 260,000 bags of Thai rice on board M/V MY Vuong off the Subic Freeport' waters (Outside Port Limits).

House Bill No. 1 filed by Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez seeks to punish offenders convicted of drug felonies, murder, rape, robbery, carjacking, kidnapping, bribery, plunder, parricide, infanticide, destructive arson, piracy and treason with death.

It also seeks to impose capital punishment on the following: importation of dangerous drugs and paraphernalia; sale, trading, distribution and transportation of dangerous drugs; maintenance of a drug den, dive, or resort; manufacture of dangerous drugs; possession of dangerous drugs; cultivation or culture of plants classified as dangerous drugs; unlawful prescription; criminal liability of a public officer or employee for misappropriation, misapplication, or failure to account for the confiscated, seized and/or surrendered dangerous; criminal liability for planting evidence concerning illegal drugs.

There are 22 crimes that will be punishable by capital punishment under the measure but lawmakers have decided to lower it when the bill reaches the plenary.

Dino earlier said some 13,000 metric tons of white rice from Thailand covered by an alleged import permit (IP) issued by NFA Administrator Tomas R. Escarez were about to be unloaded at the Subic Freeport when discovered by SBMA authorities.

Dino said the SBMA has stopped the unloading of the Thai rice while it is trying to ensure if the import permit is genuine. He said the NFA has yet to respond to the SBMA's inquiry.

The alleged IP was issued December 29 last year and valid for 7 days in favor of Labangan Farmers First Consolidated Multi-Purpose Cooperative (MPC), Multi Grain MPC, Adda Latta Namnama (ALN) MPC, Magsaysay Farmers MPC, Ligaya Multi Purpose and Transport Services Cooperative and St. Nino Farmers MPC.

Dino said he issued an alert status on the shipment since the DA ban on rice importation has not been officially lifted following reports of massive rice smuggling in the past through falsified NFA import permits.

He said he found it strange that Labangan Farmers First Consolidated MP is based in Bulanit, Labanga, Zamboanga del Sur while Magsaysay Farmers MPC is based in Magsaysay, Davao del Sur, and yet their shipments are consigned to Subic in Luzon.

Multi-Grain MPC is based in Buga, San Miguel, Bulacan; Adda Latta MPC in East Natividad, Pangasinan; Ligaya MPC is Ligaya, Sablayan, Mindoro Occidental; and Sto. Nino Farmers MPC is Sto. Nino, Sablayan, Occidental Mindoro.

Dino has also announced that he has held the release of deformed steel bars imported from China in response to the order of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) recalling a previously granted clearance for the transport of the materials outside the Subic warehouse.

(source: malaya.com.ph)

MALAYSIA:

'Just hang me now' - stories from death row

For many years now, the Malaysian government has toyed with the idea of abolishing the death penalty.

Human rights organisations say the death penalty is archaic and cruel, taking away the most basic of rights - the right to life.

It is a hard sell and politically caustic - an eye for an eye remains a popular notion, with many baying for blood of perpetrators whenever heinous crimes are reported in the news.

? While organisations like Amnesty International frequently campaign to save the lives of death row prisoners, three waiting for their turn in the execution room have a different wish - for the wait to end.

"If they are to hang, hang them now, because waiting is mental torture," one journalist recalled death row prisoners telling him, in interviews which have left an indelible mark.

The journalist, who chose to be named, shared this story with Humans of Kuala Lumpur when asked about the most memorable interview he has conducted in his decades-long career:

I met up with three male prisoners, one from each race. I got permission to interview them in one day.

The Malay guy, I don't remember his name now, had already spent 7 years in Kajang Prison.

I was afraid - even though he was in the cell and I was interviewing him from outside the cell. His offence was murder. I thought to myself, "Oh my God, he's a death row prisoner and he had killed someone."

The prisoner noticed how uncomfortable I was and told me, "Brother, just relax, because I won't harm you," and said the longer I interview him, the more I will like him.

'Hang me now'

He told me he was in the cell for 23 hours a day and has been living like that for seven years. Prisoners were only allowed out of their cell for one hour, and only along the passageway in front of their cells. So, if I took some of his time, he would feel relieved.

He told me if given the chance to either be hanged or wait further in prison, he would choose to be hanged. I asked, "Why? Don't you want to live??

He told me, "You can become a crazy man being inside here. You will go crazy because for 23 hours a day, I don't do anything, just stare at the walls in a 10 feet by 10 feet cell space - one can go crazy".

He had tattooed his forearm (with the names of his wife and children) because he really loved them. He said his wife accidentally killed someone over a misunderstanding over a business transaction, (as) one of the items (transacted) were fake.

So, in the ensuing fight, she accidentally killed the other person. When he got back home, he said because of his love for her, he disposed of the body and took responsibility for the killing.

While they were both driving towards Kuala Lumpur (from Pahang), they were stopped at a roadblock and they were caught. In court, he admitted that he was the murderer. He took responsibility - this was based on the story he told me.

He said when he was convicted, his wife promised to be faithful to him, but in the 7 years he was in prison, not once did she come to visit him. This is why he tattooed his arm.

It's a really sad story if it's true. He said he was not lying, not guilty and has submitted himself to God.

Never got visits

The Indian man I met goes by the name of 'Lan'. He converted to Islam. He had a Malay girlfriend who worked in a bank, and they both come from Kuala Selangor in Sungai Besar.

He was a drug dealer who spent a lot of money on his girlfriend and sacrificed a lot for her. He even bought her a car. He sold drugs to make money and one day he got caught. The punishment is, of course, the death sentence.

He told me if I ever went to Sungai Besar, please find his (ex) girlfriend and send her his love. He said he was caught because of her, and she never visited him in prison.

The Chinese man, I think, was convicted of murder, but I don't remember much details. But all 3 men said if given the chance to be hanged immediately, they would take it.

2 years after the interview I spoke to Lan. I heard from one of my interns that he was going to be released and was going to get a pardon. On the day of his release, he called me and thanked me for featuring his story on television.

I don't know what happened to the other 2.

Chosen people

? For my report, I also met an ustaz who was the religious counsellor for Muslims before they went to their end. He retired around a decade ago.

He told me that, for the Muslims, right after they give their last salam in their prayers, two wardens will take them to the execution room.

Most of them are not able to walk because they know they are heading to their death.

The ustaz said at least they know when they will die. Because of that, prisoners become very religious and pray a lot.

It is unlike most of us out here. We say we are healthy and we say accidents happen, but we wouldn’t know when we would die.

For them, these special people, maybe they were chosen - because they know they are going to die. They know the exact time and location of their death when the prison director comes and informs them they will be hanged the next day.

So they are able to pray and focus and atone for their sins. That is the only advantage that they get.

The prisoners I met told me to tell those outside to learn from their mistakes. They admitted that they had been in the wrong, regret what they had done, and said that if they are to be pardoned, to pardon them now. If they are to hang, hang them now, because waiting is mental torture, they said.

They all could not stand the waiting in prison, as the process goes from the High Court to the Federal Court and then the sultan. The whole waiting process, it's just a lot of mental torture for them.

All 3 men have gone through the court appeals but of course they were unsuccessful.

I felt pity for them, especially for the husband who took the fall for his wife, but the drug dealer knew what he was getting himself into.

I am grateful that we have a normal life compared to them.

(source: HUMANS OF KUALA LUMPUR, a photography project by Mushamir Mustafa, features on Malaysiakini every weekend----malaysiakini.com)

THAILAND:

Thailand mulls death penalty for corrupt public officials

Corrupt public officials in Thailand could be staring on the death penalty should a proposal by the country's National Reform Steering Assembly (NRSA) for a stiffer sentence is adopted by the government.

Under the proposed sentence, which will be tabled tomorrow, public officials who committed graft and caused more than Baht1 billion (RM1=7.9Baht) of losses to the country could be sentenced to death.

"The NRSA will consider these proposal on Jan 9 (tomorrow)," said NRSA chairperson Thinnapan Nakata, who expected heated debate on the proposal among the 200-members of the assembly, to the local media today.

The proposal was made by NRSA's political reform steering committee chaired by Seree Suwanpanont, as part of NRSA's report on the regulation and scrutiny on government power.

The committee suggested that inspections on public officials should be carried out in the same manner as that used on politicians.

Besides the proposed death sentence on convicted public officials who caused more than Baht1 billion of losses, it also proposed an imprisonment for 5 years for those who caused not more than Baht1 million losses to the state.

For officials who inflicted losses between 1 million baht to 10 million baht to the state, they could face 10 years in jail and 20 years imprisonment if they are guilty of losses between 10 million baht to 100 million baht.

Meanwhile, a life sentence awaits public officials who are convicted of corruption which causes the country to suffer losses amounting between 100 million baht to 1 billion baht, according to the proposal.

Once the proposal is adopted by the NRSA, it will be submitted to the cabinet, the National Legislative Assembly (NLA) and the Constitution Drafting Committee for further deliberations.

The proposal to impose the death penalty on corrupt public officials followed a recent proposal for a similar sentence on corrupt politicians for "selling and buying" political positions.

The proposal by the Constitution Drafting Committee (CDC) under the draft organic law for political parties received strong opposition from the political parties.

CDC chairperson Meechai Ruchupan has been quoted as saying that the maximum death penalty was aimed at deterring corrupt people from getting involved in politics.

(source: malaysiakini.com)

JANUARY 7, 2017:

TEXAS----female may face death penalty

'Drug addict' Texas mom smirks in her mugshot after being charged with stabbing her 5-year-old daughter to death and attacking her father-in-law who tried to stop her

A mom appears to be choking back laughter in her mugshot after allegedly mutilating and killing her 5-year-old daughter.

Krystle Villanueva, 24, is charged with capital murder for allegedly stabbing her daughter Giovanna Larae Hernandez to death.

She could face life in prison or the death penalty.

Villanueva is also accused of stabbing her father-in-law, Eustorgio Arellano-Uresti, who tried to stop the attack.

Mr Arellano-Uresti says that at 11am January 5 he went to go make lunch at the home in Kyle, a town located 25 minutes from Austin.

According to KXAN, he saw Villanueva take a knife to her back bedroom then he heard Giovanna crying out in pain.

Mr Arellano-Uresti tried to grab the weapon from Villanueva and she attacked him, stabbing him in the forehead and back.

Witnesses then saw Mr Arellano-Uresti leave the home and Villanueva run after him with a shotgun that was not loaded.

Police and the SWAT team were called to the scene and found Villanueva washing off in the shower. Giovanna was dead in a bedroom.

Neighbors were shocked that such a horror could happen in the quiet Green Pastures subdivision.

Toxicology reports are still out, but Villanueva's friends said she suffered from drug addiction. They were also in shock that the mother could commit such a crime.

Arellano-Uresti alleged his daughter-in-law used drugs, alcohol and marijuana according to the affidavit. Her sister told officers in 2015 she went to a nearby rehab center for substance abuse.

Villanueva's friend Sabrine Sifuentez told the station: 'She went to a rehab. She did a 90-day program and she came out good. She was doing good. She had a job.

'She tried to get help. I don't know if she just relapsed, or I really can't say what happened.'

On a live Facebook broadcast by KXAN, Sheriff Gary Cutler said: 'This is one of the worst cases I've ever seen.'

'The suspect has had minor issues with law enforcement in the past, nothing major.'

She is also charged with second-degree felony charge of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.

In one of the 'About Me' sections on one of her Facebook profiles she says: 'The most important things to me in life is family and succeeding in life but especially my daughter Giovanna La'Rae. I'd do anything in the world for this chick.'

Villanueva is being held on a $1.1 million bond at the Hays County Jail. Of the total $800,000 is for capital murder and $300,000 is for aggravated assault.

(source: dailymail.co.uk)

NORTH CAROLINA:

Convicted killer sues, claiming a conspiracy to keep him on death row

A convicted killer appeared in New Hanover County court Friday for a hearing related to a lawsuit he filed against several defendants he claims are conspiring to keep him on death row.

Shan Carter, 42, is convicted of killing 3 people in 2 separate incidents, including the kidnapping and murder of Donald Brunson on Dec. 6, 1996, and the murders of Tyrone Baker and an innocent bystander, 8-year-old Demetrius Greene, on Feb. 16, 1997.

In October 2016, Carter filed the lengthy, handwritten federal lawsuit, naming District Attorney Ben David, Governor Roy Cooper (in his capacity as former Attorney General), and his legal counsel on his appeal of his death sentence among others as defendants.

"Between February 18, 1999 to this present date all the defendants at various times between the said dates joined in conspiracies against the plaintiff consisting of a conspiracy to murder the plaintiff by poisonous lethal injection under the color of law in the state of North Carolina's Death Chamber at Central Prison, in Raleigh, NC, malicious communicating threats to murder the plaintiff, kidnapping the plaintiff, tampering with (a civil rights) victim - witness, mail and or wire fraud, aiding and abetting, and circumventing the state criminal procedure that's federally funded," the lawsuit states.

In the suit, Carter claims he attempted on at least four occasions to have Cooper investigate his cases because of "trial misconduct," but Cooper refused and "investigated other high-profile, race-based, and political cases."

On Wednesday, Johnston County Superior Court Judge Thomas Lock allowed Carter's defense attorneys, William Durham and Kristin Parks, to withdraw from his case, as they could not reasonably defend Carter while attempting to defend themselves.

Before the ruling, Lock gave Carter the option to remove Durham and Parks as defendants from the lawsuit, so they could continue to represent him and not delay his appeal by having new attorneys assigned to defend him. He declined.

"It's going to take several months, if not more years," David explained. We're ready and have been ready, I've been living with this case virtually as long as I've been a prosecutor, so I'm pretty familiar with it. It's going to take new attorneys some time to get up to speed and we'll certainly meet them in any courtroom to continue to hear this case when they're ready."

Carter is seeking compensatory treble damages of upward of $95 million, an injunction ordering the defendants "cease their racketeering activity," court costs and attorney fees, and a trial by jury.

David, who was trial counsel when the murders occurred, said this type of legal action was not uncommon for inmates in Carter's position.

"Increasingly, we are seeing that defendants are shooting the messenger, firing their attorneys or filing lawsuits against them," David said. "It is not uncommon unfortunately now to see the process being put on trial when the defendant has no other avenue."

The murders

According to court documents, Carter and 2 other men wearing masks entered Brunson's bedroom, ordered him and his girlfriend to the floor at gunpoint, fired a shot, and violently beat him. The intruders then took money and jewelry from Brunson, and beat him until he lost consciousness. The men then left with Brunson in his girlfriend's car.

Masks were found inside the vehicle when investigators located it later that morning in a wooded area approximately 7 miles from their home. Brunson's body was located about 100 yards from the vehicle with 3 gunshot wounds in his back and 1 in his upper right arm.

Carter was convicted of 1st-degree murder, 2nd-degree kidnapping, robbery with a dangerous weapon, and 1st-degree burglary in connection to Brunson's murder. He was sentenced to life in prison.

In late 1996, Carter was involved in a number of break-ins and burglaries in Wilmington, including one at Baker's home, which resulted in the theft of approximately $35,000 in cash, court documents state.

This incident led to confrontation between Carter and Baker in front of a grocery store located at Tenth and Dawson streets. Carter fired shots at Baker, who ran down Tenth Street. While chasing Baker, Carter fired more shots, 2 of which hit Baker in his leg and torso.

Demetrius, who was with his mother heading to a toy store, was hit and killed by a stray bullet that went through a windshield in his mother's car.

Baker collapsed nearby, and died a short time later.

Carter was convicted of 2 counts of 1st-degree murder for the killings of Baker and Demetrius, for which he received the death penalty.

Attorneys call Carter "delusional"

In February 2015 hearing, Durham and Parks told Judge Jack Hooks their relationship with Carter was "really in a bad place," and that he was "delusional." The hearing was to determine if Carter was competent enough to represent himself in court for his requested retrial. Hooks said he saw no issues with Carter's legal counsel, and kept them on his case.

In a hearing 3 months later, Carter claimed post-conviction DNA testing proved he did not murder Brunson, entitling him to a new trial in the case and removal from death row. In September, Judge Jack Hooks denied Carter's request for a new trial and upheld the death penalty, saying the new testing of old evidence would likely not change the outcome of the original trial.

(source: WECT news)

FLORIDA:

Florida Changes Lethal Injection Drugs

In the midst of a major upheaval involving Florida's death-penalty laws, state corrections officials have adopted a new lethal-injection procedure that includes a drug never before used for executions and another used only by accident.

The move is almost certain to spur more litigation over the state's already-embattled death penalty, in limbo for nearly a year in the aftermath of a U.S. Supreme Court decision last January that struck down as unconstitutional Florida's capital sentencing system because it gave too much power to judges, instead of juries.

The Department of Corrections posted the revised 3-drug lethal injection protocol on its website Thursday, a day after Secretary Julie Jones signed the new procedure.

The new triple-drug cocktail is the only one of its kind among the states that rely on similar procedures and incorporates a sedative never before used in executions, along with a killing agent used only once - when Oklahoma executioners used it by accident.

Inmate Dane Abdool is 1 of 5 death row inmates who are plaintiffs in a federal lawsuit challenging Florida's lethal-injection protocol.

The News Service of Florida first reported in December that the corrections agency may be considering a new drug protocol, based on records related to a lawsuit filed by Arizona death row inmates. The records revealed that Florida has run out of the sedative midazolam hydrochloride, will soon run out of potassium chloride --- the final drug in the triple-drug lethal injection cocktail - and spent $12,000 last year stockpiling 3 new drugs.

Department of Corrections spokeswoman Michelle Glady said in an interview Thursday the agency did not know whether the protocol has ever been used elsewhere.

States have been scrambling to obtain lethal injection drugs after manufacturers have refused to sell the substances to corrections agencies for execution purposes.

In its new protocol, Florida is substituting etomidate for midazolam as the critical first drug, used to sedate prisoners before injecting them with a paralytic and then a drug used to stop prisoners' hearts.

Midazolam, still in use by some states, is the focus of the Arizona lawsuit, filed after convicted killer Rudolph Wood took 2 hours to die in 2014. Arizona corrections officials have tried to get the lawsuit dismissed as moot because they contend they have run out of the drug and it is no longer available. At least 4 other states claim they have supplies of midazolam.

Concerns about midazolam also prompted the Florida Supreme Court last year to halt the execution of Jerry William Correll, pending the outcome of a lawsuit filed by Oklahoma prisoners over the drug's use. In June 2015, a sharply divided U.S. Supreme Court rejected the challenge in the landmark case, known as Glossip v. Gross.

Etomidate, also known by its brand name "Amidate," has never been used before as part of the 3-drug execution procedure in the U.S., according to Megan McCracken, a lawyer with the Death Penalty Clinic at the University of California, Berkeley Law School.

(soruce: WLRN news)

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

Orlando senator files bill to bring back death penalty

Hoping to reinstate the death penalty in Florida, a Democratic state senator from Orlando filed a bill Friday that would require juries to be unanimous in condemning a killer.

If approved, the measure (SB 280) by Sen. Randolph Bracy could end delayed trials and confusion over a Florida Supreme Court ruling in October that struck down the state's capital punishment law.

Lawmakers last year tried to fix the death penalty law by requiring a 10-2 jury vote for death sentences, but the court's ruling said a 12-0 vote was needed. The Senate preferred a unanimous jury, but the House and state prosecutors wanted more leeway.

"The Supreme Court has kind of set the direction that we need to go in, so I think there'll be more buy-in from the House," said Bracy, chairman of the Senate Criminal Justice Committee.

No bill has been filed in the House yet, but House Judiciary Committee chairman Rep. Chris Sprowls, R-Palm Harbor, said his panel will hold hearings on the issue next week. He wants to look at the entire death penalty statute for possible changes, not just the unanimous jury provision.

"There's a pronged analysis that goes into every death penalty case," said Sprowls, a former prosecutor who has tried capital murder cases. "We're going to view each one of those independently and collaboratively and figure out the best scheme to serve Floridians."

Lawmakers say the issue is among their top priorities and that delays of murder trials are plaguing the courts. Senate President Joe Negron, R-Stuart, said about 200 cases are affected by the death penalty's status in limbo.

"I think its paramount for the victims' families for cases to be fairly adjudicated without delay," Negron said. He added that he hopes for a Senate vote soon after the legislative session that begins March 7.

The issue stretches back to January 2016, when the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Florida's death penalty law because it allowed a judge to issue a death sentence after taking into account a jury's recommendation. Under the old law, a 7-5 majority recommendation was enough to recommend death.

Except for Alabama and Florida, all of the 32 states with capital punishment require a unanimous vote for death. Florida was one of five states that executed a prisoner in 2016.

The Legislature responded by passing the 10-2 jury vote law. That was then declared unconstitutional as well by the Florida Supreme Court's October ruling.

But even if lawmakers pass a new law this year, courts could be grappling with the fallout in the future. The court's October ruling didn't specify what should happen to ongoing capital murder cases or whether those on death row who weren't sentenced by a unanimous jury have grounds for an appeal of their sentence.

Bracy said he believes the Legislature should declare the unanimous jury provision to apply retroactively, but he hasn't included it in his bill. That would give every prisoner on death row sentenced to death by a split jury the grounds to appeal for a life sentence.

The state's highest court compounded the confusion this week when it issued an order telling prosecutors they couldn't seek the death penalty in ongoing murder trials, only to vacate the order hours later. A court spokesman later said the order was "prematurely issued."

The episode came a day after a judge for Brevard and Seminole counties empaneled a jury for the sentencing phase of a murder trial, thinking he could move forward by telling the jury a death sentence had to be unanimous.

Sprowls said the ambiguity of the law is causing "paralysis" in the trial courts. Judges are typically allowed to issue alternate jury instructions to comply with a court order that updates existing laws, he said, but it doesn't seem like the Florida Supreme Court will allow that to happen in this case.

"I think that you have a court that is clearly demonstrating a systematic hostility towards the death penalty in general," Sprowls said.

Gov. Rick Scott, who signed the death warrants and oversaw the executions of 23 prisoners since he took office in 2011 - the most of any governor since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976, isn't pressing lawmakers for an answer to the situation.

A spokeswoman for Scott said his office is still reviewing the Florida Supreme Court ruling, but wouldn't say if he has a preference for how the law should be fixed.

Meanwhile, the families of murder victims, the 384 prisoners on death row, prosecutors, defense attorneys and judges are waiting on a resolution. Groups that oppose the death penalty are also awaiting the outcome, but are pleased the courts are moving toward making it harder to get the death penalty.

It's also put a de facto moratorium on executions, as Scott hasn't signed a death warrant since the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling last year.

Ingrid Delgado of the Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops noted that Saturday marks one year since the last prisoner, Oscar Ray Bolin Jr., was executed.

"This is another reminder that executions are not needed to keep society safe," Delgado said.

(source: Orlando Sentinel)

ALABAMA----new death sentence

Alabama jurors recommend death penalty in triple slaying

Jurors are recommending the death penalty for a man convicted of killing 3 people in southeast Alabama.

A Houston County jury says Ryan Clark Petersen should die after being convicted of capital murder in the gunshot deaths of 2 men and a woman at a nightclub in Wicksburg in 2012.

Jurors voted 10-2 Thursday in favor of lethal injection, but a judge could still sentence Petersen to life imprisonment without parole.

Prosecutors say the 27-year-old Enterprise man opened fire after being told to leave the bar following a dispute with an employee.

Jurors rejected defense claims that Petersen wasn't responsible for his actions because he drank a lot of alcohol and was mentally impaired.

The shooting at Teasers Nightclub killed Tiffani Grissett, Cameron Paul Eubanks and Thomas Robins Jr.

(source: Associated Press)

TENNESSEE:

Bill aims to send death penalty appeals straight to state Supreme Court

A bill filed Friday in the state House aims to eliminate a step in death penalty appeals, sending cases directly to the Tennessee Supreme Court.

Rep. William Lamberth, R-Cottontown, filed the bill that, if passed, could expedite death sentence appeals. Lamberth said Tennessee is 1 of fewer than 5 states in the country that requires midlevel or intermediate state appellate courts to hear death penalty cases.

"To me, if all these other states seem to feel like this is a good and just process, then I think it would very well for Tennessee as well," he said.

People who receive a death sentence here have automatic appeals to the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals and then a mandatory review at the Tennessee Supreme Court. Because of that process, a decision on the sentence is not final until the state's top court hears the case, Lamberth said.

There also are federal appeals, on which the bill would have no impact. Together the appeals process can extend for years or decades.

"I think it's just more fair to the defendants and the victims' families to get a decision from that top court as soon as possible," Lamberth said.

Lamberth said he "couldn't promise" that the new process would shorten the time between conviction and execution. It also has the potential, he said, to more quickly exonerate defendants who were wrongly convicted or allow new trials to happen sooner.

There are 63 people on death row, according to the Department of Correction, only 1 of whom is a woman.

Tennessee allows the death penalty via lethal injection and a secondary method, the electric chair. The last execution was in 2009 and since then carrying it out has been on hold because of legal challenges.

The Tennessee Supreme Court is now considering whether the state's single drug lethal injection protocol is constitutional. At oral arguments in October the justices had questions about better alternatives, but lawyers for the inmates said they did not have to provide one.

The court has not yet ruled on the issue. If it upholds the current law, it could green-light executions to resume in Tennessee.

(source: The Tennessean)

KANSAS:

Competency ruling in Fairmount Park killing delayed

Saying "death is different," a Sedgwick County District Court judge on Friday delayed a ruling on whether Cornell McNeal is competent to stand trial in a case that could result in the death penalty.

McNeal is accused of grabbing Letitia Davis while she was walking through Fairmount Park in north Wichita on the night of Nov. 14, 2014. He has been charged with raping her, beating her, setting her body on fire and then leaving her for dead.

Davis died 8 days later. One of the charges McNeal, 28, faces is attempted capital murder, meaning that if he is convicted the jury could sentence him to death.

After receiving a second assessment from Larned State Hospital recommending that McNeal is competent to stand trial, Judge Warren Wilbert said Friday that he was prepared to rule McNeal competent and that the case should proceed.

Why case in rape, death of woman in Fairmount Park has stalled

A 2nd assessment was ordered after McNeal refused to speak with his court-appointed attorneys or acknowledge inquiries from the judge. He continued that behavior Friday in court, saying nothing to his attorneys and not responding to Wilbert.

"Mr. McNeal, you need to know, I think you do - and again we're going through the same exercise where he's just staring straight ahead and acting like he's not going to participate - you need to know, sir, that the state can seek to put you to death," Wilbert said. "So the consequences of a conviction is not just you go to prison.

"If the jury determines that you should be put to death, you'll have a death penalty hanging over your head."

The alternative to a death sentence upon a guilty conviction is life in prison without possibility of parole, Wilbert said.

Mark Rudy, Sedgwick County's chief public defender, requested more time before a competency ruling is made, saying the defense team had hired its own expert to assess McNeal.

"We are not accepting the findings of Larned," Rudy said, adding, "This is capital litigation. I'm not going to be stipulating to much of anything" - meaning little will go unchallenged because the defendant could be sentenced to death.

The defense's expert is based in Texas and has not completed his assessment, Rudy said.

Given the stakes of the case, Wilbert said, he agreed to defer a ruling. A hearing on the status of the case was set for March 14.

Sedgwick County District Attorney Marc Bennett said a competency hearing that could be expected to include testimony from both prosecution and defense experts would take place sometime after that.

(source: Wichita Eagle)

SOUTH DAKOTA:

Evaluation ordered for death row inmate

A circuit judge on Friday said he wants the attorney for a killer and death row inmate to submit a report detailing his client's mental disability.

Judge Doug Hoffman wants to review the report before ruling on a motion filed by prosecutors to dismiss Rodney Berget's death penalty appeal.

Berget in August sent a letter to his judge requesting to withdraw his appeal despite the wishes of his attorney.

His attorney, Eric Schulte, has argued at previous hearings that the judge should not rule on the motion until he's had the time to determine if his client is mentally diminished.

Prosecutors have contended that no evidence exist that shows Berget wasn't competent at the time of his offense or even now.

"It remains the State's position that due process has been satisfied," said Attorney General Marty Jackley in a statement. "Testing from throughout Berget's life shows that he is a person of at least ordinary intelligence meeting both federal and state competency requirements. This is a serious and tragic matter, and the state will continue its efforts to move these proceedings forward in a timely fashion."

Berget and another prisoner, Eric Robert, killed guard Ronald Johnson during a prison escape attempt in 2011.

Berget was scheduled to be executed in May 2015. However, his execution was stayed.

Robert was executed in 2012. A 3rd inmate, Michael Nordman, was sentenced to life in prison for providing plastic wrap and a pipe used to kill Johnson.

(source: argusleader.com)

CALIFORNIA:

Tulare County inmates make up 2% of death row

There are 749 killers, rapists and molesters condemned to die in California. 14 of those inmates are from Tulare County.

In 23 days, Christopher Cheary, a convicted child killer, will become number 15. The Exeter man was sentenced to death by a jury in December. Judge Joesph Kalashian will make the final ruling on Jan. 30.

On a per-capita basis, Tulare County juries send people to death row at higher rates than most other jurors in California, including Los Angeles, Alameda, San Diego or Fresno counties. Kings and San Bernadino juries, in contrast, give the ultimate punishment to convicted killers at higher per-capita rates. Juries in Kern County send murderers to death row about the same rate as Tulare County.Cheary will be transferred to San Quentin State Prison, where he will no doubt spend the rest of his life in a dimly-lit cell. If he's lucky, he will have a television, some books and an hour to exercise each day.

He will join the killers and rapists who offended before him. Cells are stacked five-high. On the wall, above armed guards who check on inmates every 30 minutes, a Mickey Mouse clock that reads, "The Happiest Place on Earth." Those who oppose the death penalty, say it does more harm than good. But, those who fight for it, say it's a necessary tool in keeping communities safe.

Many in the justice system are hoping with the recent passing of Proposition 66, the process will be expedited and millions will be saved in trial expenses. But there are still those who doubt the death penalty is worth the high price of death justice.

Either way, it';s unlikely Cheary will never see the inside of the state's death chamber.

A history of death

In 1972, the California Supreme Court ruled the death penalty was cruel and unusual punishment. 6 years later, legislatures reinstated it. At that time, lawmakers ruled that the death penalty was only to be used as punishment for those who had committed 1st-degree murder under special circumstances.

Special circumstances include murder for financial gain, murder by a person previously convicted of murder, the murder of multiple victims, murder with torture, the murder of a peace officer, the murder of a witness to prevent testimony and several other circumstances.

In 1982, Michael Hamilton was sentenced to death after he shot and killed his pregnant wife in order to collect money from her life insurance policy. The Tulare County man had previously hired a contract killer who unsuccessfully attempted to kill the woman 3 times. In 2009, a federal appeals court threw out the death penalty for the killer. He was recently re-sentenced to life without the possibility of parole.

Since 1978, Tulare County juries have sentenced 15 people to death.

Tulare County, with a population of roughly 459,000 people, has as many death row inmates as Fresno County - which is twice the size of Tulare County.

Kern County, with a population of 882,176, has sentenced 27 people to death.

Kings County, which has the lowest number of death row inmates, 7, also has the smallest population in the Central Valley: 150,960.

The district attorney for each county makes the final decision on when to seek death.

Currently, there are 95 pending homicide cases in the county. Of those cases, 13 qualify for the death penalty and 7 have been approved by Tulare County District Attorney Tim Ward.

"The death penalty is reserved for the worst of the worst," he said. "It is not something that is taken lightly."

Historically, death penalty cases in Tulare County are reviewed by a panel of 6 to 8 senior homicide prosecutors. District Attorney Tim Ward selects the panel based on their experience.

"I want someone on the committee who has stood in front of a jury and asked them to sentence someone to death," he said.

The defense counsel is also welcome to attend the case review to offer insight and mitigating factors that might preclude their client from the ultimate punishment. Ward has never gone against a recommendation from the panel.

"There is no formula," he said. "We go through this process with every case."

Tulare County Public Defender Lisa Bertolino said that in her 28 years with the office, housed in the basement of the Visalia Courthouse, she has never seen this many death penalty cases at one time. Typically, there are between 3 and 4 cases, she said.

"This wave seems to suggest a shift in prosecution," said Lisa Strongin, supervising attorney for the Public Defender's Office.

Deadly price tag

Strongin believes it is difficult to put a price tag on cases that involve people's lives.

"Death penalty cases use vast amounts of resources and public monies," she said. "And it doesn't guarantee what the public wanted or even closure for families."

Prosecuting a death penalty case is costly. A study done by Loyola Law Review found that capital cases cost between 10 and 20 times as much as a life-without-parole case. The study also found that on average, the least expensive death penalty trial costs $1.1 million more than the most expensive life-without-parole case.

Professors at Loyola Law school estimated that capital trials, additional restrictions and security on death row as well as legal representation for defendants added $184 million to California’s budget annually.

Much of the costs occur during the 1st phase of the trial. Death penalty cases must be tried in 2 phases - guilt and penalty.

The last 2 cases in Tulare County took 5 years from arrest to conviction.

"We live here. We know who those taxpayers are," Strongin said. "We have to decide as a community how we wish to live and the values we’d like to pass on."

Despite knowing the high cost of trying a capital case, many Californians are still in favor of the death penalty. In November, more than 53 % of Californians voted no on Proposition 62, which would have replaced the death penalty with life sentences.

The failed ballot measure was partnered with Proposition 66, which sought to expedite the appeals process and ultimately death. The measure narrowly passed with 51 % of Californians in favor.

"People are tired of supplementing the people on death row," said Maggie Melo, a criminal defense attorney at Sarsfield and Melo. "Those sentenced to death have special accommodations."

Just days after voters approved expediting the process, though, a group of opponents filed a lawsuit, taking the decision out of the hands of voters and putting it into the hands of the California Supreme Court.

Ending the wait

Kermit Alexander co-authored the argument for Proposition 66. His mother, sister and 2 nephews were shot dead in 1984 and the gunman was condemned to die for the crime in 1986.

Tiequon Cox remains on death row.

In Alexander's letter to the Attorney General, he wrote:

"California's death penalty system is ineffective because of waste, delays, and inefficiencies. Fixing it will save California taxpayers millions of dollars every year. These wasted taxpayer dollars would be better used for crime prevention, education, and services for the elderly and disabled."

California has not executed a death row inmate since 2006 because of legal challenges that question the lethal injection protocol. Of the 749 death row inmates, only 24 have completed the federal habeas corpus review.

Bertolino has seen a number of death penalty cases and knows the emotional strain it places on attorneys and families. Kalashian applauded the attorneys on both sides of the Cheary case for handling the stress so well.

"A death sentence is just the beginning," Bertolino said. "It's not when the proceedings end. It's not a final sentence and it does the family a disservice."

Proposition 66 was designed to put trial courts in charge of initial petitions, known as habeas corpus petitions - challenging death penalty convictions. The measure would allow the judge who handled the original murder case to hear the habeas corpus petition. It will also allow petitions to be appealed to the court of appeals and to the California Supreme Court. The measure requires the habeas corpus petition process and appeals to be completed within 5 years after the death sentence.

Proposition 66, also changes the requirements for criminal attorneys who represent convicted inmates which would guarantee inmates received competent lawyers.

Currently, there are more than 300 inmates on death row waiting for legal representation for their state appeals and federal habeas corpus petitions, said Michael Millman, executive director of the California Appellate Project. There are fewer than 100 attorneys qualified to defend death penalty cases.

Bertolino isn't the only attorney who doubts the effectiveness of the measure.

"It's not going to work," Melo said. "Many rights surrounding the death penalty have to do with federal rights."

More harm than good

Phillip Cherney, one of the few state-approved capital case appeals attorneys, also believes the proposition will do more harm than good. Prior to the approval, Cherney wrote that the proposition was "muddled" and "confusing". Most of the time spent reviewing death penalty cases are done in federal court. Additionally, federal judges are not subject to state rules and do not take orders from state courts.

Cherney, based in Visalia, worried that if it passed, it would become the subject of litigation and heavy judicial scrutiny.

He was right.

"Passage will only exacerbate the existing problems of supply and demand," he said

On Nov. 9, litigation was filed in the state Supreme Court by John Van de Kamp, a former attorney general, and Ron Briggs. The 2 alleged that the proposition was unconstitutional and would encourage lawyers to "cut corners."

The state's high court stayed the implementation of the proposition on Dec. 20.

"California voters by substantial margin reaffirmed their support for an effective death penalty process to properly punish the most evil murderers and provide justice to the victims' families," said Steve Wagstaffe president of the District Attorney Association. "The Supreme Court action halting the implementation of Proposition 66 was expected and district attorneys statewide are confident the Supreme Court will find all provisions in the law to be constitutional and will reject this latest stall tactic by opponents of the death penalty."

Ward, a proponent of the measure, said many foresaw that death penalty opponents would file appeals but were not concerned the measure would be halted.

"No matter what side of the argument you fall on, we all agree pre-66 the system was broken," he said. "The death penalty needed to be remedied not ended."

Defense attorneys argue that sending inmates to the death chamber faster is not the solution. Death penalty cases take time to research, defend and prosecute to ensure the accused is truly guilty of the crime, Melo said.

"There are many instances where the accused is released because they were found innocent," she said.

According to the Innocence Project, there have been 18 people proven innocent and exonerated after serving time on death row. Those inmates served a combined 229 years in prison, including 202 years on death row.

However, Ward pointed out that none have been exonerated from California, a state in which the death penalty is highly scrutinized.

"There is a constant battle going on in the state on how the death penalty should be imposed," Melo said. "You can't simply say we aren't killing people fast enough, let's kill them faster. There is no simple solution."

Death row by the numbers:

1) Kings, 7, 0.92% (150,960) (1 per 21,565)

2) Riverside, 89, 11.76% (2,189,641) (1 per 23,602)

3) (Tied) Kern, 27, 3.57% (882,176) & Tulare, 14, 1.85% (459,000) (1 per 33,000)

4) Alameda, 43, 5.68% (1, 201,000) (1 per 35,000)

5) Los Angeles, 234, 30.91% (9,818,605) (1 per 42,000)

6) Fresno, 15, 1.98 (930,452) (1 per 62,030)

7) Santa Clara, 27, 3.57% (1,781,642) (1 per 66,000)

8) San Diego, 39, 5.15% (3,095,313) (1 per 79,000)

9) San Francisco, 1, 0.13% (1 per 864,816)

(source: Visalia Times-Delta)

USA:

With federal case nearing end, judge indefinitely delays Dylann Roof's state trial

With Dylann Roof's federal death penalty trial nearing an end, a judge on Thursday indefinitely delayed a state proceeding that was scheduled for later this month.

State authorities were the first to charge Roof, 22, in the June 17, 2015, racially motivated attack that killed nine black worshipers at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston. But with that murder case moving toward trial last year, federal prosecutors decided to also pursue the death penalty, and a judge set an earlier date for the hate crimes trial in U.S. District Court.

It was the 1st time both state and federal prosecutors simultaneously pursued a defendant's execution.

Roof is now representing himself in the penalty phase of his federal trial. His state case was to be heard Jan. 17, but Circuit Judge J.C. Nicholson signed paperwork delaying it "until further order of this court."

Nicholson noted in the filing the ongoing federal trial.

Ninth Circuit Solicitor Scarlett Wilson is leading the state's prosecution of Roof on nine counts of murder, three of attempted murder and a firearms charge.

She lamented the federal trial's earlier date when it was set last year. At one point, she pointed out the federal government's track record for actually carrying out executions and said the federal proceeding would have "little or no relevance to the defendant's ultimate fate."

But it remains unclear how she will proceed with the prosecution after a jury decides Roof's sentence on his 33 federal convictions.

"We have been closely monitoring and in constant consultation with the federal prosecutors who have done an outstanding job," she said Thursday. "Our plans have not changed, but we will continue to re-evaluate as the circumstances dictate."

(source: postandcourier.com)

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

Don't execute Dylann Roof - that's exactly what he wants

Dylann Roof shouldn't get the death penalty.

Yeah, I said it.

Who you know ever Seen God?

But everybody seen The Devil

That quote from Amiri Baraka's poem "Somebody Blew Up America" makes me think of Dylann Roof and that icky feeling that coats my stomach every time his face flashes across the TV screen or appears on my social media timelines.

On June 17, 2015, Roof, who was 21 at the time, visited a weekly Bible study held at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in downtown Charleston, South Carolina, and kicked it with congregation members as they praised God. Then he opened fire and killed 9 innocent victims. Shortly after the massacre, Roof fled the scene and was captured a day later in Shelby, North Carolina, where the arresting officers purchased him a cheeseburger.

Roof, now facing the death penalty, is representing himself. On Thursday he told the court, "I would like to make it crystal clear I do not regret what I did. I am not sorry. I have not shed a tear for the innocent people I killed."

I think, though, that Roof knows that he's worthless and wants to die but is too much of a worthless coward to kill himself. Roof probably thought that his arresting officers would shoot him, but it doesn't work like that. Cops are only conditioned to shoot black gunmen, unarmed black people and, well, anything black in general. When it comes to white people like Roof, even after they murder a whole class of Bible studiers, cops become restraint experts. Their guns go warm - cold, even. They don't pull the trigger after 20-second interactions like they might in cases dealing with black people. They show up and treat killers to cheeseburgers.

"I do feel sorry for the innocent white children forced to live in this sick country and I do feel sorry for the innocent white people that are killed daily at the hands of the lower race." Roof continued. "I have shed a tear of self-pity for myself. I feel pity that I had to do what I did in the first place. I feel pity that I had to give up my life because of a situation that should never have existed."

Nothing is wrong with Roof. He is proud of his cowardly act and wants to be rewarded with death. I think he should live. The death penalty is too good for him. He needs to sit and rot in prison. Roof said, "There's nothing wrong with me psychologically," meaning that that he clearly understands his 2 options. Between death or living the rest of his natural life in jail, the latter is a far more painful punishment.'

Roof should spend the rest of his life surrounded by blackness and guided by black people. He should be forced to live in a prison full of black inmates, staffed by black correctional officers and led by a black warden. When they whip his ass, he should go to the infirmary and be treated by black doctors and black nurses. He can work out next to black inmates in the gym or go to the prison library and read books about black people, written by black people.

Cover him in pain. Surround him by the things he hates and mentally torture him for the pain he has caused to so many people. Death is too good for someone like Roof. Let him die of natural causes in a box instead.

(source: D. Watkins is an Editor at Large for Salon. He is also a professor at the University of Baltimore and founder of the BMORE Writers Project----salon.com)

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

Why does capital punishment still exist?

Upon the birth of a new year let's talk about death, shall we? The death penalty, to be precise.

The topic loomed over a courtroom in Charleston, S.C., this week where the self-proclaimed white supremacist, Dylann Roof, undertook a fool's errand.

After a jury quickly found him guilty of the cold-blooded murders of 9 black parishioners with whom he had just prayed, Roof declared he would act as his own attorney during the sentencing phase of his trial. Roof faces the death penalty and Judge Richard Gergel repeatedly reminded the 22-year-old defendant that it was "a bad decision" to represent himself. Roof did it anyway.

I have written in this space in the past that I am morally opposed to capital punishment - until I'm not. My flip-flops come with cases that are so heinous that I'm forced to seriously consider whether death is the proper punishment.

The same with the Rev. Joseph Darby, of the African Methodist Episcopal Church where Roof's crimes took place.

Darby has never supported the death penalty but now realizes that when extreme evil appears - Roof confessed to police that he wanted to start an American "race war" - extreme measures must be taken.

Like many of us, Darby seems conflicted. He indicates he wants the ultimate punishment for the man who so callously murdered his church members but he knows jurors may also waffle on the issue.

So what if jurors don't unanimously agree on death?

"That could very well be the end of the death penalty in America," Darby said, "because if there was ever justification for killing anybody, this is the case."

We've heard that before haven't we? "If ever there was a case for capital punishment it is the case of ----" (Fill in the blank). A crazed gunman or terrorist who massacres innocent people (think the Oklahoma City bomber, Timothy McVeigh), a pervert who sexually abuses then murders a child, a mother who kills her own children so she can be with a new man - all cases that seem to scream out for in-kind retribution.

But wait. You're either for the death penalty or you're not, right?

Seems the good reverend and I aren't the only ones struggling with this moral dilemma. Major polling organizations report that citizen approval of the death penalty has been slowly eroding since the peak of support in the mid-'90s.

So, is the death penalty on its way out in the U.S.? Depends which poll you read.

The Gallup Organization says no. In October 2015, Gallup found 61 % of Americans still supported capital punishment for convicted murderers. A year later Gallup reported that number had slipped to 60 %.

However, the Pew Research Center also conducted a poll in the fall of 2016 and found only 49 % of Americans favor a death sentence for convicted murderers.

Recent revelations about racial disparity in sentencing and wrongful death row convictions may have changed some minds. According to DeathPenaltyInfo.org over the last 4 decades at least 156 people have been exonerated and freed from death row.

What if those wrongfully convicted had been executed? Its chilling to ponder.

All this said, executions have become rare in the U.S.. The majority of states, 31 out of 50, have either done away with the death penalty or have not carried out an execution in at least 10 years.

Still, last year, 20 convicted murderers were put to death in Georgia, Texas, Alabama, Missouri and Florida. All were men, most were white but 2 were black and 2 were Latino.

So where does this leave us? If the Pew poll is correct it is like so many other issues in America. We seem to be almost evenly split on the question of capital punishment - 49 % favor it, 42 % don't.

In my heart, I think there is an inherent contradiction to capital punishment.

If killing is wrong, then why do states condone it via executions? Killing a killer seems hypocritical. Doing it for vengeance sake brings to mind the old saying, "An eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind."

If society's goal is to keep us safe from murderous criminals, locking them in prison for life achieves that. It is a much cheaper alternative than housing a maximum-security death row inmate and footing the bill for their protracted appeals. A death row inmate can easily cost a state $1 million more than a convict who is sentenced to life.

And try as they might, experts have not been able to find evidence that capital punishment deters future crimes. So, remind me again why we do it?

(source: Column, Diane Dimond, Albuquerque Journal)

SAUDI ARABIA:

Indonesian spared from death row in Saudi Arabia

The Indonesian Embassy in Riyadh has secured the release of an Indonesian man who had been on death row in Saudi Arabia for alleged murder, the Foreign Ministry revealed.

The man, identified as Syarif Hidayat Anang, was arrested by Saudi authorities in 2013 on allegations of being complicit in the murder of another Indonesian citizen, Enah Nurhasan.

He was detained alongside three Saudi citizens in Ahsa in the country's east, according to a statement by the ministry's directorate for the protection of Indonesian nationals and entities abroad.

From the outset, the Indonesian Embassy in Riyadh had provided legal assistance, having appointed Saudi lawyer Abdullah Al Mohaemeed to represent Syarif until 2015. Since May 2016, defense duties were taken over by Muhammad Ahmad al-Qarni, another legal adviser.

"From the results of an investigation into the case files by the Indonesian Embassy's protection team, we were certain that Syarif was not involved in the murder, and that's why we went all out to secure his release," Dede Rifai, the embassy's consular attache who coordinated the legal efforts, said on Saturday.

Syarif was acquitted on all charges on Dec. 12 last year, while the remaining suspects remained on death row. He arrived in Jakarta late on Friday in the company of his legal adviser, following the issuance of his release earlier this week, the ministry revealed.

(source: The Jakarta Post)

IRAN----executions

3 Prisoners Executed - 2 for Moharebeh 1 for Drug Charges

3 prisoners were reportedly executed at Rajai Shahr Prison on Wednesday January 4.

According to confirmed sources, 2 of the prisoners were executed on Moharebeh charges (enmity against God) and the other prisoner was executed on drug related charges.

According to the human rights news agency, HRANA, the 2 prisoners hanged on Moharebeh charges were accused of armed robbery. The names of these prisoners are Traub Rashidi and Ali Cheshmeh Noushi.

The other prisoner has been identified as "Sajad". He was reportedly transferred to Rajai Shahr Prison from Karaj Central Prison and executed on drug related charges.

Iranian official sources, including the Judiciary and the media, have been silent on these executions.

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

Prisoner Hanged on Drug Trafficking Charges

At least 1 prisoner, identified as Mohammad Zebardast, was hanged at Lakan, Rasht's central prison, on drug related charges.

According to close sources, Mohammad Zebardast's execution was carried out on the morning of Wednesday January 4.

A confirmed source tells Iran Human Rights that Mr. Zebardasht was arrested in 2011 for possession of 2 kilograms of crystal meth and 2 kilograms and 800 grams of opium. He was sentenced to death in September 16, 2012 by a court in Rasht (Gilan province, northern Iran) for drug trafficking. Mr. Zebardasht was held in prison from his arrest to his execution.

Iranian official sources, including the Judiciary and the media, have been silent about Mr. Zebardasht's execution. Close sources say it is likely that more than 1 prisoner was hanged at Lakan Prison on Wednesday.

(source for both: Iran Human Rights)

INDIA:

December 16 gang-rape: SC seeks affidavits of 4 death row convicts

The Supreme Court on Friday asked the 4 death row convicts in the December 16 gang-rape and murder case to file affidavits on the mitigating circumstances for its consideration.

A bench comprising Justices Dipak Misra, R Banumathi and Ashok Bhushan asked the counsel for the condemned convicts, who have challenged their conviction and the death penalty in the sensational case, to file the affidavits, detailing the mitigating and other circumstances which favour them.

The oral direction came in the wake of submission of senior advocate Raju Ramachandran, who is assisting the bench as an amicus curiae, that the trial court and the high court were "so overwhelmed by the nature of the crime" that they did not follow the proper procedure for sentencing the accused in the instant case.

Ramachandran had submitted that the courts below did not consider the mitigating circumstances of individual accused in the case.

"The accused and their counsel were not asked questions about their individual backgrounds and the mitigating factors, there was no application of mind to the case of each accused and therefore, no separate reasons were given for the imposition of death penalty on each of the accused," he had said, adding this had resulted in denial of right to equality and protection of life and liberty under Articles 14 and 21 of the Constitution of India respectively.

Earlier, the court, which has been hearing final arguments in the case from April 4 last year, had appointed senior lawyers Ramachandran and Sanjay Hegde as amicus curiaes.

While Ramachandran would assist the court in appeals of convicts, Mukesh and Pawan, Hegde would assist in appeals of other 2 convicts, Vinay Sharma and Akshay Kumar Singh.

These 4 convicts had approached the apex court against the Delhi High Court's March 13, 2014, verdict which had observed that their offence fell in the rarest of rare category and had upheld the death sentence awarded to them by the trial court.

A 23-year-old paramedic was brutally assaulted and gang-raped by 6 persons in a moving bus in south Delhi and thrown out of the vehicle with her male friend on the night of December 16, 2012. She had died in a Singapore hospital on December 29.

The prime accused, Ram Singh, was found dead in a cell in Tihar Jail in March 2013 and proceedings against him were abated.

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

Sushma seeks report from envoy to Qatar on Indians on death row

External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj on Saturday sought a report from the Indian Ambassador in Qatar on two Indian nationals who were awarded the death penalty in the Gulf country last year.

"I have asked for a report from Indian Ambassador in Qatar," the Minister said in a tweet.

She was responding to a tweet from @bkanagaraja, a Twitter user, requesting her to save Subramaniam Alagappa and Chelladurai Perumal, two Indians sentenced to death by the Supreme Court in Qatar.

In an open letter to the Prime Minister and External Affairs Minister, uploaded on the public forum, change.org, H. Vasanthakumar, Member of Legislative Assembly from Nanguneri in Tamil Nadu, said, "2 Innocent Indian Nationals namely Alagappa Subramaniam and Chelladurai Perumal have been sentenced to death by the Court of Cassation (Supreme Court) in Qatar."

He requested the Prime Minister and External Affairs Minister for immediate and "direct intervention with the Ruler of Qatar" for their safe return to India.

"If these Indian nationals were not released and sent back to India safely, I will organise indefinite protest before the Qatar Embassy in Delhi and Qatar Consulate in Mumbai," Vasanthakumar added.

On December 8, the ministry, in its weekly media briefing, had said, "Subramanian Alagappa and Chelladurai Perumal continue to remain on death row. The 3rd convict, Shivakumar Archunan, his case was reviewed by the appeals court and his death sentence was commuted to life imprisonment."

"We had filed a case in respect of all 3 because we believe that the penalty is too harsh... Our Embassy in Qatar continues to closely monitor this case in association with the lawyer who has been appointed for all three accused," official ministry spokesperson Vikas Swarup added.

(source for both: india.com)

JANUARY 6, 2017:

TEXAS:

Officials: Austin might be without local DNA lab for at least 2 years

The Austin Police Department's troubled DNA lab could easily be closed until summer 2018 by the time city and county officials implement a new way to analyze locally DNA evidence collected from Austin crime scenes, an Austin advisory commission estimated Tuesday.

Austin police Assistant Chief Troy Gay agreed the delay was possible, though he hoped a solution would be implemented sooner. The city's Public Safety Commission unanimously passed a resolution Tuesday urging the Austin City Council to find a temporary solution within 6 months.

Since June, Austin police have been sending some of their DNA evidence to the Texas Department of Public Safety to be tested, and since December, they have also been sending some of it to Dallas County.

Still, DNA evidence is not being tested as often as it comes in, Gay said. A backlog existed even before police closed the lab in June.

The crisis at the police department's DNA lab reached a climax last month. On Dec. 12 DPS officials, who were re-training the Austin Police Department's 6 DNA analysts, told police they had lost confidence in four of the technicians and refused to continue working with them.

4 days later, Austin's interim Police Chief Brian Manley said the lab would not reopen as previously planned.

All of the DNA lab's analysts are still being paid to do administrative work, Gay said. Now that the lab won't reopen, Scott Milne, a former official with the Arizona Department of Public Safety who was recently hired to be the Austin lab's new chief forensic officer, is currently on administrative leave.

"We are looking at what the future is for those employees in our lab," Gay said.

Austin police officials will now rely on outside experts to help them figure out what form a future DNA lab should take, Gay said. A few ideas that Austin and Travis County officials have floated include putting the lab under the supervision of the Travis County medical examiner's office or creating a government lab that works separately from any current branch of the criminal justice system.

On Jan. 26, the Austin City Council will likely vote on whether to negotiate and execute a contract with a firm that can assess the situation and determine the best way forward. However, that firm’s report could take up to 6 months to complete, Gay said.

Austin police have been discussing the issue with a few different firms, Gay said. Austin will not be issuing a request for proposals because only a few firms exist that offer the service the Austin Police Department is seeking, he said.

"Then, there will be commissions and meetings and panels to discuss the findings, and there won't be a decision made for at least another year," Commissioner Kim Rossmo said, predicting how long it could take to implement the report's recommendations.

Rossmo said the process could take until 2020, "unless the city and the police department see this as something of urgency."

The police department shut down the DNA section of its forensic lab after a state audit was highly critical of some of the lab analysts' techniques. A Texas Forensic Science Commission report released over the summer concluded that one of the lab's DNA testing practices raised "concerns about the APD DNA lab's understanding of foundational issues in DNA analysis."

Commissioners also asked Gay whether Austin police have opened an internal investigation regarding how the DNA lab got to this point. According to some estimates, retesting the evidence in cases that led to convictions could cost Travis County taxpayers $14 million.

"We all know what has happened here has been a colossal management failure. ... There's lots of examples of labs having problems, but I don't think there's too many where the lab completely collapses," Rossmo said. "It's obvious there were some issues here that were incredibly significant in terms of the cost. If some patrol officer on the street gets into trouble, he'll be punished. Are you doing any sort of internal investigation as to who was just asleep at the wheel, costing the taxpayers probably millions of dollars?"

Gay said officials plan to rely on the outside firm to help them conduct that investigation.

"I don't disagree with you," Gay said. "We believe the look-back will help us identify where the challenges were and if there were mistakes made. If those mistakes were made and they were negligent, then we will attempt to hold those individuals accountable."

(source: Austin American-Statesman)

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

Texas sues feds over death penalty drug

Texas is suing the federal Food and Drug Administration over a months-long delay in access to drugs the state uses in lethal injections.

State Attorney General Ken Paxton (R) said Wednesday his office filed suit to gain access to hundreds of doses of thiopental sodium, which the FDA intercepted more than 17 months ago. The FDA said at the time that the drug was not approved for use in humans, and therefore the shipment the state ordered could not be imported.

The FDA has not issued a final decision on whether Texas's purchase of thiopental sodium fell under a law enforcement exemption for new drug approvals. Paxton said the delay has gone on too long.

"There are only 2 reasons why the FDA would take 17 months to make a final decision on Texas's importation of thiopental sodium: gross incompetence or willful obstruction," Paxton said in a statement. "My office will not allow the FDA to sit on its hands and thereby impair Texas's responsibility to carry out its law enforcement duties."

States that still implement the death penalty have had trouble finding drugs necessary to carry out lethal injections in recent years. American pharmaceutical companies have largely stopped making drugs used in lethal injections, and European pharmaceutical companies have refused to sell drugs for use in executions after the European Union banned exports in 2011.

An overdose of thiopental sodium, a barbiturate, paralyzes muscles and stops the heart. It had once been used as part of a 3-drug cocktail to carry out executions, but states have increasingly used the drug alone as the other 2 elements have become unavailable.

The FDA intercepted separate shipments of the drug, purchased by Texas and Arizona, at airports in Houston and Phoenix in 2015. The agency said it was acting on a court-ordered injunction against importing the drug.

After the Supreme Court once again allowed the death penalty to be implemented in 1976, Texas became the 1st state to kill a condemned prisoner by lethal injection. Since then, Texas has executed 538 people, more than any other state. More than 250 people are still on death row in Texas, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

(source: thehill.com)

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

Death Penalty Opponents Support FDA Drug Seizure

The State of Texas is suing the Food and Drug Administration over execution drugs imported from India. The lawsuit comes more than 1 year after the FDA seized 1,000 vials of sodium thipental.

The FDA said it looked like the drugs were misbranded and unapproved, which stopped the Texas Department of Criminal Justice from getting their hands on them.

One El Pasoan says this might be a good thing.

Pat Delgado is a coordinator for El Pasoans Against Death Penalty. She says many of the people sentenced did the crime when they were too young and didn't have enough representation in court.

"You know, you hear the prosecutors saying 'This is justice for the victim's family', but really, the victims family is just being used, I think in that case because it really considered a crime against the state." Delgado said.

She says being behind bars gives many prisoners more time to repent for their crimes. "Really not be on a fast track to execute so much, because it's not like we're safer after the execution. These guys are 15 or 20 years than they were then and they're not gonna get out."

Meanwhile, The State of Texas urges the FDA to make a decision on approving Sodium Thiopental. The agency says they're looking into extending the use of Pentobarbital - the other drug used for the lethal injection process.

In Texas, there are ten men from El Paso County sitting on death row including serial killer David Leonard Wood and David Renteria who was sentenced for kidnapping and murdering 5-year-old Alexandra Flores from a Lower Valley El Paso Walmart in 2001. None of them have been assigned execution dates.

(source: elpasoproud.com)

FLORIDA:

Fla.'s high court takes puzzling turn on death penalty----The Supreme Court by a 5-2 vote forbid the state from imposing the death penalty in pending prosecutions, only to withdraw the order hours later as "prematurely issued"

Possibly showing its hand on the future of capital punishment in Florida, the state Supreme Court by a 5-2 vote on Wednesday forbid the state from imposing the death penalty in pending prosecutions, only to withdraw the order hours later as "prematurely issued."

The highly unusual move was made necessary by an "internal error," according to a statement issued by court spokesman Craig Waters.

But it leaves prosecutors in a troubling limbo, signaling that they may be taking a risk if they pursue the death penalty in murder cases at this time. One prosecutor said the Florida Legislature needs to act quickly to craft a death penalty law that passes constitutional scrutiny.

"These are the most serious cases we handle, and are incredibly emotional in the best of circumstances," said State Attorney Jack Campbell, who this week took over as the lead prosecutor for several north Florida counties. "Uncertainty in the law is terrible for the victim's families, for the defendants. It's very important to me they get this sorted out as quickly as possible, as definitively as possible."

Florida's death penalty law was upended as a result of a case involving Timothy Lee Hurst, who was convicted using a box-cutter to kill a co-worker at a Pensacola Popeye's restaurant in 1998. A jury had divided 7-5 over whether Hurst deserved to die, but a judge imposed the death sentence.

The state Supreme Court initially upheld that sentence, but the U.S. Supreme Court in January 2016 declared the state's death penalty sentencing law unconstitutional because it gave too much power to judges to make the ultimate decision.

The Legislature responded by overhauling the law, but rejected calls to require a unanimous jury decision in future cases, instead allowing the death penalty to be imposed by a 10-2 jury vote.

In October, however, the state Supreme Court voted 5-2 to strike down the new law and require unanimous jury decisions for capital punishment.

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi promptly asked the court to reconsider, with one of her senior attorneys arguing in court filings that clarity is needed to "avoid any potential miscarriage of justice." Bondi's office also asserted that pending death penalty cases could move ahead as long as their juries unanimously agreed to the punishment.

Then in December, the state justices upended another set of capital punishments, citing a 2002 U.S. Supreme Court decision that only juries, not judges, can determine whether evidence justifies the death penalty. That ruling made a group of inmates sentenced after 2002 eligible for new sentencing hearings, and could lead to them being released from death row.

On Wednesday morning, the high court rejected Bondi's request, and said the entire sentencing law "cannot be applied to pending prosecutions." But only hours later, this firm conclusion was withdrawn.

Lawyers for death row inmates and opponents of capital punishment have warned prosecutors for years that Florida's death sentencing law was unconstitutional.

Attorney Martin McClain, a veteran of death penalty cases, asserted that as of right now, there "is not a valid process in place" for death penalty cases to proceed in Florida.

(source: Associated Press)

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

Abolish 'barbaric' death penalty

Editor's note: The following letter is in response to Friday's editorial soliciting opinions on capital punishment.

Nay to the "death penalty," yea to abolishing it. Our legal system is imperfect so we make mistakes finding innocent people guilty, then later find out we were wrong. So we make ourselves murderers when that happens if we continue executing people.

We will never become perfect, so our sins of murdering innocent people will continue as long as we execute people. This debases us as a culture as well as individuals who support that.

Executing people, in addition to being an avoidable and heinous sin, costs us each more than keeping them in prison for life. Because we pay all the legal costs in trying to get people executed according to the law, we spend more taxpayers' money to kill them than to keep them alive.

Are we crazy? Are we so committed to "an eye for an eye" that we will spend enormous amounts of money to kill people when we don't need to?

Morally, the "death sentence" is not justice at all. It is barbaric revenge. The executed learn nothing. The rest of us are made killers.

It is not a deterrent because psychopaths, which all murderers are, do not believe they will ever suffer the consequences of their actions. It is part of their psychopathy.

We need to stop being stupid barbarians and end the "death sentence."

William Anderson, LMHC

Bradenton

(source: Letter to the Editor, Bradenton Herald)

ALABAMA:

Jury recommends death penalty in Wicksburg nightclub murders

A Houston County jury has recommended that Ryan Clark Petersen be put to death for the murders of 3 people at a Wicksburg nightclub in 2012.

The jury voted 10-2 to recommend the death penalty after about 2 hours of deliberation.

The recommendation comes more than a week after the jury convicted Petersen of capital murder in the shooting of three people at Teasers Nightclub. Another person was wounded in the incident.

Bri Wilkerson, a friend of Tiffani Grissett, one of the victims, attended the trial each day.

"Well, I don't feel the relief that I imagined I would," she said. "I don't feel like celebrating. I do feel like it's a fair decision. But I don't cherish the thought of his death. I do, however, think he deserves it, along with all the treatment that goes along with being on death row."

Wilkerson said she owed it to Grissett to be there for the trial of her killer.

"I needed to be there to show that she was a person, not just a dancer, not just the anonymous victim of a tragic murder," she said. "She was a mother and a cherished friend, and her life mattered."

Circuit Judge Brad Mendheim will render the final sentencing in March. Mendheim can accept the jury's recommendation for death or impose a sentence of life in prison without parole.

Petersen spent most of an August evening in 2012 at Teasers, drinking alone and acting strangely, according to some who were at the club the night of the incident. According to court testimony, club security removed Petersen from the establishment after a dispute with an employee. He returned moments later armed with a handgun and opened fire. He was found by police a few hours later in the woods near the club.

Defense attorneys for Petersen argued during the guilt phase of the trial that Petersen was not responsible for his actions due to mental impairment and large consumption of alcohol. They argued during the sentencing phase that Petersen's life should be spared due to several mitigating factors including his mental condition.

District Attorney Doug Valeska, however, argued that Petersen's actions indicated he was able to differentiate between right and wrong and that the shooting was simply an act of revenge for being removed from the club.

According to police and court testimony, Petersen shot and killed Cameron Paul Eubanks, 20, the son of the club's owner, outside the club, shooting him several times in the pelvis and chest before shooting him in the head.

Petersen then re-entered the club and next shot Scotty Russell, a patron of the nightclub, wounding him. After shooting Russell, Petersen shot Tiffani Grissett, a dancer at the club, once and then chased her into the bathroom and shot her again. He then shot Thomas Robins Jr. and fled the club.

(source: Dothan Eagle)

OHIO----2, including female, fact death penalty

Pair faces death penalty in 89-year-old Northside man's slaying

Hamilton County prosecutors will seek the death penalty against 2 people indicted in an 89-year-old man's slaying.

Margaret Kinney, 41, and Michael Stumph, 43, are accused in the death of Otto Stewart, 89, who was found dead in his Northside home in December.

Officials said the pair killed Otto with a cord or rope and a knife. According to court documents, the 2 also stole his car, money and several other items.

Stewart's landlord, Doyle Spradlin, who was also a friend of the victim, said he contacted Stewart's family after Stewart hadn't paid his rent, which was unusual. He discovered Stewart's body in December.

"He was lying on the floor. He was covered with a blanket. I couldn't tell he was under there because it looked just like a stack of blankets," Spradlin said.

Despite nearly a half-century difference in age, friends said Stewart had a relationship with Kinney.

"He helped her a lot. He would take her in when she was having problems and this and that," said Laurel Tinsley, who has known Stewart for a decade.

Kinney and Stumph were arrested in the Lexington area and extradited back to Hamilton County.

(source: WLWT news)

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Cleveland man accused of killing 5 in 1 home is mentally ineligible for death penalty, lawyers say

A 20-year-old man charged with killing 5 people inside the Cleveland home of his best friend's family is intellectually disabled and should not face the death penalty, his lawyers argue.

School records show James Sparks-Henderson's I.Q. was measured in the low 70s in 2010, years before prosecutors say he opened fire at an East 92nd Street house in Cleveland's Hough neighborhood, according to court records filed by his attorneys.

Judge John P. O'Donnell on Wednesday scheduled a March 10 hearing to decide if Sparks-Henderson's case should remain a death penalty case.

The issue is the latest in which prosecutors and defense attorneys have sparred since Sparks-Henderson's arrest in the November 2014 killings of Lemon Bryant, 60, Shaylona Williams, 17 and Ja'rio Taylor, 18, who were inside the house.

Sparks-Henderson then shot and killed Sherita Johnson, 41, and wounded Johnson's 10-year-old daughter, when they pulled into the driveway as Sparks-Henderson burst from the home, prosecutors say.

Johnson was 26 to 28 weeks pregnant at the time of the shooting. Her baby, Juwan, was delivered at a hospital shortly after the shooting and died 16 minutes later. The Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner's Office said the child died of prematurity, and ruled the death a homicide.

Sparks-Henderson was charged in a capital indictment in April, 11 months after he was first arrested and charged in the killings. He has remained in jail on a $7.5 million bond since his arrest.

Sparks-Henderson's records from Cleveland Metropolitan School District show he was placed on an Individualized Education Plan, had an I.Q. of 73 and had registered as borderline deficient in several other cognitive tests, according to court records.

Sparks-Henderson graduated from Martin Luther King High School in 2014, his lawyers said.

The U.S. Supreme Court has outlawed the execution of mentally disabled defendants. The Court went further in a 2014 opinion that barred courts from using a defendant's I.Q. alone to determine if the defendant is eligible to face the death penalty.

Instead, the Court mandated that a host of tests must be used, including an examination by a mental psychiatrist.

Sparks-Henderson's lawyers found a mental health expert to examine him last year, and the doctor's report was filed under seal in November, court records say.

Prosecutors said that DNA evidence from bullet casings collected at the scene matched Sparks-Henderson's, and that he was carrying a 9mm pistol when he was arrested. Ballistics tests matched the gun to the casings, prosecutors said.

Prosecutors are also inspecting Sparks-Henderson's cellphone records.

Henderson told investigators that Taylor was one of his "best friends," police said.

Then-Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy J. McGinty said at a news conference announcing the arrest that he had taken the death penalty off the table because Sparks-Henderson had confessed to the crime.

But Sparks-Henderson's attorneys quickly fought to suppress his statements to police, arguing that homicide detectives had denied Sparks-Henderson access to a lawyer during his interrogation and that his statements were coerced.

Prosecutors filed a superseding indictment in April to include capital charges that Sparks-Henderson committed the killings while committing aggravated burglary and that they were part of a course of conduct.

Prosecutors agreed to only play a portion of the interrogation during the trial.

(source: cleveland.com

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

Ohio Supreme Court delays serial killer's execution date

The Ohio Supreme Court has agreed to delay the execution date for a Cleveland man convicted of killing 11 women and hiding the remains in and around his home.

The Court on Thursday granted the request from attorneys for serial killer Anthony Sowell.

The execution had been set for Nov. 18, 2020. The court said the execution would be delayed until Sowell had exhausted all his appeals, most liely through the federal courts.

The court's action was similar to its approach to other death penalty cases. It regularly sets initial execution dates after upholding death sentences, then delays them on request.

Jurors found Sowell guilty of killing 11 women from June 2007 to July 2009.

(source: Associated Press)

INDIANA:

Death penalty sought in quadruple killing----Marcus D. Dansby faces 4 counts of murder, 1 count attempted murder

Allen County Prosecutor Karen Richards will seek a death sentence for a man accused of the gruesome killings of 3 people and an unborn baby inside a south-side home in September.

The prosecutor's office on Thursday filed a motion to add an application for death sentence in its case against 20-year-old Marcus D. Dansby. A judge will consider the application Friday morning at a status hearing.

As it stands, Dansby faces four counts of murder in the deaths of 37-year-old Consuela Arrington; 18-year-old Traeven Harris; 18-year-old Dajahiona Arrington and her full-term baby, and another for attempted murder related in the shooting and stabbing of 14-year-old Trinity Hairston, all of Fort Wayne.

The charges stem from an incident that unfolded around 4 a.m. Sept. 11 inside a home at 3006 Holton Ave. There, police arrive to find the victims bodies stabbed and shot, and Dansby covered in blood, leaning over the couch, crying and asking for help, according to an affidavit. On him, police found a large blood-soaked knife with a broken handle, the affidavit said.

Police said that Dansby and Dajahiona Arrington had been in a relationship, but the pair had separated after the woman became pregnant with another man's child. A family member told investigators that Dansby had not been at the Holton Avenue home in months.

Until September, it would appear.

During an interview with police, Dansby immediately told an investigator, "I am still hearing gunshots," and reportedly asked, "Did anyone survive?" according to the affidavit. Dansby denied the killings, and told police that he saw a man with a knife and had attempted to offer first-aid to Harris, Hairston, and Consuela Arrington. He said he had not tried to call 911 because he did not have a cell phone. When police found a cell phone on him, he said the cell phone belonged to Consuela Arrington, according to the affidavit.

Dansby had cuts on his left hand and initially told police he did know where the cuts came from. Later he remembered "his cat scratched him," according to the affidavit.

Damion Arrington, the current caregiver for Trinity and the brother of Consuela Arrington, told NewsChannel 15 on Thursday that the family supports the decision of the prosecutor's office to seek the death penalty.

"We want to thank the Allen County Prosecutor's Office and the Fort Wayne Police Department for all of their hard work on this case," said Damion Arrington. "We want to thank our family and friends for their support during this very difficult time."

Dansby is being held in the Allen County Jail without bond ahead of his schedule Feb. 27 jury trial. In addition to the murder charges, he also faces a sentence enhancer for using a firearm in the commission of a violent offense.

The last death penalty sought in Allen County was against Simon Rios, who was convicted of killing his wife and 3 daughters in December 2005 at their Fort Wayne home, along with a 10-year-old neighbor girl. The death penalty was dropped, though, after the family raised objections for religious reasons. Rios was serving 5 life sentences for the killings when he killed himself in his jail cell at the Pendleton Correctional Facility in October 2008.

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

Defense attorney explains death penalty cases

The Allen County Prosecutor's Office is seeking the death penalty for the 1st time in more than a decade. Prosecutor Karen Richards wants the toughest penalty possible for 20-year-old Marcus Dansby, accused of killing 3 people and an unborn baby inside a home on Holton Avenue last September.

Dansby faces 4 counts of murder in the deaths of 37-year-old Consuela Arrington; 18-year-old Traeven Harris; 18-year-old Dajahiona Arrington and her full-term baby, and another for attempted murder related in the shooting and stabbing of 14-year-old Trinity Hairston, all of Fort Wayne.

Defense Attorney, Michelle Kraus said the quadruple homicide certainly qualifies for a death sentence by law, but with trends showing juries are more reluctant to give the death penalty, she is surprised by the move.

"It's one of those cases that you look at and say, 'if we don't file the death penalty on this case what kind of case will come around that we would?'" she said.

Kraus was the attorney for Simon Rios, who faced the death penalty for killing his wife, three daughters and a young girl who lived nearby in 2006. She said it could take years to prepare for trial and if sentenced to death it could take even longer for the execution.

Dansby is set to go to trial at the end of February, but now Kraus said that is unlikely. It would require months of preparation, hiring investigators, and mental evaluations.

"[The defense] would have to hire an investigator dedicated to learning everything about this man's life that there is," she said. "[To show] this is a person's life we ought to save."

Kraus said even the process of selecting a jury is more difficult and time consuming. Hundreds of potential jurors would be interviewed.

"Somebody who says, 'I would give anybody the death penalty is going to get kicked off,'" said Kraus. "Someone who says "I would never give the death penalty' is going to get kicked off."

Kraus said it's not often that jurors will agree to the death penalty. If Dansby is sentenced to death the victim's family would have to prepare for years of appeals, which would delay the execution.

"People who want the death penalty and believe death is the ultimate punishment will have to wait a long time before they get that," she said.

In the case of Simon Rios, Allen County Prosecutor Karen Richards originally wanted the death penalty for the killing of his wife and 3 daughters, but the family didn't want that for religious reasons.

In exchange for the guilty plea, Rios' attorney asked for a sentence of life in prison without parole. The prosecutor's office agreed about a week before trial was set to get underway.

(source for both: WANE news)

MONTANA:

Abolition of the death penalty in Montana

Now is the time for a significant act of righteousness - the time to put the admonition "thou shalt not kill" into action.

We must act soon to permanently abolish the death penalty in Montana.

Relevant bills to do so will be introduced when the Montana Legislature convenes in January 2017. Our great state would be further distinguished by abolition of this archaic practice. The death penalty is not a large numerical issue in Montana, since, thank God, we have few on "death row."

It is, however, big to the few and to our moral/ethical conscience. The death penalty is on legal "hold" in Montana, as uncertainty about drugs for lethal injection has become and continues to be an issue.

The moral/ethical position against capital punishment: Abolish the death penalty because it is the right thing to do.

-- "Thou shalt not kill." We need to put this into action related to violence worldwide. In few instances do we have the power to control killing, but abolition of capital punishment is one such instance.

-- Mistakes are made in some cases. Infrequently, persons, who are later shown to be innocent, have been on death row awaiting execution. Some have, no doubt, been executed and later been proven innocent.

-- Family and loved ones of victims often favor life imprisonment over death and find solace in mercy.

-- The death penalty has not been a deterrent to crime, nor is there evidence that its abolition promotes or facilitates crime.

-- Is the person convicted and sentenced the same person who awaits execution, often many years after sentencing? Or has that person changed? It's a privilege given humankind to be able to change.

-- Spare the executioner the experience of executing. Imagine such a job.

Another position: Abolish the death penalty because it's the responsible thing to do.

It costs society more to carry out a death penalty sentence than to maintain a life sentence, in terms of monetary costs of appeals, etc. Anti-death penalty legislation proposes life in prison without possibility of parole. It would cost less.

Lethal injection is not the merciful means of killing envisioned. About 7 % of such executions are "botched." The availability of drugs used to kill has been an issue for some time, and recently the pharmaceutical company Pfizer refused to provide its drugs for lethal injection. This makes a statement.

Not unexpectedly, there are pros and cons about these points, but we have chosen the position that suits our individual moral consciences. See deathpenalty.procon.org for a 10-point argument.

Whatever your personal reasons, please support efforts to abolish capital punishment in Montana by writing to representatives of your district, simply stating your support for bills abolishing capital punishment.

If you want more information, please contact us. We'll try to help.

(source: Guest Column, Mary Darby and Blaise Favara----ravalalirepublic.com)

NEVADA:

Nevada Lawmakers Want To End Death Penalty

It's a hot button issue and it's going to come up during the 2017 Legislature.

81 men sit on death row in Nevada, and a new chamber was just built at Ely State Prison. But the last execution took place more than a decade ago.

State Senator Tick Segerblom wants to end the practice all together. He, with Assemblyman James Ohrenschall, is proposing a bill that would make the state's maximum punishment life in prison without parole.

"I don't think a society has the right to decide who is going to live or die," Segerblom said.

Besides the moral argument against the death penalty, Segerblom said money is also a factor. He said the state spends millions of dollars on death penalty cases, but no one is executed.

"It's really just a feel good issue for people to say 'We're going to kill someone because they did something bad,' but at the end of the day, we never do kill the person and we spend millions of dollars trying to get to the point where we could kill them but it never happens."

Besides the state and federal appeals that take up both time and money, the drugs to execute people are not available. Segerblom said the state spends millions of dollars to get prisons to the point where they can be executed but it is never going to happen.

Tod Story with the American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada agreed that the money spent on death penalty cases is far more than putting a prisoner away for life.

According to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, a state audit of the cost of death row versus life in prison showed it costs sometimes double for someone to be sentenced to death than to be sentenced to life in prison without parole.

Story said the argument against the death penalty goes beyond just the cost. He believes it is fundamentally about the society we want to be.

"I think the fundamental question comes down to whether we as a government, we as a people, we as a society, can take away someone's life," he said.

Supporters of the death penalty have said that it is a deterrent, arguing that people won't do something if they know they could face the death penalty for it.

For instance, Illinois is 1 of 18 states that has repealed its death penalty and the murder rate in Chicago has skyrocketed lately.

Both Story and Segerblom dismiss the argument that having a death penalty does anything to stop crime.

"There is no correlation between whether you have the death penalty, you don't have the death penalty as far as violent crime," Segerblom.

"We still have the death penalty here in Nevada and we had if not the highest, but one of the highest, murder rates here in Las Vegas last year," Story said, "We know that it is not a deterrent."

Segerblom is purposing the legislation when the Legislature meets in February, but he is not entirely sure it will pass or that the governor will sign it.

"I had a bill a couple of sessions ago just to ask to study the death penalty and the governor vetoed it," he said.

Story remains optimistic that Gov. Sandoval will sign it.

"I think anything is possible," he said, "I think the governor has indicated his willingness to entertain the idea."

(source: knpr.org)

CALIFORNIA----new female death sentence

Jury approves death penalty for convicted Alturas mass shooter Cherie Lash-Rhoades

The woman convicted in a 2014 mass shooting in Alturas will be sentenced to death, a jury decided Thursday.

A Placer County judge will go forward with the decision at a hearing in April.

Cherie Rhoades killed 4 people and injured 2 others on Feb. 20, 2014 inside the Cedarville Rancheria Tribal Office. At the time, Rhoades was about to be ousted as the tribal chairwoman.

Those killed were her nephew Glenn Colonico, her niece Angel Penn, her brother Rurik Davis and tribal administrator Sheila Russo.

Russo's husband told FOX40 that she had uncovered misused funds in the tribal books, which, in part, led to Rhoades being evicted. The shooting began during the eviction hearing.

Rhoades was ultimately convicted of 4 counts of 1st-degree murder and 2 counts of attempted murder, for shooting and stabbing 2 of her other nieces.

(source: KRCR Tv news)

PAKISTAN:

JI demands death penalty for adulterators

Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) Karachi chief Engineer Hafiz Naeemur Rahman has demanded the government to legislate so that those adulterating medicines and other commodities could be given capital punishment.

Naeem expressed deep concern over the news that the government had failed to curb adulteration of milk, medicines and food items.

Lashing out at the state-run watchdogs, the JI leader noted that it was a matter of grave concern for the citizens. He added that despite the fact that media had unearthed these elements several times, but the government failed to take any solid measure to bring this nefarious practice to an end.

He lamented that although Consumers Protection Act had been passed in 2015, it was yet to be implemented.

He also demanded the government to set up consumer courts.

Naeem was of the view that decision on the cases related to adulteration should be pronounced within 30 days.

He further said that JI's Public Aid Committee had set up a especial cell for the protection of consumers' rights.

He added that if needed, JI would take to streets in this regard.

(source: nation.com.pk)

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

The love of hanging

Pakistan chose to vote against the recent resolution in the United Nations General Assembly that had called for a global moratorium on the death penalty and was adopted by a majority of member-states.

The gist of this resolution has been adopted by the UN General Assembly every 2 years since 2007. The resolution adopted on Dec 19, 2016 was backed by 117 states, while 40 voted against it and 31 abstained. As against the voting pattern in 2014, the new supporters of the moratorium call were Guinea, Malawi, Solomon Islands, Sri Lanka and Swaziland.

South Asia maintained its fondness for the death penalty as Pakistan joined Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India and Maldives in rejecting a universal moratorium, while Bhutan, Nepal and Sri Lanka voted in favour.

Those who defend the death penalty as a principle enjoined by Islam may look at the division among the Muslim states (the category includes all members of the OIC).

Those voting in favour of a moratorium included: Albania, Algeria, Azerbaijan, Benin, Bosnia Herzegovina, Burkina Faso, Chad, Cote d'Ivoire, Eritrea, Gabon, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Kazakh­stan, Kyrgyzstan, Mali, Mozambique, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Suriname, Togo, Tajikistan, Tunisia, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.

Those who abstained included: Bahrain, Cameroon, Comoros, Djibouti, Indonesia, Jordan, Lebanon, Mauritania, Morocco, Niger, Nigeria, Uganda and the UAE.

The Muslim states that voted against were: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Brunei, Egypt, Guyana, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Libya, Malaysia, Maldives, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

We find that 24 of the OIC's 57 member states voted in favour of the moratorium, while 13 abstained and only 18 voted against. In other words, Pakistan is in the minority group of 18 OIC member-countries that opposes the moratorium.

It is for Pakistan's government and its Islamic scholars to ponder as to why a majority of the OIC members do not find any faith-based bar to the acceptance of a moratorium on capital punishment. They may also consider the possibility that, as in the case of some international treaties, reservations expressed in the name of religion are in fact dictated by the culture or custom of the countries concerned.

What is more distressing for human rights activists, abolitionist groups and promoters of humanitarian laws in Pakistan is the authorities' aversion to any scrutiny of the rationale for their love of the death penalty regime.

What one hears of references to the death penalty during the Universal Periodic Review or at talks with the European Union on the GSP+ status is not the result of any serious deliberation. Indeed, one doubts if any discussion on the subject has ever taken place in Pakistan. That there is an urgent need for such a discussion can easily be established.

The recent cases in which the Supreme Court acquitted two individuals who had already been executed, or ordered the release of persons who had spent long years on death row, have strengthened the call for abolition of the death penalty on the ground of high risk of miscarriage of justice. A number of other issues that have surfaced over the past many years also need to be addressed. These are:

-- The view that the death sentence is not a deterrent to crime has not been challenged nor has the view that hangings brutalise society.

-- The Qisas law has prevented the president from pardoning death convicts or commuting their sentence although his power to do so under Article 45 of the Constitution remains intact. How does one explain the fact that the army chief can pardon a person awarded the death sentence by a military court while the president cannot do so?

-- The scholars agree that Islam prescribes the death penalty in only 2 instances. How does the state defend the fact that capital punishment is prescribed for 27 offences in the name of religion?

-- The judiciary has pointed out the problems it faces in cases in which capital punishment is mandatory if the evidence on record warrants a lesser penalty.

-- The possibility of a minor or a mentally challenged person being executed keeps cropping up every now and then.

One ventures to suggest a look at the Indian response to the issue of the death penalty in view of the shared legal tradition.

The Law Commission of India recommended in August 2015, vide its Report No. 262, that "the death penalty be abolished for all crimes other than terrorism-related offences and waging war". The commission agreed to retain capital punishment for certain offences in view of the parliamentarians' plea that "abolition of death penalty for terrorism-related offences and waging war will affect national security", although in the commission's view "there is no valid penological justification for treating terrorism differently from other crimes."

The commission noted the significant steps taken during India's decades-long efforts to restrict the use of the death penalty: removal of the requirement of giving special reasons for awarding life imprisonment instead of death (1955); introduction of the requirement of imposing the death penalty (1973); and the Supreme Court's decision that the death penalty should be restricted to the rarest of rare cases (1980). The conclusion reached by the commission was:

"Informed also by the expanded and deepened contents and horizons of the right to life and strengthened due process requirements in the interactions between the state and the individual, prevailing standards of constitutional morality and human dignity, the commission feels that time has come for India to move towards abolition of the death penalty."

During the latest debate in the UN General Assembly, however, India again voted against the resolution calling for a moratorium although it could have shown some respect for the Law Commission's recommendation by abstaining. Which only goes to show that, in developing countries, state policies are often determined by authorities that are too timid to disturb the status quo or too proud of their conservatism to heed the counsel of experts who are conscious of the call of the age.

(source: dawn.com)

SOUTH AFRICA:

Christian party calls for the return of the death penalty

The SGP faction in Zwartewaterland is calling for the return of the death penalty. "Whoever sheds man's blood, his blood shall be shed by man", faction leader Dirk van der Sluis quoted the bible at newspaper AD. "Returning the death penalty is God's word and therefore an important reason why we want to do so."

The Zwartewaterland faction is teaming up with the Zaanstad faction to convince other party members at the SGP party congress on January 14th to add returning the death penalty to the SGP party program. "We have sent our proposed amendment to the program. Much more I do not want to say. We feel it is only logical to include this point because it is already in the manifesto of the SGP." Van der Sluis said to the newspaper.

A spokesperson for the national SGP told the newspaper that they are advising party members to vote against the proposal at the congress in Hoevelaken. According to the spokesperson, the SGP does not mention the death penalty in the party's election program for 2017 because it is "difficult to campaign" with it as a theme.

The SGP expects about 150 members to attend the congress. Should the majority vote for the Zwartewaterland and Zaanstad factions' proposal, returning the death penalty will be a spearhead in the party's idea list.

(source: nltimes.nl)

NIGERIA:

Lagos Assembly prescribes death penalty, others for kidnappers

The Lagos State House of Assembly on Thursday passed a bill aimed at checking the spate of kidnapping in the state into law, with stiffer penalties including death sentence for offenders.

The lawmakers passed the Bill for a Law to Provide for the Prohibition of the Act of Kidnapping and for Other Connected Purposes after the 3rd reading.

The passage of the bill was also sequel to the adoption of a report presented by Mrs Adefunmilayo Tejuosho, the Chairman of the House Committee on Judiciary, Petitions, Human Rights and Lagos State Independent Electoral Commission (LASIEC).

Sponsored by the Speaker of the House, Mr Mudashiru Obasa, it prescribes death sentence for kidnappers whose victims die in their custody and life sentence for kidnappers whose victims do not die in the hands of their abductors. The bill states that any person who kidnaps, abducts, detains, captures or takes another person by any means or trick with intent to demand ransom or do anything against his/her will, commits an offence.

The bill also stipulates life imprisonment for anyone who makes an attempt to kidnap another person.

The bill prescribes 7 years imprisonment for anyone making false representation to release a kidnapped or abducted person.

The lawmakers also approved 25 years imprisonment as penalty for anyone found guilty of threatening to kidnap another person through phone call, e-mail, text message or any other means of communication.

The bill prescribes penalty for any person, who knowingly or wilfully allows or permits his premises, building or a place or belonging to which he has control of, to be used for the purpose of keeping a person kidnapped.

According to the bill, such a person is guilty of an offence under the law and liable to 14 years imprisonment without an option of fine.

The speaker, who read the 20 sections of the bill one after the other for members' approval, conducted a voice vote before its passage.

Obasa directed the Acting Clerk of the House, Mr Azeez Sanni, to forward a clean copy of the bill to Gov. Akinwunmi Ambode for assent. Lagos State has recorded recurrent cases of kidnappings, with the incident affecting students in 2 schools in 2016.

In February 2016, 3 schoolgirls were seized from Babington Macaulay Junior Seminary, Ikorodu, but were later freed by the police.

In October, gunmen stormed the Lagos Model College, Igbonla, Ikorodu, and took away the vice principal, a teacher and four students. They were also after several days. Kidnappers also stormed the palace of a traditional ruler, the Oniba of Iba, Yishau Goriola Oseni, in July and abducted him.

His release was later secured and several persons are on trial over the kidnap.

(source: vanguardngr.com)

JANUARY 5, 2017:

TEXAS----impending execution

Death Watch: Conflicts of Interest----When your attorney goes to work for the D.A.

The state's death chamber fires up again after a year in which the total number of state-sanctioned killings (7) was the fewest since 1996, when former Gov. George W. Bush oversaw the execution of only 3. First set for strapping in is 48-year-old Christopher Wilkins, convicted of capital murder in 2008, 2 1/2 years after confessing to the shooting deaths of 2 men - Willie Freeman and Mike Silva - near Ft. Worth during a drug deal gone awry.

Several weeks before the murders, Wilkins left a halfway house in Houston, stole a truck, and drove to Ft. Worth, where he made plans to meet Freeman to buy drugs. Instead, Freeman presented Wilkins with a $20 piece of gravel and laughed at him. Williams testified during trial that he decided at that moment to kill his new acquaintances. During testimony Wilkins also expressed a desire to plead guilty, skip the remainder of the trial, and await sentencing. He told jurors they had a job to do.

Jurors took only 90 minutes to return a guilty verdict and sentenced Wilkins to death. Despite the verdict, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported that 2 of the jurors cried during the announcement, while Wilkins mouthed "It's okay. It's okay." In 2010, the state's Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed Wilkins' conviction.

Wilkins' appellate lawyers, led by Hilary Sheard, filed a federal petition for relief in May 2012 that claimed Wilkins' trial counsel conducted a "belated inadequate and cursory investigation" and violated his Sixth Amendment right to effective assistance of counsel. They also claimed their client suffered from a conflict of interest because one of his previously assigned lawyers had formerly represented another of Wilkins' victims: Gilbert Vallejo, whom Wilkins confessed to killing the night before he shot Silva and Freeman. They also argued that the original trial violated their client's 14th Amendment right to due process, in that the defendant was self-destructive and therefore incapable of entering a plea deal or standing trial. The petition was denied by a federal judge, and the Supreme Court declined a motion to stay the proceedings.

"Strickland took the case, but failed to reinvestigate the trial, and [he] had contracts to work with the prosecutor's office that put Wilkins on death row." - Hilary Sheard

A 2015 execution date was stayed in order to address potential DNA concerns with the case, and the execution was eventually rescheduled for this Wednesday, Jan. 11.

On Dec. 21, Sheard requested another stay of execution from the state's Court of Criminal Appeals, asking that Wilkins be given a full and fair review of his claims. Sheard cited the poor quality of capital habeas representation in "some Texas cases and the devastating consequences" such conditions have on the convicted. Specifically, Jack Strickland, who represented Wilkins at trial, was also assigned to be Wilkins' attorney during appeals. Strickland, however, had begun working for the Tarrant County D.A.'s office, which sentenced his client to death, before resigning from Wilkins' case. According to Wilkins' appeal, Strickland made public his plans to return to the D.A.'s office in May 2010, prior to filing Wilkins' habeas application, but waited until Feb. 2011 to withdraw from the case - after habeas had been denied. "He should have been appointed a new attorney, or at least been given a hearing on the issue," Sheard told the Chronicle. "Strickland took the case, but failed to reinvestigate the trial, and [he] had agreed to work with the prosecutor's office that put Wilkins on death row. Wilkins tried to fire Strickland repeatedly, but to no avail."

Late on Wednesday (Jan. 4), the CCA denied Wilkins' appeal. He currently has a petition for writ of certiorari pending with the U.S. Supreme Court regarding an absence of funding for reinvestigating the case and trial; SCOTUS has not issued a ruling on that, either. If the state moves forward with the execution, it will mark the 539th execution in Texas since the state reinstated the death penalty in 1976. The Department of Criminal Justice currently has 2 additional executions scheduled for January: Kosoul Chanthakoummane on Jan. 25 and Terry Edwards the following evening.

"For Law Enforcement Purposes Only"

The Texas Department of Criminal Justice filed a lawsuit on Jan. 3 in a Galveston federal court against the Food and Drug Administration and Commissioner Robert Califf, arguing the FDA has failed to make a prompt final decision on the lethal injection drug sodium thiopental. The 2 agencies have been in a standoff since July 2015, when the FDA intercepted a shipment of sodium thiopental being sent from India, arguing on three grounds that the drug shouldn't be allowed into domestic commerce. The FDA issued a tentative decision last April that "thiopental sodium appeared to be an unapproved new drug that violated" several FDA guidelines. The agency has not yet issued a final ruling. TDCJ is calling the delay "unreasonable." The suit states the FDA is exempt from regulating drugs that do not affect public health. The department considers its 2015 shipment aboveboard and in accordance with this exemption: The labels are marked "For law enforcement purposes only."

It's been a rough go for the state and its effort to obtain execution drugs recently, as more and more companies refuse to have their drugs used for lethal injection. In 2011, Danish pentobarbital manufacturer Lundbeck prohibited sales to U.S. pharmacies. Last May, Pfizer (the last FDA-approved manufacturer of execution drugs) established new rules preventing death penalty states from obtaining those drugs. The state has contracted with anonymous compounding pharmacies to get its supply of pentobarbital since 2013, but that supply has dried up. Sodium thiopental, a barbiturate that produces unconsciousness and anesthesia and works as a primer drug for a cocktail that kills inmates, was the choice sedative in Texas and a more common execution drug nationwide until the UK banned its export in 2010.

(source: Austin Chronicle)

FLORIDA:

Florida's high court takes puzzling turn on death penalty

Possibly showing its hand on the future of capital punishment in Florida, the state Supreme Court by a 5-2 vote on Wednesday forbid the state from imposing the death penalty in pending prosecutions, only to withdraw the order hours later as "prematurely issued."

The highly unusual move was made necessary by an "internal error," according to a statement issued by court spokesman Craig Waters.

But it leaves prosecutors in a troubling limbo, signaling that they may be taking a risk if they pursue the death penalty in murder cases at this time. One prosecutor said the Florida Legislature needs to act quickly to craft a death penalty law that passes constitutional scrutiny.

"These are the most serious cases we handle, and are incredibly emotional in the best of circumstances," said State Attorney Jack Campbell, who this week took over as the lead prosecutor for several north Florida counties. "Uncertainty in the law is terrible for the victim's families, for the defendants. It's very important to me they get this sorted out as quickly as possible, as definitively as possible."

Florida's death penalty law was upended as a result of a case involving Timothy Lee Hurst, who was convicted using a box-cutter to kill a co-worker at a Pensacola Popeye's restaurant in 1998. A jury had divided 7-5 over whether Hurst deserved to die, but a judge imposed the death sentence.

The state Supreme Court initially upheld that sentence, but the U.S. Supreme Court in January 2016 declared the state's death penalty sentencing law unconstitutional because it gave too much power to judges to make the ultimate decision.

The Legislature responded by overhauling the law, but rejected calls to require a unanimous jury decision in future cases, instead allowing the death penalty to be imposed by a 10-2 jury vote.

In October, however, the state Supreme Court voted 5-2 to strike down the new law and require unanimous jury decisions for capital punishment.

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi promptly asked the court to reconsider, with one of her senior attorneys arguing in court filings that clarity is needed to "avoid any potential miscarriage of justice." Bondi's office also asserted that pending death penalty cases could move ahead as long as their juries unanimously agreed to the punishment.

Then in December, the state justices upended another set of capital punishments, citing a 2002 U.S. Supreme Court decision that only juries, not judges, can determine whether evidence justifies the death penalty. That ruling made a group of inmates sentenced after 2002 eligible for new sentencing hearings, and could lead to them being released from death row.

On Wednesday morning, the high court rejected Bondi's request, and said the entire sentencing law "cannot be applied to pending prosecutions." But only hours later, this firm conclusion was withdrawn.

Lawyers for death row inmates and opponents of capital punishment have warned prosecutors for years that Florida's death sentencing law was unconstitutional.

Attorney Martin McClain, a veteran of death penalty cases, asserted that as of right now, there "is not a valid process in place" for death penalty cases to proceed in Florida.

(source: Associated Press)

CALIFORNIA:

California rejects proposed new death penalty rules

Efforts to revive the death penalty in California were dealt another blow late last month when a state agency tasked with reviewing regulatory changes rejected a proposed new lethal injection protocol.

The decision by the Office of Administrative Law came one day after the California Supreme Court blocked implementation of Proposition 66, an initiative passed by voters in November to expedite capital punishment, pending the outcome of a lawsuit.

In a 25-page decision of disapproval released on Dec. 28, the OAL cited inconsistencies and ambiguities in the protocol, insufficient justification for some regulations and a need for further response to public comments. The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation has four months to remedy the issues and resubmit its proposal.

The department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Executions were halted in 2006 because of legal challenges alleging that California’s lethal injection method violated the constitutional prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment.

The corrections department began developing a new protocol last year that replaced its old 3-drug cocktail with a 7.5-gram, single-drug dose of 1 of 4 barbiturates: amobarbital, pentobarbital, secobarbital or thiopental.

Among the questions raised by the OAL was why inmates would be injected with 7.5 grams of a barbiturate when corrections officials acknowledged 5 grams is a sufficiently lethal dose. It also asked for additional explanations on a $50 limit for inmates' last meals and why inmates would be offered the option of taking a sedative before the execution begins.

The majority of the decision focused on ambiguities in the protocol that the OAL said needed to be clarified. These included the timeline for steps taken in the days and hours leading up to an execution, how to proceed if an inmate does not immediately die, what sedative options are available and who must administer them, what proposed monthly "security and operational inspections" of the execution chamber would entail, and under what conditions a warden should raise inquiry into an inmate's sanity.

(source: Sacramento Bee)

WASHINGTON:

Governor defends reprieve of death row inmate, calls penalty 'unfair to taxpayers'

Governor Jay Inslee has called on state lawmakers to abolish the death penalty once and for all, calling it an "archaic" punishment that does nothing to reduce crime and costs taxpayers millions of dollars.

8 men remain on Washington state's death row after a 9th died Sunday when he went into cardiac arrest while being treated for an existing medical condition, the Washington Department of Corrections said.

Dwayne A. Woods, 46, passed away while under in-patient observation at the Kadlec Regional Medical Center in Richland, Wash. He had been on death row since 1997 for the aggravated murders of Telisha Shaver, 22, and Jade Moore, 18.

Woods' death came just days after Governor Inslee quietly granted a reprieve for another death row inmate - Clark Richard Elmore.

Elmore, 65, has been on death row since 1995 for the rape and murder of 14-year-old Christy Onstad in Bellingham. Onstad was the daughter of Elmore's live-in girlfriend.

In an interview Wednesday on "Q13 News This Morning," Inslee defended his reprieve of Elmore and once again urged lawmakers in the state to change the law and put an end to capital punishment for good.

"It costs millions and millions of dollars. It is inequitably applied because it is not applied in the vast majority of the state of Washington ... because counties can't afford to prosecute people," he said, referring to the cost of capital cases. "So it's an archaic thing that needs to be changed and I've taken a position to respect what I believe is fairness in our system and justice for taxpayers."

In 2014, Inslee issued a moratorium on the death penalty, which prevents future inmates sent to death row from being executed while he is in office. Meanwhile, with capital punishment still on the books in Washington, some prosecutors continue to pursue capital cases - often spending millions of dollars to fight for a punishment that may never be carried out.

"The moratorium that Governor Inslee announced several years ago and the reprieve that he announced last week, they don't change the law and they don't change the sentences for the individuals involved," King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg said Wednesday.

"It just, basically, kicks the can down the road for the next governor or governors who might have a different view. So, all the things that have been complained about - that it's too slow, too expense - are actually made worse by the moratorium. It actually takes longer now because we know for the next 4 years we're not going to be able to carry out any sentences."

In 2015, Satterberg, on behalf of The Washington Association of Prosecuting Attorneys, called on lawmakers to send a death penalty referendum to voters.

"I think we want to know before we go down this road of capital ligation, which can take 20 years from the time a person is convicted to the time they're executed, is we want to know whether we have the public support to do it," Satterberg told Q13 News.

Governor Inslee disagrees. He hopes lawmakers will handle the issue on their own.

"What I would suggest is that the legislature change the law," he said. "It would bring clarity to it and that would be the best way to deal with this."

(source: Fox News)

USA:

Dru Sjodin's killer fights death penalty

The Dru Sjodin case continues as prosecutors asked to interview Rodriguez's trial lawyer under oath.

It's been more than 13 years since Dru Sjodin was kidnapped and murdered by Alfonso Rodriguez, Jr., a convicted sex offender. While a federal jury sentenced Rodriguez to death more than a decade ago, the case remains active today.

In 2003, Sjodin, a 22-year-old college student at the University of North Dakota, was kidnapped from a mall parking lot in Grand Forks, North Dakota. Her body was found months later in Crookston, Minnesota. Rodriguez, a sexual offender, was arrested. Because the crime crossed state lines, prosecutors were able to charge Rodriguez under federal laws - making his trial the 1st federal death penalty case in North Dakota.

In 2007, a federal appeals court upheld Rodriguez's death penalty and conviction. In 2011, new lawyers filed an appeal - arguing Rodriguez was "denied effective assistance of counsel," the trial featured "junk science and false forensics," and that Rodriguez is "mentally retarded."

On Dec. 28, prosecutors filed a motion to interview Rodriguez's trial lawyer under oath due to the claim of ineffective assistance of counsel. The current appeal is almost certainly Rodriguez's last shot at avoiding the death penalty.

"This comes to no surprise to us at all," Linda Walker, the mother of Dru Sjodin, told Fox 9. "I think a lot of people don't understand that when people are on death row, they have only 1 hour a day outside their confinement ... So he really honestly has to sit and think about what's done, day in and day out."

It's difficult to estimate how much longer the case may last. On average, condemned inmates spend nearly 16 years on death row before they are executed. However, the statistics are based on state death row inmates, not federal. Federally, only 3 people have been executed since the federal death penalty was reinstated in 1988.

Condemned inmates are entitled to an automatic appeal, and another at their request.

(source: KMSP news)

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

Even Dylann Roof should not receive a death sentence

A Charleston, S.C., jury convicted racist murderer Dylann Roof of hate crimes last month, and now the only question is whether the state will put him to death. We oppose the death penalty even for the Dylann Roofs of the world. But if the jury disagrees with us, at least it would hand down the ultimate punishment in retribution for a truly unusual crime and without a shadow of doubt about Mr. Roof's guilt. The same cannot be said for many other cases that resulted in death sentences over the past several decades, in which the punishment was meted out too often, without the restraint that even death-penalty advocates should favor.

That is why we were heartened to read through the Death Penalty Information Center's year-end report, which came out Dec. 21. The group found that 30 new death sentences were handed down in 2016, a drop of 19 from 2015's historic low. In fact, 2016's total represents the lowest number in decades.

20 people nationwide were executed, which is the lowest number in 25 years, and only 5 states carried out executions, the lowest number in 33 years. As usual, a few states stood out. Texas and Georgia put the most people to death. But even in these states, attitudes may be changing: The death penalty was issued only 4 times last year in Texas, and no one was sentenced to death in Georgia. In fact, California led the pack in death sentences, with 9, 4 of which were issued in Los Angeles County alone. That's right: L.A. County equaled the entire state of Texas in death sentences. Ohio tied with Texas for the 2nd-most death sentences.

There are many possible reasons for the waning use of the death penalty. Over the past several years, anti-death-penalty advocates have attempted to sabotage the machinery of capital punishment, making it difficult for states to source the drugs they inject into the veins of the condemned. With crime rates still near historic lows, one would also expect fewer death sentences around the country.

But we hope the trend also reflects shifting attitudes. It has long been clear that the death penalty is extremely expensive for the government to administer, ineffective as a deterrent to crime and too often has resulted in innocent people being sentenced to die. The practice of killing human beings, even with all the due process in the world, is also in tension with the inherent dignity Americans should ascribe to human life. The sooner the United States gets to zero executions, the better.

(source: Editorial, Washington Post)

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

Judge refuses to move Fell death-penalty trial

A federal judge has rejected Donald Fell's request that his new death-penalty trial, expected to start in February, be moved out of state.

In the decision, U.S. District Court Judge Geoffry Crawford rejected 3 key requests from a change-of-venue request filed on behalf of Fell, 36, in October.

Crawford declined to move the trial out of court, citing a 2010 case, United States v. Skilling.

"In the Skilling decision, the Supreme Court rejected the presumption of prejudice found in 3 prior decisions on pretrial publicity in which the trials took place in a circus-like atmosphere," Crawford wrote. "No circus occurred in the Skilling trial, and none is likely in this case either."

The judge also denied a request to move the trial out of Rutland if the case couldn't be move out of state.

Lawyers representing Fell also asked that the court reject jurors from southwestern Vermont because they would presumably be too familiar with the case.

"Jurors with existing information and beliefs can be found in all three districts, and the disparities are not great enough to exclude a regional division," Crawford said.

In 2005, Fell was already tried and convicted by a federal jury for the death of Terry King, 53, of North Clarendon.

Police said Fell and his friend, Robert Lee, carjacked King in the parking lot of the Rutland Shopping Plaza in November 2000. The 2 men took King to New York state and killed her, police said.

According to police, Fell, at that time, was fleeing the state because earlier in the day he killed his mother, Debra Fell, and her friend, Charles Conway, in Rutland.

In 2006, Fell was sentenced to death but the conviction was overturned because 1 of the jurors in the case had done some independent investigation outside of the trial and shared information with other jurors.

In a separate decision released Tuesday, Crawford rejected a request to dismiss the case based on the intent by federal prosecutors to seek the death penalty even through Vermont has not used the death penalty since 1954.

"This argument was previously made and rejected by courts in federal death-penalty cases pending in states and other jurisdictions which have themselves rejected the death penalty," Crawford said.

(source: Rutland Herald)

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

Dylann Roof: 'There's nothing wrong with me psychologically'

Convicted Charleston church shooter Dylann Roof began making his case in court Wednesday, addressing jurors for the first time as they weigh whether to give him a death sentence.

"There's nothing wrong with me psychologically," Roof said during his brief opening statement.

3 people who'd been sitting in the section of the courtroom reserved for friends and family of the victims walked out while Roof spoke. One said, "This is all crap," as he left.

Roof, wearing a gray knit sweater and speaking so softly that people in the courtroom strained to hear him, told jurors to disregard the arguments his attorneys made in the earlier phase of the trial.

"Anything you heard from my lawyers in the last phase, I ask you to forget it," he said. "That's the last thing."

Prosecutor details Roof's jailhouse journal

Last month jurors convicted Roof of federal murder and hate crimes charges for the June 2015 massacre at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston.

Now the white supremacist who killed 9 people at the historically black church is representing himself in court as the jury decides whether he will face life in prison or the death penalty.

Assistant US Attorney Nathan Williams argued Wednesday that a number of factors show Roof deserves to face a death sentence. Among them: the avowed white supremacist's motive, his lack of remorse and the shooting's impact on the victims' families.

"The defendant didn't stop after shooting 1 or 4 or 5 people. That's why this case is worse," Williams said. "He killed because of the color of their skin. He thought they were less as people. He wanted to magnify and incite violence."

The prosecutor presented new evidence, including a jailhouse journal that he said was written six weeks after Roof's arrest.

"I do not regret what I did," the journal entry said, according to Williams. "I am not sorry. I have not shed a tear for the innocent people I killed. I do feel sorry for the innocent white children forced to live in this sick county. I do feel sorry for the innocent white people that are killed daily at the hands of the lower races. I have shed a tear of self-pity for myself. I feel pity that I had to do what I did in the first place. I feel pity that I had to give up my life because of a situation that should never have existed."

The journal entry echoes racist statements from Roof that prosecutors presented earlier in the trial.

But the jailhouse writings reveal something significant, Williams argued.

Roof, the prosecutor said, is capable of remorse -- but felt none for his crimes.

Family, friends of victims testify

Also on Wednesday, the jury began hearing from people who lost relatives or friends in the massacre.

Jennifer Pinckney, widow of Rev. Clementa Pinckney, was in a nearby room with a daughter when the shooting occurred. She testified about her relationship with her husband and about the shooting.

When police arrived, a female officer told the daughter they were going to play a game, Pinckney said. The officer encouraged the girl to put her head on her shoulder and keep her eyes closed.

But Jennifer Pinckey was unable to avoid catching a glimpse of the scene. She said she was walking to the door when she saw blood on the floor.

"I felt sick," she said. "I leaned over and they rushed me out."

She believes she survived to continue her husband's legacy.

"He did so much. And he was so many things to so many people," she said.

Some family members of victims have appeared torn over whether Roof should be sentenced to death.

Roof also is scheduled to be tried on state murder charges, for which he could also be sentenced to death.

Only 3 federal inmates have been executed in the United States since the federal death penalty was reinstated in 1988 after a 16-year moratorium:

-- Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh on June 11, 2001, 6 years after he killed 168 people.

[My note----MeVeigh received the federal death sentence for the killing of 8 FBI agents in the Oklahoma City bombing]

-- Juan Raul Garza on June 19, 2001, 8 years after he was convicted of running a marijuana drug ring and killing 3 people.

-- Louis Jones on March 18, 2003, 8 years after he kidnapped and murdered 19-year-old Army Pvt. Tracie McBride.

Few federal inmates on death row have been executed

Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was the last person to get a federal death sentence. He's one of 62 federal prisoners awaiting execution, according to the Death Penalty Information Center, a Washington-based nonprofit.

(source: CNN)

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

The price of death

The idea of capital punishment came with European settlers as they began to settle in the new world. The 1st recorded execution in the new colonies was that of Captain George Kendall in the Jamestown colony of Virginia in 1608. The death penalty has gone through various changes over the years, such as moving away from hangings and burning at the stake and moving toward more humane ways of ending life, such as lethal injections. More than 1/2 of the countries in the international community have abolished the death penalty completely; 58 countries still have the death penalty. Capital punishment is usually reserved for the following types of cases: first degree murder, treason, and aggravated murder. 31 states in the U.S. have the death penalty and in those states, there are 2,943 inmates who are on death row as of January 1, 2016.

The death penalty, it is often said, helps deter crime, and brings about justice for the victims. It is assumed that criminals will think twice before they commit a crime if the punishment could include death. It can provide closure for many families and in some cases the victims, but many families are horrified when they witness the inmate being executed and they are left with an empty feeling, not the feeling of justice that many think they will receive.

The death penalty is often put in a good light as it is supposedly cheaper and more humane then a life sentence, but is it really? The average inmate spends 178 months on death row between sentencing, multiple trials, and execution. A quarter of the deaths of inmates in the Unites States who are on death row are caused by natural causes. Cases without the death penalty cost an average of $740,000, while cases where the death penalty is sought cost anywhere from $1 million to $1.6 million, depending on the state. Maintaining each death row prisoner costs taxpayers $90,000 more per year than a prisoner in general population.

There are alternatives to capital punishment that not only cost less but also keep dangerous criminals off the street for their lives. On average, taxpayers pay execution costs that are twice as much as keeping an inmate in prison for life. Dr. Gross, a Creighton University economics professor, estimated that the death penalty costs states with capital punishment an average of $23.2 million more per year than alternative sentences. Life in prison guarantees that the individual will not be released back on the streets to commit more crime. It also does not require so many trials, so it is less expensive than the death penalty.

Support for the death penalty is shrinking. In 1936, 61% of Americans favored the death penalty and thirty years later the support had shrunk to 42%. Throughout the 70s and 80s, the % of Americans in favor of the death penalty increased steadily, culminating in an 80% approval rating in 1994. As of 2015, 61% of Americans continue to support capital punishment, even though it is outlawed in 19 states. I believe that support is shrinking because cases that include capital punishment are often on the news and pressure can be put forth to close the case quickly and while cases may be taken out of the news, capital punishment cases are never closed quickly. Most Americans do not consider that we are a nation that carries out "an eye for an eye," and when other countries use the policy, we see it as barbaric. An example would be when someone gets his hand cut off for stealing, we do not do this in America but when we hear that other countries do, and we are horrified.

While the death penalty sounds like a good thing at first, once you dig deeper into it, then it begins to look ugly. It not only costs tax payers thousands more each year, but it also does not deter crime nor give families the feeling that justice has been done. Is death really the best option?

(source: Rebecka Edwards is a University of Central Arkansas student----thecabin.net)

IRAN----executions

7 Executions to Begin 2017

Unable to reign in its political and economic crises, and concerned over possible nationwide uprisings, the inhumane mullahs' regime in Iran has resorted to sending 7 prisoners to the gallows in the first days of 2017. These executions were carried out in the prisons of Karaj (west of Tehran) and Ghazvin (northwest Iran).

Karaj Central Prison was the scene of 4 inmates hanged on Tuesday, January 3.

3 prisoners aged 30, 34 and 36 were also hanged in Ghazvin Prison on January 2 and 3.

Another inmate, aged 33, was transferred to Sepidar Prison in the city of Ahvaz in preparation for his execution.

Mohammad Javad Larijani, secretary of Iran's so-called "Human Rights Department," is known to theorize torture and executions in Iran through schemes such as "decreasing and replacing death sentences" meant to deceive Western countries.

However, Larijani has once again emphasized on "firm and heavy punishments for drug-related charges."

(source: NCR-Iran)

MALAYSIA:

Federal Court reinstates death penalty on religious teacher for murder of pupil

An Islamic religious teacher has to face the death penalty as the Federal Court reinstated his conviction for the murder of a 7-year-old pupil, more than 5 years ago.

Hanif Mohamad Ali, 32, was sentenced to 20 years jail by the Court of Appeal in March last year after that court set aside his murder conviction and death sentence and instead convicted him on a reduced charge of committing culpable homicide not amounting to murder.

A 5-man bench of the Federal Court led by Federal Court judge Tan Sri Suriyadi Halim Omar today allowed the prosecution's appeal to reverse the appellate court's decision.

It (the court) restored the Perlis High Court decision which found Hanif, who was then a hostel warden at a religious primary school, guilty of murdering Saiful Syazani Saiful Sopfidee, a Year One student, at Asrama Putra, Sekolah Rendah Islam Al-Furqan, Arau, Perlis between 6pm and midnight on March 31, 2011.

Meanwhile, the panel also dismissed Hanif's appeal against the jail term. The other judges on the panel were Justices Tan Sri Abu Samah Nordin, Tan Sri Ramly Ali, Tan Sri Zaharah Ibrahim and Tan Sri Jeffrey Tan Kok Wha.

Hanif, in green-coloured prison clothes, looked composed when the court announced the verdict. After the court stood down its proceedings, Hanif was seen embracing his family members including his mother, who was in tears.

According to the facts of the case, the boy had been made to stand with his hands bound upright to an iron bar and that he was hit on the head and slapped for allegedly stealing money.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Wan Shaharuddin Wan Ladin submitted that the pathologist's evidence revealed that the boy was strangled for 4 minutes and considering that he (the boy) was tied and beaten, it showed that Hanif had intention to cause injury to him which led to his death.

Hanif's lawyer Ariff Azami Hussein argued that was no misdirection by the Court of Appeal when it reduced the charge against his client.

The Perlis High Court had initially amended Hanif's charge from murder to committing culpable homicide not amounting to murder at the end of the prosecution's case. Hanif subsequently pleaded guilty to the amended charge and was sentenced to 18 years' jail.

The prosecution then appealed to the Court of Appeal which ordered Hanif to enter his defence on the murder charge at the High Court. At the end of the defence's case, Hanif was found guilty of murder and sentenced to death by the High Court.

(source: themalaymailonline.com)

JANUARY 4, 2017:

PENNSYLVANIA:

DA Zappala rescinds intent to seek death penalty in 2013 Duquesne double slaying

Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr. today rescinded his decision to seek the death penalty against a man charged with a 2013 double homicide in Duquesne.

The notification about the prosecution's plans for defendant Michael Robinson was sent to Common Pleas Judge Jill E. Rangos, who is presiding over the trial expected to start Monday.

In his notice to the court, Mr. Zappala writes, "intervening events have caused me to reconsider my decision to seek a penalty of death..." He did not elaborate in the filing.

Defense attorneys in the case have vigorously attempted to challenge the prosecution's DNA evidence and specifically the computer code powering the program that authorities say links Mr. Robinson to the slayings.

Prosecutors announced their intention to seek the death penalty in June 2013.

Mr. Robinson is charged with 2 counts of homicide in the May 6, 2013, shooting deaths of Lawrence Short, 29, of Clairton and Tyrone Coleman, 18, of Duquesne, who were killed on Crawford Avenue in Duquesne.

FLORIDA:

Typo upends Florida Supreme Court's death penalty ruling

Just hours after declaring prosecutors could not seek death sentences under existing state law, the Florida Supreme Court on Wednesday rescinded the order, an uncommon move that casts fresh uncertainty on the state's death penalty.

The reason: A typo.

In a 5-2 ruling Wednesday morning, the court rejected Attorney General Pam Bondi's request to let prosecutors seek the death penalty as long as juries voted unanimously. The court threw out the state's revamped death sentencing law in October because it required only a 10-2 super majority of the jury to put someone to death.

Then at 1 p.m., the Supreme Court rescinded the order, saying it was "prematurely issued," and deleted it from the court's website.

The Wednesday morning ruling was vacated because of a "clerical error," said Craig Waters, a spokesman for the court.

Instead of writing that death penalty laws in section 921.141 of Florida Statutes were unconstitutional, the court identified section 941.141 - a statute which does not exist.

"It may have simply been a scrivener's error and they wanted to rescind the order to correct the scrivener's error," said Rex Dimmig, the public defender in Polk, Highlands and Hardee counties. "It could be that simple; it could be something more complicated."

Waters did not say if or when the court planned to re-issue the ruling, which provided brief clarity for a death penalty system that was in limbo.

After the court ruled in October that juries had to be unanimous to sentence someone to death, Bondi and prosecutors said capital trials ought to continue but that jurors should be instructed that the rules had changed.

Defense attorneys saw things differently: If the death penalty law was unconstitutional, then no one could be sentenced to death, they argued.

That's what the justices decided early Wednesday, writing that the whole statute was unconstitutional and "cannot be applied to pending prosecutions."

How the court will act now is uncertain, but it is likely the Legislature will rewrite the state's death penalty statutes when they come into session March 7. Next week, the House Judiciary Committee will start deliberating on the issue.

Last month, the committee's chairman, Rep. Chris Sprowls, R-Palm Harbor, told the Times/Herald that rewriting death penalty laws is a priority.

"We have to act," said Sprowls, a former prosecutor. "By the time we conclude our business, we have to have a death penalty statute that can be relied upon and that's legal, so that victims have access to justice."

(source: miamiherald.com)

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

Florida Supreme Court: Prosecutors can't seek death penalty

Florida's highest court is making it clear the state's current death penalty law cannot be applied to people currently awaiting trial for murder.

The Florida Supreme Court Wednesday rejected a request by Attorney General Pam Bondi to clarify 2 rulings it made last October.

In a 5-2 decision the court stressed Florida's law "cannot be applied to pending prosecutions."

Last fall the court concluded death sentences must require a unanimous jury and then struck down a 2016 law that allowed a defendant to be sentenced to death as long as 10 of 12 jurors recommended it.

Shortly after that ruling Bondi's senior attorney asked the court to revisit its decision to "avoid any potential miscarriage of justice." Bondi's office asserted death penalty cases could proceed in Florida as long as juries were told they must reach a unanimous decision.

(source: Associated Press)

CALIFORNIA:

Accused Huntington Beach Killer Could Face Death Penalty --- A Huntington Beach real estate agent accused of killing 2 women and dumping their bodies in Newport Beach could face the death penalty.

A Huntington Beach real estate agent was charged on Wednesday with murdering 2 women and dumping their bodies in a Newport Beach field following a Westminster New Year's Eve gathering.

Christopher Ken Ireland, 37, is charged with murdering 2 female acquaintances: 59-year-old Yolanda Holtrey and her 49-year-old friend and reported co-worker, Michelle Luke, both of Huntington Beach. Ireland is also accused of dumping the women's bodies in Newport Beach, where they were discovered by authorities.

As of Wednesday Ireland was being held without bail pending his arraignment.

According to charges filed by the Orange County District Attorney's Office, he faces 2 counts of murder with a special circumstance allegation of multiple murders, which makes him eligible for the death penalty if convicted, as well as felony counts of arson and aggravated mayhem.

The motive for the killings remains under investigation, according to Westminster Police Cpl. Alan Aoki. The cause of death has not yet been determined.

"The three were at a New Year's Eve gathering at Holtrey's home when something transpired, we don't know exactly what or why, and the victims were killed," said Aoki, who added that all 3 "seemed to be acquaintances."

Orange County Fire Authority personnel responded to a blaze at Holtrey's home in the 5000 block of Northwestern Way on New Year's Day. The home's interior sustained some fire damage, and investigators suspect the blaze was deliberately set, according to Capt. Larry Kurtz of the Orange County Fire Authority.

The bodies of both Holtrey and Luke were found on Monday in the weeds near a strip mall in Newport Beach, Aoki said.

"Ireland was apprehended at the scene of the fire and investigators collected evidence at the home that appeared to link him to the killings," Aoki said.

Court records show that Ireland has no prior criminal record in Orange County.

He is a licensed real estate agent working for Realty One Group Inc. in Rancho Cucamonga with no disciplinary actions on his record, according to California real estate records. He was first licensed as an agent in August.

The suspect's wife worked with the victims at Stein Mart, according to broadcast reports.

Samantha Ireland told NBC4 that the couple attended a New Year's Eve party at Holtrey's house and had a good time then went home.

"There were no fights, arguments," she told the station. "I don't remember him leaving the house. He doesn't remember anything."

(source: patch.com)

WASHINGTON:

New charges mean Cascade Mall shooting suspect could face death penalty ---- Arcan Cetin, 20, is accused of killing 5 people in Macy's department store at the Skagit County mall on Sept. 23.

The Oak Harbor man suspected of killing 5 people in a September shooting at Cascade Mall in Burlington was charged Wednesday with 5 counts of aggravated murder, opening up the possibility that he could face the death penalty.

Arcan Cetin, 20, was initially charged with 5 counts of 1st-degree premeditated murder in Skagit District Court. Skagit County prosecutors have transferred the case to Superior Court, while updating the charges to aggravated murder.

Cetin will make his 1st appearance under the new charges at a Thursday arraignment, authorities said.

Aggravated murder is punishable by either life in prison without parole or the death penalty. Skagit County Prosecutor Richard Weyrich said in an email he has 30 days to decide whether to seek the death penalty.

Last week, Inslee signed a reprieve for Clark Richard Elmore, who had been convicted of raping and killing his girlfriend's 14-year-old daughter in Bellingham in 1995. Elmore will remain in prison for life. With his legal appeals exhausted, his execution had been scheduled for Jan. 19.

The charges filed Wednesday accuse Cetin of walking into Macy's department store on Sept. 23 and killing 5 people in about a minute. The documents say he used a Ruger .22-caliber rifle with a 25-round magazine.

According to the charges, he opened fire near the Macy's cosmetics counter, killing 4 people outright and mortally wounding a 5th before placing the gun on a counter and walking out of the store.

Killed were Sarai Lara, 16, of Mount Vernon; Shayla Martin, 52, of Mount Vernon; Belinda Galde, 64, and her mother, 95-year-old Beatrice Dotson, both of Arlington; and Wilton "Chuck" Eagan, 61, of Lake Stevens.

Cetin, who has a history of bizarre and aggressive behavior according to people who knew him, was taken into custody near his Oak Harbor home after a daylong manhunt in Skagit and Island counties.

After his arrest, Cetin told detectives he had committed the killings, according to the documents, which do not offer a clear motive.

The documents filed Wednesday provide no new details in the shootings.

Cetin was turned away from buying a large-caliber handgun by an Oak Harbor gun-shop owner hours before the deadly shooting, investigators confirmed.

Cetin came to the U.S. from Turkey when he was 6, having never met his biological father, according to court documents, and is a naturalized U.S. citizen. He said his mother's family was abusive while he lived in Turkey, but reported a good transition to the U.S., the documents say.

(source: Seattle Times)

USA:

Jury to weigh whether to spare life of carjacking killer

Jurors in the death penalty trial of a man convicted of carjacking and killing 2 Massachusetts men in 2001 were shown gruesome photos of his victims while a prosecutor described how they were stabbed over and over while begging for their lives.

Gary Lee Sampson was condemned to die in 2003 for killing Jonathan Rizzo, 19, a college student from Kingston, and Philip McCloskey, 69, a retired pipefitter from Taunton. But that decision was later overturned by a judge who granted him a new sentencing trial in 2011 after finding that 1 juror had lied about her background.

Sampson, a drifter from Abington, received a separate life sentence for killing a third man, Robert "Eli" Whitney, in New Hampshire.

Sampson, now 57, tricked the carjacking victims into thinking he would spare their lives but then stabbed them each more than a dozen times, slit their throats and left them to die in the woods, Assistant U.S. Attorney Zachary Hafer said during closing arguments Wednesday.

As Hafer described the killings - often using Sampson's own words from his confession - he displayed grisly crime scene photos. Soft sobbing could be heard in the courtroom from some members of the victims' families.

The victims, Hafer said, were "kind, caring souls" who were "brought together by the pure heinousness and cruelty" of Sampson's decision to kill them.

"That's what this case is about: these cruel, cruel murders," Hafer said. He urged the jury to give Sampson the death penalty.

But defense attorney Michael Burt asked jurors to spare his client's life, saying Sampson took responsibility by confessing and pleading guilty to the killings.

Sampson is not offering excuses or justification for his crimes, Burt said, but is asking only to live a "very narrow and restricted life" in prison without the possibility of release.

Sampson's lawyers are asking the jury to consider 115 mitigating factors they say support a life sentence rather than the death penalty.

Sampson's lawyers say Sampson suffered head injuries as a child and has antisocial personality disorder and severe dyslexia. They also cite a call he made to the FBI before the murders because he thought he was "losing control" and planned to turn himself in for a string of bank robberies he was wanted for in North Carolina. The call was accidentally disconnected.

Hafer told the jury Sampson tricked McCloskey and Rizzo into giving him rides by wearing conservative clothes and trying to look like a businessman. "Dressed to deceive," Hafer said.

Once inside their cars, Sampson threatened them at knifepoint but promised he would not kill them, Hafer said. Sampson forced them to drive to wooded areas, then tied them up, still assuring them he would let them live. He even sprayed Rizzo with bug spray after tying him to a tree, telling the teenager he was protecting him from insects while he waited to be rescued, Hafer said.

Hafer called the defense claims of a traumatic childhood "fiction" and derided the testimony of defense experts who said Sampson has a brain injury.

"It truly is the most convenient brain injury you will ever see," Hafer said.

Burt said each juror should consult his or her own conscience to decide whether Sampson should receive a life sentence or the death penalty.

"It's about as stark and gray a moral question as anybody could ask any human being to decide," Burt said.

The jurors are expected to being deliberations after they receive instructions from the judge.

Massachusetts abolished the state death penalty in 1984, but Sampson was prosecuted under federal law, which allows prosecutors to seek the death penalty when a murder is committed during a carjacking.

(source: WHIG news)

US MILITARY:

Federal, military courts proceed cautiously in Ronald Gray death penalty case

The longest-serving prisoner on the military's death row was facing an imminent execution date in 2008. 2 decades after a horrific rape and murder spree on and around Ft. Bragg, N.C., that left 4 young women dead and several more injured, former Spc. Ronald Gray's military appeals appeared to have been exhausted.

President George W. Bush had approved Gray's execution - to be the 1st in the military in more than 50 years - and the Army had selected a December day to kill him by lethal injection.

But Gray, 51, still on death row at Ft. Leavenworth, Kan., is unlikely to be executed any time soon. His case, after languishing in federal court for 8 years, now is headed back to the military courts.

"I think that process could take some time," said James Cross, a spokesman for the Kansas U.S. Attorney's Office, which was prosecuting the case at the federal level.

The long-delayed development reflects the confusion among the courts over jurisdiction and procedures in what is essentially the 1st military death-penalty case "in the modern era," said Robert Dunham, executive director of the nonprofit Death Penalty Information Center.

"What made it more complicated here is that nobody knew what the process was because it hasn't happened before," Dunham said. "The courts were having a problem determining who had to decide what, when."

In 2008, after Gray received his execution date, the U.S. District Court for Kansas accepted his habeas corpus petition - usually the final stage of the appeals process - and stayed his execution while it reviewed the case.

In the meantime, judges and lawyers retired or moved on; the case moved at a glacial pace.

Eventually, in 2015, Judge J. Thomas Marten denied most of Gray's appeal, according to court documents. He also dismissed new or "unexhausted" claims included in Gray's petition "without prejudice," meaning Gray could refile those claims later.

But the 10th Circuit Court concluded that that process was incorrect. Marten vacated his judgment.

Federal prosecutors argued for Marten to instead rule entirely against Gray, including against the new claims, which they said were either without merit or procedurally barred.

They pointed out that in 2012 the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces had declined to review Gray's new claims.

But that court's ruling, also "without prejudice," appeared to have "left open the door for (Gray) to present these claims to the military courts again upon learning what this court would do," Marten wrote.

As a result, Marten dismissed Gray's entire habeas corpus petition without prejudice 2 months ago.

The additional delay was "regrettable," he wrote, but would "avoid injecting unnecessary procedural error that would only further delay final disposition."

Gray has previously argued in appellate filings that his trial lawyer was ineffective, that he lacked the mental capacity to stand trial and that the military did not have jurisdiction over him. It's not clear what the petition his lawyers are filing to the Army court will claim.

Last month, Marten lifted Gray's stay of execution and denied Gray's request for a new stay, saying that with the case dismissal he no longer had jurisdiction.

Army officials could not be reached for comment on whether they planned to set a new execution date.

Before Gray's, no military death sentences had been presidentially approved, as the law requires, since 1957, when President Dwight D. Eisenhower affirmed a condemned soldier's death.

Pvt. John Bennett, who had raped an 11-year-old girl then tried to drown her, was hanged at Ft. Leavenworth in 1961.

Since then, statutes, procedures and conventions regarding the death penalty have undergone numerous, significant changes. Bennett, for example, would almost certainly not be executed today: In 2008 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the death penalty for the rape of a child violated the constitutional protection against cruel and unusual punishment.

Since 1984, 11 men sentenced to death at courts-martial have had their death sentences overturned because of problems with their trials, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

Most recently, in 2012, the death sentence of former Marine Lance Cpl. Kenneth Parker was set aside by the Navy-Marine Corps appellate court nearly 2 decades after he was sentenced for 2 murders in North Carolina.

The court found "numerous and substantive procedural and legal failures at trial." The Navy hasn't executed anyone since 1849.

5 men besides Gray remain on the military's death row.

The Armed Forces appeals court recently overturned an Air Force appellate court decision upholding airman Andrew Witt's death sentence for the murders of a fellow airman and his wife in 2004. Witt is scheduled to have a new sentencing hearing.

(source: stripes.com)

TUNISIA:

Tunisia sentences man to death for murder and rape of infant

An Army Corporal accused of murdering a four-year-old child has been sentenced to death by firearm, the lawyer of the victim's family confirmed.

"The Permanent Military Court of Tunis, on Tuesday, pronounced the death penalty by firearm against the killer of child Yassine Aouachri," Zoubeir Yahyaoui added in a statement to Tunisian Agence Presse. The defendant has the right to appeal against the ruling.

Capital punishment can only take place when it is validated by the President of the Republic. The last time capital punishment was used in Tunisia was in 1991.

Mohamed Amine Yahyaoui, 25, was charged with misappropriation of a minor, using violence that resulted in the death, rape, sequestration and maltreatment of a juvenile with premeditation.

The 4-year-old child, who was abducted on 17 May 2016 in front of a primary school in the Mellassine neighbourhood, was found murdered the same day in an abandoned house in Cite Hellal.

Yahyaoui had made 4 attempts to kidnap a child before capturing Yassine.

(source: Middle East Monitor)

TEXAS:

Paxton sues FDA for delaying import of death penalty drug

Attorney General Ken Paxton announced Tuesday his office has filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for delaying the state's importation of a drug used in capital punishment.

The lawsuit argues the FDA's claimed legal grounds for refusing the drugs' entry into the United States are invalid, citing an FDA exemption for law enforcement purposes.

Thiopental sodium, also known as Sodium thiopental, is part of the 3-drug cocktail used in lethal injections.

In its December newsletter, the Council of State Governments said, while Texas has 317 inmates on death row, it only has enough of a key lethal injection drug to execute 2 of them, stemming from a nationwide shortage of the drug.

The Attorney General's Office is asking the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas to declare the FDA's delay unlawful and compel the agency to make a final decision on the admissibility of the drug, which was detained by the FDA 17 months ago.

"There are only 2 reasons why the FDA would take 17 months to make a final decision on Texas' importation of thiopental sodium: gross incompetence or willful obstruction," said Attorney General Paxton. "The FDA has an obligation to fulfill its responsibilities faithfully and in a timely manner. My office will not allow the FDA to sit on its hands and thereby impair Texas' responsibility to carry out its law enforcement duties."

In April 2016, KXAN reported that the FDA blocked an appeal to bring in Sodium thiopental.

(source: KXAN news)

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

Supreme Court examines death penalty for the disabled

Bobby James Moore got the death penalty for a murder he committed in 1980 at a Houston supermarket. But 36 years later, he apparently has a new argument: He is intellectually disabled and cannot be executed under a 2002 U.S. Supreme Court ruling. The Supreme Court heard his case at the end of November.

Moore was 21 when he and some friends decided to rob Birdsall Super Market. His job was to stand guard with a shotgun. Things did not go as planned. Almost immediately after two clerks in the courtesy booth learned they were being robbed, one of them screamed.

Moore pointed his shotgun at the second clerk, a 72-year-old man named James McCarble, and shot him in the head. McCarble died instantly.

Police caught up with Moore 10 days later at his grandmother's house in Louisiana, where he confessed to the crime.

In 2002, the Supreme Court ruled executing the mentally disabled violates the Eighth Amendment prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment. But the court left it up to the states to determine mental ability within certain parameters.

During oral arguments in November, lawyer Clifford Sloan cast Texas as an oddball state that uses something other than current clinical standards to diagnose intellectual disability -- a 1992 definition along with other factors thought up by judges, not scientists.

The Texas appeals court said Moore had abilities that showed he was not so intellectually disabled as to be exempt from capital punishment. Both sides agreed Moore had a terrible childhood. He dropped out of school in 9th grade. His father beat him. He was kicked out of the house at 14. He had 4 felony convictions by age 17.

"At the age of 13, Mr. Moore did not understand the days of the week, the months of the year, the seasons, how to tell time, the principle that subtraction is the opposite of addition, standard units of measurement. And there are numerous other deficits like that that are undisputed," Sloan said.

Justice Stephen Breyer had his doubts about whether the Supreme Court could establish a consistent standard for judging mental ability.

Texas Solicitor General Scott Keller argued the state's criteria for intellectual disability is consistent with Supreme Court precedent as well as clinical standards. He also noted the legal finding of intellectual disability is different from a medical diagnosis.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg had a concern of her own about letting states set their own standards: "Isn't making it discretionary a huge problem in this area, because if you let one trial court judge apply it and another one doesn't have to apply them, then you're opening the door to inconsistent results depending upon who is sitting on the trial court bench, something that we try to prevent from happening in capital cases."

The current justices are divided on the much more basic question of whether the death penalty is constitutional at all, for anyone. Breyer is a frequent critic of capital punishment, as is Justice Sonia Sotomayor.

In 2014, the court struck down Florida's law that said if an inmate's IQ is over 70, evidence of other intellectual disability need not be considered.

(source: Baptist Press)

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

Executions under Greg Abbott, Jan. 21, 2015-present----20

Executions in Texas: Dec. 7, 1982----present-----538

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

21---------January 11---------------Christoper Wilkins----539

22---------January 25---------------Kosoul Chanthakoummane----540

23---------January 26---------------Terry Edwards---------541

24---------February 2---------------John Ramirez----------542

25---------February 7---------------Tilon Carter----------543

26---------March 7------------------Rolando Ruiz---------544

27---------March 14-----------------James Bigby-----------545

28---------April 12-----------------Paul Storey-----------546

29---------June 28------------------Steven Long-----------547

(sources: TDCJ & Rick Halperin)

VIRGINIA----impending execution

Decision on delaying Ricky Gray's Jan. 18 execution to come no later than next week

A federal judge on Tuesday said he will decide within a week whether to delay Ricky Javon Gray's scheduled Jan. 18 execution over concerns about drugs the state intends to use if Gray dies by injection.

Midazolam, a sedative, and potassium chloride, which stops the heart, are the 1st and 3rd drugs used in Virginia's 3-drug procedure. The drugs were made by a compounding pharmacy and not by pharmaceutical manufacturers, which no longer provide drugs to states for executions.

The state strongly disputes that the compounded drugs - tested by a state laboratory and made by a licensed Virginia pharmacy and pharmacist - are anything less than suitable for use in an execution. The alleged problems are "wholly speculative," said Margaret Hoehl O'Shea with the state Attorney General's Office.

Under state law, Gray must choose execution by injection or electrocution by 15 days prior to the execution date. If he refuses to select a method, state law makes lethal injection the default method.

The Virginia Department of Corrections did not immediately respond Tuesday when asked if Gray had made a choice.

Gray's lawyers also contend death in the state's electric chair is cruel and unusual punishment. And they claim the use of compounded drugs have contributed to botched executions elsewhere and unnecessarily increase the risk of "chemical torture."

They are asking U.S. District Judge Henry Hudson - who heard more than 4 hours of testimony and argument Tuesday - to delay the execution so they can better make their case.

An expert testified for Gray on Tuesday that execution by firing squad presents less risk of cruel and unusual punishment than Virginia's proposed injection procedure.

Gray was sentenced to die for the New Year's Day 2006 slayings of sisters Ruby Harvey, 4, and Stella Harvey, 9. He also killed their parents, Bryan Harvey, 49, and Kathryn Harvey, 39, in their South Richmond home, which was set on fire.

Less than a week later, Gray and accomplice Ray Dandridge, 39, killed Ashley Baskerville, 21, who had been a lookout when Gray killed the Harveys; Baskerville's mother, Mary Tucker, 47; and stepfather, Percyell Tucker, 55, in their Richmond home.

O'Shea, in her closing argument, told the judge that what Gray did was a nightmare for the community, the Harvey family and the 2 little girls.

Lisa Fried, 1 of Gray's lawyers, asked the judge not to call off the execution, but to delay it so Gray's concerns can be fully aired.

In response to a question from Hudson, Fried conceded the Constitution does not require a pain-free execution. But she said that while the public has an interest in seeing that sentences are carried out, everyone in the state has an interest in making sure executions are carried out constitutionally.

An expert, pharmacist Larry Sasich, testified that the testing performed by the state on the compounded drugs - to identify them and ascertain their potency - was inadequate. They should also been tested for sterility, acidity, and to see if there are any particulates in the solutions, which are injected into the inmate via an intravenous line.

Asked by Fried how likely it was that the use of a compounded drug would lead to pain and suffering, Sasich said, "It is more likely compared to the use of an FDA-approved product."

However, a state expert pharmacist, Daniel Buffington, said the compounding of such drugs by pharmacies is common in the industry. "It's done routinely," he said.

Buffington said he was not aware of any botched execution caused by midazolam. He said the problems that he was aware of were caused by the drug's administration.

Dr. Jonathan Groner testified there was less risk of pain in an execution by firing squad, which would be almost instantaneous if done properly, than in one using midazolam. Virginia has not used the firing squad, although Utah has twice since the death penalty was allowed to resume in 1976.

A Department of Corrections official testified that no employees were trained to conduct a firing squad, there was no facility in which to do so, and the General Assembly would have to change the law to permit that form of execution. He conceded under cross-examination that prison employees are trained in the use of firearms.

(source: The Roanoke Times)

FLORIDA:

Judiciary Committee To Consider Death Penalty

Preparing for the annual legislative session, the House Judiciary Committee next week will start weighing 2 high-profile issues: the death penalty and workers' compensation insurance.

The committee next Tuesday will discuss court rulings on a series of issues, including the death-penalty sentencing system and the workers' compensation system, according to a meeting notice posted online.

Capital punishment has been on hold for the past year in the state because of rulings by the U.S. Supreme Court and the Florida Supreme Court.

(source: WUSF news)

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

Florida: 1 of 5 states still executing people in 2016

In 2016, only 5 states in America continued to execute people. Florida was 1 of them. And now the United State Supreme Court said that was wrong.

That means you live in a state that has more in common with Saudi Arabia and Iran than with Minnesota or Wisconsin when it comes to capital punishment.

There are plenty of reasons governments don't use the same justice system today that they used back when doctors used lobotomies to treat mental illness.

For one thing, the wrong people are sometimes sentenced to die. In the United States, more than 150 people sentenced to death have later had their convictions overturned in the past 4 decades. Florida leads the country with 26.

For another, the death penalty isn't equally applied. The mentally ill are more likely to be sentenced to death. So are men. And blacks. And the poor.

People have also come to realize the death penalty doesn't even deter murder. Murder rates are actually 25 % higher in states that have the death penalty, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

Many people don't believe there's even a correlation. People murder other people because they're enraged. Or nuts. Or evil. Or indifferent to human life. Not because they first study sentencing options.

For all these reasons, the vast majority of states have stopped executing people. 19 states have actively banned capital punishment. Most of the rest have ceased in practice.

But in Florida, the politicians are still eager to kill. Especially Attorney General Pam Bondi and Republicans in the Legislature.

Only now they have a problem. The Florida Supreme Court has told them that Florida's death-penalty system is fatally flawed.

The biggest problem is that Florida is 1 of the only states in America that doesn't require unanimous verdicts.

In other words, unlike almost everywhere else in America, juries in Florida didn't have to be certain someone deserved to die ... just mostly sure. The Supreme Court said that's unconstitutional.

No wonder we get it wrong so often.

Yet Florida politicians just want to get back to executing people as quickly as possible.

In fact, the only time I've ever seen Bondi express concerns about an execution was in 2013 when she learned one was scheduled the same night she wanted to hold a campaign fundraiser.

She asked to halt the lethal injection ... just long enough for her to collect and cash the checks. Then the killing was back on.

In some places, that would be a scandal. In Florida, it was just a Tuesday.

After Bondi was caught, she apologized ... and was then re-elected.

So what needs to happen now?

Well, much of the world would argue that Florida should stop ordering executions, particularly because this state so often gets it wrong. Instead, we should start sentencing murdering scumbags to life in prison where they can rot in cells, costing taxpayers far less money than the high-cost trials and endless appeals involved in capital cases.

But assuming legislators still plan on executing people (along with places like Texas, Alabama, Georgia, Missouri, Yemen and Libya) legislators should pass sweeping reforms to make sure they get it right. The suggestions are already there.

In 2010 - after Florida made headlines for its record number of wrongful convictions - the state formed a commission to find ways to prevent future errors. The group recommended many solid changes, including standardized ways to conduct unbiased suspect lineups and cracking down on testimony from jailhouse snitches who are prone to lie in exchange for sentence reductions.

Legislators ignored virtually all of those recommendations.

They remained eager to kill ... less eager to make sure they were killing the right people.

That is inexcusable. If politicians in this state are intent on resuming executions, they need to do everything the courts have said they must to make it constitutional, including requiring unanimous verdicts - and also do everything in their own power to make sure they're getting it right.

Maybe the citizens of Sudan and Iraq don't expect proper justice. But most citizens in this country sure do.

You can contact your legislator at www.leg.state.fl.us.

(source: Scott Maxwell, Orlando Sentinel)

ALABAMA:

State lawmakers take aim at judicial override

2 Alabama Congressmen - 1 a Republican senator, the other a Democratic member of the House of Representatives - have both pre-filed bills in the state legislature to remove a judge's ability to impose a death penalty in a capital case when the jury has recommended life imprisonment. Alabama is the last state in the nation to allow this practice after the Delaware Supreme Court outlawed judicial override in capital cases in August.

Sen. Dick Brewbaker, R-Montgomery, has filed a bill that "would prohibit a court from overriding a verdict by a jury in a capital case," while Representative Terry England, D-Tuscaloosa, filed House Bill 32 to "require a verdict of death to be based on a unanimous vote of the jury and would prohibit a court from overriding a verdict by a jury in a capital case."

Neither congressman responded to requests for comment on their bills.

The issue of judicial override in capital cases has flared up several times in Alabama courts over the last year. In March, Jefferson County Circuit Court Judge Tracie Todd issued a judicial order declaring that is unconstitutional for Alabama to allow judicial override. While Todd's order contained many criticisms of Alabama's sentencing system - including allegations that the election of judges incentivizes unnecessarily "tough on crime" approaches to win votes and that judges award public defense appointments based on previous campaign contributions - a large part of her order rested on the ability of Alabama judges to impose death sentences when the jury has ruled for life imprisonment.

"The practice of overriding a jury's advisory verdict of life without the possibility of parole for the imposition of capital punishment in Alabama has become questionably prevalent and suspiciously routine," Todd wrote. She noted that Alabama judges have overridden jury sentences of life to impose the death penalty 97 times since 1976, the year the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated capital punishment. In June, the Alabama Court of Criminal App